Disclaimer: I own nothing, neither the characters, nor the setting... I'm poor, poor, poor (and that's easy enough to prove...)
A/N: Special regards to LitLove for igniting a spark that has been burning for a while before I got to writing this fic. Remember what I once told you, Lit? I didn't make this story a fanfic of yours, but yours is kind of there, too, as an inspiration...
This fic is the obvious result of too many Suits episodes and my Gilmore Girls addiction record... A little overused story setting, but I hope it makes a difference:
Summary: Rory Gilmore has been running her grandfather's publishing house for a year now. She is surprised when she gets a phone call by her mother's ex-boyfriend Luke who asks her a certain favor. Starting from there, her life starts to alter rapidly. AU
PLEASE READ FIRST:
Background Details: After her mother Lorelai died in a car accident, seventeen year old Rory Gilmore moved to live with her grandparents in Hartford. She never came back to her home town, the memories of her mom too painful to relive, so she never met Luke's rebellious nephew Jess Mariano who was sent by his mother to spend his last high school year with his uncle, away from New York and away from trouble. After Rory graduated Harvard Kennedy, she took on her grandfather's publishing firm. After Jess graduated Stars Hollow High, he worked for a couple of years before he saved up enough money to major literature in the University of Pennsylvania.
So, here's my attempt to explore a more screwed up Rory and her interaction with a more screwed on Jess, who meet each other for the first time in somewhat different circumstances... exactly how different, I'm yet to discover.
As always, hope you enjoy!
'Luke Danes, Line Two,' the secretary's voice sounded from the speaker.
Rory Gilmore's wrist froze above the papers, her finely manicured fingers suddenly numb around the Dupont fountain pen.
Luke Danes. Her mom's ex-boyfriend-almost-fiancee...
'I can't speak, Rory. I don't even know how to introduce myself... She had just proposed to me the night before, before... What do I say? I don't even know how to begin...'
'You say you're Luke. The man who loved my mom and who she loved back.'
A beat. The church was full of people but quiet nevertheless. Awfully quiet. Another beat.
'Okay, then. Let's do this.'
'If... if it will make you feel better, you can always pretend that we're alone. Just you, me and... and her.'
She hadn't seen him since the funeral. Barely exchanged a word after the ceremony. There was nothing to be said, the most important person for both of them ripped out of their lives, a huge gap split open right before them. A seventeen year old teenage schoolgirl and a forty something lonely diner owner.
'He said you'd know who he is,' the secretary's voice brought her back to reality, 'and he would only be a minute... Rory? Should I get rid of him?'
'No! No, Stace, put him through.'
'Ant Floor, and don't bring it back without the report,' Rory said, handing the employee a manuscript, accompanying her words with a meaningful lift of her eyebrows.
'Yes, Miss Gilmore,' the employee said quickly, taking the file and hurrying out of the office before Miss Gilmore had changed her mind.
'Rory Gilmore, you never cease to impress me,' the young blonde smiled from across her desk and swirled in his chair from side to side. 'You still call interns Ant Floor?' he rose his eyebrows at her, amused.
'Good traditions deserve to be kept alive,' Rory shrugged with feigned innocence.
'Even if that means slavery?' the blonde let out a cheerful laugh while his eyes skimmed her outlines with a playful glitter.
'Even if so,' Rory nodded, her blue eyes reflecting the glimmer in his.
Logan Huntzberger bit his lower lip and kept it between his teeth before giving her an appreciative nod.
'Gilmore genes,' he concluded, 'there's always been this flair of royalty around you, my friend,' he added and for a moment his eyes turned warmer, catching her a little off guard.
'Coming from the lips of a Huntzberger, that must be quite rare to hear,' Rory raised her brows, her lips forming a beautiful rosé line. That was what her business smile looked like - a beautiful pink line, slightly curved at the edges - the intelligent, restrained way to show approval.
'We Huntzbergers are huntsmen, Rory. Never been royal figures... and maybe that's why we're always trying to prove something,' Logan added somewhat sadly, pensively.
Rory's forehead furrowed at the change of tone. Her hands rested in her lap, fingers intertwined, and she leaned forward, her features expressing concern.
'Logan,' she began gently, friendly. She wasn't flirting anymore and neither was he. 'Are you trying to tell me something?' she asked, deep blue fixing brown in an eye lock.
After a beat of silence with neither of them flinching, Logan shook his head and smiled, averting his look.
