I don't own the characters, I just play with them. No copyright infringement intended.

So, this is it - the final chapter. It's super long but I couldn't find a right place to split it, and I didn't really want to anyway. I can't describe how it feels to finish this story, but it is finished, although somehow I can't make myself mark it complete - maybe in a day or two I'll get there :O) I hope I have managed to end this right, because I really can't tell how happy I am with it yet, it will take a few days to sink in, but in the meantime, if you enjoy reading it half as much as I enjoyed writing it, I'll be happy with that :O)

Once again, thank you for reading and thank you for all the wonderful reviews, they have really made this a beautiful experience for me.

Mood music: These Are The Days, 10000 Maniacs

24. How It Was Meant To Be

She comes crashing into him with such force that Jess staggers and it takes him a moment to steady himself as he closes his arms around her. He can't see her face because it's buried in his chest; her hands are wrapped around his neck and she clings to him so hard that it's difficult to breathe, but he doesn't want to breathe anyway and even if he drops dead because of it, he can't think of a better way to go. It takes only a second to realize she's crying, and it's not gentle weeping, but full-blown sobs that leave her out of breath and shaking against him uncontrollably. He doesn't really know where this surge of grief comes from, but he knows enough of her to sense it's somehow for his benefit, and on some elusive level, he slowly understands it's him she's crying for, for all the things she learned about him today and it fazes him completely that this is what she does with all that knowledge, that it's this genuine and unrestrained outburst of feelings that she comes away with. His throat tightens and he holds her closer, and as his grip on her gets stronger, he feels the erratic rhythm of her breathing calm down slightly and she's not shaking so hard anymore. He bends his head down a little and his lips touch her hair.

"I'm fine," he whispers softly; "If you just look at me, you'll see I'm fine," he continues, and for a moment it seems like it was the wrong thing to say because she cries harder again, but he picks up on the relief in it and just waits for it to run its course. Still holding her to himself firmly with one hand, he runs the other up her back and into her hair slowly and pulls gently, trying to get her to look at him, but there's too much resistance there, and so he just rubs her neck gently, in lazy little circles. His heart beats wildly under her head and as he waits for her to catch her breath, he allows himself to really feel her for the first time, to really feel how warm she is and how very real in his arms and how perfectly she fits there. When he finally feels her still completely, he lets go of her waist and cradles her head gently and tries to get her to look at him again; this time, she moves slightly but still doesn't show her face.

"Come on, Rory, just look at me, I promise I'm fine," he says again, and finally she lets him tilt her face up. Their eyes lock together, and that's all it takes for all conscious thought to evaporate, and all they are left with again are hearts that beat wildly and breaths that match them. A small smile escapes him before his lips close over hers slowly, soft but firm, gentle and demanding at the same time, and she recognizes it immediately, this wonderfully tantalizing rhythm of his kiss that always starts slowly and develops gradually, like a musical masterpiece that begins with a simple theme that later grows into a symphony. It's almost an art-form, the way he kisses, the way he can make the world fade away completely with so little effort and make the entire universe come down to just this one perfect moment in which nothing but the two of them exists. She feels his hands move down her back again and as he pulls her closer, something ignites within and there's suddenly a craving for more, and she wraps her fingers in his hair and sets a rhythm of her own, faster and fiercer, but he pulls on her hair gently and breaks away slowly, leaving her breathless and blushing in the face of his smile.

"Why are you rushing?" he asks gently, a soft sparkle in his eyes.

"Why do you talk so much?" she asks right back, trying hard not to smile.

"Because you're cute when you're agitated," he smirks and pulls her closer.

"You're insufferable", she smiles inadvertently.

"And you're very impatient," he smirks. "And there's all the time in the world to do this just right."

She wordlessly admits that he's right and wraps her arms around him before she lifts herself up on her toes and finds his lips again, taking her time this time around, and as he feels her come so close to him again, he knows he wants to keep her there for hours, days and even weeks maybe, and it suddenly becomes clear that being apart from her has been like being separated from a vital body part, one he somehow hadn't realized he was missing before he miraculously got it back again. She kisses the same way she is, sweet and spontaneous and sincere, and it's this innocence that always makes him come undone, and it happens again, all those sensations within him that only she knows how to reach spring to life and with every breath, it becomes harder to control them until the point comes where he's just not capable to think clearly anymore. When she pulls away, he's grateful for the chance to get a grip over himself, because although he'd never admit it, the sheer magnitude of the power her touch holds over him sometimes scares him.

