A/N: First of all, sorry for the delay. Things got in the way, and then I cought The Big Bang Theory obsession, and it didn't make me write faster. Second of all, I dedicate this chapter to Jess Rory Fan, with thanks for all the reviews and motivating me to write, I wish you had an account so I could reply to you properly. Third of all, I'm still not happy with this chapter, and I really don't think I ever will be. Let's just hope I'll do better with the next/last one. Don't forget to review! Oh, and thanks for all the reviews for the previous one, the response has been amazing!
Disclaimer: Still not mine.
"Arguing again?" Matt asked easily, making his way over to them and taking hold of the coffee pot.
"Um-hmm," Rory nodded.
"What about this time?"
"Same old stuff," Jess replied grouchily.
"Right. Well, don't let me interrupt you."
Deliberately or not, Matthew started humming There Is A Light That Never Goes Out under his breath as he took out milk from the refrigerator and sugar from the cabinet. Rory and Jess both stared at his back in a mix of disbelief, irritation and confusion, not meeting each other's eyes, until the cell phone in the pocket of Rory's jeans rang.
"Hi Mom," she said into the receiver, letting out a slightly relieved sigh. "What do you mean where am I? ... What? Mom, that's... No, I'm at Truncheon. Luke should have the address... I can't believe you did this!" she exclaimed with a smile, the eyes of both boys on her. "Yeah, I'll wait out front. Yay!" Then she disconnected, and for the first time in minutes looked at Jess, with a rather panicked expression. "My Mom and Luke will be here in about ten minutes."
"Exactly what I said!" she cried. "Oh my goodness. I hate surprises."
"Uh..." Matthew cut in. "Then I should probably get started on making that lunch."
"Why didn't you tell me you were coming?" Rory asked, running into the embrace of her mother.
"I didn't know about this," Luke said gruffly, yet with a small smile, getting out of the car.
Lorelai hugged her daughter tightly. "Yes, I've kidnapped him. We went to Hartford to run some errands in the morning and then the road seemed so nice and empty that we drove on and on and we somehow ended up here. How odd is that?"
"Oh, so now all roads lead to Philly?" Rory suggested.
"Clearly," Lorelai grinned and pulled away an arm's length to look at her daughter. "Have you grown? You look like you've grown."
"Mother, I've stopped growing about ten years ago. And you haven't seen me for two weeks. We've gone on for longer than that."
"Yes, but you're so far away from mommy now. And... apparently it made you forget that a lady brushes her hair in the morning."
"Oh, it's, um... the wind."
"Inside the building?"
"The windows are open."
"Not knocked out?"
"Open, I promise," Rory said, moving away from her mother's curious gaze. "Hey, Luke," she welcomed her soon-to-be-stepfather with a quick hug. "Well, let's go inside, shall we?"
"Mmm, smell of dust," Lorelai mock-praised as they entered the narrow stairway. "Hon, why are you here and not at yours anyway?" she inquired.
"Well, Matt and I are doing inventory. That's the bookshop, right here," she pointed to the door they were passing on their right for the elder Gilmore.
"What about Jess, is he not doing inventory?" Luke frowned.
"Oh, he... I think he just got up not long ago."
"Why are you doing inventory?" Lorelai shot another question.
"Just to pay them back somehow. For letting me stay."
"That's ridiculous, you don't need to pay."
"Luke, it's okay, I offered," she assured. "Well, here we go."
She let Lorelai and Luke in first, noting with a hidden smile that Jess must have just straightened out the cushions on the couch and got rid of pizza boxes that usually cluttered the corner of the room. Their eyes met nervously for a brief second before Jess and Luke greeted each other, hesitantly approaching each other and exchanging an awkward but rather warm hug with a pat on the back.
Rory smiled. "Mom, Jess, Jess, my Mom," she motioned between them.
"Hi," Jess started, extending his hand.
"Hi," Lorelai answered with a tight smile, pretending not to see his gesture.
