The Ebb and Flow
Chapter 1: Truth or Dare
AN: In the past, I've had readers ask if I would write anything with Jess and Rory being younger. And I had answered 'no' as I like to write in the more open area of the future as I feel it offers a wider field of options of storylines. But this just popped up and I think it might be a fun piece.
The element of age is somewhat akin to that of Lux et Veritas, though the similarities end there. I thought it would be fun to see a Literati relationship develop like this for a change…
Summary: Literati. The ebb and flow of a relationship. Charted from its beginning infancy, to its development, and further into its maturity. Due to the age difference, Jess and Rory begin their relationship solely as a friendship. AU.
They officially met through a game of Truth or Dare.
At fourteen the game of secret telling and dares that made the heart thump with anxiety and excitement provided a buzz to every teenaged girl who was on the cusp of discovering the world. For Rory, being fourteen wasn't all that different from being thirteen. She didn't feel any different. Okay, so her body was changing a bit. Though she snuck a peek down the front of her tank top and added ruefully that the change was really slow in coming. She had already been fully inducted into womanhood with cramps and bad hormonal moods a while ago, but she still didn't feel much different from thirteen. Or twelve for that matter. She didn't feel any different.
"So Rory, truth or dare?" How did she get sucked into playing this game anyways? She'd rather be curled up in bed or under that big weeping willow in the park reading her newest book. But under the guise of appearing to be more social, as it was her New Year's Resolution, she had ventured out into her group of friends and five pairs of eyes were staring back at her, waiting for her response.
She fidgeted. "Uh, dare I guess."
The girls giggled with glee. What would they dare her to do? Becky suggested that she take one of the chalkboard erasers from their history teacher, Mr. Baldwin, and Mary said that Rory should toilet paper someone's house instead.
Stacey Newton, the blond with the riotous curls bouncing around her cubby angelic face got a faraway look and spoke up. "Rory, I dare you to kiss a boy. Right now."
Rory's eyes bugged out. Instantaneously, she backed out, "No, no way."
Stacey looked at her. "You can't refuse. It's a dare. And I dare you to kiss him." She pointed to a figure that was sitting on a bench, hunched over something.
Gnawing on her lower lip in nervousness, Rory shook her head. "Come on guys, I can't do that. Give me something else. I'll take the eraser."
Now with the other girls fully on board with Stacey's dare, they shook their heads back at Rory. "You can't say no. That's the game, Rory. Don't be so scared."
But she was scared. Kiss a boy? Standing on shaky legs, Rory stood and straightened her back. Forcing her feet to take one step in front of another, she mentally prepared herself by saying that there was nothing to be nervous about. It was just a kiss, right? Just two sets of lips touching. How hard could it be? She'd seen it enough on movie nights with Mom to know that all they do is angle their heads in together and touch. "Fine, I'm going."
The girls gathered around and stood while they watched Rory's retreating back. Rory snuck a glance over her shoulder and saw that they were all wide-eyed and giggling. Stupid game. Stupid friends. Squaring her shoulders, she approached the dark figure on the bench. Oh god, what if he was some adult? Or some stranger? On second thought, Rory didn't think it'd be much easier if it were someone she knew.
Coming around the bench, she got a side view of the person. Oh man, why did it have to be him?
Her mouth worked open and close like a fish and she struggled to say something. Anything to get this hideous ordeal over with. Her hands twisted together and she tugged down the sleeves of her sweatshirt over her fists, nervous fingers working the loose seam. As she struggled to think of something to say, he looked up at with an expression of expectancy that suddenly turned to mildly amused curiosity.
"Hey Rory." Jess closed his book but left his finger on the page to mark his place. When the shadow had fallen over him, he thought it was Laura. He had been waiting for the past fifteen minutes and it irked him to remember that she could never be on time. The movie was starting soon and he hated sitting in the front. But it wasn't his date that he saw. It was Rory who stood with a look of a deer caught in the headlights.
They weren't friends, per say, but they did know each other. As much as one resident of Stars Hollow knew another. He started working after school for Luke, bussing tables and whatnot last summer and Rory and her family were regulars at the diner. Not that Jess didn't know of Rory before that. They mixed in together rarely at town functions and whenever he used to drop by to see Luke. But before his part-time job at the diner, his knowledge of Rory Gilmore was nothing more than bare facts such as which street she lived on, who her parents were, and where in town she was most likely to be found.
But since Jess took the job that Luke offered, he caught frequent glimpses of the young girl. She usually liked to drop by the diner after school for a soda or a burger and Jess would see her when he started his shift. They didn't speak much other than him taking her order, but he knew her name and how she liked her burger done: medium rare, no pickles, extra onions. He had once teased her about the onions and jokingly asked if she was trying to scare someone off. But she had flushed violently and since she was obviously so embarrassed, it had made Jess regret his good-natured ribbing and he had since avoided any remarks that could have been misconstrued as criticism.