"I'm hungry," she smiles against his lips.

"Yes, I can see that," he says and lets go of her slowly and regretfully.

She takes his hand and pulls him towards the door. "Come on, we'll make eggs," she says brightly. "There are some mushrooms too, and we can throw those in as well."

He follows her inside and finds a frying pan while she beats the eggs together. "You know, scrambled eggs without bread, that's a lot of grease," he smiles. "There's a pretty good chance of some serious stomach trouble later on."

"I've got bread," she says over her shoulder.

"Right, nice and fresh from last week," he makes a face. "Can't say I'm really looking forward to that."

She laughs. "Yeah, except this is some weird macro-biotic variety that comes vacuumed and actually keeps great, although it is somewhat spongy."

"Macro-biotic? Since when is that even a part of your vocabulary?" He smirks and pours the scrambled eggs over the mushrooms that simmer in the pan.

She laughs again and leans against the counter. "I can't credit for that one, it's all Lorelai."

He shakes his head. "That's even weirder."

"I know," she nods. "But it's amazing what she'll come up with when faced with a prospect of me starving in the middle of nowhere."

The eggs are done and Jess fills their plates and takes them to the table while Rory finds the bread. They sit down and she laughs as she watches him eye the first slice of bread suspiciously for a second before he takes a bite, but apparently he can live with it because the next bite goes down without any wisecracks. She looks at him with raised eyebrows and he smiles.

"Kuddos to Lorelai, this is actually edible," he says. "I never would have guessed either of you could even locate the shelf at the market that holds this kind of stuff. Luke will never believe it," he smirks, but suddenly his face pales and he drops his fork.

She stops chewing and looks at him. "What?"

"Luke!" He rubs his eyes. "I forgot about Luke, and he has no idea where I am. Even worse, he has no idea where the truck is," he shakes his head and looks at her. "You know, he actually might kill me this time."

Relieved, she smiles. "Don't worry about it, I texted Mom this morning and let her know you're here," she says, strangely happy to see him worried about Luke.

"You did?" He looks around, frowning. "In that case, I'm surprised that the cavalry isn't here yet. I wonder what's taking them so long." He looks around again, straining his neck to see outside. "Although, I guess it's possible they're hiding in the bushes somewhere, with binoculars around their necks, getting ready to pounce as we speak."

She laughs out loud. "Wow, I see that latent paranoia of yours is still hard at work."

He shrugs. "Can you blame me? I mean, your mother always had this incredible sense of timing when it comes to walking into things I'd much rather she …well, didn't walk in on," he says with a smirk.

She grins and shakes her head. "I think we're pretty safe," she says and looks at him for a moment before she continues. "And in case you didn't know, my mom has actually been rooting for you pretty strongly these last few weeks."

"Yeah, right," he laughs and rolls his eyes. "I'm sure she's my biggest fan."

Rory just smiles at the familiar stubborn tone and the face that comes with it, but she lets them both slide and looks at him. "You've talked to her, right?"

"Yeah," he says with a half-smile.

She grins wider. "Well, since you're sitting here, I guess she didn't bite your head off."

"Yeah, I guess she didn't," he admits and somewhat reluctantly remembers that Lorelai really was unusually nice to him those few times they talked, but he still thinks that she might perceive the current situation very differently. "But at the time, you all but hated me. I'm not sure how happy she'll be about the fact that we are here together, alone."

Rory just smiles at how clueless he is, and decides to let it go. "I guess we'll have to wait and see." She laughs when he looks over his shoulder again. "Relax, Jess; I promise I'll defend you until my last breath against whoever jumps out of the bushes, even my mother."

"Yeah, I'm sure it's funny now but once she comes at you with her teeth showing, we'll just see how well you do," he says with a smirk, but she just laughs again, gathers the plates and takes them over to the sink. She runs the water and begins to rinse the dishes, smiling to herself, wondering why exactly she is so sure that Lorelai really is fine with Jess being here; she can't say how she knows this, but she just does.

