ENVY: Purple's the New Green
AN: This story hasn't been linear; it's supposed to be random snippets from any point of Season 3. Most of these have been after They Shoot Gilmores, Don't They? But this one is before that, we take a look back before they got together to tackle the last sin, Envy. (it's set just after One's Got Class, And The Other One Dyes, just FYI)
It was supposed to be his night off, but things of late had not been going as he planned—as if Jess knew what the hell he was doing. It felt foreboding somehow, the universe giving him tiny signs that were too big to ignore, but too small to make him change in any real way. His uncle Luke had discovered, with the help of a woman who would sooner smack him than offer a helping hand, that the girl he had been making out with until they were interrupted suddenly had jumped into Luke's closet to hide. The reason this girl, Shane, hadn't chosen Jess' closet would probably never exist, outside her lack of general awareness, but he wasn't with her for her mind. After that incident, he'd been subjected to a verbal sparring match during which his uncle had pressed him on the fact that he shouldn't be with someone who wasn't special to him in some way. It had ended badly, as did most of their conversations, and it had been made worse by the fact that the moment he met back up with Shane, after her shift was over, they'd run into Rory and her friend Lane on the street, Shane muttering something about one of them being a freak as they all crossed paths.
It was against his normal protocol to engage Shane in conversation, and yet he found he just had to know what had provoked the comment. He asked which girl she had the problem with, and the whole story of her distreatment (her 'word') at the hands of the girl she described as Rory (though she didn't know her by name) and their verbal exchange while she'd been trying to get him to be nice to her on the phone earlier during her otherwise boring shift at the beauty supply (which perhaps he could bring himself to do if she'd stop making up words like bloaty). Shane had crossed her arms in the huffy manner she had and told him to leave the moment he backed Rory's defense, telling him that her head hurt from all the grammar lessons.
So with an eye roll and a muttered 'whatever', he headed back to the diner, cursing the lack of options in this town. Most girls here looked at him with wary interest at best, Shane being the only girl that approached him other than Rory. The way Rory looked at him—that's what got under his skin. He never knew if she was going to be unjustifiably nice or exaggeratedly irritated toward him, but either way it didn't matter. He would still try, still get in the ring and do his damnedest to make her forget that provincial boyfriend of hers and make her wish Shane would disappear from his life—though, honestly, she probably had no idea how easily the latter could be achieved. Poof, he could think, and Shane would be gone. More and more he was thinking that would be a good idea anyhow, if Rory showed no further signs of wear after their subsequent encounters. But at the moment, it was the only card he held to be sure to catch Rory's attention, to make sure she had to witness the repercussions of her actions.
He opened the door to the diner and earned a hearty sigh of disgust from his uncle—nothing like coming home to loving family. He made for the stairs, but Luke's hand, bearing a coffee pot, reached out and blocked his escape. "Make yourself useful," he grunted before heading off to the kitchen.
And so Jess found himself, refilling coffee cups for people who didn't need refills this late at night, ringing up the occasional customer and watching as tables grew emptier with no one coming behind to fill them. He was looking over receipts a half hour before closing when the door opened and she walked in alone. Luke popped his head out to see who had come in, but seemed to take one look at Rory, another glance at Jess, and disappeared back into the kitchen. Jess put his pen down on the finished receipts and picked up the regular coffee carafe from the machine on his way to the stool she had chosen, far at the other end from where he'd been standing behind the cash register—clearly a sign of her already formed displeasure. But she hadn't immediately turned in the doorway when she saw him, so he took that as an invitation for service, if not a conversation that he'd enjoy, no matter how frustrated it made him later.
"Lots of open tables," he said as he filled up her cup without asking if she wanted any.
She shrugged. "It's just me tonight."
"Where's Lorelai?" he asked, doing his best to make conversation. She raised an eyebrow at him, clearly not believing he cared. But he'd asked, so the polite core she'd developed implored her to answer.
"She had a long day. She retired early after she unplugged the phone. Lots of angry parents calling our house tonight. That's why I had to get out. Well, that and all we had in the house were Lucky Charms, and I've had that the last four meals, not including school lunches, so I just thought," she stopped, her words forming a giant rambling string, though at least he could always count on her to make sense when words came spilling out of her. The most she ever did was share more details than she really wanted him to know, but he never complained.
"At least they're magically delicious," he prodded her, hoping for a hint of a smile. Instead her eyebrows scrunched together and rose slightly. He sighed. "Want a burger?"
She nodded. "If the kitchen's still open."
