Summary: Sequel to Offbase Broken. Rory needs to re-learn the process of honesty, and Jess is the only one who can remember enough of who she used to be to help. Literati.
Disclaimer: Nope, still don't own.
A/N: And here it is: the multi-chapter fic that is the continuation of Offbase Broken. This starts off about half an hour after that fic ends, so you should probably read it to be able to understand this, but it's not totally necessary. Any and all reviews are appreciated, since this fic is somewhat experimental and I need all the feedback I can get.
The apartment is modestly furnished and somewhat small, but it's in a nice area of town and she's proud of him for being able to have this place for himself. She stands in front of the bookshelves that stretch from floor to ceiling all along the widest wall in the living room in awe, the aftermath of her breakdown still apparent in her harsh hiccups.
"Here," Jess says quietly, handing her a steaming mug of coffee. Rory offers him a small smile and takes a skip of the scalding liquid as she turns her attention back to the novels in front of her.
She hasn't even heard of half the titles.
Her cell phone rings from across the room and she winces, her hands shaking from the effort to keep her tears in. Jess sighs and grabs the small chunk of plastic, turning it off before shoving it in the back pocket of his sweats. She smiles at him, more brightly this time, and he returns the gesture with a nod.
"I don't have a guest bedroom…"
"The couch is fine."
"Rory, you're not sleeping on the couch," he says firmly. She rolls her eyes and smirks at him over the rim of her coffee cup.
"Who says I'll be sleeping? I have books to catch up on," she gestures to the shelf in front of her and he visibly relaxes at the teasing tone in her voice.
"And I will let you take full advantage of that, but tonight you need to sleep," he retorts quietly. Rory sighs but nods a little and tightens her grip on her mug.
"I'm not … um," she swallows audibly and takes a deep breath. "I'm not …" she groans, frustrated, and sets her mug down, clenching and unclenching her fists. Jess takes a step closer to her and lays a hand on her shoulder unsurely. Rory relaxes a little and nods to herself before turning to face him.
"I'm not used to sleeping alone."
"Would you like a teddy bear?"
She smacks him in the shoulder and he chuckles softly when he fails to dodge the attack. Her eyes scan the floor for something distracting to look at and he lifts her chin gently, pushing her hair behind her ear with the other hand.
"Want me to stay with you, then?"
Rory nods a little and sniffles slightly, a hiccup escaping her throat and causing them both to laugh. She sighs quietly and wraps her arms around his neck, closing her eyes and taking a deep breath when he pulls her closer and wraps his arms tightly around her waist.
"Thank you," she whispers against his neck. Jess nods a little and untangles himself from her, offering her a reassuring smile as he leads her down the short hallway to his bedroom. Rory smiles when she enters the small room after him, taking in the muted earth tones of the paint on the walls and the covers on the bed.
It's a change from the colors of his old room, the one above the diner, and she thinks she kind of likes it. He's grown up now, and he's mellowed in the past few years and she wonders if he still reverts to that monosyllabic boy she fell in love with when things get tough.
"Do you have anything with you other than that dress?"
She winces and looks down at the gaudy, black, glittery material that has wrinkled since she wore it twelve hours ago to dinner. "I didn't exactly plan this out," she whispers. He nods knowingly and grabs her hand, giving it a squeeze before disappearing into a closet she didn't see before.
Rory wraps her arms around herself protectively and sits down on the edge of his bed, smiling a little when she realizes how soft the mattress is. It's a nice contrast to the too-firm bed that she slept on in New Haven.
She winces at the train of thought and shakes her head to clear it.
"I have … sweats, pajama bottoms... and t-shirts. And that's pretty much all I can offer you, unless you have some sort of weird issue with plaid."
"You wear plaid?"
"Not the point, Ror."
"You wear plaid," she grins teasingly at him as he steps in front of her. She tilts her head back to look at him and her smile brightens at the stern look on his face.
"Pick what you want," he waves toward the closet and runs his hand down her arm before leaving the room to give her the privacy to change.
She sighs and pushes herself off the bed, flicking on the lamp beside the bed before making her way across the room to the small closet. She runs her fingers over the cotton of his shirts, the smooth leather of a jacket she recognizes from happier (and sadder) days, and she grins idiotically when her hand runs over the plaid pajama pants he'd mentioned to her before he left.
With a lighter, more content sigh, she lifts a pair of pajama pants out of the closet and a t-shirt to go with them, folding them gently and setting them on the bed. She grimaces when she pulls the scratchy material of her dress over her head and thanks God she kept her slippers on as opposed to putting her strappy, uncomfortable high-heels back on.
His t-shirt smells exactly like him and she closes her eyes as it slides over her skin. It's comfortable, wearing his clothes, because they aren't preppy and perfectly ironed. They're well-worn and lived in, and she loves that feeling more than she can describe. His pajama bottoms are too long, but not by much, and she rolls the waist band twice to make them fit more accurately.
Her dress is tossed into the corner and forgotten about.
Jess is sitting on the couch reading when she walks back into the living room and she leans against the wall tiredly, yawning silently as she watches him. He notices her presence after only a few seconds and shuts the book gently, tossing it onto the coffee table. He turns around to look at her and grins.
