Lux et Veritas
Chapter 19: Lightning
AN: Lux is coming closer to its conclusion. This was a good chapter to write. Finally things come together and pay off. Don't forget to review when you're done.
I apologize for the delay in posting. As I've explained, I don't want to post anything but my best efforts and therefore I have been taking my time in cultivating the story so that I can capture the right feeling. Since it's been a while since the last chapter, you might want to refresh your memory before reading the new chapter.
I do believe that this is the longest chapter to date, so, enjoy…
Summary: Literati. Rory, a college freshman, meets a confident adult Jess for the first time. What happens when they discover each other? Different backgrounds, attitudes, and behaviors. AU.
Sipping my tea, I wait for Susan to show up. Sitting here for nearly a half an hour, I don't know why I'm jittery. I'm just having coffee with her for god's sake. My leg bounces beneath the table and I flag down the waiter for a refill. I spy her figure coming up to the door and her blonde hair swinging around as she looks for me. I hold up my hand in greeting and she smiles, coming up to the table and taking the opposite seat.
"You're late." I accuse her with a hint of teasing in my voice.
She smiles. "I know. When have you ever known me to be on time?"
I scrunch up my forehead. "Never. You're right." But after a year with Rory, I'd grown accustomed to always being on time, if not painfully early.
"Right. Well," she looks around and grabs menu from behind the napkin stand. "What's good here?"
"Coffee." I deadpan.
She glances over at me under hooded eyes. "Yeah?" Busy reading the menu, she misses my sarcasm.
"What can I get for you, ma'am?" The waiter appears.
"Latte. Non-fat milk, please."
"Sure." He looks over at me. "Refill?"
I nod and hand over my cup. "Thanks." Tapping my fingers on the table, I smile. "So…Fitzgerald?"
"Yeah." She looks sheepish. "Um, listen." She's nervous, I can tell.
"What?" I drag out the word.
Cutely, she bites her nails. "How mad would you be if I told you that I don't actually have to read Fitzgerald for work?" She covers her face with her hands with a child and peek around open fingers.
"I would say that I'm not all that surprised."
She drops her hands. "Yeah?"
"Yeah. You're a horrible liar." I smirk.
She's mocking offense. "I am not."
"Yeah, you are." I raise my eyebrow. "You may be good at a lot of things, but being devious is not one of them."
"What can I say?" She shrugs. "I'm inherently honest."
"Something you and I don't share." I chuckle.
"Hide it all you want, Jess. You're a good guy."
"Don't spread that around." The waiter reappears with our drinks. "So, why the lie?"
She doesn't answer; only drops her eyes.
"Ah." I suppose I should be angry, but I'm not. In fact, I'm mildly flattered. "Susan."
She looks over.
"It's okay. If you wanted to see me, all you needed to do was ask."
She raises her eyebrows in surprise. "You're toying with me, aren't you?"
I chuckle. "Nope. Serious. I've learned that there's nothing to be gained in being angry. And perhaps there might be something in this whole, being friends with your exs thing."
"Wow, never thought I'd see the day." She hesitates. "So, really? You're okay with it?"
I shrug. "Yeah, why not?"
"What made you change your mind?"
I pause. "Let's just say that I realized it's a waste of my time in being angry."
We've talked for about an hour and I enjoyed it. It's nice delving into our past, slipping into comfortable conversation without the expectation of anger bubbling up beneath the surface. After we finished our drinks, I offer to walk her home. Braving the cold, I warm my hands up in the pockets of my wool overcoat. Her breath comes out in puffs and she pauses in front of a high apartment building. "This is me."
I whistle. "Nice. I suppose Daddy helped you with this."
She bristles at the comment. "What? Is it so horrible that I would let my parents take care of me?"
I shrug noncommittally. "No. I didn't mean anything by it."
"Sorry." She drops her glare. "I just hate it when people insinuate that I get everything handed to me."
"It helps though, doesn't it?"
Cocky, she turns the tables. "Dunno. Does it?"
I smirk. "I take care of myself."
"Not always. Or did you just magically pay off all your college tuition?"
"Touché." I chuckle and rub my cold hands together. "I don't deny it."
"I know." She smiles sadly. "It's just a struggle, you know? To be taken seriously…at work, with friends, life in general."
I nod. I know exactly what she means. If it weren't for my exceptional position with Ben and the fact that he runs in the same circles my family does, I would be fighting those stereotypes myself. "Never easy. Not easy having money; definitely not easy without it."
"That's for sure." She rocks back on her heels. "Would you like to come up?"
I glance sharply into her eyes and then soften my gaze as I look up at the imposing building. "I think I'd rather not."
"Sure." She bobs her head. "I understand. Thanks for today. It was nice."
She turns and mutters a thank you to the doorman as he opens the heavy glass door for her. I watch her enter before turning away myself.
"Hey Jess!" Nate and Scott both swivel around at the sound of Tim's voice. "Thought you couldn't come tonight?"
"Yeah. Change of plans." I plop down on a stool. "Vodka tonic?" I catch the bartender's attention.
"Hey man." Ben comes up behind me and places his hand on my shoulder. "Thought you were hanging with the blonde tonight?"
"Yeah, that's done."
He cocks his head and takes the stool next to me. "What happened?"
"Nothing." I take a sip of my drink from a chilled highball glass.
"Uh oh." He knows that clipped tone in my voice. "Spill."
I shoot him a disgusted look. "Yeah, right." I take a gulp of my drink, ignoring Ben to concentrate on the vodka.
Ben sips his beer. "Oh god, Jess, don't tell me you slept with her."
I glare. "What's it to you anyways?"
"You're gonna hate yourself, I know that much." He downs the rest of his drink. "Believe me, I know. You think it's good and all that shit, but then when things start to be complicated, you're gonna wonder why the fuck you ever removed your pants in the first place."
I roll my eyes. "We didn't sleep together."
"Oh." He seems surprised. "Well, good. Don't."
"You're not my father, thank you very much. And even then I'd tell you to mind your own business. Why are you so concerned about me anyways?"
He scoffs. "Someone has to be. You're not doing it yourself."
Condescendingly, I retort. "Listen, I'm a big boy. I can make my own mistakes."
"Jess, you're such a stubborn asshole." He chuckles. "Why make the mistakes in the first place?"
I change the subject with a toss of my head. "I'm friends with my exs."
He laughs. "You're what?"
Slowly, I repeat. "I'm friends with them."
I mock myself. "Nope. Not at all. We talk on the phone."
He stops, letting my statement absorb. Vaguely, I think I hear a girl giggle at Nate's lame joke. I can barely hear Ben's quiet statement over the buzz of the bar around us. "Jess, why are you doing this to yourself?"
With my guard down, the liquor does its job of loosening my tongue. "Doing what?"
"You don't want to be friends with these girls. Why are you doing this?"
I shake my head. "Maybe I want to be friends."
"You're not the kind of guy to be friends with ex-girlfriends."
"Why not?" I finish off the rest of my drink. "I can change."
"If this is the way you think you can do away with everyone, live like a hermit, you're in for a rude awakening."
"I don't think this is appropriate barroom talk."
He laughs at my sarcasm. "All right. But don't say I didn't warn you." He looks away and searches for the bartender. "Another round for us, please."
This is the third time I've hung out with Susan. We've gotten coffee, two lunches, and now a late dinner. Across the table, she picks at her food. I smirk. "What? Diet?"
She looks up. "No."
"Yeah, right." I tease her. Taking a bite of my burger, I speak with my mouth full, uncaring of my manners. "I know this isn't really your scene."
"I like a burger here and there."
She grins. "I tried."
I nod. "I know. And I also remember that you barely touch meat."
"Since I was sixteen."
"I know." I grab a couple of fries. "Healthiest time of my life was when we were together."
She points her fork at me. "Don't think I don't remember all that soy stuff you eat. Tofu, organic, blah, blah. You'd think you were the one constantly on a diet."
I smirk. "It's not a diet. It's just what I eat. But I still eat meat and the occasional greasy burger in a questionable diner such as this."
She looks down at the not entirely clean table. "Yeah well, it helps that your metabolism is constantly going. Seriously, I've never seen anyone eat as much as you do and never gain a pound."
I open my mouth to reply, but clamp down. I know one person who's got me beat in that department. "Yeah. Growing boys gotta eat."