'You're a smart woman, Rory Gilmore,' he said softly, almost affectionately, after which he took hold of the armrests of the white leather chair and stood up. 'And it's always a pleasure to see you.'
Before walking out, he gave her slight a nod, lifting his hand to touch his temple with the fingertips of his point and middle finger, a gesture of appreciation he often used during the two years of their acquaintance.
Rory Gilmore swiveled in her chair. Her lips curved up in a pensive smile, one she had not for display on a business meeting, but mostly when she was sitting by herself, pondering over an important decision.
'Cubicle floor, your new home. Also known as Ant Floor, as the Olympus calls it,' the chocolate skinned man continued, throwing an occasional look at his new colleague to check if he was following. He was.
'Olympus?' Jess rose an eyebrow, pretty unimpressed.
'Gods' Floor? Wonderland? Cloud nine? Land of Ozz?' the young man continued, a bit disappointed with the lack of enthusiasm in his new colleague's voice. This Jess guy was not quite interested in office mythology, a fact which made him look a bit nerdy in itself. Where did he fall from, again? Pennsylvania. Rright.
'The Killmore Empire?' he tried again.
Jess' lack of interest killed every last trace of hope that this could turn into a proper ride-full-speed-over-the-gossip-train-tour. 'Oh, come on, man, work with me here, can't you at least pretend that you're following this?'
'Hey, Chris, filling the new guy in?' a freckle faced redhead cut in, joining their step, throwing a questioning look at his colleague behind Jess' back.
Chris mouthed 'spoilsport', nodding towards Jess' nape, and shook his head sadly.
'Oh,' the redhead chuckled, giving Jess a wink, 'Chris can be such a drama queen. Matt, by the way,' he offered his hand with a broad smile, revealing two dimples that made him look even younger.
'Jess,' Jess shook the offered hand hesitantly, asking himself if everyone in this office was clean freak.
'He told you about Her Majesty's sex life already?' Matt asked knowingly, his pale blue eyes shining with amusement.
And that would be Queen Gilmore's sex life. His currently-boss-was-almost-cousin. Huh.
'He was just getting there, I presume,' Jess concluded sarcastically, winning a huff from Chris and a chuckle from Matt.
'He's getting on your nerves,' Matt whispered over to Chris behind Jess' back. 'I already like him!'
'He was trying to warn me,' Rory mused, putting an arm under her head, while absentmindedly stroking the silken texture of the hotel bed sheet with the other. 'He never comes to my office just to see me.'
'Come on, the bastard's dying to lay his hands on you and your grandfather's firm,' the young man with closely cropped hair who was lying beside her said, stretching in a way that made the well outlined muscles of his arms and bare torso even more visible. 'He's only finding excuses to come to your office in order to just see you.'
Rory darted a slightly annoyed sideways glance at him, knowing he was right. Anyway, when she caught sight of his profile, she couldn't hold back a playful smile and it sneaked its way up her lips, accompanied by the bubbling feeling of lust that started low in her stomach and spread throughout her body.
She rolled to her side so that she was facing him and moved one hand to rest her palm against the taut skin of his stomach.
'He's not as bad as his father,' she contemplated, her fingertips drawing circles over his abs, perfectly manicured nails purposefully grazing the skin. 'Logan is just... confused.'
She finished the sentence with a shrug, not really sure this was the best word to describe Logan Huntzberger. He was the victim of a tyrant dominating father, that was obvious enough for everyone to see. However, there was something genuinely good-natured about Logan that initially differed him from Mitchum and Rory could see an inner struggle in him, led with varying score by Logan himself and his father.
'Haven't you learned by now not to talk about other men in bed, Mary?' the man asked, making a sudden move so that his hands sneaked under her and she ended up on top of him.
'Aargh, don't call me that,' Rory growled, her voice hesitating between amusement and disgust.
'But I like calling you that,' he smiled lazily, his lips lifting to reveal two rows of white teeth.
'It's a bit inappropriate,' she bit a lip, 'given the essence of our meetings,' she leaned to whisper in his ear, lips curving into a playful smile.
Two strong hands closed tighter round the small of her back and he rolled them over, making her let out a surprised whimper.
'I'm okay with inappropriate,' he said in a low, gruff voice that made her skin tingle with anticipation.
Rory Gilmore liked hotels. They meant freedom. You could leave all you don't need outside, then lock a door and forget ... if you wanted to. You could choose what to let in and what to leave out. If only people's lives had more doors like those hotel ones... It was just that a Gilmore always liked a chance to choose.