Jess watches her from the chair, from a safe distance, and it's such a domestic scene that it's borderline funny, with her standing over the sink in her pjs and that long cardigan that almost looks like a bathrobe, her hair tangled and held together loosely in what was once a braid, and it's both sweet and unusual, but just too good not to take advantage of. He crosses his hands on his chest and admires the scene some more before the temptation just gets too hard to resist.

"You know, I can't help but notice, you've really got the whole housewife routine down perfectly," he says, smirking. "I didn't know you had it in you."

She throws him a dirty look over her shoulder. "That's real funny, Jess, but it will be a whole lot funnier when I start hurling plates and pans at your head," she says, smiling sweetly.

"Okay, duly noted, but you should see yourself, slaving over those dishes in your pjs, barefoot," he shrugs and smiles to himself. "It's every guy's dream," he adds with a mock sigh, but lunges out of the chair quickly as she turns around and launches a hand-full of water at him. It catches him at the left shoulder and he laughs, and she turns back to the sink, trying hard to look offended. He walks over to her slowly and somewhat carefully, ready to evade the next water projectile if one should come, but it doesn't, and he slips his hands around her waist and kisses the side of her face. Her hair gets in the way and he moves it to the side slowly, and kisses her again.

"I'm just messing with you," he murmurs in her ear and immediately her breath catches in her throat and her heart skips a beat, but she shakes it off and bites back a smile.

"Well, you better have your fun now because after this, it's not likely to happen again very soon," she quips quickly. "Following this historic occasion, the dish washing is all yours."

He smiles into her hair and grips her tighter. "That's fine, I'm happy to be your maid," he says quietly and kisses her again, and the kisses go on down the side of her face and then down to her neck. In a second, she forgets all about the dishes, she forgets about the world in general, there's just the crazy rhythm of her heart, the feel of his breath on her skin and the warmth of his body along hers. She turns around and reaches for him blindly, and this kiss that happens now is different, it's hungry and searching; the ground underneath her feet shifts and balance becomes an issue for a moment before he picks up on this and lifts her up on the counter. This makes things easier on some levels, because there's less tilting and less struggle with feet, but it makes things crazier and more hectic on others, because it's easier to get closer, closer to the point when there's no space between them at all and thinking becomes a hazy concept that quickly fades completely. She really doesn't care about this, she doesn't really care about anything except this kiss and how it makes her skin tingle and her blood rush, and most of all, how it somehow makes him grip her harder and hold her closer and how his breathing changes when she moves towards him. This little move lights up a thousand sparks inside him and he knows she doesn't have a clue what these little things she does can do to him and how far they can reach, and how quickly control over what happens next becomes an impossible issue, and with this crazy kiss, so intense and so fierce, so very intoxicating, it just slips away further with every second. Although fleeting and distant, the thought fights its way into his head somehow, the thought that says this whirlwind will soon take them places that might scare her once reached, and although it takes a colossal amount of will and a significant struggle with Rory, he brings the kiss to an end, and they just stay still for a moment, holding each other, waiting for the mayhem within to settle.

"I've missed you," she says suddenly as she looks at him.

"I've missed you too," he smiles.

"I've missed this," she adds, blushing slightly. "I've missed kissing you."

He chuckles softly and smirks at her. "Don't even get me started on how much I missed this. I nearly forgot just how good certain parts of you feel."

She laughs out loud. "No, you haven't! You were very clear about that over several pages."

It takes him a moment to figure out what she means; then he remembers there is more written inside that notebook than he thought of when he handed it to her, and a subtle shade of red colors his face.

"You're blushing," Rory says, smiling.

"I'm not blushing," he replies adamantly, but she just grins widely and nods her head.

"Yes, you are! I actually thought I'd never see this happen, but there it is!"

He closes his eyes and counts to ten, then he looks at her again. "Okay fine, have your fun, but don't overdo it, because in a minute, I'll be sorry I ever let you read that thing," he warns and starts to pull away from her, but she grabs his hand quickly and when he looks at her, there's a change in her face and she has a very serious look in her eyes.

"Don't ever be sorry you let me read that, Jess," she says quietly and he knows she's thinking of other things she found in there that are not a joking matter.

"I'm not," he says gently. "I won't be, ever."

