A/N: I recently discovered something epic in ffnet (private messaging), which, I've been informed, has been here for ages. I fail, yes. All replies to your awesome reviews will go to your inbox for shorter author's notes. Who reads ANs anyway, am I right? As for BlueOwlGrey (no PM, how come?), I channeled the emotions in that chapter from my own heartache. I loved how it kind of reminded you of yours.
Ugh, this story is becoming too long for me. This was supposed to be a three-parter with this being the last, buuuuuuut I just had to add a flashback chapter and prolong the story to further torture myself. I hope, for all our sakes, that I eventually finish this. And I scrapped a previous version (again!) because Rory's POV just didn't do it for me. I swear I'm driving myself to insanity.
Disclaimer: If Gilmore Girls was mine, I would've done things differently.
No Other Way
Chapter 3: Bukowski
Another chance to screw it up. Another chance to make it right.
'little dark girl with kind eyes
when it comes time to
use the knife
I won't flinch and
I won't blame you,
I will remember the kisses
our lips raw with love
and how you gave me
everything you had
and how I
offered you what was left of me,
our bodies spilled together
the tiny flowing currents
immediate and forever
your leg my leg
your arm my arm
your smile and the warmth
who made me laugh again.
little dark girl with kind eyes
you have no knife.
the knife is
mine and I won't use it
There's this scene in "(500) Days of Summer" where, after sleeping with Summer for the first time, Ted (our hero) walks out into the streets of L.A. surrounded by a crowd wearing nothing but blue clothes. They get crazy with an overly-happy song and some cheesy dancing. For the rest of the movie, however, blue is a color reserved only for Summer, the love interest with, yup you guessed it, blue eyes.
God, he hated that movie.
He did, however, love the blue scene. For obvious reasons.
He leaned casually against the doorframe as another pair of blue eyes regarded his brown ones. "You should've just let me pick you up."
Damn. Did that sound too date-ish?
She blinked, her long, dark lashes fluttering down and up. Zooey D had nothing against Rory, really. He could go on and on about how Rory looked infinitely perfect compared to Summer. He could write a whole book out of it.
"Oh, it's fine. I wanted to come over anyway. The classics section needs more browsing."
But yeah, he wasn't done with his book yet so…
Christ, all this thinking was going to drive him insane one day.
"Knock yourself out. I'll, uh-" he gestured toward the back where a manuscript was waiting to be edited. "Finish something."
But she'd already bounded toward their favorite section.
He shook his head with a tiny smile, then, headed for his makeshift office.
"Find anything interesting?"
Shining blue eyes (again, with the blue) and a bright smile met him as she held a thick hardbound, front cover facing him.
"The Holy Barbarians. Nice. But you already have that."
Puffs of air escaped her pursed lips. "I think I lent it to someone and it never found its way home."
"That sucks," he agreed.
"It's too bad, really. You had a lot of margin notes in there." Her cheeks reddened adorably as she characteristically rushed into more conversation to hide her embarrassment. "I was trying to find a Kerouac book before you came. Kerouac always comes to mind when we talk. Paris even refers to you as 'Jack' sometimes. I'm not really sure if it's just a joke. Anyway, a book of his you can recommend? With more prose?"
He rapped his knuckles against the wood in thought. "Ah, I got it." Fingers ran across several spines before stopping at one and pulling it out. "The Subterraneans. Depressing love story within the artists' circle. Rambling sentences full of purple prose and minimal periods."
"Sounds perfect. Thanks."
"And might I suggest something?"
"Wow, you're really living the sales talk. I've already spent more money here than at a Barnes and Noble."
He wisely ignored her crack, and handed her a thick paperback. "Matthew came across this book of Bukowski, since you're planning on rereading him. It's all poems, but it's really good. You'll like it."
"Thanks." She flipped it open and picked a random page.
"The goldfish sing all night with guitars,
and the whores go down with the stars,
the whores go down with the stars."
An eyebrow raised at him.
He laughed lightly. "Hand it over."
