Story: Somebody Else's Page

Chapter: Looking Towards the Future

Description: Rory/Logan. Slightly AU. What if Logan managed to take a little less time off during his college career and made it through without overlapping Rory's years at Yale? She's about to start her first internship at the Stamford Gazette, just as it's being taken over by the Huntzbergers.

Disclaimer: I write fan fiction. I own none of these characters. None of this happened on the show, which is the whole point of fan fiction. You get the idea.

Rory Gilmore stared at the heap of clothing that she'd pulled from her closet piece by piece. She had separately dismissed every last garment for a variety of reasons, but mostly due to her own inability to choose given her nervous excitement surrounding the event she needed the perfect outfit for. Nothing was good enough—nothing was just right. She grabbed her cell phone and dialed, tapping her foot anxiously as she stared at all the clothes she'd deemed worthy to make the trip from her childhood home to college with disdain.

"Gilmore House of Horrors," her mother chirped by way of greeting.

"I need advice," Rory said without missing a beat.

"Boys, hair, or clothes?" Lorelai asked instantly, trying to get a handle on her daughter's set of needs. Rory may have moved out of her house and into a dorm room, but it hadn't severed her need for her mother completely. It was a perk to their having been best friends as well direct relations. For better or worse, nothing had ever been off limits for their long and often crazy conversations.

"Clothes," Rory said, giving a slight smile at her mother's ability to narrow the options so quickly, even without seeing the carnage of fabric with her own eyes.

"Go on," Lorelai encouraged.

Rory gave a dramatic sigh. "My clothes scream college student."

"Well, it's better than two-dollar hooker," Lorelai mused. "Besides, you are a college student, which makes your clothes correct, if not unusually chatty."

Rory's back stiffened. "But tomorrow I'm not a college student. Tomorrow I'm an intern."

"So you need Monica Lewinsky's clothes?" Lorelai posed.

"Ew, no! I need clothes that subtly proclaim that I'm a newspaper woman."

"Your clothes are very loquacious," Lorelai teased her.

"I need professional clothes. I can't wear any of this. I should have gone shopping," Rory said with a sigh.

"I would be happy to go shopping with you," Lorelai offered. "It's practically my calling."

"Before tomorrow morning?" Rory asked, her voice dangerously close to a whine.

"You got me there. I know of no all-night clothing stores that cater to newspaper women. You must have something," Lorelai said. "Besides, they know you're a college student. Most interns are, or were quite recently. As long as you don't show up looking like a two-dollar hooker, no one will notice your clothes."

"I want to be noticed. I want to show up and wow them and make them wonder what they ever did without me," Rory explained her best-case dream scenario. She'd been having all kinds of dreams, since she got word that she had been chosen for the intern position at the Stamford Gazette. She'd dreamed that she was promoted to managing editor by the end of her first day, but she'd also had dreams that involved her showing up naked, late, and another where she'd been fired for not being able to find a pencil.

"I'm glad you've kept your expectations reasonable," Lorelai said as she failed to stifle her amusement.

"This internship will set the tone for my journalistic career. The people I impress here will be the ones to write recommendations to even more influential people at even bigger papers, when I'm out of college and can't afford to provide my services for unlimited quantities of coffee from the break room."

"I've always dreamed of being paid in coffee," Lorelai said dreamily.

"That's the message you gleamed from my last statement?" Rory gruffed.

"You have your dreams and I have mine," Lorelai said in her defense. "I'm sure you will win over everyone in Stamford, from the copy guy to the head editor dude," Lorelai said with the utmost assurance in her overachiever daughter. "But possibly it might suffice to win them all over gradually and not scare them with your exuberance, well intentioned as it may be."

"Head editor dude?" Rory asked in abject horror.

"You get my drift. We don't all have to live up to your insanely correct terminology standards," Lorelai countered.

"And it's not just some head editor dude. Do you know who just acquired the Stamford Gazette?" Rory asked, in a tone that most women reserved for highly salacious gossip.

"Donald Trump?" Lorelai asked with renewed interest.

"No. Why would he buy the Stamford Gazette?" Rory asked.

"I don't know. He acquires things."

"Mitchum Huntzberger," Rory supplied.

