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After putting that stupid bracelet in the lousiest hiding spot in her room and awkwardly running into Lorelai and coming up with a lame excuse, Jess went back to do the damn stupid gutters. These last two weeks he used that as a bookmark, not knowing where it came from. In his opinion, Dean could go to hell.
The cold, crisp air reacted to his body in the most uncomfortable ways. He was hot from scraping and cleaning and moving buckets and trash bags. The cold made him itch. Not always, just today. He would never admit that itch to be internal. Like a ticking time bomb. He knew Lorelai wasn't stupid, and as soon as Rory found it she'd put two and two together.
So much for trying to get along with her mother.
Taking easy steps down the rickety ladder, he saw her coming. From where he sees her, the expression isn't sadness – it's stress. She wants to avoid a fight with Dean pretty badly, and he can guess why.
"You look good," he says with a sarcastic drawl.
"I'm fine." Fine until she doesn't find the bracelet, chain, whatever you wanna call it – and bag boy freaks out on her. That's just what she needs.
"I lost my bracelet," She explains it simply. He knows more than that, but follows up with,
"Uh huh", prompting her to say more.
"Dean gave it to me"
"I've been all over town looking for it. I've been to Lane's, I've been to Luke's, I've been to the bus stop, I've been to Miss Patty's, and I've circled Stars Hollow twice and nothing. I have no idea what I'm going to do." She broke eye contact, looking out to what she could see of the town. Wishing she had a bracelet detector.
"It's really that big a deal?" He knew it was, and wished it wasn't. If he would have known, he would have given it back to her before they got to the pizza shop that day.
"What do you mean?"
"I mean, I know it's got an 'I've been pinned' Bye, Bye, Birdie kind of implication to it, but it was just a bracelet."
"I don't think Dean will see it that way." She says, with a hint of… annoyance? in her voice.
"You didn't lose it on purpose," He didn't take that bracelet on purpose.
"I don't think Dean will see it that way." She knows he won't. If she wasn't already, frustration has set it.
"I know, but things have been weird between us lately…" She paused to look up at him. His eyes look distant, "…and you couldn't care less".
"Oh yes, I could", Its not his favorite topic of discussion, but he'll listen and talk with her – for her.
"I just think Dean will read something into this"
"No." But he will, she thought.
"I think you should keep looking"
"Anywhere. Things you lose are usually right in front of your face. Check the house again." Check under your bed, where I strategically put it so you can get out of this mess.
"I've checked the house," She didn't feel like looking anymore.
"It's probably just laying in your room somewhere."
"No, I tore that room apart. It's not there."
"Fine, give up then. No biggie. Dean will just have to get over it."
She sighed, Jess was right. "I'll go look again." She heaved herself up from the steps and went inside.
"You do that." He muttered to himself.
Lorelai was sitting on the couch, reading some magazine. Rory couldn't be mad that she wasn't looking – they had looked everywhere in the house. It was pointless to look again, she thought. But Jess sounded so sure.
"Hey, where have you been?" Lorelai asked.
"Scouring the town." Rory said, tiredness seeping through her words.
"Not yet, I'm gonna check my room again." She took the steps towards her bedroom and sighed, hearing her mom's voice,
"Haven't you already looked in there like a thousand times?"
"A thousand and one." Putting her hands in front of her, and bending her knees, she took place next to her bed. You've gotta be kidding! There it is!
"Mom, come here, hurry!"
"Rory?" She asked only slightly panicked.
"Mom!" Oh thank god, no more looking!
"Are you okay?" Lorelai asked, finishing up the distance from the living room to Rory's room.
"I found it!"
"What?" She asked surprised.
"I looked under the bed and there it was. I thought I had already looked under the bed, but I don't know, maybe I was too panicked or. . .I don't know, who cares, I got it!"
"Aw, that is amazing!"
"Put it on." She half asked and half demanded from her mom, sticking her wrist out and handing Lorelai the bracelet.
"Make it tight." Rory asked.
"Oh, I'm cutting off circulation here, baby."
"Oh, look at it. It looks even better than before, doesn't it?" She asked. It looks a hell of a lot better because now Dean forecast isn't holding any fights. That's a plus.
"I think the time away from home did it some good."
"Okay, when I get back, we celebrate."
"Where are you going?" She asked her daughter.
"To tell Lane she can stop praying." Rory said while walking out of her room.
Lorelai peers out the window and sees Jess. She sighs. All she wants is to be able to get along with this kid for the sake of Rory but instead he's making it difficult.
Here we go, she thought. Walking out of Rory's room, she walked stiffly to the desk and grabbed the money she had put out earlier. She threw on her gray coat and headed out the door. Confrontation time with James Dean the 2nd. Fabulous.
"Yeah, all done." Done with this day, he re-worded in his head.
"You weren't gonna come get your money?"
"Ah, I figured I'd get it eventually. It's not like I don't know where you guys live." He said, pulling on his jacket. Right arm shoved in first.
"That's true. You certainly do know where we live." After a little pause, she stepped down the stairs, "Well here. After all, you earned it."
