Title- Moment of Inertia
Java, background Rogan, a touch of Lit (haven't quite decided how much, yet, it might just be implied or we might actually Go There)
T for lang
Rory leaves. Jess is devastated. In true Danes/Mariano form, he turns his pain into action. It's too late for him... but maybe, just maybe, he can save someone else from repeating his mistakes.

A/N- Despite the summary, this is not a Jess-centric story. He's going to be playing a pivotal role in the beginning and his presence is definitely going to be felt strongly at different times throughout the story, but this is my stab at fixing L&L... and not the April Thing, but the underlying problem that was highlighted by the April Thing. So yeah. Jess is around, but he's not my focus here.

Anyway, I should warn you that I'm currently struggling with writer's block, so do not expect regular updates on this or any of my stories. I'll do my best, but college is the focus for me right now (as it should be), and the words just aren't flowing too well (though they definitely are coming easier for this story than they are for, say, The Phoenix).

1. Freezing Steel

That, Jess thought sluggishly, was not at all how he had expected this night to go.

Really, when he had sent her the invitation, he hadn't expected anything. He figured he could consider himself lucky if Rory even turned up for the open house. She had, and he'd been overjoyed. That had been plenty. Being on friendly terms was enough, he decided. He could be Rory's friend. Yes, there were still feelings there (probably a lot more than feelings, if he was honest with himself), but hadn't there always been? When he had seen her standing in the doorway of Truncheon Books & Printing, Inc., he had known that it wasn't necessary to push for anything more. The thing was, he was in a good place, and he wasn't really interested in doing anything to upset that just now.

He had finally gotten himself together... and not just "together" the way he was before his flight from Stars Hollow, a bunch of mismatched pieces held together with string and masking tape and nicotine, but really right at last. Writing The Subsect and the other book, the one he wouldn't let Chris and Matt publish, had helped him come to terms with himself and his life in a way that no psychiatrist could have. He had purged himself of his sins, found ways to forgive himself, and Jimmy, and even Liz, for everything that had happened. All he had really needed, after that, was forgiveness from the two people he had wronged even more than he had hurt himself.

Luke had been easy. Despite their differences over the years, Jess had always known, deep down, that the pair of them were cut from the same cloth. They had never really needed to say much to understand each other, because they were just variations on the same theme. As a teenager, Jess had resented the fact that Luke seemed to be able to get inside his head so easily, but now he was just glad that he had that connection. Luke was like a father to him, the only real father Jess had ever had, and when he was in Connecticut peddling The Subsect to any bookstore that would stock it, Jess had made sure his uncle knew that.

Rory, on the other hand, was a more difficult schism to repair. What he had done to her was no worse than what he had done to Luke, but at the time he had felt much more remorse over it, and much more pain had passed between them since.

In a twisted way, it had actually helped that she was so messed up when he finally encountered her again. For years, he had held her on an untouchable pedestal in his memory (which in retrospect, he found strange because he had never done so when she was actually present before him). Seeing her broken, lost, living a life that obviously wasn't meant for her, with a boyfriend obviously wrong for her and an absolutely laughable wardrobe was jarring, but it was a kind of jarring that he now suspected he had really needed. Being reminded that he wasn't the only one capable of making monumental mistakes was unexpectedly comforting. It had angered him to see her betraying herself- she, who had always sung the praises of being authentic- but it had also finally helped him to find peace with everything that had happened between them.

Unfortunately, he was now suspecting that that peace was more fragile than he'd realized.

How the hell had this even happened? Not more than five hours ago, he had been quite sure that he would be fine with just being Rory's friend, and now he felt devastated as he heard her car starting up outside, preparing to drive away from him. Idly, he rubbed his lips dazedly. He was sure that if he licked them, they would bear the flavor of her lip gloss. Had it really been three years since he had kissed her? It didn't seem like it. She still kissed the same way.

He hated this feeling. It wasn't as powerful as the keening agony he had felt when he had heard her voice on the phone all those years ago, bidding him a bitter goodbye from across the continent, but it was the same kind of feeling. The same sharp point of pain that wouldn't let him settle, standing somewhere between claustrophobia and heartbreak. He'd thought he was done with it. Apparently not. His first impulse was to go upstairs, grab Matthew's bottle of gin, and go to town, but he resisted acting on it. His childhood was a great example of why alcohol was not the answer, even temporarily. He had no intentions of being his mother's son.

Seriously, how the hell had this happened? He began replaying the time he had spent with Rory starting with the moment she had walked in the door.

Hellos, nothing special. Maybe a little awkward, but only from the same kind of friendly nerves that usually anticipated any meeting between them. Nothing out of the ordinary. A quick tour of the place, all pretty standard, neither had said anything to change the atmosphere. Talking to Luke and April... well, that had been a little weird, but not because of Rory...

Lightning struck.

Jess's eyes widened as the content of that conversation played back in his head. Little things that had been said, things that he had only half-heard, things that had been vaguely bothering him in the back of his mind for the past few hours while he was focused on other things, suddenly fell into place and he started seeing connections that terrified him. Jess was smart enough to recognize a train wreck in the making when he saw it, and he had enough experience to know that from the inside it could be very hard to see the inevitable coming.

From the outside, though, he knew something was wrong. And Jess had a funny feeling that he could guess part of it. He ran to his desk, currently shoved back in a corner to make room for the stupid refreshment table, and grabbed the receiver on the ridiculous, 90's-era desk phone. He quickly dialed Matthew's cell.

"Hey, man... yeah, no, I'm not gonna be catching up to you tonight after all... What? No, she's gone. I just have some stuff I gotta take care of, okay? Yeah. Yeah. Right, I know. See you later."

He ended the call and sat down on the edge of the desk, pulling out a phone book and flipping to the yellow pages...