Fandom: Gilmore Girls
Pairing/Characters: Rory/Jess, mentions of Luke/Lorelai
Word Count: 2870
Warnings/Spoilers: none/none, post series
Disclaimer: all characters belong to the WB/CW
Summary: Rory runs into Jess at Luke’s.
A/N: for hamarakissa from the makeout meme, prompt: Rory/Jess, after Rory graduates college she runs into Jess at Luke’s during breakfast; thanks to my beta boltgirl426 for all her help!
When Rory walked into Luke’s to have breakfast, only to find Jess standing behind the counter, as if he'd never left, she almost passed out right there and then. How she managed to stay standing, she had no idea.
In that moment, she felt as she was being transported back to high school, when Jess worked there and she had been drawn to him, the town bad boy who shared her passion for reading, despite being with Dean, the most perfect boyfriend a girl could ask for.
Except things had changed. She was no longer in high school (hell, she wasn’t even in college anymore!), there was no Dean and Jess … Jess was not the angry, rebellious teenager anymore.
No, he was a mature adult who had figured out what he wanted to do in life and was quite successful at it. She hadn’t seen or heard from him since that fateful night in Philadelphia but it turned out he didn’t hold a grudge.
She could tell, because, upon seeing her, he shot her a half smile and called out, “You going to keep standing there or are you going to take a seat, Gilmore?”
Immediately, silence fell over the small diner and Rory was sure that all eyes were on her. Everyone knew their history and were probably waiting with baited breath to see how she would react to this unexpected reunion.
Refusing to give them the satisfaction, she stood up straight and made her way to the counter, taking a seat. Upon realizing that was all they were going to get from her, everyone turned back to their own conversations, chatter once again filling the air.
“I don’t know if I should be hurt or surprised at the lack of response,” Jess remarked, after he was sure the attention was off of them. “Am I not even worth a sarcastic comment these days?”
Rolling her eyes playfully, she said, “Well, I didn’t exactly expect to see you in an apron ever again. Did you miss the small town life?”
“Not really … just doing a favor for Luke,” he answered. “Figured my wedding gift could be to run this place for a few weeks while he’s on his honeymoon. It sounded more practical than, say, a toaster. I’m sure they’ll get about fifty of those.”
At that, she smiled. It was such a Jess thing to do that she couldn’t help herself. In that moment, she was struck at how much she had missed him, and she had … she had missed his sarcasm, his smirk and how easy it was to be around him. Because it was true … though they had some rough times, it was always easy to be around Jess.
No dwelling on that right now, she chided herself. In fact, she shouldn’t be dwelling on that at all. Yet Rory couldn’t help it. Looking at Jess, the thoughts came up on their own.
“Nickel for your thoughts,” Jess stated, snapping her back to reality.
“Isn’t it supposed to be a penny?” Rory questioned, raising an eyebrow.
Jess just shrugged and replied, “Inflation,” causing her to laugh. He held up the aforementioned nickel. “So?”
“Keep your money,” she told him. “I don’t think my thoughts are worth it.”
“That’s a matter of opinion, but the struggling author in me appreciates it,” Jess joked.
“Struggling author?” she repeated, with a teasing grin. “I’m pretty sure that hasn’t been the case in a while.” She remembered all too well the re-release of his first book. Rory had read every single review, proud of the way critics were praising it left and right, and even bought a copy, just because she could. When ‘The Subsect’ made the New York Time’s Bestseller List, she had clipped that part of the newspaper.
In an uncharacteristic move, Jess ducked his head and said modestly, “I guess it’s doing pretty good.”
“Pretty good is an understatement,” she exclaimed. “When I tried to find it, half the stores I checked were sold out of it already …”
“Don’t tell me you actually bought it,” Jess interrupted. “I gave you a copy for a reason …”
“I wanted to buy it,” she responded. “It felt good buying it … I’m proud of you, Jess.”
His expression grew serious. “Thank you … you-” He cleared his throat. “You don’t know how much that means to me.”
“I think I do,” she said softly. An awkward silence fell over the pair, neither knowing what to say or how to proceed. Something had shifted in the atmosphere and the tension was not unknown but still uncomfortable.
Fortunately, Caesar chose to call out to Jess, “All right, if you two lovebirds are done with your little reunion, I have orders here.”
Jess rolled his eyes. “Stop eavesdropping, Caesar!” he called out. Turning to her, he said, “All right, let me deal with him and I’ll come back to take your order.”
She nodded, not trusting herself to speak. As promised, he returned after serving a few people and by then, she had recomposed herself and had decided what she wanted.
They chatted while she ate but things were different. They kept the conversation light, both not wanting to mention what had transpired between them. Rory was almost happy when she left, just to escape and give herself a chance to think.
