A/N: Warning! This is slightly AU since some of these scenes never existed (to our knowledge). Also, I have a question at the end of the story, so please, please read it!
Oh, and spoilers for the end of A Tale of Two Cities.
Standard disclaimers apply.
Jess didn't have to wait long for everyone in Star's Hollow to fall asleep. It still amuses him and creeps him out at the same time that these people are all in bed and asleep by ten. But tonight he has to give them props for staying up over an hour past their usual bedtime. And getting drunk as well, though he doesn't think he'll ever look at Jackson the Lemon Man or Bootsy the same way again.
He cranes his head over to the bed that Luke is in next to him. Luke's back is facing Jess, his large body rising and falling with deep breaths. He's out for the count.
Jess twists to the other side of his bed to grab his boots and book. With mastered ease, Jess quietly gets out of bed and creeps to the door. He really wishes he didn't give his coat to that stupid doorman after he went out earlier on the sleigh ride with Rory since it's probably still freezing. He supposes he could sleuth around downstairs, but he doesn't want to take too long in case Luke somehow wakes up in the middle of the night and finds him gone.
So he just opens the door and shuts it quickly but silently behind him. He noticed earlier that the door was squeaky, and he knows from past experience that slowly shutting a squeaky door isn't smart.
In his sock-clad feet, he lightly runs down the hall as he stuffs his paperback in his back pocket. He stops at the Gilmore girls' room. He briefly contemplates getting Rory to join him, but she definitely wouldn't be a master of stealth like he is; they would get caught somehow.
Besides, he doesn't really want her to know for sure that he's going to be the cause of the destruction of the snowman.
He winces when he leans his weight onto a step that makes a creaking sound. But he doesn't see anyone in the lobby and he doesn't hear anyone suddenly storming out of his or her room, so he thinks he's okay.
Before he leaves the inn, he laces up his boots and unrolls the sleeves of his shirt, even though he knows that it won't be much help anyway.
And he's absolutely correct.
If it's possible, it had gotten even colder.
"Fuck!" he hisses, pulling his sleeves even further down so the cuffs cover the knuckles of his hands. The sleeve of his right arm covers the beginning bruises on his knuckles, which are sore. But it's worth it since Chuck Presby is such an asshole. He almost wishes there was school on Monday so he could see the black eye. But now he'll think twice about tripping Jess while reading.
He runs off the porch and into the direction of the gazebo.
By the time he reaches the snowman destined for destruction, he's pretty sure that his ears and fingers are about to fall off.
Thinking it'll be easy, he kicks the snowman in the chest, but he's surprised to find it hardened nearly to the point of ice. As a result, he loses his balance and lands on his back. He gets up quickly and looks around feeling like an idiot, even though he knows that no one is awake, let alone outside.
"Huh." He walks around the snowman, trying to find a point of weakness.
He kicks the cane and it crumples into a pile.
The next part of the snowman that can be taken down is the head. But Jess finds himself tilting his own head up to see it in the first place, which just pisses him off. If only he were a few inches taller…
He takes his eyes off the snowman to find a stray branch. But whom is he kidding? This town is strangely clean all the time. It's just so damn perfect.
He supposes that he'll have to do it all by hand. And as he jumps to rip off the head of the snowman (he pretends that it's Dean, it's the only way he can keep a sense of humor about this situation) he wonders how the hell he get involved in this situation to begin with.
He looks over the Bjork snowwoman and the corner of his mouth quirks up. Right.
It takes him a good fifteen minutes to completely dismantle the snowman, and by that point, his sleeves are up to his elbows and completely soaked. His shirt is beginning to stick to his skin from sweat and snow from when he fell.
He takes a step back to admire his handiwork, pleased with himself. And the winner by default will be…
The adrenaline he once had is now fading away and he realizes that his extremities are numb and his teeth are chattering. "Shit!" He runs back to the inn as fast as he can. For once, he's thankful that these people never lock their doors, so he doesn't need to pick any locks.
The difference between the outside and the inside are startling. He breathes out in relief, but he's still shivering, so he crosses his arms in front his chest. He swallows, and he finds that the back of his throat is scratchy and sore. Great.
"Oh my! Are you alright young man?"
Jess nearly jumps three feet into the air, so surprised to find someone awake at this hour. He curls into himself a little and his feet are poised…to do what? Fight? Ridiculous.
