Late-Night Reflections

Summary: A glimpse into Liz Mariano's mind…

Genre: Angst

Rating: PG-13, mostly for adult situations and a few words that Barney would never use

Characters: Liz Mariano's POV

Author's note: This is my first Gilmore Girls fic in a very long time. As far as I know, there aren't that many, if any, stories written from Liz Mariano's POV. So I thought I would fill the gap. Anyway, sit back and enjoy.

Liz rubbed her eyes and looked at the clock from the side of the bed on which she was sitting. 4:30 AM. No, she wasn't drunk yet. A problem easily remedied.

She took another swig out of the beer bottle. Keystone tasted like crap, but it was cheap and she'd been hooked to it years ago.

Jimmy was still snoring blissfully in the bed. Liz looked over at him. Wasn't an Einstein-far from it, but he was good in bed, didn't hit her when life got rough and actually had a job, wonder of wonders. Not bad. Hell of a lot better than some of the deadbeats she'd dated. 

She got up and made a face at her reflection in the mirror. Lacy cheap cream-colored nightgown-rag might be a better term-mussed auburn hair, and dark eyes that were hardened and frozen over.

She grabbed her robe and cinched the belt around her waist tightly. Suddenly she felt cold…

She wandered into the living room. Sat down at the couch and turned on the TV. After a few minutes of watching the inane family sitcom, Liz found her mind wandering to her son.

Jess.

The one thing in her life that she hadn't succeeded in screwing up completely. Yet.

Liz knew that sending her son to Luke had probably been the smartest thing she'd done in her life. Well, after not having the abortion when Nick told her to.

She'd been ready to do it. Even had walked into the clinic. She had gone to the bored, snotty receptionist, gotten the forms and sat down to fill them out. Then her mind had flashed to the future, when she'd gone to meet her Maker and instead the child she'd given up looking at her reproachfully.

"Why didn't you want me, Mommy?" the baby asked, even though it could only have been about two months old.

The print was swimming in front of her eyes. She had gotten up, shoved the form back at the receptionist with a hoarse, "Excuse me," and ran out of the clinic like the devil was at her heels.

Nick pleaded, cajoled, argued, and threatened. But she had remained firm for once in her life. Repeated over and over against all the arguments and yelling that the only way this baby was going to die was if he slit her throat or if he put a bullet in her heart.

And he gave in. He even got used to the idea when she began to show. He'd rub her stomach and talk about when his son was born, he'd take him to baseball games and teach him how to throw a fastball.

Liz honestly didn't care if the baby was a boy or a girl. She just wanted it to be healthy.

And miraculously, even though she had smoked a little bit, and drunk some alcohol, he was born healthy.

Nick was ecstatic. And Luke and her father, William, who had shown up for the birth, were happy too. When Liz had handed her child to Luke, it was the first time she had ever seen her brother look both thrilled and terrified at the same time.

Nick elected to name him Jesse after his twin brother, who had died when he and Nick were both seventeen. Liz agreed, but picked Alexander and William to be his middle.

Jesse Alexander William Mariano.

Things were possibly the best they'd ever been after Jess' birth. Liz was getting parts in commercials and small parts in off-Broadway musicals, Nick had a steady job, and there were times when she'd catch Nick singing a lullaby to Jess, or taking a bath with him, Jess splashing the water happily and Nick grinning like a happy fool in love.

He was in love. With her and the baby.

Then things started ever so slowly to go wrong.

She'd gotten a small part in a sitcom. Not much, but still-a TV show. But when she walked onto the set, the lead actress instantly hated her because she was young and pretty and actually had talent.

Liz stoically stood the bitchy remarks, because this part was something she refused to give up. And by not striking back, she had won the respect of the crew and cast. Which infuriated the actress even more.

The director had been so impressed with her; he had decided to make her role even bigger. During a break, she had been showing her baby's picture to another cast member. The actress walked by, and remarked snidely, "Oh, is that your baby? Rather scrawny, isn't he?"

Rather scrawny, isn't he?

Liz's cheeks flamed with the insult. The cast member she'd been talking to and everyone else nearby went quiet.

Liz snapped. She walked right up to the woman, and right in front of the cast, the crew, the director and the executive producers, slapped her right across the face. For one second, there was complete silence.

Then all hell broke loose.

No matter the fact that she'd endured hell from that jealous bitch, a fact that everyone on the set could testify to, she'd lost the gig. It was a miracle she hadn't been sued.

After that, no one would hire her.

And then Nick lost his job.

Things were spiraling downward, and Liz had no idea how to stop. The arguments, the fighting, money problems…

And then she'd come home from her job at the diner to find Jess wailing and her husband shooting heroin up his arm.

She'd lost it. Screaming, she told Nick that he was either going to have to quit or move out, 'cause there was no way she was supporting his drug habit.

Next day, he left. No notes, no phone call…he was there one day and gone the next.

Liz ached all over with the pain. Still did sometimes. Sex and alcohol were the only two things that actually made her feel okay. She drifted in and out of reality…her relationship with her brother grew more estranged, Stars Hollow and the old life seemed miles away…

Cut off from everything, she watched as her son grew more distant and got into more trouble. And there wasn't a damn thing she could do.

