Disclaimer: sorry to disappoint but they're as much not mine as they were four months ago.
A/N: So it's been while, huh? Yeah I know, sorry about that. School and life in general is kicking my a$$ but I'm writing a lot lately. This one shot is the first of a series that I've been working on for a few weeks now and I already wrote the second one, it's in the editing room for now but should be up soon, so stay tuned. So please, pretty please with Milo covered in whipped cream on top, review and let me know how you liked or hated it.
A/N: a special and huge thank you to Hallon. Asa, you're best. Thanks for your patience, your hard work and all the time you spend on my texts. You rock.
The literary convention, August 2015, New York; you've been waiting for this event since June. Your boss, the editor in chief of the Hartford Courant, said you were the only one who could really appreciate something like this, so he sent you to cover it. This is major, a really important convention in the literary world, and not only are you thrilled, you're also a little proud of yourself. Being singled out is always a good feeling.
So here you are, six weeks later, interviewing new and not so new authors, attending conferences about books you haven't read yet, but plan on doing so really soon, taking pictures comparing yourself to a tourist visiting New York for the first time; eyes wide with eagerness and child-like happiness. People; reporters, authors and others, throw questioning looks at you but you don't care. You're here and you're determined to make the best of your time.
You've only been here for two days and so far you've barely ventured outside of the hotel where the convention is held. In the taxi, on your way here the first day, you noticed a small coffee shop that seemed more than inviting and since then you've been there at least ten times. It is only two blocks away and the place is cozy; you really like it. It's pretty much all you've seen of the Big Apple; you're not even a tourist but you keep calling it that because it holds a special memory. That's reason enough.
Tonight The New York Times, which,of course, is covering the event as well, is organizing a dinner and all the great authors and big names of the publishing world are expected to attend. You can hardly contain the giddiness you feel building up in your chest at the prospect. You call Lorelai before getting ready, asking her what you should wear because, as you keep repeating,"this is huge". She keeps mocking you for your antics, but you don't mind; you never do, because you're used to it by now. There has only been one person who ever really understood and shared you passion for the written art. You hang up with a smile tugging at the corners of your mouth.
It's been two hours and you still can't believe how many people you've talked to this evening. You have enough material to write what promises to be the best article of your career. Dinner has yet to be served, but you don't really notice. You feel like a kid left alone in a candy store. You promise yourself to bring a souvenir to your boss to thank him for one of the best assignments you've ever had. You're happy, but you can't help but wish there was someone here to share it with.
You finish exchanging pleasantries with the manager of yet another promising young author, or so you read, and head to the bar. You order a cup of coffee and the bartender smiles amusedly before getting you what you requested. You smile cheekily when he slides it in front of you, thank him and turn around to let your eyes travel. The reception hall of the hotel is crowded, the tables are set, but only a few of them are occupied. Most of the guests are standing, a glass in one hand and a pen in the other, milling around, chatting amongst themselves. You know all of them, if not personally at least by name; it's your job after all. You sip your coffee slowly and let you eyes wander around, looking for anyone you haven't talked to yet. Maybe the new Dan Brown, even if you think he is overrated, or the next Alice Sebold (The lovely Bones is still one of your favorite books).
Your scanning comes to an abrupt end when your eyes fall on a pair of brown eyes and an all too familiar smirk. You just don't know how you should feel.
Surprise would be an understatement, although you should have known he would be here. After all, he's become a major figure in the literary world. He's your secret pride.
Giddiness would imply too much of an emotional implication and you're not sure you want to admit that.
Annoyance or reluctance would be blatant and unnecessary lies because you're sure he can read the happiness dancing in your eyes. Somehow you know that even after years of separation, changes, troubles and maturation he's still able to read you like an open book. That thought causes you to look down to try to hide a smile.
You're not sure why the mere sight of him makes your heart jump a little, or why he makes you feel so many conflicted emotions with a simple smirk. Really though, you do; you know, but you've always preferred to hide behind pretenses. That's your thing; you hide, you let your fears dictate your choices, but just like anyone else you defend those choices because they're your own. And you're an adult now; you can hide and be scared all you want, nobody is going to bring you out of your closet.