"I don't know who that is. The story works better if it's Donald Trump. People know Donald Trump."

"Newspaper people know Mitchum Huntzberger. His family owns a dozen papers. He's the guy in the business you want to impress. He knows everyone and he's done everything."

"But he just owns it, right? Guys that big don't work at the papers," Lorelai said gently.

Rory shook her head. "No, he's totally hands on. He likes to get involved with his investments, especially new acquisitions. He'll be there. I might not get any face time with him, as I'll be fetching coffee and fixing the printer."

"Maybe he'll need coffee. Or have trouble printing something," Lorelai suggested.

"One can hope. But I can't bring him coffee in any of these clothes."

"None of them? What about the skirt you stole from me?"

"I did not steal that skirt. I reclaimed my rightful property."

"So you do have it!" Lorelai said in an accusatory manner. "I was going to wear it to dinner last night."

"I think Luke's pretty much seen you in your entire wardrobe at this point," Rory reasoned.

"He hasn't seen me in that skirt," Lorelai said, playing up her disappointment.

"As if Luke can tell one of your skirts from another."

"He does respond more to things that are short and black," Lorelai said with a devilish grin and a certain lilt to her voice.

"That skirt is knee-length and brown."

"It would have gone really great with my blue sweater. He also responds to things that are tight and low-cut in the chest region."

"I don't feel comfortable with my clothes being used for these purposes," Rory said with disgust. "Buy your own date clothes."

"I think we've officially segued to boy talk. Any news on that front?" Lorelai asked.

"No," Rory said pointedly. "Nothing new, anyhow."

"I thought college was just an excuse for you crazy kids to hook up and test your own personal drinking limits."

"Why would you think that?"

"Primetime news programs? I'm very up on the degradation of our youth and entrapment scams that target the elderly."

"Well, those shows probably aren't focusing on Yale. I'm too busy with classes and the paper and internships to date. Dean made that abundantly clear. Excuse me if I'm not exactly eager to get back out there after my last relationship."

Lorelai sighed. "I know things with Dean didn't go how you wanted."

"That's an understatement," Rory cut in.

"But he had a point. The two of you didn't really have much in common any more. And you shouldn't be together just to justify the fact that he left his wife for you."

"That is not why we were together," Rory defended herself.

"Okay, so that didn't come out quite right. I just mean it doesn't matter how attracted you might be to someone—if there isn't more to the relationship, like common interests or the same taste in movies or an obsessive compulsive love of research," Lorelai led.

"Very funny," Rory groused.

"Relationships take work and a solid foundation to sustain them over time. He was busy working and trying to get his footing after his marriage ended and you were busy with school and the paper and all that comes with campus life. Sometimes even love isn't enough."

Rory shrugged. "I know. And I'm over it. Just because I haven't dated someone else doesn't mean I haven't put it past me."

"I know that."

"Dean represents a part of my past. I'm starting a whole new chapter of my life tomorrow."

"In your brown skirt."

"Yes," Rory said with decisiveness.

"Problem solved."

"Yes."

"And you'll call me and fill me in on how you got Donald Trump coffee and fixed the printer and won over the hearts of every last person in need of a paper clip in a twenty-foot radius of your cubicle?" Lorelai asked with expectation.

"I'll be happy if I don't trip over my own feet and manage to get through the day without setting anything on fire."

"Nightmare?"

"One of about a hundred," Rory said with a nod.

"It'll be fine. Oh, and win over the secretaries. They control who talks to whom, and most people don't appreciate them enough."

"Secretaries. Got it. Anything else?"

"Nope. You're going to be great. Just be yourself and don't scare anyone with your encyclopedia-like knowledge of the newspaper industry. Remember, you're there to learn. Oh, and don't correct the head editor dude. They don't like that."

"I'll call you tomorrow night. And we'll go shopping this weekend, because I need a suit. Oh, and some shoes."

"You make me so proud," Lorelai said weepily.

"Because I need shoes?"

"There are other reasons, but yes. Mostly the shoes."

"Good night."

"Sleep tight," Lorelai said before they disconnected.