She smiles and slides off the counter. "The dishes are all yours," she says brightly and moves past him quickly. "I'm going for a swim, and a change of clothes," she announces and points out the window. "For future reference, the area to the left of the giant bush that hangs over the water there is the girl's changing room, and the area to the right is the boy's." She turns around and points to a door behind her. "The tiny claustrophobic space in there that poses as a toilet we can share, although if I could pee standing up, I'd use the great outdoors for that too, but hey – that decision is all yours."

He smiles and gets started on the dishes, but watches her through the window as she walks down to the lake with a pile of clothes and a towel until she disappears behind the bush and he can't see her anymore, but when he's done with plates, he looks up again and sees her head floating over the water. He watches her swim for a while, then puts the dishes away and wipes the table clean. He then makes coffee and sets a mug full aside for Rory, then pours one for himself and leaves it to cool. In the meantime, he straightens out the blankets on the bed and finds the moleskine buried under a pillow. He picks it up and looks at it briefly before he sets it on the table. As he turns around, his foot catches on the suitcase that is sticking out from under the bed and he pulls it out, and he's suddenly faced with dozens of books. Smiling, he goes through them slowly and picks one; then he picks up his coffee and steps out on the porch where he sits on the stairs and reads.

Rory appears again half an hour later, in fresh pajama bottoms and tank top, but the same cardigan, a towel wrapped around her head and her previous set of clothes bundled under her arm. She sits next to him and smiles, tilting her head to check out the book title.

"White Fang," she reads, and looks at him. "Interesting choice. You know, I have The call of the wild somewhere in there, too."

He understands the reference, but makes no comment, he just smiles and leans against the porch beam behind him. "How's the water?"

"Great, it's totally warm. Are you going in?" she asks, smiling brightly.

He looks at the lake and decides he could probably use a swim. "Maybe."

She shrugs. "Just don't take too long to decide, because once the sun goes down, the mosquitoes will eat you alive," she warns and stands up. "I need coffee."

"I just made some, I left you a mug on the counter," he says and opens his book again.

"Oh, you must be god or something," she smiles and bends down to kiss him before she goes back into the house.

Jess returns to the book but soon catches himself glancing at the lake every few paragraphs, and eventually he gives up and goes inside, searching for a towel. Rory is repacking her backpack and he heads for a closet where he found the t-shirts earlier and digs out a towel which he throws over his shoulder before he heads out again.

"I think I'll go for that swim," he calls out to her as he reaches for the door.

She looks at him over her shoulder. "Sure, have fun," she says and goes back to what she was doing, and he's already half-way down the porch when her voice comes again.

"Hey Jess!"

He turns around. "Yeah?"

The door opens and there's a grin on her face and a twinkle in her eyes. "If any menacing-looking swans come your way, just screech and I'll come running," she says sweetly before she bursts out laughing and returns inside quickly when he takes a step in her direction. Silently cursing Luke, he turns around again and continues down to the water.

The water is just cool enough to be refreshing and it feels good to swim and let his mind wonder and begin to analyze and understand the amazing change that has been the last 24 hours. It's still unbelievable to him on so many levels that he just can't help searching his mind for things that could go wrong and destroy it all, he thinks there must be something that he is over-looking, some impending disaster that will come crashing down any minute and just rob him of all this happiness that he thinks he doesn't really deserve anyway. Still, no matter how hard he tries to think of something, nothing comes to mind, because he always comes back to the fact that all his dark secrets are written in that notebook, and she now knows them all, and there's just nothing left to come and haunt him. It's a strange feeling, this sudden freedom and lack of all anxiety and apprehension, and he doesn't really know how to live like this, but soon he smiles to himself as he realizes that he will just have to learn, because this is now the reality of his life and again, it just feels too good to be true.

He gets out of the water and dries himself quickly, then pulls his underwear and the sweatpants back on, and sits on the grass, letting the sun warm his back and dry his hair. He looks over the trees and thinks about Rory and her kisses, and that scene by the counter, and he quickly feels heat spread inside him again and his mind wonders further, towards the night ahead of them and the fact that there's just one bed inside that house. This makes the heat intensify and very graphic images invade his brain, and he loses himself in them for a moment before it strikes him that these fantasies are not so very far-fetched anymore and that making them real is a definite possibility. Somehow, this doesn't make him happy or even excited, it makes him nervous and worried instead, because he knows instinctively that she's not ready to go down that road with him yet, and the anxiety grows because when these moments come along, the moments like the one in the kitchen, they take him over and it becomes difficult to control himself, and he suddenly understands what a huge test of will this night is going to be. Maybe that's it, he thinks bitterly, maybe this is that impending disaster he was looking for, and he mentally kicks himself for trying so hard to find it, but at the same time, it's a sweet kind of torture and he's eternally grateful for the chance to go through it at all.

