Disclaimer: I do not own them! God!
A/N: I was going through my plans for this story the other night and it occurred to me that they've all been accomplished, for the most part. I know, this story is short, and I know updates have been random at best.
But this is the final chapter, the epilogue if you'd prefer. It's not any longer than the other chapters but it wraps up everything that I wanted this story to deal with. I had a lot of fun writing it and I hope you have just as much fun reading it. Leave me a review and let me know what you think – I appreciate all of the others I've gotten and I'd love to get a final opinion.
She sits on the floor of the living room, sorting through his CDs with a sigh. They're organized by genre, something that has annoyed her since she started staying with him three months ago. No, actually, it has annoyed her since he first moved to Stars Hollow. Trying to borrow music from him was always too difficult. Eventually she gave up and forced him to look for what she wanted. When he wouldn't, she would go to Lane. It just seemed to much easier.
Rory thinks it's time to put them into alphabetical order so that they're easier to find, and she's tired of arguing with him over Coldplay's placement in his alternative section.
Jess lies. They are not alternative.
"Oh my God, how long have you been sitting here?"
Her head tilts back so that she can see him and she smiles brightly. "Two hours," she tells him cheerfully, ignoring the loose hair that is falling out of her haphazard ponytail. It brushes across her shoulders and she breathes out slowly, blowing strands away from her face.
"It's taken you that long to put all of these in alphabetical order?" he arches an eyebrow questioningly, mockingly, and she pouts playfully.
"I get distracted easily!"
"You get that from Lorelai," he sighs and sits down next to her, gazing at her work indifferently. "So why exactly are you doing this right now?"
"Bored," she shrugs. "And it's been bothering me ever since I moved in, so I figure I should deal with it before it drives me totally insane."
"Here I thought you were already totally insane," he chuckles lightly and kisses the dip behind her ear, reveling in the shiver that flies down her spine. Rory scoots imperceptibly closer to him on the carpet and he rests his hand on her thigh, tracing his thumb across the seam of her sweats. "Take a break?"
"Why, so you can mess up my system and make me start all over?"
"I'm disappointed that you would think so little of me."
"Poor baby," she mock-coos, laughing as she kisses him. Jess rolls his eyes and kisses her back gently. He stares at her seriously for a moment and then wraps her hand in his, standing and tugging her with him.
"Come on," he tugs on her hand again and she finally consents, standing so that she is almost eye-level with him. She reaches up and brushes his hair back from his forehead, frowning slightly at the serious look in his eyes. His arms wrap loosely around her waist and she locks eyes with him.
"What's going on in that head?"
"Lots of stuff," he murmurs, capturing her mouth briefly. Losing herself in him, she wraps her arms around his neck and tangles her fingers up in his hair, exploring the familiar curves of his mouth with her tongue. He groans and tightens his grip on her waist, pulling her closer to him.
"Mm," she pulls away lazily, nodding to herself. "So that's why you want me to take a break," she breathes. Jess shrugs and ducks his head, letting his mouth hover over hers. She inhales sharply and brushes her lips across his lightly. Teasingly. His fingers dig into her sides and she squirms with laughter from the sensation.
"You know I a—" her response is cut off in a high-pitched shriek as he assaults her sides with his fingertips, brushing them carefully over her ribs over and over again. Rory manages to jerk away from him and back up, kicking over various piles of CDs in the process. She glares.
"You did that on purpose!" she accuses. He adopts an innocent expression and shoves his hands in his pockets, rocking back on his heels. She continues to glare at him and crosses her arms over her chest indignantly. Jess smirks.
There is his Rory. Right there, standing in front of him in all of her pissed-off glory. Three months ago he could barely find her beneath the hard, society-woman exterior she'd built, and he's proud to say that he can't find a trace of that girl anymore. Woman.
That Rory. Because it wasn't really her, and he was well aware of it when she showed up on his doorstep. She tells him that she came to him because she knew he wouldn't bullshit her, because she knew he would force her to be herself if she ever wanted to have anything with him. Even friendship. And he believes her because he knows that it's true, because old Rory never lied.
New Rory did, but she's not here anymore. Old Rory sleeps in his bed at night, wears his t-shirts and dances around the kitchen to Ted Leo and the Pharmacists in the mornings while she's getting ready for work.
