Regrets and Reason

Author: Buffychick

Disclaimer: This is AU, so don't complain that it veers from canon. It's supposed to.

Summary: Set during "Nag Hammadi is Where They Found the Gnostic Gospels." Jess has stunned Rory with his declaration of love, but things go differently this time around.

Feedback: Yes please! It will keep me writing if nothing else.

Rating: At the moment it's tame, but I make no promises at all that it will remain that way.

When Rory was angry, the color of her eyes darkened from their normal light, crystal blue to a stormy ice gray that reminded him of the color of the ocean during a storm. And that was as poetic as Jess cared to ever be, but having now witnessed storms over the ocean on both sides of the continent he felt he had a good frame of reference and the comparison was accurate.

He found himself staring into the storm at this very moment.

Rory stared at the man before her in shock. "You can't be serious."

Coffee colored eyes looked back at her, impatient. "Will you talk to me now?"

Female temper emerged. "I have nothing to say to you."

"Then just listen," he requested gruffly and plunged ahead, knowing if he didn't he'd never get this out. "I wanted to tell you I'm sorry."

Her arms folded over her chest. "I don't care."

Jess glanced around them, at the silent Stars Hollow night and sighed heavily, "Can I come in?"

Outrage filled her face. "What? No!"

"Rory, please. I need to talk to you," he all but begged, and she wildly though it was the first time he'd ever asked so nicely, or used the word please.

Hesitation played over her pretty features. "I think you said enough before. Or, no, actually, you didn't, but instead of giving me a chance to respond, you left. So…so I'm doing the same," she declared, and shut the door in his face.

She retreated to the couch and Lorelei looked up, sympathy on her face. "James Dean?

"I wish," Rory said grumpily, flopping down on the couch, arms crossed.

"What did he want?" her mother wanted to know.

"I don't know. To talk. I said no."

Her daughter looked miserable. "You look miserable."

"I'm just…frustrated," Rory blew out a breath. "Mad. You don't drop a bomb on someone like that and then drive off without another word."

Lorelei nodded. "You're right. You don't."

"And it's not like it's the first time he's done it!"

"It's not?" Lorelei cried, confused. "He's told you he loves you before?"

"No," Rory continued impatiently. "But he's been avoiding me since he got here. Running away, so blatantly rude, every time he runs into me like I did something wrong. He's the one who left town. He's the one who didn't talk to me. He's the one who didn't call or write, and it's been a months and months and he acts like I'm the one who should be apologizing and it's a surprise that I don't want to talk to him!"

Lorelei got up and peeked behind the curtain. "He's still out there."

"What?" Rory asked, shocked, eyes wide as she turned to her mother.

"He's either staging a sit-in or his car won't start."

"Unbelievable!" Rory cried, rising to join her mother at the window. It had started to snow and Jess sat on their steps, burrowed under his hoodie and leather jacket, shivering. "I'm going to…ooooh…I'm going to just – wait, no. No." She calmed herself, taking a breath. "Fine. It's freezing outside. If he wants to sit out there and turn into an icicle, then fine! I don't care. Let him get hyperthermia."

Lorelei raised an eyebrow in amusement. "You're awful riled up for someone who doesn't care."

"This," Rory cried, tucking her chin-length hair behind her ears, "is not riled up. I'm mad that he's being such a jerk. Any sane person would see that."

"Okay," Lorelei said calmly before a small grin snuck over her face.

"What?" Rory demanded, and turned back to face the window, her mother standing behind her.

"Okay…" she began, wrapping her arms around her daughter's waist and tucking her chin over Rory's shoulder, watching the boy sitting outside in the falling snow. "I can't believe I'm about to say this. Maybe this is some kind of stroke I'm having, let's keep that in mind as a definite possibility, but…Jess has so many problems, we know this. And I am not clambering to head up his fan club in this lifetime or the next. But it's kind of cute. He might be a jerk and have no social skills, but that boy is head over heels for you. He's so scared of it, it's almost funny."

Rory's mouth fell open. "What?"

Lorelei gazed out the window, and softly said, "He is not my favorite person. This is an established fact. Our conversation from earlier today didn't help anything. But after what happened tonight…I think I understand him a little better. Jess has a lot of growing up to do. And loving you scares the living crap out of him. He can't deal with it, so he bails."

"Are you defending him?" Rory hissed pulling away from her mother.

Lorelei rolled her eyes. "No," she said vehemently, and gestured over to the couch, where they sat, knee to knee. "I'm not. I'm just saying… People do it all the time. Get scared and run away. You did it to Jess, if I recall, kissing him and going to Washington? And I did it to Max."

"That wasn't the same."

