AN: This story is a spinoff of "Maine event" which was mostly ROGAN, but another interesting coupling developed in that story, which took place largely off scene. This story aims to remedy that. It contains some bit of the same dialogue but I've tried to incorporate new thoughts to them. I do recommend that you read the Maine event first to get the full background story, but in case you did or just need a refresher or don't want to, the cliffnotes of that are:
* Logan's engagement with Odette was just a friendly (with some benefits) arrangement so Logan could become the majority stakeholder at HPG and Odette could escape her traditional / controlling family and move to the US and disappear. There are no romantic feelings between the two. It's a friendship, a partnership to achieve a common goal - get away from under their parent's influence.
* While Logan went along with the fake-marriage with Odette, he actually married Rory just a couple of days prior to that, leaving Odette legally in a difficult position.
* Odette, Rory and Logan all live in Odette's house in Manhattan. She's friendly with Rory. She understands that true love is hard to find and does not blame Rory and Logan for finding a way to be together.
*Odette wants to have a baby - her clock is ticking and she's willing to do it alone.
* Financially she is independent.
* Jess is an editor/manager at Truncheon, which is now owned by HPG (e.g Mitchum/Logan), but it continues to work more or less independently in Philadelphia in the beginning of the story.
* Just for graphical imagination - in my stories I picture Jess looking sightly more like the real Milo these days rather than Jess in the AYITL (less rough around the edges).
* Rory works for Jess, editing book, part time. She plans on studying to become a teacher.
I realize this story probably won't be as popular as one of my last ROGAN fics, but those who do read this and like it - your reviews are very very welcome. I tend to write/post a lot more often if I know there's someone out there actually reading my stuff.
Jess' head throbbed a little, needing a glass of water but feeling reluctant to move from the warmth of the bed. As his eyes peeked around the room, unwilling to fully open, the found himself in a bedroom that was clearly feminine just by the pile of throw pillows that now were tossed around the room,not really being able to make out a lot of details this time of the night. It was still dark outside, and he really hadn't meant to sleep over. A naked back lay besides him, her spine showing as it curved, her knees pulled up, the blanket slightly draped over her hips. He closed his eyes, for just a few minutes, trying to recall what had led him there.
It had been a long day at the office for both Jess and Logan, forming a game plan for future developments of Truncheon, including the possible expansion to New York in the coming months. He'd grown accustomed to his business-self, the role he was supposed to carry more and more in recent years - finding the perfect balance between his own style and what was acceptable by the business. But in a way, it felt somehow age appropriate to him, like this was him growing up, and whether that came though writing another book or wearing suits and dress-shirts and controlling his behavior, it didn't really matter. If he wanted something more from his life, moving forward was the way to do it.
Jess didn't really understand why Logan had insisted on bringing him over for dinner. Sure, it was nice of him to take him to dinner, like he often did with business associates himself, and he'd told him that Rory was going to be there, without specifying the context. But that raised a whole other round of questions - why on earth would this guy want the three of them at the same table? It was putting it mildly that he didn't have a very high opinion of the guy on a personal level. Logan Huntzberger was an excellent businessman and for that he put up with him, not that he had a choice, now that Trunchedon was owned by the HPG. He had nothing against seeing Rory of course, it had been a while since he'd seen her face to face. But the whole thing just seemed odd.
"Hey!" Rory greeted as Jess and Logan stepped through the front door of a Greenwich village red-brick townhouse. The house was something along the lines he'd expected from Huntzberger. The kiss that Rory gave Logan next clarified at least some of the context, which he had already somewhat assumed. But surely this wasn't just about rubbing THAT in. Years had passed, Rory and him were friends, colleagues - they'd had their moment and that was something in the past.
"Hi," Jess replied, adding, "Good to see you, you look… better," honestly. Rory had looked a little lost when he'd seen her at Luke's wedding - sad and defeated. But he hadn't dare to ask about it, feeling like it wasn't his place. Now she looked like a heavy weight had been lifted from her shoulders, and he couldn't help but to wonder how much of that was Logan's doing. If that really was the case, the man did deserve some respect.
