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Chapter 5 …
Jess Mariano gritted his teeth, dug his hands into his jacket pockets, and resolutely put one foot ahead of the other until he reached his destination – the grocery shop. It was almost noon, Dean would be out on his lunch break any moment now. Yep, he’d done his homework alright.
The moment Dean stepped out of the store into the bright sunlight, he spotted Jess waiting on the sidewalk for him. His face went pale and rigid and he turned toward the opposite direction.
“Forester! A moment, if you will?”
“Dude, only the Gilmores talk like that.”
And that’s all Dean said, exasperated as hell, but he didn’t stop. He just shoved his own hands into his oversized leather jacket’s pockets and kept striding away with his stupid long legs that made it harder for Jess to keep up with him.
“You know the Gilmores don’t have a copyright on the American English language, or verbal diarrhea, or even the art of putting one’s foot in one’s mouth at the wrong place at the wrong time and you should know, seeing how I’ve already given you a phenomenal demonstration earlier this morning…”
“I don’t want to talk about it, Mariano. Please go waste your verbal diarrhea on someone else. I’m still on the clock…”
Jess frowned as he continued to stalk the taller boy who very abruptly changed course to now start walking towards the coffee shop. Jess nearly slipped on the pavement in trying to follow suit. “But this is your lunch break?”
“It’s the illusion of a lunch break. And a very, very short one at that so please, if there’s nothing else…”
“Yes there is…”
“Look man, I just want to apologize.”
Dean stopped at that, again with the abruptness that nearly sent Jess skidding to the ground. He turned to his stalker with annoyance (and more than a little desperation) rolling off every inch of that long, sinewy… really well-cloaked in baggy clothes body. Oddly enough, Jess found himself struggling to keep his breathing steady.
“I… I was an insensitive ass and you did not deserve what I said, this morning. I-I’m sorry I hurt you.”
Dean scoffed forcefully at that. “Don’t kid yourself, Mariano. You can’t hurt me. And besides, we’ve said worse and done worse to each other in the past. How come you’re so worried about my feelings now?”
Jess glared, losing it again. Humility was never his strong suit and, apparently neither was graciousness Dean’s. “Clearly, apology accepted is not a phrase you’re familiar with.”
And Dean glared right back. “Yeah, clearly.”
“Why do you always have to be such an asshole, man? I see you three years later and you still haven’t grown up!”
“Oh so now I’m a sleepwalking freak asshole who needs to grow up? Some apology!”
Jess exhaled, and took two steps closer until he was standing right in Dean’s personal space, not that he was ever able to intimidate the guy. But it was a reflex mechanism Jess always resorted to when he was provoked.
“I said what I came here to say, man. But you better not let it go to your head. I only came because Luke sent me. He wants you to know you still have a place to crash during your nightly expeditions.”
The armor cracked at that. Jess watched, almost regretfully (because he purposely lied about Luke sending him, knowing this would happen), as Dean started to cross his arms before realizing what he was about to do and stopped. There was doubt and hesitation, and pain, in his eyes again – not unlike what he saw there this morning.
“Are we done?”
Not by a long shot, hopefully. Jess bit back the instinctive response riding the tip of his tongue and just nodded. Then quickly turned on his heels and walked away as fast as he could.
It occurred to him minutes later, that Dean had not mentioned the earlier incident about finding Jess in bed with him at all, not once. Almost like he was in outright denial that it even happened. And here Jess had prepared such a long-winding speech explaining how it’d all come about completely by accident.
An accident he was more than happy to have happen over and over again.
Jess found himself pacing back and forth in the diner area, long after they’d closed up and Luke was done scrubbing his tables and counter tops to his satisfaction. He looked about ready to hit the sack but lingered on as Jess continued to pace.
“It’s almost midnight,” Jess offered by way of explanation. “He should be here by now.”
“Maybe he’s taking the night off. He does that, you know.”
Jess bit his lip. “No, I don’t think so.”
Luke narrowed his eyes at him. “You think he’s stressed out even more because of what happened this morning?”
“That and later when I, uh, tried to apologize but which somehow…”
“… snowballed into another round of insults, of course. What a shocker.” Luke bit a little grin back. “But what I am pleasantly surprised by is this.”
