Jess called back soon as he reached his hotel room. “Hey, sorry, I ran into an old friend.”
“Yeah, I heard. So… who is he?”
“Oh, you know Seth, I told you about him didn’t I?”
The answer came after a long pause. “Yeah, yeah you did. Wh-what’s he doing in Seattle?”
“He lives here now. Still with Goldman, moved to the Seattle office to be close to his family, least that’s what he told me.”
“Awesome. That’s… yeah, awesome.”
“Yeah, hasn’t changed one bit.”
“So, you guys hanging out tonight, or something?”
Jess started. There was something in the voice on the line, a tremor he recognized and didn’t like the sound of one bit.
“Baby. No. Stop. It’s not like that.”
There was no response but Jess could clearly envision Dean’s face, pouting hard.
“He had other plans tonight and even if he didn’t and even if we had hung out, I swear to you we’re just friends now. There is nothing, absolutely nothing between us! And it‘s all pointless ‘cause I‘m not hanging out with him anyway so…”
“Oh good Lord, come on, Dean.” Jess winced unhappily. “You trust me, don’t you?”
Dean sighed sulkily. “Whatever, I gotta go.”
“Dean, wait, listen…”
The call dropped and Jess was left holding a dead cell phone to his ear.
Figures that Rory Gilmore would be around to bear witness to another groundbreaking chapter in this incredible against-the-odds love story. And why not? After all, if it weren’t for her, Jess and Dean would never have met in the first place. And maybe, just maybe, if it weren’t for her, they wouldn’t have rediscovered each other again either.
Taking a week off from school wasn’t difficult. She wouldn’t have refused anyway and it didn’t hurt that Logan was off gallivanting in Europe all month. What did turn out to be surprisingly difficult was having Dean hang about her, his classic puppy dog eyes filled with stars… except those stars weren’t for her anymore.
Vanity. What can you do, right.
Days were easy. Dean, always the early riser, would be up and about at an ungodly six AM. He’d work out (they had a home gym set up in what used to be a storeroom now converted to a study) and do his Yoga (which apparently helped a lot). He’d then shower and make breakfast for himself and Rory, even though she rarely ever got out of bed until nine at least. And he would leave for work at eight sharp; took him twenty minutes to walk to the office space that the business partners Matthews, Mariano and Forester shared, up on Steinway Street.
The first day, Monday, she honestly did try to get up early. She remembered groggily kissing Dean goodbye, and someone cracking a joke about a parallel universe where this could have really been them. As in, them, together. No, she doubted Dean’s capability to put his foot in his mouth like that. Must have been her. Luckily, she also remembered Dean laughing and kissing her one more time before grabbing his jacket and heading out.
Nights, now that was a different story. Jess had mentioned the chances of Dean sleepwalking were strongest in the first two hours of his going to bed. So she made it a point to keep herself awake, for those first two hours at least. Even asleep , her mind would subconsciously be on high alert - listening for creaking floorboards and checking for the key under her pillow. So long as the outer door remained locked, Dean couldn’t leave the apartment. At least that much she could guarantee.
It’d been eight months since a recurrence, far as she knew, least none that Jess and Dean were talking about anyway. Cynic that she was, she found it hard to believe that love alone could’ve miraculously cured Dean of his ailment. But one could argue that the stability of being in a relationship, (relief of finally coming out, maybe?) and gradual lessening of his financial burdens had lightened his mental burdens and hence the sleep disorder. That she could believe.
But if that were true, then by the same logic, who was to say Dean wouldn’t start sleepwalking again while Jess was out of reach? For the first time in their relationship they were spending a night physically apart. What if this ripple in the so far calm waters of Dean’s life was large enough to take away his sense of security?
That’s why Rory was here, obviously. She didn’t mind staying up late, watching over Dean (from the far distance of the second bedroom, of course). Almost felt like she owed it to him somehow. And she could always sleep all day to make up for it.
Thankfully, Monday night went by without any incidences, and so did the night after that.
Tuesday, Rory decided to pay Dean a visit at his office. And what an interesting outing that turned out to be. She found out that business was booming, especially the landscaping contracts were raining down on them like crazy and they actually had to turn some away for shortage of resources. She noticed Dean was still a very hard worker, unwilling to compromise on perfection or customer service. And she also noticed how Dean got an unusually large number of calls on his cell phone.
