Summary: Logan shook his head as he made his way back to his car. "All the money and looks in the world, and I still rate below a dead man."
Disclaimer: Not mine! Don't sue!
Rating: PG-13… for things.
A/N: Thanks to Christie for the beta! And thanks to Holly Gilmore, Arianna and Angeleyez for the encouragement!
Luke Danes walked into the cold, cavernous room and shuddered, taking his hat off for the dead. He sighed and looked at the rows of cabinets that lined the far wall.
Everything looked so…sterile.
The sinks and equipment were all cold, stainless steal, and the examination table and tile floor reflected the fluorescent lights that shone above him.
Luke jumped in surprise and turned around. "Uh…hi."
"Hello," the man said. He was tall, with blond hair, and pale skin. He looked fairly normal… except for the fact that he was a mortician.
To Luke, that changed everything.
"You're here to ID Mariano, yeah?" the man asked.
Luke nodded. "Listen… if you know it's him, why do you need me?"
"Just a precaution," the blond replied. "Never can be too careful." He walked over to the cabinets.
Luke followed cautiously, and flinched when the mortician slid open one of the cabinets with a jerk.
On the slab that glided out was a white bag.
"Ready?" the other man asked.
"Are you sure?"
"Just open the bag," Luke snapped. He was in no mood for games.
The younger man sighed heavily. "You asked for it." He unzipped the bag quickly.
Luke stared in obvious horror.
The body in question was bruised and cut up beyond belief. And pale. Paler than Luke had ever seen, or even imagined. The left side of his forehead was almost completely caved in. His eyes were still open, staring up at the ceiling, scared. The left part of his lip was lopsided.
Luke's look of horror turned to despair.
"I warned you," the other man muttered.
The blond nodded and zipped the bag back up before sliding the slab back into the cabinet. "I'm very sorry."
Luke sighed and ran a hand through his thinning hair. "Me, too."
When Luke arrived back at his apartment, his sister and brother-in-law were arguing again.
"I can't believe you!" Liz screeched. "What is wrong with you?!"
"Me?!" TJ howled. "What about you?! You're a madwoman!"
"Madwoman?!" Liz cried. "You are SUCH a drama queen!"
"I am NOT!"
"You're both idiots."
The couple turned their stare on Luke.
TJ pointed at him. "You-"
"The kid's dead."
Liz gave him a confused look.
He looked her in the eyes. "Jess is dead."
Liz's stare turned to shock. "Luke, what-"
"Car accident. His seatbelt snapped," Luke told her harshly. "He flew right through the windshield and bled out in the middle of the road."
Her eyes welled up.
"He died before they even got to the hospital," Luke muttered.
The woman took a seat on the couch, hand to her mouth.
TJ stood quietly before sitting next to Liz. "Jeez…that poor kid."
"Oh, my god…" Liz muttered. "Oh, god…"
Luke shook his head as he stormed into the spare bedroom, and slammed the door behind him. He looked around, and spotted a small pile of paperbacks in front of a mostly empty bookshelf.
He glared at it, and got up, stalking over to it. He slammed his foot through one of the wooden planks with a grunt.
He jerked his head to the door. "Hi."
Lorelai Gilmore blinked at her boyfriend. "What are you doing?"
"Didn't you make that shelf?" Lorelai asked, walking closer to him.
"I did," he nodded. "Made it for Jess the summer after he moved in."
Lorelai rolled her eyes. "What did he do this time?"
Lorelai stopped. "Wha…"
"Jess died," Luke muttered.
"Oh…oh my god," Lorelai muttered. "How…what…?"
Lorelai's expression became sad, and she took his hand. "Get your foot out of the shelf."
Luke nodded and yanked his foot from the wood. He slowly turned to her.
She wrapped her arms around him tightly.
Rory Gilmore sighed as she fidgeted with her flashlight. "Are you guys sure about this?"
"Of course!" Logan Huntzburger smiled, as he panned his own flashlight through the dark, empty morgue. "We wouldn't be doing this if we weren't."