Rory's smile faded. "O-kay. Now come on, Mom, Matthew's in the kitchen," she said, giving her mother a pointed look.
"Something smells amazing," Lorelai said as the group followed Rory and started exchanging pleasantries with Matt. "Rory told me a lot about you, but I didn't know that you cook."
"Occasionally. I hope you like omelettes, Miss Gilmore."
"I'll eat everything as long as it's not green. And it's Lorelai," she smiled easily at the young man.
"Lorelai, tea, coffee?" Jess asked, his eyes briefly stopping on the pot that some fifteen minutes before was a witness of a certain event that he would gladly ponder on, but the current circumstances didn't let him.
"Oh, has my daughter taught you nothing?" Lorelai scoffed. "Never even offer tea to a Gilmore, it's insulting to our taste buds," she answered exaggeratingly.
Rory's eyes narrowed on her mother. "She'll have coffee. Mom, let me show you where the bathroom is first."
The elder Gilmore eyed her daughter with slight confusion but she followed her out of the kitchen.
"Okay, Mom, what's with the Emily treatment?" Rory asked incredulously, her eyes wide. "I was half expecting you to add 'young man' at the end of that sentence."
"Oh, please. No Emily treatment, I'm just trying to back you up."
"Treatment of jerks of the world. In this case Jess. You don't like him, so I don't like him either."
"Mom, he might be a jerk, but I," she considered her words for a second, "don't not like him. I certainly don't want you to be mean to him," she finished firmly, but it didn't seem to make an impression on her mother.
"Rory, honey, he offered me tea."
"Mom, please, think about Luke," she switched to a more pleading tone. Jess is pretty much the closest family he's got, it would be awful if the two of you hated each other."
Lorelai sighed. "Ah, I hate it when you're right."
"So you'll stop this ridiculous being mean thing?"
"I'll try. I must say, it did come naturally, just as you said. You sure you don't hate him?"
"Okay. That's good, I suppose, because come December 28th you'll have to be making out, being the maid of honour and the best man and all."
"Ugh," Rory stuttered, tucking her hair behind her ear in a nervous gesture. "We'll see about that."
"And while we're at the subject of the wedding, guess what?"
"I have finally decided what kind of skirt my dress should have. Isn't that exciting?"
"I actually liked Funny Face better," Matt declared, passing Lorelai ketchup.
"Thanks. Yes, but then, if you have to choose between Fred Astaire and William Holden-" Lorelai trailed off, taking a bite.
"I'm afraid I wouldn't know," Matthew replied with a smirk.
"You have to take my word then. This," she pointed the fork at her plate, "this is amazing. Rory, marry him, would you? He cooks and he's seen most of Audrey's movies. I would marry him if there already wasn't a queue to me," she finished, nudging Luke with her elbow and sending him a sweet smile to receive a slightly amused one in return.
Watching the exchange, Rory grinned while Jess frowned. "We can adopt him instead," Rory laughed.
Then the door to the apartment opened and Chris stepped in, carrying a box presumably full of food. Greetings and introductions began, followed by a dozen of questions about why he came back so early (Aunt Augustine who liked to pinch his cheeks showed up so he had to evacuate), how long did Lorelai and Luke's drive take (four hours and twenty five minutes), and what happened at Truncheon since the previous night when he talked to Matthew (nothing at all).
Chris joined them at the table, requesting that Rory scooted over so there would be space for him too, and she did as she was asked, suddenly finding herself in very close proximity to Jess. They locked gazes for one very awkward moment, ending with her licking her lips and turning her eyes to her plate, examining her omlette like she'd never seen anything of the kind before. Accidently or not, Jess's hand brushed against her leg under the table and she felt blood rush towards her face. She attacked her food with even more fervour, not daring to look up and see if anyone noticed the change of her demeanour.
