So, this is my vision of what takes place six years after Lights, Camera, Action. However, I've read stories before that ended oh-so-happy, and the author chose to make an angsty sequel that completely killed the happily ever after theory. Well, I'm going to be that author, and I'm going to make Rory and Jess's relationship completely horrible, and see if they can make it work in the end. Anyway, here's the point I'm trying to make, but am probably failing at: The backstory for this story is LCA. You can read either or both, and you can treat this as a sequel OR a story with the same backstory as LCA. That way, I hope I won't upset anyone when the ending of LCA is completely overridden by the Mariano's failing marriage. All I ask is that you guys give it a chance.
By the way, this is going to be lit, no matter what. I may throw some other half-pairings in for the sake of having characters, but just as Tristin was in LCA without it becoming a Trory, this will remain literati.
And Amy Sherman-Palladino owns everything Gilmore Girls related. I wish I did. But I don't. I've gone through the five stages of acceptance, and I can willingly admit it now. So, please, don't sue me.
The 13th floor of The Starrshallau, one of NY's most prestigious apartment buildings, was host to what had turned out to be a large, impromptu gathering. Its owners- Luke and Lorelai Danes, along with their son Matti- had initially just invited her daughter Rory, his nephew Jess, and the two's children, Jane and Riley. But it had been months since the Danes' neighbors had seen the Mariano family, and an extra twenty people had joined the party.
"I'm sorry Patty, we've just been so busy. What with my going to Boston every other week, and Jess in Canada more often than not…plus we had to hire a new nanny not too long ago, and we replaced the counters in the kitchen."
"Excuses, excuses. Your mother has missed you, Rory. We all have."
"I know, and I'm sorry. But I have a lot on my plate at the moment, and I can't drive up to New York every weekend."
"Sweetie, we told you not to move to New Jersey. It's a long drive, plus it's a landfill down there."
"Yea, Patty, I gotta go." She reached forward and hugged the woman before hurrying off to assist her four-year-old daughter. Jane happened to be the exact same age as her uncle Matti, and the two normally got along perfectly. At the moment, however, they were fighting over the last shelled peanut in the glass bowl Lorelai had placed on the coffee table, and were about to start biting and scratching. Recognizing the signs of appending conflict, Rory scooped Jane up before the catfight could ensue.
"Let's go see if Grandma has more nuts, okay?" Beaming into her mother's blue eyes, so different from her own soft brown orbs, the little girl happily rode off in Rory's arms.
Across the room, Jess watched them go into the kitchen. He automatically bounced Riley on his knee, his son having chosen to stick near Daddy with all these strange people around. Adoringly, he looked at his father through piercing blue eyes. Riley, at 18 months, looked like his mother. Jane looked like Jess. But the one thing they both had in common was that they were both beginning to get antsy.
Standing up and going to the kitchen without any of Luke's crazy neighbors sucking him into their conversations was a task he'd perfected while he and Rory had still lived in the building. They'd taken a shore house many miles away several years back, and he had yet to feel regret about the decision.
"When are we leaving?" he asked his wife without preamble as he stepped into the small kitchen. Its older furniture didn't match the glistening buildings in view from the window, but Jess wouldn't expect it to. Luke was only a maintenance man, and Lorelai's acting agency was going steady, but she didn't have any clients who matched the size of Rory's career back in her acting days.
Jersey Girls had run for six action-packed seasons before the final wrap party. Jess and Rory had emerged married (known to the media as 'Roriano'), wealthy, and household names. He had aspired to do movies, she had desired to put all that she had learned from Max Medina to use, and went into directing. Currently, she co-wrote and directed the critic and ratings darling, Streets, a job which often took her to Boston, MA, while Jess was in the process of filming Winter Dreams with the gorgeous Kirsten Dunst.
"I'm talking, Jess." He hadn't noticed, but she was in the middle of a conversation with Lane Rygalski. "Go on, what were you saying before Jess interrupted?"
"Well, I'm working on the solo record, but I keep experiencing lack of inspiration, so the guys are helping me. I'm trying to keep their influence to a minimum though, because this is supposed to be about ME, not them. Lane Rygalski, unplugged, without the question 'would Kurt Cobain have approved' coming into the equation with every potential track."
"Ror," Jess said in a warning tone. She held up a finger to lane to signal a pause in the talk, and turned to Jess.