"Hello," another woman greeted Jess, and for someone he was seeing for the first time, rather familiarly. The slim figure of a blonde woman, with an intoxicatingly vibrant fragrance, invaded his space, and before he had any hope to react, had laid small pecks of kisses on both of his cheeks, leaving a faint trace of her warmth on his face. He was a little taken aback by that boldness, however the motion seemed nothing in particular to the woman in question.
"Jess, this is Odette, Odette, this is Jess," Logan introduced the two.
Jess nodded in return, observing her. She wore a yellow eyelet blouse along with tight fitting blue pants, finished off by a fierce pair of heels.
"Odette is a friend of ours and publicly she's Logan's wife for the time being. But actually I am," Rory explained in a careful voice as if afraid of Jess' judgement.
That sentence made Jess almost cough. "Huh," Jess replied, raising his eyebrows slightly in surprise. This sounded crazier than some telenovela. Rory - married? Married to Logan? Bringing him here did make a little bit more sense now come to think of it, if they'd wanted to announce this. But this whole arrangement was unusual to say the least. But before he had the chance to respond, Logan jumped in.
"I know it's weird, but I assure you - it's very temporary. Don't worry we haven't gone mormon or anything," Logan explained, laughingly, almost apologetically. He really didn't owe Jess an explanation, but it made Jess feel a little special that he would think that.
"Well, as long as it works for you and everyone is happy, who am I to say anything," Jess noted smugly. They were all adults after all, surely they knew what they were doing. For a moment he glanced at Rory to register her state of mind in this, and there was nothing he could see in her face that would say that she wasn't okay with this arrangement.
"Come on," Rory led him towards the living room. The room was long but narrow, the windows looking out into the street, but shaded by majestic olive green velvet curtains. He was a little surprised at the selection of art in the room - first of all, there was a lot of it but everything seemed to be curated - spotlights placed in the right places. They were minimalistic nudes, abstracts, photos of buildings and patterns and the largest, taking up almost the entire height of the room - a complex piece of string art in black and white. Clearly the place had character.
"You want a drink, Jess?" Logan asked, as Jess took a seat in the armchair closest to the window. Rory sat across from him onto the couch.
"Scotch, neat," Jess replied. The evening was too weird to handle sober, already the thought of that burn in his throat relaxed him a little.
"Odette? Rory?" Logan asked, as he poured Jess's drink and handed it to him.
"Thanks, man," he replied, taking a large sip.
"I'll just grab a La Croix," Odette said, walking over to the cabinet herself. Definitely French - Jess thought based on that 'cr' pronunciation. Jess watched a pair of fine heeled legs step confidently across the room towards the bar fridge - definitely a pleasant sight.
"Maybe a spritzer for me," Rory replied.
"Coming right up," Logan said, as he was pouring himself a scotch as well.
"It's a nice place you've got here," Jess commented, as he looked around the modestly decorated room, with the art on the walls being the main spectacle.
"It's Odette's, we're moving soon," Rory replied to his surprise.
"Nowhere far I hope," Jess said casually.
"Upper West Side," Logan replied, returning with Rory's drink to sit next to her. There was notable chemistry between the two, their bodies adjusting accordingly to the other's position, almost organically. Huntzberger may have been a jackass in college, but he certainly had something that worked for Rory.
"So you're an editor, as I've understood, Jess?" Odette asked, sitting at the armchair closest to him, legs crossed parallelly.
"Among other things," he replied.
"What would those other things be?" she inquired further. She had gone without attending social events for a month now, and while she hadn't really admitted it to herself, she kind of missed the socializing, and she appreciated the company.
"I write," Jess stated, feeling a little proud of himself. He'd written five short novels, all a little dark and melancholic, nordic noir, but more about the angst than the violence.