Ultimately, you don't think it's such a big deal because those choices are neverthat important.
And now he's here, some twenty feet away, smiling softly as he approaches you. You can't tear your eyes aways; not that you really try. You notice how he walks; slowly and with a lot of self assurance, how he stands; shoulders high, hands in his pockets, and you involuntarily shiver at the thought that he's carrying himself as if he owns everything around him, even yourself.
He's wearing a simple black suit with a brown buttoned down shirt. The fabric is light, fluid and delicate. It follows his every move and you swear you can feel its softness. As you would have predicted he's not wearing a tie. He despises the piece of clothing with a force and you know it, not because he's letting it show, but because he told you once. It was a few years back, at your mom and his uncle's wedding. You were literally shaken to see for the first time how good he looked in a suit, and despite your flushed state, you complimented him easily. He smirked, thanked you and returned the compliment before adding that he hated looking like a 'freaking lawyer'. You laughed heartedly and were rewarded by one of his warm smiles.
Some might say that it's a rare occurrence -to see him smile- but you disagree. He smiles a lot, people just don't pay attention. That's what makes him so special. He was always underestimated; people just couldn't see how precious and rare he was and it's something you still can't understand.
From your overwhelmed point of view it took him a century to come up next to you. In reality, it didn't even take ten seconds. You exchange greetings and it's not long before he praises your choice of outfit. The dark brown sleeveless cocktail dress you picked up for the event is new and the tag itches the valley between your shoulder blades. You don't refrain from telling him so and he smiles again, amused by your antics.
"What are you doing here?" you finally ask after several minutes of silence. The cliché thought of how comfortable it is passes through your mind, but you -of course- dismiss it.
"Talking to you," he replies seriously.
"You're 30 years old, Jess," you point out, rolling your eyes.
He laughs out loud, earning the both of you curious looks from the people around you, and you can't help but smile. "Thanks for the update," he says and scowls, making you laugh instead.
"You're welcome," you reply after catching your breath. "And very annoying, may I add."
He smirks. "I take that as a compliment."
You shake your head lightly, mirth in your eyes and lets the subject drop, knowing he'll tell you eventually. You take another sip of your coffee and let your eyes wander around the room again, just to distract them from the man standing beside you.
It's your turn to smirk. "Is that your not so subtle way of asking what I'm doing here?"
"Damn! You caught me." He smiles, and you let yourself drink it all in.
"Always knew I would." You let it slip and you can't even blame it on alcohol; you haven't drank any so far. You absentmindedly think that his smile is the only influence you need. He doesn't pick up on your words because you're both past that. Why dwell on ancient feelings and broken promises?
Instead you decide to answer his question, if only to ease the slight tension that you sense nonetheless. It's a tension that shouldn't be there but always is. Ever since you broke up, a million years ago, you've refused to put a name on it, it wouldn't help anyway.
"I'm covering the convention for the paper."
He nods. "How's that going?"
"It's..." you stop to think about the right words.
"... been the best couple of days of your life," he finishes for you knowingly and you smile, not surprised at all.
"Something like that," you concur softly and he nods.
"It's pretty cool," he agrees.
The conversation stops again, but this time you don't avert your eyes from him. This time, he's the one looking around, but as opposed to you, he seems more at ease than you were a few seconds ago when you tried your best to look at everything but him. He's not avoiding talking to you, he's just taking in his surroundings. And you take the opportunity to really look at him. You smirk, thinking that he put an effort in looking presentable tonight. Sure, he's not wearing a tie, but it doesn't change the fact that he looks elegant, sophisticated even. He used to look younger than he really was, he always had a boyish look about him, but you realize that's not the case anymore. His features have hardened you notice; not in the bad sense of the term though, and not too much either, just enough to make him look like the thirty year old he is. His hair is a lot shorter, in fact, he never wore it that short before. You really like it; it's sexy, you dare to think. It adds to the feeling of maturity and strength he features so subtly.