Rory turned and plucked out the widely discussed skirt and grabbed an acceptable shirt to go with it. She hung them both up over the top of her closet door and shoved the others off the bed so she'd have a place to get a few hours of tossing and turning in before reporting to the Gazette's offices. She hadn't been that nervous about anything in a long time. Not only was she about to start her very first real-world journalistic endeavor, but she was apprehensive about the way she'd won the appointment. She knew that her grandfather had put in a call to a friend and collected an owed favor to get her application reviewed and possibly favored. She hoped she'd won them over with her resume, and that all Richard Gilmore's influence had done was make sure it had been seen by the right person. Nevertheless, she was going to make the most of the opportunity—to prove that she really had been the best woman for the job.

-X-

It was late—far later than one starting a new position as the managing editor of a fledging newspaper should be when leaving a bar with his next destination undecided. It wasn't just his opinion—though his opinion had never really counted for much—but as he stared down in a drunken haze at his phone to see the ten missed calls and nine voicemails from his father he knew he'd have an earful of how irresponsible he was being whenever he cared to listen. He didn't care for listening to his father's messages. The specifics may vary, but Mitchum Huntzberger's tone was always condescending and full of disapproval, and he had never, not once in his son's 23 years, ever just called up to say hi, let alone tell him he was proud of him.

Instead of dialing voice mail, he chose to ignore his messages and missed calls in favor of scrolling down through his contacts until he found a much more appealing name, one that ended in soft vowel that rolled off his tongue in his exact state of inebriation. He needed comfort, or in lieu of that a release that came without any guilt.

He deserved the distraction, after all, he'd done his best to ruin any and all chances to earn being put in such a prestigious position as running a newspaper. He'd partied his way through the Ivy League, taking extended vacations and barely showing his face in the newsroom during his tenure on the school's paper. His reputation loomed as large as his father's, though instead of people fearing him they knew him as a source of good times—usually the best times. The majority of his shirking was rationalized, at least in his mind, as living while he still had the chance. He had chosen to experience as much life and fun as possible before he graduated and was shoved into a suit and tie and forced to sit through budgetary meetings and drink bad coffee just to keep his eyes open and had to trade nights drinking beer and whiskey with friends for martini lunches with business associates.

It might not have been so bad had his partners in crime chosen a career in journalism with him—but they were handed down the keys to their own legacy careers. And he was damned if he was going to wear a suit to work. His one inkling of hope was that he could manage to either get fired from the gig or in the very least be seen as different from his tyrannical father during his tenure.

Getting fired, in a dynastic line such as the Huntzbergers—especially being the only son of an only son—would prove difficult, but he was nothing if not up for the challenge. He'd drink and screw 'til dawn, take a cab back to his new apartment in Stamford for an insufficient nap, and then stumble to the office coffee machine, instituting a liberal use of eye drops until he appeared just fresher than a zombie. The state of his first impression would take no longer than a half an hour to get back to Herr Huntzberger, and he might have a pink slip and a change of assignment to a lesser strain of journalistic testing ground by the clock-punching hour of five.

At least, he tried to always hold such hopes. And when the purring voice of the fairer sex answered his call at the late hour associated with booty calls and bad judgement, he put all his charm and effusive hope into winning an invitation to her bed. It was nothing it not a skill of his. It was his curse and his destiny—he was unstoppable when he put his mind and energy into a goal.

-X-

She was early. She'd felt foolish, standing in front of her mirror before six in the morning, fully dressed and groomed and ready to wait for three hours before needing to be in such a state. She'd gone to the dining hall, for a fortifying breakfast, but ended up scarfing down two bowls of Frosted Flakes, as it was a luxury that she often missed. Her normal breakfast time, when she bothered to make time for the meal at all, was late enough that any of the sugar-coated cereals were depleted. She had no taste for bran or fiber-fortified twigs, so it was normally a bagel to go for her.

As it turns out, the sugar dump mixed with the three, possibly excessive, cups of coffee she'd downed in the name of passing time and calming her nerves had worked against her. By the time she stepped off the elevator with a fresh—fourth—cup of coffee her stomach was a mass of nausea and nerves that threatened to send her sprinting to the nearest ladies room. Unfortunately she had no idea yet where that was located. She saw the front receptionist fielding a constantly ringing multi-line phone and approached her with a spare coffee and a queasy smile.