Our banter is easy and has been ever since we've hung out. But I'm not so blind as to realize that there's no sparkle there anymore. Being with her no longer stirs any gut-shaking feeling in my belly, my palms don't sweat like they used to when we were first together. Being with her now is comfortable, and in all seriousness, entirely friendly. We've slipped past the nonexistent phase of flirtatiousness and landed directly in the middle of friendship.
"So how's the new book going?" She perks up.
"Good. Almost done with the first round of editing." I genuinely smile. "It's gonna be great."
"I'm happy for you."
"Thanks." I finish the rest of my fries. "You done?"
"Yeah." She pushes her half-finished plate off to the side.
I ask for the check and don't even bother with her protests as I pay for it in full. Dropping a decent tip, I get up and shrug on my coat. Waiting for her by the door, I open it and let her step through first. "You going home?"
"Yeah, it's late."
"Okay." I cross the street, heading in the direction of her apartment.
The short walk to her home takes place quickly. Our feet quicken as the wind picks up around us. I curse myself for not having gone to the bathroom at the diner. I polished off three cups of tea, not to mention the bottle of water I had before. "Hey, can I use your bathroom?"
She turns at the entrance of her building. "Sure."
I follow impatiently as we step onto the elevator and ascend to the third floor. Watching her unlock the door, I look around. It's exactly what I would have imagined. Decorative, stylish, pale pastels. "Um, where is it?"
"Oh, sorry." She waves down the hallway. "First door to your left."
"Thanks." Finding it quickly, I close the door behind me. Noticing her familiar knickknacks as I finish and wash my hands, I flip off the light to return to the living room.
She's heating something up in the microwave. "Want a cookie?"
I chuckle. "Doesn't that break the rules of your diet?"
"Every diet has room for some chocolate chip cookies." She comes over with a stack of them on top of her mug. "Yeah?" She hands me one.
I take a bite, chocolate melting onto my fingers. "Thanks." Joining her at the kitchen table, I sit. Picking apart the rest of the cookie, I glance over at her in the dim light. She's still pretty, undoubtedly, but not enough to move me in the same way anymore. I grin to myself. Being friends with her not only let me forget my anger and finally forgive her, but it ultimately helped me move on. Finally.
She smiles at my thoughtful expression. "What?"
Softly, I reply. "Nothing."
She takes a sip of her coffee and watches me coyly from the brim of her cup. "You haven't changed one bit. And yet I feel like you're an entirely different person."
I smirk. "Yeah?"
"Yeah." She slowly puts down her cup and leans forward to close the distance between us. Feeling her lips suddenly on mine, I respond, tentatively at first, and then with increasing pressure. But there's nothing to be found. No spark, no emotion. It's an empty kiss. Her hands are holding my forearms and I ease out of the kiss. Pursing my lips, I open my eyes to find that she's already staring into mine. I swallow heavily and she does the same. The air is dense and it snaps the moment.
I chuckle dryly and scratch the back of my head. "Should I say it, or do you want to?"
She laughs and leans back into her chair. "What? That our kiss right now felt like kissing my uncle?"
I join her sarcasm. "You kiss your uncle on the lips? That's not cool."
"Oh god." She throws her head back and shakes out her hair. "What happened to us?"
I smile tenderly and reach out to brush some fallen hair away from her eyes. "Time."
She smiles as well. "Yeah. I guess. I felt it the other day when we had lunch. Or more correctly, I didn't feel it."
I nod. "I had a similar feeling as well."
"Guess this means there's really nothing left between us." Her tone is light, not disappointed in the least.
And I'm not either. "Yeah, guess not."
"Wow." She grabs her mug to take a sip. Sputtering out laughter, she almost spits out her coffee.
"Easy there." I take the cup from her hands. "Don't choke."
She giggles. "I spent all this time thinking that I wanted you again."
I brush it aside. "Maybe you were just caught up in the notion of being with me. The relationship. Not really me."
I lean back. "No hard feelings?"
"Nope." She stands. "Now this is what I call closure."
I laugh, a deep rumble in my throat. "Yeah." I open the door. "Thanks for this."
"For what?" She teases. "A horrible kiss?"
"Yes." I'm being serious. "At least now we know for sure."
"I'll see you around?"
She smiles prettily. "Maybe."
But we both know that we won't. There's a silent agreement that this is really the end. I glance at her once more…my last look at a woman who finally holds no question marks in my head. There are no lingering caresses of the physical, visual, or emotional variety. This is the end. We both appear surprisingly calm and relieved. I shut the door behind me with a smile.
My phone vibrates in my pocket as I reach the lobby of Susan's building. Taking it out and glancing at the caller id, I answer. "Hey."
"Hey." Her voice comes out in a flurry. "You know the poem I Like It When You're Quiet? Who wrote it? It starts out like…um, 'It's as if you're not here now, and you heard me from a distance…' Something like that."
"Yes! That's it. Thank god I finally found it." She sighs and takes a deep breath. "Hi."
I chuckle. "Hello Rory."
I glance back into the building I just vacated. "Saying goodbye to something in my past."
"Nothing. Why are you spouting poetry at eleven o'clock?"
"Betting against my roommate."
I smirk. "A bet? You called me to settle a bet?"
"Which, by the way, I won!" I can her yell that to whomever is in the room with her. Muted grumbling floats across the phone and into my ear. "Thanks."
"Welcome." I don't ignore or push away the feeling of something indescribable hearing her voice again. I like it. I stand at the corner, spying a cab and flagging it down. Getting in and placing my hand over the mouthpiece of my phone, I give the driver my address. "How are you?"
"I'm good. Oh, I'm coming to the Big Apple."
I roll my eyes in jest. "Tourist."
"I give it away, don't I?"
"No self-respecting New Yorker would call the city the Big Apple."
"Coming to the conference, I see."
I settle myself into the vinyl seat. "When?"
With the success of what just happened with Susan, I'm eager for some closure with Rory as well. "I'd like to see you."
"Really?" Her voice squeaks.
"Yeah. Can I?"
"Sure. Yeah, I'd like that." The happiness in her voice elevates something within me.
"Good. Where are you staying?"
"Uh." I hear her shuffling papers around. "The Marriott, I think. Do you know where it is?"
The innocence in her question makes me smile. "There might be more than one, Rory. It's a big city."
"Right." She sounds embarrassed. "Of course."
"Why don't you email me your itinerary? We'll make something work."
"Okay. I've gotta go, Jess."
"Sure. I'll see you."
I hang up and watch the city slowly pass by my window.
The cab driver looks into the rearview mirror. "Girlfriend?" He smiles.
He catches me off guard. "Uh, no."
"Sounded like it."
Softly, I trace my finger on the fogged up glass. "Nope."
"Dude." Scott points at me with both hands. "What would you say if I told you I've got dates with two gorgeous girls this weekend?"
I smirk. "I'd say you'd better be careful not to over inflate her." I hear Ben laughing from across the room.
He makes a face. "Fucking smart ass." He comes around my desk, perching himself on the corner. "Seriously, I do. And I need you to come."
I lean back and tip my chair. "Why?"
"I need some sort of a wingman. Someone who can help me show this girl that I'm funny and not a jerk. Plus, I promised her that I'd bring someone for her roommate."
I shake my head. "Can't. I have plans for this weekend."
"You do not."
Ben suddenly appears. "Jess is going to try to see if he's really over his ex."
I scowl. "What part of private conversation do you not understand?"
He looks smug. "All parts."
"Wait." Scott interjects. "What girl?"
Tim takes a chip from the leftovers of his lunch and speaks up. "You know, the girl that Jess had before he came here."
"The one that he wouldn't tell us about." Nate chirps in as well.
Throwing up my hands in exasperation, I sigh. "How the hell do you all know about my life?"
"Hey." Nate looks offended. "We make it our business to know."
Tim chuckles. "Yeah. We live vicariously through your broken and messed up love life."
"So, what? You can't come?" Scott harps on.
I shake my head. "Nope. Sorry. Take Nate."
"Hey!" Offended, Nate stands up.
I smirk. "Take Ben, then."
Scott looks over hopefully at him. "Yeah?"
Ben shrugs. "She hot?"
"You paying for dinner? Don't leave me picking up the tab for you again."
Scott sighs. "Yeah, dinner's on me. But I'm not buying your drinks. The Irish in you will drink me under the table, not to mention broke."
Ben chuckles. "Fine."
I get up and pocket my phone. "All right, gentlemen. I'm outta here."
Ben pulls on my arm. "Hey. Don't do anything stupid."
