Questions of Science

By columbiachica (kat)

Rating – PG-13. A fairly strong one too.

It's so infinitesimal that she can't pinpoint it.

It's the moment that she drifts off to sleep at night, when she loses awareness and lets the darkness take over. That small, so massive yet so tiny, a black hole that just caves in and in and in until you can't even measure it.

It's the moment when it's raining so hard that she can't hear her music on the car stereo – not that she wants to anyway – and there's just gray everywhere because everything's coated in a fog of moisture and haze. You can't even see, just trust that the yellow line is where it's supposed to be.

That's how it happens.

Her awareness slipped into sleep, her reason shrouded in fog, and she kisses him.

He's married but it doesn't matter because she's in a black hole.

There's another man, but it doesn't matter because she's in a black hole.

Lorelai would be crestfallen, but it doesn't matter because she's in a black hole.

She's in a black hole and there's no hallelujah bright light.

Maybe Dean's in the black hole too, or maybe he isn't, but it doesn't matter.

So when he bends her backwards onto her childhood bed (a twin, too small for her and too small for the both of them and all the baggage that's collapsed in on itself) she doesn't refuse. It's lucky she's wearing a dress tonight because pants would give her too much time to think. Music in the background (lucky) drowns out her thoughts and she briefly wishes for rain instead.

The act itself is a little uncomfortable and wholly awkward, a fumbling mess, but it doesn't matter. Were she to be honest, she would have expected more out of it, but whatever. It's done and this new Rory, this adult Rory, has no regrets. The next time will be better, Dean says as they're throwing their clothes on, and Rory doesn't bother to tell him that her next time won't be with him.

That look, the one on Lorelai's face when she figures it out, hurtles her back into reality and she makes excuses.

It was safe.

Dean loves me.

He was my boyfriend first.

They sound absurd even to her.

She's rapidly crashing into another moment, but it's not a black hole where reason and reality compact into nothing. It's a moment where reason and reality form a tenuous bubble that eventually pops and coats her in misery and regret.

All it takes is a simple hello, the sound of her voice, and the bubble bursts and there's her hallelujah bright light.

Fuck if this doesn't hurt.

So much for the adult Rory. Now she's as childish as ever, crying on her front lawn.

When she's climbing in bed, exhausted and scratchy-eyed, it starts to rain hard, a spring shower that will pass quickly enough. It just didn't come soon enough.

She sees him the very next day at the inn. Last minute repairs while the guests are on a tour of something or other. He approaches of course, because he's Dean, and Rory backs away uncertainly, then turns and runs as though being pursued by Jack the Ripper.

Down the stairs, around the corner, and then another, until she's in the kitchen. Sookie says something, but Rory doesn't respond, choked by her own breath. Outside, she just keeps running running running even though her high-heeled sandals hurt and Dean is long way away.

She'll never outrun him, though, because he's embedded in her skin and her pillow.

Something in her tells her to keep running to New York but she stops on the bridge instead, panting.

"I love you," Jess had said, voice laced with such sincerity that it twists her heart even now, months removed.

Dean hadn't said that last night and Rory realizes that she'd heard Jess's voice in her head.

It had been Jess's voice running through her head when Dean wasn't saying anything and sometimes when he was.

She blames it on the black hole, but there's no sound in a black hole.

Just the memory of his voice ("I love you") makes her blood boil, but she decides that's not quite right. Boiling is a cooling process. No, the memory of his voice makes her tingle everywhere. It makes her blood melt. His voice, the heat of fusion.

It comforts her that all of this can be stripped down to a matter of physics.

If only there were an equation, she thinks, balancing unsteadily on her heels, trying to catch her breath. Variables and formulas and constants, that's what she needs. But Dean never varies and Jess is never a constant and there isn't a formula that combines them.

Wobbling, she takes her shoes off and walks slowly home, not caring if Lorelai is looking for her. There will always be someone at the inn for her. Rory wishes she could say the same for herself.

That's how it happens for weeks. Rory doesn't look Dean in the eye, flees whenever she finds herself alone with him. She takes to locking the front door and closing all the curtains. Late at night, she listens to mopey music, lots of Ryan Adams and Rufus Wainwright and Coltrane.

Lorelai doesn't say anything and Rory knows that she's still upset.

Almost a month after the ordeal, Dean knocks on her window. Rory just rolls onto her other side. She doesn't see him linger for a few seconds, but she feels him leave.

