LITTLE VISIT 8: SUNDAY NIGHT

***

Rory had been very careful to keep the topics light and neutral throughout dinner, and especially during the drive to the bus depot. And the more she steered the conversation, the more Jess's insidiously confusing smirk grew. At first she'd thought the awkward conversation had been due to his state of discomfort. However, after some consideration, she was beginning to think it maybe had been due to hers. She'd have to relax around him or she really would ruin their friendship.

Now Rory pulled her car into a space outside the New Haven bus depot and they both stepped out onto the city street. The depot interior glowed fluorescent, in contrast to the darkening evening lit only by faint orangey streetlamps. Through the windows, she could see travellers lining up for first crack at good seats on a bus.

Rory came around to the curb where Jess waited, and they made their way to the entrance. Once there, Jess held the door open for her, his arm creating a bridge over her head that she was meant to slip though. Before she passed him, he leaned closer and breathed into her ear, "You're two for three now, you know."

He held her with his words. His arm didn't drop, but yet she felt they were playing some sexy version of London Bridges - and she was the one who was falling. She could so imagine him having kissed her earlobe just then. Why must he tempt me like this? she wondered.

"What?" she queried. Rory mustered the wherewithal to step out of his ensnaring gaze and into the building. Turning to face him, she crossed her arms in front of her and grabbed her elbows in an effort to stifle her chills. Jess followed her inside and, taking hold of her shoulders, he guided her off to the side of the entryway, in a corner between the main doors and another, less ostentatious, door marked "Staff".

"We've had three kisses," he explained, taking his hands off her shoulders and stepping back. "And you initiated two of them."

"Oh. Does that mean I'm winning?" she joked self-consciously and he smiled. This was the conversation she'd avoided. She felt queasy and her head was filled with cotton.

"Why'd you kiss me today at the bookstore?"

"What?" she squeaked. She'd heard him fine, she just needed a moment to collect her thoughts. She'd expected her intentions to have been obvious - painfully, embarrassingly obvious. "Jess, you know why."

"Not entirely. All afternoon, you've been acting like you regret it, but somehow I don't think you do."

A couple of station employees, laughing uproariously at some unheard tale, approached the door. Rory glanced at them awkwardly, suddenly reminded of the strangers milling around. It only added to her unease. She stepped closer to Jess in an effort to keep out of their way and they disappeared into the off-limits realm of the staff room.

He was asking her point blank. She could tell him if she weren't so scared. She could open her mouth and tell Jess how she felt about him. If only she had some advance warning as to what his reaction would be. "Well w-why don't you tell me what you do know and I'll tell you what's right?" Rory blurted.

He chuckled. "Well, the way I see it, there's two options," he said, considering. "Three actually. One, you were just really excited to find that book - let's face it, who wouldn't be?" Jess cocked his head to the side and continued in a playful manner. "And let's say that perhaps you're the type of person who just happens to show her excitement in abrupt fits of passion." He paused to smile at her laughter and placed his fingers on his chest. "And I - being the innocent bystander that I am - was at the right place, at the right time, and just happened to be the lucky fella on the receiving end of all that passion."

"Uh-huh…" She nodded in thoughtful silence, encouraging him to go on. Jess had called himself lucky, albeit off-handedly, and, for that, she'd be damned if she could not wipe the smile off her face.

"Or two…" he continued and his mocking tone became a little more serious, a little more timid. "I realize what's been going on here this weekend. You and I, we've been thrown together into a very intimate setting, and… Perhaps all the intimacy and innuendo just finally got the better of us, and threw us both into fits of passion."

"Or three…" she questioned, her heart beating forcibly.

"Or three…" he paused, a serious expression on his face. "Maybe you kissed me because, somewhere deep down inside, nestled in your overflowing closet of a subconscious mind, next to your secret - and completely founded - passion for Hemingway, you think of me, just a little," and a squinting Jess pinched his fingers for effect, "As more than a friend." Jess licked his lips in a nervous gesture and regarded her closely.

Rory was breathing heavily, an amazed, and no doubt dopey, smile gracing her parted lips. She was thrilled and a little bit frightened that Jess could read her emotions, and that he had the guts to call her on them.

She ignored the crack about Hemingway, probably her least favourite author, and focused on his final phrase: more than a friend. She'd tried to hide it, but, really, it was true. Jess was so much more to her than that. "That sounds about right, except for your assumptions about my subconscious."

"OK, so maybe I'm wrong about Hemingway… but… you do have feelings for me hidden somewhere in there, don't you?" Jess was looking at her with tentative concern. Suddenly, the subject no longer made her uncomfortable. Suddenly she was basking in Jess's warmth.