"What?" At his raised eyebrow, I sigh. "God, you're not gonna lecture me again? The friends' thing worked out with Susan. Now I know I'm totally over her. I'm just going to do the same with Rory."
"And what if you don't reach the same conclusion?"
That thought hadn't occurred to me. "I will."
"Susan was just a girl you were with for a while. Rory was a girl you were in love with."
I rub my eyes. "Are you saying I can't get over her?"
"I'm not saying anything. Just be careful." He walks away.
"Hey!" She breezes out of the elevator, wrapped in a scarf and a heavy coat. "Hi."
I stand in lobby, hands casually in my pockets. "Hey." My heart begins to beat faster as she impulsively reaches up to hug me. I catch a whiff of her shampoo and my body reacts. I pull her gently out of my arms, hoping she won't notice.
She doesn't. "It's freezing here. Did you guys get a storm or something?"
"Yeah, it's been kinda cold these days."
"I'll say. I'm glad that the conferences are entirely indoors."
"So, you ready?" I rock back onto my heels.
"Yeah. Where are we going?"
She smiles. "Yeah, I'm starving."
"Come on then." I reach out and settle my hand on her lower back protectively before suddenly realizing what I've done. Pulling back quickly, I shake it off.
"Are we walking?" Her cheeks are already becoming red in the cold.
I was planning on it. However, seeing her bounce up and down to keep warm makes me reconsider. "Uh, no." I step off the curb and see an approaching empty cab. Placing my fingers into my mouth for a shrill whistle, it stops besides us. "Get in." I open the door for her.
She's astonished at the action but gets in without a word. I get in after her and lean into the partition to give the driver the destination. He nods and I settle back into the seat next to her. Catching her look, I question. "What?"
I tilt my head and prod. "Come on, what?"
"You're different." She looks away.
"You're just…I don't know." She shrugs. "Self-assured, I guess."
Her brilliant smile stirs something in me again. Damn. "Is that a good thing?" I turn to her.
I lean closer to her. "It's nice to see you again."
"Wait." She reaches out to stop my hand from grabbing a French fry. The light touch shoots electricity off like sparks. She doesn't seem to notice. "You're writing?"
I smirk. "You sound surprised."
"I'm not." She takes a gulp of her soda. "Okay yes, I am." She laughs. "That's so great, Jess."
"Don't be so excited. It's nothing. Just a manuscript at this moment."
"I'm sure it's great." She takes a big bite of her burger and speaks with her mouth full while trying to cover it up with a napkin. "Wow. A book."
I roll my eyes. "Not a book. It's in a notebook right now."
"Don't be modest. This is so cool. Will you let me read it?"
"I don't know." I look away.
"Come on. Please…" She pouts, lower lip protruding.
"Put that away." I joke on the outside, but on the inside, it reminds me of something she used to do a lot. And I painfully remember that it would always lead to more jokes, and eventually to bed. "Fine. But no pouting or making fun of me."
She drops the look immediately. "Deal." She continues to eat and I do the same. Ten minutes pass by with several lingering glances over the table passed between the two of us, but we're relatively silent. She stops and drops her burger onto her plate.
I pause. "What? No good?"
"Oh, no. It's great." She places her elbows on the table. "Jess?"
"I'm gonna say something, which probably isn't the smartest thing to do. And it'll probably ruin the rest of our lunch, but…I need to say it."
I narrow my eyes and stop eating. "Okay."
"Could you…" She falters. "Could you not look at me while I do this?"
"No. You're making me nervous and I'm already nervous enough."
"Okay." I advert my eyes and shift my entire body to the side.
I hear her sigh, and from the corner of my vision, I see her twisting her fingers. "I uh. I think I miss you."
"You think?" I turn.
"Right." I turn back around. "Go on."
"When we broke up." Her voice cracks. "I was…hurt. I didn't know why you couldn't let me in or tell me what was going on with you. I said things that I didn't mean and I ended up regretting them. And even though all that happened, I thought it was for the best that we weren't together anymore. I still think it was the best decision at the time. Look at you. You're happy with what you're doing and everything."
I face her and ignore her protests. "Rory."
"No, let me finish." She takes a deep breath in. "I was seeing someone, and it wasn't the same."
My chest tightens at the thought and my mouth is set in a grim line.
"Not that I was looking for the same thing, but whatever that extra thing was, it was missing. And it wasn't even a serious thing with this guy. It was really casual. I mean, it barely went anywhere." She makes a face and ducks down, seemingly talking to herself. "What am I saying?" She looks back up into my eyes. "Anyways, I think that maybe enough time has passed that maybe…I was wondering…" She leaves it open ended.
I reach across the table and grasp her hands into my own. Rubbing my thumbs across her palm, I try to calm her. "Rory. Nothing has changed. You're still in New Haven and I'm still here."
"So what makes you think it would work now? You were hell bent last time in saying that distance doesn't work." My voice is gentle.
"I've had some time to reflect. And I think maybe you were right. If we work at it hard enough, we can do it."
I smile ruefully. It only took more than a year for her to see my point, and for me to understand that she really did mean for the best when she broke up with me. No matter how ill fated her intentions became. "And now you think, it'll work?"
"I want to at least try."
I release her hands. "I can't."
She looks surprised. "What?"
I surprise myself as well. Here I was looking for closure and become bombarded with this instead. Damn Ben for calling it earlier. He's right. I'm not over this girl. Being with her obviously proves it. But I'm also not ready to jump back into things with her. I'm not ready to put myself out there again. Not with her. Probably not with anyone. "I can't." I repeat.
"Are…are you seeing someone?"
Her arms cross across her chest protectively. "I don't understand."
"Rory. We're friends. Just like you wanted."
I sigh and silently look out the window to my right. She's not saying anything either.
The burger's gone cold and I suddenly don't want another bite.
We stand outside of the diner, painfully aware that we've not spoken in more than fifteen minutes. She looks up at the sky as I close the door behind me and I pause. She looks disappointed and sad. It almost makes me regret what I said earlier. She turns. "Maybe I should just head back to my hotel."
"No." I don't want it to end like this. "I promised you my manuscript. You still wanna see it?"
She considers my offer. "I…okay."
"Yeah?" I had half expected her to say no. "Okay. Come on, my place is just around the corner."
Walking, I keep a leisurely pace, aware that she's struggling to keep up with my longer strides. Shorten my steps, we near my apartment building. Brandishing my key, I open it and step aside for her. She keeps her head down. I punch the elevator button and wait with my hands to my side, knowing that she hasn't said a word. I hear her take in a shaky breath, but she keeps her head stubbornly down even as we enter the elevator. I don't say a word. Getting out, I usher her again with my hand on her back, veering her to the correct direction. Unlocking the door, I whistle for Adso. He comes out, eyes bright at seeing a familiar figure. He comes up to her, barking and jumping for attention. I watch, waiting for her laughing voice but find that she just pets him in silence. Now I'm worried. "Rory?"
She shakes her head, eyes still out of sight. Her voice wavers and to my horror, she lifts her face and to my horror, I find that it's tearstained. "I should go. I shouldn't have come."
"Hey, hey." I block her way, arm shooting out to stop her from opening the front door. "What's going on?"
"This was a mistake."
I sigh. "Come here. I can't let you go like this." Before I give her time to protest, I enfold her into my arms for a hug. She squirms against me for a moment, but then relaxes into my touch. "Sit down. Let's talk."
She does, sitting down at the end of the couch. I sit in the middle with my knees facing her. She brushes aside her tears. "I'm sorry. I shouldn't be doing this."
"I shouldn't make you feel guilty about this. You're right; I asked to be friends and we are. I was the one who broke up with you and now…I really have no right."
"Rory." I tip up her chin and gaze into her liquid eyes. My body responds to her, but my brain fights it. My heart's beating wildly against my ribcage as I lean over to see her match my movements. I hear her suck in a shaky breath, and I rub her cheek gently with the back of my fingers in hopes to soothe her frayed emotions. Today has been a rollercoaster of emotions; I had never anticipated for this to be the end of today. She's leaning closer and I swallow the lump in my throat. Resting our foreheads together, I cup her waist in my other hand and stroke her hips through her jeans. Bending down, I catch her lips between mine, tugging ever so gently. The kiss is soft, a lingering of touch, promising the onslaught of emotions we once shared. This is what I remember. The featherlike touch of her tongue against mine, the softness of her lips, the sigh that escapes her parted lips. Pulling back just a fraction, I struggle for the stability of my practical decisions. I sigh.
