AN: So, here it is, my new fic that's been running around in my head for an extremely long time. First off, this story has absolutely no connection to The Way It Seems and Not So Fast, but I hope you give it a chance and enjoy it anyway. So, here's the first chapter. I hope you like it. Please read and review!
Rory Gilmore never told him she didn't love him. No, that wasn't her style. She was the one who had come running to him afterall. And so, over a year later, she was still living with him in their New York City apartment. His bookstore in Philadelphia, which had been so successful in the beginning, had failed shortly after her arrival. Now, he had opened a new one in New York and that was taking up most, if not all of his time. Not that she minded, not anymore. She was used to being ignored, used to being cast aside like a prize he had won and now discarded.
Not that she had never loved him, she was sure she had once. But she had been younger, much younger. She had changed since then, and he, he had changed also. Jess Mariano wasn't the same man she knew in high school. Hell, he wasn't the same man she had turned to over a year before. At least then she had thought he cared, thought something inside of him needed her. But she wasn't that stupid anymore. Rory had snapped out of her daze long ago. Now she was just drifting along, working at the local newspaper, and trying to forget that the man she was living with provided no shelter, no safety at all.
Often, she thought about that fateful night of Jess's opening. Maybe if she just would've stayed home, her life could've been different. If she had given another chance to the blonde man with the cocky smile, maybe she could've been happy at this point in her life. But no, she hadn't chosen that path. She had gone to Philadelphia and believed the lies the deep, brown eyes had been feeding her. Come with me, Rory, I'm the only one that ever loved you. But that was a lie, everything he had ever said was a lie. He didn't love her, he loved the idea of her. He loved the chase, the challenge. And now, he had won. She was his trophy sitting on the shelf next to his published books and store records. She was nothing to him, and he was no longer anything to her.
But she didn't have a choice anymore. Her life was moving along, as fast and wicked as a tornado, and she didn't know how to make it come to halt. She just wanted to scream, "No! Stop! Rewind!" But she knew that wasn't possible. In her dreams, she would see the chocolate brown eyes and messy blonde hair of the man she loved, she would feel his hands resting lightly against her hips. But in her reality, she had to move away from him, one step at a time. She was with Jess now, and she would stay with Jess, because that's who she chose over a year ago. Over a year ago...
"Rory!" Jess's voice called.
"I'm going out."
"Okay, have a goo--"
She was cut off sharply by the slamming of their apartment door. With a sigh, she turned away from the window and sat down where her book was still lying on couch's arm rest. She wasn't exactly sure how many books she'd gone through in her spare time when Jess went out, but she did know she was running out of reading material. He never asked her to come, which wasn't surprising. She wasn't included in that area of his life. Actually, she wasn't sure where she fit into his plans. A part of her knew he had probably cheated on her several times, but that didn't hurt her. When it came to Jess, she was numb.
She thought about leaving him many times. Yes, it crossed her mind just about everyday. But she couldn't, wouldn't turn her back on him. If she did it would mean she had really made a mistake, it would mean that she actually left her fairtytale behind. She wasn't ready to admit that. So she held on for dear life, fingers slipping as they gripped what was left of their relationship.
Not that all of her life was crumbling around her. She still had her job, her friends, her family. Her career had taken off almost instantly after graduation and she was happy at the local newspaper. Not only that, she was the star, their own personal success story. Her circle of friends had grown since Yale and her co-workers had become as close as family. But her real family, well, for them there was no replacement, or at least their wasn't one for her mother. Lorelai was her rock, the one who kept her standing when she felt her legs growing weak. Without her, Rory would have broken long ago from living with a man who didn't want her in a city that didn't care.
"Did you have a good time last night?" Rory asked Jess the next morning, not really caring to hear the answer.
"Who were you with?"
Jess shot her a glare that clearly said 'none of your business', "People."
Rory stared at her coffee, watching the black liquid ripple around the cup. It was madly more interesting than the conversation with her boyfriend. God, what had happened to the witty, funny Jess she had known in high school?