Finally, after her son had gotten arrested again, bail had been posted, and by some miracle, had not gone to jail, Liz made a decision. Liz watched her son sleep, and started to think.

He wasn't doing drugs…yet.

He hadn't gone to jail…yet.

He hadn't been killed…yet.

Yet. yetyetyetyet-

Damn.

You're not turning into me, Jess, she mentally promised her son. No freaking way are you turning into me. You are not going to screw up your life the way I screwed up mine.

And she knew, beyond a shadow of a doubt, that if anyone could save her son, it was Luke.

So she shipped her son off to Stars Hollow. The irony was obvious. She hadn't been able to wait to leave the town when she was Jess's age, and now she was sending her son there, without a choice.

She didn't contact him or her brother to see how they were doing. Dimly, she figured that if she didn't contact him, he'd fit more easily into Stars Hollow. Forget his no-so-wonderful childhood and be happy in Connecticut.

Liz grabbed a cigarette and lit it. Taking a long drag, she glanced at the half-empty pack.

I really should quit, she thought.

Idly, she wondered how Jess was doing. She'd been bewildered when he'd shown up one day at her door, with his suitcase.

When asked, all he would say was, "It didn't work out." The sadness, anger, and guilt in his eyes kept her from prodding further. But she still wanted to know what happened.

So she'd called Luke. He said, "Things didn't go well."

Men of few words.

One day, during breakfast, Jess asked abruptly, "Why'd you leave Stars Hollow?"

Liz blinked, surprised. She considered, then said, "I…I wanted to be an actress. And I-I wanted to see something of real life, I guess. Life there was so-perfect and Pleasantville-like…I wanted something grittier, something with an edge." She looked down and ruefully chuckled. "Got a little more than I asked for."

Then one day, he had come home with a huge smile on his face. She raised her eyebrows.

"You look happy."

He shrugged, trying to wipe off the silly grin on his face. "I'm not. Just…slightly less depressed than usual."

Then came his announcement.

"I wanna go back to Connecticut."

She stared at him. "What?"

"I wanna go back."

"But…why?"

He shrugged. "Just do."

Bewildered, all she could do was stare at him.

Jess grew impatient. "So can I go?"

"Are you happy there?" she asked softly.

He was surprised by the question, she could tell. "Yeah. I guess I am."

She smiled. "Then you should go."

Then he smiled back. A hesitant, half-smile, it was true, but still a smile.

"I'll go pack your bag," she said, and went off into his room.

Flipping the channels, she came across an airing of the movie Bridget Jones's Diary. "I'll tell you one thing, Jones, you could never screw up your life half as bad as I've screwed up mine. So quit whining," she ordered the actress on the TV.

Luke had called after Jess got there.

"Well, just wanted to let you know he got here okay," he said, finishing off their awkward conversation.

"Thanks."

"Don't mention it."

"Does this have something to do with a girl?" she blurted out.

"What?" Luke's tone held surprise and…something else.

"The reason Jess went back there…is it something to do with a girl?"

There was a long silence. "He's not admitting it," Luke finally said, "but yeah, I think that's his reason for coming back."

She nodded, then realized how idiotic that was, as how he couldn't see her over the phone. "Huh. So is she a nice girl or the town slut?"

He chuckled. "She's a nice girl. Smart, going to a private school-the whole town loves her."

"Yeah, well, my son's got good taste," she said, grinning. "So what's her name?"

"Rory."

"Rory?" Liz echoed. "Odd. Wait, what am I talking about? She lives in Stars Hollow. She has to be odd in order to live there and still function."

"There are a few problems, though," Luke warned.

"Like what?"

"Well, for one thing, she's got a boyfriend, and said boyfriend, mother, and pretty much the entire town hates Jess's guts."

"Ouch. What'd he do?" Liz asked.

"Stole a few things-petty cash, a gnome from a yard-"

"A gnome?" Liz echoed.

"-made a chalk outline of a body on the street-but the whole him crashing into a sign with Rory in the car-which, by the way, was hers- was pretty much the last straw. Didn't help matters that she fractured her wrist, either."

"Oooh…oh, that's not good. Why on earth did he hit the sign?"

Luke sighed. "Evidently he swerved to avoid hitting an animal and crashed right into Taylor's sign."

"Taylor? As in Taylor Doose, that old stuffed shirt?" Liz asked.

"One and the same." Luke's voice was grim.

"Ugh. I never liked him," Liz grumbled. "Wait. When did this happen?"

"Just before he returned to New York."

"But he went back to Connecticut," Liz stated. "Why?"

" 'Cause of Rory, I guess," Luke said.

She nodded. "Luke, listen-I've got to get back to work. The manager's glaring at me-but, keep me posted, okay? I always liked the happy endings."

"Will do," Luke promised.

"And-and tell Jess I called," Liz added. She wasn't sure why it had suddenly become so important that her son know that she had called.

"Okay."

"Bye."

"Bye, Liz."

Liz sighed, shook off the echoes of her failed life, and walked out to the window and crawled out to the fire escape.

Sometimes, she liked to come out there, watch for the sunrise, and pretend that as the sun rose, she still had a chance at happiness. Still had something to look forward to each day.

So she leaned on the railing, smoked her cigarette, and waited for the sun to rise.