Her small hands are holding my face, fingers curled around my ears. Her eyes open and lock on mine. "Jess?"
I wince hearing the hopeful sound. I push the feeling aside. "Yes?"
"What are we doing? I thought we weren't…" She trails off.
I pull her closer into my embrace. Practically dragging her into my lap, I settle her and secure her place between my arms. Nuzzling into the side of her neck, I pepper kisses on the skin that's beneath my lips. "We weren't. We can't. But I want…" I leave the rest to her imagination. Surely she knows what I'm getting at.
She relaxes against my chest. "But you said we were friends. That's it." She sighs and presses her warm lips behind my ear, at the line of my jaw, on my Adam's apple…
"We are." My voice is hoarse.
She pulls away. "I don't want to be friends. I mean," she checks herself. "I don't want to be just your friend."
I grimace and try to hide my face in her neck, but she refuses to accommodate me and pushes my chin up to face her with a single forefinger. I shake my head. "Rory."
She flinches. "No, no."
Concerned, I duck down to try to catch her eyes. "No, what?"
Her hold on my chest tightens. "You're about to say something bad. I can feel it."
I don't bother denying it. "Rory." I find my voice again. "Rory, look at me."
"No." She shakes her head and defiantly keeps her head buried into my shoulder.
I nudge her and caress the bare skin of her lower back. "Please, look at me." She complies. Her blue eyes are glassy, signaling another set of oncoming tears and it breaks my heart. "I want you. I don't deny it." I pull her into my lap to show her. "But I also won't lie and say that everything's okay between you and me. I'm only offering you tonight. That's it."
Her lower lip quivers and she finally releases her hold on me. But she doesn't get up. "I don't want tonight."
I know she's lying. I can feel the heat of her arousal as much as I can feel mine. "Yes, you do."
She gets off of me and onto her feet. "I want more than tonight."
I swallow. "I'm not ready to offer it."
She's holding herself, arms crossed, hugging her midsection. She's upset. "Why are you so afraid of being with me again?"
I don't bother lying. I get up as well, feeling mismatched with her looking down at me. "Because I just am!" I stalk off into the kitchen, knowing full well she'll follow me.
"I'm willing to forgive you. I have forgiven you. Why won't you do the same for me?"
I hang my head. I don't have an answer. "I just…can't."
Softly, she asks. "Do you miss me?"
Eyes ablaze, I don't like her questioning something she knows to be true. "You know I do."
She's becoming irritated. "I just don't get you!"
"I'm not asking you to." I don't raise my voice.
It bugs her that I'm not stooping to her level. It only serves to infuriate her even more. "I know you miss me, you kiss me like that, and yet you're not willing to give me anything but tonight. Don't lie to me. I know you want me. I felt it. You were kissing me like you used to."
Yes I was. "It doesn't matter, Rory."
"Like hell it does!"
She softens at once. "Why are you so afraid to love someone? Why are you afraid to let someone love you?"
I set my jaw. "Because it only hurts me."
And that shuts her up. Coming up to me, she invades my personal space and kisses me once more. Unable to resist, I let her. I wrap my arms around her and kiss her back, hard and demanding. Passionately, I tangle my tongue with hers; tasting something I know I will never again. She pulls back and settles her palms against my chest. "I'm sorry I hurt you. I want to be with you, Jess. But if you're unwilling, then it's best that we don't see each other anymore. As friends or anything else. I can't handle it. But I won't beg. I want someone who wants to be with me. And if you don't want it, then…well, I guess there's not much I can do, is there?" She's braver than I ever imagined, and I admire her for sticking to her guns, no matter how much it pains me.
I drop her hands. "No, there isn't."
She stands awkwardly in my apartment. "Are you still mad at me for what happened?"
"No, I'm not." I whisper honestly.
"Really? You're not still mad over the fact that I said I didn't love you?"
"Yes. We both had our reasons. You were right. And I know you just said that to make me want to leave. I wouldn't have ended up here if we were still together so in some weird way, I'm glad things turned out the way the did. But this isn't about that."
She comes up to me. "Then what is this about?"
I sit down at the kitchen table and gesture for her to mimic me. "I asked to see you because I wanted to know once and for all that I was over you."
She looks mildly offended. "Oh." She traces a finger on the tabletop. "And are you?"
I scoff. "No. I think that kiss proved that much."
"Now what?" She asks. "You're angry because you find out you're not over me? I'm not over you either. You'd think a normal person would find that information as good news."
"Rory." Exasperated, I drop my head. "Whether I'm over you or not, doesn't mean I'm looking to get back together."
She recoils as if I've burned her. She questions, "Why?"
"I don't know." I shrug. "I…the thought never entered my mind."
She's stung. "Never?"
"I'm sorry." I reach out to touch her but she recoils. "I'm sorry, I never thought about it. I figure that once we're broken up, that's it. We're done."
"Things are in really final terms with you, aren't they?"
"Yeah, they are. It's why I wanted to work things out initially." She begins to protest and I cut her off. "I'm not blaming you. I'm not. This is about me, not you."
"Oh god." She groans. "Not the 'it's me, not you' line."
Even though I'm twisted with emotions, I snicker. "It's lame, I know. But it's true."
"Okay." She nods and gets up slowly. "Like I said, I won't beg. And if you say it's really something that you need to work out, then I'll believe you."
She opens the door and steps through. "Bye Jess."
Am I really ready to set aside what I've gone through just to do it all over again with her? I miss her, undoubtedly, but I don't miss the hurt I went through when she left.
Those words plague me. Why not? Because I can't stand being hurt again, that's why. I know I'm not over her, but it doesn't mean that I want her again, does it?
Turning off the light, I wander into the bedroom hoping to fall asleep sleep.
"Jeez, what the hell is up your ass?"
"Nothing." I snarl.
"Okay. You're not meeting the author today." Ben walks by with a matter of fact tone in his voice.
"What do you mean?"
"There's no way I'm letting you meet anyone when you're like this. Scott, you go."
Scott looks jarred but gets up to collect the paperwork from my desk.
I brush them aside. "Like hell he is. This guy's mine."
"No, he's mine." Ben's forceful, reminding me just whom I work for.
I relent but glare at him as I stand and walk out the door. Pushing the door open with more force then necessary, I sit down on the stoop and finger the packet of cigarettes in my back pocket. Tapping the box, I slide one out and slip it between my lips. Sparking the lighter, I inhale deeply. Blowing smoke out of the way, I finish the first one quickly. Stubbing it out, I light another as footsteps come behind me. I don't need to turn to know who it is. "Go away."
"Give me one." Ben stretches out his hand.
I pause. "You don't smoke."
"You don't know that."
"Fine." I toss him the rest. "Have at it."
He sits next to me and puffs in silence. "I take it things with Rory didn't go as expected."
I don't fight him. "Nope."
"Not over her, I gather."
I let the hitch in my breathing and my silence answer him instead.
"Cheer up." He pats my back. "It's not the end of the world. You'll get there eventually."
I shake off his hand. "It's not that."
In a rush, the words escape. "I don't know if I want to get over her." Surprised at my own declaration, I reach for another cigarette.
"Huh." He stubs his out on the concrete. "What brought this on?"
"We kissed." I hang my head. "She wanted to get back together. I said no."
"Because she hurt me, damn it!"
He looks over at me. "When? Last night?"
"Yes, I mean, no, when we broke up."
Gently, he speaks. "That's in the past. I thought you let go of it."
"I know. I have. It's just easier to forgive when she's not in front of me." I cough, feeling the smoke fill my lungs.
Ben's silent, contemplating. "Jess," he rests his forearms on his bent knees. "It's okay not to be over her."
He continues softly. "It's okay if you still love her."
My head whips around. "Who said I loved her?"
"What kind of idiot do you take me for?" He drops his joke. "Point is, it's okay if you want to be with her again."
"It's not okay. It would mean that…"
"That you need her." He chuckles. "It's not a terrible position to be in. Needing someone. You're human. It's okay to let her in again."
"You don't know what you're talking about."
"Maybe. Maybe not." He watches people pass by. "You're afraid of being with her again because you think that it would erase everything you've been through this last year. As if all your efforts have been for nothing."
I bite the inside of my cheek. "Why should I get back together with her?" Absentmindedly, I muse aloud.
"Because you deserve to give her a second chance. You deserve to give yourself a second chance as well. And you should once and for all forgive her and understand that she's not to blame for everything. You weren't ready to hear it way back when, but you know just as well as I do that it took the both of you to break up. It's not fair to lay it all on her, you know?"