Of course she knew that avoiding Jess was impossible, not to mention immature. She was past that stage, where she ran from everything. Or at least she hoped she was. Jess was Luke’s best man and she was her mom’s maid of honor so they’d have to see each other. Besides, if she was honest with herself, she wanted to see him.
Fortunately, there was no lingering awkwardness in the air the next time she ran into him or after that, which was a huge relief. She ran into him every day at the diner and sometimes outside it. Though Rory knew people whispered about them and even her mom was curious what was going on, she didn’t care. No longer was she that teenage girl who felt the need to please the whole town.
No, she was going to make her own decisions and if she wanted to be friends with Jess, she would. And she was. In fact, she even asked him to be her date for the wedding. “Just as friends,” she made sure to add, slightly nervous.
“Sure,” he agreed. “I’m going to be there anyway.” Relieved that had gone well, she shifted her conversation back to the book that Jess was currently reading.
The week went by and before they knew it, the wedding day was upon them. The wedding itself was beautiful. Rory had truly never seen her mom or Luke happier. When Luke spoke his vows, Rory found herself glancing at Jess and much to her shock, saw him staring back at her. Unexpectedly, her heart fluttered. Oh yeah, she knew this feeling … she knew it all too well.
The question was: what was she going to do about it?
Not wanting to ruin her mom’s special day, she did nothing for the time being. She and Jess gave their speeches at the reception and she even convinced him to dance with her, trying to dwell on how perfectly they fit together. How perfectly they had always fit together and how she had never felt this right with anyone else, no matter what she had tried to convince herself in the past.
All in all, she thought she did a good job of fooling everyone and pretending that she was all right. That was until she was bidding her mom goodbye as Lorelai was leaving for her honeymoon.
“Be good,” Rory teased. “Don’t trouble Luke too much.”
“Oh, I plan to,” Lorelai declared. “He married me … he should’ve known what he was signing up for.”
Shaking her head, she chuckled. “And he should get a taste of what life is going to be like, right?”
“Mmhmm,” Lorelai agreed, “We’ve known each other too long to pretend.”
“You did take long enough to get down the aisle,” Rory agreed.
“But to find the right person, it’s worth the wait, isn’t it?” Lorelai asked. Before Rory could question her, she stared pointedly at Jess, who was deep in conversation with Luke, most likely about the diner.
Rory’s mouth went dry. “I …” She wasn’t sure what to say. No matter how civil her mom was to Jess these days, Rory knew she never approved of him and would most likely be horrified at the idea of Rory’s returning feeling. If they ever went away in the first place, she thought.
Her mom gave her a reassuring smile, clearly in tune with her thoughts. “Rory … if this is what you want, if that’s who you want, it’s okay with me.”
“Is it?” Rory wondered. Too caught up in her embarrassment at having been caught, she didn’t realize that Luke was giving a similar, more awkward speech to Jess, who was scowling and reacting in a very Jess-like-fashion, all while darting nervous glances at her.
“It is,” Lorelai confirmed. “I know I haven’t exactly been easy on Jess in the past, but … you’re an adult and I trust you to make the right choice.” She gave her a small smile. “Besides- and I will deny it if you ever tell anyone this- he’s changed. You both have.”
“Thanks, mom,” Rory said, hugging her. Having her approval was a huge weight off her shoulders. “I love you.”
“I love you too,” Lorelai replied.
“Now go have your honeymoon,” Rory instructed. “No worrying about me. I don’t want to hear from you for the next two weeks, unless it’s an emergency.”
“Wasn’t I the parent here?” Lorelai laughed. “And I’m a mother- it’s my job to worry.” She paused and added, “I just want you to be happy.”
“I will,” she promised. Or at least she hoped so.
Once they had finally left, she stood with Jess, not quite knowing what to say.
“So, we finally got those two crazy kids married,” Jess said, breaking the silence.
“Took long enough,” Rory joked.
“Seriously, “ Jess remarked. “You should’ve seen Luke last night. I’ve never seen him so nervous.”
“Same with my mom,” Rory responded. “But the ceremony was perfect.” She nudged Jess playfully. “And your speech was beautiful. Who knew you were so sentimental?”
“Don’t tell anyone,” he said. “I have a rep to maintain here.”
“Mum’s the word,” Rory promised, “And you are surprisingly light on your feet, Mariano.”
“Figured you wouldn’t appreciate me stepping on your feet,” Jess retorted. His grin widening, he added. “Hey, now that they’re married, how do you think your mom would feel about me calling her ‘Aunt Lorelai’?”
“I think that she doesn’t want to kill you anymore and you shouldn’t provoke her,” Rory advised, unable to suppress a laugh upon imaging her mom’s expression should Jess actually refer to her as “Aunt”.
“Probably right,” Jess agreed. “It really was a nice ceremony.”
“Yeah,” Rory said. “You ever going to get married?”
“Maybe,” Jess said, staring out into the street. “If I find the right girl. You?”