"What?" she frowns.
"Nothing," he returns quietly. The frown deepens and he laughs, shaking his head as he stands up and walks toward her. "You look cute in my clothes," he whispers in her ear. Rory shivers a little and laughs softly, the sound slightly foreign to her ears.
He winks at her and walks back into the bedroom, leaving her standing in the living room leaning against the wall. He turns on the ceiling light and she rolls her eyes when she notices the new brightness of the room as she walks into it.
"I didn't know there was a ceiling light."
"That's because you don't pay attention," he retorts. She smiles a little and crawls under the covers not a moment after he turns them back, yawning again as she pulls them up over her shoulder. Jess chuckles a little.
"Yeah," she nods, unsure of how to express to him that this is a very rare occurrence as of late. She's busy as hell during the day, and she should be exhausted by the time she goes to bed at night, but she's not for some reason. She thinks it might be paranoia; fear, maybe, that Logan won't come back.
Rory shakes the thought from her head and smiles when Jess turns off the light and crawls into bed next to her. She carefully settles closer to him, silently asking him to take care of her. Jess sighs a little and wraps his arm around her waist, pulling her closer to him under the sheets.
"I'm glad you're here," he whispers after a while. She shivers and nods as she rests her head on his shoulder, eyelids fluttering slightly.
"Yeah," she agrees, matching his volume, "Me, too."
She starts to fall asleep not long after that, the steady rhythm of his breathing lulling her into peace, and she thinks she should have realized all of this sooner. She sighs against his neck and he stirs next to her, tightening his grip on her waist. She smiles a little, not used to someone paying that much attention to her, even in sleep, and for once she's glad she's actually tired.
An unfamiliar alarm wakes her up and she blinks rapidly to wake herself up, trying to recall where she is. When she notices the arm that's wrapped securely around her waist she relaxes slightly, breathing him in as she rolls closer to him in the bed.
"Your alarm clock is loud," she grumbles. Jess laughs a little and swats at the offending machine, settling down next to her again when it stops beeping. Rory sighs a little and blinks again as she opens her eyes. She smiles when she sees that he's asleep again and lets out a huff of mock-frustration.
"Jess," she whispers, nudging him. He mumbles slightly but doesn't respond other than that and she rolls her eyes impatiently. "Jess," she sings, giggling when he cracks an eye open and glares at her. "I want breakfast."
"So go make something."
"Do you not remember the last time I tried to make something without your help?"
He groans and buries his face in his pillow, sighing heavily while she bites her lip and waits for him to look at her again. When he does she gives him a winning smile and he relents with another sigh.
"Can you handle making coffee?"
"Who are you talking to?" she retorts with a grin. Jess nods in recognition and stumbles out of bed, scratching the back of his head as he wanders out of the bedroom and toward the kitchen. Rory smiles to herself and follows him, hopping up to sit on the counter next to the coffee maker.
"I haven't been grocery shopping in a week, so your options are pretty limited," he comments as he pokes around in the fridge. "Eggs, strawberries… I probably have pancake mix in the cupboard."
He looks up at her and grins when she idly swings her legs back and forth. "The one you're sitting in front of."
"This one?" she taps the wood of the cupboard above her head and smiles at him. He nods and she precariously turns herself around to sit on her knees and open the door. "I see … pancake syrup and … batter!" she proclaims triumphantly, pulling the box out of the cupboard and hopping off the counter to hand it to him.
"Well aren't you useful to have around," he deadpans. She blushes lightly and he smirks but chooses not to comment.
Jess moves around the kitchen with precision and she hops back onto the counter as she watches him, slightly entranced by his movements. He cuts up a small carton of newly-rinsed strawberries and sets them on a plate, handing them to her as he walks past her to turn on the stove.
"Do you realize you just gave me fruit?"
"You like strawberries," he returns absently, "I remember." He leans against the opposite counter while he waits for the pancake he just poured into the skillet to start cooking and she tears up before she can quell the urge.
"They were all I'd eat for weeks."
"Yeah," he smirks, "Your mom was convinced I'd gotten you pregnant." Rory laughs and nods as she looks down at the plate of fruit. She sniffles a little and wipes at her eyes to keep the tears from falling.
The plate is removed from her lap and Jess takes her hands in his, watching her in confusion.
"Nothing," she whispers, smiling, "Nothing."
"You don't normally cry when nothing's wrong, Ror," he matches her volume. He strokes his thumbs across her palms and she shivers slightly, the curtain of her hair falling in front of her face. He releases his grip on her hand to push her hair back behind her ear and he ducks his head a little to catch her eye.
"I just … missed this."
He sighs and tugs her closer to him, stepping between her thighs and resting his hands on her lower back. "Yeah," he nods, "Me, too."
Rory swallows thickly and loops her arms around his neck, smiling a little when he doesn't pull away. He traces circles on her skin through the material of his shirt and she fights back a shiver when her eyes lock onto his.
