A/N: How long's it been? Like a month? Sorry... Aha, yes, so this is the last chapter in my epic, depressing fanfic. Angsty.
Disclaimer: Wowza. Owning Gilmore Girls... Pfft.
"What're you doing here?"
Jess Mariano has done absolutely nothing constructive with his life for the past four weeks. He gets up in the morning, kisses his fiancé, drinks his coffee—
--takes a shower, stares at a blank computer screen and then goes to bed. When he wakes, he does it all over again.
However, today is an exception.
Jack, Jess's son, is sitting on his lap, a dog eared picture book opened up to the faded pages. Jess clears his throat, making the little bundle of joy giggle and hiccup. "Halitosis..." he starts.
"What's a hastitoefus?"
Not able to hide the smile, Jess looks up from Jack and glances around the park, the gorgeous, deep blue sky grinning down at them, shining brightly behind the collection of trees foliating. It's one of those crisp October days where you can just lay in the grass and look up at the red and orange leaves, knowing that no matter what happens, or how long it takes, another perfect—
--day will eventually come along.
"Halitosis is a dog in the story," Jess explains, pointing to the colored pictures, "who has really bad breath."
His son shouts, "Like me!"
They're waiting for Mandy to come out of her Alcoholic Anonymous meeting. Jess can't go to them or even look at the church anymore. A couple days after his night with Rory, there was another meeting. Naturally, she didn't show up. He knew damn straight that she wouldn't. She doesn't click that way. Vainly, he kept attending them, but now it hurts to go in and know that she was there and won't be coming back. So, when Mandy has a meeting, he and Jack sit outside in the park, read a few books from the library, take a walk, and usually get some ice cream.
Jess has tried the book store, too. Nobody has touched her books. When he started to notice a film of dust collecting on the top of them, he bought them all. Every single one of them. It cost him close to a thousand dollars that he didn't have. He kept going back each night or whenever he approached a block in his story, which, then, was close to all of the time.
Zipping up Jack's jacket, Jess says, "Exactly..."
For the hundredth time that month, his wishes that he woke her up to tell her that he was leaving, the he had to go. It wasn't right to just leave her like that. Of course, they both knew it was a one night stand—
(She's Rory. She knew. She knows everything, it's—she didn't know.)
When he squeezes his eyes shut, sometimes he can imagine her hand in his as they walk trough Stars Hollow...when she just kissed him point blank at Sookie's wedding...when she reached sideways to hug him when he told her that he looked up how far away Yale was...when she pushed him away in Kyle's room...when he enlightened her to the fact that he loved her and she just walked away.
The memories are fading now. He can recall her voice and feel, but doesn't remember what street they were walking on.
Jack tugs on his sleeve. "Can we go for a walk?"
"Yeah, sure." His little hand fits itself inside of Jess's big one. "Don't let go..." he whispers to himself as he watches his son awkwardly tuck the picture book under his arm, completely opaque to his father's words.
"What're you doing?" Mandy asks, walking out into their apartment parking lot, clad in only a bath robe.
Jess hefts the last box into the back of his truck. "I have somewhere to go."
Her brows narrow. "With all of those books?"
"There's no room here, hon."
"Yeah, but...where'd they all come from?"
"Don't be a smartass, Jess...you know, I'm still pissed that you flipped at front of me in front of all those people." She picks up a book. "Just for some ex who's hitting the booze a little hard."
He sucks in his breath. "Don't touch that," he snaps.
"Just...don't—I, I've got to go."
Mandy crosses her arms. "When'll you be back?"
"In a few hours."
She sighs. "Whatever..." She walks back inside, gathering Jack up in her arms to bring him back inside, the book left on the tailgate.
Jess's eyes start to burn. He blinks, but they only burn more. His throat aches as he stuffs the book in the back pocket of his jeans, figuring he'd keep that one.
The town looks the same as when he left it almost six years ago. Naturally, another ceramic plate store was added, but that's just about it. Doose's Market still has the biggest sign and practically slams you in the face when you drive into the Hollow, the center of town coming up quick. Miss Patty's is still in an old barn and the gazebo will always have pumpkins surrounding it in the fall.
Jess pulls the truck up to Luke's Diner, the open plaque still the same one that Jess himself flipped back over daily. He gets out of the vehicle, dozens of boxes stacked in the back with Rory's books. The nosy townspeople press themselves against the glass, Kirk's easily detected. Kirk. He'll never leave this place. The bell clangs as he opens the door, the occupants of the diner instantly stopping their conversations.
He walks up to the counter, the man with the backwards blue baseball cap and plaid shirt turns around from the toaster.
"Jess." Luke's voice is empty.
The whole diner listens. "What're you doing here?"
He fidgets with the edge of the plastic covered seat. "I-I dunno," he stumbles.
"Jess," the other man repeats.
"I'm sorry." Luke's eyes are red around the edges and he walks behind the curtain, motioning for Jess to follow him.
"I want to know what happened," Jess says, sitting on a packing box, his hands in his pockets. Luke stays standing.
"Do you—I don't want to talk about it."
He sighs. "I was in New York. Guess who else was there."
"Three million other people?"
"Rory was there, Luke." Jess stares into his vacant face. "I met Rory at an AA meeting."
His expression collapses. "They were my responsibility..." he mumbles, looking at the ground. "I was to look after them and make sure that nothing happened to them."
"Lorelai is dead."
Jess looks down. "I know."