"Stamford Gazette, please hold. Stamford Gazette, please hold. Stamford Gazette, let me connect you," the well-oiled tenor of a veteran's voice ticked off each ringing line, her eyes far away as she ran through each ring as they chimed in. She glanced up at Rory with a slight impatience. "Yes?"

"Hi. I'm Rory Gilmore. I'm a new intern. I'm not sure where I'm supposed to go, but," she held out the coffee cup. "Do you like lattes?"

The receptionist eyed her warily. "Go that way and ask for Harry. He handles newbies," she said with a quick snap of her fingers and then outstretched her hand over the desk while she got back to work. "Stamford Gazette, please hold."

Rory made a small squeak and pushed the drink into the waiting hand before giving a quick smile and scurrying off in the direction she'd been pointed. The whole workspace was arranged in desks facing all directions and cubicles with the occasional plant and picture breaking up the sea of computers that were all grinding away. She saw no name plates, and had not ever heard of anyone named Harry in conjunction with this job. "Harry?" she called out, causing a few people to turn and take notice of her, brown skirt and all. She kept moving with a tight smile. "Harry?"

A head poked out of another room. "Did you say Harry?"

Rory stopped and clasped her hands in front of her in relief. "Are you Harry?"

"Who wants to know?" he asked cagily.

She offered her hand proudly. "Rory Gilmore, new intern. Where do I start? Filing story pitches or working the AP wire?" she asked excitedly.

He sighed. "Interns. You need a name badge."

"Oh. Okay."

"After that, I've got some shredding that needs to be done ASAP. The new boss is coming. I was afraid you were one of his lackeys. Word is he likes pretty young things."

Rory frowned. "Excuse me?"

"You need to go to the administration offices. They'll get you set up. But hurry, Huntzberger is known for his punctuality and his knack for making people shit their pants."

Rory's mouth hung agape. "Uh, where are the administration offices?"

"This way. Keep up. You might want to get different shoes. Huntzberger's a fast walker. Do you have any antacid on you?"

Rory shook her head as she tried to keep pace with the clearly stressed out Harry. "No."

"You should probably get some and keep it at your desk. You're never too young for your first ulcer, at least, not in this business."

"That's… some advice," she said with a clearing of her throat. She had a feeling this experience was going to be nothing like she thought it would be.

-X-

He stepped off the elevator in wrinkled pants and sunglasses. The morning sun had assaulted his eyes and sent him reaching for Visine and an aspirin much before his body would have consented to allow him to rise from the nearly comatose state he'd managed to achieve. He wasn't completely sure exactly how much sleep he'd gotten, maybe two hours, but his activities before he drifted off where nothing short of nefarious and prevented any actual restoration from taking place.

"Morning," he said with a heavy wave in the general direction of the receptionist. His words tasted like gravel. He wondered if he had any breath spray or a Tic Tac on his person. He'd been surprised as to the contents of his pockets on many an occasion. He was generally awash in relief to find a stray condom or the correct house key in his wallet or jacket pocket. He had lots of clarity when sober, and this helped keep his disorderly side safe.

He garnered all kinds of attention as he made his way through the narrow passages of the open-air offices. Most people were kind enough to divert their eyes before they thought actual eye contact was achieved and kept their surprised comments to a whisper in his wake. He wasn't looking for a closed office or anyone in particular. He was just hoping that the coffee in the break room would be of the passable sort, rather than some sludge that a clueless intern had made in an attempt to fulfill a duty.

The overhead fluorescent lights in the small, square break room were overwhelming even with his sunglasses on. He gave a groan and made his way past the microwaves and refrigerator, which was no doubt filled with leftovers from yesterday's meals and a whole host of mystery packages that all included the some level of mold growth, and grabbed a mug from the counter before he found what appeared even to his blood-shot eyes to be regular coffee. It was a nice dark shade and would never be described as 'thick', so he filled up his cup and tossed in a packet of sugar, just to offset any possible bitterness. He was bitter enough as it was, he didn't need to seek it out in other avenues of his life.