Finn rolled his eyes. "Yes, we would. Don't listen to him."
Logan shushed them. "So…where do we start…?" he asked, looking over the shiny cabinets.
"Why do we want to see dead bodies again?" Rory asked.
"Because most living people aren't worth the time of day," Finn replied. "Dead people, however, can't speak. Therefore, their company is much more pleasant."
"You've done this before?" Rory asked.
"God, no," Finn replied. "You actually think we'd do this twice?"
Collin sighed impatiently. "Can we please get this over with? The smell is getting to me."
"What smell?" Logan asked.
"Disinfectant and death," Finn said. "It'll be a great hit in the air freshener market."
Logan sighed and yanked open a cabinet. He shined his flashlight on the body bag inside. "Zipper…" he muttered.
Rory became more nervous. "Maybe we shouldn't do this… it's kind of disrespectful…I mean…you wouldn't want some strangers staring at one of your family member's body-"
With a loud "SHRIP!" sound, Logan opened up the body bag and shined his flashlight on the corpse's face. "Man…look at those eyes!"
"He looks like he's just shat himself," Finn remarked.
Rory stared in horror.
"What's wrong, Ace?" Logan snickered. "It's not that bad."
She put a hand to her mouth.
She looked away. "Oh, no…"
Logan stared at her worriedly. "Rory?"
"Don't…Don't…just zip it back up," she whimpered. "Leave him alone…please?"
Finn tilted his head. "You knew him."
Rory's stomach gave a heave and she bolted out the door into the night.
The boys glanced at each other and rushed after her.
Lorelai sighed as she sat at Luke's kitchen table with her cell phone. "I can't reach Rory."
Luke nodded slowly, as he walked over. Liz and TJ had fallen asleep on the couch some time before, and all was quiet in the small apartment.
"So?" Lorelai asked softly. "How are you?"
"Not good," Luke replied, running a hand over his face.
She nodded. "I am so sorry."
He nodded back. "I think I'm still…processing, or whatever." He sighed. "He was too young."
"He was," Lorelai agreed. "Way too young."
Luke scratched the back of his head. "I'm uh…I'm pretty beat. I think I'm gonna get some sleep."
"Okay," Lorelai replied. "Do you want me to stay, or…?"
"Uhm…" he stuttered out. "I'm…"
She got to her feet and gave him a peck on the lips. "Got it. I'll see you in the morning okay?"
He nodded. "Thanks."
"Call if you need me."
She kissed him once more, and then walked out.
Luke watched the door for a moment, and then retreated to his bedroom.
He didn't sleep.
Logan knelt beside Rory in the alley. "Better?"
She wiped her mouth and coughed a little. "I guess."
"Sorry," Logan muttered. "If I'd known…"
"I didn't know he was dead," Rory said quietly. "I haven't talked to anyone from home in a few days…"
"Who was he?" Logan asked.
"Ex-boyfriend." She sighed. "It was a crazy…crazy relationship, but…he meant a lot to me." She wrapped her arms around herself. "I think I loved him."
Logan gave a slow nod, and got to his feet, careful not to step in the fresh vomit. "Come on. We should head back to school."
Rory shook her head. "Can you take me home?"
Logan stared for a moment before giving her another nod.
Lorelai glanced out the window when she heard the sound of a car pull into the driveway. She watched Rory step carefully out of the SUV, her arms wrapped around herself.
Lorelai met her at the front door.
They stared at each other, before Rory burst into tears.
Lorelai sighed and wrapped an arm around her, guiding her into the house and closing the door.
Logan watched from the passenger's seat.
Finn glanced at him. "Hey."
Finn smirked. "Let's go get drunk."
Logan nodded. "Okay."
With that, they drove off.
"How did you find out?"
They were tucked into Lorelai's bed, curled up together.
"This…stupid…I told you about the Life and Death Brigade?"
