-1Summary: Post S7. It amazed her how easily they avoided the subject, skating over the memories like they weren't putting too much weight on thin ice. Rory and Jess. Oneshot.
Disclaimer: We've been over this. Leave me be!
A/N: Wow. Been a while, hasn't it? I haven't really been involved in the world of fan fiction lately, beyond reading and commenting occasionally. I'm actually surprised that I'm still capable of writing some of my favorite pairings, Jess and Rory not excluded. Still, I'm really rusty, and I apologize for that. Leave me some feedback and let me know if I've still got it? I'll love you forever…
Rory felt slightly bereft at the lack of warmth in their conversation, but she also felt like it wasn't his fault that they were seemingly so unable to connect. Last time he had reached out to her, she had shot him down for a guy that wasn't even in the picture a year later, and she was kicking herself for that now. Maybe, if she had been a bit more diplomatic about the entire thing, then they wouldn't be sitting here in one of the most awkward conversations she could ever remember having.
Not that she was about to mention the last time they had seen each other. Jess hadn't brought up her rejection, and she wasn't going to be the one to take an awkward situation and turn it into a painful one. At least now they were making conversation with each other, even if it was stilted and hard to swallow.
She knew he was bound to bring up Logan at some point, but she had only been in his apartment for ten minutes, and so far all they had discussed was why she was here. "Barack Obama's campaign trail," he murmured, letting out a low whistle. She nodded proudly, a smile tilting the corners of her mouth up. "I'm impressed, Ror."
A warm feeling spread through her stomach at the sound of his old nickname for her, and she quelled the urge to announce that she was single. She doubted he was still waiting for her, if he ever was at all. "Thank you," she replied quietly. Jess smirked softly, though the expression was more reminiscent of a smile than it ever used to be, and she let out a soft sigh of relief.
"I hear you're gaining popularity," she offered, sitting on the edge of his couch. He rolled his eyes and grabbed a half-empty bottle of water off the coffee table, sitting in the chair adjacent to her. The lack of proximity was not lost on her.
"According to Matt, I'm the Adam Brody of the literary world. Last I heard, I am to nonconformist stream-of-consciousness writing as Stephenie Meyer is to young adult vampire romance," he replied sarcastically. "Doesn't do much for the ego to know that most people only read your book thanks to your strikingly handsome features."
"Strikingly handsome, huh? I'd say your ego is doing just fine," she replied, laughing brightly. It calmed her to find that the sound wasn't forced. Jess locked eyes with her and she caught her breath, compulsively clenching her hands together at his earnest expression.
"Well," he murmured. "Still."
Silence settled over them and she felt claustrophobic, despite the relatively decent size of his living room. The distance between them suddenly seemed too small, the scant expressions of pride and admiration nothing but excuses to prevent another argument. Rory took a deep breath and fell into the couch cushions, uncaring that she was abandoning her propriety for just a smidgeon of comfort.
"How are you, Jess?" she asked. The subtext of her words was obvious, and the quirk of his brow told her that he knew exactly what she was asking. It didn't surprise her that he didn't immediately answer.
"Which interpretation of that question would you like me to address?" he replied carefully. She shrugged coyly, trying for innocent, and he accepted her silence easily. "I feel like I finally have something to call my own," he offered. "Nothing's really in place, but…" He shrugged.
"That's good," she said, smiling. "That's really good, Jess. You should be proud of yourself."
"And you?" he prompted. "Is the life of a journalist everything you always dreamed it would be?"
She stared at him for a long time, trying to decipher the ulterior question within the words. When he broke their gaze to take a sip of his water, she sighed heavily and shrugged again. "I'm afraid I'm not going to be able to keep up."
"Yeah." Rory bit her lip softly. "It all happened really fast. I didn't spend very much time with my mom before I left, and none of the people I'm working with are very open to having such a young person in the group. I don't know." She sighed in frustration.
"You'll figure it out," he told her seriously.
