Summary: AU. Spunk. It's the only word he can think of to describe her, and it doesn't even begin to cover who she is. Jess and Anna. Oneshot.
Disclaimer: They belong to their respective creators! I only brought them together!
A/N: It was a UC-CO drabble challenge from Hider. I decided it needed to be expanded into a full-on fic, so, here it is. This is slightly altered from the drabble in that I shortened the time frame on one event. Reviews are greatly appreciated.
He's never heard of the band, but they're not terrible. Not exactly good, either, but the ten bucks he paid at the door doesn't seem like it's being totally wasted. The crowd around him is excited as hell, jumping up and down and bouncing about like the spazzes they probably always are behind closed doors.
That's the thing about concerts. Embarrassment – as well as sobriety – ceases to exist.
Jess sighs as he maneuvers through the crowd. It wasn't in the plan to get an apartment in Philadelphia, but his publisher wanted him close so they could meet and greet and blah, blah, blah, so here he is. The city isn't as awful as he once thought it would be; it actually has some appeal.
There is one free table left in the small club and he snatches it quickly, dropping into one of two chairs so that he can watch the show. He's not the slam-dance type and it doesn't seem like anyone else here is, either, so whatever. Chairs are just as good as anything.
"You know, I've been eyeing this table for a solid ten minutes," she stops in front of him and folds her arms in front of her chest. Her eyebrow is raised and her head is cocked to the side, an amused smile playing on her lips.
"Well, should've moved faster," he shrugs and leans back a bit, mimicking her position. Her smile widens and she eyes him briefly before unfolding her arms and taking a step forward.
Tapping the chair opposite him, she raises her other eyebrow in question and lifts her head, straightening up. "May I?"
He smirks, makes a wide sweeping gesture with one arm. "Who am I to say no?"
"And the eternal question is asked yet again," she laughs and sits down, crossing her legs swiftly. Jess watches the movement interestedly, noticing that the white material of her fishnets glows with the colors of the club lights. "So what's your name?"
"Does it matter?"
"Of course it matters," she tells him. "It isn't polite to impose upon someone's table—" she knocks on the plastic table-top with a grin "—without first learning their name."
"Then you did it backwards," he smirks again. "You imposed and then asked for my name," he clarifies at her confused expression. She smiles slowly and leans back in her seat, nodding her agreement.
"Well then you should give me the opportunity to correct my mistake. That's what they do in polite circles," she lowers her voice conspiratorially, and he has to strain to hear her over the guitar solo taking place on stage.
He stares at her seriously, taking in her soft smile and her glittering eyes. Her hair is short, blonde, different than he's used to, and there are striped things on her arms that are slightly tattered at the ends. Jess locks eyes with her and works his jaw back and forth, sighing inwardly as he gives into the whim.
"Jess," he admits. Her eyes light up further and she reaches her right hand across the table, grinning broadly.
"Anna," she replies. His smirk widens slightly and he shakes her hand briefly, retracting his arm before the grip becomes uncomfortable. "It's nice to meet you."
"Nothing," he shakes his head. "People just aren't that fond of me after the first conversation."
"Ah, ah, ah," she wags a finger at him playfully, scolding. "We haven't had a conversation yet, Jess. And jumping to conclusions is never a good thing." After a pause, "No one ever said I was fond of you."
He laughs, then, shaking his head in amusement as he drops his chin to his chest. She smiles brightly and chuckles, locking eyes with him when he looks back up at her. "So I guess we should work on that, huh?" he smirks, leaning forward and resting his elbows on the table. Anna raises an eyebrow.
"Are you propositioning me?"
"Maybe," he raises one shoulder in a shrug. Eyeing him curiously, she taps her fingers against the table-top and watches him warily. Jess gnaws on the inside of his bottom lip, suddenly a little nervous. It's weird, feeling like this after six months on the road to avoid thoughts of his ex.
After an eternity, she smiles at him and leans forward so that they're less than a foot apart. "Do you always smirk like that?" she asks. The question shocks him, slightly, but if it shows at all she doesn't comment. Before he can respond, she leans back in her chair and tilts her head again. "Because I like it."
The band finishes their final song and the crowd erupts into cheers, drowning any reply he may have had. He nods toward the front door of the club and raises an eyebrow, smiling a little when Anna automatically hops down from her chair and reaches for his hand.