She complied. His eyes browsed down the table of contents until he found something he liked. His fingers turned the pages until he reached the one he was looking for.
"there's a bluebird in my heart that
wants to get out
but I'm too tough for him,
I say, stay in there, I'm not going
to let anybody see
Her cheeks turned red, much like every other time he read her poetry she liked.
"So?" he inquired as if it wasn't obvious.
She smiled through her blush, reaching for the newly appreciated book. "I'll give it a second chance."
"Yo Jess! Phone call," called Matthew.
"Coming," he answered as Matthew appeared from behind a shelf. "Could you punch these in?" he asked, pointing to Rory's books.
"Sure." Matthew led Rory to the counter, while he strolled to their makeshift office in the back where the phone was.
"'Lo," he mumbled into the mouthpiece, fingers tugging at dark hair.
"Jess, hi," answered a gruff voice that took him miles away – to a small diner feeding a town-full of crazies. Fuzzy background noise consisted of a female voice, possibly Lane, arguing with someone, clanging of pots and pans, and Kirk enunciating. Was he reciting the Pledge of Allegiance?
He shook his head.
"Luke," he acknowledged.
"How are things?"
"Good." He paused. "My second book's still stuck, though," he added as a compromise. Luke hated monosyllable Jess. Actually, everyone he knew hated monosyllable Jess except maybe Liz – if she was drunk, because, then, she loved him.
"That's too bad," he sighed. "Listen."
"I was talking to Lorelai earlier. She mentioned the Obama campaign trail being in Philadelphia."
He didn't even bother to be casual, the ass. It was obvious whom he was referring to.
"It is. Obama has a speech tomorrow at nine. After that, they're leaving for Pittsburg for a rally."
"Oh. You got that from the internet?"
"Nah. A certain internet column writer might have told me."
That silenced him for a few seconds. Jess mildly considered the possibility that he had dropped the phone in shock.
"Luke?" he checked.
"She's there? Rory?"
He peeked out the door to spy a flash of pale blue cotton and dark brown hair near the counter. "Yeah. She's here."
"What's she doing there, Jess?"
"Buying a book. Well, books, if we're being accurate."
"Jess," he huffed. Though miles apart, Jess could almost see his eyebrows knitting together in exasperation.
"I don't know," he sighed. "She was here yesterday and we went out for some coffee. We're having dinner later."
"You're what? Jess, she's single."
"For a year," he reminded Luke. "I know. Richie Rich left her on her graduation day."
"Exactly. And you're single. You know this is a bad idea."
He exhaled in frustration. Partly confusion. "We're fixing this, okay?"
"By taking her to dinner? How is this fixing?"
"Listen, you and Lorelai are doing really well. Someday, you'll ask her to marry you because you'd rather burn all your baseball caps than be proposed to like a girl a second time. Then, I'm betting my life, because I'm just that sure, that she's making Rory her bridesmaid. Since you hate me less, as proven by this long-distance call, you're inviting me to said lovely wedding."
Luke snorted. "Who said I'd invite you?"
"So, " he pressed on, "in front of every prying pair of eyes in Stars Hollow, not to mention Emily Gilmore, we'll be forced to interact without killing each other."
"You've thought this through."
"Maybe she came to sign a peace treaty, I don't know. All I know is she's here. Now. We had coffee because we wanted to catch up. I asked her to dinner because I wanted her to know this was okay. We're okay. So stop worrying."
"Okay," he finally answered after a long pause. "But be careful."
"Luke, I won't hurt her, if that's what's eating at you."
"It's not her, Jess. I've seen what she's done to you. You're doing so well now."
He rolled his eyes. What the hell? Rory was right. Luke had gone soft. "Well, this chat has been nice, but I gotta go. Thanks, Uncle Luke."
"Alright," he conceded. "Bye Jess."
Weird. Though he couldn't stop smiling at the unexpected concern from his uncle.
Rory met him at the door with her purchases pressed against her chest and a twinkle in her eyes. "Matthew wants you to know how you brainwashed me into liking Beat."