She works in the bookstore portion of Truncheon, and she positively glows when she's discussing books with him, his co-workers, customers. It fascinates him to watch her, and the fact that they have a routine now makes him smile. The fact that she's melted back into the girl he fell in love with makes him want to jump for joy.
"I think you're being paranoid," he says softly. His voice is husky and Rory visibly tenses at the sound, blue eyes slowly moving to lock with his brown. He grins at her and she continues to pout, though when he steps forward and takes her hands in his she doesn't protest.
Kissing her softly, he pulls her closer to him and rests his hands on her hips. She sighs against him and wraps her arms around his neck, closing her eyes as he trails his mouth across her jaw. His lips burn paths down her throat and she gasps quietly, arching her neck to give him more room.
"Paris is going to be here soon," she breathes, inhaling sharply when he bites down in her shoulder. Jess sighs and wraps his arms around her tightly, soothing the bite with a chaste kiss.
"The fact that you're thinking about Paris right now makes me really concerned for your mental health."
"Jess," she sighs and pushes him away. "She's only here for the night, and I haven't seen her since I left."
"That's because she hates me and doesn't want anything to do with me. Remember the one and only time she was here? She threatened to kick my ass."
"She threatened to kick your ass if you hurt me," she corrects gently. "And you and I both know she's not high on the list of people who would do the same thing. I'm number one."
"Hello, ego," he teases. Laughing, she hugs him gently and kisses his cheek.
"I'm going to go change," she whispers, kissing him one last time before heading for the bedroom. She can feel him watching her and she shoots a smile over her shoulder as she shuts the bedroom door behind her.
Looking around the room makes her heart skip a beat. It's different than it was when she first showed up, though to an outsider it hasn't changed at all. Her clothes hang in the other side of the closet where his are no longer allowed to stray and the pillow on her side of the bed is fluffier than his. It smells like her shampoo, which sits in the bathroom, and despite the fact that she has her own clothes she still prefers wearing his.
T-shirts that are too big on her and sweats that fit once she rolls them up make her feel comforted. Safe. His. Rory takes a deep breath and crosses the room, tugging clothes off of hangers so that she can greet her best friend in something that doesn't scream lazy.
"Rory, Paris is here!"
"Can you answer the door, please? I'm almost done!"
"You're sitting right next to the door!"
He groans and leaves the bedroom, sending her a glare as he passes her in the living room. Her attention is riveted to the CDs that she's sliding onto his shelf and she doesn't notice. With a sigh, he swings the front door open and is almost hit in the face for his efforts.
Paris slowly lowers her fist, looking almost regretful that she didn't manage to nail him, and she straightens up quickly. "Hi, Holden."
"Josef," he returns. She glares at him and then looks past his shoulder into the apartment. He leans against the doorframe, arching an eyebrow, and she huffs impatiently.
"Are you going to invite me in or am I expected to build a fire on the porch to keep warm for the night?"
"Can you rub two sticks together and get a spark? That's a skill I never managed to acquire."
Rory looks up at that and rolls her eyes, standing up and walking to the door. She rests her hand on Jess' shoulder and pulls him away from the doorway so that she can greet her friend.
"Paris," she smiles brightly and hugs the blonde tightly, closing her eyes briefly. "I'm so glad you're here," she pulls back and glances over her shoulder at her boyfriend, sighing softly. "Ignore him, he's being grumpy today."
"I thought that was his default setting," Paris deadpans, following her friend into the apartment. She looks around with interest, noting that the boxes of books she sent a month ago are sitting in the corner of the living room. Her eyes narrow and then she notices the absolute lack of space on the bookshelves lining the walls.
"Okay, so we can go out for dinner or Jess can cook or we can order something or …" Rory trails off, uncertain and a little nervous. Paris snaps her attention back to her and furrows her brow. Silence descends over the room for a moment and then she cocks her head to the side.
"You. You're different. You're …" Paris quirks her mouth, folding her arms. "Not as regal as when you left."
Jess smirks and Rory blushes a little, nodding her agreement. "Yeah."
"So I guess Kerouac did his job, then," Paris turns to the only male in the room. "Let you go back."
"She did that herself, I just gave her a place to stay while she did it," he retorts. Rory leans back against him and he wraps an arm around her, kissing her head gently. Paris snorts.