"Sure I will," she replied sarcastically. "I've really proved my talent for figuring things out in the past two years, haven't I?"
Jess tensed visibly and she mentally kicked herself. After a moment, he relaxed and set his water bottle on the floor next to his chair. "Don't sell yourself short, Ror. It takes a very talented person to fuck up that royally and still bounce back from the experience with a Yale degree and a high-profile job." He smirked. "I could never pull it off."
The corner of her mouth tilted up without her consent and she found herself fighting back tears. When she didn't answer, he sighed and ran a hand through his hair -- a nervous habit he clearly hadn't kicked over the years. "You have a place to stay."
"I do," she agreed, recognizing the turn in conversation for what it was. Clearly, her concerns over their ability to connect in the shadow of an extremely awkward situation were unfounded. She could read him now. They were no longer in high school.
"You aren't at a low point," he continued without pause. Rory winced at the reference to their last kiss and nodded once in response. "Your career is taking off, Luke and Lorelai are better than ever, and no one that I care about, even remotely, has died or disappeared."
"Do I need to confirm those observations? You seem fairly confident about your facts," she said sardonically, sitting up again. Jess' eyes flashed, a fiery gold lighting up the usual chocolate brown color of his irises and reminding her of too many perfect afternoons on their bridge.
"There isn't anything there for you to challenge?" he teased, a bite to his words that jerked her back to the present. "And here I thought you were a big-time journalist. How can you cover a story properly if you can't even debate the simplest of issues?"
"If you'll recall, debating has never been an issue with us," she replied. The words were clipped, rough, and if she was being honest, rather desperate. It amazed her how easily they avoided the subject, skating over the memories like they weren't putting too much weight on thin ice. She knew they needed to talk about it at some point. If she had it her way, the conversation would happen sooner rather than later.
"Right." He nodded. "It was all the other stuff that was the problem, right? Except for the obvious." He smirked and tilted his head slightly, forcing her to adjust her grip on the elephant in the room yet again. Their second kiss had prompted him to reassure her, rather breathlessly, that at least the physical part worked. She had shut that down with her abrupt departure and sudden, overwhelming loyalty to Logan last year.
Another silence settled over them, this one far more stifling than the last, if that was even possible. Rory tucked her hair behind her ears and folded her hands in her lap, resolutely staring at a burn mark on the coffee table. She idly wondered if he was still smoking, and then dismissed the thought. The room didn't have the stale smell of ash, and neither did he from what she could remember.
"Where's Logan?" he asked. She swallowed thickly and shrugged her shoulders disinterestedly.
"I have no idea," she said truthfully. "Why do you ask?"
"You seemed pretty attached to the guy last time I saw you," he answered. She closed her eyes tightly, trying not to imagine the angry look in his eyes that she knew had to be present by the tone of his voice. He was annoyed, and he knew she wasn't visiting simply because she was in town for a convention that weekend.
"Things change," she retorted. "You know that even better than I do."
"Explain, then. How did you go from running out of my work to fidgeting on my door step?"
"I told you; I'm in town for a convention and I wanted to see how you were doing."
"Luke has my number," he told her, cutting off the last few syllables of her statement. Rory looked up and locked eyes with him, immediately hyper-aware of the fact that he was now sitting on the edge of his seat, turned toward her almost completely.
"What makes you think that I don't know that? How else would I have gotten your address when you're unlisted?" she snapped. Jess raised his eyebrows, seemingly surprised for a moment. She blinked and his face was once again impassive, save for his eyes, as he nodded.
"How long are you in town?"
Her breath was released in a rush. "A week."
"And after that?"
"California," she said softly. The irony wasn't lost on her, and the quirk of his mouth told her that it wasn't beyond his perception, either. "I didn't mean to spring this on you."
He shrugged. "Warnings probably wouldn't work for us at this point, anyway."
They were still avoiding the subject, only they weren't, and she was oddly comfortable with the lack of change in all things pertaining to them.