He slumped against the counter as he drank a full cup and then reached for a refill immediately. He wouldn't have been surprised to find that the liquid had come from a hip, local coffee shop instead of the newspaper's break room. It was only as his second mug was filled that he realized the carafe was now empty, and he highly doubted anything he could make would taste half as good as what he'd finished off. He figured the staff would despise him soon enough already; he'd hate to be the guy that ruined their coffee as well.

He was joined as he stood staring at the bag of grounds, trying to figure out just what ratio of water to coffee to add to the machine. A light sound of a feminine manner of clearing one's throat caused him to nearly jump out of his skin.

"Hi," he said, turning toward the sound while still holding the bag.

She frowned as she took in the sight of him. Rumpled clothes, messy hair, sunglasses indoors, and flummoxed by a bag of ground-up beans. He wasn't surprised she took him for some homeless intruder rather than the boss. "Hi. Can I … help you?"

He held up the bag. "I am terrible at making coffee, but there's an unwritten rule about taking the last of the pot and not making more, and whomever made the last pot missed their calling and should be making money off their barista skills, and not whiling away their time in the dying industry of print journalism."

She cocked her head. She was cute when she was at a loss of words. He suspected she was cute regardless of the situation, though it was possible that his so-called beer goggles were still on. He definitely needed more coffee to be sure. And more eye drops. Not to mention about five more hours to sleep. "Tell me how you really feel."

He laughed. The sound rang out in his own head and he winced. "Can you make coffee? It's my first day, and they'll hate me if I ruin the coffee."

She stepped forward and briskly removed the bag from his hands. Her fingers brushed the back of his hand, for a millisecond, but he noticed that he could still feel the light sensation of her touch after she'd relieved him of his burden. "It's my first day, too, but making coffee is the one thing I'm not worried about screwing up."

"You don't look capable of screwing up anything. You look," he said, taking in every last inch of her from behind his glasses before continuing, "great."

"Um, thanks. The secret is to put in a third more coffee than the suggested amount and use cold water," she said, as she emptied the old filter and rinsed out the carafe.

"We're sharing secrets now?" he asked, forgetting the fact that he was where he was. For a moment, he was just a guy, meeting a lovely girl. If it had been a coffee shop and not a newspaper office, it would be a nice moment in his day. As it was, he was most certainly her boss and was toeing the line of inviting a sexual harassment lawsuit.

"I don't want people to hate you on your first day," she said cautiously as she stocked the coffee maker.

"Oh, they'll hate me," he said with a self-deprecating nod. "I could give them each a hundred dollar bill with a cup of this coffee, and they'd still want to key my car."

She turned from the newly percolating brew and faced him with perplexed dismay. There was a slight wrinkle in her skin over her nose when she frowned. He also noticed, standing much closer to her now, just how blue her eyes were. They were like the color of the sky reflecting in tropical waters. He took off his sunglasses to get a better look. "You're very glass half empty, aren't you?"

"Hey, at least you have a true marketable skill. If everything else falls apart for you, you'll always be able to make a fine cup of coffee."

She gave a nervous laugh of someone dealing with a lunatic. "Thanks, I think."

He shook his head adamantly, which did nothing to curb his headache. "I'm serious. That coffee could warrant you a marriage proposal. Or some other grand gesture of love and appreciation. Certainly big tips, if money is your thing."

He wasn't making headway on gaining the staff's trust. She made eyes for the exit, but she was clearly was too polite to bolt outright from the shell of a man who was engaging her in awkward conversation. "I should go. Find a place to lie down for a while. Thanks, for the coffee," he said, giving her an out.

"Um, yeah. Anytime," she said in a stunned manner as he took his mug with him and left her alone with a fresh pot of coffee.

-X-

"Gilmore, did you pick up any antacids?" Harry said as he came back to her station, where she was nearly done shredding a stack of paperwork he'd handed her earlier, a gift from his boss.

"Not yet. But I did put them on my list. Along with breath mints," she added, remembering her very strange encounter in the break room. "I'm glad you're here. It's probably not in the budget, but we might need a more powerful shredder. This one is making weird grinding noises and I think I can smell the internal components starting to smoke."

He waved a hand. "I can add it to the list of fantasy items that we're handing over to the new boss at the department meeting this afternoon. You want to sit in? They're boring as sin, but it'll show you how things really get done around here."

