Summary: She knew that one day she'd see him again. It was inevitable. She just didn't expect in it the canned vegetable aisle. Lit future ansty!fluff (if there is such a thing) fic. You've been warned.
Dedicated: To Becka. I ought to claim her as my muse, but I wouldn't want to link anybody's name to this. And to all of the wonderful Lits out there, who still believe and keep the love alive through stories and videos and art. You are the best.
Nothing was wanting to bridge the years. There was no gulf. He put out his hands and drew her to him, with no conventional greeting. And spoke as if there were no years—no memories—between them.
"Don't tell me you can't love me—you can—you must—why. Emily"—his eyes had met the moonlit brilliance of hers for a moment—you do." Emily's Quest by L.M. Montgomery.
She somehow knew that one day she'd see him again. Maybe deep inside, had even hoped for it, not that she'd ever admit it. It was inevitable. Small worlds had a tendency to become suddenly smaller, and add on the fact that their relationship screamed "no closure" well, that pretty much guaranteed that someday in the future (preferably when he had gotten bald and she was happily ever after married and ceased wondering 'what if'), they would have bumped into each other in a bookstore, a coffee shop or a concert in New York City. Someplace completely random, completely unexpected.
Of course, she wasn't expecting this random. Bumping shoulders next to the canned green beans and olives in a small grocery store in , USA of all places. Yep, that was not how her imagination had envisioned this scene. Stupid imagination! It could have told her that she should wash her hair and at least make some attempts at looking cute when she stepped out tonight. Instead, well, she was acutely conscious of the baggy sweat pants and haphazard ponytail.
It took a few moments for recognition to set in. Fine lines creased around his once familiar eyes and his hair was different (unfortunately and thankfully(?) very much not bald)…tamed, it lay against his forehead in lazy curls. But she knew his mouth and its sarcastic twist and the lean hands and his patented languid stance as he threw cans into his plastic basket.
By the time her shocked brain had pieced him together as the man-form of the boy she had once loved, he had grabbed a can of tomatoes and turned away. He hadn't recognized her and in another moment, he would be gone, sliding our of her life as unobtrusively as he had come into it and he would just be a part of that overactive imagination of hers—and she'd always been unsure if it was fantasy or illusion.
But she couldn't just let him go. Not this time. If this was how he was going to come back into her life, well, then, she wasn't foolish enough to stomp on the opportunity because her hair wasn't perfect.
"Jess" Her voice wasn't quite as confident and coolly detached as she hoped.
He looked up and she searched his eyes anxiously for some gleam of excitement at seeing her. An eyebrow raised but his gaze was cool and unsurprised. She nervously ran a hand down her hair as he in turn studied her.
"Hey." There was a little warmth in that one word, not much, but enough. He didn't sound overly polite (was there anything worse than polite small-talk?) and better yet, he didn't sound like her hated her. She could take that.
The awkwardness she had been drowning in lessened slightly. Impulsively, she closed the distance between them and hugged him—greeting him as an old friend. Yeah, that felt better. His arms reflexively went around her and for a moment, she rested there. She loved his smell, that smell that nothing in this world could reproduce… She had missed that about him. And the feel of his body, lean muscles and strength.
She stepped back abruptly. She had a tendency to behave rashly around him and that smell… well, she was heartbeats away from kissing him, and she knew from experience that impetuous acts and her did not play well together.
His eyes took on a wary look, one that she recognized.
"How crazy is it that you're here, and I'm here. I mean, if we hadn't ran out of Twizzlers, then I'd never come here and then we'd never be talking next to creamed corn and look, Spam. I didn't think anyone even ate Spam—"
"What are you doing here" His voice was quiet.
"I told you here—Twizzlers."
"Here." His voice was firm.
"Lane and her band, they're on tour, their first tour and I'm covering their story. Sort of, an inside look at the progression of a small band playing in clubs."
"You're a reporter, then."
"Nah, I just write for a small music magazine in Boston. It's not covering the poverty of the world, but I learned quickly from my first journalism class that it wasn't for me." She was proud of her job, enjoyed her accomplishments. It had been a hard lesson, discovering that what she had wanted her entire life was completely wrong. She wanted to tell him that—the old Jess, who once upon a time had challenged her life-long dreams of being Christiana Amanpour, would have appreciated her finally understanding what he had said so many years before.
"Huh." He was as unreadable as ever.
"Yep. And you" She tried to sound casual. "How are things"
"What do you do" Too late she realized that she had broke into forbidden small-talk land. Schooling. Jobs. California. Anything that could serve as a reminder.
He appraised her for a long moment. "Government."
She laughed for the first time. "Jess in the government—be serious."
"I am. I'm a…librarian here. Public library." He stood a littler straighter, daring her with his eyes.
"Really" She couldn't keep the surprise out of her voice and regarded him closely, trying to picture him stamping out books to apathetic youth.
He tensed visibly at the laughing note. "It pays bills."
"No, I didn't mean—" She tried desperately to think of someway to diffuse the situation, so he wouldn't walk away from her angry once again. "I hope you're not spreading stories about how unreadable Ayn Rand is."
The first genuine smile lingered around his lips. "Only to those who don't know better."