It's always an overwhelming experience to look at him. Really look at him. It always surprises you how easy it is to get lost in him and the way he -simply- is.
It hasn't been that long since you last saw him. He's been visiting Luke, Liz, Doula and Jake a lot and it isn't rare for the two of you to share a coffee, a meal or a book when he does. It's been easier to be around him lately and you enjoy hearing how his now less troubled life is going. People (and by that you mean the lovely residents of Stars Hollow) are always surprised to see how much he's changed. Even after twelve years they have a hard time believing that this is the same heart-breaker of a hoodlum they used to love to hate. Again, you disagree. Oh, you never say it aloud but you knew, you knew all along. Jess hasn't changed, he just finally understood that it wouldn't be the end of the world if he tried to deal with his emotions instead of running from them. Letting people in a little, contrarily to what he used to think, won't kill him. He never really let you in when you were kids, but you knew anyway. You often wonder if it means something, but you never get as far as trying to find an answer to your inner analysis.
When he finally turns his eyes back to you, he catches you smiling. He raises an eyebrow in question and you blush ever so slightly. He smirks but does not push.
Ok, so maybe he did change a little bit. But only a teeny tiny little bit.
The moment is interrupted when a very blond, very leggy, very gorgeous woman calls his name from across the hotel ball room, a huge grin almost cutting her face in two. She comes up to you and throws her arms around him. You're surprised at how easily he returns the gesture. Then she starts talking. She gushes about how many great people she has met tonight, not once paying attention to you. 'How dare she!'
He listens to her, smirk in place, sometimes throwing one of his famous smart-ass comments in between two of her rants. He keeps throwing glances at you and you smile, not letting him know that this creature is annoying you beyond words. When he looks at you for what seems like the thousandth time, she finally follows his eyes and does a double check.
"Sorry," she smiles sheepishly and you're almost disappointed to see that she really looks sorry. "I didn't see you there."
"Obviously," Jess smirks with a roll of his eyes. "Lilly, this is Rory. Rory, meet Lilly," he introduces you succinctly. Her smile widens and she looks at him with excited brown eyes.
"Rory Gilmore?" she asks, eyebrows raised high. He nods looking at her steadily as if to warn her not to say something stupid. She smiles, clearly amused, and offers her hand to you. "Hi, it's so cool to finally meet you. He's always rambling about his reporter friend who's the best one the Courant ever got," she says in one breath, eyes sparkling with mirth. You shake her hand, all the while smirking at him.
"Jess rambles?" you ask just to irritate him a little bit more and he rolls his eyes yet again.
"Only when he's drunk," Lilly tells you and his head falls backward. She laughs at his antics and you keep on grinning. Your smile fades when Lilly puts her arms through his and lays her head on his shoulder. Suddenly, you don't feel right and you avert your eyes again. Silence has engulfed your little group and this time you're far from being comfortable.
And as if the last twenty minutes hadn't occurred, you're aware again of how uncomfortable your new high heels really are. Your tired muscles reminds you of the last two nights, both of which you spent sleepless. Even the itching of the tag is irritating you again. You realize how tired you really are and you really wish you could blame it on the reasons given above.
You mumble something about a headache and leave them alone, heading back to your room. You don't even give him the time to say good night; you just leave because it's easier that way. You were both always good at that.
Two hours later you've showered and changed into your favorite pajamas and settle down on the bed with notes about the convention scattered all around you. You try to concentrate on the article you're supposed to be writing, the one that just two hours ago was the best assignment of your life, but instead you find yourself trying desperately to get rid of the knots in your stomach that even the hot shower couldn't untie. You realize that you're trying to hold back tears and you get incredibly angry with yourself. Not him, not her, but yourself. You're a thirty year old journalist with a good life, loving family and friends. Sure, your love life is not the best, but it still exists. But here you are, in your stupid hotel room, in your stupid pajamas, trying not to cry over a stupid boy. Pathetic. Are you seriously feeling jealousy toward Lilly? That's so absurd you'd like to believe it can't be, but then again, absurdity is one of the things you're good at.
