Disclaimer: Not mine. No money... well, Dan is mine... hugs Dan Mine!
Summary: Jess and Rory reconnect under some interesting circumstances
Spoilers: Last Week Fights... I'm still in R&R denial. The R/D smut never happened.
Thank yous: Christie and Elise. Who love Dan lots
The Orange Soda Will Get You Every Time
As always, the fates had conspired against her.
She never missed the Stars Hollow High School's winter carnival. Not once in her life.
And so there she was, at the carnival, balloon in her hand, watching a man with a small boy on his hip, buying hot dogs. She watched him hand one foil-covered food to the child, and then unwrap his own and take a bite.
It had been years.
Eight years, to be exact.
Eight years of silence and carefully planned avoidance. Eight years of "Jess will be there? Oh, well... I have a meeting. I'm so sorry. Maybe some other time?" Eight years.
And there he was.
She couldn't move, all of the sudden. She gripped her balloon tighter.
He still hadn't noticed her. He was too busy wiping ketchup from the boy's face with a napkin. He looked slightly annoyed, but... not. He looked older, but not tired. He looked...
He looked amazing.
His hair was still fairly unruly; shorter than the last time she saw him (eight years ago!), but still it's rich, almost black shade of brown. That same damned leather jacket hugged his frame, and his jeans were just baggy enough.
Still the same old Jess, really.
Except for the child latched onto him; small legs wrapped around him; hands clutching the black leather carefully.
The boy, for his part, may as well have been Jess's double. His mini- me. The same wild waves and shade of brown. The same amber-speckled brown eyes. The same olive-tinted skin. He wore a dark blue winter coat and jeans, with red Chuck Taylor high tops sticking out. He couldn't have been more than four or five years old.
Her train of thought was interrupted when Luke walked up to them and the boy shoved his hot dog in his great uncle's face. Luke grimaced and stepped back with a "no, thank you."
Jess smirked and shook his head, taking another bite of his hot dog as he talked to Luke.
She should walk up to them.
She should say hello.
She should yell at him.
She should probably just walk on by.
Yup. Good idea.
Walk on by.
And she did.
Junk food run!
She really needed some good ole' fashioned junk food. Doose's was mercifully empty that evening. Everyone was out at the carnival except for the teenaged boy looking bored at the counter.
She saw him just as she was grabbing the Cheetos. He ran into the candy aisle on his little legs and began browsing through the bags. She glanced at him, and he paid no attention, only picked out a bag of Gummy Bears and trotted off.
She didn't know why, but she slowly followed the boy around the corner to the first aid aisle, where Jess was inspecting band aids.
He didn't look up. "Dan, what do you think? Spiderman or Sesame-"He stopped upon seeing Rory standing a ways behind his son. "Oh..."
Dan walked over and pointed to the Spiderman adhesives, and Jess grabbed them without taking his eyes off of Rory.
She shifted a little and looked down. "Hi, Jess."
He blinked. "Uh... hi."
They stood in silence, until Dan spoke up.
"Dad, who is she?" he asked curiously.
Jess's eyes flashed down to the little boy. "Uhm... Dan... this is Rory... She's uhm...Rory, this is Dan, my son."
Rory gave Dan a small smile. "Hi, there."
Dan looked down at his shoes shyly. "Hi..."
Cute; way too cute to look like Jess.
"How old are you, Dan?" Rory asked.
"Five," he told her quietly. "How do you know my dad?"
Rory gave Jess a glance before answering. "He and I were friends when he lived here."
Dan looked up at Jess, who nodded and was about to say something, but was interrupted.
"You'd better be paying for those items, Jess!"
Jess rolled his eyes at Taylor, though he was nowhere in sight. "No worries, Taylor! My petty theft days are long over." He proceeded to pull down a box of Barbie band aids and pop it open. He removed a single one and handed it to Dan. "Yours," he muttered, "are just beginning."
Dan took the band aid and shoved it in his pocket as Jess quickly replaced the box.
Rory couldn't help the laugh that escaped her lips. "You really haven't changed, have you?"
Jess gave her a smirk and a shrug, the ice broken and tension relieved. "Yes and no." He lifted Dan and moved to the front counter with their purchases, where Taylor now stood in place of the teen. "Hi, Taylor."
Taylor glared. "Jess... Daniel."
Dan smile and waved. "Hi."
Taylor rung up their purchases, and glanced up. "Rory! I had no idea you were here this weekend."
"Miracle, that," Jess muttered.
Rory snickered. "I never miss the carnival, Taylor, you know that."
"Well, it's wonderful to see you," Taylor nodded. He bagged the band aids and the candy and handed them to Jess, simultaneously taking the money the younger man was holding out.
Jess snatched the bag and handed it to Dan. "See? There. Band aids and candy. Just like I promised."
Dan looked into the plastic bag. "You forgot the orange soda!" He sounded as if the world was ending.
"Did not. Uncle Luke has tons of it back at the diner."
Dan's eyes lit up. "Tons?"
"Tons. You'll drink too much and throw up, and it'll be orange."
Rory wrinkled her nose. "Gross."
"You think it's gross?" Jess smirked as they left the market. "I have to clean it up."
"It tastes like chicken coming up," Dan told Rory.
"You only say that because the last time it happened we had Popeye's for dinner," Jess said.
"Why do they call it Popeye's?" Rory asked. "I mean... Popeye was a sailor who liked spinach! Where does the chicken come in?"
Jess chuckled a little and Dan smiled at her.
"So, Dan, did you know that your dad hates town fairs?" Rory asked. "I didn't think you'd be here."
Jess rolled his eyes. "Uncle Luke dropped the words 'carnival' and 'prizes.' He bugged. I caved."
"Ah," Rory nodded. She smiled sweetly at Dan. Real question time. Be casual. "And where's your mommy?"