"It wasn't?" Lorelei countered. "He proposed, I wigged, we left town. Sounds the same to me."

"Mom, you didn't leave for months. You left for a long weekend. I left for, well, months," she admitted, but I was…"

"Scared. Confused. Unsure?" Lorelei prompted.

"I explained that to him and we started going out. He understood. And with Max, we came back."

"Well, yeah," admitted Lorelei, "But we have roots here. Jobs, school. Jess had none of that. Luke was furious with him, he'd flunked out of school, he couldn't take you to the Prom and he knew how much you wanted to go. Jess could bail and not look back, not unless he wanted to."

"He went across the country. Literally as far as he could go and still be in the contiguous United States," Rory pointed out.

Lorelei nodded. "Yup. He did. To his father, who told him he couldn't stay."

Rory's mouth fell open again. "What? How-how do you know that?"

"Luke," Lorelei said simply. "Jess' dad called and told Luke what happened. Gave him a heads up that he told Jess he couldn't stay. Luke says it's the first and only decent thing Jess' dad has ever done, but he figured Jess might head back here eventually."

"But…he came here looking for Jess, he's the one who found Jess in the first place," Rory said, outraged and confused.

"All true," Lorelei nodded. "He came here, made contact, and then took off again. Guess that's where Jess learned it," she said with a rueful smile.

Rory's resolve crumbled. "That's…awful. Why didn't you tell me?"

"I didn't know it was ever going to matter, Ror," her mother said honestly.

Rory gazed at her mother suspiciously. "You hate Jess."

"With a lot of my body, heart and mind, yes," Lorelei nodded. "I think he treats people like they're disposable and only thinks about himself."

"But you feel bad for him."

Lorelei shrugged. "I know why I ran when I decided I couldn't marry Max. I was intimate with that completely freaked feeling inside." She threw a glance toward the front door. "I'm not saying I want you to run off with him or date him, or even have coffee with him. No, he doesn't deserve a second or thirtieth chance."

"But," Rory prompted.

"No buts."

Rory gave her mother a look. "Every part of that last sentence had a 'but' behind it."

"Aren't you in the least bit curious to see what he has to say?"

"I'm pretty sure it's just going to hurt me."

"Will you be able to sleep at night not knowing?"

Rory gave her mother a telling look. "Will you be able to sleep at night not knowing?"

Lorelei grinned. "Ah, yes, but that is what Mr. Smirnoff is for. Unfortunately, being underage, that's not an option I'm bound to give you."

Rory contemplated for a moment, then stood up. "I don't think I want to know," she told her mother. "I'm going to bed." She turned and walked to her bedroom, shutting the door behind her.

Lorelei watched her go with sympathy on her face. Flipping off the TV, she spared a glance at the front door before heading upstairs to her own bedroom.

The sound of the car door slamming woke her from an admittedly restless night of sleep. Her eyes were instantly open, and her first thought was Jess.

She crept up in the bed and peeked out the window. His car was still there? A look at the clock told her it was 12:17 in the morning.

Whatever. Fine. He finally got tired of waiting, freezing his butt off outside, and was leaving. Good. About time.

Fifteen minutes later, lying in her bed staring wide-eyed at the ceiling, she cursed. His car had never started. It was still sitting in her driveway, silent as the snow that fell outside.

She flung back the covers on her bed, flipped on her bedside light and angrily shoved her feet into the first pair of shoes she could find. Yanking her door open she stomped down the hall, grabbing her coat off the rack next to the door and flinging open the front door.

The snow got inside her shoes but she didn't care. Marching outside she peered into the car. No one was in the driver's seat. Glancing into the back she saw Jess, lying on the seat huddled under his jacket and a moving blanket.

Rory's mouth formed a terse frown. She pounded on the window furiously, scaring the crap out of the boy inside. "Jesus!" he cried, struggling to sit up.

He opened the door. "What are you doing?" she hissed at him.

"What am I doing? Get back inside, it's freezing out here," he bit out at her.

"Why are you still here? Why are you here at all?"

He stared at her. "I need to talk to you."

"You tried that. It mostly involves you leaving. A lot."

"I…I know. But I need to talk to you."

Rory stared at him for a moment before dropping her arms and looking around her yard helplessly. "What can you possibly have to say that you haven't already said?"

Jess glanced toward the house. "I—can we go inside?"

Her body sagged, feeling overwhelmingly defeated. "Seriously?"

"It's either that or stay out here and freeze," he told her pragmatically. "The moving blanket only offers you so much."

Closing her eyes briefly, she turned around and walked back into the house. Jess followed hesitantly wondering if he hadn't, in fact, lost his damned mind.