You think about calling Lorelai again but don't because you know how subjective she can be about Jess. They get along better nowadays but she still can't understand why he has this kind of effect on you. You don't blame her because you can't either. This bond or whatever it is, it's always been stronger than you.
There's a knock at the door and you decided to ignore it, not in the mood for... well, anything right now.
"Rory, come on, open up, I know you're in there," comes his muffled voice, making you jump slightly. You slowly get up and open the door. He's leaning against the door frame with a slight smirk. His suit jacket is gone, the sleeves of his brown shirt are rolled up and his arms are crossed over his chest. His smirks broadens when he takes in your outfit and you cross your arms defensively, blushing slightly.
"Nice," he says easily and you narrow your eyes. He can be so infuriating sometimes.
"Shut up," you say, annoyed, and it only causes him to chuckle lightly. "What are you doing here anyway?" you ask, not trying to hide your irritation anymore. You watch him hesitate for a moment. He sighs and drop his gaze. When he looks back up you can see the conflicted emotions in his beautiful eyes.
"I don't know," he finally says and you frown. "At first," he begins to explain, "after you left, I was pissed. I didn't understand what made you leave-"
"I told you, I wasn't feeling good," you interrupt, but he rolls his eyes angrily. "What? I was!" you insist meekly.
"You were not." He's no longer leaning against the door frame and your frown has transformed into a scowl. "Time may have passed, but I can still recognize when you're trying to run from something. Especially when it's from me," he continues and whatever answer you might have for that is forgotten when you see a flicker of sadness in his eyes. You try to come up with something good to say, you really do, but the only thing that comes to your mind is a murmured "sorry". You don't even know what you're apologizing for, but you still feel the need to. He nods and you stay silent for a while.
"You want to come in?" again he hesitates and you realize you just invited him into your empty hotel room. You avert your eyes for what seems like the millionth time since you've known him, trying to hide a blush.
"Why not," he eventually says and you inhale sharply when he passes by you, his arms brushing yours. You close the door and for some reason, you're reluctant to turn around and face him. You eventually do, because...well, because it would be weird having this conversation without looking at him. He lets his eyes wander and smirks when he sees the state of your bed. You cross your arms, feeling self-conscious.
"Yours is bigger than mine." he says when his eyes land back on you.
Awkward couldn't even begin to describe this situation. Silence falls around you again and you speak out of tiredness and annoyance at how uncooperative he can be sometimes.
"That's all you can some up with?"
"I was never good at small talk, you know that."
And you lose the little patience you had. "You're the one who came to me." You try to sound even, but you both know you want to know more.
"You're the one who ran away."
"I wasn't running!"
"Fine, you were walking, but you were still fleeing."
"You're not plague-stricken, Jess! I didn't flee," this conversation is starting to sound ridiculous even to your own ears.
"You did too."
"I did not," your voice is rising and he's scowling.
"Hello pot, this is kettle!" you spit bitterly. He rolls his eyes and you can sense his frustration. Or maybe yours; you're not sure anymore.
"Cut the crap!" he growls.
"Fine! What are you doing here?" You're brave for once and it surprises him just as much as it does you. "And I'm not talking here at the convention, I mean here in my hotel room at 11:30, asking for stuff you shouldn't be asking for." Your breaths come out in huffs and you refuse to break eye contact.
"I wanted to know what was wrong with you," he snaps.
"Nothing is wrong with me. I'm fine, more than fine." You're lying, but it rolls off your tongue easily.
"Right! Then why did you pass into monosyllabic mode when Lilly appeared?"
"It has nothing to do with her," you say, all too quickly.
"Never said that," he crosses his arm and you perceive it as a challenge.
"You implied it."
"Stop avoiding the question."