The source of the voice is an old man on a couch, and he turns his body fully to look at Jess. Jess is sure the man is Rory's grandfather. He saw him throughout the evening in his bowtie that made Jess chuckle. But Rory seems to have a close bond with him…no harm in finding out what he's like.
"Is there a reason why you were outside in this weather?" the man inquires, removing his glasses.
Jess shrugs, but he's still shaking so it's pretty much a useless gesture.
"Well, I suppose we all have our secrets…but the real debacle is figuring out which ones you have to share," the man, Jess remembers his name is Richard, mumbles to himself.
Jess looks at the legal notepad and the book Richard is holding, focusing in on the book. He always does that, and he doesn't know why. It's not like he's going to strike up a conversation with the person over the book, which ends up being David Copperfield. Jess snorts a little. It appears that Rory and Richard share a very similar taste in literature, from what he could tell from his one visit to her room and the worn creases of her books.
Richard follows Jess's line of sight and smiles. "Have you read it?"
Jess nods the tiniest bit.
Richard looks impressed. "It's extremely rare to find a youth who reads Dickens for pleasure. The only one I've seen or known for that matter is my granddaughter."
Jess tries hard to hold back a smirk. But then he remembers his own book in the back pocket of jeans and he pulls it out quickly, relieved to see it didn't get very wet, just damp on the top corner.
"What do you have there?" Richard asks.
Jess shows him the front cover.
"Ah, seems we were both in a Dickens mood. A Tale of Two Cities. Which one do you prefer?"
Jess snorts. There's no debate. "A Tale of Two Cities."
Richard's eyes widen. "You don't like David Copperfield?"
Jess shrugs, his shaking somewhat subsiding. "It's alright. It's just that I hate Copperfield. He's an ignorant moron who fantasizes every aspect of his life. I could never reread it." He doesn't think he's ever had any sort of book discussion with anyone before.
"But his ignorance and romanticism save him in a lot of instances."
"But that's not how it works in the real world."
Did he honestly just say that? It must be because he's getting a cold or something. He has to leave now.
"That is true, but that's the joy of literature; escaping the real world." Richard studies Jess for a moment. "So now I'm curious, which Dickens character do you like?"
Jess flashes back to his second night in Star's Hollow when a certain blue-eyed girl snidely called him Dodger. He smiles the tiniest bit. "The Artful Dodger."
Richard grins. "Ah, of course. What a rascal. Dickens sure knew how to create colorful characters."
"Despite over half of them being two-dimensional," Jess mutters.
"Yes, that is a Dickens's flaw. He only has a handful of fully developed characters in his novels and it's a shame. I would've liked to learn more about certain characters, such as Dodger. You wonder how he got involved in such an enterprise."
Jess nods. "But he's surprisingly good at psychology, which kind of makes up for it. Like in A Tale of Two Cities, Dr. Manette has a classic case of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder, even though no one really understood it at the time. Hell, that phrase wasn't coined until the mid-twentieth century. The fact that Dickens understood things like that in his time is pretty remarkable."
Richard is clearly impressed. "Remarkable, indeed." He seems to have picked up Jess's lack of desire to start new topics in conversation, so he continues to do it for the both of them. "I do find myself having a three-way split when it comes to my favorite Dickens character: Oliver, Pip, and Uriah Heep."
"Pip reminds me of Copperfield a bit. So I prefer Oliver. Heep is a good one too, even though he isn't until the end."
"So I'm assuming Oliver Twist is your favorite?"
"No." Jess pauses. Usually he's more pissed off when people assume things about him. "A Tale of Two Cities is my favorite. But Twist is second," he admits.
Jess shrugs. His throat is beginning to hurt, and the talking isn't helping. "The story doesn't end happily ever after like all his other books."
"Well it depends on how you look at it: from Darnay's or Carton's point of view. You could argue that they both got their happy endings. Carton gets to redeem himself and Darnay is free with Lucie and their child so they can live together happily."
"Yeah, that's all nice and great, but Darnay's love for Lucie is the most boring and cliché affair on the planet. I was going to stop reading when they first meet. Carton clearly loves Lucie more. 'For you, and for any dear to you, I would do anything. I would embrace any sacrifice for you and for those dear to you. And when you see your own bright beauty springing up anew at your feet, think now and then that there is a man who would give his life, to keep a life you love beside you.' Compared to Carton, Darnay has the emotional range of a pinhead."
"Wow, you remember that passage? It was very moving, so I can see why it stuck with you."