He paused, he could tell that look. He's seen it on many faces. Wondering if she was gonna keep her commentary to himself, he cautiously took a few steps forward and took it from her hand,
"Thanks." Turning around, he heard her speak again.
"You took it, didn't you?"
"Rory's bracelet – you had it the whole time."
"No idea what you're talking about." Damn. He anxiously shoved his hands in his pockets.
"How'd you get it?"
"I didn't get anything."
"What, did you break into our house, you got all dressed in black and pulled a Mission: Impossible?"
"Actually, I came down the chimney and pulled a Santa Claus." His attempt to lighten it up didn't come out as planned. More sarcastic asshole than polite evasiveness.
"Very funny." She stated, less than amused.
"Thought a ridiculous accusation deserved a ridiculous response."
"So it's just a great big ol' coincidence that I catch you coming out of Rory's room a half an hour before she mysteriously finds the bracelet under her bed?"
"Guess so." He nodded. She huffed out some air.
"Why would you do this?"
"I gotta go." Run forrest, Run!
"I mean, I know you hate the world, but I thought you liked Rory." She followed his suit, taking steps after him.
"I didn't do anything."
"Oh, don't whatever me, you little jerk. You let Rory run around completely panicked, thinking she lost her boyfriend's bracelet. She was miserable, do you understand that?"
"I didn't take it."
"I'm sure you're jealous of Dean because he's great and Rory's madly in love with him, but you taking the bracelet didn't hurt Dean, it hurt Rory. That bracelet is the most precious thing she owns. She never takes it off. It means everything to her. And you stealing it was unbelievably cruel."
"The most precious thing she owns?" He cracked.
"If it's the most precious thing she owns, why did it take her two weeks to figure out it was gone, huh? You might wanna reevaluate how madly in love she is. I wouldn't start calling him son yet."
"Get outta here."
"Read my mind." He turned and started walking when some unidentified force made him stop. Her voice was ringing in his head. 'If you care about me at all...'
"I didn't know it was from him." He said, defeated.
Lorelai stopped in her tracks, headed back towards the house and turned around. What?
"Excuse me?" Her eyes watched him carefully as he turned around, avoiding eye contact.
"That stupid bracelet, I didn't know it was from Farmer John." He looked up, sure enough, she was staring at him.
"But you still took it."
He nodded, slowly. "That I did."
He looked to his right. No turning back now, damnit. Wishing for a cigarette, he sucked in air sharply and looked back at her. "I figured, if she wanted it back… I would have it. The perfect excuse right?"
This was it, she thought; the turning point. Rory would be thrilled. She didn't notice the minute that passed in silence. He did however, and figuring he embarrassed himself and didn't do any good, he muttered,
"I should go". He started walking back towards the street when he heard her call his name.
"Yeah?" He asked, his back still towards her.
"I don't think… I don't think you need an excuse." She said. Wonderful. He admitted to liking Rory and she admitted to thinking Rory likes him back. Ugh.
"Okay." After a beat, "Lorelai?" He asked turning around for the last time.
"Yeah?" She asked, sounding slightly disappointed,
She gave him a sad smile and nodded, then watched him scratch his head and turn back to the road.
A few weeks later, and much observing on Lorelai's part, she had had enough.
Luke came out of Rory's room after asking her to tutor Jess.
"Okay, so I'll see you guys at dinner probably" He said to her, walking towards the door.
"Wait, hold on, what was that all about?"
"Oh, Rory's gonna tutor Jess."
"Yeah, just for a little while, help get him on the right track."
"Okay, I should be getting back. Enjoy the brownies, I'll see if I can screw up a cake for you later on."
"Sounds great." It doesn't really. Even thought they'd had that moment of calm, her and Jess weren't bff's just yet. She contemplated going after Luke, to discourage the idea, but it would get her nowhere. Plus, she was still working on that whole "give Jess a chance" thing.
"Admit it, it's always better in a cone."
"It's always better in a cone." She said, smiling lightly.
"Putting ice cream in a dish, eating it with a spoon?" He scoffed.
"What is wrong with people?"
After a second later, ice cream was dripping all down his hand. "Hold the wheel." He told her.
"I'm dripping here, hold the wheel."
"I can't hold the wheel, you're driving. The person who's driving has to hold the wheel. That's the first thing they teach you in driver's ed."
"Huh, I gotta take that class one of those days. Take the wheel." He joked.
"I'm letting go." And he let the wheel go, however, being not an idiot, put his leg under it to steer until she grabbed the wheel.
"Stop! Take it back. Okay, you are taking this wheel back and when you do, I'm going to kill you. I'm just letting you know that."
"I appreciate the warning."
He let out a short, breathy laugh and put his right hand back on the wheel. "Okay, I got it. Geez, you look pale. Are you okay?"
"Death, and it's going to be painful."
"You're not gonna kill me. Think how dull your life would be without me."
True, she thought. Feeling the color rise to her cheeks, she looked down for a second. Contemplating how to get out of the awkwardness she felt, she looked back up at him and started a new conversation, "Serious question?"
"You know you're smarter than most everybody at your school. It takes you like five minutes to finish a book. You read everything, you remember everything, you could ace those classes easily. Why don't you? You don't need a tutor. It's crazy that they're talking about leaving you back."