I sigh and mumble, mostly to myself. "I wanted to prove that I was over her. All I found out was that I'm still in love with her."
Ben smiles. "I'm probably not the person you should be confessing that to."
Understanding breaks across my face and I nod. Getting up, I can't help but feel like I've got the wind knocked out of me. "I think…I'll be back."
"Take the rest of the weekend off." Ben chuckles and reaches into his back pocket to toss something at me. "Here, you'll need this."
Catching the condom in my hand, I scowl and bite back the question of why he's randomly carrying condoms in the middle of the day.
Seeing my reaction, he smirks. "Don't act like you don't want it." He gets up before I can remark. Turning his back to me he waves me off dismissively. "Get outta here before I change my mind and make you work."
Grinning, I flag down a cab coming down the street.
"Sir, I'm sorry, but I can't give out information like that."
Scowling at the concierge, I lean heavily across the counter. "Rory Gilmore. Just tell me what room she's in." Sucking in a deep breath, I look at him straight into his gray eyes. "Please."
"Sir, like I said—"
Pounding my fist, "I don't give a damn about what you said. Just tell me what room she's in."
"Sir, if you would please just step aside."
With a low murderous tone, I growl. "No, I would not like to step aside until you tell me which room she's staying in."
He meets my gaze with his own steel one, unrelenting of the information. The elevator dings and for a brief moment, my eyes scan own to land on a familiar sight. Quickly abandoning the front desk, I stride over to reach out for her arms. "Paris!"
She recoils but recovers and fixes her usual gaze of slight feminist disgust upon me. "Satan Spawn." She nods.
I roll my eyes. "What room is Rory staying in?"
"What? So you can badger her? I don't think so."
I clench my fists in a vain attempt from reaching out to wring the neck of the first person I see. Collecting my frayed emotions, I try again, voice calmer. "Please. I need to talk to her." For good effect, I add another, "Please, Paris. It's important. I promise I'm not going up to bother her."
She considers my tone and lets me hanging for the longest minute. "511."
"Thank you." Already around her and stepping into the elevator, I nervously hit the button for level five.
The doors begin to slide shut but not before she whips around to warn me. "Don't tell her I told you. And I swear, Mariano, if you make my roommate cry again, I'll tear off your extremities. Starting with the one that makes you such a stubborn male!"
Waiting impatiently, I watch as the hotel elevator opens to admit another passenger. Groaning aloud, the elder man looks at me but darts his eyes away immediately. Getting out, I jog down the hallway to room 511. I knock, well aware that my blood is pounding in my veins so loud that I swear it's audible.
It swings open to her in her pajamas, with a surprised expression. "Jess?"
I open my mouth to answer but find that I've reached out with my arms to crush her into me instead. The kiss comes out like a harsh winter storm, full of emotions that I don't know how to express, a torrent of feelings that are entirely too much for me to contain. I channel it all into the kiss, like a lightening rod, every word that I should be saying to her is expressed in all soft lips, tongue, and teeth. My lips seek hers and blindly, I usher her into the room and kick the door closed behind us. Her back bends to accommodate my sudden weight against her, and I press the length of her body hard against mine. Opening my mouth, my tongue traces her lips. She moans against me and I take the opportunity to push past her lips, seeking the familiar space of her mouth. I reach down with my hands, cupping her bottom, bringing her flush against me. My body responds quickly, pressing hard against her flimsy pajama bottoms. She parts her legs and I groan, feeling the delicious heat.
Wrenching her mouth from mine, she looks back, eyes wide. "Wha—?"
With my arms tight around her, I don't dare release my hold. "I love you."
"You what?" She's shocked.
I smile softly. "I love you."
"Are…" She doesn't pull out of my embrace. Innocently, she questions. "Are you sure?"
I laugh. "Yeah, I'm sure."
"But what about all that you said yesterday?"
I shake my head. "It's still all true. I'm still…unsure of us. I'm still scared of being with you again. But I love you. I know that much."
"So where does that leave us, then?"
"I don't know." I reply honestly.
"I need you to know." She detangles our arms and sits down on the bed.
I sigh and join her. "I really don't know." I reach out a hand to stroke her cheek. "I just know I don't want to be without you."
She smiles and drops her gaze into her lap. For a moment, I fear that she's going to refuse me like I did her. She looks back up, a mischievous grin upon her lips. "That's a pretty smooth line. Did you practice that on your way here?"
I smirk. "Did it work?"
She gives me a sweet smile but hesitation clouds her eyes. "Jess…"
Exasperated at the situation that we're knee deep in, I drop my playful smirk and sigh deeply. "I know it's sudden for me to come over here and spring all of this on you, but…ugh." I run my scrub my hands on my face. "I don't know. I just don't wanna keep denying the fact that I miss you."
"I know you miss me. And I miss you. But you said it wasn't enough."
"I was wrong."
"What is it that you want?"
I drop my eyes. "What do you want?"
"Don't answer a question with another question."
Smirking, "It's what I do best."
"You're infuriating, you know that?" She's annoyed but not enough to be actually mad. "Jess, be serious."
"I seriously hate being your friend."
She's taken aback. "What?"
"I hate only being your friend. I hate going home to an empty apartment. As much as I love Ad, he's not great company when I want to have an actual conversation. And I'm just so fucking tired of lying. Lying about what I feel, about what you mean to me."
Placing her head gently on my shoulder, she strokes my hand. "Is that going to be enough?"
"I wanna be with you. I know that much." Cupping her jaw in my palm, I relish in the fact that she leans into my touch. "Isn't that enough?"
She scoots over and curls her hand around my neck. With my arms moving to bring her into my lap, I bury my face into her hair. She sighs and kisses my brow. "Are you offering me more than just tonight?"
I kiss the bare skin above her tank top, making her melt into me. "Yeah. If you want it."
"I do." She turns to straddle my lap. Sitting on top of me, she looks down, eyes shining. "I love you too. I'm sorry, Jess about what I said when we broke up. It just came out and then I couldn't take it back. Everything just spiraled out of control until it was just too late. And—"
"Shh. I know." My hands run up and down her back. "What's done is done. Forget about it."
She tears up and I reach up to brush them aside. "Okay." I just stare at her, memorizing every detail all over again. I trace each freckle on her face, creating a map of who she is. I smile as she sighs into my lap. She gazes at me. "Are you gonna kiss me again or what?"
I smirk. Moving my hands to her knees, I part her legs further, bringing her down to me. Melting her lips against mine, I take my time absorbing the feeling of her mouth, of her tongue, against mine. Leaning back, I hit the bed, bringing her with me, still tangled into our kiss. I smile against her lips, and she strokes her tongue up against mine, to the front of my teeth, and across my lips. With my back flat against the bed, she stretches out on me, crushing her delicious weight on me. I shift our hips, letting her feel my arousal and she moans. My hands tangle into her hair, feeling the softness between each of my fingers. Bending my knees, I create a hollow and she matches her hips against mine again. Releasing my mouth, she kisses the underside of my jaw, licking her way down to my collarbone. Her hands go to the zipper of my sweatshirt and slips beneath my t-shirt, feeling my bare chest under cold fingers. I squirm. Pulling away, I lift up my head and complain playfully. "Hey, no fair. I can't touch."
She smiles broadly and sits up on my legs. Quickly pulling off her own shirt, I can feel myself growing harder by the second as I notice that she's not wearing a bra. Shaking my head, I sit up and reach out to palm her bare breast. Her head lulls back at the sensation. Pressing a thumb against the hardened nipple, she grasps blindly for my shoulder, fingers digging into me. My other hand brushes the skin of her exposed back, creating goosebumps as I go along. Dragging her up into my lap again, I sit with my back against the headboard. Kissing down to her shoulder, I nip at the curve of her neck, breathing in her scent. "God, you're beautiful." She smiles but looks away at the compliment. Kissing her shoulder, I rest for a moment against her, trying to catch my breath.
Leaning away from me, she snickers at my protest. "Hold on." She crawls down my legs to unbuckle my belt, undo my jeans, and pull them off. My thin boxers do nothing to hide my erection. She draws a lazy finger down my length and I lay down, bringing her back up into a kiss. Flipping us around, I hover over her. Hooking my fingers around her bottoms, I pull them down and toss them away. She giggles. Kissing her naked knee, I continue my way up, finding the edge of her light gray underwear. Her intake of breath is sharp as I kiss her inner thigh and then up my way to the junction of her legs. "Jess, please." Her request is breathless. She holds out her hands to me and I take them, kissing the spot between her breasts and back up to her lips.