"You were asleep when I came home," Jess observed.
"It was late."
"What's that supposed to mean?"
Rory glanced up, "Nothing. I was just stating a fact."
Jess held eye contact with her for a few more seconds, before mumbling something under his breath and getting up from the table.
"I've got to get to work. I'll be home late."
"There's something unusual," Rory muttered.
"Nothing. Have a good day."
He grumbled a reply before grabbing his leather jacket and walking out the door.
She stared at the empty chair infront of her, noticing that the space before it was littered with his plate, cups, and silverware. Did he honestly expect her to clean up after him every day of her life? He was so careless, so selfish, so...Jess. With an all too familar sigh, she tossed their dishes in the dishwasher, before grabbing her coat and walking out the door he had left a few minutes before. Among his list of traits was the fact that he never waited for her after breakfast. It wasn't like he had a boss to report to, would a few more minutes be too much to ask? Maybe she would like to ride to work with her boyfriend. But then again, maybe not.
And yet, she stayed with him, fighting for the relationship that was barely existant. Why should she fight? Why should she care so much when he didn't care at all? But she knew it wasn't him she cared about, she had discovered her non-existant feelings for him long ago. No, it was her past she felt so deeply for. It was the people she had left behind that night, not only Logan, but the friends that had come along with him. She had sacrificed Colin, Finn, and Stephanie for a man who had only wanted her for the chase. And if she left, well, then she would have to remember exactly how big of a mistake she made. But right now, a mindblock on those memories was firmly in place, and she wasn't planning on removing it anytime soon.
"Rory!" Carmen Miller yelled, running over to her desk.
Rory glanced up and smiled at her bouncy, blonde haired friend. Over her time at the paper, Carmen had become her best friend. The girl shared Rory's witty sense of humor, but her of-the-moment attitude kept Rory on her toes. She caring and was there when things went wrong, but her bubbly attitude sent the two out on the town often.
"Hey," Rory greeted, leaning back in her chair.
Carmen plopped herself down on Rory's desk, careful not to mess up any of the piles of neatly taken notes.
"You. Me. Tonight."
"I'm going to need bigger sentences," Rory explained.
Carmen rolled her eyes, "Fine," she paused, "Okay, here's the deal. There's this band playing at a club tonight and Shawn and Aiden really, really, really want us to go. So are you in?"
Rory glanced at her half finished article on the computer. She figured she could wrap it up by the end of the workday and then have some time to enjoy with her friends. She looked back at Carmen and nodded.
"I'd love to."
"And you can bring Jess if you want."
Rory raised her eyebrows. Carmen knew very well how the situation with Jess worked. Rory went out, Jess went out. Neither one asked too many questions so nobody ever had to lie. Although, Rory wasn't the one who had to worry about lying, Jess was the one who would've had a nose longer than Pinocchio's. Carmen lifted her hands up in a mock surrender.
"It was just a suggestion. I thought maybe it would get you guys back on good footing."
Rory laughed bitterly, "We've fallen way too far off the mountain to find our footing."
"Ror," Carmen looked at her sympathitically, "Why don't you just move on, hun?"
"Do you love him?"
Rory sighed, "Can we not talk about this right now?"
"Fine, but someday we are going to talk about this."
"I really don't have much to say."
"Then I'll talk about it! Either way, it's not staying tucked up in your brain forever."
"Your past, your reasons, whatever the hell goes on up there."
"What are you talking about?"
"You know when I'm talking about. I don't know what I'm talking about, but you do."
Rory cocked her head to the side, "You are the most confusing woman I have ever met."
"And yet you understand me! Funny how life works, isn't it?" Carmen chirped.
"I really have to get back to work now."
"You can't ignore me."
"Sure, I can!" Rory insisted playfully.
"Watch me," Rory insisted.
"Fine, fine. I'm going. Meet me at my desk after work and we'll ride over with the boys."