He shrugged at his brunette friend. "Sorry man. No brainwashing involved. Rory's 100% weird."
"Hey!" she protested with a cry.
Matthew's amused laugh rang out. "I think I'm beginning to understand the allure, but maybe it's just her way of persuading with pretty words. Go ahead man. I'll close up. Nice talking to you, Rory."
"You too, Matt," she returned with a smile.
Matthew gave the two a small wave before returning to his previous activity of counting cash from register. Jess couldn't ignore the smug grin on his face – like he figured out something important.
Something that probably involved a certain Gilmore girl.
"He let you call him Matt. He hates being called Matt. Nearly took Chris' eye out with a fork after he called him that the first time."
She smirked at him, and god, he loved how her mouth curved when she did it. "But Chris didn't smile like I did when he called him Matt. After that, I was pretty much free to call him whatever I wanted."
"You used the female charm card on the poor guy. Evil, evil woman," he accused her.
"That and the friendly card. He seems nice. Maybe a bit more tightly-wound than Chris."
"That's putting it mildly. He's the human version of Paris because your friend is clearly from outer space. And you're right. Chris is chill. And a shameless flirt, like your Jeremy."
"We're comparing friends. This is so cute!"
He rolled his eyes. "So," he said after they slid into his car and pulled out of his parking space. "What exactly did you talk about?"
Her gaze redirected from him toward the scene outside the window. Truthfully, he became a little worried. "Nothing much," she mumbled.
Already a seasoned liar at ten, he knew when someone was lying. From the choice of words (always the first sign) down to the tone of the voice. Little-miss-perfects always got the latter wrong.
"You know, your voice says it was big. Huge."
A quiet sigh escaped her lips. "You'll regret asking this."
"Try me, Gilmore."
"Catherine, Jess. We talked about Catherine."
"Hey Chris, can I ask you something?" he asked through a mouthful of toast.
Chris looked up from the thick bundle of sheets he was perusing to regard Jess with his spectacle-covered eyes. "Sure."
Matthew, casually sipping a cup of tea, listened on in interest.
"Does Catherine seem a bit too… perfect for you?"
"You know, too perfect to be human."
Matthew started to laugh at the idea he was getting from Jess' question.
Jess shot him a look that said he was not amused.
Chris just smiled serenely. "I get what you're saying. Readers prefer flawed people in the novels they read. Makes them relate to your characters easier. If you think your Catherine is too perfect, she probably is. Try thinking again, about your inspirations, those people you based her off on. You probably missed a few flaws. Dig up a few unhappy memories. It may help."
"Find those scraps of paper you wrote on after Rory left you for that Yale guy. What was his name?" Matthew asked.
"Logan," Jess responded dully.
"Yeah," Matthew affirmed with a nod. "That guy she wanted to cheat on with you, right?"
Matthew always had the big mouth. Like Chris had the big hair and Jess was… well, Jess. Damn Matthew. Didn't he get that some things just weren't his fucking business?
"Why haven't you finished it?"
So they were hitting the hard stuff tonight, huh? Seemed a bit early considering they only started reconnecting after a grand total of two years of silence for a mere 24 hours. He wasn't even done updating her on the status of Truncheon (Their bookstore was growing. They now published five books a year.), or how Jimmy was doing. Were they seriously going to talk about their past relationship now? Their mistakes? All those hurt feelings?
Stony silence answered her hesitant query. But the journalist he knew she had in her knew better than to give up. Though more stubborn than her usual interviewees, Marianos eventually gave up if prodded enough.
She touched his arm, causing him to stiffen. His long fingers curled tightly around the shift stick.
Or if they were touched like that, yeah. That usually worked too.
"I'm at a fork," he muttered, keeping his eyes on the road.
Two roads diverged in a yellow wood. Somehow, he always fucking took the road labeled "Rory."
"Part of me says it's time to write the end. Another part wants me to really finish it. But that requires more months holing up in my room to write several chapters of what I've yet to figure out."