Lying side by side, I just enjoy our kiss. It's been too long and I'm in no hurry to have sex with her. I just want to be with her. Running a hand down her side, I pull her into me. She nuzzles my neck and traces the elastic of my boxers. I look down. "It's okay." She nods and removes them as I lift my hips. I finger her bottoms as well. "Can I?"
She nods but takes them off herself. She lies back with a twinkle in her eyes. Kissing her, I move my lips in a heated trail down her sternum to her breasts, taking on into my mouth as my hand kneads the other. She arches up into me and I increase the pressure. Her legs come to wrap around my waist, squeezing me to relieve some of the tension herself. I rock against her, once, twice, and suddenly, it's too much. Way too much. I release her breasts to support my weight on my straining forearms. I drop my forehead against hers, sweaty from the anticipation. She thrusts up into me and it's dissolving my control. "Rory." I choke out.
Breathlessly, she mindlessly rocks into me, feeling me brush against her. "Tell me you have a condom. Please."
I chuckle. "Can't wait, can you?"
She glares at me playfully. Reaching between our bodies, she gives me a firm stroke to show how she feels about my lame joke. "I'm obviously not the only one who can't wait."
I smirk. "Tease." I rock into her again.
I lick her lips, before muttering, "Pocket. Jeans." Thank God for Ben.
"I won't ask why you're carrying around birth control in your pocket."
Restlessly, I run hot palms up and down her body. "Good. Don't ask, otherwise I doubt you're ever going to look Ben in the eye again."
She giggles. "I so don't wanna know." Turning, she shifts me off her body as she searches my pants. Snuggling into her side, I cup her breasts from behind, feeling the weight of her. Molding her body to mine, she bucks as my hand and fingers find their way between her legs once more. "Jess!" She sputters out laughter. "You're driving me crazy."
"Believe me, the feeling is mutual." I mutter.
Facing me again, she presses a kiss on my lips, her mouth hot on mine. "Are you going to keep me waiting?"
I smirk. "Impatient?"
"I think we've waited long enough."
I don't reply I simply roll her over again. Positioning myself on top, I unwrap the condom and quickly roll it on myself. Bending to kiss her again, I cup her hip with one hand and support my weight with the other. With a thrust of my tongue against hers, I enter her quickly. She tightens in unconscious resistance but I distract her by sucking on her tongue, drawing a giggle out of her. She relaxes and leans into me. I squeeze my eyes shut feeling that indescribable something that I've been missing. She curls her legs around my waist, bringing me deeper, and I clench my jaw feeling her hot around me. Eyes closed, I bend down to kiss her hard, tongues dueling for control, mimicking the movement of our bodies. I reach to cup her breast and I'm delighted as I feel goosebumps appear. Pulling my hips away, she whimpers, feeling me almost leave. Frenzied hands reach for my waist and she arches her back, sucking me in as she digs her nails into my shoulder blades. Reading her body like we were never apart, I reach between her legs, finding the place to touch her where she's too shy to ask. I watch as her eyes flutter open and closed, mouth parted in a perfect 'O', and a silent scream escaping her lips. Feeling her let go is more than I can handle. Sparks shoot off behind closed lids, dragging me into a damp darkness that's nothing I ever thought possible. It's over before I had planned, but damn, I've never climaxed like that. Rolling off to my side, I bring her close.
Struggling to catch my breath, I look over at her. Hair matted to her forehead, smile on her lips, she makes my heart constrict at the thought that I almost let her go again. Pulling her into the curve of my shoulder, I grin. Uncontrollably. Molding her body to mine, she catches the look. "What?"
I try to shake off my grin but find no result. "Love you."
She smiles and moves to perch her chin and half her body on my chest. I settle back into the pillows to make myself more comfortable. She draws a lazy fingertip around my flat nipple. "Do you know that you've only said that to me once before?"
"Oh yeah?" She can be incredibly distracting even when she doesn't mean to.
"Yeah." Her hands tangle into my hair, brushing it off my forehead. "After the first time we admitted it, you never said it again."
"Yeah." She lays a gentle kiss on my lips. "I like the way it sounds." She whispers into my ear, stirring emotions with her breathing against my skin.
I turn to lay a kiss on the nape of her neck. "Me too." Turning, I cuddle her close, wanting to feel every inch of her skin against mine. Skin that I've just marked as my own and a body that had just surrendered to mine. Hitching a leg over one of hers, I mold our bodies together, spoon fashion, and bury my face into her shoulder, wanting to reassure the fact that she's actually here with me.
"What's this?" She's lying on her stomach, half across me with her legs between mine, mixed with the hotel sheets.
"What?" I kiss her hand as it retreats from its place on my jaw and I reach up to hold her hand in mine. Squeezing her fingers between my own, I feel the contrast of her soft hands against my rougher ones.
"This." Her other hand traces a line down my left index finger. "It's a scar. It's new."
"Hm." I hum absentmindedly against her shoulder and nuzzle her neck for a moment. "I accidentally cut myself when I was making dinner a couple months ago." Pausing, I nip the softer skin of her upper arm. "I like that you know all my scars."
"Poor baby." She follows the delicate scar with her tongue, finally taking the tip of my index and sucking gently, bringing heat between our bodies and blood rushing to the lower regions of mine.
My eyes darken in the already dim room and I reach down to pull her bottom firmly against my hips. Nudging her cheek with my nose, she turns and eagerly accepts my kiss. Moving our bodies, I hover over her, arms braced at her sides. Her hair is fanned out across the pillows and without even asking, I rest all of my weight on her, wanting nothing more than to really feel her beneath me. She squirms after a couple of moments and I twist my neck to peek around at her. "Sorry. Too heavy?"
Her hands hook around my waist to move me off to the side, but not entirely off of her. "A little." Inching her way out from under me, she lays her head on my shoulder. Tucking her face into my neck, she nips at my shoulder and kisses it afterwards. Making a whimpering noise against me, I can barely make out the muffled sounds. "Missed you."
Tugging my fingers through her tangled hair, I smooth it down. "I know."
I can feel her eyelashes against the sensitive skin of my neck and the way it flutters lets me know that she's falling asleep. I hear her take in a deep breath. "You smell the same."
I smirk and roll over to face her. Kissing her again, I linger on her lower lip. With our lips and breaths mingling, I smile. "You taste the same."
Her cheeks are stained with color. "Oh yeah?" Even with all that we've ever done, I love that she can still be so easily embarrassed.
"Yeah. But I don't think I got enough just yet…" Dragging my lips down her chest, I surround her nipple, making it contract with heat.
She sighs and tickles my scalp with her blunt nails. "Hmm…you're good at that."
I chuckle, puffing breath against her sensitive skin. "You do wonders for my ego, you know?"
"It's big enough."
I smirk. "I'll have mercy on you and refrain from saying all the dirty things that just came to mind."
"Well, if you're not going to say them, are you going to do them?"
Shocked, I pull back with a grin. "God, what has happened to you?"
Shrugging, she tries to appear nonchalant. She fails and breaks out into a wide smile. "This is the new bolder Rory."
"Huh." Pulling her to straddle my waist, I lean back, loving the feeling of her pressed down hard on top of me. Resting my hands on her bottom, I nudge her up. "Let's see how far your newfound bravery goes then."
She bites down on her lip but nods. Rising up onto her knees, she engulfs me quickly in tight warmth. "Like this?" A bright blush appears as she moves on me in long luxurious nudges.
"Already shy again?" I chuckle. "Here, I'll help…"
I watch her sleep in my arms. There's nothing that can even begin to describe what I feel for her. Looking for closure, all I found was that I couldn't live without her. No, that's not true. I didn't want to live without her. She's tucked into my side, curled up, satisfied like a happy kitten. The rise and fall of her chest matches my own. Running a hand down her, I leave the sheets pooled around her lower back, covering just enough for me to want more. She's beginning to stir but I don't remove my hand. Turning onto her side, she smiles sleepily at me. "Hi."
Lying back down next to her, I roll onto my back as she comes to rest fully on me. "Hey."
"What time is it?"
"Hm." She snuggles into my chest and my legs part to let her hips match mine. "I have to leave today around noon."
My hands stop. "Why?"
"Because I came with the school. We took a bus." She rubs the sleep out of her eyes and begins to sit up.
Getting up as well, I bring my knees to my chest. "No, stay with me, at least for a couple of days."