Soon, the conversation at the table shifted towards the touristic sites in Philadelphia, with Matthew generously sharing facts and opinions, Chris chiming in constantly, Lorelai reminiscing about her catastrophic visit to the city with Emily and Richard in '83 and even Luke grunting every now and again. The two who didn't participate in the heated conversation weren't really noticed as they sat side by side, both wishing very hard that the remaining four would disappear and they could talk; or at least that something changed around the table so they wouldn't have to sit right next to each other, thinking about the fact that a mere hour earlier they were in that kitchen blissfully alone.
Sometime later, Lorelai declared that she simply couldn't wait any longer to see Rory's apartment, so it was decided that the girls would walk over there and Luke would join them in a couple of hours. As Lorelai proceeded to exchange parting lines with Chris and Matt, her new favourite person in the world, Rory, in the corner by the door, was lacing up her shoes.
"Hey," came a whisper from above, and she raised her head to see Jess standing next to her with his hands in his pockets, clearly trying to look casual. She stood up, shaking off invisible dust off her jeans and gave him a questionable look. "Call me when they're gone, huh?"
She hesitated for a second, suddenly struck with how much she could see in those brown eyes, until she managed to nod, and then she almost ran out of the apartment, because those eyes, she realised for the first time, hid a warm smile that was just for her.
"You what?" Lorelai screeched an hour later, almost spilling coffee all over Rory's sofa, making her daughter wince.
"We kissed," Rory repeated.
"Mom, do I have to explain this to you? When a girl and a boy like each other..."
"Okay, okay, I don't want to hear it! It's just, you spent two weeks telling me what a jerk he is, kid, and now you're kissing him all of the sudden, I'm just surprised."
"I'm not kissing him, it was just a kiss. Well, two, technically," she mumbled, more to herself. "It just turns out that all the jerkiness was kind of... our way of, you know. Flirting."
"And you were really that oblivious to it?"
"Yes, I was."
"I am ashamed, loin fruit."
"Hello? Do you want me to bring up you and Luke and your years of denial?"
"No, thank you. This Jess kid still looks like trouble to me. Besides, believe me, I made Luke dig up some old pictures just the other day and he found only one of Jess, when he was around six-months-old, and let me tell you, he was a very chubby baby."
"Aw, really?" Rory grinned.
"Stop it! You're not supposed to find a guy's baby pictures endearing until you are years into a relationship."
"You're making this up. Were his eyes already dark?" she added, beginning to enjoy her mother's discomfort.
"I don't know, I was too busy melting over how cute 22-year-old Luke with a baby in his arms was. And speaking of, you know that once Luke and I get married, you guys are going to be, like, cousins!" Lorelai exclaimed exaggeratedly.
"Step," Rory corrected. "Mom," she sighed. "Please don't spoil it for me."
Lorelai exhaled a dramatic sigh of her own.
"I'm just worried about you, Rory. You are far, far away from mommy, and you've only known this guy for two weeks," she pointed out. "...The kiss was good, I take it," she added as an afterthought, receiving a mumbled reply from her daughter. "What was that?"
"Understatement," Rory said, a light blush covering her face.
Lorelai shook her head. "But you do realise that even the greatest kisses don't necessarily mean a good relationship."
"Of course I do. And, Mom, I don't even know if there will be any relationship out of it. Maybe we'll just-"
"Rory, if you are even considering a casual fling with this guy, I swear, I will have to pull out the Mom Card, dusty as it is. I thought you've realised by now that you're not the casual kind of girl. And this is not someone you can just break up with and forget at any given moment, he's going to be in the extended family!"
"Mom! Mom, calm down, please. First of all, definitely no casual flings. Second of all, what you're saying is kind of freaking me out, but I... I guess I want to give this thing a chance. I know I haven't known him long but we've hung out a lot and... Well, actually we fought most of the time."
"Then why, Rory? Was it the kiss?" Lorelai pushed, keeping her voice soft though, more concerned about than upset with her daughter.