“This. You, showing actual concern for someone other than yourself, Jess. I’m impressed!”
Jess fumbled to explain his irrational behavior, not that he understood it much himself. One minute he was angry with that stubborn jerk Forester and lashing out at him, another minute he was drowning in the guilt of making him look like a sad puppy left out in the rain.
“Look, I’m just worried he might like, you know, not come over here because of me and, you know…”
Luke frowned, realization dawning slowly. “And roam the streets into oncoming traffic or something worse oh my God, Jess I’m going to kill you!”
“Or maybe a confrontation was exactly what he needed and now I’ve miraculously cured him of his sleepwalking habit?”
Luke just looked at him.
Jess winced. “Yeah, I didn’t think so.”
Just when Luke was about to come back with another round of chastisement, the knocks came.
Oh thank you, Sweet Mary Mother of Jesus!
Jess lingered just behind him as Luke went to open the door. Dean was as he’d been every night – dressed in his sleep clothes – the gray tattered t-shirt and flannel pants this time, barefoot, hair falling over his lowered eyes and in a deep state of not-consciousness that no one who’s never sleepwalked will ever understand.
“Come on in, Dean.” Luke’s voice was calm and gentle and tempered as always, like he hadn’t been getting ready to whale away at Jess two seconds ago.
Jess followed quietly, watching the ritual like he did every night. Something about this ritual, this… this taking care of Forester, it had turned into a regular scheduled event Jess didn’t seem to want to miss. He’d even blown off some old friends of his and decided to spend Friday night at home. For this.
Luke sent him a warning glare before he turned off the lights and closed the door on the two boys. Jess lay on his stomach in his bed, once again watching Dean. Hoping he’d get up. Get up and come join him like he did last night and the night before, and the one before it.
Dean didn’t disappoint. And this time, Jess didn’t even pretend to mind.
Jess slid easily to his left and pulled the covers back, making space for Forester to climb in and lay on his back again. Jess pulled the covers on top of the other boy with a light hand, careful not to jar him awake by mistake. And then he stayed on his side, head propped up one elbow, watching Dean.
He counted off exactly four minutes and twenty six seconds on his wrist watch, listening to Dean’s breath even out as he truly sank into a deep, healing sleep. The sleep he must so desperately need if he was to keep up with his three day jobs. And once he was sure Dean was really, really out, he couldn’t stop himself.
Jess raised a hesitant, trembling hand and let it hover over Dean’s face, waiting to screw up enough courage. Morality and ethics warred with temptation in his mind but in the end, the devil won out. Jess brought an index finger down to a point on Dean’s forehead right between the eyes. The skin was warm and soft, and Jess slowly, cautiously, slid the finger down to the bridge of the perfect nose. He reached the tip of it and licked his lips, swallowing the lump of unexplainably strong desire clogging his throat. Letting the finger explore a path down from the nose to the mouth, tracing the contours of the plush red lips, Jess shuddered.
“Pervy much?” He rasped, to himself, in the quiet darkness.
Wincing so hard as if it were hurting him physically to do so, Jess pulled his hand away. Then he forced himself to turn to his other side and stare out the window. A storm seemed to be on its way, the wind rustling through leaves right outside his room was pretty loud and insistent.
Of course he was going to leave, in just a minute. Just one more minute, and then he’ll slip out from under the comfortably warm covers, abandon the alluring proximity to the boy with the alluring hazel eyes… and crash on the stupid futon instead.
Jess had clearly underestimated the hypnotic cadence of the north winds, and how quickly they succeeded in lulling him to sleep.
At the crack of dawn, Jess opened his eyes and for a second panicked when he realized he couldn’t move. Took him another couple of seconds to understand why.
He was flat on his back, in his bed. And Forester was also in his bed, on his stomach, using Jess’ chest as a pillow. His endless limbs were sprawled all over and across Jess, effectively trapping him under his warm, solid, and very heavy weight. So much as a twitch would disturb the other man’s sleep and…
Jess grimaced and sighed, as quietly as he could. He really, really didn’t want a repeat of yesterday morning. Maybe he could just close his eyes and feign sleep when Dean started to wake up. Until then, he had to stay absolutely, nerve-wrackingly, still. All he had to do was relax, into the arms holding him, the legs straddling him. Bury his nose in the softness of Dean’s hair, long, silky bangs that smelled fresh and sweet, like a girl’s. Like maybe Herbal Essences.