"I-it was dark..." Luke finally sits down, the bare light bulb above them hanging alone. Jess pays attention, park of him wanting to know what happened, part of him screaming for Luke to stop. "It was raining. We were on our way back from Friday night dinner." They still go to those. "Lorelai, Rory and myself."
"You don't have to..."
"We'd had a few drinks..."
"I hit a tree." He bits his bottom lip. "Rory and I got the least of it, b-but she was trying so hard to save her, to stop the bleeding—"
"Don't. I don't want—"
"I was stuck under the steering wheel and Rory was screaming for her to hold on, that the ambulance was coming and they'd move the t-tree." Tears a streaming down his face, but he doesn't wipe them away. "Lorelai could barely speak. She wanted t-to...she wanted t-t—" He lets in a shaky breath. "To g-go. It hurt too much."
Jess leaped up from the box. "Stop!" he yelled, his voice cracking. "Please stop...please."
"We could only watch. There was nothing we could do." He puts his head in his hands. "S-she fell apart. Rory fell apart at the fu—funeral."
"Luke." He looks up. "Stop."
"Lorelai was my rock. Rory's, too. Everybody's..." Jess puts his hand on Luke's shoulder. "Rory came by last week."
"What?" he splutters.
"She says it's on the kitchen table..." He hands Jess his keys.
The Gilmore household.
Jess sucks in a deep breath and steps onto the front porch, knowing that Lorelai was doing the same exact thing not five months ago. She won't be coming back. Ever. Rory just sat there, drinking, thinking, and remembering. She wanted to let go, so she left everything that reminded her of Stars Hollow; the people, the places, the books. Acceptance was all she's really looking for to make the world turn again. However, he, Jess, had to make her start the whole painful journey all over again.
He feels sick as he slides the key into the lock, the fresh and aired smell meeting him when the door swings open. It all looks so normal. There are magazines stacked on the coffee table, flowers in the vase in the foyer. Granted, they're dead. But still. It only looks as if the Gilmores had taken a vacation for the summer and hadn't requested a house sitter. He knows that, legally, the house belongs to Luke. Jess also knows, emotionally, he let his father's construction project sit in a shed for fifteen years.
But that was a boat and his dad.
Not a house and love of his life.
He disregards the living room, doesn't even dare to go upstairs, but, instead, heads into the kitchen. There it is. On the table.
Jess opens it.
He swallows, a lump the size of Las Vegas lodged in his throat.
Lorelai died in a car crash. I assume you know this already, seeing as Luke gave you the keys to the house. I feel terrible leaving him like that, but I just can't, you know? I don't know, maybe he and I should sit down some time and just...let it all out. It really gets me about how he thinks it's all his fault. When you see him, tell him that that's ludicrous. It's my fault. I could have helped or saved her. All I did was sit there like I didn't care. Like someone who didn't give a shit. He was stuck. I suppose that part of me believed that she couldn't die. Lorelai Gilmore. Invincible.
In the middle of the word, Jess sees a water stain blotting the ink. More like a tear stain.
The funeral was terrible. I cried in the ambulance, holding her hand, thinking that she'd come back, I cried in the hospital, I cried when the doctor announced that she was dead, I bawled for like a week straight. I cried at the meeting when I tried to tell you. I couldn't even get it out. I'm sorry, Jess.
Honestly, I don't know why I'm telling you this. You're my ex-boyfriend, somebody of the past. I guess you're different than the others. Somehow, I think you'll understand that I'm a wreck. I need to go somewhere and just cool off.
He bites his bottom lip, her penned words starting to blur.
I started drinking partially because I wanted to forget, mostly because I wanted to remember. There is no list of all of the movies we mocked, the television shows we watched religiously or the boxes of Chinese food we've eaten on the couch in our pajamas. That's unrealistic. Nobody would live long enough to write all of that down or type it up. She's the one person in my life that I could always count and depend on. Not anymore. I'm just sort of floating.
Now, here's the part where you come in.
Blinking, Jess tried to make the words focus.
Frankly, I had sex with you because you were there. If it was a random stranger whom I'd just met on the street, most likely we'd have done it, too.
I mean, it was great, don't get me wrong, but I needed an outlet. Something besides booze to make me forget. It was a spur of a moment thing and in a way, I used you, but in a way I didn't. You're the guy that I can connect the most with and, I don't know, I must've got lost...somewhere down the line. I told you that you weren't there when I needed you, but that's not a fair thing to say. I'll always need you. And I know, that in some way, you'll always need me.
Reading this, he realized that that's the reason he had sex with her, too. To make the blur of his life go away—if only for a moment.
I might meet up with you again in a decade or two, we may cross paths once again...it's just fated. I know your son will grow up to do great things in the world, and will change it for the better. Feelings sometimes evolve into new things, huh?
So, Jess, I thank you for being you and letting me be me. We are both aware of the fact that you're engaged to be married; you have a child and are practically granted to have more. I wish you the best of luck. No matter what happens, we'll never get it together. It's not in the cards.
It will never be.
P.S. Make sure my books find a good home.
Jess folds up the letter, knowing that this is going to be the last words of hers that he'd ever read. On shaky legs, he walks out of the house, the envelope safe inside his jacket.
The last of the fall foliage falls from the trees, the final moments of that beautiful blue sky looking down at him. The Jeep is still parked in the driveway underneath that tree, covered in orange and red. He walks over to his truck and, one by one, starts hauling the boxes of books into the house. His back aches but to him it feels good, knowing that Rory's books are going right back to where they belong.
To wait for her.
And so will Jess, no matter that his eyes won't ever gaze into her blue ones again.
Rory Gilmore's parting words ring in his head: It will never be.