Title: Lovely Things
Pairing: Rory/Jess (Literati)
Timeline: Two years after Rory graduates from college.
Disclaimer: Yeah, right.
A.N.: Basically, I started this, and if you like it, I'll keep going. If not...well, I may just keep going anyway, 'cause I can't get enough of Rory and Jess.
Feedback: Is delicious and keeps me writing (and more importantly, posting).
The smell of coffee always reminded him of her. How could it not when she'd consumed more coffee in one day than he'd known Folgers was able to produce? Like mother, like daughter in that respect. But still, there it was. Just one more thing in this world that constantly reminded him of her. His one.
One day, just one damn day, he'd get a cup of joe without thinking of her.
Today was not going to be that day.
Shelling out four dollars for his morning cup of coffee, and griping at the barista about the highway robbery that was the coffee industry, as he always did, he threw his change in the tip jar on the counter and turned without looking toward the door. He was going to be late for his first class, and if he was late, per the deal with his students, no pop quiz for them. Since this deal had been struck they hadn't had a pop quiz in over a month.
Today was not going to be that day, either.
He sighed, shifting his messenger bag and hipping open the door of the coffee shop, stepping out into the crisp fall air. The wind lifted his hair, his longish bangs (did you call them bangs on men?) falling into his eyes just enough that he later blamed them for the reason he ran into her.
"Oh, crap…Sorry…" he muttered, as coffee sloshed all over his brown suede jacket and splattered over the person he had crashed into, a person in heels that appeared to be entirely too high for a human to actually walk in…which he then noticed were attached to legs that could be described in the same way.
"Oh jeez…are you okay---"
Brown eyes met ((blueberry)) blue and both stopped short though his mind kicked into high-gear, chattering away like a maniac. Holy-shit-No-way-Not-like-this-Christ-she's-beautiful-I-ruined-her-shoes-Stupid-damned-cup-of-coffee-God-she-looks-great-Man-you-need-to-say-something…
"Jess!" she said with a smile on her face that he thought might actually indicate genuine happiness to see him.
Speak, dammit. Pretend you're an actual human. "Rory…uh, hi."
"What are you…oh, your jacket…Um…let me get some napkins…" she fumbled for the door as he tried to gallantly open it for her, only to knock into her again and send the papers in her hand, a magazine, and a package of Ding-Dongs sailing to the ground.
"Oh Jesus," he swore, dropping his things onto the sidewalk and throwing his now half-empty cup of coffee into the trash can next to the coffee shop entrance. "No, stop," he ordered as she bent to pick up her things. "I did the damage, I'll get it. You just…stand there."
A bemused grin played on her lips, and her eyebrows raised mischievously, but she did as instructed while he stomped around, mentally damning himself to hell and trying to save the work she was planning to go over while sipping a nice latte, out of the chilly morning weather.
A moment later he stood straight, papers completely askew, his hair mussed, and slightly out of breath. And he was just…Jess.
"So…how've you been," she asked, grinning viciously.
"I've had better mornings," he told her with a slight glare, friendly as ever, and nodded toward the door. "Go in."
"Oh, no…" she protested, eyeing the shop. "You were on your way out. I can handle this…"
Chocolate eyes rolled. "Come on. I'll help you sort them out. I have a minute." No pop quizzes for another month.
"Well…if you're sure…" She opened the door for him and followed Jess into the coffee shop, waving at someone behind the counter before finding an empty table. Jess unceremoniously dumped her paperwork onto the round table before staring at her without a single clue of what to do or say next.
She opened with, "It's…ah…funny running into you like this."
"Yeah…it's been…awhile," he nodded. "Couple years, I guess." Or 2 years and five months, gimme a minute and I'll figure out the days…
"Yeah, the wedding. I'm sorry you haven't been able to come in for Thanksgiving or Christmas."
"Well, you know…busy," he told her blandly. "I came in for a few days last summer. Stayed with Luke and your mom."
"Yeah, I remember her telling me that. I was on assignment…somewhere."
"I'm only here for a couple days," she told him finally, when it became apparent he wasn't going to speak. To give her hands something to do she began straightening the article she was currently working on, which Jess had knocked out of her hands and scattered all over the south sidewalk of Crestwood Avenue.
He shifted his stance, hands clutching his bag for dear life. "Yeah, well…I'm usually here earlier. Or I'm supposed to be. I teach not to far from here."
Rory stopped organizing her papers and looked up at him, her face a blank. "You teach."
An eyebrow went up at her tone.
Her face remained skeptical. "You teach…people?"
His head shook, his dark eyes completely serious. "No, monkeys, actually. I'm part of a research group that strives to teach them a Purists viewpoint of Eric Clapton music."
Amusement shone in her sparkling eyes, eyes that had once looked into his with love. "Well, I'm glad you got into such an overlooked field. It's about time someone put energy into teaching primates about classic rock."
He grinned, remembering how much he admired her wit, and her ability to keep up with his. "I teach English," he admitted with a shoulder-jerk. "Community college. It's nothing big. Pay sucks. But I got dental."
"And your teeth are fabulous," she told him appreciatively and put a hand on his arm. "Jess, that's so wonderful. Really. I can't tell you how glad I am to hear that. I knew you always could do so much more if you just tried…." She cut herself off. "And you don't need me to lecture you anymore, do you."