"Yes, honey?" she asked sweetly.
"It's late. When are we going?" Riley reached out to play with his mother's long, reddish-brown hair. In the past several years, she'd grown it out, dyed it, crimped it, added bangs, and eventually achieved the Marianne Faithful look it currently rocked. Jess, also, had abandoned coiffed grooming when their job portraying teenagers had run its course. His black hair was longer and messier, although on days when he was working it was secured into the perfect Jazz age style by liberal amounts of gel.
"I was thinking in about ten minutes, but if you're not okay with that, I'm sure we could work something out." He pulled Riley's hand back towards his own body.
"Ten minutes. If you're late, you can hail a cab." He left the kitchen as Lane stared after him with an open mouth.
"Is he feeling alright?"
"He's feeling fine. Why?"
"I don't know, he just seemed a little cold. And you seemed a little cold back. Is something going on?"
"No, nothing's going on," Rory answered, sounding truthful.
"If you say so."
"I do. So, tell me more about this solo album, missy, before schnicklefritz out there gets even more fidgety."
"I can't believe this is the first time I'm filling you in about it; you never come see us anymore! There are so many people who would love for you to bring the kids and just crash here for a few days, everyone would offer you their guestrooms."
"I would love to Lane, but I'm so booked for the next few months, it's not even funny. So, back to the album. Are you planning on doing a tour for it?"
"I don't know. See, Dave and I decided that once we hit the two-year mark on the anniversary chart, we'd start talking about babies. And that's approaching at light speed, so I don't know what my status for jumping around with a guitar six months from now will be."
"True. Just don't let Dave decide for you- if you want to tour, tour. If you want to rush ahead with the baby having, do that."
"Okay, I guess that's good advice. Thanks."
"No problem. I gotta make the rounds before I leave, so it was nice talking to you."
"You too!" They shared a hug before Rory took Jane's hand and led her back out into the living room.
"Oh, Doll, don't tell me you're headin' out already." Babette put her hand over her heart to emphasize her point.
"I'm really sorry Babette, but Jess has an early morning tomorrow, and I need to get the kids home and in bed anyway." Babette sniffled. "Oh, don't cry. I'll visit soon, I promise."
"But it's not enough."
"Aw, Babette." Rory moved forward to hug the woman just as she had with Lane and Patty, not being able to think up another way to comfort them. She wasn't very good at comforting people, so when she withdrew her arms, Babette didn't look any better.
"I'll call you." She quickly circled the room, giving more hugs and goodbyes. Some of the people, such as the Gleasons and Morey, she hadn't even gotten to talk to yet. But Jess hung in her vicinity, so she made her farewells quickly. Everyone around her seemed pained at her departure, but she herself was somewhat impartial. All she could think about was the object in her purse. She had heard its call the entire night, but been caught up in chatter with her former neighbors and friends. Once they left, it would be a different matter.
Her mother handed her expensive, beaded, soft blue coat and matching purse to her, and she took them with a sad smile. She truly did miss Lorelai, even though she pretended not to for both their sakes. They'd lived together Rory's whole life, until Lorelai married Luke. Even then, they were only three floors apart. Now there were miles in between, and it hurt. But it was just the way things had worked out, and anyway, Lorelai had been excited when she saw the house they were buying. Big and white, within walking distance to an east coast beach (white sand, beautiful green waves), and extremely fancy-schmancy. So she was proud of her daughter, and happy that she'd risen to a position where she and her husband could afford to buy the house. Somewhere along the line, that translated into acceptance of the physical distance between them.
Jess carried Riley, Rory carried the diaper bag full of toys, books, and its namesake, and Jane walked quietly alongside her parents. Rory blew her mother a kiss as she stood in the hallway before the elevator doors dinged shut, and they were on their way down to the parking garage. They'd spent most of the ride up arguing about Jess's decision to take the DeSoto rather than the SUV, but now she was rather glad to find the unique car straight away instead of searching among dozens of identical vehicles for the larger, but more standard one. In unison, they each buckled a child into their car seat, closed the back door, opened the front, and slid in their respective seats. Jess drove, Rory rummaged around in her purse for the flask she'd stashed there before they left.
"We're not even out of the garage, Rory." She took a long drink before making a face and turning to face him.
"I didn't even drink on the way up, give me a break."
"J-a-n-e is watching you," he scolded her, trying not to catch their daughter's attention.
