A/N: In response to jmetcalf's request for the missing scenes between Rory and Jess in the last four chapters of Middle Management. Thank you for planting the seed. Let's see if it blooms.
A Post Script to a Kiss
Rory settled back into the passenger seat of Paris' BMW, and closed her eyes as they crossed into Virginia. Not that doing so pushed the mute button on Paris' running commentary about the ineptitude of their fellow travelers. She was disparaging the forty-something man driving the family minivan too slowly in the left lane as she zipped past saying, "Yeah, you used to be hip, you used to be cool, I'll bet you had it all going on, Bob. Look at what your life has become," in a mocking tone as she swerved into the left lane ahead of him; narrowly missing the slow moving box van that impeded her on the right.
Rory squeezed her eyes shut tighter, wishing Paris could just shut up for ten minutes, wishing that she were Genie and could blink them to Daytona Beach, and wishing with all of her might that she couldn't still taste Jess' lips on hers. She was angry. Angry that Logan fulfilled Jess' prophecy and proved that he is indeed the blonde dick at Yale. Angry that he had taken her to that party where she could be surrounded by his conquests, thinking that she would be too naïve to figure out what he had done. Angry that Jess had kissed her back and then sent her home like she was a wayward child; going so far as to close the door in her face. Angry that her need to flee had gypped her out of a week at home, hanging out in Stars Hollow and spending time with Lane, her mother, Luke, Josh and Jake. Angry that Paris hadn't stopped running her mouth since they left Stars Hollow. The girl even talks in her sleep, she thought derisively as she opened her eyes and stared unseeingly at the landscape zipping past her window.
Yes, she was angry, but she was also relived. She needed this. She needed a few days to sort it all out in her head. She needed a little time to uncoil the knot in her stomach. She needed time to come to grips with the fact that Jess had sent her home had hurt far worse than Logan sleeping with every blonde heiress on the Eastern seaboard. She needed to figure out what to say to her mother or Luke if the situation ever came to light. She needed time to pray that it never did.
Rory closed her eyes again as Paris careened around an old converted church bus, cackling and calling to the driver, "Our Lady of Blessed Acceleration, don't fail me now!"
Jess hung up the phone and stared blankly at the walls in the tiny closet of an office in the back of Weston's and muttered, "Florida." He flopped back in his chair and slumped down, splaying his legs and crossing one arm over his stomach as he tipped his head back and mumbled, "Oranges, hurricanes and Mickey Mouse." He drummed his fingertips on the desk and whispered to the ceiling, "Girls in bikinis and I'm left twisting in the wind."
Spring Break time in Florida is like a bizarre sociological experiment, Rory had observed as the hotel employees Paris had bought set up their chairs under the cabana she had reserved. Rory had just settled into her chair with a book when it became even more bizarre. Paris had just ordered a fruit plate, when a lifeguard's buggy pulled to a stop and Madeline and Louise hopped out and called to them.
At least Madeline and Louise were able to provide some insider insight into the whole Spring Break thing. They guided Paris and Rory through the next couple of days, nixing a repeat viewing of The Power of Myth, and dragging them to a never ending round of parties and clubs. The whole party scene was disturbingly familiar to Rory, who had ignored each and every one of Logan's thirty six phone calls. What she couldn't ignore was that there had not been one call from Jess. Not even one to yell at her for taking off without covering her shifts at Weston's. When she had called home to check in Luke had answered the phone, and she apologized profusely for not calling in to the bakery, but Luke had seemed distracted. He brushed off her apologies with a quick, 'It's no problem,' and handed the phone off to Lorelai. The conversation with her mother had been short, and a little stilted, a number of things left unsaid on both sides.
After Paris kissed her in the middle of the dance floor, Rory pushed her way through the crowd, heading for the exit and a breath of fresh air. When the guy she had spotted at the pool earlier stopped her and commented on the kiss, Rory shook him off, tossing a disgusted look over her shoulder as she made a beeline for the door. Paris caught up to her a moment later and asked, "Are you mad?"
"No, I just, I'm not into all of this," Rory said as she waved to the door of the club.
"Me either. We suck at Spring Break," Paris pouted as Madeline and Louise burst from the door in a fit of giggles.
"You're a hit!" Louise cried as she spotted Rory and Paris.
"There are guys lining up to talk to you in there. You're the 'it' girls," Madeline said with a sage nod.
"I don't wanna be an 'it' girl," Rory muttered as she wrapped her arms around her middle protectively.
Louise smiled as she tugged at Rory's arm and said, "Come on, this place is lame, let's move on."
"I want to move on to the hotel," Paris said firmly.
"You're joking! It's barely even midnight," Madeline pointed out.
"You guys go on, I'll go with Paris," Rory said quickly.
Madeline pursed her lips for a moment and then finally said, "There's no place good to go tonight anyway."
"Hey, let's go see if those guys at your hotel are still mixing up that killer punch," Louise suggested. "We can make our own party," she said with a nod as she slipped her arm through Rory's.
Paris looked at Rory and then shrugged as she said, "Might as well."
"Okay, let's go," Rory said as she gestured to the sidewalk.
Paris snorted and said, "I'm not walking these streets." She walked over to the bouncer posted at the door of the club and pulled a folded bill from her pocket. He nodded, spoke into a walkie-talkie, and moments later a taxi pulled to a stop at the curb. "Our car awaits, ladies," Paris said as she gestured to the cab with a smug smile and they all began to pile in.
Two hours later, the table they claimed near the pool was covered on plastic cups, and the girls were feeling no pain. When Paris frowned at the display on her cell phone for the fiftieth time in an hour, and then opened the phone, her brow knit with fierce determination, Rory finally snatched it away from her. "Friends don't let friends dial drunk," she said as she placed Paris' phone on the table next to hers. She picked up her cup and pouted when she found it empty. "Sad," she said mournfully.