She watched, delicately sipping on her Irish latte, as Dean sighed in exasperation every time his phone buzzed. The first couple of times he’d smiled, that coy little expression one gets only under the influence of love, or some really high quality weed. But as the day progressed, his irritation at the frequent interruptions grew. Still couldn’t bring himself to not pick up though. Rory smirked and left her charge to his devices, heading out for another bright, sunny day of Manhattan shopping.
She wondered if she was ‘babysitting’ the wrong man in this relationship. Dean seemed to be doing just fine. It’s Jess she was getting more worried about.
Wednesday night was… well, let’s just say it could’ve been better. Rory really should have minded her own damn business. Or at least not have gotten out of her room and tiptoed out to Dean’s and once there, she definitely should not have softly pushed the door ajar to peek inside.
The noises that had her ears pricked up were coming from Dean’s room alright. But not because he was sleepwalking, or preparing to start sleepwalking.
Rory stood in her spot frozen…the door knob clutched tight in one hand, all her body weight still balanced on her toes. Dean was on the bed, his half-naked body dimly silhouetted by a night lamp beside the bed. There was enough to see and where there wasn’t, she couldn’t help her hyperactive imagination filling in the details. She should have closed the door, retreated to her room but she couldn’t. Hell, she couldn’t even take her eyes off the sleeping figure writhing in his bed.
His chest was bare, and a sheet flimsily covered his lower torso up to his waist. She could see the protruding hip bones arching up and away from the bed because of whatever was being done to Dean in his dreams. One hand rose up his chest to circle and tweak a dark nipple, while the other hand caressed its way downwards and disappeared under the bed sheet. Dean’s head was thrown back, his eyes closed, but his mouth fell open around a soundless moan. That’s when Rory blinked, and forced herself to look away from the intense eroticism unfolding before her. Gulping hard, not acknowledging the sudden rush of blazing heat in her cheeks, Rory turned and quickly scampered off to her room, locking the door behind her.
The next morning she woke up to have breakfast with Dean, but she couldn’t meet his eyes. Nor could she keep the sly little smile off her lips.
“What?” Dean asked, his curiosity piqued, his voice high-pitched over the ruffling of the newspapers he’d been reading.
“Nothing!” Rory smirked again, wondering if she was blushing, mumbled something about a much-needed shower and escaped.
Thursday morning, she talked to her mom on the phone for two hours and eleven minutes. Lorelei Gilmore wouldn’t be satisfied until she’d heard, debated, analyzed and summarized every single, miniscule, juicy detail of any given conversation topic under the yellow sun. And especially so when it came to Jess, and Dean, and Jess and Dean together. It was very disturbing, really.
“So who do you think bottoms?”
“What? It’s a perfectly legitimate question? Two guys, equally hot, equally broody and equally masculine in that hot-headed reluctant nouveau-gay sort of way. It’s not cut and dry like Ellen Degeneres and Portia DiRossi, you know?”
“I can’t believe you’re having me speculate about my two ex-boyfriends’ love life.”
“Even T.R Knight and Mark Cornelson, the babyface isn’t fooling anyone there. No sir!”
Lorelei’s disembodied voice was way too cheerful and nonchalant for this line of conversation. And it was infectious.
“Well what about Neil Patrick Harris and David Burtka? You can’t quite tell there.”
“Sure you can.”
Rory waited. “Well?? Which one‘s which?”
This time the pause only lasted like half a second. “Okay, maybe you can’t. But you can definitely tell with these two jokers. I bet it’s Jess.”
Rory rolled her eyes. “Mom, I really don’t think this is an appropriate subject for us to talk about especially since I’m sitting right here in their kitchen in their apartment that they live together in and I think it’s Dean.”
“Dean? Really? Why?”
“Just a hunch. With everything I‘ve seen and heard and from everything I know of the two boys so far.”
“It’s the sad puppy dog eyes, isn’t it? Yeah, you never could resist those, except when they’re sad, kicked and angry puppy dog eyes like Jess’.”
Rory chuckled. No one knew her better than her mom obviously. She bit into a mint chocolate and decided to go with the flow. Not like she could deter Lorelei from a subject once she’d latched onto it.
“I think he likes that he doesn’t have to be in charge for a change, you know? The weight of the world isn’t on his shoulders anymore, that he has someone to share it with and someone to bear it for him when he needs a break. He never had that before. Tall big guy like him, everyone just assumes he can take care of himself.”
“Good point, deep and insightful. Except Jess’ story is just as heartbreaking if not more. The rebellious bad boy act to disguise the orphaned and lost little boy inside? It’s classic fuck-me-to-an-inch-of-my-life syndrome!”