Rory sighed. "I went out with a few of them again, and… we went to this morgue." She stopped talking and started crying again. "It w-was so horrible…"
Lorelai pulled her daughter closer. "Oh, sweetie…"
"I know," Lorelai sighed. "I know."
The phone rang at around three in the morning, and Lorelai squinted awake, and reached over to pick it up. "This better be God," she warned.
She sat up, gently untangling herself from Rory, who was still fast asleep. "What's up?"
"Can't sleep," he told her. "I've been lying here for hours…"
Lorelai sighed. "I just got Rory to sleep a little while ago."
"Rory's there? You told her?"
"I…" Lorelai gave another sigh. "She was with these stupid kids, and they went to the morgue…"
"Jeez…I guess she didn't take it well?"
"She loved him, Luke."
"Me, too," he muttered. "Me, too."
"He wouldn't want that."
Liz groaned. "Luke…"
"He'd hate that," Luke snapped, pointing to the flower arrangements in the catalog. "Just go with white."
"But the orange is pretty," Liz pleaded.
Luke crossed his arms and glared daggers at his sister. "Did Jess like orange? At all?"
Liz sighed. "So I guess no white coffin…"
"Black," Luke ordered.
Liz glared up at him from her spot at the kitchen table in his apartment. "If you know everything, why don't you plan this thing?! I'm just his mother, after all!"
"Don't even try to play the mother card with me!" Luke yelled. "You're the one who dumped him on me! You're the one who gave up on him! You're the one who-"
"Hey!" TJ cried, walking out of the bathroom. "Don't talk to her like that!"
"You stay out of this, TJ," Luke growled.
"Not until you stop yelling at my wife!" TJ yelled back.
Liz sighed. "It's okay, TJ… he's right." She handed the catalog to Luke, got up, and walked out.
TJ glared and followed after her.
Luke sighed heavily and slumped down at the kitchen table, staring down at the large booklet.
"Rory, come on."
She was curled up under her mother's comforter and sheets.
Lorelai groaned. "We need coffee."
"No we don't," she muttered. "Don't need anything."
"Leave me alone."
"You can't stay here forever!"
"I don't intend to," Rory told her. "I just…I can't go there right now…"
"He's all over the place there…"
The older Gilmore sighed and plopped down onto the bed, getting under the covers to hug her daughter tightly.
"Where's TJ?" Luke asked.
Liz didn't look up at her brother. "He went to Doose's to get some cereal."
He nodded. "Liz?"
She looked down at her cup of coffee and sighed. "What?"
Luke shifted a little. "I'm…I'm sorry. I didn't mean…"
"Yeah, you did," she cut him off, looking up at him. "And you were right…I was a horrible mother to him…he deserved better." She sniffed a little and wiped her eyes.
Luke sat down next to her and sighed. "You did the best you could with what you had. He knew that."
"He hated me," her voice cracked.
"He did not," Luke said soothingly. "He told me so."
She looked at him hopefully. "Really?"
She smiled through her tears.
"Come on," he told her, getting to his feet. "Let's go back up and plan this thing."
Liz nodded and got up as well.
The phone rang and Rory turned over on her mother's bed and gave it a glance. The ring before the machine kicked in, she picked it up. "Hello?"
"Hi… How are you?" he asked.
"Uhm…Okay, I guess," she replied, biting her lip. Their relationship was very new, and she had yet to introduce Logan to Stars Hollow. In fact, Logan really didn't know anything about her life before Yale, other than the fact that Dean had been her first boyfriend, and they'd rekindled their relationship, only to have it quickly burn out again.
Rory had never breathed a word about Jess. Logan had no idea Jess had ever even existed until the other night in the morgue. He'd asked little about the freshly deceased, but she was pretty sure he'd wanted to know more.
"Do you know when the funeral is?" Logan asked.
"No," she replied. "Probably soon, though."
"Okay," Logan said slowly. "Do you want me to come?"
"No," Rory told him bluntly. "You should stay at school… his family isn't big on including strangers."