'Bye, Havier,' Rory smiled as she left the key on the reception counter.
The elderly doorman smiled back and touched his uniform cap as he watched the dazzling brunette leave, the sound of her heels resonating over the marble floor of the foyer on her way out.
'Someone got lucky last night,' Chris prolonged the words in a murmur as his eyes observed the tall brunette through the glass windows. He was sitting on his desk, his neck was really thin in an attempt to get a better view of what was happening in the corridor.
Jess threw an occasional look through the glass office windows to see a tall brunette in a white suit shaking hands with a short Asian-looking man who was also wearing a suit that could probably pay his two months rental.
'Aww, didn't I tell you,' Matt leaned over to Chris from his cubicle, rubbing his chin with his thumb and point finger, 'Soldier boy just arrived last night, hurrying to meet his Queen,' he finished in a low, suggestive voice.
Jess' eyes paused on the same word for a couple of seconds but decided against asking for further details. Last thing he needed was a refill on his boss' sex life. He continued reading the manuscript, making another note in the margin.
'His name is Tristan Dugrey,' Matt explained occasionally as he pushed his swivel chair towards Jess' desk. 'He's a marine,' he added conspiratorially.
Either Matt was referring to some other guy, or the short Asian was really giving a very wrong impression. Jess' eyes continued their travel over the script (this was a really poor attempt for writing real-time fiction, anyway) and he made another note in the margin.
'Every time she walks round the office, greeting people, she got lucky,' Matt continued, 'Which means Pretty boy got back from a mission and stopped by to say hello,' Matt stressed the last word meaningfully, making his voice emphatically low.
Jeez, this story was written in an impossibly poor style. If you needed something that true to real life, you should've written a diary. And there he had caught a glimpse of a story, at least at the very beginning, but, as with many other stories, this author's initially good idea had dissolved into the next chapters and washed away like watercolor to become a meaningless blur.
'You really don't care about gossip, do you?' Matt asked in a couple of minutes, his eyes still fixing Jess. In contrast to Chris' accusation, Matt's voice bore more respect for the fact that their new colleague kept himself out of small talk.
'Nope,' Jess affirmed without tearing his eyes off the page. 'I really don't.'
'Well,' Matt tapped Jess' shoulder, 'if you stick around here long enough, you're about to,' he finished wisely and with that he pushed his swivel back to his cubicle.
'Who wrote Kate McCarty's review?' Rory asked evenly after she put the phone down, turning the inner line speaker on. Employees knew what this tone meant. She was furious.
'Eh, someone from Ant floor,' Stacy said hesitantly, switching on speaker, reaching for her notes, trying to find the name.
Rory was silent at the other end, clearly waiting for her secretary to deliver the name.
'I can check,' Stacy suggested helpfully, winning some time while going through her scribbles frantically.
Stacy turned another page and then clicked her fingers in an 'Aha!' gesture.
'Jess Mariano,' she delivered effortlessly. She knew it was that guy.
Stacy Wills didn't know many people from Ant floor. Not personally. She could recognize a couple of faces, connect them to a name maybe, but there were only few individuals there that she found interesting enough to acknowledge. This Jess Mariano could be one of them.
This morning, when he came in and left a bunch of manuscripts on her desk, she thought he must be making a joke. No one delivered their reviews personally. Not since the company had grown to a level where it was placed over six floors of a skyscraper in the center of New York. There were a couple of employees that took care of those deliveries, organized into a neat system to keep it all in order. But this guy was there this morning, hair sticking in all possible directions, his eyes a soft brown shade that somehow contrasted to the sharpness of his look. His features were rather nice, but they bore a sulky (maybe bored?) expression.
There was some contradiction in him which, according to Stacy, made him interesting. At least more interesting than the rest. She was a human reader, as she liked to say for herself, and she couldn't read him out at first sight, which was something.
And then he asked where the Gilmore library was.
That's suicidal, not to mention irresponsible and stupid.
Why, thank you.
On a Wednesday morning, on a rather busy week, you show up here uninvited, newly employed, and you ask where the boss' library is.
You don't have anything better to do?
What about those little cute bunches of paper called manuscripts, waiting for you to be read and reviewed down there on Ant floor, about three hundred pages each?
Oh, don't give me that eyebrow act.
You so are.
