Disclaimer: I own nothing.
A/N: This is what happens when I'm sick, I guess. Is it angst? Is it fluff? Damned if I know. Title comes from the song of the same name by The Kooks. Enjoy, review if you like. Set a little later in Season 7, with the assumption that nothing's been resolved yet.
The heat was unbearable. Rory could feel the cool autumn breeze attempting to push her backwards, but it didn't faze her at all. The wind didn't change the fact that she was ridiculously warm. She'd walked out of her mom's house in jeans and an old, black T-shirt. The only reason she'd wrapped the green scarf around her neck was that it was cute. Now though, she removed it in an attempt to cool down.
Rory pushed open the diner door, desperate for something cold to drink. Luke was behind the counter, coffee pot in hand, as he talked to someone sitting there with his elbows on the counter. Rory blinked a few times as she watched the scene unfold. Even if she hadn't seen Luke's smile and easy mannerisms (neither of which anybody had seen since he and Lorelai broke up), she would've recognized the back of his head anywhere. She could feel tiny beads of sweat making little trails down her forehead.
As she watched, Jess's shoulders straightened a little. He knew someone's eyes were on him, and he probably knew who it was too. She wouldn't put it past him. She always knew when his hazel eyes were covertly following her movements, how could he not know when she was watching him?
He turned his head to the side, still listening to whatever Luke was saying to him. Out of the corner of his eye though, he caught her gaze. She could see his smirk, even from that angle, before he turned completely back around towards Luke.
Rory took a shaky breath and used her scarf to dry her forehead. The diner was sweltering hot. She looked around, wondering how anyone else could handle this heat. She walked up to the counter, keeping her eyes straight ahead.
"Rory." Luke said, looking up as she approached. "Hey."
"Hi, Luke." As if their interactions weren't awkward enough since the rift between him and her mother, they really needed Jess sitting there, avoiding eye contact.
"Coffee?" Luke asked, his gaze shifting back to his nephew.
Rory nodded, sliding onto a stool. "Can you put a bunch of ice cubes in it though?"
Jess lifted his head at this comment and turned to face her. He smirked, but still didn't quite meet her eyes, "Finally gave in to the iced coffee trend?"
Rory stared at him for a moment, unblinking. He had a little patch of hair on his chin now. That was new. The sweat was still pouring down her face, and the fact that she was confronted with Jess for the first time since she went to Philadelphia and emotionally pummeled him for her own benefit.
"It's just so hot in here." Rory said, more to herself than to him. She turned back towards the counter, where Luke was looking at her worriedly while dropping ice cubes into a coffee mug.
"Rory…" Jess started, but Rory heard no more than that. Her eyes closed and she slid off her stool into Jess's arms, completely unconscious.
The pounding behind her eyes felt like it was causing her entire head to move in circles. Rory opened her eyes and saw nothing but a spinning ceiling. She closed her eyes tightly and let out a long, shaky sigh.
Rory pushed herself up and tried to open her eyes again. She recognized Luke's apartment instantly, as well as the yellow blanket she was covered with. It used to lie on Jess's bed, about a million lifetimes ago.
"You shouldn't be sitting up." A voice entered the room. Rory looked up just as Jess entered the room, holding a plate in one hand.
"I shouldn't be in here." Rory responded, attempting to lift her head. The spinning quickened though, and she was forced back into a laying position.
"Agreed." Jess said, coming over to the sofa. "You should never have left your house. What were you thinking? Your temperature's like, 105."
Rory furrowed her brow. She didn't remember feeling sick at all. She just remembered feeling hot.
"I thought it was just warm out." Rory said weakly.
Jess shook his head with a small smirk. "You've always done that."
"Done what?" Rory demanded. She opened her eyes briefly, and saw that he was sitting on the coffee table across from her. He looked good, but he always looked good. The green of his long-sleeved shirt brought out the gold in his eyes, and his hair was getting longer.
"You've never been able to realize you're sick. You're always too busy with everything else that needs to get done."
There was a long, pregnant pause and Rory didn't know how to respond to this observation about her. She tended to forget that he knew her so well, or at least that he had at one point.
"I cut up some oranges and some pineapple." Jess continued, looking down at the plate he'd brought with him. "I don't know if you feel like eating now, but…when you do."
There it was again, that bizarre knowledge of her inner workings. She always wanted fruit when she was sick. She'd refuse anything else. He remembered. After their horrible last meeting, he still retained the knowledge of what foods comforted her when she was sick.
"Jess…" Rory started, straining to sit up from the sofa again.
"Don't move. What do you want? I'll get it." Jess said softly, cutting her off.
"Stop!" Rory exclaimed, her head reeling from her sudden shift in volume. She brought a hand to her forehead and was glad that her closed eyes prevented tears. "Stop being nice to me."
"You're sick." Jess said. "You passed out in Luke's diner. I'm just trying to help."
"I don't want your help!" Rory shouted. Even as she said it, she could tell her strange new anger was completely unwarranted. "I never asked for you to help me."
Jess looked down at the floor. "Huh."
"God, I don't even know why I'm yelling at you. Especially after…" Rory trailed off.
"Last time." Jess finished, not without his own tinge of anger.
Rory nodded. "Yeah, last time."
"It's like I said, it is what it is." Jess said. His voice was losing volume, and Rory knew that she'd upset him. That was his giveaway: that low, distant voice and then that moment where he sank into thoughtful silence.