"Place to stay. Right. I'm warning you, mister, if you hurt her or get her pregnant I will come after you with an axe. Maybe hire some minions to dismember you before I get here to deliver the final blow."
"Duly noted," he rolls his eyes and runs his hand down Rory's side.
Rory nods, uncomfortable with the subject. "So … Chinese?"
She blinks and knits her brow, trying to make sure she heard correctly. "I'm sorry, what was that?" she asks, a smile spreading across her face. Oh, yes. This is going in the history books. Probably literally, knowing Taylor and his neurotic tendencies.
"Don't make me repeat myself."
Rory smiles and snuggles under the covers, settling the phone comfortably against her ear. "You said it. You like Jess."
"This was not our original discussion, so I don't know why you're getting so off-topic. And telling lies! Here I thought you loved me, dearest daughter, yet you're tarnishing my reputation with awful things like that."
"Yes, I'm ruining your reputation. I think that's a little hard to do at this point, don't you?"
Lorelai gasps indignantly. "Mean! If I didn't know any better I'd say you were accusing me of something terrible and awful and slutty!"
"Shall I bring up my conception?"
Rory snickers and pulls the blankets up over her head, cocooning herself in the bed. The shower stops running a few seconds later and her stomach tightens pleasantly, her grip on the phone loosening in response. "Well, you can deal with it. Now let's get back to the subject at hand. You like Jess."
"I do not like Jess. I said," Lorelai clears her throat, "I like Tess. Hear the difference there?"
"You like Jess," Rory smiles, teasing. "You like him and you know it so you better just stop trying to deny it right now."
"I happen to like the Land Of Denial, thank you. Mel Brooks lives here and he gives me a sponge bath every night."
"Why did you put that image in my head? Now I'm going to have horrible nightmares of a naked you with a sponge and Mel Brooks."
"Sounds just perfect enough to work!"
"Right," Rory nods. "But unfortunately, my dreams like to stay centered around the same basic things."
"What? You act all offended when you two are probably making with the love night and day!"
"I don't know why I talk to you about things. Really, I should just stop talking to you entirely."
"Ah, but it was I who brought you into this world, and therefore it is biologically pre-determined that you talk to me," Lorelai replies. Rory snorts.
"Most children stop speaking to their parents when they move out. I should've listened to all the kids at Chilton who did exactly that. My life would be so much easier."
"K, sweetie, you're starting to give Mommy a complex here."
The blankets are pulled off her head before she can respond, and she smiles brightly when Jess leans down to kiss her forehead. "Mmhmm," she agrees absently. His lips press to hers briefly and then he crawls back off the mattress, heading into the kitchen to set the coffee machine for the next morning. Rory sighs and sinks into her pillow.
"Jess is out of the shower, isn't he?"
"Okay. Then I'm going to leave before I have to hear all the dirty things the two of you do. Internet classes are almost completed?"
"They are," Rory agrees. "And then I have two and a half months off before I have to figure out senior year."
"And you're happy?"
Jess walks back into the bedroom, idly scratching a hand through his wet hair. He crawls into bed next to his girlfriend and she smiles, nodding to no one in particular. "Very."
"I love you, Rory."
"Love you too, Mom."
She says goodbye and hangs up the phone, setting it on the nightstand before turning back to him. Snuggling up to his chest, she inhales deeply and smiles. "You smell good."
"As always," he replies softly. Rory laughs softly and kisses him gently, pulling back to rest her head against his pillow. She stares at him seriously, tracing the contours of his face with her eyes, and he stares back at her just as intently.
"I love you," she tells him, honestly. Nodding, he pulls her into his body and murmurs the words into her hair, rubbing her arms when shivers ricochet through her nervous system. And when she falls asleep, completely wrapped up in his slightly-damp form, she forgets all about her mother and sponges and Mel Brooks.
That's what she dreams about, and the desire to be with him is so palpable she wants to cry. But at least she's being honest with herself now. And it's so much more than the nothing she always thought truth was.
Welcome to everything.
A/N #2: Just one last thank you to everyone who read/reviewed this story. It always brightened my day to see a new review in my inbox, and I hope the ending of this justified not only Baking Chocolate but the prequel, Offbase Broken, as well. See you soon.