"No," she admitted finally, firmly, "Not in my subconscious. I'm fully aware of my feelings for you."

"Hm," came his staccato utterance, his expression wrapped in eyebrow-raising surprise and contemplation. "And those feelings would be...?"

She bit her lip and turned to stare towards a vending machine across the room. She was torn; she couldn't decide if it would be easier to admit her feelings for him if she were watching his face, or if she were not. "Seriously?" she began, choosing the latter. "I think we connect on so many different levels. You are my friend, but…" Rory peeked at his attentive expression. "Much more. I care about you a great deal."

As more travellers entered the establishment, letting brisk October air into the building, Jess pulled her farther into the corner. He didn't drop her hand. "Care care?" he teased, his eyes twinkling with mirth. Rory had to laugh.

"Care care."

"Good. I'd hate to think that I'm the only one in this relationship who feels that way." He squeezed her hand, and Rory took in a sharp breath of air. Jess felt the same way? This was all too good to be true. Any minute now, she'd wake up and find herself staring at Willy Wonka.

"Hey uh… Remember how we decided that yesterday was a date?" Jess intoned.

"Uh-huh."

"Well… would you say we're dating now?"

"Would you?"

He smirked. "Remember what I always tell you about not answering a question with a question?" he asked instead of answering her. They laughed; they were both aware of the inherent irony of his reply.

"Yeah," she came back easily, sarcasm colouring her own words. "Nothing. I always say that to you."

"Good," he smirked. "Well then, my dear Black Kettle, you know what I'm talking about."

Rory sighed in satisfaction. "To answer your question: Yes. I'd like to think we're dating," she said matter-of-factly.

Jess smiled and looked down at her shoes for a second before focussing on her eyes. "OK. Then that's what we'll say, if anybody asks."

Rory met his magical smile with one of her own. "OK. Then it's decided."

"We're dating."

"Yup."

"You know what?" he asked her.

"What?"

"You kissed me twice. I have this crazy urge to even the score," he drawled, punctuating his words with the slight jut of his neck.

"Really," she stated.

"Really." Jess took a tentative step towards her and softly gathered her in his arms. He was taking his time; enjoying her. When his free hand reached up, to cup her cheek and slowly guide her lips to his - when she felt the slight tremble of his fingertips against her skin - the commuters orbiting them were suddenly very quiet, no longer there at all.

Rory's entire world consisted of being enveloped by Jess's body: his broad shoulders before her, his firm hand at the small of her back, his fingers tickling her cheek with a light pressure. And his eyes… captivating her. Rory reached up to touch his shoulders, sliding her hands just above his pecs toward his collar bone, and that was when she noticed it: her fingers were trembling too.

Rory grasped his jacket collar as tightly as her electrified fingers would allow, and then ran her hands down the rough fabric of his open jacket. He was slowly drawing ever closer. At his lips' initial caress, she sighed again and slipped her arms inside the warm space between his jacket and the taut muscles of his back; wrapping her arms around him, delighting in the feel of his body. Rory nipped at his lips with her own, returning his tender manipulations in kind.

Minutes later, they stopped only when the obnoxious staff room door once again erupted, and large boxes were wheeled out. Rory jumped at the sudden ruckus behind her and Jess instantly tightened his grip on her, in her defense. Two pairs of hazy eyes turned to this latest intruder. The man who wheeled the boxes was almost as startled to find Jess and Rory there, as they were to discover their world was shared with other creatures.

It was only a momentary distraction.

When Jess caught her eyes again, he, wordlessly, caressed her cheek and returned to kissing her with a slow, steady rhythm. The two, as if by some unspoken agreement, simultaneously stepped closer to the wall, deeper into their own world.

Jess ran his palm down from her cheek to press it firmly against the middle of her upper back, forcing her chest up against his, while his other hand remained at her waist. Rory felt light-headed and breathless, not because he held her too tightly, but because, at the welcome insistence of his powerful embrace, she had taken in a great gulp of air and then held it too long. Jess's kisses were romantic and erotic, and Rory had forgotten all about non-essential things like breathing.

Yet another station employee burst out of the staff room, rudely but inadvertently interrupting. Sighing, the two of them relaxed their embrace now, but their faces remained close, Jess's look of chagrin meeting Rory's of sheepish amusement. "That door's busy," Jess said finally, rolling his eyes.

She murmured in agreement. "Should we stop?"

"Never." At his poignant reply, Rory placed her hands loosely at his neck and attempted to pull him down for one more kiss.

As they came closer again, she murmured, "You're amazing."