"I'm not a stranger," he argued. "I'm your boyfriend."
"My new boyfriend," Rory bit. "Very new. You didn't know Jess, and you don't know anyone he's related to. You only know the girl who-" She stopped and sniffed. "I need to go."
"Bye, Logan." With that, she hung up, and threw the comforter over her head.
Lorelai sighed and took a seat at the diner's counter. "Hey, Caesar, is Luke around?"
He nodded. "Yeah, he's upstairs with his sister."
"Thanks," she replied, her gaze wandering over to the door to the stairway. Would she be intruding if she waltzed up there and knocked on the door?
She turned around and smiled a little. "Hi, TJ. What's up?"
"Just got some Coco Puffs," he explained, holding up a shopping back. "Luke's got zip up in the apartment."
Lorelai nodded. "Yup. He doesn't even have a coffeemaker up there."
They both nodded to each other.
"So uh…it's pretty sad about Jess," TJ said.
"Yeah," Lorelai sighed. "Rory is not taking it well at all."
"They dated, right?" TJ asked.
Lorelai nodded. "Yeah…she's so heartbroken."
TJ nodded back. "You shoulda seen Liz last night…" he shook his head. "Poor kid." He headed for the stairwell. "Hey, you waitin' for Luke?"
"They're probably planning the funeral," TJ explained. "You should come on up."
Lorelai shrugged. "I don't know, TJ… I might just be in the way…"
"Nah," TJ smiled. "Come on, those two could use a referee."
Lorelai smiled and got up to follow him up the stairs.
Liz sighed. "Why not?"
"He's Jess. You want to have roses at Jess's funeral?"
"I just thought they'd be nice."
Luke turned in his chair and smiled a little at Lorelai. "Hey."
"Lorelai," Liz chimed up. "Roses for Jess's funeral?"
"Uh…" Lorelai hesitated. "Uhm…I didn't know Jess very well…"
"I'm telling you, no roses," Luke said.
Liz groaned. "We need a middle-person," she said. "Lorelai, is Rory downstairs? She'd be able to help."
Lorelai sighed. "Actually, Rory's still at home…she's not feeling well this morning."
They stayed silent for a long moment.
"She's really taking it that bad, huh?" Luke asked quietly.
Lorelai nodded. "She'll snap out of it. I just have to give her a little time." At that moment, her phone rang. She smirked and picked it up. "Hello?"
Lorelai blinked. "Hi, Babe…what's up?"
Rory sighed. "Y'know how the plumbing in the basement is all messed up?"
"Yeah, that's why we don't go down there," Lorelai said slowly. "You went down there…"
"I tried to fix it, but I think I made it worse."
"What do you mean you 'tried to fix it'?" Lorelai asked. "You don't know anything about plumbing."
"I looked it up online," Rory replied, obviously frantic. "I printed out directions, and Luke left Bert here, so I thought I'd give it a shot… what was the worst that could happen, right? They were already broken! And now I'm ankle-deep in water, and I have no idea what to do!"
"Oh, Rory," Lorelai said sympathetically. "Don't tell me that this was the first thing on a to-do list…"
"Second," Rory snapped. "The first was the shine the Charlie's Angels plates. Which I did quite well!"
Lorelai sighed. "Y'know what? I'm sending Luke over. I have no idea what to do with crazy basement pipes."
Luke looked up at her from the flower brochures. "Crazy pipes?"
"Please go help Rory," Lorelai pleaded.
"Tell her I'll be right over," Luke said, getting to his feet. He pointed to Liz as he grabbed his jacket. "No roses."
She pouted, and watched her brother leave. Lorelai got off the phone, and slumped down into the chair Luke had been sitting in. TJ walked over and handed Liz the box of cereal. She took it gratefully.
"In the basement!"
"Where's the basement?" Luke called. "I didn't even know you had a basement!"
"There's a door in-between the living room and the kitchen!" Rory yelled back.