His hair doesn't drip anymore so he gets up, pulls his t-shirt on and wonders back towards the house. He climbs to the porch and finds her immediately, asleep in the hammock, with the moleskine open on her chest. Her hair is wet but the towel is gone, and the coffee mug sits on the porch railing, forgotten. The scene is so sweet that he leans against the railing and just watches her, and suddenly there's so much love for her inside him that he thinks his heart might explode, and it's completely incomprehensive how he was ever able to be without her, and completely unbelievable he ever left her. The feeling is so strong that it physically shakes him and brings tears to his eyes, and he needs a moment to take a breath and calm down, and when he finally gets a grip over himself, all he can do is slide down to the floor and continue to look at her, mesmerized by the fact that she's here and that on some small level, she belongs to him.

He doesn't know how long he sits there; at some point, he just becomes aware of the fact that his back hurts and that his foot is asleep, so he gets up slowly and goes inside. Once he enters the house, he realizes it's dark inside and he looks out of the window and over the lake and he can see the sun has reached the tree tops and is getting ready to disappear behind them, and he wonders regretfully why this glorious day had to go by so very quickly. He briefly thinks if he should wake Rory up, but ultimately decides against it – she probably got very little or no sleep last night, considering she managed to go through the entire notebook, so he just takes a blanket from the bed, carries it outside and throws it over her. He returns inside and lights the lamp, then finds his book and settles on the bed, happily losing himself within the pages. A few chapters fly by quickly, and when he looks up, it's dark outside and he suddenly feels hungry, so he gets up and goes in search for dinner ideas. There's milk, and eggs, and flour and pancakes come to mind, and when he finds a jar of blueberry jam in the back of the cupboard, he decides it's an obvious choice and within thirty minutes, he produces a stack of twenty and sets them on the table. He wonders again whether to wake her up; she loves pancakes and they're best when eaten warm, so he goes outside and rocks the hammock gently. She stirs and he smiles, then bends over her and kisses her gently.

"I've made pancakes," he whispers against her lips.

"I love you," she says with a smile, stretching, her eyes still closed.

He knows it's not that kind of I-love-you, but it thrills him all the same to hear the words and his heart skips a beat as her eyes open and he smiles at her. "So I guess I'll take that to mean you want the pancakes."

"Yes, very much so," she nods and untangles herself from the blanket. Jess grabs it and helps her out of the hammock, and when she stands up, she looks around and her mouth drops open.

"It's night," she says somewhat stupidly and rubs her eyes. "How long did I sleep?"

"A while," he says and throws his arm around her, directing her toward the door.

"You should have woken me up," she yawns.

He grins and kisses the side of her head. "Why?"

She shrugs. "I don't know… I just feel like sleeping is such a waste of time right now," she smiles.

He laughs out loud. "Hey, feel free to make it up to me once we're done with the pancakes," he says and opens the door.

"Oh my God, this smells awesome," she says and zeroes in on the table. "I'm warning you, what you are about to witness will not be very lady-like," she says with a smile as she starts piling the pancakes on her plate.

He grins and straddles the chair across from her. "I know, I've seen you eat before."

She lets this slide and takes a mouthful of pancakes, and conversation stops because they're both busy chewing, and within minutes, the stack disappears along with the jar of jam, but Jess can't help a burst of laughter as he watches her roll the final pancake, stick her fork into it and then push the fork into the jar and clean off the remaining jam with it before she packs the whole thing into her mouth.

"Wow, you really love those things," he chokes out between bites and laughs again after swallowing. "I think your grandmother would have a seizure if she could see you right now."

She blushes furiously, but shakes it off quickly. "I think that my table manners would be the last thing she would seize over if she could see me right now."

He laughs again and shrugs his shoulders. "Touche."

She reclines into her chair and takes a deep breath as she looks at the dishes. "I so don't want to clean this up now," she whines and closes her eyes.

