Okay, this is verging out into new fanfic territory for me.
This story takes place around the Philadelphia Eagles/Minnesota Vikings game that took place last week. It takes place in the A Simple Twist of Fate timeline, but many, many chapters forth from what I've written so far.
In other words, this is a story based on the concept that Jess fathered Rory's child, not the usual suspect.
I still intend to finish A Simple Twist Of Fate, and the story actually goes much farther forth in time than the events depicted here. But I wanted to write a story around some of the headlines I saw last week, and since it's impossible to do a Jess POV given how that story is being written, I thought this might go over well as a glimpse into the future of these characters as that story interprets them.
So read, enjoy (or not), and leave me a review if you so desire. Bear in mind that I've never even been close to Philadelphia, so if I get some stuff wrong, I really didn't intend it. Also, since I'm from Alabama, I know (and am related to) much crazier sports fans than the ones depicted in this story, so I mean no offense by it.
Jess didn't exactly intend to introduce his daughter to professional sports in this manner.
For the most part, he and Rory weren't quite the stereotypical thirtysomething hipster couple that they sometimes appeared to be. Sure, Rory was still occasionally breast-feeding after seven and a half months, and you could find quinoa and kimchi in their fridge stocked next to the baby food and hoagies. They were both writers who ran a book press together, and their baby was leaning to crawl amidst hastily assembled piles of manuscripts and old vinyl records. However, for the most part they didn't have time to painstakingly manage that type of lifestyle. They had stumbled upon their relationship accidentally at a time when neither of them had any sort of clue where their life was head next: a sort of spontaneous joy that seemed to erupt from moment to moment until it began to actually make sense and feel like a happiness that could be permanent.
And then parenthood found them, and what might have seemed like a disaster to an outsider turned out to be the one extra thing needed in order to for them to build a life with each other.
All of the other details of what life used to be like turned out not to matter so much after that.
He'd felt an overwhelming sense of protectiveness start to take hold over him ever since Rory first sprung the news on him at Luke and Lorelai's wedding reception: in the early days it often fought alongside a sense of pure terror, but the protectiveness always won out. It finally took root in his gut the day his daughter came blasting into the world after eleven hours of premature labor, with her jet-black hair, piercing blue eyes, and lungs that could rival a banshee's. He knew then that no matter how scary or confusing or overwhelming anything else could seem, he would always seek to protect her and Rory first.
Which is why he didn't want to bring a little girl who was just now managing to move forward on all fours to an Philadelphia Eagles game.
Jess had lived in Philadelphia for thirteen years. He knew all of its quirks and foibles and assets inside and out, and he knew firsthand just how enthusiastic Eagles fans could be. He didn't really care much for the sport himself – if asked to root for a home team, he usually picked the Philadelphia Flyers, having long ago latched onto the sport as a way to bond with his uncle and newfound cousin – but that enthusiasm often had seemed catching in the best and worst way. He knew firsthand how crazy things could get after the high of a surprise upset.
However, a high-profile investor had supplied them with tickets the week before, and Jess felt it would be unwise not to accept them. Rory's book was coming out in six weeks, and he needed to maintain every connection he currently had in order to make it a success. Soon enough, he got a call from Luke asking when he and Rory planned to visit because Lorelai hadn't seen their grandchild in four long weeks and before he knew it he was inviting them to the game. April got wind of this opportunity and decided to take a weekend off of her coursework and tag along with them.
Strength in numbers counted for something, right?
He started to doubt that decision when April rushed to their seats from a trip to the concession stands, excitedly claiming that one of the more overzealous fans had gotten into a fistfight in the parking lot with a police horse.
His daughter was perched on Lorelai's lap, squealing and cooing at the bustle of jubilant fans around them. Luke was making what was sure to be a futile effort to explain to both of them what was actually happening on the field.
Rory rocked back and forth on her seat, clearly torn between the desire to stay with her child and her curiosity at what exactly was happening in that parking lot.
"Go," Jess told her. "I think the ratio of three adults to one baby makes for pretty good odds."
Rory kissed him on the cheek and scuttled off with April to investigate what was left of the melee.
The rest of the game proceeded fairly uneventfully. April and Rory returned to the stadium after the police had managed to break up the brawl, and settled down next to Jess to pretend to watch the game. The three of them chatted distractedly about other topics, scarfed down pizza and BBQ with Luke and Lorelai (well, Luke took one bite of Lorelai's pizza and opted for buffalo falafel instead, but he got points for trying) and took turns walking the baby around the stadium when she got restless. Jess kept a sharp eye out for anyone who would try to embrace or slap or accidentally shove his wife or daughter while under the spell of sports mania-induced euphoria, but it never even came close to happening.
By the time the Eagles routed the Vikings 38-7, Jess and Rory's daughter had fallen asleep on her grandfather's chest. Luke looked down at the baby with pure love on his face, seemingly uninterested in the outcome of the game. Lorelai was absentmindedly rubbing the back of her husband's neck with one hand and clutching her granddaughter's hand with the other.
Jess looked over at where Rory was lightly dozing on his shoulder, and wondered if it was completely necessary to break all of them out of this cozy domestic bubble.
Ten minutes later, they began the long trek to their car, and Jess suspected it might have been a better idea to stay inside the stadium as long as humanly possible.
"Why do they keep sliding down those poles?" Luke asked him, and gestured across the street to where several intoxicated fans were trying – mostly unsuccessfully – to scamper up every available street pole in sight.
Jess pointed to the pole nearest them, as several fans were taking off at a running distance to leap onto the pole one by one and not making it further than a few feet up.
"They always slather them in Crisco, but it won't stop people climbing on them if they're determined enough," Jess explained. He grabbed Rory by the arm and led her a few further feet away from the herd of people around them.
"Not the word I would use," Luke retorted as he gingerly handed his granddaughter over to Rory.
Jess looked up, remembering several youthful misadventures from his first few years in the city.
"We-el . . ."
"How long ago?" Luke asked.
He'd always known him much too well.
"Six or seven years ago," Jess claimed.
He could tell Luke didn't believe him.
"I almost want to wake her up for this circus," Rory admitted as they slowly made their way through the crowd.
Jess reached for her hand. "You miss it, don't you?"
"A little," Rory replied. She shifted and brought her daughter to rest higher up on her chest. "Journalistic instincts die hard, I guess." She sent a dazzling smile in his direction. "Mostly I just want to share everything with her, though."
Jess squeezed her hand. 'I know the feeling."
He looked around at the people gathered around him – climbing on poles, doing cartwheels and backflips in the middle of the street, making their way towards the enterprising food trucks parked at the end of the street. He gazed at Luke and Lorelai, clutching each other's hands as Lorelai leaned over to whisper something in his ear and giggle when he chuckled in response. He looked behind him to where April was flirting with the one person who had just jumped to the ground after managing to get to the top of the pole, and at the woman whose ring rubbed against his as they walked down the street, their child asleep in her arms.
He'd made his way here over a decade ago, drawn in by the same excitement and exuberance that he looked askance at as a husband and father. There had been plenty of victories and disappointments in his time here as he built a life he was proud of, yet he had gotten to the eventual point where it seemed incomplete in a hazy way he couldn't really define. It wasn't until he was joined by the two brunettes at his side that he had found his genuine place within that bustle of activity, and it had become real in a way that it had never seemed before.
Sometimes what really felt like home came for you when you were least expecting it.