"You talk to Matthew about your novel?"
"I ask him for advice sometimes. Actually, I ask Chris for advice. Matthew's just there."
He spared her a glance. "Matthew's the poet guy." Obviously.
"You talked to them about your plot problem?" she persisted. Jesus, a pesky journalist, this girl. "What did Chris say?"
"Says I should end it. Book critics these days prefer non-endings. It feeds the imagination of the readers, or whatever bullshit they're spouting."
"If you end it, Catherine walks away, right? And Emelio's left alone, like he was alone at the beginning. He goes back to his previous state and everything that happened will have done nothing."
"Wow, was I on the phone that long?" he sassed. They needed to return to neutral territory fast. Like Lily's boy troubles. Or Paris' adventures in med school. Or even Miss Patty. "Did he read you the whole manuscript?"
"He told me the important parts. Like how you started writing again when you got home last night."
He swore he was going to kill the idiot as soon as he got home. "Matthew clearly needs to learn when to shut up."
"It sounds unfinished if you end it like that. Like you're offering a sequel."
"No thanks. Maybe I'll just burn the whole thing."
"I think they deserve a real end."
"What do you know?" he finally exploded. Damn her and her all-knowing bullshit. Sure he wrote the story with her initially in mind. Sure Catherine was educated, sweet, ambitious and had the most amazing pair of eyes. Sure one didn't have to possess more than half a brain to figure out the story was theirs.
But it was more than that. It was more than her. It was him, strangers, enemies, not friends, beaches, fear, every damn book he had ever read, light rainfall, lonely nights, getting lost, rules and breaking them, honesty, love (though he was no poet), hate, apathy and oh the universe and everything in between.
Contrary to popular belief, his world did not revolve around her. This wasn't Stars fucking Hollow.
"I wrote the story, okay? It's mine. Emelio, Catherine, I created them in my head. They came from me. Stop pretending you know better, Rory, coz you don't. You don't know these characters!"
She smiled sadly as she turned once more toward the window. "But I do."
Their destination loomed ahead. He slowed down as the bitter taste of bile rose in his throat.
"We're here," he said through clenched teeth. He moved to open his door, but her hand on his arm again stopped him in his tracks
He tried to shake it off. But his movements were halfhearted. "Forget it Rory."
"I'm leaving tomorrow."
"Please, we've gone our separate ways on a bad note too many times. Yesterday was fun. Tonight's supposed to be Fun: Part Two. I was hoping we'd at least stay friends this time."
"Yeah, well you're not alone. But you had to go poking your head into the restricted area of conversation topics."
It was a dance they knew all too well. One of them would say something stupid, or would do something wrong, and a passionate verbal fight would ensue. The aftermath would be rumpled hair and a tightened jaw (for him), flushed cheeks (for her), and a pair of very battered feelings. One of them – usually him, though two years ago, it was surprisingly her – would storm out in the heat of it all to leave the other one in tears (or frustration in his case). Apologies only came after the little fights, like when he refused to tell her where he got the black eye from, or when she kept her friendship with Dean a secret from him.
But apologies from her were always sincere, and he always accepted them without question.
He blew out a shaky breath as his hand found its way to hers which was still clutching his other arm.
"She's not you. Catherine's not you. I made her to… personify all my frustrations, my failures, my regrets. You may be a part of her, but so are a million other things."
She squeezed his hand to thank him for the truce he offered in his explanation. "Okay. I understand."
And her big, watery, blue, blue eyes told him that she did.
He went on and on about the amazing pieces he had come across thanks to Truncheon and the opportunity it offered. People not unlike himself would come to him, beg him to give their writings a chance. He never thought reading so much books would be of good use in his future – familiarity with grammar, devices, themes, movement.
Previous dates never heard this particular rambling from him. They predictably would've gone glassy-eyed.
But Rory Gilmore fixed him with her most encouraging smile (she could be a guidance counselor with just that smile) and her genuine interest, and he was pretty much gone.