"Yes. No," Rory stuttered. "It's more than that," she said finally, frantically waving her arms, making her mother stop mid-motion.
"Oh boy. You're in love with him," she declared with a deflated expression.
"What?" Rory laughed. "That's ridi-culous," she finished the word slowly, her face falling and eyes widening. "I mean, you don't fall in love with someone in two weeks. And without really noticing. Please tell me it's ridiculous," she finished, looking at Lorelai with an expression of a confused little girl.
"Not really, no. He reads, he writes, he bickers with you constantly, he's... I guess I can see why you would be. Doesn't mean I like it."
"I... I don't know about all... this."
"Take your time to figure it out. Just don't you dare come home with any new ring on your finger."
"I'm in Philly, not in Vegas."
"Away from me, that's what counts."
"You're scarily dependant on me," she said grouchily, still tryint to process what her mother just told her.
"Not at all, daughter dearest. Can I tell Luke about this? Because we have this pact about not keeping secrets."
"I know. But ... can you at least wait until I figure this out? And maybe see what Jess's reaction to all this is?"
"Well, I guess I'll have to Scotch tape my mouth."
"I'm sure you can do without it."
"You seriously overestimate your mother, kid. It's like that incident when you were four and you wanted me to bake cookies for you all over again. Just promise me you'll be very careful and you'll keep me updated."
"Good. Now can we move on to another topic? Because I've been dying to tell you about what did Kirk on Friday."
"Ooh, I'm all ears..."
After Lorelai and Luke's rather sudden departure, complete with an extended hug and a vague yet inappropriate joke from her mother, Rory sat herself down on her couch, with the phone close witin reach. She fumbled with it for some ten minutes, trying to decide how to proceed, what she wanted to say to Jess, or what she actually wanted, period. Having failed to reach any definite conclusions, she anxiously dialled, realising that her heartbeat was unusually quick for a person who had mostly just been sitting for the past few hours.
She was lucky enough that when Chris answered the phone, he did so while eating, so he didn't ask any questions when she asked him to pass the phone to Jess.
"Hey," came his voice from the other end of the line.
"Interesting day, huh?"
"Feels like some very elaborate nightmare sequence to me."
"Nightmare you say?"
"Well, not... not all of it. It's just been chaotic and confusing."
"Better. Look, Rory, these two are trying to listen in, can we meet?"
"Yeah. Do you know where Rittenhouse Square is?"
"I've walked through there, yes."
"Good. Meet me there in half an hour."
"Uh... I don't know, Jess, it looks like it might rain."
"Consult your Hollywood, Gilmore, rain's romantic," he told her sarcastically. "Besides, I look darn good with my hair all wet."
Her jaw dropped open, half in amusement and half in disbelief. She shook her head. "Don't make me have second thoughts about meeting you in the first place," she told him sternly, despite a smile creeping onto her lips.
"Rory, come on," he said, but with none of the previous mocking; in fact, his voice was almost pleading, and she had to cover her mouth, because she was pretty sure she was just about to pathetically whimper.
"9.30 then?" she asked quietly.
"By the pool."
"Okay. See you there."
The evening was sultry and begging for rain, but the small park created an oasis of sorts; it was completely still despite the chatter from nearby restaurants; with the smell of freshly mowed grass filling the air.
When Rory arrived, Jess was already sitting on a bench with a book in front of his face, tilting it so it would catch some light. She approached him slowly and sat down next to him, responding to his smirk with her own, slightly self-conscious one.
"Do you want to be blind by the time you're thirty?" she asked as he closed his book with a small thud.
"Seriously?" she asked with genuine curiosity.
"Sort of. I can't see shit in the distance," he explained lazily, putting one hand in his pocket.
Immediately, Rory got a little less tense too, and rested her own back against the back of the bench. Then she said teasingly, "Rephrase that for me, please?"
He only responded with giving her a good-natured eye roll.