Jess's lips curled slightly at the corners, his brows lifting in question. "Hey Rory," he repeated. He wondered what she could want. This would mark the first time ever she sought him out. Their conversations only contained of him briefly asking how she was doing and she would reply with her choice of food. Sometimes they switched things up by added the elements of whether or not she wanted a refill of her soda or if he could please bring her more ketchup. But other than that, they didn't exchange actual conversation.
It seemed to jolt her into awareness. "Oh, hi Jess," she replied as if he had been the one to show up out of the blue.
He waited for about thirty seconds but when she still remained standing awkwardly to his side, he cocked his head. "Is there something wrong?"
"No, no, nothing's wrong." She rocked on the balls of her feet and saw her friends staring at her while some made shooing gestures with their hands. If only the earth would open up and just swallow her whole right now.
Jess kept his book balanced on his knee and gestured with his free hand. "Do you wanna sit down?"
"Um, sure, okay." She sat down and presented her friends a view of her back.
Trying not to laugh in confusion, Jess pursed his lips. "Rory, are you sure you're okay?"
She leaned forward, trying to capture his lips before she lost anymore of her nerve, but found her torso falling into his chest instead.
He caught her on the upper arms and eased her back a couple of inches. "You okay? What happened?"
"Pebble. Trying to shake it out," was the first lie that popped into her mind.
He chuckled under his breath but still held onto her elbows. "Was the pebble in your sweatshirt or your shoe?"
The one thing about herself that she hated was that when her emotions got frazzled and sapped, she couldn't stop from blurting out the truth. "I'm on a dare. I'm supposed to kiss you."
"Oh, I see." Without moving his head, his peripheral vision caught sight of a group of young girls around the age of Rory huddled in a circle. "I take it your friends are watching you."
Rory nodded. "I'm sorry, I'll just leave now."
Jess smirked and tugged her closer by her elbows. "I've never turned down a dare."
"It's not your dare, it's mine."
"I think it's ours now."
His face came closer and Rory's eyes widened in surprise and held her breath. "What are you doing?"
"I'm gonna make your friends think that you had the balls to come up and kiss me." He chuckled and shook her arm gently and his voice took on a teasing quality. "You might wanna breathe, though."
She hissed out a breath and squeezed her eyes shut.
"Ready?" He didn't give her the time to reply because suddenly his lips were on hers. He angled his head to the side and kissed her sweetly with all the chaste pressure and passion as if he were fourteen and Rory's classmate instead of a eighteen year-old who was getting his fair share of experience with the opposite sex. Pulling back, Jess smiled as Rory kept her eyes firmly shut. "You can open your eyes now."
Her big blues fluttered open and she found out that his eyes were a warm hazel. "Uh, thank you?"
Jess released her arms and grinned. "Thank you."
She stood and fingered her lips without being conscious of the fact. "I should probably go now."
"Yeah, I think your friends are waiting for you." He glanced up at her. She walked away without another word and Jess saw that she once more touched her lips. He grinned and looked over his shoulder to the girls and when Rory snuck a glance at him, he winked.
Jess shook his head and opened his book again with a smile, confident in the fact that he just gave Rory Gilmore her first kiss.
She had avoided him like the plague for a month after the infamous 'Truth or Dare Day' and in doing so, she came up with plenty of excuses as to why she didn't want to go near, around, or into Luke's Diner. Her mom and dad had looked suspicious but when she told them that she was reading The Jungle and suddenly had lost her appetite for meat, they took her excuse as they did with every new novel that entered into their daughter's bookshelf and subsequently affected her thinking or behavior.
But she hadn't remembered that Luke sometimes sent his nephew out to do deliveries and when she was sick from school one day, Rory was surprised to see Jess on her front porch with soup and crackers in the bag that he held.
"Delivery." He smiled when her face paled at the sight of him. Jess hadn't been blind to the fact that Rory hadn't been into the diner since that day and it amused and flattered him to think that she might have begun to harbor some sort of crush on him.
"I'm sick," was the first thing she thought to say, hoping that Jess would run in the opposite direction in fear of germs.
"Yes, I heard." His words were solemn but his eyes held a devilish twinkle. "The town's all beside themselves with the news. Mono, is it?"
He just laughed. "I'm teasing, Rory."
"Oh. Well, here and thank you." She shoved some bills into his hand.
"You okay? You're looking a little green."
"Just sick, that's all." She wanted him to go away.
But he hadn't left. In fact, they spent the rest of the afternoon on her couch watching old movies. It had been extremely awkward at first, on her part, but Jess had teased and joked her out of it. By the time Rory had polished off the soup and popped in the second movie, she felt better and less uncomfortable with him. When it was time for him to leave, she had all but forgotten her previous embarrassment.
Rory spent that summer in the diner sitting at the counter and was swirled into her first serious crush. She listened in rapt attention as Jess talked about the book he was reading and to her surprise and delight, he didn't criticize her or laugh when she offered her own opinions as well. She liked that he would loan her his books and he even went as far as marking pages that he thought she would find interesting. When she was in bed on those hot, sticky summer nights with the windows open to catch any stray breeze, it was the sight of Jess's neat scrawl that was illuminated under her flashlight. It was his thoughts and feelings about the novel that reverberated through her mind as she fell asleep.