Cool air invades his lungs when they step outside, and she drags him further down the sidewalk to separate the two of them from the crowd that is emerging through the door in waves. Turning to face him, she keeps his hand locked in hers when she smiles.
"So, Jess, do you have a last name?"
"Do they tell you those in polite circles, too?"
Her eyes light up and she cocks her head to the side cutely. "In some," she agrees. "But I'm just curious."
"Mariano," he laughs and she nods solemnly, pulling a pen out of her purse. She pushes his sleeve up his arm and he arches an eyebrow, watching her curiously. Her shoulders meet her ears as she shrugs and she uncaps the pen, pressing the tip to his skin.
"So call this number," she looks up at him and grins, their proximity making the gesture rather intimate. "And we'll go have pasta and discuss the Mafia," she teases. Re-capping her pen, she drops it in her purse and blows on the ink to dry it, pulling his sleeve back down before backing up down the sidewalk.
One last smile and she turns to leave. Jess is still standing on the sidewalk, slightly dumbfounded, and he scratches the back of his head as he calls her name. She turns and folds her arms, tapping the fingers of one hand against the opposite elbow.
"What's your last name?" he shouts, trying to be heard over the loud group of drunken people behind him. She smiles and shrugs cutely, beginning to back up again.
"Wouldn't you like to know?"
Then she disappears around the corner of the building and he smiles – really smiles – for the first time in a long while.
"You know, I don't usually answer private numbers."
He smirks and lies back on the couch, staring at the ceiling. "So I should consider myself lucky, then?"
"Ah, Jess," she laughs. "So I was right to assume it was you, then."
"Am I that predictable?"
"You're a guy," Anna responds, "Testosterone always makes people predictable."
"On behalf of my gender, hey!"
She giggles, high and sweet, and he can't help but smirk in return. "So is this a booty call?"
"I thought I'd take you up on that pasta offer," he retorts. "Though if you have something else in mind…"
"Pasta's overrated. Though I have to admit crawling straight into bed with you doesn't sound like something I would do, either."
"Looks like we're at a standstill, then."
"Should I get the tumbleweeds?" Jess smiles and closes his eyes, adjusting his grip on the phone. He stretches his legs out on the couch and sighs softly, letting his other arm drop carelessly across his stomach.
"So if we aren't having pasta, then where am I supposed to take you to dinner, Anna?"
There is a pause on the other end of the line and he clenches his jaw nervously, looking down at his hand as it plays with the buttons on his shirt. After a moment she sighs, and he can't tell whether it's a good sigh or a bad sigh.
"I don't want to burn my clothes," he retorts.
Anna laughs, "Oh thank God." He smiles again and lets his head fall back against the couch, relieved. He doesn't need any reminders of movie nights and small-town Connecticut.
She slips her hand into his and tugs gently, smiling at him as they step into line for tickets. Jess sighs and she looks up at him curiously, furrowing her brow. He rolls his head to the side and stares at her blankly, clearly bored with her suggestion already.
"Oh, stop it," Anna rolls her eyes. "The first date was Chinese food, so we filled the cheesy dinner date quota," she smiles. "And now we have to experience a cinematic adventure."
"I see no point in seeing a movie that we're both just going to mock."
"But it's so fun to throw popcorn at the screen!" she laughs and leans against him slightly, resting her head on his shoulder. Sighing, he intertwines their fingers.
"You will pay for making me watch Brad Pitt," he swears, letting go of her hand to tug his wallet out of his pocket. She practically beams at him when he buys the tickets and he shakes his head, refusing to be amused by her blatant attempts to drive him nuts.
Sliding her fingers through his again, she practically bounces into the lobby of the theater. "He's just so dreamy," she deadpans. "Even Cohen admits to having a man-crush on Brad Pitt, Jess."
"That's because emo boy is cracked," he points at her and walks right past the concession stand. Anna frowns and looks over her shoulder at the various lines protruding from the counter.
"He's not emo," she sighs, laughing slightly. "And are you anti-popcorn, too?"
"Too expensive," he tells her. Anna frowns and increases her pace, keeping their fingers locked as she stops in front of him. Jess abruptly stops walking, hindered by her sudden appearance in his path, and he raises an eyebrow impatiently. "What?"
Shrugging, she smiles at him and leans in until her mouth is only a breath away from his, eyes locked onto his. They sparkle in the fluorescent lighting of the theater, and her smile softens slightly as she takes a step forward. "How can we throw popcorn at the screen if we don't buy any?"