"I can't." She crawls into my embrace. I hug her tightly and sigh into her hair. She's stroking my chest in a soothing manner while her words are anything but. "Nothing's changed, has it? You were right. I'm still in New Haven and you're still in New York."
I tip up her chin. "That doesn't matter. We can commute."
Cradled in my embrace, she relaxes against me. "But we can't sleep together as often as we did before."
"No." I smirk. "But that makes for some great reunion sex, don't you think?"
She tries to hide her laughter but ends up chuckling in the end. "Dirty."
Her laughter dies down in a sigh. "So…we'll work out, yeah?"
That sounds vaguely reminiscent about our relationship before. "Yeah."
Musing aloud, she rubs her leg against mine. "I didn't think I'd end up here during this trip."
"Isn't this what you wanted? To get back together?"
"Yeah, but I didn't think you'd actually do it. You're really stubborn, you know that?"
I snicker. "Same goes for you."
"Still, I had no idea."
I duck down to catch her eyes. "You happy?"
"Of course." She answers me quickly. "You?"
I smile softly and kiss her in response. Pulling back, I frame her face in my palms, brushing aside a stray tear. "What's this?"
"Nothing." She sniffles. "Just happy. I can't believe that I thought…oh, never mind."
"What?" I press tenderly.
"Just…we've lost a lot of time." She picks at her fingernails.
"Well, we're young." I make light of the situation. "And I think as hard as it was, the almost-year we spent apart was good for us."
She sits back, but I pull her bent legs over mine to keep us connected. "I was…stubborn. You were right to say it just now. I said something I didn't mean and stupidly I stuck to my guns."
I run her knee. "The other side of the coin is that you're driven. When you know what you want, you go at it, all pistons firing. No questions."
She smiles. "You're being very nice about this. Hate to say it, but I hurt you. I know that. I said I didn't love you."
I nod solemnly. "I'm painfully aware. But you were right as well. I didn't help with all the secrets that I kept. I've never let anyone in like I did with you, Rory. And still…I don't think it was enough."
"It wasn't fair of me to demand everything from your past. You have the right to keep some things to yourself."
"Not at the cost of us."
She shrugs. "Maybe not. Fact of the matter is that we've both made mistakes." She takes my hands and brings them to her lips. "So, no more big secrets, yeah? But the little ones like you secretly listen to 80s pop music, you can keep to yourself." She smiles broadly.
Returning her smile, I kiss her lightly. Reaching out, I touch her cheek. This is the time I tell her about Susan. I know it. If I'm going to learn from the past and not make the same mistake twice, I have to tell her now. Even though she looks like she's so happy that the world can't touch her. And honestly, I feel like that as well. "I have something I need to tell you."
I grip her fingers in mine, twining them intimately, drawing strength in doing so. "After we broke up. Months after, I…well, Susan called me. She left me a couple of messages that I ignored. But when we decided to be friends, I thought that maybe I could do the same with her as well. And a while ago, I was in her apartment…and we kissed."
She blinks. "Okay." The word comes out dragged out and slow.
"But there was nothing. And I'm not lying to you by saying that it was absolutely nothing there. No feeling, no spark, nothing. We both felt it, Rory. That night I knew that was it for us. That was it."
She nods and I can tell that she's mulling it over. "So you were seeing her again. Susan."
I release her hands and let her slide her legs away. "Yeah. Just as friends. I swear." I'm getting concerned. She hasn't said anything and her face is emotionless. "Rory?"
"You wanted…you were looking to be done with me once and for all. You went back to her." She's wrapped her arms around her chest. Gathering up the covers, she gets to her feet.
Anxious, I follow suit quickly. "No. I didn't go back to anyone. We were just friends. Like we tried to be."
That stops her. "Like us? This is where being friends ended up for us!" She gestures to the mass of rumpled sheets and fallen blankets.
Going up to her, I know this is my chance, once and for all. "Yes." Running warm palms down her arms, I pull her into a kiss. Applying gentle pressure, I move up to her jaw line, running teasing fingers down her neck to get her to respond. She beings to fight the kiss, fists clenched, but I don't let her pull away. If there's one way to get a point across with this woman, it's with action. Easing out of the kiss, I keep her tight in my arms. "Can't you see that I'm happy it didn't work out for us as friends? I much rather have this and be your friend."
She sighs and holds onto my hips. "Guess I shouldn't react with a knee jerk, huh? I've done that before and it did us no good." Pursing her lips, she looks determined. "But don't think that you can kiss me every time and magically make the issue disappear."
"Yes, ma'am." I reply with a cheeky expression.
Holding me at arms length she regards my face seriously. "You're really over her? There's nothing left?"
There's no hesitation in my reply. "No."
She nods. "I went on a few dates with this guy." She blurts it out.
I tighten my grip on her shoulder. "I figured that much."
Dryly, I respond. "You were talking to some guy on the phone that time we had dinner with my parents and Luke. I'm not that stupid."
"Oh, right." She looks crestfallen.
"Hey." I kiss her lightly. "I don't care about that. Really."
She smiles and snuggles back into me. "Good. 'Cause there's nothing to worry about."
"Rory," suddenly my gut tightens as I debate whether or not to ask the question. "Rory, did you…I mean, did you sleep…"
She shakes her head. "No." Biting her lip, she reaches out to touch my jaw. "Did you?" Her voice is soft and childlike.
I lean into her palm. "No."
"Are you lying?"
I should be offended, but I'm not. "No. You're a hard girl to get over, you know that?"
"And did you? Get over me?"
"I think it's safe to say that I didn't." I smirk as I tangle our legs together beneath the sheets.
"The guy I dated kissed me."
A muscle twitches. "And?"
"And it was…fine. Adequate. Good in its own ways." She touches her lips to mine briefly. "But nothing like kissing you. Kissing you is like…what every girl imagines when they watch old black and white movies but at the same time, it's not. It's the kind where men come to blows over and duel at dawn. It's like…trying to capture lightning in a bottle. Impossible but you imagine it's amazing if you ever get the chance."
"Lightning in a bottle huh?" I smirk.
I chuckle. "Good to know that I'm not replaceable."
Worming her way out of my grasp, she looks over her shoulder, tossing me a sultry smile. Wordlessly, she rummages through her duffel and tugs a shirt over her head. "Let's go."
Coming up to me, she drags a finger down my bare chest. "Breakfast."
I whine. "Why? Let's order room service. That's what it's for."
"No, let's go out." She hands me my sweatshirt and grins impishly.
"Let's stay in. I'll make it worth your while." Pulling her flush against my body, I groan. "How am I going to say goodbye to you today?"
"Don't. Take a couple days off and come visit me."
"You'd have to sneak me in. Can you stomach breaking school rules?" I tease.
"For you? Yeah." Cuddling back into my arms, she lays between my open legs.
I stroke her hair in a calming, repetitive motion. "I can't. The guys need me this week."
"I need you."
"How about next weekend? I can drive down."
She sighs. "Yeah, okay."
Smiling, I pull gently at the hemline of her shirt. "Why are you wearing still wearing that?"
" 'Cause I thought we were going to go out for breakfast."
Ducking down, I capture her lips. Moving in a gentle wet glide, I settle my hands flat against her, one at her lower back, the other tugging her hips into mine. "Have I convinced you otherwise yet?"
She smiles reluctantly. "Okay. Grab the room service menu."
Rummaging through the nightstand table, I pull it out. She hasn't bothered to move off of me, and continues to lay sprawled, limbs all askew. "What looks good?"
I nudge her a little to the left, shifting her weight. "It's a wonder you're not fat."
"Hey, you're not supposed to say that to a girl."
I bite my tongue from further sarcastic replies. "Sorry."
She wrinkles her nose at me. "I'll let that one slide, mister."
"So, pancakes and bacon? All for the low price of like, twelve dollars." I smirk.
"You were the one who insisted on room service." She picks up the phone and dials for the front desk.
As I watch her twist her torso, I pull her shirt halfway up her back, nipping the clean skin that I've just uncovered. She shrinks away at the intrusion as she asks the operator for room service. Giving her an innocent look, I shrug. "What's the good of ordering room service if you're not going to eat naked in bed?"
Her eyes widen and she gives a hasty thanks to whoever is on the receiving end. Hanging up, she gives me a mock look of reprove. Giggling, she pounces on me again. Hearing my muted groan, she laughs louder. "You have horrible manners."
"So I've been told." Pulling her shirt off, she sits on my upper thighs, naked once again.