Through his coffee-stained jacket, the heat from her hand scorched his arm. He missed a beat in the conversation, startled at his reaction to her touch, before coming back to Earth and smiling his faint Jess smile. "It's okay. I like teaching. Even if half my students don't know Charles Dickens from Charles Schultz."
"Never underestimate the lessons found in Peanuts." She finished organizing her article and tapped it on the table to even the pages.
"I'm sorry about all…that," he said, gesturing to the table and her work.
"No, it's fine, really. I usually keep things on my laptop, but it's in the shop right now and I needed to proof this before turning it in to my editor. Nothing like getting out the actual red pen to your own work."
They stood for a moment, nodding and letting their eyes move over anything in the shop other than each other before he thought of something semi-intelligent to say. "So you're writing, that's great."
She nodded, relieved at the topic. "Yeah…I love it. I'm just here for a few days…I guess I already said that…I don't get to Philly that much. I'm covering the governor's debate with the National Education Association tomorrow."
His eyebrows rose. "Ah…something near and dear to my heart."
"I bet," she smiled facetiously. "I'd love to get your opinion on his proposed budget cuts for state schools."
His eyes surveyed her, to the point of almost making her uncomfortable. "Fun as that sounds…"
"Hey, how's your mom?" she asked suddenly.
He shrugged. "You'd probably know better than I would, actually."
"Last Luke said they're liking life in Ireland; all those 'positive energies.'"
"Yeah, I guess. She's bugging me to come over there. I dunno. Maybe." Is the air thick in here? He tugged at his messenger bag, which suddenly felt a hundred pounds heavier on his shoulder. "Um…how's your mom?"
Rory nodded. "The same. She and Luke are doing great, still doing the inn and diner things…"
Jess nodded, stepping aside to allow paying customers through to the tables behind them. "And you've got a new brother."
"And you have a new cousin," she nodded in return. "Weird, huh? The way it worked out? Who would have thought all those years ago we'd end up related by a tiny little baby?" She eyes gleamed now as she thought of Luke and Lorelai's newest edition to the family. "Have you seen him? Jake? He's so cute…these little feet…and the socks! I didn't know they could make them that small."
Unbeknownst to her as Rory gushed, he froze, his mind flying through the memories of her in his arms, and he watched himself screw it up time and time again before she'd had enough and told him to leave her alone. The way it worked out…yeah…
Realizing he'd been silent for too long, he gave a quick shoulder jerk. "Yeah. Weird."
His eyes settled on hers, piercing brown and somehow hot on her skin. "Well…um…" She stammered, unsure why things had suddenly changed but acutely aware that they had.
"I should go," he told her abruptly. "Sorry about the papers."
"Oh, it's not problem, really. I…" Rory stood before him, trying to decide if a hug was okay or if it was better to just let him go, when he offered her his hand. She stared at it for a moment before forcing herself to take it.
When they let go of each other, he gave her a small smile. "Take care of yourself, Rory."
"You too, Jess. It was good to see you," she told him softly, and a twinge of longing struck her heart. Pushing it away she gave him a small, unsure, and slightly confused smile, and sat down at the table, ready to concentrate on work.
Jess watched her sit and forced himself to walk away, shoving open the door of the coffee shop and walking in the opposite direction, now horribly late for his first class. Take care of yourself, Rory. Nice to see you, Jess.
He turned suddenly, narrowly missing a second collision that morning with a man in a dark suit, and stomped back to the coffee shop. He opened the door with force and strode to her table where she was engrossed, already, in her work.
She looked up, surprised. "Hey. Did you forget something?"
"No, not exactly. Um…I'm done here in a, well, at this point my first class this morning is over in thirty-five minutes. I don't have another one until lunch. You want to catch up a little?"
Her heart warmed. "That would be great."
"I'll just come back here when I'm done, not that there are going to be a lot of students there when I show up." She said yes, he thought, then inwardly rolled his eyes at the teenage-like glee growing inside him. Get a grip.
She nodded, her eyes crinkling with a smile. "I'll be here."
And somewhere in the back of her head a little voice whispered, Where I've always been, Jess.
With a grin he couldn't contain, Jess nodded and headed back out into the brisk fall morning.
A minute later he shoved open the door of the Bauckman Building, room C-12. "Sorry I'm late, get out your pens and papers girls and boys, time for a pop quiz," he called out over the mild din of chatting students.
"Hey!" one of them cried out in protest. "You were late! No quizzes!"
"Teacher's prerogative," Jess said with a slightly wicked glint in his eye.
"You suck," one of them muttered, as the class settled down for the quiz.
Jess approached the board and took chalk in hand. In giant letters he scrawled, "Name your favorite Eric Clapton song" across the board, then turned and sat in the ancient rolling desk chair, looking expectantly at his class.
"That's the pop quiz question?" a girl in the second row asked him.
An eyebrow went up. "Yup." Turning toward the board, his back to the students, he allowed a grin to escape. Then a horrific thought came over him and he turned around again, banging a hand on his desk.
"If any one of you answer this quiz with 'Who's Eric Clapton,' you automatically fail."
"But what does that have to do with Hemingway?" someone else wanted to know.
Ernest only has lovely things to say about you…
His head cocked to the side as he thought about it. "Nothing."