Disclaimer: I do not presume to own the likes of Gilmore Girls.
This one-shot is in answer to a challenge of DiehardJavaJunkie14's, which she's calling "Author, out of Water." The idea is to write something you're completely not used to doing. Anyone who's read my Gilmore Girls stuff knows that I have no problem jumping around.
But I haven't done Lit in a while, and I think it's because Jess is so hard to capture, truly. I hope this works, Java! (I did cheat a bit.)
The title is taken from Lifehouse's "Somewhere in Between," as is the quote at the beginning. I have also borrowed show quotes. As well, these are just little snapshots of Rory and Jess.
Now, I'm going to shut the hell up and let you read. Enjoy. Feedback is embraced.
Somewhere in Between
I can't be this unsteady.
The first time she thinks she loves him is when she's supposed to be in love with Dean. It's wrong, all wrong, she knows, but she can't help it. She is in love with Dean – beautiful, perfect, kind Dean. Dean who built her a car. Dean who made her a bracelet. Dean who sits through movie nights with her and Lorelai, Dean who lets her drag him into bookstores and holds every book she wants.
But she forgets Dean and remembers Jess (Jess who taunts her and is nice at the same time, Jess who left). She's a fool. A hopeless fool.
She kisses him and runs away. She welcomes him and tells him not to tell anyone. He crashes Sookie's wedding, she starts pulling the petals away from what she has with Dean.
God, she's an idiot. She's Cassandra Mortmain, filling the page with I love you's. I love you, I love you, I love you. He came back. Back to Stars Hollow. Back to this two-bit, half-mile, medical experiment.
Back to her.
Did he come back for her? She hopes not.
If she's honest, she hopes so.
Rory keeps running, because she's going to be late. She trips over a bump in the grass. Looking back, she can see he's gone. Disappeared again.
She thinks she loves him.
The second time she thinks she loves him, she says it out loud.
Rory is sitting with him on the bridge (they keep coming back to it, don't they?) and he takes her hand, flipping it over to look at the palm. "What are you doing?" she asks.
"Palm reading," he deadpans. "You've got something…dark in your future."
"Jess," she scolds.
"You've also got something light," he continues. "Yin and yang."
"How Zen of you," she replies.
"That display was very interesting," Jess says.
"You actually read a book from that New Age section at the bookstore," she says, dubiously.
"Yeah, right." He traces a finger over her knuckles, and drops her hand. "I don't need to. I already know my chakra's not in balance."
Rory laughs. "That's unfortunate."
"So I hear." He reaches a hand out to her. "Dinner?"
"Al's?" she asks.
"Oh, jeez." Jess sucks in some breath. "Fine. But you can get up yourself."
"Hey!" she protests. "Mean."
He shrugs and starts walking.
"Jess!" she yells. "I'm frozen here, you know that."
He's still walking. "Jess!" she calls.
He stops and turns around, exaggerated annoyance on his face. "Thank you," she mumbles.
Jess walks back to her spot on the bridge. He halts right in front of her, staring down. "Gonna get up?" he asks.
"Help me up, please?" She opens her eyes wide. She's learned a few tricks from her mother.
He reaches a hand down, looking bored. The corners of his mouth are threatening to twitch. She grins, and jumps up. "I love you," she blurts. It's teasing and mocking, and Rory wants to take it back. Instead, she lets it sit there.
"I'll remember this," he grumbles.
She sees the smile as they walk.
It's fuzzy, her first glimpse. Maybe she needs glasses. Slowly, Jess comes into focus, and Rory thinks that she's going crazy. He's on her bus. "Hey," she offers, quietly, hesitantly.
He peers at her. "Hey."
"Can I sit?" she asks, because she's got to end this awkward staring-and-standing thing she's doing.
"Uh, sure," he says. "I thought you took and earlier bus."
Rory can't do this. But she fights her way through small talk, wishing she could yell out to him. Shake through whatever it is that's keeping him across the canyon of personal space between them.
"This is my stop," she says. Finally. She chews her lip.
"Okay," he says. Does he want her to go?
"So you'll call me?" she presses. She needs a lifeline.
"Yeah, I'll call you," he says.
It's the best lie he ever told, she thinks, getting off of the bus. The truest.
The bus pulls away, and Rory watches it go. She knows he's leaving. "I love you," she whispers, letting it be caught on the breeze, going away with him.
He's desperate, trying to hold onto whatever part of her he has left. "Don't say no just to make me stop talking or make me go away." He swallows. He's pleading. This frightens her. He never pleads. Jess never begs, he never has to. "Only say no if you really don't want to be with me."
She stares at him. Isn't this what she dreamed about, months after he left? After she went to Europe, after she started school. In her secret, romantic heart?
You'rea fool. And she wants to cry. She wants to throw something against the wall and scream and crumple and let it all go. "No," she says.
He stares. He leaves. And she sits on a box and cries.
The first tear in page of I love you's.
"This isn't you!" Jess says to her. He's not yelling. Dimly, she wonders how he became the logical one in this relationship. "This! You going out with this jerk, with the Porsche! We made fun of guys like this!"
"You caught him on a bad night," she says protectively.
Rory, come on. Rory, stop it. Rory, what happened? She can feel the questions leaking from him. Rory, what went wrong?
"This isn't about him!" he snaps. "Okay? Screw him! What's going on with you? This isn't you, Rory. You know it isn't. What's going on?"
He cares. He cares about her. She disappoints him. "I don't know," she says. "I don't know," she repeats.
"Okay," he says. "Uh…maybe…maybe we'll catch each other at a better time." He reaches for her, like there's something more. But there isn't, and he rubs her elbow.
Bye, she tries to say.
"Happy birthday, by the way," Jess says. "Wasn't that a couple weeks ago? Your birthday?"
Is he speaking Swahili? Rory can't make any sense of anything. She nods anyway.
And that's it. Good-bye. He turns, for real this time, and leaves.
Jess, I'm sorry, she calls in her mind. I'm sorry. I'm sorry that I -
She doesn't want to remember why she's apologizing.
Everything. It goes against everything. She's with Logan. She does not kiss Jess. Didn't she already make that mistake?
She did, and she did it again, and she'll do it once more. Rory grips the steering wheel. A teardrop falls on her finger.
Why can she still feel his hand on her cheek?
It's after graduation, after she's in Iowa, after she has her first visit home, that she starts imagining him again. Luke mentions one day, on the phone, that Jess has started a new book. Lorelai mentions that Jess was in town for a few days. Rory eats it up. She craves knowing.
She starts wondering what she will say when she sees him again. She starts wondering what he'll say. She picks up the tattered sheet of I love you's and starts to tape it up. Little by little, it's repaired.
And then, that spring, she's walking down the street. He has his sister's hand. "Hey," she says.
"Hey," he says.
She smiles. "How are you?"
The same smile he used to give her breaks through. He knows.
He knows. Rory wants to sing.
In her mind, she holds out the page, and he takes it. There's a new bit at the bottom.
I love you too.