Here it is. The first chapter of Diamond Dust. I don't know about you, but I'm as excited as anything for this fic. If you haven't read Diamonds and Rust, you probably won't understand the character mannerisms or what's going on. I'm sure you could read this without Diamonds and Rust, but there's no explaining the differences in the characters. All the scenes in italics are past events. That's how the gaps will be filled in due to missing time. Remember that Diamond Dust is set seven years after the end of Diamonds and Rust.
Thank you for all the response on Diamonds and Rust! Diamond Dust could not exist if it weren't for all of you. I love hearing from everyone, even if I don't always get a chance to reply.
Disclaimer: Gilmore Girls does not belong to me, nor do any of the lyrics that show up here.
I'll be damned, here comes your ghost again
But that's not unusual, it's just that the moon is full
And you decided to call
And here I sit, hand on the telephone
Hearing the voice I'd known a couple of light years ago
Headed straight for a fall
Jess assembled a mental checklist as he grabbed his belongings, toting them into the living room where he could sprawl out on the couch and spread his books across the coffee table. After setting up his work space, he poured coffee into his favorite mug and settled into the worn middle section of his sofa.
Sunday mornings were a favorite of Jess Mariano, for they were when he got all his work done. As a graduate student at Columbia University, there was a lot of work that needed to be done on the weekends. Unfortunately, most of his lesson plans and grading took up the time he needed to write papers. Jess taught high school English and was eternally swamped when it came to his to-do list.
Which was why, in the middle of writing a paper, he was a bit peeved that his phone was ringing. Most people knew not to call Jess when he was scrambling to get things done for Monday morning, which was usually when he handed back assignments. Sighing, he tossed his notepad and laptop aside in favor of the ringing phone.
"Mariano," he answered sharply, hoping it wasn't a student that needed assistance on the project that was due the next morning.
He nearly dropped the phone. She didn't even need to tell him who she was. Jess knew. Immediately, he hardened. His voice caught in his throat and his breath became shallow. There were a million questions he felt he should ask and an equal number of explanations that she should give. Somehow, none of that mattered at that very moment.
Slowly, he collected himself and hoped that she hadn't hung up. "What? Why are you…?" his voice hitched in his throat as he tried to complete the sentence because he couldn't find the words. There were too many days he had wasted, spent them wishing she would call, contact him in any way, shape, or form.
"I'm outside your door," she admitted softly.
He almost dropped the phone in shock. Everything that he wanted to say escaped his mind as he sat wordless on the couch, mouth agape. "Okay," he said simply. Jess let the phone fall to his side as he padded over to the front door of his apartment. Every footstep felt heavier than last until he wondered how long it was taking him to walk across the room. Hesitantly, he reached forward and opened the heavy door. "Rory," he said, shaking his hair with disbelief.
Her dress was wrinkled and her hair was a mess. She was slimmer than she had been as a teenager, making her a waif. They stood in the doorway for what felt like hours before Jess spoke up.
"What are you doing here?" he asked.
"I didn't know where else to go." Jess accepted the vague answer and let her into his apartment, shutting the door as he guided her into his living room. His books were still scattered across the couch and coffee table, notes left abandoned on his computer screen. Quickly, Jess brushed the texts away and shut his laptop.
"What are you doing here?" he asked, slightly calmer. He realized it was a repeat question, but he felt she owed him an explanation.
Rory shook her head. She had just sat down on his sofa as far away from him as she could manage. "Maybe I should just go," she finally said, getting to her feet.
"No." Jess tugged on her arm and brought her back down to her seat. "I just think that after all these years…" he paused. "It's been a long time."
"I know," she said.
"You can't even say I didn't try to keep in touch," he mentioned defensively. "Because I did."
She knew he did. Every single Christmas and birthday card she had received for seven years was filed away.