"And he manages a publishing house," Logan added, acknowledging how well Jess truly had done for himself, leaving the HPG out of it for now. Truncheon was doing fairly well on it's own, it was mostly just the original owners who had wanted an out to try their hand at some other ventures and caved when Mitchum had made them an decent offer.
"Also true," Jess confirmed. He didn't feel like the deserved a lot of credit for that, he was never trained to do any of that. All he knew was what he'd picked up from Chris and Matthew, managing it was hardly what he would've called it, even though that's what his new title claimed he did.
"I'll go and get us some snacks," Rory said, as she rose and headed towards the kitchen.
"And you guys went to high school together?" Odette continued. She'd learned already from Rory that she knew him from back then, before the guys had gotten there, but she was curious to what that actually had entailed. Rory had seemed a little nervous and she wondered why. She clearly cared for his opinion.
"Not exactly," Jess replied, "we just lived in the same town, a VERY small town. Different high schools," he added, recalling momentarily the crazyness of Stars Hollow.
"So what's it like to grow up in a small town? All I've ever really known are big cities," Odette continued, as Rory returned, offering everyone pepperoncini deviled eggs and avocado endive cups with salsa.
Jess had almost expected Rory to carry the conversation, being the one in the room that actually knew him.
"I grew up here actually, Stars Hollow was an attempt to alienate me from an undesirable crowd," he replied. He'd been hanging out with some sketchy people, drinking, skipping school, had a few run-ins with the police even but nothing too dangerous. He eyed at the selection Rory was offering. "Deviled eggs - really Rory?" he smirked, glancing over the tray, taking one anyway.
"What did I miss?" Odette asked, feeling lost by that last comment.
"I don't know what he's talking about," Rory tried to play oblivious, but clearly she was a little amused by that comment. She took her seat next to Logan again.
"I have no proof of course but I'm pretty sure this sweet innocent woman devil-egged my car with her mother once," Jess elaborated, with a crooked smile.
"Interesting choice of ammo, Ace," Logan said, along with a smug smile.
"Did you deserve it?" Odette asked directly. Clearly the relationship between Rory and Jess had been an interesting one.
Jess chuckled at the somewhat blunt question. "I probably did," he noted smugly, taking another sip.
"Jess actually told me that he's considering moving back to the City, we might expand Trunchedon," Logan revealed.
"That's great," Rory commented, taking a small sip of her spritzer. She liked the idea of having friends around, now that they too were set on staying.
"I might be more of the Brooklyn kind of guy though, but we'll see," Jess added, recalling the neighbourhood he'd once lived in. He liked simpler things, prestigious neighborhoods were not his thing.
The conversation continued on a light yet interesting topics, talking a little about the work, Jess' writing, Rory's study plans and Odette's line of work. One drink soon turned into another, and at some point Rory headed to the kitchen to check on the food.
It was about two minutes later, when a loud crash of glass resonated from the kitchen along with a painful sounding moan.
"Ace, you alright there?" Logan asked loudly, standing up to go inspect the situation. The two others followed his lead.
By the time the others reached the kitchen, Rory was already up and running cold water over her hand, the tray of noodles spread all over the floor, the oven door broken.
"I'm sorry, the tray slipped," Rory said apologetically.
"Did you burn yourself?" Logan asked, stepping closer to take a look. "That doesn't look good, Ace," he said worriedly.
"Oh, I'm sure it's fine," Rory replied, experiencing the adrenaline rush.
"Odette, did you have any of that burn spray?" Logan asked.
Odette searched a few cabinets and handed him the spray bottle, and continued to turn off the oven as she stepped carefully trying not to slip on the food.
"I think we should have you checked out," Logan suggested. "Odette, do you mind ordering the car and getting Rory's purse and phone," he added.
"I'm sure there's no need, I'll be fine," Rory continued, not wanting to ruin the evening. It was classic Rory to apologize for getting hurt - she was being ridiculous.
"How big is the burn? If it's larger than the size of the hand, you should definitely have it looked at," Jess noted, stepping closer to inspect. The burn was large, covering most of the side of her hand going halfway up to her arm.