She perked up. "Really? That sounds amazing," she said with her first-day enthusiasm.

He held up a hand. "Relax. I'm not doing you a favor here. You seem like a nice kid. I just hope a couple of days here doesn't kill your dream."

She shook her head. "Not a chance."

"Yeah, well, my dream is dead. I just met our new boss. I knew things were bad, but I had no idea just how dire things had gotten. Huntzberger couldn't even be bothered to show up himself, and he gets some sort of sick pleasure from watching us all squirm and wait for his saving direction."

She was instantly disappointed. Not that the internship wasn't still a great opportunity, but she was missing out on meeting and potentially working with the top guy in her field. "That's too bad. Who did he send?"

Harry shuddered. "His kid. Meeting's in a half an hour. Unplug that thing if you see flames. There's a fire extinguisher in the supply closet at the end of the hall."

Rory nodded mutely as Harry went back to doing whatever it was Harry did when he wasn't searching for stomach acid relief or assigning her a medial task. She shredded another document and nearly burned her finger on the top of the shredder, as it had grown so hot in the process. She unplugged the thing for good measure and went off in search of the fire extinguisher, to have handy just to avoid the next day's headline being 'Intern Burns Down Office on First Day.' That was one nightmare she was glad to avoid reenacting.

She was nearly done with the papers when her phone rang inside her pocket. She pulled it out after sneaking a look around to see that no one had taken note of her or the sound of her phone ringing amid all the other phones constantly going off in the building, and saw her mother's information flashing on the screen. "Hey."

"So?"

"I said I'd call you tonight. I'm working."

"Making coffee?" Lorelai guessed.

"I've done that twice already. Apparently I have a unique talent for it," Rory informed her mother.

"Well, you did learn at my knee. You've been doing it since you were five."

"Four and a half," Rory corrected.

"I'm going to come across as a terrible mother when you finally publish your memoirs."

"That's not really my problem," Rory said lightly as she shredded another paper. The action caused a loud grinding noise from deep within the shredder and Rory stood on her tip toes to peer down into the angry-looking metal teeth.

"What are you doing?"

"Shredding things. How do you know when something's about to catch fire?"

"I knew I should have made you be a Girl Scout," Lorelai mused.

"Don't worry, I have the fire extinguisher ready, just in case. I'm pretty sure this thing is on its last legs."

"How's the rest of your day going, other than killing the office equipment?"

Rory blew out a breath. "Fine. I was pretty nervous. But then I met another new employee, and he seemed worse off than I was. Oh, and I get to sit in on a department meeting in a few minutes."

"Ooh, that sounds really boring!" Lorelai mocked in an upbeat tone.

"I get to listen and maybe suggest things. It's a very big deal."

"Did all the other interns get invited, or just you?" Lorelai asked.

"What other interns?"

"You said you met another newbie that was nervous."

"Oh. I think he was more hungover than nervous. And I don't actually know if he's an intern."

"Was he your age or was he sporting a bald spot and old man pants?"

Rory frowned. "He was about my age. I don't know. I think he went somewhere to sleep it off."

"Sounds like he's a keeper," Lorelai said with utmost sarcasm.

"Yeah. I guess I've made a better first impression than that guy. At least, until they catch me on the phone with my mommy."

"Fine. Call me later. Try not to burn the place down. Bosses frown on that stuff. But if you do, you could always start you own newspaper."

"Why would I do that?"

"That's what I did, when the Independence burned down on my watch."

"Hardly the same thing, but I'll keep it in mind as an option."

"Enjoy your really boring meeting."

"I will," Rory assured her as she put her phone on silent and emptied the last of the shredded paper into the waste can at her workstation. After making sure the tired and overworked shredder was unplugged and not about to spontaneously combust, she made her way toward the conference room where people were starting to gather. She sat in a seat against the wall directly behind Harry, one of the two people she'd actually spoken to other than the receptionist and the guy that told her to smile as he took her picture for her badge. She sat patiently as people held side conversations as they waited for their new boss to join them and begin the meeting. She was excited to be a part of a fresh start and hopefully a second wind in the paper's history. What a great story for a cocktail party, or chapter for her memoir her mother always joked about her writing one day.