"In Tahiti getting laid by an ugly lawyer," Dan recited.
Jess squinted. "You sneak. You've been eavesdropping on my phone calls."
"Nuh-uh," Dan denied. "That's what Gramma Liz told me when... when I asked where Mommy was." He turned to Rory with a curious look. "What does 'laid' mean?"
"That's it," Jess interjected. "No more phone calls with Grandma unless I'm listening in from the other room."
"TJ called Mommy skanky," Dan went on. He turned to Rory. "What does 'skanky' mean?"
Jess rolled his eyes and pulled the Gummy Bears from the bag. "Here. Go to town and stop asking embarrassing questions."
Dan pulled the candy open and began munching.
They walked along in comfortable (Comfortable!) silence for a moment.
"So..." Rory started. "Tahiti, huh?"
Jess shrugged awkwardly. "She likes the weather there."
Rory nodded. "And the lawyer?"
"Makes more money than I do," Jess supplied. "Kathy and I have been apart for a couple of years now." He sighed. "You never met Kathy."
"Nope," Rory agreed. "I never met Kathy."
"She showed up a couple of years after I last saw you."
Rory flinched a little. "Oh..." The last time she saw him... her college dorm...
Awkward again. More silence took them over. Dan looked from one to the other as he chewed on his candy.
"Listen... Jess... about that-"
"Come on, Rory," Jess cut her off. "It's been eight years."
"Look, Dad!" Dan cut in. He showed his father a headless Gummy. "It's dilapidated!"
"Decapitated," Jess corrected. "But dilapidated, as well. Good."
Rory sighed. "Eight years ago...I'm sorry...I was harsh."
"I needed it," Jess nodded. "It opened up my eyes a little... I got my life together after that."
"I still feel terrible," Rory replied, wrapping her arms around herself.
"Come on, Rory, you know I don't hold grudges," Jess said. "Just... it hurt, but..." He nodded. "Eight years later, and I'm okay." He hoisted Dan up a little and kept walking.
Rory nodded. "I'm glad."
Dan looked at Rory as if he wanted to say something, but instead whispered in Jess's ear.
Jess smirked. "He wants to know what he should call you."
Rory smiled. "Rory's fine."
Dan nodded. "Rory, do you want a Gummy Bear?"
"I would love one," Rory replied.
The five-year-old held the bag out to her and she took one and ate it.
"Thank you," she nodded.
She looked up to see her mother rushing over. She smiled. "Hey, Mom."
Lorelai smiled. "I see you've found the elusive Mariano boys. Patty has been looking for you, Jess."
Jess's eyes narrowed. "Oh?"
"She says she's found you a girl," Lorelai giggled.
"Dad doesn't need a girl," Dan said. "Rory's here."
Rory blushed ever-so-slightly. "Patty's been trying to set you up?"
Jess nodded. "Like you wouldn't believe. She even tried to reintroduce me to Shane."
Rory snickered. "As in 'Come Back'?"
"Dad read me that!" Dan cried excitedly. "I liked that book!"
"I like that book, too," Rory smiled.
Lorelai watched them suspiciously. "Dan, have they been like this all night?"
Dan nodded. "They've been fluttering."
"Oh?" Lorelai smiled. "You mean flirting?"
Dan glanced at his father. "Is that the word?"
Jess sighed and shook his head. "That's the word..."
Rory sighed. "We've just been talking."
Jess shrugged in agreement. "It's no big deal."
Dan whispered in Jess's ear again.
"No," Jess replied quickly. "No, Dan."
Dan looked a little disappointed. "Oh."
"What did he ask?" Rory wanted to know.
Lorelai snickered. "Danny, did you ask your dad if Rory was your new mommy?"
"Jess, how is it that you have such a sweet little boy?" Lorelai asked. "You were so horrible!"
"He'll be just like I was when he grows up, just you wait," Jess muttered. He checked his watch. "Wow." He looked to Dan. "Guess what?"
"What?" Dan asked.
Jess nodded. "It's after ten."
"I'm not sleepy," Dan pleaded. "Can't I stay up? The carnival isn't over."
"It will be soon," Jess told him. "And you'll be a pain tomorrow if you don't get enough sleep."
"No, I won't."
"You always are."
"Look at that face," Lorelai cooed. "How can you send him to bed?"
"Like this," Jess replied. He swung Dan up and over his shoulder. "Time to go to bed."
Dan waved at Rory and Lorelai. "Bye, Rory. Bye Lorelai."
Both Gilmores waved.
When both boys were out of earshot, Lorelai smiled at Rory.
"You've met the new and improved Jess," Lorelai went on. "You like the new and improved Jess."
Rory sighed. "I do not. We just talked."
"Dan really warmed up to you," Lorelai pointed out.
"That's warming up?" Rory asked. "He's the shyest kid I've ever seen."
"He likes you. Jess likes you. You like both of them."
"Rory, it's been a year since you've really dated," Lorelai said. "Maybe..."
"Jess?" Rory asked, bewildered. "Jess. You want me to date Jess. You... you, who hated Jess with a passion, want me to date Jess."
Lorelai sighed. "He's not the same. He's responsible, and he's so good with Dan..."
"You want me to date Jess?!"
Jess looked up from his book. "Dan, I told you to go to bed."
Dan nodded and climbed onto the couch in Luke's apartment. "I like Rory."
Jess smirked and lifted the boy onto his lap. "You do, do you?"
Dan nodded. "Do you?"
Jess shrugged. "I don't know. Used to."
"Maybe," Jess replied, but then shook his head. "Rory and I haven't seen each other in a long time."
"You saw her tonight."
"I did," Jess nodded.
Dan smiled. "Will you see her tomorrow?"
Jess squinted. "Go to bed."