Wait, you really are finished with those scripts?
Didn't I say that already? Twice?
I think I'll have to change your nickname from James Dean to Socially Awkward Nerd.
Yeah, huh. Double huh if the boss catches you in her library, positioned straight then two times right before you take the corridor to the left... Who could tell smirking would suit you like that? Come on, hit the road before she's back.
'I never thought you were a fan of McCarty,' Stacy said, leaning against the door of Rory's office, a notepad in hand.
'I'm not,' Rory looked up from behind her desk.
Stacy quirked an eyebrow and crossed her hands, waiting for Rory to elaborate.
'I always thought her idea was plausible at the beginning but then got lost in the rest. If I needed something so everyday, I'd read someone's diary,' Rory shrugged and went back to reading the papers on her desk.
'Interesting,' Stacy smiled thoughtfully.
'What is,' Rory asked absentmindedly, reaching for the phone.
'That's exactly what this Mariano guy said,' Stacy said with a flair of mysteriousness and disappeared from the door before she could get a reaction, hoping that would create some dramatic effect.
'Really', Rory said to herself once the door was closed.
Her clothes were designed to make a statement. Something like a shiny label to mark her as wealthy, powerful and prosperous. She was reading some papers spread over her desk, lips pursed in a tight line. Another bossy uptight bitch, Jess decided.
'Take a seat, Mr. Mariano.'
Bossy, checked. A smirk started to pull at his lips' ends.
She looked up when he sat on the leather chair before her desk. His smirk stilled. You didn't get to see this kind of blue often. He had never. Or maybe he had. Once. On a picture. In Luke's. She had her mother's blue.
'You wrote the review for Kate McCarthy,' Rory informed him coldly. Yeah, as if he didn't know that.
His eyebrows flew up, his trademark smirk resuming its way up his lips. Okay, then, maybe blue was misleading. She was an uptight bitch.
'You're gonna write an apology.'
Cocky and defensive.
'To Miss McCarthy,' she smiled tightly.
He rested back in the chair and crossed his arms before his chest.
'And I would wanna do that because?'
Rory's eyebrow quirked up and she laced her fingers together over the desk.
Really? Challenging the boss? Rebel without a cause, you don't know who you're talking to.
'Because you were rude and judgmental,' she explained brightly.
'Yes, you were.'
'No, I wasn't.'
No, of course you weren't, poor stubborn misunderstood bad boy.
'Look,' Rory paused to check his name on her note pad, 'Jess. I see you must be new to this business,' she began in a softer, sweeter voice, one she might as well use when talking to a retard.
'But there is something important about reviewers and they must learn it from their first day here, or else it would be their last,' she continued, her voice velvety.
Jess' hands rested on the armrests and he bobbed his head to the side, ready to hear what that extremely wise god's commandment would be. He expected something like 'I'm the boss and I'm always right' or 'You have to worship my taste in clothes no matter what I've put on'.
But then Rory took a breath and her demeanor changed completely, her features shifting into a stern expression, her words getting a sharp edge. 'We never, ever offend our writers,' she said slowly, seriously, making the temperature in the room considerably lower.
Huh, who would tell that blue would cut like ice.
'I did not...' he started slowly, trying to stress the words, but she wouldn't let him finish.
'Maybe not purposefully, but you did. You offended her,' she explained calmly, blue turning a warmer shade for just a second. 'For a person who works in a publishing company, I'm sure you have a vocabulary wide enough to handle this. Thank you, Mr Mariano,' she finished in a composed but firm business tone, her closing tone, as her colleagues knew it, and got back to the papers spread on her desk.
Jess felt his jaw drop an inch and swallowed a bitter comment before standing up to leave. He paused at the door, his fingers forming a loose fist against the door frame.
'I was right,' he turned back, determination making its way through his voice. 'And you know it.'
She continued reading the papers, ignoring him completely.
'You wouldn't be running this place if you didn't,' he finished, his jaw tense, his fingers closing in a tighter fist as he turned and left the room before he had said anything that would cost him his job.
Rory Gilmore turned another page and looked up towards the place where he had just been. She rested back in her swivel chair, a content smile spreading over her lips. So, that would be Luke's nephew.
He's such a pain in the ass, but he works a lot and he's a total brain, just... give him a chance... Please?
'Stace,' Rory leaned over the speaker, 'can you get me some background information on Jess Mariano?'
Any kind of feedback would be highly appreciated:)