Story Title: Never Enough
Chapter Title: Seeking Professional Help
Summary: Lit set in present time. Jess never made his season six appearance, but Rory found her way to his book anyhow. Crossover GG/VM.
AN: Thanks to M and K, who inspire me and tell me I don't suck. If I'm only entertaining you two, I've done my fair share. :D
"He doesn't even own a pair of shorts."
It's the first thought that popped into Rory Gilmore's head upon being asked for personal information about one Jess Mariano. Perhaps if it hadn't been so hot or her stupid, so-called luxury, rental car had a working air conditioner, her thoughts as to why a person native to the east coast would ever stay in California under their own free will would have been kept at bay.
But as she longed to get back to her (hopefully) air-conditioned hotel and change into a more weather-appropriate outfit, it was the only personal detail she could think of. A mental image of him in jeans and his leather jacket—the outfit he kept popping up in last year as she was struggled to move past the girl that cared that he left her—and all she could do was smile.
The look on the girl that sat across the desk from her, ready to take the notes on the job Rory so hoped she'd agree to take, turned from professionally accepting of stupidity to annoyed.
"Look, Ms. …," she looked down to check the notes she'd jotted down so far. "Gilmore. I don't know if you've ever seen private investigators on TV or not, but we like a little more to go on than the items that inhabit their dresser drawers. While the thought of breaking into each and every home in a fifteen-mile radius might have it's advantages, both in my personal life and all the other cases Mars Investigations is currently working on," she began, seemingly spitting all that out in one breath. She could definitely be a contender in a Gilmore debate.
"No, of course not, I know other things about him, please, I need you to take my case. I can pay upfront, if that makes a difference. It did in Sam Spade movies. His eyes always lit up, despite his ability to show no other emotion whatsoever, and took the cash while he patted the poor, though debaucherous, woman on the back saying things like, 'there there, don't worry your pretty head,'" Rory babbled.
"You're on the lamb?" she blonde furrowed her eyebrows, leaning with sudden interest over the desk, her voice lowering as her eyes darted quickly to the closed door that no doubt separated her from her boss.
"No, no, it's just, in the movies, the woman usually is. Of course, Spade ends up falling in love with her," Rory babbled.
"I'm not going to fall in love with you," she smirked. "But we do accept cash advances."
"Oh, right," Rory pulled her purse into her lap. "How much?"
"Well that depends. Mr. Mars offers a variety of services, with packages that range from a couple hundred dollars to into the thousands. I'm just his screening process. Here solely do determine if help is needed, deserved, and available."
"And here I haven't read my handbook yet," Rory joked, causing the girl to smile.
"Just call me Juno," she deadpanned. "So, let's start again. What can you tell me about this," she consulted her notes again, "Jess?"
Rory took a deep breath and sat up straighter in her chair. "Well, none of his family is able to contact him; he contacts them via payphone when he has to. He was last known to be in Venice Beach, about a year ago."
"Was that the last time you saw him?" Veronica was scribbling on the pad.
"No," Rory bit her lip. "I saw him a year and half ago, in Connecticut."
"Connecticut?" Veronica asked, clearly surprised at the jump in locale.
"It's where this all started—I'm from a small town outside of Hartford. Stars Hollow--you've probably never heard of it."
"Had you ever heard of Neptune before coming to California?" Veronica related.
"I assumed he just went back to New York, he's from New York, but his uncle—Luke, he lives in my town—says that the last time he'd talked to him, Jess had gone back to California."
"And what narrowed your search to our fine community?" a level of sarcasm made its way through her routine questioning.
"His dad thought he was up here. Something about wanting seclusion and thinking Venice was full of hippies, and that he'd probably run out of money by the time he got this far. He wasn't very clear, but he seemed kind of sure of it."
Veronica nodded and smirked as she scribbled. "Sounds like you've done a bit of sleuthing already on your own. Do you have a picture of him?"
Rory frowned. "No. Do you need one?"
"That depends on how good your other information is. You don't have a phone number, address, or picture. How about Social Security Number?"
Rory shook her head.
"Place of employment?"
"No," Rory sighed.
"How exactly did you know this guy?"
Rory fidgeted in her seat, wringing her hands together before pushing them under her thighs, feeling the new addition to her left ring finger scrape her even through the durable material of her jeans. "We dated."