"You see," Logan chided.
"The car will be here in two minutes," Odette called from the adjacent room, continuing to gather up Rory's things. Besides the purse and phone, she grabbed her jacket and one of her pashminas, tying it onto her purse.
"Come one, let's get you ready," Jess took the lead, shaking the burn spray. "Have you got any cling film anywhere?" he asked.
"In that drawer over there," Rory managed to say, through her teeth, as the burn was beginning to hurt now.
Jess sprayed the her arm with the burn spray while Logan carefully wrapped it in cling film.
"I'm sorry about the food," Rory said as Logan led her towards the exit.
"Hey, this is New York, I doubt I'll starve," Jess called after her. He just felt bad for her, knowing from experience, burns hurt like hell, he was just surprised she'd been this calm about it.
"I should probably clear this up," Odette said, beginning to clear up the mess from the kitchen floor, as the two left. Clearly she wasn't the kind women to be afraid to get her hands s little dirty, earning some of Jess' respect already.
Jess crouched down to help her, shoveling the hot dish that had burnt Rory, to the trash using a slotted ladle of some sort, while she wiped up the sauce with some paper towels.
"Maybe we should order us some food or just go buy some takeaway?" Odette suggested, realizing that the food, now in the trach, had been their dinner.
"So…," he hesitated as the floor was finally cleared, having just washed his hands. "What do you want to do? Go out or…?" Jess asked. The situation was a little awkward even despite her offer to still get some food. He'd known her, what - an hour?
"You know what, let's go someplace. I haven't been out nearly as much as I'd like, I'm just not much for going out to eat on my own usually. Let's just go walk, see what looks good," Odette suggested. While she had some friends in the city, they also had husbands or wives and kids back home, which didn't exactly make them available for weekly outings.
"Sure," he replied, feeling relieved. He surely didn't mind the company, it was not like he had any better plans than finding some bar and pulling out another Kerouac. She didn't seem like bad company, she was even pleasant to the eye, but there was little he knew about her besides the Huntzberger association. Going some place provided at least some distraction if the conversation were to lag.
"I'll just go grab my jacket," Odette suggested, heading upstairs.
He pulled out his phone, readying himself for a lengthy wait - she seemed that kind of woman, whose 'I'll go grab my jacket' meant an entire wardrobe change.
Well, he wasn't completely wrong. She indeed returned having changed her 4 inch heels to a pair of grey ankle boots, and wore a tight fitting grey leather jacket, shoving a silk scarf into her small cross-body purse, but it had barely taken her three-four minutes.
"Ready to go?" he asked, gesturing her towards the door. The least he would've expected from this evening was a date-like feeling, yet the situation seemed to have a similar effect.
She nodded, grabbing her keys from the bowl in the foyer and locking the door behind them.
"So, are you new to New York? You said you were from a big city. I assume Europe?" Jess spoke as they strolled down the street. The weather wasn't terribly warm, but at least there was a bit of lingering sunshine and a slight smell of spring in the air.
"Paris, London, but I've been here a bunch of times. Never had my own place here though, so it's a little different this time," Odette explained.
"You plan on sticking around?" he asked.
"I am. Honestly, if I can avoid going back home altogether, I'll do that probably," she admitted.
"Huh," he commented. "What's so bad about home, if you don't mind me asking? Are you wanted for tax fraud or something?" he asked curiously, trying to lighten the mood with his last comment.
"I guess it's a final plea for independence," she added with a deep exhale, not really wanting to discuss that.
He could sense that he'd hit a cord, unsure whether he should apologize or not, he decided to just distract her.
"So this place looks kind of good," he gestured towards a minimalistic, slightly posh, italian place.
"It feels a little restrictive, I wouldn't mind something more casual actually," she replied, surprising him. He might not have been the likes of Hunzberger but he could buy dinner in any place they chose. He was no longer a writer self distributing his novels, but that mental state was sometimes difficult to shake, especially when the woman in question owned a Greenwich townhouse.
