Title: The Smell Before Rain
Disclaimer: You know the drill. Don't own the characters (well, most of them).
Summary: "There's that line again, thin, and stretched too tightly." RoryJess. Almost. Maybe. They try. There's always something in the way. Sometimes it's from the outside; sometimes it attacks from within.
A/N: Huge thanks to Mai for encouraging this and to the wonderful Arianna for looking it over, and saying real nice things. The title and all chapter titles are taken from "The Boy Who Blocked His Own Shot" by Brand New. As a warning, italics are parts that have already happened. (They come up a lot.) This is a multi-parter that takes place during Rory's senior year at Yale. Disregard season four. (In other words, Jess did not pop up during her freshman year, among other things.) Comments and suggestions are always welcomed and appreciated.
Chapter One: And you can tell me how vile I already know that I am
I hate you.
Hate, hate, hate.
It's a song, playing in his head; a light melody but he forgets the words, so there is only the chorus. The pen taps along to the beat, and his vision blurs because he didn't get much sleep the night before. Fluttering, eyelids close, is it possible to fall asleep standing up? Trivial matter, his mind passes over the question in favor of the music. The same words over and over again; there is only hate. It is a blinding, consuming emotion, and it seeps into everything, tainting, leaving an ugly black stain behind. The other verses are swallowed up by it, and he contends himself with repetition. Hate, hate, hate.
She hates him.
He smiles because it's exactly what he doesn't feel like doing.
The kiss is long and bitter. She tastes like Presidente, the cheap beer, and it fits her personality. Unfortunately, there are only a couple of drinks in him, and he wants her to swallow him whole, so he can drown in the alcohol, warm and dizzying. His hand lingers on the small of her back, and it's outrageous how much he's dulled himself for one girl. But this one, oh this one, grabs his hand, pushing it downwards until he hits her ass. She must work out, he notes, and smirks against her lips before backing her into a wall.
Usually, it's all about satisfaction and it seems she simply isn't. Oh no, she can't seem to get him close enough, and she keeps pulling at his shirt. Her hands move around his neck, and she grinds against him. He's half considering ripping her clothes off right here, because somehow, it seems like she won't be happy until he's inside her. But at this point, he doesn't care (not caring: the key), because tonight, it's not about satisfying him or her, or any random stranger standing by, hoping to see a show.
It's about forgetting.
Alcohol is a temporary fix-it, as is anything when it comes to blocking out memories; he usually relies on this. But when Jess considered bashing his head against a mirror, hoping to suffer the same fate as Leonard Shelby, because short-term memory seems like the cure-all he's been missing all his life, he realized maybe getting drunk wasn't the safest route. Anything's possible with alcohol flowing in your veins. Although these thoughts really didn't stop him from consuming the first beer he was offered.
However, a better solution: sex. Or at least as far as he can get. He finds that with this girl, the simple act of kissing and groping is enough. Melding his body against hers (she's still pulling — never satisfied… that's the problem, isn't it? Nothing's ever good enough…), enjoying the feeling of not knowing where he stops and she begins. He's lost himself: inside her, somewhere in the crowd, at the bottom of a bottle? Wherever he happened to leave himself, it doesn't matter. Good riddance to bad rubbish, isn't that what they say?
Fingernails, claws, skim his chest. He didn't even realize she had untucked his shirt; his mind is thousands of miles away, somewhere on the beach, scorching sun warming his body. He's too pale, he could use a tan, and a tequila to sip, and he can almost feel the sand beneath his feet, lazily stretched out on a towel.
But instead of paradise, he's settling for a girl whose first name he couldn't even pretend to acknowledge because it was never offered. Instead, there is only a speaker in every corner of the room, sending out deafening music that has crawled under his skin, and man, he's ready to scratch until he's bleeding and raw. There is only a crowd made up of people whose faces blur into each other, until it's just one pulsating mass of sweat and yelling. There is only the thought that maybe he had more to drink than he originally thought, and the faraway sensation of movement. There is only the bed that he didn't realize she led him to, and the release, oh god, the release that he needed before it exploded inside of him. There is only the dull ache of emptiness, because it's all gone, all used up.
Then there is only hate.
Honey, she tastes like the sweet syrup. Her kisses are like a drug, intoxicating, addicting, and he's so high right now, he doesn't care to ever come back. It's the strangest feeling, like flying, he can see everything from up here. She brings him down, quick as a flash, but he's pulling her closer again. Lips traveling up her jawline, down her neck, marks already there because no matter what she says, he just can't help himself. Her skin is pale, her neck a milky white. She reminds him of a porcelain doll, fragile, and sometimes he's terrified he'll break her. But what is life without fear, without risks? He pulls her into his lap, and she lets him, but it really is she who is in control. She knows it; he knows it. His lips capture hers again, and for a little while, at least, he pretends he's the one with power.
Silence. No music; the tune is completely forgotten.
He wakes in an unfamiliar bed, in a room he doesn't recognize, and he stretches, letting the unknown soak in. Vaguely, he wonders if there is anyone home. Perhaps they're downstairs gathering for breakfast, and he could slip in and join them at the table. Odd looks would be shot his way, until he asked 'who else here has a horrible hangover?' Everyone would raise their hands and then they'd laugh at the sight, the full out kind of laughter that causes stomachaches. They'd be bent over in half before they'd force themselves to stop, because it's not good for the mini army marching in their heads.