"And you never even responded once. I sent you Christmas card after birthday card. Don't you dare pretend I never did. How hard would it have been for you to just drop a line in the mail? With every Merry Christmas and Happy Birthday I sent you! I'm sure you got the congratulations note when you graduated Harvard," he snapped. "But that doesn't matter in the end. You're the one who walked away, so why should you be the one doing any reconciling?" He was bitter. The one thing Jess had become increasingly adept in was being bitter. He should have been able to let this go, let her go, but he just couldn't.
"I moved on," Rory said.
"So have I," Jess snarled, sitting back on the couch and folding his arms.
"Then why the cards and letters?" she asked.
"It was easier than going home," he said. "I wanted to be friends, I always wanted to be friends, and we used to be friends. I know that's too far back for you to remember, but we were."
"Jess, good to hear from you," Luke said, answering the phone.
"Yeah. It's a thrill," Jess replied, absentmindedly twirling his finger around his shoelace.
"Are you coming home soon?" Luke asked. "It's been awhile and you did spend the summer in California to attend that summer program."
Jess shook his head. Breaking this news to Luke was one of the hardest things he had ever done. It took second place to the airport scene alone. "I was just calling to check in."
"So you're not coming home?" he clarified. Jess could hear the drop in his uncle's tone. At first, he had sounded excited to hear from the young man. Now he sounded flat and uninterested.
"I'm not coming home," Jess confirmed.
"You can't avoid her forever," Luke pointed out, hurt that he couldn't even swing a trip to Stars Hollow just to come home for a little while. All he was asking for was a couple of days.
"I'm not trying to avoid her," Jess snapped.
"Then why send her a birthday card?" Luke pressed. "Lorelai said she was in tears the entire day."
"I didn't want to make her cry," Jess snapped. "I just wanted her to know I was still here."
"You broke up with her," Luke pointed out.
"I did not break up with her," Jess argued. "All I wanted to do was go back to being friends so that we could work it out. She walked away from me, in case that wasn't clear."
"Exactly. I just needed some time. And then that Columbia transfer ended up working out-"
"That's why you didn't want to go."
Jess sighed. "There was no reason to any more."
"You could have been closer. You wouldn't shut up about New York and Columbia last year and now all of a sudden you don't want to go."
"I don't want to go," Jess reaffirmed. "I'd rather stay in California."
"Permanently," Luke finished.
Jess shifted nervously, but said nothing.
"That's what the phone call is about, isn't it?" Luke demanded. "You're not coming back at all."
The words were scratching at the base of his throat, but Jess couldn't work them out.
"Jess Mariano," Luke warned.
"I don't want to go back," Jess admitted softly, knowing it would break Luke's heart.
Luke knew all along this was going to happen, especially after the split between Jess and Rory. There was no arguing with Jess about the situation. He was going to do whatever he wanted to do. "Okay."
"Okay?" Jess asked nervously. He had been expecting more of a fight.
"Yeah. Okay. Stay in California," Luke said. "You don't want to run into her here. Just don't let her drive you out of your home," he reminded him. "This is your town too."
But Jess thought he was older and wiser, not really running away from his problems by staying away from them to begin with.
"So I haven't seen you in seven years and the you pop up at my door. In New York. Last I heard you were still living in Connecticut. Why the trip?"
She hesitated. "I got your address off the Christmas card," she admitted.
"Okay. That explains how you know where I live," he said, "but it doesn't explain why you're here on a Sunday afternoon."
"He asked me to marry him."
Jess let out a disgruntled sigh. "The boyfriend?"
"So you took a personal trip to New York just to tell me that?" he asked.
"No." Rory shook her head. "I didn't know what else to do, so I took off."
Jess leaned closer to her. "Did you say yes?"
"I didn't say no."
He caught a glimpse of the stone that adorned her left ring finger. Jess sat back and let the news register in his brain. For years, it had taken him leaps and bounds to get over Rory Gilmore. There was a part of him that still wasn't over her and regretted the decision to be "just friends" that lead her to walk away from him because they didn't see eye to eye. He had been on a few dates. Hell, he even had a girlfriend or two. It just didn't feel the same to Jess and he eventually gave up on the dating scene, replacing fun with graduate school. "Do you need a place to stay?" he asked hesitantly.
