Summary: It could be worse. She's just not sure how. Literati oneshot, post 6x18.
Disclaimer: No! Go away.
A/N: Written for Cara; she wanted Lit angst, and what am I if not susceptible to her requests? Post 6x18, and this time the claws are coming out. Drop me a review and let me know what you think.
She makes it two blocks before her vision is too blurry to continue driving.
With a sharp turn, she jerks the car into a drugstore parking lot and leans her forehead against the steering wheel as she kills the engine. She gasps and sobs against the leather, alternately gripping the wheel and clenching her fists in the material of her pants.
It almost startles her that they're not made of denim.
The glass drops from his hands and shatters.
He groans a little and stares at the glass shards covering his shoes, hands shaking as he sets the bottle of scotch back on the counter. He should be at the bar with the guys watching that gorgeous new blonde do this for him.
But when he tried to walk out the door, all he could see was glossy brown hair and tense shoulders taking the same path he had taken time and time again.
He sinks to the floor with a painful sigh and leans his head back against the wall.
There's a loud beeping sound and then the battery finally dies after six hours of warning her that it would.
She exhales sharply and tosses the piece of plastic into the front seat, swallowing thickly as she steps out of the car and impatiently digs change out of her pocket. The first pay phone she tries doesn't work, nor does the second, and when she gets to the third her mascara is running and she can't really see the numbers.
It rings. Once, twice, three times, four, voice mail. She cringes and slams the phone back down; wishes the cheap black plastic would break in her hand and embed itself in her skin.
She's not confused, not exactly. But she's not exactly sure of herself either.
His hand clenches as he brushes the glass off his shoes and he grinds his teeth together when a random shard makes him bleed. The hardwood floor won't stain, he knows that, but that doesn't stop him from pulling his sleeve over his hand to stop the wound from dripping.
Crimson puddles next to the classics shelf probably wouldn't do much for business.
She gnaws on her lip as she leans against her car before stamping her foot and climbing back in to the driver's seat, impatiently turning the key in the ignition and slamming her foot down on the gas as she peels out of the parking lot.
It takes her half the time to go back as it did to leave.
Chocolate brown eyes fall on the door when he hears the bell jingle and he rolls his eyes as the door closes again.
"We're closed," he announces. The lump in his throat seems to disappear with the words and he takes a deep breath, grateful for the freedom to do so.
"So we won't have an audience."
He presses his palms to his eyes and wipes away unshed tears hastily as he stands up and she comes into view. His hand has stopped bleeding, but the pressure makes it start again and he tugs his jacket back down to press against his palm.
She's a wreck. Blue eyes turned gray from the clouds of tears in them, pupils almost fully dilated even in the bright light of the shop. She stares at him and crosses her arms over her chest, a defensive pose he's seen countless times over the years.
"Don't you have a boyfriend to get back to?"
Words have always worked better for him; especially when it comes to fighting with her.
"He's out of town," she retorts. She sits down on the same stool she'd chosen earlier and he wants to touch her but he won't. Can't. Refuses to. Whatever. If she rejects him again he thinks he might crack, and he's not going to indulge in his emo side now.
"Oh," he nods and a smirk forms at the corner of his mouth. "Looking for a replacement fuck, then, is that it?"
"Don't bother," he shakes his head and blinks back a fresh batch of tears while she diverts her gaze to the floor in front of her. The thin material of his blazer decides it can't soak up any more liquid and he lets go of his sleeve when a drop of blood cascades to the floor.
It shouldn't catch her attention, but it does.
Rory glances up and sees the line of red that's tracing his hand and she takes a painful breath as she stands up and moves closer to him. He flinches and she attempts to ignore it, taking his hand in hers and looking up at him in confusion.
"Oh," she nods, swallowing again. "Do you have a first aid kit or something?"
"It's fine, Ror," he rolls his eyes and jerks his hand back. "I don't need you taking care of me."
"Yeah," she agrees, "You never did."
"What's that supposed to mean?"
"Nothing," she shrugs and shakes her head. "I just think it's convenient how you always manage to find a way to save yourself, even when you're killing yourself to do it."
"Oh, not this again."
"Do you know how long I waited for you to call me after that night? Just to give me some sort of explanation, I didn't care what it was just as long as you had one," she murmurs. Jess stares at her and then shakes his head, backing up toward the stairs and leaning against the railing.
"I didn't have a choice."
"You always had a choice," she argues.
"Are we seriously having this conversation? You left me long before I ever went to California." Her jaw drops and she steps back a bit, the five feet between them suddenly not enough space.
"How can you say that?"
"Oh, come on, Rory, like you weren't going to dump me as soon as you left for Yale."
"I chose Yale because of you!"
"Well it's over now, okay! It's done! Why do you have to keep pushing this?"
"You just kissed me!"
"And you pulled away and left! For him, for that prick who couldn't hold his own in an intelligent conversation if he tried!"
"You don't know him," she shakes her head.
"He cheated on you."
She stops at that and pulls her arms tighter around herself while Jess slumps against the railing in defeat.
He stares at the floor in front of him, ignoring her as she attempts to stop shaking from her tears. It aches and burns, but it's familiar, too.
He's made her cry so many times before this.
"I'm sorry that I came here," she whispers. He looks up at her while she impatiently wipes her tears away, black mascara streaks making patterns across her skin.
"Seems to be the case no matter when we're together, huh?"
Rory laughs shakily and nods, finally making eye contact with him as she crosses her arms in front of her stomach. Less defensive, but still familiar.
"I am proud of you, Jess."
"Yeah," he nods.
"And I didn't want things to turn out like," she gestures between them, "This," she says desperately.
"Well, what are we if not a routine?"
"I have your cell phone number," she offers. Jess nods a little and pushes his hands into his pockets. The excess skin near his cut catches in the material and he inwardly winces, but he doesn't bleed again.
Rory twiddles her thumbs in front of her stomach nervously, biting her bottom lip as they continue to stare at each other. With a roll of her eyes she walks closer to him and hugs him quickly, retreating before he can even raise his arms to return the embrace.
"So I'll call," she nods confidently. Jess agrees with a short nod and a small smirk, though he continues to slump against the railing as she walks backward toward the door. She fingers the dead phone in her pocket, knowing full well that she's going to make use of that pay phone again as soon as she gets to the intersection.
It could be worse. She's just not sure how.
He watches her walk through the door, shoulders less tense but still sharply pulled back, almost as though she's afraid to move in any other way. The bell above the door signals her official departure and the door closes after her with a quiet click.
The blood on the floor is soaking into the wood by the time he gets around to cleaning it up, and he doesn't hear his phone ring from the pocket of his jacket when he turns up the CD player so that the speakers shake.
But maybe it's better that way.