"You dated, and thus far all you've been able to tell me is his first and last name, and the fact that he doesn't do shorts. Is this a one-night stand and now you'd like to introduce him to his kid kind of deal?"
"No, nothing like that," Rory blushed at the thought. "We didn't, I mean, we never," she stammered. She chastised herself inwardly, reminding herself of the fact that sex wasn't a big deal. She had been with two guys since Jess ran out of her life again. She wasn't the seventeen-year-old girl on the cusp of this milestone. She certainly wasn't pining for him, holding out hope that he was to be her first, her only, her anything. She was a woman on a search for… something. The word closure didn't seem quite right. But there it was.
"O-kay," the petite blonde drawled. "So tell me why you need to find this guy. Because you might want to save your money. At this rate it might be impossible to find him. If he's really come up here to disappear, it seems like this guy may have done just that."
"I have to find him; money isn't an issue," she said automatically, too used to having Logan Huntzberger as her backer. She bit her lower lip as the girl tapped her pen against the edge of the desk. "Do we have some kind of client confidentiality?"
"I just need to see him. I don't know why—I just know I do. I've been… restless, I guess, lately. I got engaged to a wonderful man. His name is Logan, and he's smart, rich; he loves me. I know I should just focus on the mounting wedding plans, but while I was in the bookstore last week, looking for bridal books, I came across this," she pulled a small book out of her bag.
"The Subsect?" Veronica looked it over. "By Jess Mariano."
"It was the only thing I bought. I read it in one night—and a few times since. Ever since then, he's all I could think about. I just, I need to see him before I can move on. I really thought I'd put his abrupt leaving behind me—even after he showed up and told me he loved me, only to leave again," she closed her eyes, feeling tears stinging.
"Well, at least finally we've got something we can use to find him," Veronica put the book on top of her legal pad. "You mind if I keep this for now?"
Rory looked up. "You're taking my case?"
"Let's just say I can totally relate to having your feelings torn between a runaway ex and a handsome rich boy named Logan," she smiled empathetically.
"You have no idea how refreshing it is to hear you say that. I can't really talk about this to anyone. No one knows I'm here," she confided.
Rory nodded. "I have to leave by Saturday, so time is of the essence. Here's the information for the hotel I'm staying at, and my cell phone number. Call me any time day or night."
Veronica nodded. "Are you sure you want to see him again?"
Rory stood up, clutching her purse—now lighter as she'd handed over the only piece of Jess she'd had—and smiled sadly. "I wouldn't be here if I didn't have to be. There are things that only he can tell me."
Veronica stood up, holding the book in one hand and stretching the other hand out to Rory. "I'll get right on it."
"It's a great read," Rory promised. "You won't be disappointed."
"Well, I hope you aren't either. We'll do our best."
With that proclamation, Rory took her leave, passing a troubled-looking young man in the hall. He bustled into the door she'd just left, and she could hear the surprise in the Veronica's voice as she said the name that had become so trained on her own tongue.
Rory winced at the guilt the name brought over her. She pulled out her cell phone, seeing no one had called. No one had missed her.
She wondered if that were truly the case, as she squinted toward the ever-present sun. She had proof that just because you don't call someone doesn't mean you don't miss them.
Perhaps if she could have just picked up the phone and talked to him, she wouldn't be alone in a strange city, with nothing to do but wait. She didn't want to think of what would happen if the crack team at Mars Investigations couldn't find him—if he'd moved on to another town or whatever happened to people when they fell off the face of the earth.
She really didn't want to think about what would happen if they did find him.
With a heavy sigh, she started the ignition and began her oven-like drive back to her mid-range hotel to ponder the last line of his novel for the thousandth time.
Being whole was no longer his concern.
It was as if he'd burned the words into her heart instead of writing them on the page. She'd cried at the idea that his heroine had been modeled after her; both at her own desire that he had, and the overwhelming feeling that he'd gotten it all wrong. He'd gotten her all wrong.
She had a raging headache as she finally stepped into the cool lobby. She wiped tears off of her cheeks and willed the pain away as she fished her ringing cell phone out of her bag.
"Hi, Logan. No, I'm fine. How's your trip?"