Jess shifts his weight from foot to foot, feeling extremely awkward. "I remember a bunch of things," he mutters partially in defense. It's not like he memorizes sappy love-related passages in his spare time, even though the passage he just recited isn't sappy in his opinion. There are worse things out there.
"Do you now?"
Jess shrugs, feeling extremely uncomfortable. He's not used to people being impressed with him.
"I have to go," Jess says shortly before making his way to the stairs. He's had his quota of awkward moments for the evening.
But then Richard says, "It was nice speaking with you. It's always interesting to meet someone with a different opinion and perspective. Do you know my granddaughter Rory?"
Jess doesn't turn around because he doesn't want Richard to see him smiling. "No."
"Well I highly recommend having a book talk with her, if you do meet her."
Maybe he will, one day.
Jess creeps up the stairs, tiptoes down the hallway to room sixteen, and sneaks into his shared room.
He doesn't wake up on his own in the morning, Luke has to shake Jess and throw the blankets off him to get him up. In response, Jess only groans, or at least tries to.
It seems Jess has lost his voice. And he can't really breathe since his nose is stuffed up.
In normal circumstances, Jess would make a smartass or rude comment, but when he doesn't, Luke's dumbfounded expression makes him smirk. Sleep in damp clothing sucks, and he honestly just wants to leave so he can take the hottest shower possible and go back to sleep. Not only will all the hot water make him feel better, but he'll be pissing Luke off at the same time. Serves him right for trying to force him out of bed.
"Sorry about that, I just want to get back to the diner and eat some real food," Luke mutters as they walk down the hallway.
Jess puts a hand on his stomach and silently agrees with him. Some real food seems fantastic. He doesn't know what the hell they had for dinner the night before.
When they reach downstairs, some people come up to Luke and ask him to open the diner so they can come over for breakfast. Great, there's going to be a huge crowd. Jess has been hoping that he can just go back to bed, but apparently that's not going to be the case.
When Rory's grandparents leave, Richard looks over at Jess and gives him a smile before holding the door open for his wife. He doesn't seem that bad of a person and Jess wonders how he could've married someone as scary as Emily Gilmore. But he supposes that maybe it's a Gilmore trait, being attracted to people that don't seem necessarily right at first glance.
And that makes him a little optimistic.
And he feels even better when he catches Rory staring at him. Maybe this cold will be worth it in the end.
"Bye guys!" Lorelai says to Luke and Jess before turning her attention to her daughter.
Jess quickly puts on his jacket, but it doesn't make much of a difference when he steps outside. The harsh wind blows against them and he finds it hard to breathe, so he starts coughing, and it sounds guttural.
Luke looks over at Jess. "Are you okay?"
"You don't sound fine. You sound awful."
Luke ignores the sarcasm. "You're going straight to bed."
"What?" Jess asks, a mixture between exasperation and amusement.
"I'm not letting you work. You'll spread all your germs and infect the entire town. You're like a disease."
Jess shakes his head. "Whatever."
Luke unlocks the diner, and Jess can't help but think that at least one person in this town is somewhat sane. "I mean it, get upstairs. I'll bring up some soup or something later."
"Are you going to give me Alphabet Soup?"
"Spell out my name and 'Get well soon' in it?"
"Just get to bed," Luke growls, amusing Jess further.
But Jess doesn't say another word. This is what he wanted in the first place. He just likes busting Luke's chops.
"Wow, this place is packed! Are you sure you're okay? You seem a little frazzled," Lorelai asks as Luke sloppily pours hers and Rory's cups of coffee. "That's a fun word. Frazzled," Lorelai continues, looking at Rory, who nods.
"Yeah, yeah, it's just I didn't think the whole damn town would be coming here for brunch, whatever the hell that is," Luke says, indeed sounding a little frazzled.
Rory smiles amusedly, searching around the diner once before asking, "Where's Jess?"
"Yeah, shouldn't that no good hoodlum be helping you?" Lorelai doesn't sound malicious, and Rory's sure it's just because she's in a good mood for winning the snowman contest. "He can stop you from being frazzled."
"Yeah…but he's sick or something. I didn't want him coughing and sneezing on everyone's food."
"He is?" Rory asks concernedly.
"He'll live. Oh shoot. That reminds me – I was supposed to bring his soup up. But then Kirk distracted me and –"
"I'll bring it up for you," Rory finds herself saying.
Luke stares at her hopefully. "Are you sure? Would you really?"
"Of course. You need some help. It's better if he gets better sooner than later," Rory answers, standing up. "I'll be down in a few minutes," she tells her mom before taking a big sip of coffee.