Someone would offer him a cup of coffee, treating him like an old friend, and he'd accept it gratefully. But then a beer would be pulled out, and then another, and another. It's never too early: Beer for Breakfast, Beer for Lunch, Beer for Dinner… he's seen posters with these words, and he always thought it was a great idea. Another sip of alcohol, dulling his thoughts, and really, getting drunk is an excellent temporary cure for a hangover.
Right, temporary. It's all temporary.
He stands up in front of the window and bathes in sunlight before he dresses; each feather step he takes is an explosion inside his brain. His stomach growls, desperate for any kind of food, and it's funny how certain words of wisdom don't reach him until after they're needed: Never drink on an empty stomach. His mouth, like sandpaper; he can't even swallow, it's so dry. Eyes are bloodshot, he's sure of it, and there's a sensation — something like pain — on his back. Checking in the mirror, gingerly lifting his shirt, he sees fingernail marks.
Shrugging it off because it's not the first time, he stumbles into the bathroom. When he turns on the faucet and sees water, blessed water, he feels as if he's leaving the desert he's been lost in for years. Parched is an understatement, and his head is in there, sipping, drinking, and swallowing — finally. Part of him thinks he just wants the taste of alcohol and sex out of his mouth. That's the more rational side of him; he ignores this voice most of the time. Finally, his thirst is satisfied, and he shuts off the water, and stands up straight. There's noise, movement, coming from the bedroom.
He leaves through the window.
Teardrops? It's raining outside, but it's mingling with tears on her cheeks. Hair wet, thin t-shirt soaked, and of course she isn't wearing a bra. But he's proud of himself when he keeps his eyes on her face, because it's genuine concern that swells in his chest. He says absolutely nothing when she falls into his arms. It doesn't seem as if she wants him to say anything, and he's grateful because he can't seem to find any words. 'I'm sorry' seems like a futile attempt because it's not like he did anything wrong. Though it's funny how much easier it would be to apologize for someone else. 'It'll be all right' doesn't work, because he's a realist, and how can he know whether things will be fine?
His clothes are soaked through now, and her tears stain his neck. He sits back on his bed and brings her with him. The plan is to let her stay here tonight. Give her a change of clothes, and then she can drown in her sadness and his oversized sweatshirt. He'll put her in his own bed, and she'll fall asleep, the pillow still damp. The couch is small and uncomfortable, and it'll be irritating to him at first, but this is what it's like to be a good friend. In the morning, she'll be awake and attempting to make him breakfast as a thank you, and they will not talk about the night before. It's an excellent plan, if he does say so himself; it's not like he's never been through this with her. They're starting to fall into routine. But then… then, she's kissing his neck.
It seems as if she has her own plans tonight.
Somewhere along the way, her sobs stopped, tears drying on her cheeks, and she took it upon herself to explore the skin she had previously been resting upon. He pulls away slightly so he can see her, and her eyes, shining with tears she's decided not to shed, stare back. Blinking rapidly and they're gone, dry, and then she's kissing him.
He, the King of Physical Comfort, allows her to push him back onto the bed, kissing his lips, jaw, neck, down his chest. She's upset; she was the one who was crying; yet it is here where he loses the power. She makes the decision for the both of them, crosses the line between friendship and much more, and there's no going back now.
There are tingles of excitement at each new exposure of pale skin. He peels off her clothes; her skin is still moist from the rain. His tongue samples her shoulders, and he thinks that the stormy weather has never tasted sweeter.
He reaches his apartment by bus, and collapses onto his own bed as soon as he gets in the door. The phone rings shattering the soothing silence, and his head is sent reeling from the noise. He lets the answering machine pick up, not in the mood to speak to anyone at all. He doesn't even possess enough energy to unplug the phone, so he lies there, still, and listens.
His heart beat turns irregular, and he holds his breath, a queer kind of fear that any sudden movement will break the spell, and he'll find out it's not Rory. She's rambling on and on, and he's smirking because of it, and finally, finally: an apology. Something about how she didn't want to do this over the phone, but she can't stand the thought of him being angry at her, and she really doesn't hate him. (This is a lie, he thinks bitterly.) It was silly, she insists, and resentment is stirred up, somewhere from deep inside him, because thinking about what she considers 'silly' is literally killing him.
Alright, fine, she's apologized. The ball is in his court now. He thinks he'll go and visit her at the dorm tonight. The later he goes, the shorter his visit will have to be, and that may be the best idea. It'll be awkward at first, the air around them filled with uneasiness and uncertainty, two emotions that regularly accompany their friendship. A part of him is happy that he can put their incredibly foolish fight behind him. He doesn't even know why it turned into a full fledged argument in the first place. Why was he looking for more? He doesn't even like relationships; the suffocating fears of long term commitment plague him. Then why, suddenly, was he hoping for a change?
He needs to learn to be satisfied with what he has. Sometimes there is simply nothing more. But it's hard when he knows that in this case, there is more, because he once had it. That was four year ago, however, and he screwed that up himself. This is letting go, this is accepting; there's only hate if he doesn't.
Sleep claims him then, and his surroundings fade to black: a noiseless and forgiving color. His thoughts leave his head, disappearing into oblivion. He dreams, although he won't remember that they're of her when he awakes, many hours later, to darkness.