Title: Out of Context
Disclaimer: Let's see… I don't own the characters. I also don't own the following: "To His Coy Mistress" by Andrew Marvell, "The Future Freaks Me Out" by Motion City Soundtrack, and "Here I Love You" by Pablo Neruda.
Summary: Time and circumstance. They're always a factor. (Lit)
A/N: Huge thanks to the lovely Leigh who was my delightful beta. This is complete, by the way. One shot.
He brings her love notes. Every morning, he slips them beneath her apartment door as he passes on his way to the elevator. With the exception of the thin, spidery J in the right corner, none of the words are his own. The quotes are obscure, mostly from books she's never heard of, not until she googles the phrase and finds herself falling for him again (and again).
One Friday, he leaves her something special:
years should go to praise
Thine eyes, and on thy forehead gaze;
Two hundred to adore each breast,
But thirty thousand to the rest…
Rory chides him on quoting out of context. Have you ever read the entire poem? she asks him on the phone, seven paper thin walls separating them. She says, it's not nice to pressure.
He arrives around midnight, on her invitation. He tells her the poem means they shouldn't wait. She laughs and leads him to her bedroom.
In the middle of the summer, he climbs up her fire escape and taps on her window. She greets him dressed in a bikini, her hair sloppily thrown into a ponytail. Sweat dots her forehead and the pale expanse of her stomach. She frowns at his antics.
You can come in, she says, but if you call me Juliet, they'll never find your body.
He smirks and kisses her on the mouth. Her skin is hot, feverish, and he devours her as she yanks him inside, into her living room. The back of his wifebeater is glued to him like a loose layer of flesh; she pulls on it, laughing; he already has her top off.
An age at least to every part, he whispers, his tongue delicately grazing her ear. And the last age should show your heart.
His words grab hold of her senses, piquing them; the hair on the back of her neck stands up. She shivers deliciously in his arms.
For the third day in a row, Rory calls out of work. He lets himself into her apartment and brings her breakfast in bed. A stack of pancakes drowned in syrup; bacon and scrambled eggs (with cheese, just as she likes them). He gives her a glass of milk after she politely declines his coffee, not in the mood for caffeine.
Shouldn't you be at the office? she asks him when she's finished. She burrows beneath her blankets so he can only see the oval shape of her face.
I'm sorry, I thought I was being helpful. I'll go.
No, she yells. Her hand shoots out from under the sheets and grabs his arm in a death grip. Stay, she begs. Please.
He crawls under the mound of blankets, and finds her in the muffled darkness. For the first time, he notices the bags under her eyes. They are deep, defined. He thinks he'll start staying over more often, force her to sleep.
Does your head hurt? he asks in a whisper. Under the sheets, where everything is dark and quiet, he doesn't think it right to raise his voice. He imagines his words as small and cautious, little soldiers that march toward her with careful steps.
When she nods, he inches closer and runs a hand through her hair.
Sometimes it hurts so bad it wakes me up in the middle of the night, she confesses.
When it does that you should call me, he tells her.
She nods and rubs her face against the rough fabric of his shirt.
As she towel dries her hair, she hears her front door close followed by a heavy thump in her kitchen. She slips on her bathrobe and tiptoes out to investigate. Before she makes it out of her bedroom, the music starts.
I'm on fire
And now I think I'm ready
To bust a move
Check it out I'm rocking steady…
Jess stands in the middle of her kitchen, looking nonchalant as the stereo plays.
What are you doing? She has to shout over the music.
The neighbors are going to freak out! she warns.
One second he is static, the next he has her pulled flush against him. His arms encircle her waist and he asks her if she wants to dance.
She shakes her head, lost between smiling and laughing – stuck somewhere in a mix of the two. He thinks she looks wild and beautiful, her hair wet and eyes bright. With a careful hold on her wrist, he spins her.
I haven't heard this song in forever, she tells him as it nears its last minute and becomes somewhat quieter.
He explains how he was going through his old collection and found it; he thinks it belongs to her. She kisses his cheek and thanks him for returning it.
She disappears into the bedroom to dress, a bounce in her step. He leans against the counter and watches her go.
He hates poetry. There are very few exceptions. But he uses it more and more lately to make her smile in the morning, so that maybe it will carry her through the day and then when night falls, she will still be happy.
