Title: The Sky is Falling
Disclaimer: I own nothing, but my slowly dying laptop. The poor thing.
Summary: Doubt, guilt, fear. It's all coming at once. (Season 5 Literati)
A/N: So we're all on the same page: Rory's back from Europe, Lindsay threw Dean out, Yale is back in session.
She now knew what it was like to fall apart. To remain stationary as pieces of herself crumbled, little cracks appearing where she used to be whole. It was a curious process, losing oneself; she never thought she would sit down one day and wait to disappear.
Her throat stung, full of belated apologies and overpowering tears. Her eyes were red and wet and wide, as she watched her own train wreck in the mirror that hung across from her bed. She thought tiny little thoughts: what if's and maybe's that gave her no comfort. Instead, each was like an injection of doubt and self-loathing, enough to carry her over for the rest of her life. Words surfaced in her head, terrible and honest. (Homewrecker. Slut. Failure.) She felt herself drifting.
A knock on her dorm door startled her from bed. She jumped up and ran a hand through her hair, wiped her eyes. She was having her own personal pity party – no one else was invited. She didn't want to see who was there. Dean? Her mother? Lindsay? Of all the possibilities, none of them were promising. There was no one she wanted to speak to.
It was all very sudden, the way it happened. She opened her door and her heart jumped. She heard another part of her crack, and hit the ground. She thought she had fallen asleep and he was a dream, and maybe if he wasn't real, she didn't have to be either.
"I can't stay away," he told her, standing in the doorway. "Can I come in?"
She was dumbfounded. She was angry, too; maybe even a little relieved. Confusion and pain over what he did to her was preferable to crying over what she had done. She stepped aside and he walked in.
He followed her to the couch, and sat at the opposite end. He stared down at his hands, the slight shake that was just noticeable. When he turned toward her, he found her staring back. Right away, he noticed her eyes were red. Her hands were shaking too.
He knew what he wanted to say. He had gone over it again and again on his drive down here. But he didn't know where to start. More than likely, she would kick him out before he could finish; he wanted her to hear the most important parts first.
"What are you doing here?" she asked. Her voice was heavy, filled with something he couldn't identify.
"I wanted to talk to you."
"Where are you going to ask me this time? California? Canada? I hear Vermont is nice this time of year."
He closed his eyes, swallowing a retort. She wasn't going to make this easy.
"Don't ask, Jess." He was about to assure her that he had no intention of asking her to run with him, when she continued. "I might say yes this time."
He gripped the arm of the couch. He wanted so badly to know what she was thinking; he used to be able to read her with one look. Now, he no longer recognized her. "Rory, what happened?"
She gave him a curious look. "I don't see how that's any of your business."
Another silence fell over them, as both looked away. His eyes swept across the room. Whoever her roommate was, she obviously hadn't moved in yet. Everywhere he looked he saw Rory; books, CDs, pictures; idiosyncratic decorations that screamed her name. He could smell her perfume from where he was sitting; it was a familiar vanilla scent.
"Are you going to tell me what it is you want to say?" she asked. "You just keep… popping up. You disappear, and then you come back with some new revelation to drop! Just spit it out, and make me cry, so you can leave. Please."
"I never wanted to make you cry," he told her quietly.
"Yeah, well, so far, your track record is terrible." The pressure in her throat was too much; it was difficult to speak properly. She had to resist the urge to bury her face in his leather jacket and let it out. She wondered how he would react to that. Would he push her away? Touch her hair? She could do it, she thought. All she needed was a little comfort.
"Rory," he began, not sure how to go on.
She squeezed her eyes shut, pretending for a moment that Jess wasn't there. She wished him away, back to the city, where he could keep his problems to himself. She was alone, buried neck deep in her mistakes and regrets. Maybe this was too much by herself. Maybe she could tell Jess. He would listen, at least.
"I did something stupid," she finally said.