Staring at her seriously, he tilts his head forward until his forehead is resting against hers. She smiles at him again and he rolls his eyes, pointing at the purse hanging from her shoulder. "You've got your own money," he whispers, then grins as he lets go of her hand and walks away.
Anna stares after him, gaping. "Jess Mariano!"
"I'll save you a seat!" he calls without turning around. A moment later he disappears into one of the theaters and she huffs in disbelief.
"I cannot believe you tried to steal my popcorn," she proclaims. Jess smirks and tugs his keys out of his pocket, shrugging as he flicks the metal key ring about. Anna shakes her head, refusing to smile, and his smirk widens as he watches her out of the corner of his eye.
"I can't believe you got us kicked out of the theater," he returns. "I mean, I know you're immature in your blushing youth, kid, but—"
"Hey!" she punches him in the arm, hard. "I'm less than a year younger than you, jackass."
Jess snickers and stops in front of the door to his apartment, turning to face her as he leans back against it. He crosses his ankles in front of him and shrugs innocently, arching an eyebrow briefly. "Still a little immature, don't you think?"
"I was wrong," Anna nods decisively.
"That smirk," she tells him. "The first night we met I told you I liked it. I lied."
He reaches for her hand and tugs her toward him when she accepts it, cocking his head to the side slightly. "What are you gonna do about it?" he wonders softly.
Anna slides her free hand across his cheek, smiling slowly. "I think I'm going to wipe it off," she says quietly. He arches an eyebrow and she nods again, resolute. "Yeah," she breathes, pressing her mouth against his.
The kiss is soft, mostly chaste, and when she pulls away he feels a little dazed. She grins. "See? Told you I would wipe it off," she laughs brightly and he pulls her closer, kissing her again as she snakes her arms around his neck.
Anna smiles against his mouth and Jess takes the opportunity to deepen the kiss, wrapping an arm around her waist and lifting her slightly to get her body closer to his. She tangles her fingers in his hair and he presses firmly against her, absorbing her gasp on his tongue when it pushes against hers.
"So are you gonna do that every time?" he asks when they break apart. His breathing is sporadic at best, his heart beating a little faster than usual in his chest. She shrugs her shoulders and kisses him softly.
"Depends on how annoyed I am."
Scratching his head, he reaches behind him to unlock his door. He keeps one arm firmly around her waist and smiles a little, leaning in and kissing her again. "Then I'm going to need a list of all your pet peeves," he murmurs.
Her laugh is swallowed as they walk into the apartment, and her knee-high stiletto boots tangle sharply with his beat-up Chuck Taylors.
The laptop sits on her knees lightly, her fingers sliding over the touchpad with ease as she clicks on the file. Jess is in the shower, but she's doing this with his permission so she doesn't feel so bad about intruding on his work.
Anna takes a deep breath and looks over her shoulder at the hallway, nodding to herself as she turns her attention back to the screen. His dedication stares back at her and she raises her eyebrows a little, tapping her thumb impatiently against the computer.
Five minutes later, he emerges from the bathroom and she's still staring at the dedication. He pulls his shirt over his head and sits down next to her, noticing the words on the screen. Inhaling sharply, he slides his hand down her arm.
"So that's the girl, huh?"
"The girl in the picture," she clarifies, looking at him. To his surprise, there is no judgment in her gaze. Concern, yes. Curiosity, definitely. But she isn't upset, and she's not running. Yet.
"Yeah, she's the girl in the picture," he breathes. Anna nods and looks back at the screen, shrugging slightly as she begins to scroll past the page.
"So what is Rory short for?"
Something drops down on his chest and he frowns, refusing to open his eyes. He hears crinkling as the paper slides off his body and falls to the floor, and he mumbles in his sleep and rolls over to get more comfortable.
"Get up," his girlfriend demands. Jess groans and buries his face in his pillow, shaking it back and forth slowly. She sighs and crawls onto the bed, lying down next to him. "Jess, you have a meeting about your book today."
"They can call me," he decides, sinking further into the mattress. Anna smiles and props herself up on her elbow, resting her chin on her palm.
"Doesn't work like that, Ernest," she teases. "And no one believes me when I tell them I'm dating an author, so you need to get up and become one so that the story's more plausible."