“Sometimes I can’t believe we’re related.”
“Shut up, you were created an exact mirror reflection of me, Lorelei Gilmore.”
“Except a mirror reflection isn’t exact.”
“Exactly! Boy am I glad you don‘t agree with everything I say - just thinking of twenty years of phenomenally dull conversation is making me want to blow my brains out.”
“What if they switch? Equal partners, that’s possible, right?”
“Sure, but that’s just anatomy, sweetheart. There’s this typical dynamic between these boys. You would know if you’d seen them arguing at the grocery mart last summer. Dean had that former teen rebel boy practically wrapped around his little finger.”
Rory sighed in exasperation. “Can I go now?”
“Fifty bucks says Dean’s the top.”
“You’re on. Talk to you later.”
“I want proof, of course. And details. Lots and lots of details!”
Of course. “Goodbye, mom!”
Rory hung up and shook her head, grinning away (and maybe blushing a little too) about this intriguing train of thought her mother had left her with today.
Thursday night was when it happened.
Rory couldn’t be sure what brought it on. Far as she knew, Dean had been sticking to his carefully constructed routine all week - exercising in the morning, returning from work no later than seven, and drinking that deceptively mild chamomile. What she did notice was how Dean’s mobile rang twice but he didn’t pick up. He’d never ignored one of Jess’ calls before.
“Everything okay, sweetie?” She ventured over dinner - Japanese takeout. She’d given the man his space and time but no longer could she stand Dean’s silence and her own endless monologues anymore.
“What? Uh, yeah. Of course.”
Rory sighed. “Okay. Honey, at this stage of our relationship, I think it’s time I let you in on an important secret.”
Dean smiled, used to Rory’s jokes about their current live-in arrangement by now. “What’s that?”
“You’re a terrible liar.”
He chuckled, not looking up from his rice bowl. “Thanks. I know. Jess reminds me all the time.”
“And yet you keep trying.”
He sighed, looked up at her once and grimaced. “It’s nothing. I’m just… tired, I guess.”
“And in no mood to let your boyfriend dirty-talk your ear off tonight?”
“Something like that.”
Rory lost her confidence when he wouldn’t look up at her again, basically signaling an end to the conversation. She did manage to ship him off to bed early (“Didn’t you say you were tired? Off to bed with you now, young man.”) to which Dean meekly protested (“So you’re my mom now? Whatever happened to our parallel universe of domestic bliss?”). By ten, they’d both retired to their respective rooms.
It was two minutes to midnight. Rory was deeply engrossed in Faucault’s Pendulum (for a third time) when the sounds started. At first she wondered if she was about to walk into a replay of last night. But the noises were louder tonight. And then she heard what distinctly sounded like a door creaking open and threw the book and the covers aside.
“Oh, hell no.”
She pulled open her bedroom door and for a second she froze again. Rory had never seen Dean, or anyone really, in such a state. Dean, dressed in just a pair of sweatpants, stood straight and tall, his eyes half open and fixed at a point on the floor just ahead of his bare toes. He walked as if in a trance, crossing the distance from his bedroom to the living room before she could get her own two socked feet to move. The first thing she did was flick all the lights on, not that it was going to be that easy, but just in case.
“Dean?” Her voice couldn’t be more than a whisper, as if she was almost afraid to wake him.
He didn’t listen, obviously, and steadily moved towards the outer lobby. At least that door was still locked. Question was, did Dean in his current subconscious state remember that?
She intercepted him halfway, putting a tentative hand on his arm. “Hey, you‘re sleepwalking. You have to turn around and go to bed now, okay?”
But her plea was bluntly ignored. Dean just kept walking with Rory hanging off his bicep, unable to make him stop.
“Dean…” still not sure what she was supposed to do, she let him go, at least for now.
She contemplated going back to get her phone and call Jess. Or maybe Dillon, he lived three blocks away, maybe he would know what to do or could come and help. Meanwhile Dean had already made his way to the door. Once there he started to twist the locks open.
Rory felt her heart pounding in her chest, and she dashed to her room to find her cell phone. She was still going through the contacts when the noises in the lobby got louder. Quickly she made the call but when she got no response after four rings, she gave up. Phone still clutched in her fist, she ran back out to where Dean was.
Two locks and the safety chain had all come undone and now he was busy trying to get the third and final dead bolt open. Which wouldn’t work because it needed a key (still safely ensconced inside Rory‘s pillow and Dean didn’t know that), but he kept yanking at it anyway.