"I'm pretty sure Luke would garrote me if I refused to feed you," he said as if it weren't his idea to take care of her. "It'd cut way back on his profit margins," he said, scribbling the order for a burger and fries and placing it on the pass-through, knowing Luke would have it done in a matter of minutes.
"Lane dyed her hair today," she said as a way to fill the void of the otherwise empty diner and do her best to sidestep the fact that there was so much she was wary to discuss with him, despite the fact that those topics hung in the air around them like humidity. "Or, I guess I should say I dyed Lane's hair today."
"Purple," she said, pulling a picture from her back pocket and showing him. He leaned over the counter a little to see the Polaroid she had produced.
"That is indeed purple," he noted as she took it back and replaced it in her pocket.
"We had to dye it back to black. But she looked like that for a whole half hour before her mom came home."
"Is that what girls do, dye their hair unnatural colors and back to normal while discussing…, what? Dreamy boyfriends and ditzy store clerks?"
Yeah, he'd gone there. He'd never been one to dance around issues for too long, no matter the fact they could have possibly had a pleasant conversation if he just didn't push. He wanted to push her, a little, he wanted to get her mad; get her feeling any emotion strongly enough to obtain a reaction out of her. It got his blood pumping, fighting with her, as well as the thought that that kind of heat could so easily transform into passion.
"Don't do that. Don't make me feel sorry for that insipid girl," she warned, her eyes narrowing at him. "If you don't like her, why are you with her?"
He shrugged. "Who says I'm with her?"
"Fine, if you're not with her, you're all over her," Rory spouted back, her ire already up. The very thought of him with Shane seemed to have that effect on her, which was the whole point of his even bothering with Shane. He and Rory hadn't had a conversation since her return from Washington D.C. that hadn't gotten her panties in a twist; he'd made sure of that.
"So? What's it to you? Unless you're jealous," he did his best to sound nonchalant, as though he could care less if she was envious. Truth be told there was no reason Rory should ever envy Shane, in any way, not from where he stood. Unless it were truly the case that she longed for him to touch her the way he touched Shane, and at this point he wasn't going to make it that easy for her. She'd have to admit it, her envy and her desire that for whatever reason she felt she needed to keep hidden. He liked this girl, in ways he wasn't even ready to admit yet, but he was not going to let the fact that she kissed him and then took off slide that easily. He needed her to dig a little deeper than deriding a girl that was clearly her inferior all the while going back to her hackneyed boyfriend every evening, pretending she'd never let herself slip.
"Why would I ever be jealous of her? Have you ever heard her speak? Or is that why you keep your tongue jammed down her throat, so you won't have to?"
Point, Rory. However, as a means of silencing Shane, it had been as effective as he could imagine. Unfortunately all that kissing had led the blonde to feel like they needed to talk in order for her to feel less like an object, which was generally when he ended their rendezvous, saying he had to get to work.
"Need me to give your boyfriend some tips?" he shot back fairly quickly, fast enough to make her think he wasn't wounded by her spot-on accusations.
She flushed a deep shade of pink, her words lost for a moment. "Dean is a great kisser."
He nodded, his jaw tightening. "Really? So, how did I compare? Or are we still not talking about that kiss?"
She shook her head, flustered. "Stop it."
"No, really, come on. I'm curious."
"Jess," she breathed. "Why are you doing this? What do you want, an apology?"
"For kissing me? Or for taking off and pretending it never happened?" he pressed, his wounds still a little too fresh to ease the sharpness of his tone.
"We've talked about this," she led, probably in hopes he would end the line of conversation. He had no idea what he could possibly segue into, as he literally did not have a thought in his mind outside of the feel of her lips against his for that one moment last spring. He was pretty sure the only way to get it out of his mind was to replicate the action, with or without their current set of complications. The worst part was she was doing all this to avoid hurting Dean, but she didn't seem to care that she was hurting him in the process. She expected him to understand. He didn't want to understand. He just wanted her.
"No, we've argued about this," he pointed out. "We've avoided this. We've done pretty much everything but talk about this," he continued.
"What do you want me to say, Jess? That I missed you? That I'm sorry it happened? Because I'm not. I know I should be, and I know that what I did was crappy, but it happened and now you're with Shane, and I'm still with Dean, and it doesn't change anything. Does it?" she erupted for a moment, her feelings spilling out of her in a wave, her eyes now expectant and wide and ready to consume him whole if he allowed.
