Title: Ever After
Disclaimer: We've been over this. I own nothing.
Summary: Future Lit. Late nights, warmed up food, a shoebox apartment. She wouldn't have it any other way. (complete)
A/N: Alright, I'm mixing it up a little bit. This is fluff. No, I'm serious. No, really. Fluff! Mai, I heart you, thanks for the encouragement. Ari, thanks for being a groovy and helpful beta (as always).
He hears the door opened, closed, and relocked from his position on the bed. He does not get up to greet her, but instead flips to the next page in his book. For the past hour, he has not moved from his spot on their bed, reading in the welcome silence of the apartment.
She slips into the room, but he does not see her; the words in front of him have his eyes anchored to the page. Her actions are quiet, her bare feet soundless on the hardwood floor. The sofa that she must climb over to reach the bed muffles any noise, and her presence is only noticeable when the bed bends slightly under her weight. She crawls across the mattress, her playful smile invisible to him, and pauses briefly at his legs. Then, as if making up her mind, she continues her journey up his body, until she has come face to face with his book.
This is the part where he is supposed to put the novel away, and shower her with attention. Or, at the very least, acknowledge that she is now home from work, and on top of him. Instead, he turns to the next page. Pouting, she sits back, letting her full weight rest on his shins, locking him down to the bed. Her own legs are on either side of his, and gently, she squeezes them against his, trying to remind him that yes, she's here, and yes, she wants to be noticed.
Refusing to give in and wander off into their microscopic kitchen, she crouches down, and slowly peeks her head through the space between the book and his body. She glances up at him, raising her eyebrows, and he has to bite back a smirk. He stretches his arms further outward so she has more room, and finally, he relents and encircles her, the book now hanging lackadaisically from his right hand behind her back.
"You're a little bit like a cat, you know that?" he asks, slipping further down on the bed, so it is easier for her to lie across him. Gratefully, she rests her head against his chest, and sighs into him.
"Don't expect me to purr or hiss or anything. I'm too tired tonight." She yawns, and wraps her arms around his abdomen, snuggling into his shirt.
"We have pillows for this," he says, noticing her actions. "A whole bed, in fact."
"Shh. Rory is resting."
Carefully, he brushes the hair out of her face, and behind her ear. She lets out a small sigh of thanks, and he continues to comb his fingers through her hair, until he reaches her back. Then, he lifts his arms into the air once again, higher this time so as not to disturb her. His elbows hang in a stiff, almost painful way, but he ignores it, opening his book to the page he read last.
"Jess?" Her voice is barely audible, spoken against the fabric of his T-shirt.
"Do we have food?"
"No, I mean… food food."
"Would you mind explaining to me the difference between food and food food?"
She groans, but it makes her sound younger, a frustrated child not getting what she wants. He's used to this.
"This morning when I left, we had an orange."
"Good for the body."
"Orange a la ketchup."
"I'm going to die of starvation," she complains. "And the paramedics are going to come, but they won't be able to fit the stretcher inside because our apartment is the size of my bedroom back in Stars Hollow."
"Except, the apartment is even smaller than that because of the way it's split up. Our kitchen is long and narrow, making it impossible for us to stand next to each other in it. And our bedroom doesn't have a door."
"Rory," he repeats.
"And we have to climb over a couch to get to our bed. We're lucky it fits in this small space." She reaches out and taps the wall that is barely an inch from the side of the bed. "Our TV sits on our bureau. A bureau that we share. And our books don't get shelves. They live in boxes because we don't have enough room."
He shifts underneath her, uncomfortable with her description of their hole-in-the-wall apartment. He has never been satisfied with where they live, and has always suspected that she hates it as well. It is too tiny; it truly is the kind of place that fits the description of a shoebox apartment. The walls seem to close in on all sides, especially when he lies in bed. Even their bathroom is suffocatingly tiny, the shower barely big enough for one.
"I love this apartment," she says quietly.
He looks down at her, wanting to see the expression on her face. As if sensing the need, she turns up to look at him, and he finds her genuine. It causes a flip within him, the knowledge that this is right. All contemplation is pushed aside; she is smiling, and looking beautiful and sleepy, and it's just right. Something light and tingly runs the course of his veins, through his arms, down his legs; he feels the full effects in his chest.
"I do," she mumbles again, her voice bogged down with fatigue. "Getting ready in the morning is like an obstacle course."
Back down her head goes, her eyes drifting closed. It is only seconds later when she glances up, her brow furrowed.
"Your heart's beating really fast." She pauses. "Are you okay?"
"I'm fine," he assures her. "And there's food in the fridge."
She shoots up, taking him by surprise. "You went shopping," she states, untrusting.
"I'm going to go make something!" She kisses his cheek and then stumbles onto the sofa and disappears around the corner into the kitchen. "If the alarm goes off, that means I fell asleep on the stove," she hollers in.