“Dean, stop it! The door‘s locked, it won‘t open!” At least this time her voice was louder and it seemed to work for a second when all of Dean’s frenzied activity suddenly stopped.
He suddenly turned around, and without waking up or acknowledging Rory’s presence, he started walking back but not to his bedroom. Instead, he headed for the study. Rory was torn between confusion and relief, although something told her this wasn’t over yet. She tried calling Dillon again.
“Hello? Hey, Dillon this is Rory. Dean’s friend from Connecticut? I was at the office earlier this… yeah, yeah. I-I need your help…. no, yeah he’s… he is… Oh my God!!!!”
The conversation forgotten, Rory gasped in horror at the tall figure heading back her way. Dean had a crowbar in his hand. And yes, he was still sleepwalking.
No one told her he could get violent!
Quickly she counted her odds. She knew this might get really, really bad if she wasn’t able to wake him up. And on the other hand, she could stay safe herself if she let Dean leave this apartment tonight. But God only knew what dangers she’d be letting him walk into, alone and vulnerable. And then there was this promise she’d made to Jess.
“Dean, wake up!! Don’t do this!!”
Gathering every single ounce of courage she had, Rory stood in Dean’s way, getting a hold of the crowbar herself. The man was obviously much stronger, and much more driven at the moment. She hoped the struggle would jar him enough to break him out of this trance. But sleepwalking Dean still refused to give up the weapon and furiously pulled to get it and himself away from the girl.
Rory was starting to lose the fight for the crowbar as expected, which prompted her to resort to something (more) desperate. Hooking her left foot behind Dean’s right leg, she stopped pulling at the crowbar, letting go of it completely. Remember what happens when you play tug-of-war and the other guy or team suddenly lets go? The momentum of Dean’s own strength sent him teetering backwards. Just to make sure, Rory planted both her palms on the bare chest and shoved with all her feminine might. Dean tripped over her foot, his hands flying up to his sides but helpless to stop the nasty fall.
He fell back on the wooden floor with a loud echoing thump, the loudest possible. For a second Rory’s heart stopped, fearing she might have miscalculated and Dean might just hit his head and die. But the floor was clear and Dean landed on his butt, thankfully, just at the doorway between the lobby and the living room.
“Dean!!” She screamed her loudest, in nothing else but outright panic. And this time it worked, or maybe the fall did, who knew.
Dean Forester blinked, his so-far blank and expressionless face abruptly coming to life. The first emotion that flittered over his face was genuine befuddlement. Rory could only imagine what went through the boy’s head as he struggled to understand where he was, what he was doing here, why he held a crowbar in his hand and why his ass hurt so damn much.
Realization dawned then, with a sudden vengeance and his face crumpled into a painful mix of shock, guilt, gut-wrenching misery, and absolute embarrassment.
All of her own hysteria melted away immediately. “Dean, it’s okay…”
Rory took one step towards the man still half-sitting half-lying on the floor but Dean flinched away so hard that she halted.
And then they both got their second big shock of the night.
Like peripheral hearing or something, Rory had noticed the tenants downstairs yelling up at them to ‘keep it the fuck down’. The duo had obviously made a huge ruckus by this time. Following which, she heard footsteps frantically running up the stairs but hadn’t had the time to process that yet. And then there was this furious jangling and clicking noise outside their door and half a second later, it flew open with a five times louder crash that made the neighbors ten times more livid.
Rory couldn’t believe her eyes. And apparently, neither could Dean.
Jess left his bags outside the apartment and ran in, making a mad dash to his boyfriend still on the floor, now with his face buried in his hands.
“Hey, hey… it’s okay, it’s okay baby, I’m home. See? I’m home.”
Rory closed the door, and leaned against it, suddenly exhausted. Keeping her distance, she quietly witnessed the tremendous love her two exes had for each other.
Jess knelt beside Dean and pulled his boyfriend’s upper torso into his arms, letting Dean bury his face in his chest instead. Dean curled up his endless legs, almost as if he was trying to become as small and invisible as possible, hiding in his lover’s embrace from a world full of prying eyes.
“I’m sorry… I’m so sorry…” he whispered, and Jess just held on to him tighter. He kissed the top of Dean’s head over and over, rocking his lover back and forth, rubbing his back in long, firm and loving strokes.
“It’s okay, baby. Nothing to be sorry about. It’s all good, see?”
