FANFIC: Yes We Did


Summary: January 2009; Washington, DC: Rory covers Obama’s inauguration while Jess stays at a nearby hotel, mentally reliving their relationship and beginning a new novel that will eventually change lives. Part 2 of my multi-fandom series, “Somewhere in this Wide World.”

Disclaimer: I do not own Gilmore Girls or its characters.  I do not own Obama’s inaugural speech.  I do not own Gossip Girl or Jack & Jill either.

A/N: This is the second part of a multi-fandom series I’m working on called “Somewhere in This Wide World.”  It charts the interlocking lives of 5 couples from 5 different shows over the course of 20 years.  They are all “aftermath” stories that take place in the future, beyond the original time period of each respective show.  You can read more of the series on my Fanfic page.  The parts are meant to work individually as standalone stories but also work together as a continuous series.  This part has minor references to Gossip Girl and Jack & Jill.  If you aren’t familiar with the shows, you won’t even notice.

Where the show left off: Rory lands a job covering Barack Obama’s campaign trail for an online magazine.  The last episode aired May 2007.  Jess was last seen in Philadelphia at the opening of Truncheon Books where Rory kissed him, then admitted that she was still in love with Logan (April 2006).

Yes We Did

January 2009 / Philadelphia, Pennsylvania – Washington, D.C.

The night following the 2008 presidential election, he found her standing outside his apartment, looking like she hadn’t slept in days.  Stray flyaways were escaping the elastic band that held her hair back, while dark half-rings hung like cradles underneath her eyes.  Despite everything, her face still emanated a youthful radiance that he so sorely missed.

“Jess, I need to talk to you,” she said as soon as he opened the door.  Anybody else would’ve responded with a never-ending stream of questions.  What’s going on?  Is something wrong?  Are you alright? Not Jess.

“Okay.”  He stepped aside without any elaborate gestures.  “Come on in.”

It was true that Rory hadn’t slept much that week.  There had been places to visit, events to go to, articles to write and edit.  When she had accepted the job eighteen months ago, the future had seemed exciting and uncertain.  She hadn’t known how far Obama would make it in the campaign process.  To be there the day of the election, the last stop before the White House, was almost unthinkable.

That night had been exhilarating, a blur of campaign posters, flashes of blue and red and white, and words in form of slogans: CHANGE WE CAN BELIEVE IN and HOPE and YES WE CAN.  In particular, she remembered seeing the ubiquitous and iconic circle that she had come to know so well in the months before.  Even when she blinked, the afterimage branded itself into the insides of her eyelids.

After Rory had stepped into Jess’ apartment and taken off her coat, the two of them sat face-to-face at the kitchen table, drinking coffee from ceramic mugs.  They were personalized with the Truncheon logo, the opposite side emblazoned with a proud proclamation courtesy of Luke’s daughter April: Our books are really easy to skim.

“I spent most of the night looking at his logo, the circle with the blue arched sky and the striped field?”  Rory spoke haltingly, as if she were tiptoeing around a sleeping giant.  “I kept thinking about you.”  A pause.  “You and me.  Going around in circles.  The whole stupid routine.”  She tried to brush her hair out of her eyes as she said this, but only succeeded in making it more of a mess.

“Rory, you don’t have to say anything,” Jess interrupted.  “I told you before, I get it.”  He leaned back in his chair and sighed.  “It is what it is.  Stop torturing yourself about it.”

“But that’s the point.  It is what it is.  This cycle, whatever it is…it never ends, does it?”

“Only if you want it to,” Jess replied softly.  “Do you?  Want it to, I mean.”

Rory nodded, looking down at her hands.  Her fingers were shaking as they fiddled with the handle of the coffee mug.  She wasn’t sure if it was the cold or the caffeine or even just the nerves.

“Which part?”  A second too late, he wished he hadn’t asked that.  He hadn’t realized until now how scared he was of the answer.

“The part we both hate.”  Rory looked up at him.  “The never being together part.”

Jess was quiet for a moment.  “Huh.”  Mostly quiet, anyway.

“I’m ready for that part to end.” Rory carefully placed each of her hands around opposite sides of the warm mug.  “And if somewhere in this wide world, the powers that be don’t like it, well I just say screw them.”  She brought the coffee to her lips and drank until she emptied the cup.

During which, Jess still remained silent.

“Well?”  Rory looked at him expectantly.  “Don’t you have anything to say to that?”

Jess suppressed a chuckle at her indignation.  “Yeah,” he said finally, nodding.  “I like that.  Screw them.”

* * *

Two months later, Barack Obama was preparing to take a commemorative train ride from Philadelphia to Washington, D.C. as the first of many inauguration festivities.  It was the same journey Abraham Lincoln had made almost a hundred and fifty years ago prior to his own inauguration.

“We should get in the car and follow him!  The whole route!” Rory said excitedly.  “We’re already in Philly.  I have to be in Washington to cover the event anyway.  It’s perfect!”

It did seem perfect.  One of those rare times in life when you shake open a puzzle box, and the pieces seem to fall neatly together on their own.  These last several weeks had been kind of like that.  Rory moving to Philadelphia had been a significant change in both their lives, but there was an ease to it that defied any logic.  Their lives fit together so well that sometimes it was hard to remember why they had orbited distantly around each other for such a long time.