A moment later, a squeal of happiness reaches his ears, but again, he does nothing. He has gone back to reading. But when she sticks her head into the room, her eyes narrowed, he has to look up.
"You cooked," she accuses.
"I've been known to do that."
"You made a plate for me."
"You even covered it in aluminum foil!" She takes a step further in, and crosses her arms at her chest. She bites her lip and studies him, wanting to jump back on the bed and show him her thanks. This is nothing big, but she finds that with Jess, it is always the small things that mean the most.
She goes back into the kitchen, waiting for the microwave to beep so she can eat.
"I'll have you know I slaved away over that meal for hours, and you couldn't even call to tell me that you'd be late," he half yells over to her.
Again, she looks in. "I did call. I even apologized."
"You're always late," he mock complains. "I'm so lonely."
"Shut up," she points, before disappearing again.
"Are you sleeping with your secretary?"
"I don't have a secretary."
"Are you sleeping with your boss?"
She returns to their room, and hands Jess her plate and coffee, so she can step back onto the bed without worry of spill. "My boss is a woman," she counters, flopping down and causing the liquid to slosh dangerously in her cup, nearly burning Jess's hand. He shoots her an irritated look, but she simply reaches out for her meal; he complies.
"And again I ask, are you sleeping —"
She cuts him off with a sharp kick to his thigh, which he knows would have been a hit if she had a free hand. Inching back, she leans against the pillows, settling in next to him. She leaves her plate in her lap, and holds her coffee cup in her left, fork in her right. It is an awkward position, but she wants to eat next to him. Work kept her later than usual tonight, and she is exhausted, and starved, and hates missing dinner with him.
She takes a bite of her mashed potatoes, and then gives Jess a sideways glance. He's back to reading, nestled comfortably against the plush pillows, looking very much zoned out and relaxed. She almost decides to hold her tongue, but then reconsiders. She needs entertainment while she eats, and it seems he does not wish to talk.
"I want to watch TV."
"I'll keep it low," she promises.
"The colors and flashing pictures will distract me."
She puts her fork in her plate, and then grabs his book, pushing it further upward so it will block his line of sight.
"I'm bored and I've had a long day. Please?" She bats her eyelashes, producing zero effect on him. He gives in anyway, and turns on the television, using the remote at his side.
"No news," she quickly says.
"The news stops for no one."
"I'm so sick of the news. I do it all day. Put on cartoons!"
"Cartoons?" he asks, disbelieving.
"I think Tom and Jerry is on."
"You went to Yale, right?"
"At least I didn't request the one where the coyote gets an anvil dropped on his head."
She finishes her meal in silence, only sporadically letting out a chuckle here and there at the antics on the screen. She shoves her plate off to the side, and settles in against Jess, sipping her coffee. Without looking up, he wraps an arm around her shoulders, absently playing with the hair curling around her neck. She kisses him on the cheek, smiling, and wraps a leg over his, trying to get even closer. Surprising her, he brushes his lips against her forehead before turning back to the novel in his hands. She nudges his shoulder and he faces her again, this time heading for her lips. The kiss is long, and dizzying. He thinks she tastes like coffee; she thinks he tastes like forever.
Trying not to spill the mug she holds, she brings her other hand to the back of his head, drawing him toward her. She only breaks away when she notices the sharp angle her coffee now hangs at, and laughs.
She moves away and finishes her drink in one gulp. Then, she gathers the dishes up and stands, walking along the mattress. She places everything on the couch, and then turns back and sits next to Jess, now facing him. Once again, she leans in for a kiss, but he stops her.
"What?" she asks, confused.
He is wordless as the feeling inside runs faster, like sparks jumping across his skin. Covering it up, he smirks at her, showing her his open, empty palm.
"What…" She trails off as he reaches behind her ear in a quick, sharp movement, and she rolls her eyes.
"Jess, I told you not to —"
She cuts herself off when she sees the object he holds. It is not the expected coin, but something more; much more. It is small and simple, a silver thin band, with a tiny, clear cut diamond in the center. A dizzy rush spins through her, and she clutches the blanket she sits on.
"Jess, I… I'm tired and a mess, and there are dirty dishes on our couch, and there are cartoons on… and..."
He is still quiet, asking her with his eyes.
"I told you that you weren't allowed to do that," she says hopelessly, chastising him for the magic trick.
She means to lean forward, but finds herself falling instead. Instinctively, she grabs his wrist, and he meets her in a kiss. He pulls her onto him, so she's back in the position she started in earlier tonight, sitting on his lap. She draws their hands up, so they are palm to palm, and very carefully, he maneuvers the ring onto her finger.
It slips halfway down, before she pulls away, and pushes it the rest of the way, giving him her answer. Looking up, she chokes back a wave of emotion, hating that she has gone girlish and ridiculous at this.
This time, she kisses him gently, both hands moving across his jaw, reaching to cup his face. She pulls away, only to lean her forehead against his, letting her hands fall down to his chest.
"Your heart's beating really fast," she whispers.
"So is yours."