Jess turned towards Rory, his eyes questioning the presence of the crowbar by Dean’s side but also extremely apologetic, as if he already knew the answer. Rory just shook her head and smiled. No harm done. I‘m sorry, she tried to convey, wondering what else she could have done to prevent this from happening. Jess continued to hold his boyfriend, kissing every inch of his angelic face and whispering soft words of comfort in his ears.
“I hate this. I hate myself,” Dean whimpered, his voice muffled in the collar of Jess’ shirt.
“Stop that.” Jess almost reprimanded him at that. “I don’t wanna hear you say that ever again, you hear me?”
“I love you, Dean. I love everything about you. And dude if it weren’t for your sleepwalking, we would never have hooked up, remember? Far as I’m concerned, it’s the best thing ever… for the simple reason that it brought you to me.”
Dean wasn’t convinced. “I could’ve hurt Rory tonight.” And he still couldn’t bring himself to look at her.
Rory had to interject now, before it was too late. “Hah, in your dreams.”
Dean winced and Jess turned to glare at her, and that’s when she realized she’d put her foot in her mouth again. “I didn’t mean… I just meant, you could never hurt me, Dean. Trust me, I almost ended up killing you tonight, if anything, I should be apologizing to you.”
And now Jess was really frowning at her. Funny how they still understood each other without even using any words. Right then, Jess‘ eyes were sending a clear directive that said ‘We’ll debrief later’ and Rory just bit her lip and shut up obediently.
“You did great, Rory. Thanks,” he said out loud, before turning back to smooth Dean‘s hair out of his face and wiping his tears. “For everything.”
Rory nodded wordlessly.
“As for the… uh, rest of it, I’ll make an appointment with Dr. Reeves tomorrow, see what he thinks.”
While Jess soothed away the last of Dean’s laments and self-deprecations, Rory called Dillon again, who was already on his way. She told him to go back to his wife and newborn kid, that Jess had everything under control. Which, by the way, she still didn’t get.
“Jess? Aren’t you back early?” She asked after hanging up.
Dean stopped sniveling and looked up at Jess too. The two men shared a knowing look which deliberately excluded Rory of course, and then Jess smiled.
“Because my baby missed me after all, that’s why.”
Dean snorted and twisted his fingers in the lapel of Jess‘ jacket.
“Yeah, my spider sense was tingling all day. And maybe… just maybe,” Jess squinted mischievously, “I missed him too. Hell I was losing my fucking mind out there.”
“What about the meeting?” Dean asked.
“The deal’s done. I figured the rest was just a formality, nothing we can’t do by phone and fax.”
There was something the men weren’t telling her, but it was probably none of her business and she decided not to pursue it. Straightening up, she headed back to her room. She’d definitely earned a good night’s sleep and was keen to get to it like yesterday.
“Well, I’ll leave you boys to the rest of your long-awaited homecoming ritual or whatever it is you plan to do. I‘m going to turn in.”
She started to walk away when Dean’s soft voice stopped her from behind. “Rory?”
She grinned and curtsied at him, making him smile at last, and then she turned to walk away again. On her way over, she caught some of the conversation that followed… peripheral hearing of course, not like she was snooping or anything. Not at all.
“Ready to move this to the bed now, babe?”
“In a minute, I’m comfortable here.”
“So I guess you didn’t get it on with your oh-so-perfect ex after all, huh?”
“You remember why I thought he was perfect back then, don’t you?”
“Jerk, of course you do. It’s because he reminded me so much of you. Now why would I want a cheap imitation when I have the real thing right here, huh?”
“You can have him, I don’t care.”
“Sure. Rory and I shared perfect domestic bliss all week, think there might still be something there.”
“Just for that, and for hanging up on me and not taking my calls from the airport, you’ve earned yourself a nice long spanking, Forester.”
Rory slid her door shut, for real this time, pretending not to notice the blazing heat turning her cheeks a peculiar shade of red. She’d seen and heard enough. Least for the night. She looked at the cell phone still clutched between her fingers. It’d be so hard to wait for morning to tell Lorelei all about their big scary adventure tonight. So she didn’t.
“Hey mom? … Hi! … Yeah, sorry, I couldn’t wait. Were you up? … Oh, alright … Um, nothing urgent … yeah everything’s fine. Everyone’s fine. We had a little bit of a scare tonight but … no, no, Dean’s okay … mom really … yep it’s all good. It’s all under control … Oh, by the way, you owe me fifty bucks.”
*** And this time, it’s REALLY THE END ;) ***