"I don't have to answer to you," you finally yell, letting out all your emotions. He's taken aback and lets his arms fall to his sides. You think you see hurt flash through his eyes, but you're too angry to really pay attention.
"You're right. Why should I be concerned, huh? It's not as if I've known you for fourteen years. It's not like we really mean anything to each other, right?" he out blurts hurtfully, trying to control his voice and his breathing, but doing a poor job at it. He wants to say more and you know it, but he doesn't.
You're speechless. You literally don't know what to say to that.
If only he knew. If only you could tell him what he really means to you. He is strength, passion, books, smirks, memories, beauty, danger, purity, darkness, paradoxes, complexity, depth, pride, scars, touches, friendship, kisses, connexion, so many words and feelings... he is all that and so -oh- so much more.
"You know," he speaks again, more softly this time. "I really was looking forward to the both of you to meet," he says, looking down at his hands, defeated, and you feel your heart sink in your chest. They're serious, otherwise, why would he want to present her to his family? That last thought causes you to close your eyes tightly. Weird how you think of him as family. Add that to the list.
"She seems nice," you manage to say, barely above a whisper. You inwardly cringe at the lameness of that statement.
He looks up, an unreadable expression on his face. "You don't remember, do you?" he asks and you can't decide if he's smirking genuinely or trying to hide his real feelings.
"You know, if you really paid attention when we speak on the phone, this wouldn't have happened." He's still smirking and now you know it's genuine.
"What are you talking about?"
"Lilly is my sister." He smiles, almost tenderly, and you're blushing furiously.
"Sasha and Jimmy's daughter, sister of Alice," you say as if reciting a lesson.
"That's Lilly," he smirks at you and you feel yourself trying to fight a smile. You really feel mortified for making such a fool of yourself, but he's trying to ease the tension.
"I listen when you speak, I just didn't make the connection," you try to explain.
"I can understand how jealousy can blind people." He's grinning now and you narrow your eyes.
"Who said I was jealous?"
"Actions speak louder than words." You have no smart reply for that because even though he's teasing you, he's telling the truth, the absolute and simple truth. Suddenly you burst out laughing. This whole situation is just so incredibly funny. You can't control it, you laugh until your ribs hurt. He's smiling, at you or with you you can't decide, but he seems confused. "What's so funny?"
"Us," you say between two giggles. "We dated like a zillion years ago, we are barely in each other's life anymore and we still have this effect on each other. This is ridiculous."
"Who said you were still affecting me?" he frowns.
"You're here, aren't you?" You smirk and his frown softens. He sighs and passes a hand through his hair. He's nervous and you take comfort in that fact because he's not the only one feeling this way. After all, you just admitted the inadmissible.
He eased the tension a few moments ago, it's your turn to make it easier for him. "I like you hair like this."
He smirks and put his hands in his pockets. "Thought it was time for a change." He takes a step closer. "I really like you pajamas," his smirk widens and you laugh.
This time it's your turn to take a step closer. "Thanks," you smile broadly.
He's gazing at you so intently that you're sure he can see your soul. He smiles sadly. "This is a really weird kind of deja vu." He takes another step closer.
"Deja vus are good," you whisper and try not to drop your gaze. If it is overwhelming to look at him, being looked at by him is a whole new level of emotions. Despite that feeling, you take another step closer, bringing you mere inches from him. The smell of his cologne hits you for the first time and you close your eyes, taking it in. You feel his smooth fingers tuck a lock of your hair behind your ear and you lean into his touch. How you missed those beautiful and skillful hands. He lets it rest on your cheek and you smile softly.
"You're right, this is really ridiculous." You open your eyes when you hear the huskiness of his voice. You gaze into his eyes and you think you've never seen such tenderness.
"I like ridiculous," you whisper before he dips down and brushes his lips to yours.
A/N: so? What did you think? Please let me know by pushing the purple button. For those of you who are interested Chapter 7 of 'Follow through' is written and should be out soon.
Thanks for reading and again thanks to Asa (the bestest).