"I thought you said you were done with the dishes scene anyway," he smirks and leans his head on his hands.

"That was the dish washing," she smiles. "I was still willing to dump them in the sink."

He laughs and stretches his hands before he gets up slowly. "Well, I'm not doing them right now either," he says with a smile as he walks over to the bed where he sits down, then drops on his back.

"That looks so good," she says from her chair. "I think I'm jealous."

He laughs and taps the empty space next to him. "There's plenty of room, be my guest."

"I so want to, but I don't think I can get up right now," she whines regretfully.

He closes his eyes and smiles. "You'll end up here eventually anyway, it's just the matter of whether you do it now or after your bottom falls asleep in that chair. I've had that happen to me last night, and trust me, even if it doesn't seem like it now, that chair is a torture device."

She moans incoherently but he can hear the chair creek and a moment later, he feels her collapse on the bed next to him.

"Oh, this is heaven," she says breathlessly and he laughs and opens his eyes, turning his head sideways to look at her. Her eyes are closed, her hands outstretched over her head and there's a small smile on her face, and he thinks she's beautiful, more beautiful right now in this moment than ever before. He rolls on his side and leans his head against his hand and just looks at her for a while before his voice returns.

"Yeah, it is heaven," he says softly and finds a strand of her hair, wrapping it around his fingers. She registers the change in his tone and looks at him, and there's the same change in his eyes, the laughter has gone and they are somehow darker now, but they reflect a myriad of feelings that she recognizes as her own, and it feels like she's looking into a mirror and seeing all of herself inside. The gaze continues, and suddenly she feels she's going to drown in all those feelings if she doesn't release them somehow, so she reaches for him in a rush and pulls his head down swiftly; when their lips come together, it surprises her that she can make the kiss so gentle and light, so smooth and subdued, and so very delicate. It lasts for a moment, this touch that feels like the lightest breeze, it lasts for as long as he hovers over her and only their lips touch, but when his hand comes down and wraps around her, bringing their bodies together, the breeze becomes a rush of wind and the need for more develops quickly. In a second, there's fire inside, fire that originates from his touch and it spreads over her skin quickly, and it feels like she's never really been touched before and somehow it becomes the most important thing in the world to be touched like this and she pulls on him harder until he comes down on top of her and she can really wrap her arms around him and feel him everywhere. He feels heavy but this weight feels wonderful, and when his lips come down her face and his breath grazes her ear, her hands develop a mind of their own and move under his shirt, pushing it up, running crazy traces over his back up to his shoulders where she can feel the muscles shift as he moves over her. She can feel him stall for a second, and it's like that moment of silence before the storm when everything stills, but in the next moment, the storm breaks out with a fury when his lips crash into hers and his hands begin a dance that invokes feelings she had no idea even existed.

Jess feels that crucial moment when he's still in touch with his brain come and go, and all reason and logic just vanish with it, and they're impossible to hold on to when she feels so warm and alive under him, when she clings to him so hard and when her hands set his skin aflame with every little touch. Suddenly nothing matters except here and now, and this intense craving to feel more of her, and his hand moves past the cardigan and up her side and suddenly, there's skin, and it's soft and smooth and warm, and a fleeting thought registers, a thought that she's so very small that when he opens his palm, it covers the entire width of her back. With his shirt pushed up and hers so tiny, suddenly it's skin to skin and the contact rids him of all conscious thought and there's just chaos of hands and heartbeats and breaths, until the moment she moves and brings her leg up and he sinks further into her, and it feels much too good, it feels so good it freaks him out and he breaks away from her with a jerk and sits up abruptly, shaken and out of breath, struggling to get a grip over himself. His brain kicks in a second later and he knows this is a very bad thing, that he jumped away from her like this, a thought that is confirmed when he turns around to look at her and finds her sitting with her hands wrapped around her knees, flushed and frowning, with a distant and subdued look in her eyes.


She cuts him off immediately, and she sounds hurt and frustrated. "Am I doing something wrong?"

The question is so unexpected he just looks at her blankly. "What?"

"Am I doing something wrong?" she asks again, frowning slightly.

"Something wrong?" he repeats weakly, perfectly aware he sounds like a retard but he has no idea what she's talking about. "When? Where?"

"Here, just now!" she snaps at him. "Whenever we kiss, actually."

