these mad windows

chapter 3: the truth of things

Disclaimer: Still don't own anything. Still wish I did. Even something small… like a CD-ROM drive that doesn't pop open whenever I jostle the laptop. Ooh, or a bigger television. Or… a new wardrobe. But Gilmore Girls? Nah, no thanks. It's on its way out. –wink-

A/N: Sorry it took so long for me to update this fic. I was uninspired. However, as it turns out, "Chasing Aphrodite" is even more uninspiring, so I picked the lesser of the evils. Enjoy, and review. -Becka

It was late that night when Jess's shift finally ended. Pulling up in front of the brownstone, he turned off the engine and rested his face in his hands. He was fucking exhausted. Just the idea of making it up the stairs to his apartment seemed very unrealistic. With a deep sigh, he reluctantly pushed the door open and got out. Slamming the door shut, he walked around the car and headed towards the apartment's entrance. He was inside and halfway up the stairs when his phone rang.

"Fuck," he cursed under his breath, pulling it out of his pocket to look. Seeing Brazer's number, he jerked his head irritably. "Fuck, fuck, fuck!" he repeated before clicking it on and raising it to his ear. "Mariano," he spat, unable to keep the annoyance out of his voice.

"I'm sorry, Jess," Amy immediately apologized. "I know your shift is over, but these people specifically requested you."

"You've got to be kidding me," Jess muttered under his breath.

"I tried to tell them that Roger was much better than you, but they weren't having it."

"Who needs a package at ten at night?" Jess asked rhetorically. "Like it can't wait until fucking morning?"

"I'm sorry," Amy apologized again. "They insisted."

Jess sighed and leaned his back against the stairwell wall, wondering for a moment if this job was really worth the aggravation. "Where is it?" he asked, pushing his tired body off the wall and heading back down the stairs.

"Um," Amy hesitated, flipping through her papers. "Fourth and Seventh."

Jess froze. "You're kidding?"

"I don't think so," Amy replied. She checked again. "No, it's definitely Fourth and Seventh."

Clenching his jaw, Jess shook his head and started down the stairs again. "Thanks, Amy," he said sarcastically, clicking the phone shut before she had a chance to respond.

-

His anger and irritation rose exponentially with each block he passed. By the time he pulled up in front of the art gallery, he could hardly see straight. Twisting the key forcefully, he turned off the engine and got out. He was about to slam the car door shut when he stopped himself. He'd been around enough out-of-control men to know it wasn't an answer to anything. He took a long breath, letting the autumn air chill his lungs. Then, in control at the very least, he headed into the gallery. When he rounded the corner at the end of the hall, he noticed the receptionist's area was empty. Reaching the desk, he looked around. Nothing. He didn't have time for this. He smacked his fist on the tiny, gold bell near the far end of the desk and waited.

A moment later, Eva appeared through a nearby doorway but stopped in her tracks when she saw the look on his face. "Hi," she said hesitantly.

He gave her an irritated look. "I'm here for a package."

"Right, sorry," she apologized, hurrying over to the desk. Absently, he noticed she seemed off today. Or, at least, as much as he could tell after only one previous meeting.

She retrieved a package from the shelf behind the desk and handed it to him across the counter. When he reached out to take it, she met his eyes. "I didn't tell them your name."

Taking the package, he frowned at her but didn't say anything.

"I didn't," she repeated. "They got it off the pick-up order. I told them I broke it."

"Sure, you did," Jess sarcastically replied.

"Do you want to see my paycheck?" she asked, reaching for her purse. "I can prove it. They withheld, like, half of it, which is ridiculous. That sculpture was awful. No one would pay a cent for it." Finding the pay stub, she unfolded it and held it out towards him.

He didn't move.

"Look at it," she urged, shaking it in the air.

Jess rolled his eyes and took the stub with his free hand. Sure enough, they'd withheld half of her paycheck, which was considerably more than Brazer had taken from his. He handed it back to her. "Fine, whatever," he shrugged. He reached into his back pocket and pulled out the notebook. "Can you just sign?"

"I almost got fired," she added.

"You actually broke it," Jess reminded her.

"Okay, true, but I did the artist a favor."

"Yeah, well, take it up with him." He held the notebook out again. "I really need you to sign this."

"You're still mad."

"It's ten-thirty, and I'm standing in a fucking art gallery," Jess said, by way of explanation.

Eva narrowed her eyes at him and took the notebook. "You could be a little more grateful," she stated as she signed her name.

"You could be a little less clumsy," he retorted.

Her eyes shot up to look at him, and she shoved the notebook at him. "You're an asshole."

"Thanks," he nodded. "Just do me a favor. Pick Roger next time."

She stared at him for a moment longer. Then, she sat down at the desk and turned her eyes to the computer screen.

Without another word, he headed down the hallway and out the door.

-

Once he got outside, he scowled and looked down at the package, checking the delivery address. He read it twice, not sure whether to smirk or throw the box at the ground. Deciding on anger over amusement, he stormed back into the gallery, not breaking stride until he reached the desk.

"What the hell is this?" he asked, dropping the package on the counter.

Eva looked up at him. "What?"

"You sent this package to yourself," he stated, stabbing his finger at the address label.

A small smile started to creep across her lips.

"I'm glad you find this so amusing," Jess said, his body tensing.

"I'm sorry," she apologized, standing up. "I wanted a chance to explain, and we didn't actually have any packages to send."

He just stared at her.

"If I'd known you were such a jerk, I wouldn't have bothered," she added.

His eyes darkened, and his lips formed a straight line.

"I thought you had a sense of humor," she explained.

Irritation rising, he turned and headed for the door.

"Jess," she called out, hurrying around the desk.

He didn't know why, but he stopped and turned to look at her.

She paused just past the desk. "Can I buy you a drink sometime?"

He blinked, taken by surprise.

"I mean, to apologize for my clumsiness. I'll even promise not to spill anything on you," she teased.

"Are you asking me out?"

"No," she blurted, flustered. Then, after a brief pause, she admitted, "Yeah, okay. Maybe."

He smirked, impressed by her honesty. "Okay."

"Okay, what?"

He shrugged. "A drink is the least you can do."

"Yeah? Okay," she smiled. "I'll call you."

He gave her a small nod and left.

Once he was gone, Eva stared at the spot where he'd been standing, slightly confused. Then, with a grin, she went back to work.