They were silent for the next few moments, both looking ahead, both pretending to be buried in their own thoughts while in fact they were hyper-sensitive to each other's every little movement.
Rory, moreover, had Lorelai's words still ringing in her head, and she was the one who could not stand any more of the silence.
"What were you about to say when Matt came in?" she finally broke it, still looking ahead, her voice on the verge of shaking with the tension.
Jess stole a quick glance at her, she could feel it, before his eyes returned to a spot in front of him. She fidgeted with her sleeves while he remained silent.
"That I'm not messing with you," he admitted after a few long seconds, making her hands freeze mid-movement while her head turned sharply to get a look at him. "... As opposed to what you said yesterday in the gallery," he added. "You, however, Miss Mixed Signals... what am I supposed to think here?"
She gaped at him, like a fish lacking water. "You think I've been messing with you?"
"Well, when you're sitting here and fidgeting like that, no. But when... Have you read Slam?"
"By Nick Hornby?"
"Yeah," he confirmed and she nodded, too befuddled to add anything else. "That kid says something there. 'Sometimes you know you have a chance with a girl because she wants to fight with you' or something to that effect. True?"
"... I guess," Rory admitted, feeling heat spreading over her cheeks.
"Good," Jess smirked. "I thought it applied in this situation, but then sometimes your hatred towards me seems so genuine that I really think it'd be better if I pissed off."
"Jess, I don't hate you-" she said hastily before the first drop of rain fell on her forehead. When she felt the next few, she meaningfully cleared her throat before continuing. "I... I kind of wanted to, I suppose, but it's not really working for me. And believe me, I'm confused too, so if I've been sending mixed signals, it really wasn't intentional. It's just that... denial and I have always been very close friends. I can't really help it."
"Okay," he complied with what seemed to be a held back smile.
"Okay?" she watched him wide-eyed.
"Yeah. So what now?"
"Now it's drizzling and it couldn't be any less romantic," she scoffed. "In movies it never drizzles. It always pours straight away."
"Another Hollywood lie," he smirked. "And don't change the subject."
"I uh... are you saying you want to date?" she asked, feeling like a complete and utter idiot.
"Other options include stopping seeing each other altogether, which won't work seeing as my roommates adore you and we're about to be bound by family ties, or starting to have casual sex, which wouldn't work for the reasons stated above and more," he recited confidently, clearly enjoying himself.
"Oh, so now dating you is my only option?" she asked, fighting a laugh.
"Looks that way."
"But... I mean, won't we kill each other?"
"Now that we've discovered the way of easing the tension, I don't think so," he chuckled lightly, making her roll her eyes and flush further in the semi-darkness.
She wanted to think and ponder on it but she found she couldn't; her mind seemed to be filled with static noise as his hand travelled across the bench towards her, and she blurted the first thing that rolled off her tongue. "Let's just stay here for a while." She nervously took a loose strand of her hair and tucked it behind her ear. "At least until your hair gets all wet," she dared to joke, a grin appearing on her lips.
He chuckled at that and his hand finally touched her elbow, softly tugging her to make her move closer. She did, although coyly, until their knees were touching.
"Awkward choice of activity, wasn't it?" Rory spoke nervously after a moment of silence.
"Rory," he spoke at the same time.
"You do realise that this thing with Morrissey and The Smiths is gonna be a problem?"
For a few seconds she looked at him incredulously, before what he said actually registered and she smiled. "I'll make you like them eventually."
"No, you won't. But you know, there is actually one song of theirs that I like."
"Really? Which one?"
"Please Let Me Get What I Want. But only the cover by Muse."
"I can live with that," she grinned, somehow mere centimetres away from him now. He opened his mouth, about to reply, but then changed his mind, and only pulled her closer.
Before his lips crushed to hers, Rory had one last fleeting thought, that it was a strangely apposite song to mention.
And then there was nothing but Jess, rain and sweet, sweet abandon.