Maybe they were forced to cut corners with supplies at home, sharing stuff like shampoos. And considering Dean lived with his mom and sister…
Jess took another deep whiff, and suddenly being trapped under Forester didn’t seem like such a hardship after all.
A few minutes later (and way too soon), Dean started to breathe deeply, deeper than he normally did in his sleep. Jess smiled, making up his mind at last. He was not going to take his uncle’s advice after all.
When Dean awoke, he stayed still for the longest time, as if he was trying to figure out what his latest predicament looked like. He stretched and pushed a little against Jess, and only then did he realize that his pillow wasn’t actually a pillow at all.
“Fuck!” Dean gasped louder than he did yesterday, jumping off the bed and falling to the floor, crawling away from Jess until his back hit a wall.
Jess rolled his eyes, and turned to his side, propping his head up on an elbow again despite the cramped arm protesting the smart-assed posturing. “Honestly, Forester, I thought you’d be used to this by now.”
Clearly not, if that look of abject horror in the other boy’s face was anything to go by. Dean’s mouth had fallen open as he wheezed, staring wordlessly at Jess, flushing a bright red with a brand new wave of embarrassment.
“I know your secret, Forester.”
Dean panicked even more, if that were possible. “Wha-what?”
Jess smirked softly. “You’re a cuddler. And don’t you deny it, I was there. First hand eyewitness accounts are not that easy to discredit, you know.”
“Why? Why do you keep doing this?”
Jess got out of bed. “Why do I keep doing what?”
He noticed the trembling intensify, along with the flinching as Jess approached Dean. Jeez. He put his hands up in placation.
“I’m not the one doing anything, Dean. You’re the one who slips out of your bed and into mine after I’ve already fallen sleep.”
Jess felt guilty for throwing that little white lie in there, but at least that way he could feign innocence and maybe Dean wouldn’t hate him so much.
“See I’m the molestee here.” He chuckled, fully intending it to be a joke but obviously Dean was not amused. So he backtracked. “I’m kidding. I didn’t mind, really.”
Dean grimaced. “Why not?”
Yeah, why not, Mariano?
Jess inhaled deeply, and decided… the hell with it. He looked straight into Dean’s eyes – playing the biggest gambling hand of his life.
“I think you know why, Forester.”
Seconds ticked away in silence. Jess watched realization dawn on Dean’s face, and turn into ten times the shock and horror from a minute ago. “Dude! You’re… are you…? But, I’m… I’m not gay!!”
Jess could only laugh. “Okay. If you say so.”
Dean narrowed his eyes. “What the fuck does that mean?”
Jess shrugged and sat back on the bed. “You’ve been pressing up to me for two nights in a row, man. Trust me, I know. But I do understand Stars Hollow is not the best place in the world to come out to…”
“No, I mean… that’s not what… damn it, Jess!”
Dean stood up in a hurry, and one look at his face made Jess think this time he’d really done it – he’d added injury to grievous injury and with double the insult to boot. And he’d also risked himself in the process – after all, what was to stop Forester from going out and telling all of Stars Hollow that Mariano was a flaming homosexual? Not that he was ashamed or afraid, in fact not at all, but he’d rather keep his private life exactly that – private. But now he’d gone on and recklessly thrown it all over into Forester’s court.
He rose slowly from the bed. “Dean, it’s okay. I was kidding.”
Dean looked, just looked at him for a whole deathly silent minute. Eventually, having evidently made up his mind, he frowned. “No, you weren’t.”
Jess swallowed, not sure how to respond.
Dean started to shake his head over and over again. “B-But I-I don’t need this. Not now. Not with everything else. Please, I can’t…”
Jess frowned and before he could step closer, Dean ran. Opened the door and slammed it shut behind him with a bang. Jess closed his eyes and listened to the footsteps thundering down the stairs with a sinking feeling in his chest.
Way to go, Mariano. Just can’t do anything right with that boy, can you?
He groaned loudly and flopped back into bed.