“Same,” Rory replied absentmindedly, silently wondering what Jess would consider the “right girl” and if she could ever be that girl again.
“You’re also looking for the right girl?” Jess teased. “Man, Gilmore, things have changed since I last saw you.”
She punched him in the arm. “Shut up. You know what I mean.”
“Yeah,” he said, hesitating before adding, “I do.”
How did those two simple words punch her in the gut? She swallowed hard, not wanting to let her feelings show on her face. “Soo …,” she said changing the topic. “Any plans for the rest of the night?”
“No,” Jess said, going with the flow. “Diner’s closed … probably just going to go back and work on some stuff.”
“If … if you’re free, do you want to maybe get some takeout and rent a movie?” she offered.
“Yeah, I could eat,” Jess agreed. “About the movie-”
“Not ‘Almost Famous’,” she said automatically.
He pouted. “Oh come on, Rory …”
“No,” she said firmly.
“You wound me,” he complained.
“Yeah, yeah, life’s tough,” Rory laughed. “Come on, I’ll get you Thai food to make it up to you.”
“Fine,” he grumbled, but she knew he wasn’t really upset. They headed off to their destination and Rory felt better than she had in a long time.
They saw each other a lot over the next two weeks. One of the benefits of being with an online magazine was that she could work from home, though she did have to travel one or two days. Rory always came back though.
As for her relationship with Jess, things were at a standstill. There was definite flirting but neither were taking the next step.
That was, until one day. It had started out like any other day but then, in the evening, Rory found out amazing news: she had recently reapplied to the New York Times and they had a position to offer her.
After calling her mom and squealing wither her for a bit, her next stop was to see Jess. He was closing up the diner when she ran in, her cheeks flushed and smile bright.
“Wow, someone looks happy,” he commented.
Without waiting, she blurted out her news. Or rather rambled it out, until he stopped her, insisting she needed to breathe.
“That’s great, Rory!” he said, “Congratulations. I knew you could do it.”
“Thanks,” she said happily. Impulsively, she gave him a hug and he was shocked but gradually returned it.
Pulling away, she beamed and he smiled back. She had no idea what possessed her, whether it was the high of getting what she wanted or if weeks of tension had finally pushed her over the edge but Rory just leaned forward and kissed him.
Immediately, he stiffened but within seconds, he responded. Any doubts she had about them disappeared in this one mind-blowing kiss. She knew that this was right … that they were right.
He was the one who pulled away though, out of breath, expression incredulous. “Rory,” he began. “Why?”
“Because I wanted to,” she said. “And I think you did too.”
“Look,” he sighed, running a hand through his hand. “I … I can’t do this.”
“Why?” she wondered. How could he not see how perfect they were together? How perfect they could be if he just gave them another chance?
“I know you and Logan broke up,” he continued.
“A long time ago,” Rory said, unsure how her ex was even a part of this conversation.
“I can’t be the rebound boyfriend again,” Jess said, and the vulnerability that appeared in his dark brown eyes broke her heart. “I did it with Dean … you chose Logan once …”
“Yet I’m not with either of them right now, am I?” she argued. “I’m here, with you.”
“Rory,” Jess tried but she wouldn’t let him speak.
“No,” she said, not wanting him to give all the so-called logical reasons why they wouldn’t work out. Logic was her area but right now, she was saying ‘screw it’. “If I wanted to be with Logan, I would’ve said yes to his proposal but I said ‘no’, not just because I knew it was too soon to get married but a part of me always realized he wasn’t the one I was mean to be with. And you weren’t my rebound with Dean … you’re never my rebound.”
“Rory,” Jess tried again, but she was still going.
“I know we’ve messed up in the past,” Rory said, “I know we’ve hurt each other and there’s probably a million other reasons not to do this again but I think it’s worth it. We’re not the same people and I think that if you gave us a chance, it could work.”
“Rory!” Jess said again, but she was on a roll.
“It could work because there’s a reason we are always drawn to each other,” Rory said, eyes pleading, “I want to be that girl you talked about … I think I am that girl. I was scared before but I’m not scared anymore and I want to-”
That’s all she got out before he stopped her … with a kiss. His lips collided on hers and she could do nothing but melt in his embrace.
Parting once more, Jess smiled and said, “Well, seems like that part still works.”
“Yeah,” she said, a relieved laugh escaping her lips. “It does.”
“So, I was thinking,” Jess said. “Maybe … we could go out to dinner tomorrow night?”
“You asking me out on a date?” she quizzed, her heart bursting with happiness.
“Yeah,” he replied. “I figured … well, I want you to be that girl too, but maybe we could start out with a date first.”
“I’d like that.” Rory replied.
They exchanged smiles and she knew that this time, she had no plans to let go. This time, they’d make it.
And her mom was right. It had been worth the wait.