"Jess…" She trails off as I circle my thumb in lazy patterns around her breasts. "One of us has to answer the door when they come with the food."
"And we can't both be naked."
I sit up further and capture her lips. "That's what you think. I'll have you know that it only takes about three seconds to wrap a bed sheet around my waist."
"But what about—"
"Shh. No talking." I cut her off with a kiss.
She sighs in fluttery pleasure and gives up arguing.
Shouldering her backpack stuffed with clothes and souvenirs, I reach for her hand. Waiting for the elevator, I turn her around so that she's facing me. Hugging her tightly against me, I breathe in her scent. She's soapy clean and free of additional perfumes. "How much longer?"
She tugs at my wrist with her free hand. "About an hour." She doesn't let go. "Hey, you're wearing the watch I gave you." She sounds happy.
I nod with my chin on the crown of her head. "Yeah."
"Oh." Her voice is muffled against my shoulder. "I have something for you."
I let her pull back. "Yeah?" The elevator dings and we step in. Leaning against the back, I tug her to stand between my spread legs. Good thing the elevator is empty.
Leaning into my body, she digs into her front pocket. "Here." A cheap plastic 'I heart NY' keychain dangles from her forefinger.
I raise an eyebrow. "You're kidding."
She giggles at my expression. "Hear the reason before you shoot it down." She reaches into my jeans and ferrets out my keys.
I smirk. "I like when you reach into my pockets. Keep digging around."
"Quiet, you. Ah ha." My keys sit in her open palm, bound together by only a single silver key ring.
"Okay, tell me why you're giving me a lame New York souvenir."
"Well," she pauses and steps aside as another passenger joins us. Edging into the back corner, she whispers. "I know it's lame, but this was trip better than I could have hoped for, and…well, I love New York, and I love you, so…"
I smile softly, understanding what she's trying to tell me. Brushing a soft but brief kiss on her lips, I take both the keychain and my keys. "Thanks." Slipping it on, the sight of an extra key catches my attention. As I wedge the plastic keychain on, I pull off the silver key. "Here." I reach for her hand.
"It's a key to my apartment."
She's smiling like a fool. "Yeah? How will you get home?"
"This one's Ben's. I've finally got the spare back from him. Safe to say that I'm sick of having him pop into my place in the morning for a cup of coffee." I grin.
"I…wow." She stares at it. "You sure?"
She opens her mouth to say something else, but the elevator chime signals that we're on the ground floor. Taking her hand, I trail her steps as we get off.
I'm holding onto her like an infatuated teen, but I really couldn't care less. With one arm tucked around her shoulders, I steer through the bus depot crowd. "Where are your people?"
"Uh, I can't see."
Scanning the jostling crowd, I pull her closer as a guy nearly plows into her. "Huh. Guess you'll just have to ditch school and stay with me."
She jabs my ribs. "Nice try."
"Oh, there." Seeing Paris direct the flow of students into an orderly line, I head off towards that direction. "Your roommate's a Nazi."
She giggles and tucks her body comfortably into mine. "I know."
"I guess I'd better be nice. She did, after all, tell me which room you were staying in."
"Point for Paris."
"But can't you convince her to stop calling me Satan Spawn?"
Her laughter shakes her body. "Sorry. Girls gotta stick together you know. She only started that after we broke up."
I drop a kiss onto her head. "No, I distinctly remember her calling me that that one time I stayed over and she walked in on us showering."
"You used her towel."
I shrug. "What was I supposed to do? Walk out naked?"
Instead of answering, she disentangles from my arms and walks over to Paris, mumbling softly. I watch with an amused expression as both of them turn, one with a smile, the other with a scowl. Coming back over, she plops down on the bench seat next to me. "She says we have fifteen minutes until we have to board the bus."
I nuzzle her cheek, unmindful of the other passengers casting us looks in our direction. Shrugging off her backpack, I lay it down by our feet. "Call me when you get back?"
She smiles and cradles my face in her small hands. "When did you get so protective?"
I nip playfully at her fingers. "When? Since I got back together with my girlfriend whom I haven't seen in a really long time."
The edges of her mouth quirk up even further. "Stop before you ruin your reputation."
I chuckle. "I'm always protective. I just don't say it out loud."
She laughs and wraps her arms around my torso. "Can I call you even in the middle of the night?"
"Especially in the middle of the night. Those always become interesting conversations about what you're wearing, what I'm wearing, what we could be doing…" I grin over at her wickedly.
"We've never done that."
"Maybe we should start."
She beams but her attention catches on something else. "Uh oh, looks like Paris is waving everyone onto the bus now."
"I still have five minutes." I tighten my arms around her. "No, not yet."
She kisses me softly. "Come on, walk me over, please?"
Picking up her backpack again, I tangle our fingers together. Jokingly, I tease her. "Don't talk to strangers, and if guys try to hit on you all you have to do is take your knee and—"
"Jess!" She laughs. "Protective and jealous, what a horrible combination."
I shrug and bump her shoulder gently with mine. "I'm getting used to boyfriend status again. Indulge me."
Waiting off to the side, we watch Paris take down names. "I better tell her I'm in line."
I refuse to let go of her hand. "You already talked to her earlier."
She smiles and wraps her arms around me for a hug. "I'll miss you too."
Rory pushes her face into my shoulder. "That was Paris wasn't it?"
I smirk seeing the girl all red-faced with her clipboard in hand. "Yup." Chuckling, I look down at the girl snuggled in my arms. "Quick, kiss me now, Paris has now moved on to making obscene hand gestures at me."
Turning, she waves her off. "I'll be right there!"
Cupping her cheeks, I brush a dry kiss against her lips, deepening it at my leisure. Moving my hands down, I encircle her shoulders and pull her up into me with a firm hand on the curve of her lower back. She stifles a moan at the feel of my tongue against hers and I pull back before it becomes too intimate. Keeping her close, I whisper against her wet lips. "You better leave now before I haul you back to my place."
"Okay." She smiles and reaches for the backpack in my hands.
Stopping in front of the bus, I stand with her for a brief moment off to the side of the line. "Hey." I duck down to catch her eyes. She looks a little forlorn.
Kissing her sweetly, I linger close. "We're going to be okay."
"I trust you."
I ignore the tightness in my chest at those simple words. Even though I, for a lack of a better word, love hearing her say she loves me, hearing that she trusts me affects me more than anything else. I can only respond with another kiss.
"See you later, baby." I smirk hearing that teasing endearment. Watching her climb onto the bus with a cheery wave, I turn, heading back in the direction of the queue of available cabs.
A moment later, I feel the buzzing of my phone in my pocket. Flipping it open, I answer. "Yeah?"
"Aren't you going to stay and watch my bus pull away?"
I chuckle as I turn the corner and wait in the line for open cabs. "That'll be another twenty minutes at best. I have to get back to work."
She laughs softly over the phone. "All right. Miss you already."
I chuckle. "Yeah. I don't think I can handle much more."
"Next time I come to visit can you take me and show me around where you work?"
"Sure." I slide into an open cab. Giving him the address, I sit back. "Do you wanna come to me next weekend instead?"
"Thought you were gonna visit me?"
"Well, I do have an apartment all to myself, whereas your dorm has roommates."
"Good point. Okay, I'll check the bus schedules."
"Pack light. We won't be needing a lot of clothes."
She giggles and I know that if I could see her, she'd be blushing. "Jess!"
"As if I even need to answer that question."
"Guess that bold streak of yours didn't last as long as I would have liked." I laugh, a soft rumble in the back of my throat. "Call me when you're back at Yale. Better yet, wait until you're in bed to call and we can have a nice long chat."
"Jess…" She trails off.
"We'll have that conversation I mentioned earlier."
"I'm hanging up now."
I smirk. "Spoilsport."
Not hearing any sound, I know she hasn't left the conversation yet. "You're gonna call, you know you will. You're curious."
Muffled voices waft over. "Paris is asking why I'm red and grinning, in her words, like a lunatic."
"Tell her it's 'cause your boyfriend knows how to satisfy you."
"Jess! Okay, I really am hanging up now."
"But you'll call me later tonight?" I tease her.
Just as the phone clicks off, I hear a quick and muted, "Yes."
Chuckling to myself, I snap the phone shut again and play with it in my palm. The driver catches my eye in the rearview mirror and the corners of his eyes crinkle with a smile. "Girlfriend?"
I grin and look out the window. "Yeah."
AN: Please review after reading.