"I think I hate that more than anything else you ever said...or didn't say." Rory said. She made another attempt at sitting, and this time was successful. She tentatively reached over and picked up a piece of pineapple from the tray. He'd cut them small enough to eat in one bite, just the way she preferred them.
Jess's eyes widened at that bit of honesty, but then he just shrugged. "It's true. Can't change what we were…what we are."
"No." Rory agreed, swallowing the pineapple. It felt so cold and refreshing as it slid down her thick throat. "I never imagined I'd be having this conversation with you, especially here. I never thought you'd talk to me again."
Jess shrugged. "I'd say 'it is what it is,' but you don't seem to like that."
"I really don't! What does that even mean?" Rory demanded, reaching over for a piece of orange.
"It means that, well, nothing about us is easy. And hating you would be easy." Jess said. He saw that Rory's eyes were closed again and he took that moment to study her. She looked so small and fragile under that blanket, but she was neither of those things.
Rory couldn't believe how honest they were being with each other, how easy it still was to talk to him and how sometimes it felt like so little had changed.
"How's the blonde dick at Yale?" Jess asked.
Rory's eyes popped open in shock, not at the question but instead at the lack of bitterness behind it. It was just a question.
"He's working in London. We're good though, I guess." Rory said. "It kind of sucks."
Jess took in a deep breath. "He doesn't know then."
"Know what?" Rory felt a knot in her stomach and convinced herself it was just from the fruit.
"How much it hurts you to be left alone." Jess said. "I hope he's a faster learner than I was."
"Jess…" Rory didn't know where she was going with that sentence. She had no idea how to respond to that. She had no idea why the unsettled feeling in her stomach wasn't an unpleasant one. She went to swing her legs over the side of the couch but Jess's hands stopped her. He placed them on her knees to hold her in place.
"Don't move too much. You're still sick." He said insistently.
"I'm pretending it doesn't hurt. He can't come back for me. I know that." Rory said quietly. She turned her head, and they finally made eye contact. "I'm good at pretending it doesn't hurt."
"Not as good as you think." Jess responded, smirking a little. "So what else doesn't he know?"
"What?" Rory demanded, frowning. "He knows everything about me."
"I doubt that. Does he know about the fruit thing?"
Rory quietly shook her head. "But I've never really been sick while we were together!"
Jess looked thoughtful for a minute and asked, "Does he know you wish your eyes were green?"
Rory didn't respond. She just leaned forward and shakily took another piece of pineapple, giving Jess the answer he already knew. She could never tell Logan that, because she'd be met with insistence that she was gorgeous, whereas Jess had just shook his head at her and let the subject drop.
"Does he know that you're scared of pigeons?"
"I am not scared of pigeons." Rory said, blushing.
"Terrified would probably be more appropriate." Jess said teasingly, noticing that she still didn't provide an answer.
"Oh, go get a black eye from a swan." Rory retorted, smiling. Jess caught her eye with a baffled smile of his own, and Rory suddenly felt dizzy again and had to close her eyes.
"You know about that?" Jess asked. The small smile was still on Rory's face.
"Luke told my mom back when they were together. She told me. I laughed a lot." Rory confessed. "And no, he doesn't know I'm scared of pigeons."
Jess's eyes widened. She'd actually answered him. He hadn't expected her to actually answer his probing.
"I bet he doesn't even know you hate The Twilight Zone." Jess continued, ending with something as simple television preference.
She did. She hated The Twilight Zone. Despised it, thought it was lame, and mocked it constantly. She'd forgotten that though, because Logan loved it so she just tolerated it. And his romantic gesture had come from there, from that show she despised. She'd never even thought about that. Why did Jess remember that? Why did he retain such useless information about her?
For the same reason that she knew Jess only ate ice cream in cones, or that he hated when people signed their name in block printing instead of cursive, or that the sight of pea soup made him sick, or that he was supposed to get braces when he was twelve but refused and he'd gotten lucky that his teeth had straightened themselves out, or any of the other random, bizarre facts she knew about Jess "my middle name is Zachary but don't tell anyone that" Mariano.
"What are you trying to do here, Jess?" Rory whispered, eyes closed again.
"Me?" Jess asked with feigned innocence, which was really the only kind of innocence he had in his possession. "I'm just trying to take care of you while you're sick. You hate taking care of yourself when you're sick."
"Stop that. Stop…knowing everything about me." Rory said quietly.
"Can't." Jess said simply. "Burned into my brain, right along several Vonnegut passages, Truncheon's phone number, and all the lyrics to London Calling, the song and the album."
Rory let a low laugh escape and she shook her head. The motion made her very tired and she yawned.
"You were my friend first. That's the difference, isn't it?" She asked groggily, opening her eyes slightly to peer at him from under her lashes.
Jess shrugged, leaned over, and brushed the hair off her forehead. "Maybe."
"I guess it is what it is." Rory mimicked, making a face.
Jess laughed lightly. "Now you're catching on, kid. Get some rest."
Rory nodded. "Be here when I wake up?"
"You got it." Jess said, feeling as if he'd won some sort of small victory, as though 'it is what it is' wasn't such a bad thing after all. "And I'll have the mashed potatoes ready. Round two of comfort food."
Rory smiled and let herself drift to sleep, wondering if Logan would ever think to make her mashed potatoes.
A/N the 2nd: This was originally a one-shot, but I changed my mind about ten minutes after I posted it. Stay tuned for a few more chapters.