"Yeah." She hung her head. This was not exactly the way she wanted to reconnect with her best friend, the only man she had ever loved.
He wasn't even sure he should let her stay, but Jess did. He even made up the couch for her. There was no way he was letting her take his bed just a couple hours after crawling back to him.
"Christmas. Just come for Christmas," Luke found himself begging.
"No! I don't want to come for Christmas," Jess snapped. He knew this phone call was going to turn into business rather than pleasure.
"But you haven't been home in two years," Luke pointed out. He had feared the worst when Jess and Rory split up and stopped talking, and that was that Jess would never step foot in Stars Hollow again.
"It hasn't been that long." It had. Jess knew it; he just didn't want to admit it.
"I think it's actually been longer," Luke said.
"Why don't you come here?" Jess suggested. He did miss his uncle, but he wasn't willing to go back to Stars Hollow.
"Because I would rather stay here. I don't want to close the diner."
"Of course," Jess sighed. "Maybe some other time, then."
There was a pause from his line. "Hey, Luke?"
"Is she okay? You know, is she doing good?" he asked hesitantly.
"I haven't seen her in a while," Luke answered. "She's got a new boyfriend."
Jess nodded, aware that Luke couldn't see him from the other line. "Good. That's… that's good."
"She doesn't really come around all that often anymore," Luke added, hoping that would possibly coerce Jess into coming home for at least a week.
"So I'll see you soon?" Luke asked.
The scent of fresh brewed coffee woke up Rory from her slumber on the couch. Jess was already dressed in a red button down shirt that was tucked into his black dress pants. Rubbing her eyes, Rory came to on the couch and realized what she was doing in Jess's living room.
"Coffee's on the burner," Jess said, sensing the movement from across the room.
Rory pulled at the hem of the long t-shirt she was wearing. "Coffee," she said, nodding.
"Help yourself," he said, eyes moving back to the page of the newspaper he was reading.
He had already set out a cup for her, so Rory poured the liquid and sat down at the kitchen table across from Jess. "Are you going to work?" Rory asked, realizing how little she knew about Jess these days.
He flipped his wrist to look at his watch. "In about twenty minutes," he said. "It's early. I'm surprised you're awake."
"I didn't really sleep all that well last night," she admitted, taking a sip of the coffee. It tasted almost like Luke's coffee, which reminded her that she needed to call Lorelai and at least tell her she was with Jess in New York.
Jess took a long sip of his coffee and placed the mug back on the table. "I know nothing about you," he said suddenly.
"You're in my apartment, wearing my shirt, sleeping on my couch, drinking my coffee. I haven't seen you in seven years. I know nothing about you."
She paused. "There isn't much that changed."
"I know you graduated from Harvard."
"Yeah. I got the card."
"Great, glad to hear it." Jess went back to his coffee, unsure of where he could deter the conversation so that it was safer.
"I don't know anything about you, either," she said.
"Except my phone number and where I live?" he asked.
"You gave those to me," she accused.
"Not personally. I didn't invite you to come here on a whim and my number just happens to be on my address labels."
"You didn't have to stick on an address label then," she argued.
"And write out everything? I've got enough stuff to mail that I didn't want to."
"We're arguing again," Rory pointed out.
"I'm at Columbia for grad school and I teach high school English."
"Mr. Mariano?" she said. "You teach?"
"I teach," he reaffirmed. "It's been almost three years since I started."
"That's…good," she said.
"I have to go," he said. "Will you be here when I get back?" Part of him wanted her to disappear while he was at school. Then could he reconstruct and try to move on again. But he also wanted her to be curled up on his couch, wearing his shirt, drinking his coffee, when he returned.
"Is that an invitation?" she asked meekly.
"You've got a week," he found himself saying. "But then I need my life to go back to the way it was."
"A week. Okay."
Jess shrugged on his leather jacket and grabbed his messenger bag by the door before letting himself out of the apartment.