The next morning, she meets Lindsay on the street, a completely chance encounter as she's walking to Luke's. Lindsay glares at her and doesn't say a word as they brush past each other and that's when Rory knows –

She has to leave.

Dean isn't getting a divorce. And if he did, she wouldn't want him. Lorelai, formerly so dependable, isn't a source of unwavering comfort anymore and that's when Rory knows she's screwed up.

There's only one place she can go and she hopes the offer is still good.

Feeling eerily connected to her mother, Rory sneaks home and into her room, careful to avoid anyplace Lorelai might be. She takes most of her clothes, but nothing fancy, sensible shoes, a scant few books and CDs, ones she thinks he won't have.

All she leaves is a note for Lorelai.

Dean's taking a break at the market as she's leaving town. She drives past him and he holds his hand up in greeting before remembering: it's not allowed. Strung up by an invisible puppet-master, his hand hangs in the air for a moment before it drops back to his side.

She wants to cry when she leaves the town limits, but she can't. Really, it feels like she's taking a deep breath for the first time in a month. The gag has finally been removed and Rory rolls the window down when she hits the freeway.

Lugging all her bags up the stairs is too hard and too presumptuous, so Rory leaves them in the car and climbs the five flights of steps to Jess's walk-up. It feels like an invasion of privacy, but he'd asked her to come. Lifting the address from Luke's had seemed like second nature when she'd done it weeks ago and now she's glad she did.

There's a lot of noise, a long delay, and he opens the door.

"Rory," he says as though he anticipated this.

"Hi," she replies, shifting her weight from left to right.

"Hi."

"I didn't really mean it." Jess just raises his eyebrows. "I thought I meant it. But I didn't."

And that seems to be all he needs. The door opens wider and Rory steps inside. Messy, cluttered, and small, the apartment doesn't look like it will hold all of her belongings. They'll figure something out, though. It's just a matter of physics.

"Your stuff's in the car?" Jess asks, looking out the window at her rather poorly parked Echo.

"Yeah."

Together, they haul it up all those stairs and Rory is sweaty and sore afterwards. Jess hands her a glass of ice water and they sit on the couch.

An easy silence takes over and Rory wonders what he's thinking. She knows she'll have to tell him and then – then who knows what he'll think.

She feels like she hurtling toward that tiny moment and she frantically plots in head what she'll say when he asks why she left. Everything is narrowing to the question that she knows is coming soon. Another black hole and soon she'll be left without reason or reality so she'd better get everything straight now.

But he doesn't ask. He just says that they can either get take-out or he can cook dinner and Rory feels like crying.

"You cook," she whispers, dangerously close to tears. Jess scrutinizes her face, then gets up from the couch and starts cooking.

Rory closes her eyes and wills herself to get a grip.

Grilled cheese, that's what she smells. It almost makes her cry again and she knows she'd better get it over with. She can't wait for him to ask because he might never ask and that would kill her.

"Jess," she says when he hands her a plate.

He just meets her eyes and sets his food on the counter.

"I made a mistake," Rory tells him, staring at the sandwich.

"Okay," he says.

"I slept with Dean."

And that – that right there – the heaviest silence she's ever heard. It's worse than that black hole, worse than the hallelujah bright light of reality.

"I just missed you," she adds softly.

Moments later, Jess takes the plate out of her hand and hugs her. The dam breaks and she's crying, crying so hard she can't even catch her breath, crying so hard that her nose is hopelessly clogged and her eyelashes are greasy with tears, crying so hard that her entire body heaves.

It's been pent-up for a long while and Rory realizes that she was just begging for a moment to let go.

All the weight of that black hole, so tiny yet infinitely massive, it's been crushing her.

It's been crushing her, but it's okay now because Jess is hugging her (something he never did before and Rory wonders when he learned to do it like this with big wide circles on her back and his hand in her hair).

It's been crushing her, but it's okay now because Dean isn't coming to her anymore (he's married anymore and Rory knows that he's not getting a divorce because he's Dean and that right there is enough reason).

It's been crushing her, but it's okay now because she's away from Stars Hollow (God, how that place strangled her because she felt like everyone was watching her and she had a scarlet letter attached firmly to her chest).

"Let's eat," Jess says when she's done and Rory nods.

"Thanks," Rory says. What she means is, "I love you," but she's too scared to say it.

She thinks Jess understands anyway when he hands her a cup of scathing-hot coffee.

Blowing on her cup, Rory smiles, because boiling is a cooling process.

[and I'm sorry about so much baby, but I know you'll understand]

Author's Note: Feedback much appreciated. Lyrics are from Mirah.