But it was less than inspiring when a hush fell over the crowd and the same wrinkled, hungover boy who loved her coffee stepped in and shut the door. His hair was tamed and his sunglasses were gone. She wondered if he'd left them somewhere on purpose or if he'd lost them in the couch cushions while he napped. He was holding another mug of what she assumed was coffee. He stood at the head of the table and let out a deep sigh. "Hello. I'd like to thank you all for coming. As I'm sure you've all heard, I'm your new fearless leader. My name is Logan Huntzberger."

There was a stunned silence and one brave soul raised their hand across the room from where Rory sat behind Harry. Logan nodded at him, to let him express concern or ask a question. "Yes?"

"Will your father be joining us?"

He gave an amused, if pained, smile. "Not if we're lucky. Any other questions?"

The meeting dissolved into department heads spouting off their concerns about their jobs and their budgets, and Logan growing more and more despondent and repetitive as he offered his promises to do what he could for each and every last one of them. Rory watched with surprise and a moderate amount of pity as he seemed to take more and more weight onto his shoulders as the hour progressed. At the end of the meeting, angry middle-aged department heads filtered out to ponder the fate of their jobs and probably update their resumes as Logan stayed in his seat, going over his notes about all the insurmountable tasks he had ahead of him. It would have been too kind a fate for his father to fire him when he could put him through the shame of manning this sinking ship to failure at an increasing faster pace than it had been otherwise. Rory, a diligent intern, stayed behind to gather paper cups and napkins and shreds of torn paper and other items left in haste.

"You don't have to do that," he said quietly.

She stopped at his reference of her actions. "Oh. I know. But if I go out there, Harry might make me shred something else, and I'm doing my best not to burn the place down on my first day."

He snorted. "Yeah. Wish I could say the same."

"Your father must have a lot of faith in you. I mean, to put someone so young in such a position, that's really impressive."

His eyes met hers in disbelief. Maybe she just wanted to believe the best in people. He wasn't raised to think that way at all. Either that or she was just humoring her new boss. "It's not impressive at all. He's given up on teaching me private, personal lessons and he's decided to start trying to scare me into submission by tying my success to hard-working people who deserve better."

Her eyes went wide. "Oh."

He waved a hand. "Seriously. Get out of here. None of the messes here are your problem."

To her credit, she held her ground. "That doesn't mean I wouldn't like to help."

He stood up and smiled, a weary effort though genuine in its intent. "You already have. Your coffee is the only thing that's kept me alive all day long."

She hesitated before saying the next thing, especially to her boss. "I'd like to think I have more to offer than just the ability to make coffee."

He considered her, this time having the dignity not to scan her body and focused solely on those azure eyes. "I have no doubt that's the case. If I implied otherwise, well, you should know that I wasn't exactly at the top of my game a few hours ago."

She offered a curt nod of acceptance, and made one last visual sweep from left to right of the room. "Are you sure you don't want me to tidy up a bit?"

"Absolutely not. This is my mess, and it's fitting that I start with the conference room. You're in college, right? You should go, have some fun. I insist."

This time her frown wasn't due to his post-drunken ramblings. She wasn't eager to follow his instruction, but she wasn't about to argue so blatantly with her new boss, regardless of his age or desire to be there. Everyone could have a bad day, and she hoped that's what she was seeing in him. She'd had her own share of bad days, and just because this job was the most exciting thing in her life at the moment didn't mean that it had to be his most coveted role. But something about the way he spoke, like he'd gladly trade places with her, left her feeling unsettled. "If you're sure, I'll go."

"I'm sure. And hey, next time I'll try to make sure Harry has something meatier than paper shredding for you to do. But I'm afraid that you will have to keep making coffee. There was some in there an hour ago that was just tan water."

Rory smiled at the compliments. "Sounds fair to me. Good luck, Mr. Huntzberger."

He cringed. "Wow, that sounded weird. But thank you. I'm sorry, your name was?"

"Rory. Rory Gilmore."

"Nice to meet you, Rory Gilmore."

"You too," she said quietly as she left him to start to pick up the pieces of the office and his life.