By the time the check was asked for, his throat hurt from talking so much. He told her this, and she grinned triumphantly in reply.
"You seem to have a very firm grasp of the English language."
Years of reading tends to do that to you.
"You put together several full sentences, even using a couple of words that contain two or more syllables."
A hard feat, trust me.
"And then my mother appears, and suddenly, we need a thought bubble above your head to understand what you're thinking. Can you tell me why that is?"
Because she's not you, Rory.
I can only be like that with you.
Dinner was good. The food was good. The service was good. The conversation was good.
The way her pale, blue dress brought out her eyes, however, elevated the 'good' to 'perfect.'
He remembered now why he initially thought (two days ago, before she charmed her way back into his life) that going out, even under the guise of friendship, with her was a bad idea.
Five years and more than a dozen failed dates later, he still hadn't gotten over Rory Gilmore.
And though it wasn't killing him anymore like he confidently declared to her after their coffee-and-conversation yesterday, it was causing him to openly stare at her while she rambled off into Kerouac-long sentences, milky skin glowing, be it from the soft lights of the restaurant, or under the pale moonlight.
A few words like "Wilde", "Cassady", a handful of other authors, structure-and-content and political themes, temporarily caught his attention, but this frightening realization played a much different conversation in his mind.
'I won't leave you this time. I don't love Logan anymore. We're both ready now. Please don't let me leave without trying…'
The shadow of her waving hand shook him out of his psychotic-esque, internal monologue.
"Are you still in there? Because I just insulted about half of your favorite writers and all you did was nod with that weird, scared look on your face."
"I'm sorry." He tried his best to look sheepish for her sake. "You completely lost me."
She gave him a mock-hurt look he'd seen on Lorelai a few years ago when Luke refused to give her coffee. He was only joking, of course.
"I'm boring you."
"No!" he denied, perhaps a bit too quickly, vehemently. "Sorry. I'm just really tired, Ror. Happy though," he added as he saw her face start to falter. "Tired and happy."
The smile returned – fully, this time. She pulled him by the arm toward an ice cream stand near her motel. "It's too early," she whined. "Let's eat ice cream and count the stars. Then, when we're done counting all of them, you can walk me back."
Her attempt to prolong their evening was not lost on him. He could play the game though. He had yet to figure out how to broach the topic of possibility of dating each other again.
"What if the sun rises and we're not yet done?"
"Then, we'll wait until it sets and continue from where we left off."
He bought two cones, because they both ate ice cream on cones and nowhere else. One rocky road and one plain chocolate. She led him to a bench across the street, at the entrance of a small park. Above them, the stars continued to twinkle.
"You know, I always ate ice cream in cones. Since the accident. It drove Lane crazy because we always had to buy cones whenever she and Zack had a huge fight and she wanted to pig out on ice cream."
He snorted into his cone. "I told you it's the only way to eat it."
"Mom just chalks it up to one of my many quirks. Nobody really knows why but you."
They shared a private smile at their private joke.
"Your turn. Tell me something, Jess."
Her tongue darted out to lick a marshmallow that sat precariously at the edge of her chocolate ice cream.
He swallowed the urge to kiss her then and there.
"Something nobody knows."
He thought for a second. "I've been scared only twice."
Her eyes widened disbelievingly. "No, really? When?"
"This swan attacked me at the lake in Stars Hollow. I know, a swan. It sounds stupid, but it went straight for my eye, and I swear to god, it would've pecked my eye out if I didn't get away fast enough."
She was trying hard not to laugh at first, but by the time he finished the story, she looked sincerely sympathetic.
"Were you bleeding?"
"Nah. Hurt like hell though."
"It sounds like a really bad horror movie."
"Seemed like it at the time." With Emily Gilmore as the scary monster in the end.
She squeezed his hand to comfort him. "So when was the second time you got scared?"