"I messed everything up." She balled her hands in her lap, bit her lip. "I slept with Dean."
This time when the room fell quiet, she didn't notice, not with the dull roar in her ears. The noise was so deafening, she almost didn't hear Jess when he finally spoke.
"Isn't - " He cut himself off, shook his head. His knuckles were white against the arm of the sofa. "Isn't he married?"
She watched him carefully, feeling the words bubble up within in her. She was going to burst. "No," she said slowly. "No," she repeated, "you don't get to be mad about this." She could see it on his face: the disappointment and the anger. The disappointment was enough to hurt, but the anger? He was mad?
"You left me, Jess. We weren't together when it happened. We haven't been together for a very long time, and what I decided to do was my business, not yours."
Red and green dots swam in front of his eyes. The pain in his chest rose and spread. He wondered if cardiac arrest could be brought on by superficial wounds.
"If it's not my business, why did you tell me?" he finally managed to get out.
She wiped away a stray tear. "You're good with screwing up."
"Apparently, you're not as perfect as you make yourself out to be."
She flinched and stood, needing to get away from him. "I never claimed to be perfect. It was everyone else who decided that for me."
He stared at her from the couch. She was still pale, soft and delicate; the simple kind of beautiful. In his mind, he pictured Dean kissing her, Dean undressing her, his hands bigger over hers.
"When did this happen?" he asked, changing gears. He imagined it must have been recent for Rory to be so upset over it. He thought maybe a couple of days; a week.
"The weekend after you asked me to come with you," she confessed.
His eyes widened but that was all. There was no other outside evidence of the shock that overwhelmed him. She was using his desperate plea as a time reference to sleeping with Dean. The weekend after. It had been a matter of days.
"I guess I know why you said no now," Jess mumbled.
"Don't do that," she snapped. She fell into the arm chair behind her. "What happened between Dean and I wasn't planned. He showed up at my house the night the inn opened. It just… happened."
"How does something like that just happen?" he asked, his voice filled with accusation.
"I don't know, Jess. The night was slow and I thought, hey, why don't I break up a marriage tonight? I've got nothing else to do."
He turned in his seat to get a better look at her. "So he was married at the time?"
"Yes! I helped him cheat, I was the other woman. He showed up and we started talking and he said all these things about how he and Lindsay weren't working out and that it was over. He kissed me and my heart was beating really fast and I felt so sad and happy all at once." She was rambling now, letting off steam.
"I took off his ring," she mumbled to herself, "and he was smiling at me! I didn't ask any questions, I just accepted what he had to say. I ruined his marriage."
The light from the lamp had become too bright, like an interrogation spotlight over the both of them. Rory shifted in her seat, trying to sink further into the couch cushions. She hoped they would swallow her up. She wanted nothing more than to disappear.
"It's not like you're the sole reason the marriage fell apart," Jess said quietly, trying to be unbiased in this situation. He wanted to wrap his mind around this, understand it, but he could only think: less than a week; a matter of days.
"What?" she asked. Her face was tearstained and confused. She had forgotten he was in the room.
"If he came to your house, it was because he wanted to. He knew what he was doing."
She didn't answer him. She couldn't. His words brought her little comfort, but the fact that he was the one to say them made all the difference. He had been angry moments before, subtly accusing her of terrible indiscretions. Now he was almost soft, trying to make her feel better.
"Jess, why are you here?"
He considered the question, compared what he expected to find to what was really here. "I don't know anymore."
"Are you back now? In Connecticut? Or are you just passing through?"
He shrugged as if he had driven down here undecided. "I was thinking about moving back."
"For me?" she asked. "What is it that you want?"
How did he answer this? There was so much that he wanted; so much he knew he would never have again. "I want us to be able to talk without yelling."
"Well, so far, so good." She picked at the fabric of the armchair, pulling on loose threads. "So you want to talk this out?"
"Okay," she said, leaning toward him. "Talk."