"Remember honey – stay at a distance of five feet so he can't breathe on you and thus infect you! Because then I'll get frazzled and–"
"I get it, I get it. Geez. And stop saying frazzled!" Rory shakes her head.
"The soup is behind the counter," Luke says, gesturing with his head before being distracted by a couple that is calling him over for coffee.
Rory weaves between the crowded tables and carefully grabs the bowl of soup and a spoon, slowly walking to the curtain, which hid the set of stairs to Luke's apartment.
It's strange – she has never been in Luke's apartment before. And she couldn't help but be excited about it. So stupid – she gets excited over the dumbest things.
She opens the door and finds what she assumes to be Jess bundled under blankets in a fold-up bed. Shutting the door behind her, she quietly makes her way to his bed, and smiles when she sees him sleeping.
He looks a lot more peaceful; a little younger with his mouth not twisted into a scowl. His breaths are a little wheezy, and she feels guilty, as if she had put a gun to his head and forced him to go outside at midnight and ruin the snowman. But that's ridiculous; she didn't say anything to him. Though she knew he had planned to do something from the moment he got that mischievous glint in his eye and said that she and her mom should win.
His hair doesn't shine, she notes stupidly. Duh, why would he have gel in his hair now? It's not like he sleeps with it…she thinks. She finds herself trying to hold back laughter at the thought of Jess putting gel in his hair just to go to sleep.
Turns out she isn't successful because Jess slowly opens his eyes, looking more than surprised to see Rory. But then he immediately starts coughing, and Rory winces. After his coughing fit, he sniffs and lets out a tired sigh.
"Soup?" Rory asks rather than states, holding out the bowl to him.
He swallows loudly and wordlessly takes the bowl of soup. He tries to ignore the way it feels when their fingers brush (it feels really good).
She hands him the spoon and he eats in silence for a few minutes before he says, "Thanks."
She smiles. "So…did you hear? We won the snowman contest."
He tries not to smirk. "Huh."
"Yeah. And the strangest thing happened last night: the Scrooge snowman was demolished!"
"You don't say." He smirks the tiniest bit, but eats more of the soup to hide it.
"I wonder who could've done such a thing."
Jess shrugs. "Maybe there's someone else in Star's Hollow who's trying to take my rightful place as Town Hoodlum."
She grins. "Maybe."
"So…what did you win?" he asks, sounding a little better. The soup is clearing his sinuses.
"A set of U.S. state quarters."
He stops from eating the soup midway. "Are you serious?"
"You failed to mention that was the grand prize."
"Well it's also the prestige and all that."
"Of course, because everyone around the country was following this contest like Japan follows Iron Chef."
She rolls her eyes. "Well it means a lot. I wish I could thank this person for doing it. It's very considerate…even nice."
"That's not what the person is going for," he mutters, getting back to his soup.
"Still. It was sweet."
He can't be pissed off at her, even though he feels like he's dying with this goddamn cold. Speaking of…
"Could you…?" He gives the half-eaten soup to Rory and as soon as she takes it, his body is catapulted forward by a sneeze. It takes everything out of him and he groans in annoyance and she feels guilty again.
"I'll get you some tissues," she says, placing his soup on the ground as she goes to the bathroom. She brings the entire box of tissues to him and he takes four before blowing his nose.
She looks around for a wastebasket, but then remembers that guys don't have wastebaskets, or at least she doesn't think they do.
"The garbage is under the sink," he says.
"Oh." She's a little surprised and nervous that he could read her thoughts. But she leaves his side and kneels a little to get the garbage bin. She places it by his bed and he tosses the used tissues in it.
"I'm sorry," she says, giving the soup back to him.
"People get colds in the winter, it's not out of the norm."
So he's not going to admit that he's the one that destroyed the snowman. She sighs as she takes a seat on the floor.
"You can sit on the bed if you want."
She flushes a little (he finds it cute) and she sits at the very edge of the mattress. He briefly smiles before reaching over the edge of the bed to grab the book he has just started reading.
She notices it. "David Copperfield? Really?"
He shrugs. "I thought I'd give it another chance."
A/N: I have a question for all you Gilmore Girls fans (and I'm safely assuming Jess fans since you wouldn't have read this story if you weren't): in season 4 when Jess comes back to Star's Hollow during the firelight festival…is that supposed to be in February since that was when the episode first aired? I have no clue! If anyone could tell me, that would be extremely helpful for a future fic.