“According to this statement, he’s planning on making stops at Wilmington and Baltimore,” Rory continued, clicking open a new browser window.  “Oh!  Thank God for Google Maps!”  Her fingers danced across the keyboard like a steady rain hitting the pavement.  “So, Jess, what do you say?”

“Sure, why not?” Jess agreed, somewhat amused by her enthusiasm.  When Rory had her mind made up, there was no sense arguing with her.  “I can stay at the hotel and write while you’re out in D.C. doing your thing.”

* * *

The walls of the hotel room in question were adorned with framed paintings of sailboats caught in turbulent rainstorms.  The morning of Obama’s inaugural speech, Jess sat with his back against the headboard of the bed, contemplating the strange choice in artwork.  Every time he glanced over, he could swear that the images in the frame had moved ever so slightly from their previous location.

The T.V. was tuned to the news, and its constant chatter became background static in his mind.  Jess stared uncertainly at the blank pages of the leather journal Rory had given him as a gift when she first moved in with him.  He had recently finished another short novel that would be released by Truncheon later that year.  And yet, lately he had felt compelled to write something larger, both in scope and in volume.  Jess had never wanted to be a literary snob.  He had never wanted to be that prep school kid who publishes a story in The New Yorker when he’s still a teen and seems bound for an MFA at a school like Iowa or Cornell or Michigan, poised to land on the magazine’s future “20 under 40” lists.

Rory understood how he felt.  “I know, but Jess, you’ll always have your own style no matter what you write,” she would say. “I told you before, that’s what I love most about your work.”  There were aspects of her profession that she didn’t always agree with either.  “I hate the way the media sensationalizes the news, for one.  I mean, I’m aware of it.  I try my best not to fall into that trap.”  Even now, with years piling on her shoulders like weights, there was a part of Rory that still held an idealistic naïveté about the world.  In some ways, it was the part of her that Jess loved the most.

Eight years ago, just a month before Rory had first appeared in his life, Jess had been living in Manhattan with Liz.  He still remembered skipping class on a bright Tuesday in September and taking the subway to Madison Square Park with a paperback novel stuffed into his back pocket.  James Joyce’s A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man.  The notes he had scrawled in the margins would forever be associated with what happened that day.

A jarring voice from the television interrupted his thoughts: “Now we take you to the White House where the proceedings are about to begin.  Matt Prophet is on location, what’s going on down there, Matt?” Immediately, Jess heard the cheers and applause from a few miles away coming clearly to him through the speakers of the hotel television set.  He looked up at the screen as the camera panned quickly across the sea of spectators before pausing near the press section.  After trying unsuccessfully to catch a glimpse of Rory, Jess turned his attention back to the blank pages before him.

On their car ride to Washington, Rory and Jess had witnessed the throngs of supporters at railroad crossings who stood in freezing temperatures with homemade signs that featured Obama’s familiar slogans.

“Yes we did,” Rory whispered from the passenger seat at one point, speaking more to herself than anyone else.  “What was that?” Jess had asked, turning to her.  She pointed to a red and blue sign that indeed featured the words YES WE DID in a banner above the president-elect’s face.  “And the girl can read,” Jess had joked.  “Thank God for that Ivy League education.”  She fixed him with her infamous withering stare, but then turned to look out the window and said nothing.

During the rest of the journey, his own mind wandered inevitably to their shared pasts.  He remembered other car trips they had taken together, and Rory’s words from years ago: You could do anything wanted.  You could be anything you wanted. Her undying faith in him, even in the years that followed, was what had motivated him to put pen to paper and write The Subsect.

Somewhere nearby, the new president was speaking of change, of the nation’s birth centuries ago, and of the oceans that the brave men and woman had crossed to create this new life.

Jess took a deep breath and wrote on the first pristine page: Everything Danny Teague knew about the ocean he had learned from the miniature globe that stood on his aunt’s bookshelf.

He tapped the end of his pen against the journal as he re-read the sentence over and over again until a final roar of applause signaled to Jess that the president’s speech was over.  Obama waved to the crowd, and the station cut back to a view of the spectators.

This time, Jess saw her immediately.  She was wearing a dark gray blazer she had put on before leaving the hotel room that morning.  Her bangs were pinned neatly to the side as she looked down, pen racing without hesitation across the surface of the memo book in her left hand.  Her lips moved as she wrote, releasing an undecipherable barrage of words into the air.

Without warning, the reality of their present lives hit Jess.  On the screen before him, he imagined Rory growing from a wide-eyed child with big dreams to the woman who stood there now.  Sometimes she’d hit obstacles and had doubts.  They both did.  They took paths that sometimes pushed them further away from their dreams and from each other: Rory dropping out of Yale, Jess leaving town and wandering like a drifter until he realized what his own dreams were.  I’m sure you’ll do it.  You will, I promise, he had said to Rory once.

“You did do it.”  Jess found himself speaking aloud to the empty room.  “We both did.”

And at that moment, Rory lifted her head.  She looked up at the open sky, her eyes meeting the lens of the camera that hovered above.  Her lips moved once more as if in reply to him, and this time Jess understood exactly what she had been saying: “Yes we did.”

The corners of her mouth crept toward the sky in a brief smile before the camera cut away again.

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