"Happy Valentine's Day," she whispers, placing a gentle kiss to his temple. He smells like cigarettes and soap; she like coffee and mint. Her hair brushes his jaw as she swipes forward for a kiss; the strands tickle his jaw and it's longer now than he can ever remember it being. Knowing that he's been there to watch it grow out makes something in him resonate contentedly.

He kisses her back, and it's just like it's always been- "Whatever else happens, at least we know that part works." Memories of a late-night sneak out, meeting at a deserted auto repair shop in another world, everything still new and mysterious.

She's still a mystery to him- as much as he knows he knows her, better than anyone, save that crazy mother of hers perhaps, she never fails to surprise him with her indefinable mix of sophisticated ingenue and airy, mischievous nymph. Sometimes he finds himself wondering if she's really real.

For her part, Rory is lost in his presence. His tender but sure lips, his warm hands on her hips, the small of her back, tangling through her hair. Only when they break gently apart and she's laying her head against his chest and listening close to his heartbeat does her mind stop spinning. Well, a little bit anyway.

"Jess?" she murmurs.

"Hm."

"…Nothing." And she burrows her head deeper into his embrace.

But he pulls away so as to steal a look in her eyes, and asks, "What?"

She dodges, almost shyly, "Nothing."

"Rory. Come on."

He can be as stubborn as she is sometimes. She's learned it's all about picking her battles- so she comes out with it. "How many February fourteenths does this make?"

He pauses, trying to guess where this is coming from, where it might be going. "Including the years apart?"

"No."

"So, then, four years this May." He waits her out, knowing there's more.

She pauses, leans in close, her forehead against his, a slow smile creeping up on her face. "And how many years as Jess and Rory Mariano?" she says conspiratorially.

He laughs at that, a good, genuine laugh- still rare with him, but less so since they've found their way back into each other's lives; since they've twisted their very selves together like shoelaces, never to come untied. Another version of wedding vows, almost.

He responds to her question, "I thought you weren't changing your name."

"Um, my mother would kill me, you know that. But you didn't answer- how many?"

Just like a little kid. He indulges her, "This'll be the first, Mrs. Mariano."

She squeals the tiniest bit, then snuggles even closer to him. God, she's happy. She believes he is to.

They lie quietly for a moment. The refrigerator hums in the other room; the soft light of the lamp from the bedside table bathes them in gold.

Rory takes a tiny turn toward the serious, asking him in a small voice, "This is legit, right? We're really doing this? Going to make it work?"

Questions like this used to ruffle him; irritate him like dry dust in his eyes, making them smart and water. But he's figured out a thing or two about this girl- his girl- till death do them part. She worries. She rationalizes. All the statistics on marriage and divorce file themselves away in her mind, and her mother's track record and her own abandonment issues, however well-hidden by the festivals and diner food and inside jokes of her childhood, still remain.

"Like Tim Gunn says Ror. We're gonna make it work."

"…You have got to stop watching that show. It's ruining your street cred."

Another laugh from him, deep and throaty, "And that right there is why we can never split up. Can't risk you telling the world about how much I like Project Runway."

"You only watch it to make me happy." But she's smiling again, so mission accomplished.

"Whatever it may take," he pauses. "Seriously, Rory. Whatever it takes- I'm in this. It's me and you. There's just nothing else that would ever work."

Like pieces of a puzzle.

And while Rory is all for talking, Jess has always been more about action. He makes an executive decision- time to find a less dialogue-filled way to spend their evening…

So he snakes his arm back around her and leans in for another elusive kiss.

Just as amazing as the first.


In case you've forgotten:

you tube dot com slash: "watch?v=sAWPOIEw0ow"

Happy Valentine's Day. :)