He steeled himself. He was not going to be the one to break first, even if he did just want to kiss her; not to shut her up, but because he could literally feel every fiber of his being pulled in her direction. He never knew how badly his body could betray him until he met this girl.
"I guess not. I mean, you're still with Dean, so," he glanced away from her, for just a second, to regain his composure. When he met her eyes again, something had changed. A wall had slipped back into place between them.
"Yeah. I am. So," she bit her lip. He wondered if she was plagued by the memory of that kiss as well. Something told him she had at least thought about it, allowing the indulgence when things were quiet, replaying the scene in her head. But if she wasn't willing to admit that that kiss had changed things, it had changed everything in fact, then she wasn't going to admit to thinking about him.
He noticed the plate of food had been placed on the pass-through during their heated exchange. He grabbed it and slid it in front of her. "Enjoy your dinner," he said, noting that she didn't even pick at her food, an oddity for her, and even stranger for someone who had been sustained solely on a kid's cereal comprised primarily of marshmallows for three days.
"What?" he asked when she failed to move, let alone eat.
"Nothing. I should probably go. Let you have your evening. I'm sure sitting around here in an empty diner with me wasn't what you had in mind."
"If that's what you want," he said, not making direct eye contact with her. He wasn't going to go chasing after Shane tonight, pretending to be sorry for pissing her off, because he wasn't sorry. She'd come sniffing around the next day, having justified his behavior in some way that allowed her to seek him out again. It was Rory that had the strength of character to inflict pain on him by avoiding him. And when she couldn't avoid him, she'd torture him in other ways. He'd no doubt have to watch an exchange between her and Dean the next morning over breakfast, them talking about nothing for too long before he would lean down and kiss her goodbye. Her eyes would invariably dart to Jess, to see if he was watching, and she'd quickly peck Dean back before running off to catch her bus. It was a scene that had been replayed over and over in front of Jess, a vision of what he believed was his own personal hell. Did he really deserve this, had his sins been that bad? He didn't know. But he knew one thing for certain. His punishment was effective, but only in spurring his pursuit to get her to crack. He just hoped he could outlast her, even by just a millisecond.
"Dean's waiting for me anyhow," she admitted. "I should go."
"Wouldn't want him to think you were avoiding him," he said, his voice tight and his gaze fixed back on her. "I'd hate to ruin that happy little delusion you two are living in."
"You just can't stand for anyone else to be happy," she said, standing up now. She was going to leave her food untouched and him unsatisfied. At least, that was her intent.
"Run away to your boyfriend," he shook his head bitterly. "It's what you do best, isn't it?"
She looked at him with pain and something else—something baser, something that maybe even she didn't truly understand. As if she'd trusted him and he'd breached it somehow; she wasn't sure if she could count on him to protect her. How could he protect her when she was doing her damnedest to protect herself from him?
"I have to," she said finally, standing in the middle of the diner, with the most unreadable of expressions on her beautiful face.
"Then go," he said hollowly, still standing behind the counter, pretty sure that the physical barrier was the only thing keeping him from going to her, from touching her. He had no idea what would happen if he kissed her again, but he was afraid she was too fragile for that somehow. Maybe if he could have just convinced himself that she'd only kissed him that day because she was simply glad to see him again; but the moment her lips met his, he'd known better. He'd felt the release of tension, the build of energy, the raw hunger she'd poured out into that kiss. It was like everything he'd been feeling for her, mirrored back in a single act—too good to be true. But then he'd watched her run away, back to her boyfriend, just like she was doing now.
He watched her nod silently, accepting her fate for the time being, before turning and opening the door to the diner, stepping out into the night. He was left staring after her retreating form for a moment before attempting to shake it off, going back to finishing the receipts, turning the lights off, and going from table to table to flip all the chairs up.
He was doing just that when his uncle came out from the kitchen, dish towel over his shoulder, and cleared his throat. "Everything okay out here?"
"There's just one plate left to bus. I'm going to bed," he said as he walked past his uncle and her untouched food, without looking at either, heading for the stairs. He wouldn't set his alarm for tomorrow; one more tardy wouldn't matter to his already tarnished record, and it would keep him from having to witness Dean basking her in presence for one day at least. He allowed himself the satisfaction that she might still look for him, whether he was there or not, though it didn't make her anymore his. It was like the picture of Lane's hair she'd showed him. She'd gone back to the safe option, but there was still evidence that for a brief while, she'd embraced something more dangerous, something she knew she couldn't keep, no matter how much she might want it. If only his dreams were less vivid than a Polaroid picture.