The highlight of her summer was the annual library book sale when the local booksellers would donate books. When Jess had asked if she wanted to come along with him, she agreed with a wide smile and he made her week as he bought her pile of books and walked her home with them bundled in his arms. Rory woke every morning that summer excited to go to Luke's to see Jess and to listen to him talk about the latest book that they shared.
Jess was well aware of Rory's budding feelings but he couldn't deny the fact that he enjoyed seeing her in the mornings after the first breakfast rush crowd. He liked listening to her ideas and hypotheses of books with a wisdom and knowledge that was above her fourteen years. He felt relaxed knowing that talking with Rory was distinctly different from conversing with girls his own age. With the girls that he dated occasionally, every conversation held an undercurrent of expectant tension. But with Rory, there wasn't that tension because even though Rory might have been developing a crush on him, Jess knew she was still too young to really understand the pull of sexual energy.
And so even though he was developing a new friend in the young brunette that watched him with enthusiastic eyes, he didn't feel guilty because he didn't lead her on. He never went beyond the boundaries of a friendship. They never touched other than the friendly bumping of the shoulders when he walked her home, or the playful shoves she would give him when he teased her. Jess never saw her after dark or near the time of her curfew and he always met her at the diner or somewhere public like the gazebo. They only spent an hour or two together at the most, but he had come to find himself expecting to see her in the mornings and he took to the habit of saving her favorite coffee mug for when she appeared. The sunny yellow one with the daisies painted on. It was a happy way to start the morning with a cheery mug, she said.
It was Jess who gave her his freshman English novels when school started. And when she walked through the halls during that first day of high school, it was Jess who stopped to say hello to her. Rory had smiled while her friends giggled and ogled the handsome senior who had causally told her that he would see her after school for her daily burger.
Just as promised, he was there with the usual burger and coke. And to celebrate a successful induction into the life of a high-schooler, he even threw in a sundae on the house for her.
Jess highlighted a paragraph in his poly sci textbook and made a notation in his notes on the nightstand. His second year at a local college was proving to have more homework than the first. He had briefly contemplated about moving out into his own place but the rent was higher than he could afford and he wasn't really all that antsy to leave his home anyways. His parents made it clear that he was welcomed and even made a case for him to stay while he saved up more money if he wanted to transfer to a university. Jess thought about Boston University, NYU, or Columbia and played with the idea of living in a city.
The tentative knocking sound echoed throughout his room and Jess shifted on his bed and squinted to see that his clock read 2:37 A.M. He set aside his glasses used only for reading and looked around, listening. What was that noise?
He threw off the covers and cracked open his shutters to find himself staring into a pair of red-rimmed eyes that were usually so vividly blue. "Rory? What's going on? Are you okay?" He opened his window and was glad that his room wasn't on the second floor. Rory had never been in his room before and they limited all visits in each of their respective houses to just the living room or kitchen. Somehow, Jess knew that it was crossing some sort of invisible line if he were to ever invite her into his room. He watched as she soundlessly climbed through the windowsill and over his desk. He steadied her elbow and guided her to sit on his bed. "Ror? What's wrong?"
She leaned forward and her hair formed a dark curtain. She opened her mouth but fresh tears welled in her eyes and she hiccupped instead.
Jess knelt down in front of her and tipped up her chin. "Was it that Forrester kid? I told you he wasn't good enough for you." Damn, if that giant beanpole laid a hand on her—
"No, it's not Dean." Her voice was rough.
"Then what is it?"
"It's—" Her voice broke. "My parents. Dad." She cried. "He left. Tonight. They fought. And he left." Wheezing in a breath, she shut her eyes still replaying the image of her dad driving away at midnight with a duffle bag that was filled haphazardly with clothes.
"Oh, Rory." Jess mumbled and without another thought, he opened his arms and tugged her into his body. Other than friendly high-fives or the occasionally shoulder squeeze, he hadn't touched her like this. Jess shifted onto the bed as her tears became sobs. Her body shook and he tightened his arms around her while leaning against the headboard, cradling her gently against his chest.
She eventually cried herself to sleep and Jess reached down to untie her shoelaces. He dropped her Chucks next to his and tugged her body down to lie down on the bed. He shifted her under the covers and tucked her in with silent efficient motions. He was about to head out to the living room to sleep on the couch when she whimpered in her sleep and mumbled out for her dad to not go. Knowing that he couldn't leave her like that, he scrubbed a hand over his face and breathed out a sigh as he moved to sleep on top of the covers.
Sometime during the night she stirred and he pulled her against his chest with a protective arm around her waist. When he woke at the sound of his alarm and saw that Rory had snuggled into his arms and that his leg was thrown over hers, he knew that he had just crossed some invisible line. Though nothing had happened, Jess knew that she was barely sixteen and he was newly twenty.
She muttered in her sleep and Jess couldn't stop himself from pulling her close and kissing her forehead. When he felt the warm press of her breasts against his chest, Jess knew without a doubt that he had changed some element of their relationship willingly and with his eyes wide-open in the bright light of morning.
AN: Well, what do you think? Please review after reading.