"You got it."
The flightly blonde disappeared in a whirlwind and Rory couldn't help but grin. Being around Carmen was like coming up for a breath of fresh air, not to mention Shawn and Aiden, who were just as crazy and outgoing as the boys she had known at Yale. Their group always reminded Rory of her college days and she couldn't help but think that was why she loved them so much. It reminded her of when she was happy, without throwing it directly in her face how miserable she currently was.
"Gilmore," a male voice singsonged.
"What?" Rory glanced up into the brown eyes of Shawn Daniels.
"Is that any way to greet your favorite person in the world?"
"Fine," Rory cleared her throat, "What do you need, oh favorite person in the world?"
"Say it like you mean it," Shawn winked.
"Right, sorry," he grinned at her, revealing his perfectly set white teeth, "Are you coming tonight?"
"Don't you and Carmen, like, talk?"
"Then yes, I'm coming."
"Great!" he ran his hand through his light brown curls, "And you'll hang out with us...and smile?"
"If it gets you away from my desk so I can work on this article," Rory replied, mock sweetness in her voice.
"Fine, fine," Shawn said dramatically, "But you hurt my feelings, Gilmore."
"I'll buy you a beer tonight."
"All fixed. Bye Rory."
She watched him walk away, a soft chuckle escaping her lips. She loved Shawn. Not in the boyfriend, love you forver, butterflies in her stomach kind of way. But in the kind of way that she knew he would always be there, making her laugh and holding her when things went wrong. He was one of her best friends and he had become like a brother. And he reminds you of Logan, a voice whispered in her head.
As the silent words echoed through her mind, thoughts of Logan began consuming her: his soft blonde hair, his loving eyes, the witty comments, the way his lips felt on her's. Jumping up from her desk, she walked briskly to the breakroom for coffee. Maybe coffee would make the damn images in her head go away. Why couldn't she forget about him? She had left him, walked on him. Not only that, but she didn't even have the guts to wait until he had gotten back from his LBD trip. She had packed her things and vanished when she knew he wouldn't be there to make her turn around. She had been angry then, furious, more completely upset and fearful than she had ever been. She had moved in with Paris until after her graduation, and then gone to Philadelphia with Jess. At that time, leaving was her best option. But looking back now, she couldn't help but wonder what might have been.
She had missed his graduation and his depature from the United States for London. He would be back by now, returning home to work for his father at one of Mitchum's many newspapers across the country. She wondered briefly what he was doing, if he was happy, but then she made herself stop. Thinking about him was like torture and she didn't want to drive herself crazy anymore. Logan was her past: the brief, beautiful, flickering flame of true love. Over a year ago she had diminished it and there wasn't a match in the world powerful enough to light it again.
Rory turned around at the sound of Carmen's voice. The other girl was leaning against the breakroom doorframe, a smirk on her face.
"You getting that article done?" she asked.
Rory paused, "I'm working on it."
"I can see that," Carmen replied, motioning to her coffee.
"You know me and coffee."
"And I also know that if you don't get that article done you won't come out with us tonight and you have to come out with us tonight."
"Why do I have to come out with you?"
Carmen's hazel eyes twinkled, "Because you're not leaving me alone with those two maniacs."
"Fair enough," Rory shrugged and tossed her coffee up in the garbage.
"Oh and you have a phone call waiting at your desk."
"And your telling me this after you have a full conversation with me? Who is it?"
"Oh," Rory replied, walking over to pick up her phone.
"Hello?" she answered, sitting down and typing as the telephone rested against her shoulder.
"I just wanted to let you know that I might not be home until tomorrow morning."
Lie. She silently decided to see how many lies she could pull out of him in one conversation.
"Some guys from the office."
"Where are you going?"
"Hotel in the city for a series of meetings," Jess explained impatiently.
Lie number three.
"Okay," Rory said, "I'll see you when you get back."
"You going anywhere tonight?"