Silence drifted between them. He shifted the groceries from one arm to the other and glanced down at his watch. "Rory, I—"
She knew what he was going to say, and she had to stop those words of goodbye. "Wait" she reached out, desperately touching his arm, to keep him there. Her brain searched for words. "Please… All those years ago, when you ask me to go away with you, do you remember"
His eyes were scornful. She wiped a sweaty palm against her dress and looked away from the smoldering blaze of his eyes. "Yeah, of course you do. The thing is, I'm, I didn't know who I was. I mean, college was different. I was off on my own for the first time, going to a school that I had never considered before, that I kept thinking that I was going to for all the wrong reasons… It was hard. I almost failed out of a class. And I was alone, I didn't see my mom as much as I wanted, and I didn't have any friends. My roommates were psycho, and I just kept waiting for the affirmation that I was doing the right thing.
"And you were gone. You were gone, and I kept trying to say I was over you, but then, I'd be wandering around Hartford and come across a music store and picture you there, scorning their Pop 40 selection and I hated you. And then every time I was sure I was over you, you'd come back and mess with me. So the last time… I made sure it was the last time. Only it didn't work, because then, well, I messed up. Big time. It took a couple of years… but then I found myself, found the me that I never knew and I realized then, how badly I used you. And I'm…I'm sorry." She gave a feeble laugh that threatened to turn into a sob.
He looked at the cans over her shoulder. "It's…old history, Rory. I moved on a long time ago."
Her eyes flashed to his hand, the slender fingers and the glint of gold on his fourth finger. She couldn't stop the crushing disappointment that sunk into her chest.
He must have noticed her gasp. He ran his fingers through his hair and sighed. "Look." He paused, reaching for the package of candy she held in her hands. "Come to dinner tonight."
"I can't let you eat Twizzlers for dinner. It's inhumane. I'm cooking. Come over. We can … talk."
His gaze was mesmerizing—penetratingly familiar. She suddenly didn't care. Rory leaned forward, melding her lips with his, her arms wrapping tightly around his waist, much like they had on that first kiss so long ago. She would never tire of the feel of his body and the way he could thrill every nerve in her body, and yet, still make her feel completely safe.
They broke apart, as always, too soon. "That's my favorite part" she sighed.
"Wasn't supposed to happen. Not now" Jess grumbled, but his arms stayed around her.
She giggled and ran a finger across his lips. "Does it matter? It took you weeks to kiss me. We both knew what was going to happen, I couldn't wait any longer."
"You saying I'm irresistible"
She glanced pointedly down to the small swell of her abdomen, feeling the flutter of life below. "Obviously."
He dragged her backwards, still pinned in his embrace. "Now that we've fast-forwarded and gotten to the ending, can we go home? The ice cream's melting."
She shook her head, planting her feet firmly. "Nope. You did it wrong.
"Wrong? You're talking to the guy, standing in the middle of the grocery store, who just acted out the 'Reunion Kiss,' for your benefit; the guy who last week drove all over this town looking for an auto shop with a pay phone for the "I Got You to Quit Smoking" kiss—"
"Oo, that was a good one… What was the name—"
He continued smoothly, an old pro at guiding their conversations back on track. "Not to mention the guy who actually know the crazy nicknames that you've given our kisses…"
She pouted. "I'm pregnant."
He glared at her. "I know."
"You have to humor me. It's your spawn that's sucking me of life and nutrients—"
"Your body is made of sugar and French fries. I don't know how it could find any nutrients." He grumbled, trying again to steer her towards the vegetables.
"—and making me cranky." Her words marched over his; she had also learned the art of not being distracted"and you have to take care of me and pamper me. Anytime I want."
He sighed heavily and looked towards the ceiling"Why couldn't you have cravings like normal women? Sure you don't want some peanut butter and sardines"
She giggled. "Mom's having those for me—sympathy cravings, she call them. She makes Luke pour coffee over her ice cream."
"Poor Luke." He groaned in sympathy. The day that they had decided to marry the Gilmore Girls…
"You Danes men are such softies under the grumpy." She poked his belly, and slipped under his arm. "Now, just stand right here, and we'll try it again. This time—"
He stopped her with a kiss that verged on being on too intimate for a grocery aisle. Her hands were sliding down his back, pulling him as close as possible, pushing him back against the green peas, when they finally parted.
His lips remained close to her ear. "Tell you what. You let me pay for the food, and then we'll go home" he paused and lightly kissed her ear lobe"and I'll let you reenact last Labor Day." His lips brushed further down, lingering where her chin and neck met.
She leaned back in his arms, her face flushed and excited. "Make it our wedding night, and you've got a deal."
He shook his head with a smile, pulling her towards the checkout counter. "Deal."
"And" she threw an impish glance towards her husband, as she wiggled out of his arms, walking backwards quickly"I get to wear my veil. You wear the bowtie. I like that bowtie."
He caught her easily. Her protests of unfair advantage due to her inability to run because of the pregnancy ("You were always a horrible runner, Rory") were swallowed in his kiss, her laughter echoing across the store. As wonderful as walking down memory lane was, it didn't hold a candle to reality.