Previous chapters: One
Jess was pacing back and forth in his room, already regretting his decision to come back to Star’s Hollow.
This is exactly why he left – this… emotional wretchedness he felt every time he came across the idiosyncratic people inhabiting this idiosyncratic town. They made you like them, then they made you get attached to them, and then they went ahead and did something to break your heart and leave you feeling like a stupid pathetic ass.
Alright, so giving his room away wasn’t exactly heartbreaking per se, but Jess was prone to exaggerate. Why shouldn’t he be allowed his quirks just like everyone else in this whacked out place?
Luke knew how much he hated, no despised, literally abhorred that Forester kid. He knew their history and all the bad blood and split lips and bruised ribs they’d shared. Then how the hell could he go and replace Jess with him?
Course he didn’t mean what he’d said to his uncle before, just like he hadn’t meant what he’d said two years ago - Luke looking out for his family was noble and admirable and even if it got overbearing at times, it still was more than Jess’ father ever did for Jess or his mother. But that’s a story for another time. Besides, Luke was way too boring (and way too smitten with Lorelai) to be even remotely gay. Jess just wanted to get a rise out of the old man and damn it he didn’t even get that.
Two pairs of footsteps approached him and Jess turned toward the door, slipping his baddest bad-ass scowl onto his face to greet his arch nemesis from two years ago. Why he still hated the guy, considering their point of contention (read: Rory) was long past moot, Jess didn’t know. He was still practically itching for a confrontation like it was three years ago. And no way in hell was he getting his bed. Which technically, wasn’t actually his bed anymore but the floor space it occupied was pretty much the same so… yeah.
His room. His bed.
Jess folded his arms against his chest, bit petulantly.
Bring it on, Forester.
The door was pushed open and there stood Dean, tall and lean with the same goofy, girly bangs covering half his face, only longer. He was wearing a faded gray, nearly tattered t-shirt that barely grazed his navel, and what looked like sleep pants, deep blue flannel, draped low at his waist so loosely they looked like they might fall off if Jess so much as touched them.
Not that he wanted to, touch them that is, of course.
“Forester,” Jess muttered, almost in surprise. Because yeah, this was so… surprising.
The other boy didn’t even look up, didn’t even acknowledge his fucking presence. Dean simply walked in and stopped a short distance from the bed. Jess’ bed. Ex-bed technically but in the same floor space as Jess’… oh, whatever.
Luke followed him in and gestured at Jess with a finger pressed to his lips.
Jess frowned. “What’s going on?”
Luke ignored him and went up to take Dean’s left arm. “Go ahead Dean, get in.”
He gently nudged Dean on until the boy took a step forward almost automatically, without resistance, still looking down at his… bare feet?
Jess’ jaw dropped open.
“Is he sleepwalking?”
Luke shushed him angrily, but nodded. Jess kept his mouth shut after that.
“C’mon Dean, here we go.”
He watched as Luke pulled the covers down and gently squeezed one of Dean’s shoulders. Dean immediately moved and got into bed, his movements severely robotic as he lay down his head on the perfectly placed pillow and closed his eyes in slow motion. He lay quietly while Luke pulled up the covers to his neck.
“What the hell, Luke?” At least Jess had the good sense to whisper this time, instead of screaming his uncle’s ear off.
Luke sighed, tired already, and started to walk out the bedroom. Jess glanced at the boy sleeping soundly and quickly followed. He closed the door behind them (as softly as he could without actually intending to, of course) and crossed his arms again, waiting for an answer.
Luke put one hand on his hip and with the other he rubbed his brow. “He started this about three months ago. Not sure why he comes here, insists on sleeping in your old room. I think it could be because he feels safe in there?”
“In my room?”
“He once spent the night before his wedding here ‘cause he got totally smashed and started to babble some really inappropriate shit and I figured he couldn’t be left alone with his buddies and…”
“Woah, woah, wait, back up. He got married?” Jess’ heart nearly stopped at that but he had to know. “To who?”
Not Rory. Not Rory.
“Not Rory, another girl, you don’t know her. It doesn’t matter, that got over long ago. Long story short, he sleepwalks over and crashes in once in a while.”
The relief he felt was mild, and short-lived once he processed the second half of Luke's hurried explanation.
“What do you mean once in a while?” Was this going to happen every night he was here for the next two weeks?
“Like once, maybe twice a week, no more. I promise.”
“So he sleepwalks what – three blocks to come here? And in the cold just like that, no jacket, no shoes?!?”
Luke could only shrug. “We’re just lucky our town blocks aren’t as gigantic as Manhattan blocks. And that he started in the spring and it hasn’t gotten around to freezing cold yet.”