He knew nothing went past Rory Gilmore, though he still hoped she'd forget. His heart thudded painfully, not unlike the time when they both stood awkwardly by the gas pumps in quiet anticipation for what was about to come. The thought of lying didn't even occur to him.
"I don't see a swan," she whispered, though she made no show of looking at their surroundings to confirm this. She knew. She knew what he meant.
"Ready for my next secret?" he asked. She gave him no answer, but he tells her anyway.
Looking her straight in the eye, he croaked, "I'm ready."
She remained quiet.
"Four years ago, I said I was ready, but I wasn't. My stay in California taught me a lot about myself, my father, where I came from, but I was still the same, insecure, indecisive, irresponsible boy that left you. Two years ago, when I found a decent way to earn a living which I enjoyed doing, when I made new friends and created a new life, I thought I was ready for you for real. I wasn't. And neither were you. But now, I swear to you, I'm ready now. This might end horribly, and we might not speak to each other for another two years, but you have to know that I want to take a shot at us one more time."
Her eyes were wide as he spoke. Her mouth formed a small 'o' from shock. He hoped it wasn't from horror.
"Think about it, Ror. Just say you'll think about it."
He was begging, but he was way past humiliation. This was taking another chance at love because he only felt the slightest of it when she realized he came back from New York because of her and she kissed him for the first time, when she sobbed her goodbyes to him on her high school graduation (he should have been there) while he silently held the phone to his ear, and when she looked at him with pride as he showed her his first published novel.
He had yet to experience love as the poets described it – hope, forgiveness, unwavering, unconditional, promises, forever. And he just knew she was the only one who could (and by 'could,' he meant 'physically, emotionally, and spiritually capable of performing the action') give it to him.
Their scoops of ice cream were long gone before she found her voice to respond to his pleas.
"Walk me back, Jess," her mouth spoke. But her eyes held him a promise she had yet to verbalize.
He rested his hand on the small of her back, a familiar, long-ago gesture, and led her toward the motel across the street.
They were at the door within minutes. She wrapped her arms around his neck and urged him to draw closer.
He complied like a puppet with its strings being tugged.
"Dinner was good," she whispered.
"Dinner was great," he corrected her pointedly.
Her lips curved into a sweet smile. She pulled him closer.
"Good night, Jess."
"Good night, Rory," he breathed in her ear, earning a violent shiver from her. His lips brushed gently against her cheek, causing all blood to rush to her face. He whispered almost-kisses against flushed skin, leaving long, burning trails. He took his time – he was in no hurry – before pulling back. Dripping blue eyes met smoldering amber.
She was so close he could count the freckles on her pale nose.
"I need your help," he admitted seriously with intense gaze burning.
Her blush deepened in response.
"We always had similar literary tastes except for Hemmingway and Rand. But I've always trusted your judgment."
"As you know, I'm still deciding if I should," he nervously ran his fingers through dark, untamed hair, "just end my novel and give Emelio a life of misery."
His voice trailed of uncertainly, his eyes urging her to make him go on.
"Or?" she gasped.
"Or if I should continue, because… maybe you're right, they both deserve a real ending." His voice grew softer until it was barely a whisper. "What do you think should I do?"
She had seven freckles on her nose, five on her right cheek, and four on her left. Her eyes were azure, sometimes darker, almost a cobalt shade, with flecks of sliver that could only be seen if one was inches from her face. He had yet to be reacquainted with how her lips felt beneath his own, how her mouth tasted like. Two years was a long time.
"I-I think …" she bit her lip and frowned. "You already know what I think."
It was all the encouragement he needed. He smiled, one corner of his crooked mouth quirking upward, leaned close enough for their foreheads to touch.
Their eyelids simultaneously fluttered to a close.
'There's a bluebird in my heart that wants to get out, but I'm too tough for him. Little dark girl with kind eyes, please set it free. Please set me free.'
"Rory, I need to-"
"Do you want to come in?" she interrupted him.
He swore his racing heart just stopped. His fingers grazed her cheek to make sure this was real.
He breathed a sigh of relief, and followed her through the wide open door.