The smoke alarm starts beeping frantically and Jess curses quietly when he notices the burnt pancake sitting on his stove. He lets go of Rory with a self-deprecating groan and she frowns as she drops her arms back into her lap. He sighs and turns off the stove, clicking on the fan above it before grabbing a chair and stepping onto it to turn off the smoke alarm. Rory bites her lip and grins a little.
"Burn things often?"
"Only when I'm distracted."
"So I'm a distraction now?"
He shoots her a look before ducking his head and taking the battery out of the alarm, tossing it onto the table as he steps off the chair. "You know the answer to that."
Rory reddens adorably, biting the inside of her lip in a nervous habit. She realizes with a start that her cheeks are burning more than they have in three years, and she wants to scream in relief. That shade of red seems to only occur when she's around him, and she's missed it so much it makes her want to cry now that she's feeling it again.
"Do you need to call your mom?"
"Shit," she puts her palm to her forehead and sighs heavily. "Luke probably told her about my call this morning."
"I called him after I left the apartment last night to get your number," she responds absently. She hops off the counter and walks into the living room before realizing that she doesn't know where Jess put her phone. "What did you do with my phone?"
"It's in the bedroom," he calls. Rory nods and walks down the short hallway, finding the piece of plastic on the dresser by the closet. She sighs and picks it up, sinking down on the mattress as she turns it on.
The screen lights up and informs her that she has thirty-six new messages, and she dials her voicemail with shaking fingers. She rolls her eyes when Logan's voice fills her ears and she sighs as she gets off the bed and wanders back into the kitchen.
Jess sets plates filled with pancakes and strawberries on the table and a small container of heated syrup next to them when she walks into the room and she smiles reassuringly at him while she sits down at the table. Logan rambles in her ear about coming home and working it out and she scoffs when he tells her that he loves her.
Jess raises an eyebrow and she shakes her head slightly. "Logan," she says simply. His expression darkens and he looks down at his plate, stabbing his fork into a strawberry with twice as much force as is necessary.
Rory groans when the next few messages are exactly the same as the first and she snaps her phone shut and slams it down on the table impatiently. Jess remains quiet and she takes a deep breath before picking it up again and calling Lorelai.
"Tell me you're not in Philadelphia."
She sighs heavily and sinks down in her chair, running a hand through her hair. "I thought you told me not to lie to you."
"I know, Mom, I know," she sighs again.
"So if you know then what are you doing?"
"I can't …" she pauses and her breath hitches painfully. "I can't really explain this to you and have you understand, it's just something I need to do."
"Did Logan do something?"
"Yeah," she whispers, "But it's not just that. It's … Dean and Yale and Grandma and Grandpa and … me."
"Do I need to be worried, here? Because if-"
"-no, Mom; I just need to figure some stuff out."
"Promise me you will call me as often as you can."
"I love you," Lorelai sighs resignedly. Rory nods to herself and returns the words before saying goodbye and turning her phone off again. She lays it down on the table and turns her attention to the plate of food in front of her, digging in gratefully.
"What'd she say?" Jess asks quietly, abandoning his food and shoving the plate away from him. He slouches down in the chair and watches her as she eats, swallowing back a bite and pursing her lips together.
"These pancakes are fantastic, Jess. Where'd you learn to cook?"
"It's pre-made batter, Rory. All you have to do is add water. Now let's not avoid the question, please."
She sighs, "The usual. Be careful, call, what did you expect her to say?"
"She doesn't want you here, does she?"
"I don't think she's exactly pleased, but she's probably happier that I'm with you than Logan!"
"Whoa, whoa," he sits up and places his hand on her forearm, moving his head until their eyes lock. "I didn't mean to start a fight."
"You didn't," she sighs heavily and sets down her fork, deflating. "I'm just on the defense."
Jess swallows thickly and stands, crouching down next to her chair and tugging on her arm until she turns to face him. He settles his hands on her knees and stares at her seriously. Rory holds his gaze despite the shallow blush rising in her cheeks and he takes a deep breath.
"I don't know why you showed up here last night, Ror." She opens her mouth to retaliate and he pushes on before she can, "But I'm glad you did. The last time I saw you, you were the total opposite of the girl I used to know and… I was pissed," he chuckles a little. "I hated seeing you with that blonde prick, acting all high and mighty when you and I both know you weren't then and you aren't now. That's not who you are," he says seriously. Rory swallows audibly and nods, but lets him continue speaking.
"So you showing up here last night was kind of a shocker. And Logan calling me every name in the dictionary when I answered your phone wasn't much of one. But you breaking down on the living room floor of my apartment and telling me how much you hate yourself…"
"That was a shocker," she finishes in a whisper.
"Yeah," he nods gently and takes her hands in his, twining their fingers together. "So you can stay here as long as you need to, Ror," he smiles reassuringly at her, "But I'm not going to be your replacement until Logan decides to clean up his act."
"You're not," she whispers desperately. "Jess…"
"Then what are you doing here?"
"I wanna be with you, dumbass!"
Jess freezes and his eyes widen slowly, Rory's hands flying up to her open mouth in shock. She moves to stand and he grabs her arms, pulling her back down before she can go anywhere.
"What about Logan?"
"Long story," she says seriously. He nods a little and takes a deep breath, standing up and offering her his hand.
"Then let's hear it."