He turns his head to the side and arches an eyebrow at her. Her smile widens and she leans down slowly, pressing a gentle kiss to his lips. "If you don't go in there then the book goes to print without your consent," she whispers.
"It's as good as it's gonna get."
"You told them to take out the dedication," she reminds.
"Didn't fit," he shrugs and turns on his side to face her. Anna narrows her eyes and pokes him in the chest.
"You wrote that book because of her. She deserves to know that."
"Did you encourage Seth to go after Summer with sage advice like that?" he asks. Her gaze narrows further.
"Seth has nothing to do with this," she scolds, then leans down to kiss him. "Don't make me strangle you with your own sheets, Mariano." Anna sits up abruptly, pulling herself up so that she's standing over him on the bed. Jess raises an eyebrow and she shrugs, grinning.
When she starts jumping up and down on the bed, singing some song he's never heard before, he groans and throws his arm across his eyes. Giggling, she continues to bounce around, bopping her head to the tune playing in her head. Eventually the singing stops, but the jumping doesn't, and Jess groans as he peers up at her.
"What can I do to get you to stop that?"
She pretends to think about the question. "You can get up and go down to Truncheon."
"And if I do that you'll stop bouncing?"
"Yes," she smiles triumphantly, adding an extra hop between jumps. He rolls his eyes and slides off the mattress, running his hand through his messy hair as he stands up. She laughs brightly and jumps one last time, landing on her butt in the middle of the bed.
Not a second later, Jess is kissing her, and she squeals as she sinks back into the mattress. He crawls on top of her, keeping his weight on his forearms, and she bats ineffectually at his wandering hands.
"I hate layers," he grumbles, attempting to peel all four of her shirts off at once. Anna laughs against his mouth and sidles closer to him, reminding him demurely that she's only wearing a skirt.
He grins and tugs her cell phone out of her pocket to delay his meeting another hour.
Returning from New Haven is like learning how to breathe again. The shock of finding out what Rory had been doing in his absence - of seeing her new attitude – wears off and he's thankful that he has his own apartment to return to as opposed to the crappy hotel room he's been in for the past few nights.
Jess doesn't drive his car to his apartment, though. He heads in the opposite direction, his destination clear in his mind and the streets familiar from seven months of picking her up and dropping her off.
Sighing, she opens the door and leans against the frame. "I thought we decided we were going to stop with the late-night booty calls," she teases. Jess takes a deep breath and takes in the sight of her. She's in her pajamas, his t-shirt and nothing else that he can see, though she's probably got some sort of underwear on under the shirt, and her hair is as short and spiky as ever.
The gloves are missing, the skirt is gone, and she's not wearing fifty different layers. Boots aren't hiding her red-painted toenails, and he still can't figure out which Anna he prefers: Spunky Anna or Lazy Anna. Both are hyperactive and opinionated, and to be completely honest the spunk never actually leaves her system.
He thinks he kind of loves her for that.
"Move. In. With. Me."
"You're there ninety percent of the time anyway!" he says desperately. This is a familiar situation, but he's not asking her to run away with him and he has a feeling she's not going to say no. Anna stares at him seriously, sighing heavily.
"I thought we decided we were going to wait until everything was settled with Rory."
"It is settled," he tells her, stepping forward. "She's … not Rory anymore, and even if she was …"
"Anna," he mocks. A smirk spreads across his features before he can restrain it, and she smiles in return. Looking at the ground to her side, she laughs and tilts her head backwards, shaking her head as she slides her jaw back and forth.
"I must be crazy," she smiles and looks over her shoulder into her apartment before looking back at him. He shoves his hands in his pockets, rocks back on his heels. Then she nods and he grins, pulling her into a kiss that almost knocks her off balance.
Another box drops onto the floor in front of the couch and he runs his hand through his hair, looking around at the piles of stuff in his living room. Heels clack on the ground outside and he turns, smirking as she wanders in and sets a suitcase on the coffee table.
Pulling her head phones away from her ears, she smiles at him and kisses him quickly. "I've got two more boxes and then we're done."
"Okay," he nods, resting his hand on her hip as he kisses her again. Jess allows Anna pull away a moment later and she slides her headphones back on, bopping her head as she walks out of the apartment in the direction of her car.
When he moved to Philadelphia, he hadn't been planning to stay. But watching her dance around to the playlist she labeled 'Moving' on her iPod while settling box after box of her stuff in his apartment, he thinks it's not as bad as he originally thought it would be.