"I'm just drinking Kool-Aid," she shot back with a smirk.
"Oh, they make it in vodka flavor now?"
"Cut me some slack, I had a hard day. Too many people, too little personal space. And it's not like you made things any easier."
"I behaved, leave me alone."
"Yea, you made a real effort to talk to people. And since Riley hung on you the entire time, his social skills are probably stunted by now."
"Hey, just drink and go to a happy place."
"Why, when b-i-t-c-h-i-n-g at you is just as fun?"
"I still can't believe you managed to make nice to your mom and all those people. You're pretty damn jaded, Rory Gilmore."
"It's Mariano, or did you forget that you're married yet again?"
"I turn the TV on, I see Gilmore," he bit, referring to the name she directed under.
"I turn on the TV, I see you making out with Scarlett Johansson," she retorted, referring to his most R-rated movie yet, The Perfect Suicide.
"It's a job, Rory. We are not having this conversation again."
"Whatever. I don't care." She took another long drink, and made another face. Even though she was at the point where rehab probably couldn't hurt, she'd never acquired a taste for the liquid.
They drove in silence that was neither comfortable nor awkward. It just was, just like they were, just like their lives were. Not entirely pleasant, but the thought of change never seriously occurred.
It wasn't until they'd driven down their long driveway and carried their sleeping children to bed that they spoke again.
"Are you coming to bed?" She asked it not seductively, not exasperatedly. It was just an honest inquiry, one that would let her know whether or not she could sprawl out freely in their king-sized bed.
"Yea." She moved for the liquor cart as he answered, fixing herself her normal nightly drink. After a minute, she remembered he was in the room, reading the day's paper as he reclined on the wrap-around couch. "You want something?"
"I'm good, thanks." She shrugged and picked up her glass, moving towards him. She picked up a copy of Newsweek, and flipped through it. Finding an article she deemed as worth reading, she sat down next to Jess's feet, and the sock-covered toes gently grazed her side as she drank and read.
"I thought you were going to bed," he asked her twenty minutes later. Looking up with a start, she nodded and stood up.
"Got distracted. There was an article on some war movie with Paris Gellar, and I got curious." She flipped the offending magazine back onto the table, where it landed with a satisfying thwack.
"How is the old girl doing?"
"I don't know; the article didn't have anything personal, and I haven't seen her in over a year." She headed for the stairs, leaving her glass on the coffee table. Jess sighed and refrained from calling after her to remind her that their maid, Kathy, wasn't working tonight. Instead, he finished his own reading and took the glass to the kitchen to rinse it out himself. As he did, he took a gentle whiff of it, and recoiled swiftly. Her nightcaps were getting stronger and stronger, this being proof. He wasn't even sure when they'd started, but knew he was part of the problem.
As he climbed the stairs, he tried to remember when she had started with the heavy drinking. Maybe around the time when she'd walked in on him with Shane? But no; the habit had been present even then.
When he reached their bedroom doorway, he stood silently on the verge of entering, staring at the woman lying in bed with the hall light falling softly across her body. She'd changed into one of the little silk nightgowns she loved wearing, and was already under the covers on her side of the bed. Her hair was spread across her pillow, and he could see the tattoo on her left shoulder blade. 'Jess', it said, in a casual cursive font, with blue lilies below it. He remembered the night she'd gotten it, and squeezed the life out of his poor hand as the tattoo artist carved into her flawless skin. He had a matching one, 'Rory', in the same font and the same place. The only difference was the crimson roses underneath.
He brushed his teeth and changed into his flannel pajama bottoms before climbing into bed next to Rory. The smell of alcohol assaulted him, and he winced before setting the alarm, and sinking down into the mattress. Sleep captured him about ten minutes later, and he fell into an easy, dreamless state where nothing particularly mattered to him. Not Rory, not the kids, not work, not Mina, nothing. The only time when he was completely at peace, sadly, he wasn't even awake to enjoy it.
GAH! I even explained in the author's note at the end of LCA that if Hollywood Hearts' developments made you mad, not to read it as a sequel! People still bitched at me for ruining the ending, even though they hadn't seen a word of the story. Guys, I love your support, but I gave you a way out. If you don't like it, I encourage you to 'X' out of this page. I don't want your whining in my review box. I gave you a happy ending, let me play with my characters now. This might just yet be a happy ending too.
And a very happy Halloween, my pretties!