[identity profile] mollivanders.livejournal.com posting in [community profile] prefer_my_life
Title: a bitter hand clenches at her heart
Fandom: Gilmore Girls
Rating: G
Characters: Rory Gilmore, Jess/Rory
Author's Note: Written for [livejournal.com profile] stainofmylove prompt meme for [livejournal.com profile] stainofmylove. Prompt was i can't control you, i don’t know you well, these are the reasons i think that you’re ill. A little AU from Season 6 because didn't actually finish watching the series. Word Count – 1,240.
Disclaimer: Not mine.

Rory is not an angry person. She doesn’t want to be this angry.

(She’s angrier than most people know but still – not that angry. Not usually.)

She breaks up with him over the phone and thinks, Good. That’s it then. All those months of hope and frustration and joy and grief wrapped up in one short phone call. She’s almost proud of herself, but not quite. She’s a little too heartbroken to be proud of anything.

Still, she draws a line in the sand. Before and After and her future and dreams lie in After. She heads off to Yale with a mostly clear conscience.

(She never expected him to follow.

She never expected him to come back.)

+

He follows her around Stars Hollow like a lost puppy and she’s angry, so angry that it fuels her. She catalogues his list of failures in her head, and practices her speech, and grinds him into dust, and somehow, at the end of it all, he still leaves her standing alone with her heart in her hands. Again.

(She’s still angry, but a wisp of grief sneaks into her heart, the what-could-have-been. She buries it, but shallow graves never held the dead for long.)

+

The first time he shows up at Yale, she’s not ready for him. In fact, she hasn’t thought about him for a solid week and later, she’ll try to congratulate herself for this, but at the time, she just has too much to deal with to add Jess to the pile and really –

Timing was never their strong suit.

(Somehow it drives her further into her past, further into Before and all the mistakes she made, and she makes them all over again, but worse.)

In the midst of all that wreckage, she dreams he’ll come back and apologize, or better yet, write a nice long letter listing his faults and explanations, like Mr. Darcy would have. She dreams of seeing him at Luke’s, and seeing him in the city, and dreams of how she’ll right things. She’ll put the past to rights.

There are no letters, of course. And somehow, over time, this helps. She accepts what it is, and tries to move on again, tries to draw a line in the sand of Before and After, where her past can hold all her mistakes and sins and the future is still wide open.

It takes her a while to realize that the future has sins of its own waiting for her, new and fresh and ones she is completely unprepared for, and it sends her down unfamiliar tunnels and hurtling back to Hartford. It’s not quite the same as before, but it’s her past – her roots – all the same.

This is when he shows up again.

+

“Hey,” he says, emerging from the shadows, and somehow, the link between her first, second, and current set of Befores merge together in one shining moment that’s still somehow hard to grasp, and she reaches for it - reaches for him, without realizing it, against all her plans and speeches and vindication.

“Hey,” she answers softly, and despite herself, drinks in the way he looks at her.

It’s not the same as before but still, familiar. Better, somehow.

She’d never have guessed.

+

They talk for hours again, over the phone or in the city, like when they were kids and all the Befores and Afters of their choices were still being formed. It’s easier to talk to him than she expected, or even wants, but it helps. She’s finally recognizing that she needs help; that Emily and Richard and Lorelai and Logan are not enough. Jess is not enough either, but talking with him – it helps her recognize that.

It’s a hard realization, difficult to act on, and even harder to accept when she’s thinking of him on the other end of the line, book in his lap, as they fall asleep to the sound of each other’s’ voices. It’s not fair, her Before whispers to her and she crushes herself around that fact, carries it around with her. Life’s not fair, kid. Get used to it.

Still, they meet in the city.

(And slowly, she learns to manage her past and her future, her Befores and her Afters, without so many ghosts clipping at her heels. Slowly, she learns to manage herself.)

+

After - after Yale, after the disaster of her fall and what Jess calls her phoenix-like ability to resurrect herself, she tries to decide, for once, instead of reacting to how the world decides for her. There are things to consider, of course, like her family, and Logan, and what her counselor and professors expect of her.

But it’s over coffee one night in the city, after a blues concert they walk out of and the comfort of city streets lit with neon lights, that she shifts. She decides.

(She feels the comfort of pride, once again, in herself and her choices.)

“I’m taking an internship,” she says firmly, staring at the rim of her coffee mug. “Here, with NBC.” She can feel his stare from across the table, and regulates her breath as his hand creeps across it towards her. “This is a good city for that,” he says softly, and it’s almost an invitation, but she has to get through this. She needs to set the Befores to rest, at least and if only for herself.

“I was so angry, Jess,” she says, finally meeting his gaze, and he flinches under her steel. “Really, really, really, angry, and I didn’t want to be. I hated it, but – I hated you.” He’s not breathing much now, but he nods, his only reaction to curl his fingers away from her into a soft fist. “I don’t want that again. And –“ the words, the old speeches come bubbling out of her, different than before but an echo of what she once wanted. “I’m not saying I want anything, but I don’t want that.”

It’s a hard bridge, a bridge of acceptance and guilt and forgiveness and they’ve never really crossed it, just talked at each other from their separate banks.

“I don’t want that either,” he says when she’s quiet for a while. “I don’t want – before.”

And he doesn’t say what he wants, exactly, because he's still Jess and she knows she's throwing him a curve ball, but his hand opens up again, and cautiously, she stretches her hand from her coffee mug next to his. Not linked, not touching, but –

Something that might allow for an After. A different kind of After.

(The threads of her grief, from all those years, loosen their grip around her heart.)

“Okay,” she breathes, and a smile steals across both their faces. “Okay,” he echoes, and drinks from his mug without breaking contact.

(They meet in the middle.)

Finis
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