Madeline stood up to fetch refills as she said to Louise, "I'm on it. You grill Paris on the mystery cell phone man," before heading back to room fourteen with a sway in her step.
Rory listened distractedly as Paris cryptically answered a barrage of Louise's questions. When Madeline returned, she placed four more plastic cups on the table and said, "I made them a little stronger this time."
"Oh, cool, it'll be fun to watch the cups dissolve," Rory said as she reached for her drink.
Madeline grabbed Rory's cell phone from the table as she sat back down and flipped it open. "So, Rory, who's the man in your life these days? Is that tall, gorgeous ex of your still around?" she asked.
"Dean?" Rory asked, shocked to find that she hadn't even thought of Dean in what seemed like ages. "Yes, he's still around. In Stars Hollow, I mean. He's married now," she said as she took a sip of her drink.
"What?" Madeline asked, her head jerking up as she stared at Rory in disbelief.
"Why?" Louise asked with a perplexed frown.
Rory shrugged and said, "Well, he met Lindsay, and they got married. She's pretty, blond, tall, leggy..."
Paris scowled into her cup as she muttered, "Oh, good, just what the world needs -- another one of those."
"What ever happened to that hot step-brother of yours?" Louise asked as she watched Madeline scroll through Rory's contact list.
"Jess is not my step-brother," Rory answered a little too quickly.
"Cousin or something," Paris said disinterestedly.
"We're not related at all actually," Rory said a little too defensively.
"Your mother married the uncle who was raising him," Paris said pointedly.
"I'm aware of that," Rory muttered as she took a fortifying sip of her punch.
"Logan Huntzberger? The Logan Huntzberger?" Madeline asked incredulously as she looked up at Rory.
"Is he famous?" Rory asked dryly.
"Infamous," Paris said with a snort.
Madeline shook her head slowly, a small smile playing at her lips as she said, "I hooked up with him once."
"Shocking," Rory muttered under her breath.
"He's Rory's boyfriend," Paris said quickly.
"Logan Huntzberger is nobody's boyfriend. I should know, I tried," Madeline said with a smirk.
"He's not my boyfriend anymore," Rory clarified.
"Oh, please, you guys will make up, you always do," Paris said with a dismissive wave of her hand.
Louise looked at Rory with awe as she asked, "You're really dating him? Like exclusively?"
Paris nodded and said, "She's Annette Benning."
"I am not Annette Benning, and I am no longer dating Logan," Rory said firmly.
"Logan has had a bit of a hard time adjusting to the exclusivity thing," Paris explained. "But, he's crazy about our Rory. He'll win her back," she said with a nod.
"Not this time," Rory insisted.
Paris shook her head and said, "This time is no different. He can get the leggy blondes anywhere, the doe eyed waifs are harder to come by in his circle."
Rory pushed her chair back a little and set her cup on the table as she said adamantly, "I am not doe eyed, I am not a waif, and I am not getting back together with Logan."
"Whatever," Paris muttered in a bored tone.
Madeline returned her attention to Rory's phone and asked, "Jess Mariano? Is that the hot step-brother?"
Rory stood up and snatched the phone from Madeline's hand as she said, "He is not my step-brother. We are not related. If we were related, I wouldn't have wanted to kiss him, would I?" she argued as she steadied herself against the table. Realizing what she had just said, Rory palmed the phone and took off on unsteady legs for the beach.
Paris stared after her in disbelief as Madeline smiled and said, "Ooh, small town drama, I like it."
Louise turned to watch as Rory stumbled away and said, "She seems upset."
"Give her a minute, I'll go find her," Paris said as she watched Rory disappear beyond the circle of lights.
Rory looked down at the open phone in her hand and pressed her thumb to the send button. When she heard Jess' ancient answering machine click on, she said, "I'm sorry. I'm so sorry," she panted as she tried to push her way across the sand. "It never should have happened. I never should have kissed you, and now nothing will ever be the same. How can it be," she said brokenly. "Can't we forget it? Please?" Rory asked as she dropped down onto her knees and rolled onto her butt. "Please, Jess, please," she said softly before closing the phone and staring out at the waves crashing onto the sand.
"Please, Jess, please," Rory's voice echoed into the apartment. Jess stood with his hands on his hips, his t-shirt rumpled and his hair sticking up, styled by yet another sleepless night. Cautiously, he reached out and pressed the 'play' button, waiting as the machine reset itself and once again Rory's voice filled the room. He frowned as he heard her slur her words, and realized that the two a.m. phone call had more than likely been fueled by Jose Cuervo. Jess chewed the inside of his cheek as he listened to the rest of the message, and then hit the 'save' button. He shuffled over to the table and dropped into the chair in front of his laptop. He sighed and rubbed his hand over the back of his neck as he waited for the machine to boot up.
Moments later, he opened a blank document and wrote, 'He tried to tell himself that it was simply the allure of forbidden fruit; that you always want the one girl that you couldn't and shouldn't have.' Jess got up, walked over to the fridge, and pulled out a bottle of beer. He tossed the cap in the general direction of the countertop and then tapped a cigarette out of the half empty pack on the table. He lit it distractedly, drawing deeply and letting the smoke fill his lungs until he felt like he would suffocate. He exhaled, glaring at the glowing tip as he made a disgusted face and crushed it into the chipped saucer that was already overflowing with victims. He sat down, took a long pull from the bottle and then set it aside before holding his fingers poised above the keyboard. 'He tried to tell himself that, but he never believed his own lies,' he typed. That's how their story began...