"No!" he answers quickly, shaking his head vigorously. "God, why would you even think that?"

"Why?" she repeats incredulously. "Why? Because you always do this, Jess, you always… pull away from me, and just now, it felt like you would have actually run away screaming if there was any place to go!"

She has it all backwards and he suddenly understands this, but although she's clearly angry, what really gets to him is how confused and sad she looks, and how she goes to look for fault in herself first, and he feels he should punch himself in the face for making her feel like that. He takes a deep breath and scoots closer to her, reaching for her hand, and although somewhat unwillingly, she lets him have it and he runs his thumb over her palm gently.

"I'm sorry," he says quietly. "I'm sorry for making you feel like that. You're not doing anything wrong. You're perfect," he smiles gently.

She wants to believe him, but she still looks skeptical. "Then I don't understand," she says quietly and looks at him, confused.

"It's not so easy to explain," he says, squirming slightly.

She frowns and her eyes narrow. "I strongly suggest that you try anyway," she says calmly and looks at him firmly.

"No, I was going to," he nods and takes a deep breath before he looks at her. "There's nothing wrong with you. You really are perfect, you're so perfect that you drive me insane every time you kiss me, every time you touch me, and when you touch me like you did right now, and even more than that, when you let me touch you like I just did, I just lose my mind completely, I can't think, and I have to think, because I'm worried that if I stop thinking, I will start doing things that maybe you don't want me to do, things that will scare you, things you're not ready for." He clears his throat and looks at her hand. "I don't want to mess this up again, Rory."

The words are beyond sweet and they make her thaw immediately, and she understands how precious she is to him, but he's thinking too much and she wants to laugh when she realizes this because it is usually her that does this, she's the one with the tendency to over-think and over-analyze, not him. She smiles to herself and scoots closer until she's sitting next to him, and she lays his head on his shoulder.

"Okay, so basically, this jumping away that you do is sort of a… pre-emptive strike thing that happens when you think you've gone too far?" she asks quietly, smiling slightly.

He nods, smiling. "Pretty much, yeah."

She frowns slightly. "But I don't remember seeing you do this before."

"Before when?"

She shrugs. "Before me."

He shakes his head. "I'm lost."

She frowns and takes a breath. "I don't remember you acting that way before … with Shane, for instance. You didn't have a problem with having your hands all over her in the middle of the town square, in broad daylight. Actually, I remember quite the opposite being true," she says determinedly, even though she blushes when the words come out.

He looks at her, completely stupefied. "Shane? You're comparing this to the way I was with Shane? Are you completely out of your mind? You can't compare that!"

"Why?" she asks, confused by the sudden force in his tone.

He pulls away from her and looks her square in the eye. "Are you kidding me?"

"Why is that so ridiculous?" she asks again, frowning.

He jumps up and walks around. "Because, you can't compare that, it's just different!"

"Different why?" she asks, wondering why he's suddenly so very agitated and what all the pacing around is for.

"Because I didn't love Shane, Rory!" he yells across the room, and stops in mid-step when he realizes he just yelled at her, and what exactly it was that he yelled, and he looks at his feet, not quite believing it's out there.

The words hang in the air for a moment before a smile breaks on her face and she walks over slowly and stands in front of him.

"You love me?" she asks gently.

He pushes his hands into his pockets and takes a breath before he looks at her. "I love you," he says simply. "This isn't really the way I wanted to tell you that, but the fact I screamed the words ultimately doesn't make them any less true."

She smiles the most beautiful smile and a thousand stars seem to sparkle in her eyes as she steps closer and wraps her hands around his waist.

"I just have to stand here like this and barely touch you, and my heart beats so loud that I can hardly hear myself think, and I'm out of breath, and my hands are sweating and tingles run all over me, and I love all of it, Jess. I love that you make these things happen, and I love all those things that happened earlier, on that bed, and basically, every feeling that you invoke, I love, and none of them scare me at all." She steps closer and smiles brighter. "Remember when we talked about this before, and you told me that it would be my call to make if we ever get to it? Well, if that's true, then you should give me the chance to make that call, either way, instead of making it for me."

He looks slightly shocked and processing what she just said is a bit of a challenge, but the more he thinks about it, the more he likes this new perspective, and after a while, he manages a smile and his hands come out of his pockets and close around her.