He's gone soft, he thinks. The masculine equivalent of a silly, starry-eyed girl. He doesn't mind though. Not when her reaction is worth it. Not when she kisses him breathless and sleeps beside him in bed. Not when he remembers how much he loved her back in high school, and how much he loves her now. Now as time draws to a close.
Is this real? Her voice is a whisper, a soft breeze against his face. He turns on his side to look at her.
I'd like to think I'm real, he answers.
Maybe you did make me up. Next time though, do you think you could do something about my nose?
What's wrong with your nose? she asks.
No, it's not.
And my mouth, he continues. Do you think – he is cut off as she kisses him. She lays her hand on his chest, above his heart.
You and me, she says quietly. Would it be like this if I wasn't the way I am? Maybe right now you'd be in your apartment, avoiding me. Maybe you would have moved away as soon as you found out I lived here too.
Half of her body is on top of him; her right leg rests perfectly between his. She fits well, like a puzzle piece he misplaced when he was younger. He touches her hip, just because.
I can't answer that, he tells her honestly. Not for sure.
I love you, she smiles and it hurts.
I love you too. (She has never once heard his voice so delicate before. It pierces her like the pinprick of a needle.)
I don't want the situation dictating what I feel. I want to love you because I love you, she says. That's it.
He blinks and she's crying. He leans forward. The saline tastes sugary sweet on his tongue.
The next day, he slips another love note beneath her door:
unfurls in dancing figures.
A silver gull slips down from the west.
Sometimes a sail. High, high stars.
(Here I love you.)
The quote makes her dizzy. Her knees go weak, her bones suddenly made of pieces of cloud. The room spins in a whirlwind of color, enticing her to the floor.
Outside, it is snowing.
He finds her by chance, when he returns to his apartment in need of his wallet. There are no sounds of the shower or TV or radio floating from her home. The silence is thick, like a layer of grief spreading over the building. He bursts in.
She lies on the floor like a crumpled flower, his love note a breath away from her hand. He checks her pulse, and calls an ambulance, and hovers over her, terrified. It feels like the paramedics are taking forever, the fifteen minutes stretching into an eternity that blots out the sun. Time slips through his fingers like tiny shards of glass, cutting him as they fall.
Late that night, he drives her home. She says nothing.
He brings her up the elevator, ready to catch her at a moment's notice. She walks slowly, but her balance is perfect. He gets her into her living room, sits her down on the sofa. He stands in front of her, patient, waiting.
Six minutes pass in an uncomfortable silence. Her eyes are glassy; her position awkward. She looks like a rag doll he propped up on the couch. He wants to fix her, put her back the way she is supposed to be.
It's terminal, she tells him.
She stands up and brushes past him, disappearing into her bedroom. He does not move, but stares at where she was, when she was a lifeless doll, and he remembers her just like that.
He threads his fingers through her hair. Her body is surprisingly light on top of his, like piles and piles of feathers that barely make a difference. They both lay on her couch in the middle of the night, sometime after two. She isn't sleeping anymore; he thinks she's scared.
Do you know how people go on about what they're going to do when they grow up? she asks. What they'll do for the rest of their lives?
He nods. She isn't looking at him, but she feels the movement of his head, the brush of his chin against her hair as he dips it down.
This is it, she mumbles. I'm grown up. This is the rest of my life. Right now.
We can go to Europe, he tells her. Asia? Australia? he offers. I'll take you anywhere you want.
There's no time. She coughs, an aftershock from the sobs she couldn't stop moments earlier. She coughs again, chokes. No time, she repeats. I ran out.
He brushes his lips against her forehead, barely a kiss. He says, I have some time to spare.
She squeezes her eyes shut. Leftover tears slip down her cheeks, one by one. She pushes herself up enough to lift her head and see his face.
We cannot make our sun stand still, he whispers against her skin, yet we will make him run.
Stop it, she warns. Fresh tears form in the corners of her eyes. You quote things out of context! she yells. You don't pay attention to the circumstances! Europe? Are you out of your mind? You wouldn't even be here if I wasn't sick!
She sits up and pulls away from him, retreating to the opposite end of the couch.
Rory. His voice is even, calm. Rory, he repeats when she doesn't look at him. You need to stop worrying about everything else.
What? She doesn't move, but she doesn't object when he puts his hand on her knee.
It's okay, he says. Forget about time. Just pay attention to me.