Luke didn't like airplanes, which was part of the reason why it took him so long to visit Jess in California. He had not seem his nephew in a little over two years, not since he arrived home for the summer after his freshman year when he took his car and drove all the way back to California. Now that Luke couldn't even bribe Jess to come home, he knew he needed to suck it up and get on a plane to the west coast.
He looked…good. Great even. His hair was still an out of control mess, spiked up in the front with liberally applied gel. He was slim, lean, and toned with an even tan from being out in the sun so often. He also looked happy, which, Luke noted, was important. There was no scowl to be seen on his nephew's face.
"Luke!" Jess's hand shot up as he spotted his Uncle. He jogged toward him and they embraced in a manly family hug.
"It's good to see you," Luke said, patting Jess on the back.
Jess grinned. "Good to see you too." They strolled in the general direction of baggage claim and waited for Luke's suitcase to make its way around. "Any problems on the flight?" he asked.
"Nah. Smooth sailing." Luke spied his bag and grabbed it off the conveyor belt.
"We got an air mattress for you," Jess said, grabbing his keys out of the pocket of his jeans. "So you don't have to sleep on the couch."
"Great," Luke said.
Jess validated his parking and they walked through the garage to where his car was parked. Luke marveled how grown up Jess seemed to be, though he was sad to have missed the last few years of his transformation.
"Hello?" Luke grumbled.
"Rory Gilmore slept on my couch last night," Jess said, pulling out of his parking spot.
"Good morning to you, too," Luke said.
"Did you hear me?" Jess asked. "I said, Rory slept on my couch last night."
"So? Aren't you going to say anything?"
"Why not?" Jess begged. He paused. "Why is she here?"
"I think you should probably ask her that question."
"Are you being evasive because Lorelai is sitting right in front of you with coffee?"
Luke sighed. "No."
"Well, you gotta give me something because she's apparently going to be there when I get back from work."
"Her boyfriend asked her marry him and she freaked. Lorelai figured she was going to do something drastic."
"Like driving to New York and showing up at my apartment?"
"Hey, you're the one who handed her the address on a silver platter."
"I sent her a Christmas card."
"You sent her several Christmas cards," Luke reminded him. "And birthday cards too, if you happened to forget."
"I wasn't going to send any this year," Jess said, trying to save his pride.
"Sure. Okay," Luke said, rolling his eyes.
"So Lorelai is just going to let her stay with me?" Jess asked.
"I guess so. She hasn't said anything since Rory disappeared yesterday."
"Great." Jess pulled into his designated parking spot in the staff lot and killed the ignition. "As much as I'd love to continue this endearing and informative conversation, I need to get to my classroom."
"Okay," Luke said. "I'll talk to you soon." He paused. "Hey, Jess."
"Yeah?" Jess asked, about to hang up.
"Go easy on her."
"Yeah." Jess waited until he heard the click of the other line and stuffed his phone in his pocket. The perfect start to a Monday morning. And he had hated them enough before.
Jess stared at the back of her head as she walked out of the airport. Everything was moving in slow motion. His feet felt cemented in place. He wanted to yell or run after her, but she was right; his plane was leaving. Sucking in a deep breath, Jess grasped the strap on his carry on until his knuckles turned white. This was it. His new life alone was going to start as soon as he stepped on that plane.
When Jess woke up in California, it felt like someone had shoved an ice pick into his chest. But the plane was not the place for him to start panicking. Jess needed to wait until he got back to his dorm room to really digress. And he should probably call Luke. His mind raced with the upcoming events as the plane landed. He took another deep breath as they touched ground and let it out slowly.
The entire trip back to Stanford felt like a blur. After paying the cab driver, Jess stewed in the elevator and finally made it up to his room where he threw himself on the bed and finally allowed himself to get the entire ordeal out of his system.
What hurts the most is being so close
And having so much to say
And watching you walk away
And never knowing what could have been
And not seeing that loving you is what I was trying to do