"You're sure about this? You just told me that I can do whatever I want until the moment you tell me to stop," he smirks.

She laughs. "I realize that and yes, I'm sure," she says smugly. "And I think that is the only way to go about this because with your track record of jumping away, I doubt we would ever really get anywhere."

"Fine, be that way, it looks easy now, but we'll just see how well you do under pressure," he chuckles and plants a small kiss on her lips.

"Yes, we will," she smiles back and hugs him closer.

"So, what happens now?" he asks softly.

She steps away from him and pulls him by the hand, walking over to the bed. "Now, we go to bed and sleep, hopefully." She turns off the lamp, crawls under the blanket and smiles. "I'm tired."

He climbs in after her. "Okay, and what happens tomorrow?"

She looks up at the ceiling and sighs. "Tomorrow, we go home, I guess, before either mom's or Luke's patience grows thin and they really do come barging in here with guns blazing."

There's a distinct, bitter feeling of regret and it develops within him quickly, but he knows she's right and he shrugs it off. She rolls on her side and he settles against her back and wraps his arm around her, and the sweet feeling of how perfectly they fit together returns.

"And the day after tomorrow?" he asks quietly.

She laughs softly and tangles her fingers with his. "The day after tomorrow, and all days after that one, we see each other every day, and talk about books and movies and music and a million other things that I can't remember right now, and kiss, and hopefully, laugh a lot."

He smiles into her hair and snuggles closer to her. "I can live with that," he whispers and kisses the top of her head.

"Good, I'm glad to hear it," she says quietly before she fights a yawn. He smiles into her hair again and decides to stop talking now, and just enjoys the warmth and the nearness of her. It feels wonderful to hold her like this, so relaxed and so comfortable, and so perfect against him. The complete absence of any tension surprises him and he wonders where it's gone to, but in that moment that comes before dreams he realizes it's because there's all the time in the world ahead of them, and for now, this is perfect.

"Jess," her voice comes in a whisper in that last moment of conscious thought.

"I thought we were sleeping," he murmurs in her ear.

"We are," she says quietly. "But I need to tell you something."

"I'm listening," he says into her hair.

There's a silence that stretches and he begins to think maybe he's dreaming already and she never said anything at all, but then she squeezes his hand tighter and he can hear her take a breath.

"The things inside that moleskine," she begins gently and instantly feels him tense up. "Those things that you were running from, that you feel you're responsible for," she says in a hushed voice, "none of them are your fault."

She can feel him freeze and a moment later, she senses he's fighting an urge to pull away, and she holds on to him tighter. "I know you can't understand that now," she continues softly, "I know you don't want to hear it because you're so sure you could have or should have stopped them from happening, but I wanted to tell you, for what it's worth, I don't think you could have. It's a great, big thing that you want to take responsibility for it all, but it's not yours to take." She takes a breath and kisses his hand. "And until the moment when you're able to understand that, maybe you could just trust me on this."

He says nothing, and she waits patiently, alert and careful of every breath; the silence continues and he still doesn't speak, but she soon realizes he doesn't really have to when she feels him relax against her slowly. She can sense a change in energy that surrounds them and the air somehow feels lighter and she breathes again and smiles into the darkness, deciding that this is more than enough for now, this silent acceptance, and she doesn't need him to agree or promise anything. Her heart slowly returns to its normal rhythm, and there's just one more thing she wants to say before she falls asleep, just one more thing that she should have said before but somehow, she didn't.

He can feel her turn around and soon her face is just a breath away from his, and he just stares at her for a moment before she smiles.

"There's one more thing," she whispers softly.

He smirks. "You just can't sleep, can you?"

"I never said it back," she says softly.

"Said what?" he asks quietly.

She smiles at him. "That I love you."

The moonlight dances over her face and the truth of what she just said reflects in her eyes, and for the first time, he dares to believe it, and when she snuggles close to him and holds him tight, he suddenly knows he's home. The whole world feels right in that moment, he knows this is how it was meant to be and he knows that moment is here to stay.


All writers love reviews, good or bad. They are precious insights into our reader's minds. They usually make us try harder. They often make us get better at what we do. They always motivate us to keep going. They show us what we've done well, what we've done badly and what we could have done differently. Ultimately, they make us happy.
Just something to think about :)