At the exact same moment, Jess uttered, "I've totally fallen for you."

"What?" she asked in delight, pulling back again, the kiss aborted. She was pretty sure she'd heard him correctly but she wanted to hear it again.

Jess grinned, calmly pushing a strand of hair back from her face, his eyes watching his fingers trace the strand's full length. Mischief burned in those eyes. "I totally love your shampoo," he enthused mockingly.

Rory laughed. "That wasn't what you said."

"I've… totally gotta buy some glue?" he tried again, grinning. At her disbelieving glance, he added, "Not gonna cut it, huh?" Her amused smirk and shaking head said no.

Smiling, Jess opened his mouth to speak and was interrupted again, this time not by a person in close proximity, but by the loudspeakers announcing the bus to Hartford would soon be departing. Comically, Jess turned his head searchingly skyward for a moment, as if the voice originated from some heavenly being. "Oh! That's my bus. Guess I should be going," he tried to change the subject.

"C'mon. What did you say?" she asked again sweetly.

"I've totally gotta bid you adieu?"

She laughed, reaching up to muss his hair as she had done that morning. "You are so saved by the bell."

"That's for sure." Jess smiled thoughtfully before continuing. "Rory… you know I'm just teasing, right? You heard what I said. I told you I've fallen for you, and I meant it.

"Seriously…" he went on. "I don't think you and I have ever been… just friends, you know? Not the way I feel anyway. I mean we are friends, but I never wanted it to stop there." He ran the back of his fingers down her cheek and then buried those fingers in the hair at the nape of her neck. "I'm so glad I don't have to hide it anymore. I'm so glad that, now, you can feel it too."

"Oh my God, Jess," she enunciated, feeling overwhelmed by his admission. "You know I feel it too. I think you knew it even before I did."

He snickered. "I think so too," came his acute reply.

"By the way, I'm glad you brought it up, cause I'm pretty sure I would have suppressed those emotions indefinitely."

"Oh I know. You're totally delusional."

Rory laughed. "I'll let that salty comment slide, since your lips are so sweet," she said, placing a hand on his cheek and running her thumb along his bottom lip. Jess's eyes momentarily eased themselves shut.

And then he sighed, gritting his teeth slightly. "Well… I guess I really should get on the bus this time." And, despairingly, Rory was reminded why they were standing in a bus depot on a Sunday night. Tonight Jess would be sleeping in his own bed back in Stars Hollow. Tomorrow she'd go to her classes and try not to let recent life-altering events distract her from her studies.

"It's true," she reluctantly agreed, her lips twisted into an easy, half-assed pout. "I've got a bunch of homework to do tonight. But, frankly, it sucks letting you go now. Now that I've finally figured everything out. I hope you'll come for another visit."

"I will. I hope, next time, it's not for such a short visit," he teased. "Like, maybe next time I'll bring a toothbrush. Who knows? Perhaps a change of clothes."

A weak giggle escaped her throat and she stepped back slightly to appraise him. "I don't know… bedraggled becomes you."

"Becomes me? I don't know about that. But at least it doesn't deter you from kissing me."

Rory smiled a bit. She would have laughed at his comment if she weren't experiencing a second wave of disappointment at him leaving. The visit had been much longer than anticipated, but as it turned out, it still hadn't been long enough. A lifetime wouldn't have been long enough, she thought irrationally. "I'll miss you," she said, steeling herself for the sarcastic remark that never came.

"I'm only an hour away," he replied seriously, with heartfelt reassurance.

"Oh. Right." Rory bashfully looked down at the industrial tiled floor, her lip just begging to be chewed and her teeth having no heart to deny her lip.

"My going home tonight is not going to change what happened here this weekend. I'm not gonna forget it or try to take it back."

"Me neither," she replied. Her eyes, still cast downward, squeezed shut at the power of her emotions.

Jess slipped an arm around her waist and gently pulled her body towards his again, his fingers instantly warming the small of her back. "And I'll miss you too," his deep voice rumbled, sending shockwaves through her. She raised her head slowly, her eyes trailing from the comfort of his chest, fluttering past his kissable lips, and finally catching the smouldering look of his own dark eyes. By those eyes she was struck with love.

"Your eyes are like coffee," she breathed, feeling herself willingly drawn into them.

"Coffee's an addiction."

"Precisely what I was saying."

***

FINIS

What can I say guys? Monday wasn't a holiday. ;)

Well, it's finally done. Please, please, please drop me a line to let me know what you thought of my story. What parts did you like, what parts did you not like? Specifics would be helpful.

And thank you so much for reading. :)