"Casual is my middle name," he smirked, adding, "I know just the place," realizing this situation was not really one where he needed to impress her. Sure, the woman had a certain something about her, perhaps it was just the fact that she seemed somehow unobtainable that he really felt like he had absolutely nothing to lose from grab her by her words and relax.
It took them perhaps ten minutes, past the Houston Street playground, and a couple of galleries and boutiques along with some casual discussion about their surroundings. It was a street where you'd not really expect to find a casual place to dine, but he'd been there a while ago. He just hoped the place was still there.
They soon stood in front of a black and orange decorated hole in the wall chicken and fries eatery.
"So just before we go in, I'm going to have to warn you - the food doesn't look like much, but the flavor is outstanding, so just trust me on this," he suggested, realizing that probably asking this woman to trust a half-stranger on something like that was a long shot, but he'd stopped caring. It was her choice.
Some minutes later the two settled at the bar table by the front window, lucky to get a table at all, but despite the constant flow of people in and out of the place, it was the most quiet corner. Jess ordered a sloppy hot chicken burger, and Odette a honey buffalo chicken burger, a somewhat safer choice.
He looked at her amusedly, as she tried to eat the burger without getting the sauce all over her face, wiping the corners of her mouth after every bite.
"It's good," she mumbled between bites.
"I'm glad you like it," Jess replied.
"So… as far as I've gathered you were the bad boy who needed to be moved to Rory's hometown to get your act together," Odette described her take on the conversation that had been cut short earlier.
"I guess that's true," he replied.
"Did it work? Or did you take the trouble with you?" Odette inquired. She was genuinely interested in fact, having recently thought about parenting aspects - what her parents had done, what she'd heard others did in a difficult situations. But on top of that, she always did have thing for bad boys, and she was just simply curious.
"In some ways. I shook the bad crowd, but that didn't really mean I stopped being trouble. I'm sure Rory's mom would agree, I was definitely not the boyfriend a mother would like to have around her child," he smirked, adding unsurely, "you did know that we used to go out back in high school, right?" He didn't really want to mention that his school attendance wasn't exactly admirable back the. He'd graduated night school a few years later though, even graduated some vocational training on printing. But he'd never really felt like missing the college part was something that botherer him or stopped him from doing what he liked.
"Yeah, she told me briefly," she replied.
"What did she tell you?" Jess inquired, beginning to worry whether it was about crap he pulled. He wasn't exactly proud of how he'd treated Rory back then.
"Nothing much really," Odette corrected. "But what do you think she would've said?" she turned the question around on him - clearly there were bits he was somewhat reluctant to share.
Jess chuckled slightly at that question, eating another bite while he thought about what to say. "Well I did sort of cause her breakup from her previous boyfriend at the time, and ended up fighting the guy at one point - you know, hot and heavy teenage stuff. But I guess what I can say is that I sucked at communicating back then, so the end was pretty much inevitable," Jess described.
"And now?" she inquired, as she gulped down the last of her water.
"Well I don't fight anymore, and I guess I am a little more capable with words, though I still prefer paper," Jess replied laughingly.
"I should really look up some of your stuff. What's your last name?" she asked.
"Mariano", Jess replied. "They're a little dark, I'm not sure if that's something you'd be into to," he added.
"So you think I'm just some sheltered society-bound, 'only reads romance novels' type of girl?" Odette replied a little defensively.
Jessed raised his hands apologetically. "Hey, sorry, it's not like I know a lot about you. You're great at asking all the questions," he smirked.
"Fine, you ask, but just so you know I mostly read mysteries and thrillers," Odette replied.
"Alright," he sighed, after swallowing his last bite and wiping his mouth. "So why are you pretending to be Mrs. Huntzberger? What's in it for you?" he asked the most burning question in his mind. She was too good looking, too intelligent, even too pleasant to not have better options than being the beard for Logan Huntzberger.