Luke wandered over and found an open door, which he walked through, and down the stairs. When he reached the floor, his foot was greeted with water that was ankle-deep. "Ah, jeez!"
He looked over and saw Rory standing underneath a very leaky pipe. She was drenched. "Rory, what the hell happened?"
She sniffled a little. "I tried to fix it."
Luke sighed and made his way over to her. He picked up a wrench from the toolbox and got to work.
Rory wrapped the blanket around herself and watched as Luke packed up his tools in the front hall.
He glanced up at her. "Hey, Rory?"
"You shouldn't feel bad about Jess," he said sincerely.
She gave him a strange look. "What…?"
He sighed. "Well… you guys weren't close in the end, and he really hurt you-"
"I called him," she cut him off. "A month ago. I…called him. And…we've been talking ever since. He was my friend." She crossed her arms tightly. "We were supposed to have lunch next week. He still…" she sniffed and started crying. "He still has one of my books."
Luke watched her for a moment, and then wrapped her in an awkward hug, patting her gently on the back.
The funeral was very small. Luke, Rory, Lorelai, Liz, TJ, and a few others. Kirk and Lulu showed up, along with Miss Patty. Lane brought Zach and Brian, and Dave showed up a little late. Jimmy, Sasha and Lily had all arrived as well, taking a taxi straight from the airport in Hartford.
That was it.
Rory looked down. Was that really all? There had to be more people who had known Jess; cared about him. It didn't make sense to her.
Liz burst into tears as the coffin was lowered into the ground.
It suddenly occurred to Rory that Jess probably wouldn't have wanted to be buried. He would have wanted to have been cremated.
Too late now.
She let a few tears fall and leaned against her mother, who wrapped an arm around her tightly.
Dave had to catch the next plane back to California, and Jimmy, Sasha and Lily had retired to the room at The Dragonfly they'd gotten. Lane, Zach and Brian had gone to drop Dave off, and Kirk had taken Lulu home to "mourn in private."
"I just don't get it," Rory said quietly as she sat at a table in the diner. "No one showed up."
"Oh, Honey," Miss Patty said sympathetically, sitting across from her.
"People showed up for Louie's funeral…"
"People knew Louis," Patty replied. "Not many people really knew Jess all that well. He wasn't here for very long, and, to be honest, the only people who he really talked to were you and Luke."
"What about his family?" Rory asked quietly.
Luke sighed as he locked the door and flipped the 'closed' sign. "They don't care. I got about three condolence cards out of the nine of them."
"You should send them all thank you notes to make them feel guilty," Lorelai said bitterly.
Liz smirked a little at this as she drank her hot chocolate.
At that moment there was a knock on the door, and all heads turned toward the class.
Luke squinted. "Rory… isn't that your boyfriend?"
She nodded slowly, and got up. She opened the door and stepped outside. "What are you doing here?"
"I wanted to-"
"I told you not to come."
"I came for you."
Rory's eyes welled up. "I told you not to. I didn't want you here… I'm sorry… I just… you don't belong here. You didn't know him… and if you did, you wouldn't be wearing a suit."
Logan looked past her and into the diner. The two men that were standing around were wearing slacks and fairly nice shirts, one with a baseball cap. He sighed. "It's a funeral."
"It's Jess Mariano's funeral," Rory replied. "You don't wear a suit to Jess Mariano's funeral."
He glared. "Well, I didn't know the guy!"
"Which is why you shouldn't be here!" Rory yelled. She let out a shaky breath.
Logan stared for a long moment, before nodding. "Fine, I'll go."
She nodded back. "Thank you…I'll…I'll see you back at school, okay?"
He nodded, and leaned forward to kiss her, but she avoided him when she turned and walked back into the diner, locking the door the behind her.
He stared for a moment, as he watched her sit down next to her mother, who wrapped an arm around her and wiped a few of her tears away.
Logan shook his head as he made his way back to his car. "All the money and looks in the world, and I still rate below a dead man."
He turned the ignition, and gave the diner one last look before driving off.