"You can do anything you wanted, you can be anything you wanted."
"Rory." He said, hoping it would warn her to lay off a little. He hates these conversations.
"Is it like a cool thing?" She asked, knowing that that reason would make no sense and not correlate with Jess, but it prompted him to talk.
"I could care less about being cool."
"Well, inform me, please."
"I'm never going to college, why waste the time in high school?"
"And why aren't you going to college?"
"Please." If he rolled his eyes, they would have been out of his head.
"What? Please what – why is it so crazy?"
"Ask my mother, she could give you a couple reasons. Oh, and I'm sure Principal Mertin can chime in with a few good ones. In fact, ask your mother. She doesn't know me all that well but I'm sure she could improvise a few things."
"Do not give me that whole 'I'm so misunderstood, Kurt Cobainy' thing. You are way stronger than that and I don't even wanna hear it. You have to go to college." She was sure of herself on that statement and looked back out to the road.
"No, you have to go to college." He corrected.
"But don't you have any plans?"
"Yes, I plan to get out of Stars Hollow."
"And go where?"
"And do what?"
"Wherever, whatever." She repeated, mocking him.
Deciding that she'd need more, he caved and said, "I'll live where I live, I'll work when I need money, and I'll see where I end up."
"You could do more."
"Oh, here come the pompoms."
"No, no pompoms, just me saying you could do more."
He shut up for a second, nodding his head, thinking of what to say next. He stuck his bottom lip out, something that comes when he's concentrated. Taking a fresh breath of air, he looks to her,
"So, Courtney, what about you?" He asks in his most sarcastic, peppy voice possible.
She giggled, "What about me?"
"What are your big ambitions?"
"Harvard." She said, very sure of herself.
"And after Harvard?"
"I'm gonna be a journalist."
"Paula Zahn?" his voice changing tone.
"You're gonna be an overseas correspondent?" He let that set it.
"Yes, I am." She said proudly.
"You're gonna crawl around in trenches and stand on top of buildings and have bombs going off in the background and some wars raging all around you?" he only allowed slight skepticism enter his voice.
"What, you don't think I can do it?"
"No, I do. Just sounds a little too …"
"A little what?" she asks, defensive.
"Just sounds a little too rough for you."
"Well, it's not a little too rough for me." After a thought, "I hope it's not a little too rough for me, I've been talking about this forever. I mean, I don't even know what I would do if"
Sensing the panic he caused, he cut her off mid sentence. "Hey, I didn't mean to freak you out. I'm sorry. I'm sure you'll do it. You will, I promise. I'll help you practice, okay? Tomorrow, you'll stand in the middle of the street and I will drive straight at you screaming in a foreign language"
"Well, you're gonna have to learn a foreign language first."
"Well, it's lucky I've got me a tutor, isn't it?" he asked, making eye contact. After a pause, "Okay, so I guess we should be getting back. I did promise to study if you went on this ice cream run with me."
"Yes, you did."
"Okay, so I just go straight and we'll be back at Luke's."
"Good sense of direction." She responded.
"Of course, I could turn right and then we'd just be driving around in circles for awhile."
After shifting her gaze and in her seat, "Turn right."
He smiled, "As you wish."
After a few minutes of just the music filling in the silence, Rory shivered. The cold air sneaking behind her neck and under her hair gave her goosebumps. Subconsciously she repeatedly rubbed the heel of her hand on her right leg, the left being tucked up under her.
He cocked his eyebrow and made eye contact quickly before looking back at the road.
She started again, "I just want you to know… That I … I appreciate you getting along with my mom".
"She didn't seem so keen on the idea of this study date." As soon as the words left his mouth he wished he could grab them and shove them back in. Rory noticed the slight change in his demeanor and decided to let that slide. He tapped his fingers on the wheel along with the beat of the song. They had been listening to Elastica the entire ride, just one more thing she found out they had to complement each other.
"Mom's scared," She said simply and a little quieter than usual.
"That's it? You're not gonna ask why?"
"Nah, I think I get it."
She stole a glance at him and turned her head back to the right to look out the window. Stars Hollow had lights everywhere, she thought. Her thoughts drifted to things about her and Jess in the dark and she squirmed in her seat. Dean. After the clock hit 9:45 she spoke,
"Well, we should get back to some studying."
"I suppose we should." He said, and drove back towards the diner. He reached down with his left hand and rolled his window back up, figuring she was cold. After about 3 minutes it took to loop around the town, they ended back up at the diner.
The car came to a complete stop and she took in a deep breath, that didn't go unnoticed. Jess put the car in park and took the keys out, looking at her. Finally her eyes that dragged up his torso met his. He smirked, she blushed and when she looked down, he put his hand out flat underneath her line of vision, her keys resting there. She smiled and put her hand over top of the keys, their finger tips each grazing the other. Reacting like she'd been shocked, she pulled her hand and the keys away hastily. She averted her eyes and looked to the diner, "So, back to Othello?" She tucked a strand of hair behind her ear.
He inhaled, "Back to Othello." They both got out of the car and headed towards Luke's.