Summary: bracebridge05 challenge fic. Yeah, she remembered. And it didn't take her long to realize that he did too. Oneshot.

Challenge: What I want to see: Jess returning again after Episode 6.08, ready to try and catch up without Logan's presence looming over them. I definitely don't want: any mention of the dreaded incident in Rory's dorm.

Disclaimer: Um…if I owned Gilmore Girls, Jess wouldn't have left. The Dean debacle would have been avoided and Kirk would get a lot more love. So would Michel. So clearly, I don't.

A/N: This took me a while. I don't really know why, since I always have all of these…ideas bouncing around in my mind, but it did. It was written for the bracebridge05 (Lit fic exchange) on Livejournal, although I don't know who exactly I wrote this for. I was never given a name but I hope you enjoy.

--

She eyed him as they walked into the restaurant, the corners of her mouth tilting up just the tiniest bit. He was so… well-adjusted. That seemed to be the only word that could even begin to describe the change in him. He stood a little straighter than he used to, smiled a little more fully when she said something that amused him. It was somewhat strange, seeing a light in his eyes that had never been present during his Stars Hollow days.

He was happy.

And on some odd, almost subconscious level, that fact made her happy as well. She smiled a little.

"What?"

Rory jumped slightly, blinking rapidly at the man standing next to her. "What, what?"

"You were staring," he explained. He smirked at her and she blushed, eyes trailing around the room as she followed him to a table.

"Was not," she mumbled. He rolled his eyes. "I wasn't!" she cried. Jess smirked again.

"Fine," he conceded. She waited for him to say something; start the argument that was always present between the two of them but he never did. She frowned at him.

"No argument? I am stunned."

"Hey, if you want to deny your ever-present leer then far be it from me to stop you." She blushed again and smiled in spite of herself.

"So now I was leering?"

Jess shrugged, "Understandable." He ignored her glare and turned eyes to his menu, quietly studying it.

"Good to see you're still full of yourself," she smiled brightly and he glanced up at her, raising an eyebrow.

"Good to see you still eat for six," he returned, gesturing to the menu that she was eagerly browsing. A light flashed in her mind and her smile softened, deepened to a more genuine expression.

"This could feed twelve," she exclaimed, gesturing toward the box he had set on the table. He raised an eyebrow.

"Excuse me, I've seen you eat."

She narrowed her eyes a little, amusement filtering through her words. "Fine, six."

He had asked her just the other day if she remembered all of the insanity they had put each other through back in high school.

Yeah, she remembered. And it didn't take her long to realize he did too. He'd been making random references all day. At the book store she'd dragged him to, the old thrift store just down the block, the restaurant they had entered only five minutes ago. It was nice to be able to catch up and escape everything else for a little while. (She'd missed him, although she wouldn't admit it. Not outside of her dreams at least.)

"Well if you feel like sharing, it'll be down to four."

He smiled a little and shook his head, tossing his menu to the side as he leaned back in the uncomfortable wooden chair. She could curl her hair and dye it auburn but it didn't make a difference. She hadn't changed; not really.

She was still just…Rory.

And it was nice to see that beautiful, vibrant, intelligent young woman come out to play again. After his last visit and the catastrophic dinner they'd shared with her blond dick of a boyfriend, he was afraid he'd never get to see that girl again. He'd missed that girl.

Rory returned his gaze for a moment and then smiled a little shyly, turning her attention to the waitress that had just approached their table.

--

She used her finger to twirl the ice cubes around in her water glass, fishing one out and popping it into her mouth. Jess laughed lightly and shook his head. Rory smiled at him and he returned the gesture for a moment.

"So, where to now?"

She paused to consider the question. They'd spent the last two hours laughing and eating dinner, filling each other in on the details of the last two years: stories of Lorelai, Luke, Yale, Philadelphia, his book. The conversation didn't turn toward their past; didn't dare to confront Logan or the relationships they had experienced since the other. It didn't even cross their minds. They were here, now, together: two old friends catching up on each other's lives in a busy restaurant in the middle of Hartford. That was all. (Or so it seemed.)

"Is there anywhere else you're dying to go?"

Jess quirked his mouth a little, pondering the question with mock sincerity. She rolled her eyes and flicked water at him, giggling when he jumped.

"Take me home, Dodger."

Their eyes locked across the table and he nodded slowly, signaling for the check. Rory bit her lip and stared at her hands.

--

"Good ol' Stars Hollow," he deadpanned, navigating the streets from memory. She nodded and took in the familiar sights and sounds, sighing softly when they pulled into the driveway.

Rory turned her head to look at him, meeting his gaze across the small distance between their seats.

"This was fun," she smiled. Jess nodded and let out a breath. "We should do it again sometime. When you're in town next…" she trailed off, hand clasped around the door release.

"I'll call you," he promised quietly. The words sent an odd sort of shiver through her.

"Yeah," she nodded and smiled at him one last time before tugging on the plastic release handle, moving to get out of the car. A hand on her forearm stopped her. She turned back to look at him and he squeezed her arm gently.

"I'll call you," he said firmly. She nodded and smiled (a little brighter this time) and climbed out of the car. Turning, she leaned down into the still-open window and took a deep breath.

"Logan and I broke up, by the way."

Jess watched as she turned and walked away from the car, disappearing behind the front door and into her home of so many years. His breath left him in a rush.

He'd call this time.

--End--