Apparently the good people of Sleepy Hollow have all made their peace with this brand new notch of weirdness, hell this might even have added a dash of excitement for awhile when it began.
Jess ran a hand through his hair. Course he still hated the guy’s guts. But this was way too freaky and he couldn’t deny he actually felt a little… maybe, sympathetic toward the guy.
He huffed. “Alright, fine. Whatever. So where do I crash now?”
Luke raised his eyebrows. “There’s an extra futon mattress with blankets in your closet. Just spread ‘em out on your floor.”
Jess pouted unhappily. “Trade beds with me.”
Luke snorted and started to walk back downstairs. “No way, kid.”
“But… Luke? Jesus, you can’t expect me to sleep in there with him?”
“Why not? It’s not like you have to share a bed with him. What’s the big deal?”
Jess rolled his eyes. “Well for starters, he might get up tomorrow morning and try to kill me in my sleep!”
Luke laughed as he went into the kitchen and took the pot of coffee down, clearly not needing it anymore.
“Trust me, he won’t. He’s just going to slip out at dawn, whenever he wakes up, to save himself the trouble of looking me in the eye. Even after three whole months, he hates doing it. Hates waking up to find himself in this house instead of his own. And he won’t mention a word about it to you or me or anybody and we’ll all pretend like it never happened and life will go on as usual.”
“Really?” Jess squinted. “Why don’t his folks like, take him to a shrink or something?”
Luke smiled. “What makes you think they haven’t? Nothing's worked so far. So for the time being, we’re all just glad Dean comes straight here, instead of wandering around aimlessly on the streets into oncoming traffic or worse. You hungry?”
Startled by the sudden change of subject, Jess blinked at his uncle but shook his head no.
“Okay then. You must be tired. Go get some rest, kiddo. We’ll catch up in the morning,” Luke squeezed his shoulder as he passed him by, and then turned around towards him one last time.
“I’m really glad you’re home, Jess.”
Luke left him standing in the kitchen, alone, and wary of going back to his room. He contemplated maybe bringing the extra beddings down here instead, or maybe just taking the couch in the living room.
Although, damn it, he couldn’t let the stupid bag-boy kick him out of his own room now. Could he?
Jess stalked back into his bedroom and stared at Dean’s sleeping form suspiciously.
Dean looked… serene, docile, and really, really out for the count. Jess sighed, tip-toed (why, he wasn’t quite sure himself) to his closet and pulled the futon and extra blankets and pillows out. He shirked out of his button down and stepped out of his jeans and boots, lying down on his make-shift bed on the floor on his back with his hands crossed under his head.
It sure was good to be… the only place that ever came close to being “home”. California with his dad hadn’t worked out so well. And New Jersey with his delinquent mom had been hell. Luke… he probably wouldn’t admit it out loud but Luke was the only stable parent figure he’d ever known. And he was, rather grudgingly, but grateful. It was why he needed to come back, to make amends. Hopefully in a way that wouldn’t involve any touchy-feely-ness or long, heartfelt conversations. Maybe he could just, you know, help out with the diner for awhile.
Yeah. He was sure Luke would get it.
Jess glanced out of his window at the full moon, let the rush of memories from two years ago flood his senses unabated.
It didn’t hurt anymore, none of it. It was all part of his past, part of who he was now as a person. Sure some things still lingered – like his bittersweet attraction to Rory Gilmore and everything that came along with it, including his hatred for Dean Forester, the perfect damn ex-boyfriend.
To be sure, Jess did not come back for Rory to Stars Hollow. In fact, he was well aware that she was at Yale now, apparently having the time of her life with some Huntzberger guy. Strangely enough, that didn’t bother him as much as he thought it should. But this Forester kid had obviously left a lasting impression on Jess’ mind that he couldn’t shrug off as easily.
Jess looked back toward the bed, at Dean sleeping away peacefully. A part of him relished the idea of humiliating him next morning when Dean woke up – get some well deserved payback for – well, okay, nothing in particular Jess needed to avenge himself on. But he couldn't pass up on this opportunity to get a leg up on this age-old, practically traditional rivalry.
Another part, a much smaller one, was also curious. He wondered what could have made Dean start to sleepwalk in the first place. Weren't these things supposed to have a psychological trigger or something?
Exhausted as he was, he didn’t ponder too long, and couple minutes later he drifted away into the arms of welcome sleep.
When he woke up the next morning, it was bright out already.
Jess stretched and rubbed his eyes, squinting to look out through his window at the sun-kissed sights of Sleepy Hollow he’d actually really missed. Took him a few seconds to remember the events from the night before, and then with a big jolt he sat up and turned toward the bed on his other side.
It was empty.