A/N: This chapter is slightly AU as I just skipped over LMHYBRO in an attempt to find my perfect ending. As far as I'm concerned, Jess just sent the invite on the off-chance, and because he wanted to show Rory his book (as he didn't go to see her at her grandparents' house). As far as this chapter is concerned, Rory and Jess haven't seen or spoken to each other since LWFTWT. Enjoy! Reviews are love!

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Hello Stranger

I feel as though she's stabbed me. For a few moments, I can't move so I just stand there. And stare. Feeling absurd, I turn and walk away, compelling my feet to move in the opposite direction to her.

I feel physically drained, kind of like Dracula has been having a good old nibble and all my blood has slipped away. Quite frankly, I'd take a sadistic vampire over a pitiful ex-girlfriend any day.

I climb back into my car, grateful to be able to sink back into the lumpy seats and drive away from the disaster that I've left in my wake. The old feeling of failure and my fear of disappointing someone I love come creeping back to me, ghostly, tapered fingers clutching at my heart.

I start the engine gingerly, half expecting it to jump-start me into a tree. After the night I've had, it doesn't seem at all out of the question.

Yale's grandiose lamps fade into the distance as I speed back to New York to move on with my life. Or try to.

The open house is going so much better than anticipated. The hustle and bustle around me is material proof of that.

I never expected Luke to turn up, but there he is, puzzling over "Untitled". I can understand his confusion, I've never really understood abstract art either but the artists pretty much pay our rent so I don't complain. Besides, as I give him the whistle-stop tour of Truncheon Books, I see a glint in his eyes that was only ever reserved for Rory. Pride.

I never thought I'd be part of one of those ridiculous 1940s movie scenes where the crowd parts to reveal the hero and heroine staring at each other. If we can even be classed as that. In our case, I'm pretty sure it'd be a bit of a melodrama.

But even so, the crowd shifts and there she is, beautiful as ever. Age has treated her well; she still looks as angelic as she did two years ago but there's a certain maturity there that I'd never seen before. She was never particularly childish, just…innocent.

My throat feels like it has closed up but I choke out a few breaths (whilst-hopefully-still looking relatively cool) and I finally find my voice.

"Well. Isn't this a day of surprises."

A small smile crosses her face and I let myself relax slightly. I'll never fully let my guard down around her again but her smile makes me realise that we can maybe repair some of the damage.

She looks me straight in the eye, as if everything that happened is now water under the bridge and confidently, almost blasé, says…

"I didn't RSVP. Sorry."

fin