Rory sighed, "Maybe."
"Whatever," he said carelessly, "I'll call you."
Rory scoffed. Why not four lies in one conversation? Who was counting? Well, besides her of course.
"Bye," she closed coldly, slamming the phone down on the hook with a loud bang.
"You okay, Gilmore?" Shawn asked, glancing up from his desk a few feet away.
"Fantastic," she grumbled sarcastically.
"I don't want to talk about it."
"I have to get this article done," she interrupted, dissmissing their conversation.
She didn't want to talk to Shawn right at the moment. Shawn reminded her too much of what a boyfriend should be like: kind, caring, considerate, a shoulder to lean on. A boyfriend wasn't supposed to call rambling off vague lies about where he would be that evening and going out without so much as a kiss on the cheek. Shawn reminded her too much of a life lived and lost. She couldn't turn back time, couldn't transport herself to the moment when she had made the decision to leave. The responsibility was her's and her's alone, and so she would handle it by herself. She would grit her teeth and continue living with Jess, continue being his trophy. Because if she didn't, where would that leave her?
Turning back to the article, she attempted to concentrate on the computer screen infront of her, but she could still feel Shawn's eyes burning into her back.
"Yes?" she asked, glancing over at him.
"Do you ever think about, you know, leaving."
She paused, "Yeah Shawn, everyday."
"Can I ask why you don't?"
"You can ask, but I'm not so sure I can explain my answer."
He stared at her for a second, biting his bottom lip thoughtfully.
"You're a complicated girl, Gilmore."
"With an even more complicated past, believe me."
He nodded his chin towards her computer, "Get back to your article. I want you completely work free tonight."
She twisted back to the computer, her sentence racing through her head as the only words of truth she had spoken for a very long time. With an even more compicated past. If only he knew, if only she could describe to anyone, to herself, what was going on in her head. In a weird sort of way, she needed Jess. She needed him because he was what she had chosen. Without him, she had nothing. She had chosen nothing and her life was heading nowhere. Without him, she had left everyone she loved behind for no reason.
"It's about time!" Aiden Reynolds huffed as Rory neared Carmen's desk hours later.
"I had to finish my article that you all so kindly kept disturbing me from," Rory grumbled, shifting her gaze around her three friends.
"Hey, I'm perfectly inncocent," Aiden argued, his green eyes shining.
"True," she paused, linking her arm through his, "And you're the only one I like at the moment."
"Good to know. Can we go now?"
"Yes, we can finally go," Carmen commented, herding the group into the elevator.
"Did anyone ever tell you you work too hard?" Aiden asked Rory as the elevator dropped to the first floor.
"Various people at various points in my lifetime."
"Did anyone ever succeed in getting you to slow down?" Shawn inquired, a playful edge to his voice.
But his words struck a nerve for Rory as she remembered the only person who had ever really gotten her to relax and just enjoy life. She missed the feeling of letting her worries float in the breeze and loving life for every second it was worth. She had lost that when she had left Yale, lost it the second she walked out the door of the New Haven apartment a year ago.
"Ror?" Carmen asked, placing a hand on her shoulder, "You okay?"
"You kind of dazed out there for a second."
"Right. Sorry, I'm just thinking."
"Bout what?" Shawn inquired, sounding more like a little kid than a man in his early twenties.
"Nothing in particular," Rory replied with a shrug.
They all stared at her strangely for a second, before Aiden waved his hand for a taxi and they all climbed in. Glancing around at her three best friends, Rory silently wished they could've known her a year ago, before Jess had broken her spirit, before her mistakes had torn her life apart. She still had her wit, her clever banter, but it was hollow shell protecting how she really felt inside. This wasn't the life she wanted, but it was still her life. She couldn't retrace her footsteps, couldn't make the word start spinning backwards, and so she accepted it. The only good thing to come out of her messed up relationship were the three amazing friends in the taxi cab with her. Without them, she was sure she would have lost it months ago.