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You Can Be A Hero In An Age of None Excerpt

By routinedysfunction


Chapter 1

He was shelving a new stack of books.  Most people wouldn’t be, when they owned a third of the joint, but Jess wasn’t most people.  Half the reason he loved his job was his ability to touch the pages, hold the newest books in his hands, know that he’d taken them from coffee-addled musings to print, some even in hardback. 

Even Philadelphia had grown on him, fostering a grudging affection.  It felt like home, at least as far as he could tell.  The only other place he’d kind of felt that way was strangely enough in Stars Hollow, experiencing an inkling of what he now knew to be comfort.  It would happen when he was sitting on the bridge with Faulker, or when Luke was handing off a plate to go to Table Six (he’d grudgingly implemented Lorelai’s numerical system after Jess casually pointed out that it had some advantages.  Not that he would ever tell Lorelai that- he’d take it to his grave).  In those short moments he experienced a stillness.  At the time he found being settled so unsettling that he would usually go do something rebellious immediately just to shake up his senses.  Now he felt that stillness most days, especially at Truncheon with Matt and Chris.

Perfection, however, was far off.  His personal life didn’t exist, in spite of Matt and Chris’ best attempts (“Jess, you can’t turn a girl down just because she isn’t familiar with the entire canon of Marquez!”), and his second book was barely any better.  For the most part he’d spent the year building business up and searching out new voices.  He’d been to New York a couple of times to see Liz and TJ and Doula (not that he’d ever feel really comfortable there, but it appeased them and really Doula seemed like a pretty normal kid).  Luke came to visit him every couple of months.  It always made Jess nervous in a way he couldn’t explain, and he always refused to let Luke stay at a hotel.  He had a sleeping bag and he forced (against the goddamned hardest protests) Luke to take his bed and he slept in the bag, always leaving a paper and coffee when he headed to work.  He’d bring him to local restaurants with good, not-too-trendy food and get upset when he paid.  If Jess could, he’d slip the waiter his card at the beginning of the meal but most nights Luke beat him to it.  He’d only stay the weekend usually, saying he couldn’t leave the diner that long, but Jess knew he just didn’t like leaving Lorelai back home and the topic of her coming with had never been broached.

He couldn’t really explain why he got so nervous about the visits, which was odd, because usually words just came to Jess, the perfect ones, for anything he was trying to explain or understand.  But Luke was never fussy and never complained and was always appreciative, never expected anything and still something about the whole dynamic made Jess want to have everything be the best it could.  It wasn’t a pride thing, because Luke had seen him when he was still a fucked up kid, sneaking out windows and stealing beers and gnomes and whatever the hell else they had in Stars Hollow.  Still, every time Luke came, Jess had it planned out perfectly and tried to let nothing screw up his plan. 

He could tell Luke had picked up on this, because now Luke was visiting unannounced, surely to try to combat this impulse and discomfort, but really it was just getting on Jess’s nerves.  Allow him his quirks, please, he doesn’t ask for much anymore.  But Luke was always the perfect guest and Jess always managed to put everything together and in truth Jess was always glad that he came and that he was always there, steadily every few months and whenever else he could get away.

One time Jess had asked him about Lorelai and how she felt about it and Luke had shrugged, noncommittally muttering something about having his own things.  But Jess knew he wasn’t lying to her about it.  Surely Lorelai knew, which meant she probably wasn’t happy, but then again, it’s not like Jess really knew her that well.  They hadn’t really bonded when he’d lived in their little corner of the world, and even after Jess had gotten his shit together, there hadn’t really been a good opportunity for them to try out the second chance scenario.  Not that Jess really cared, because it didn’t seem to bother Luke.  But something nagging in him sometimes wished that she could, you know, just not hate every fiber of his being quite so fervently as she did.  Not that he blamed her, but still.  A lot of time had passed.

This particular day, Jess had been working hard since the crack of dawn.  His crack of dawn.  Meaning 10 AM.  After about 6 cups of coffee (a nasty habit he’d picked up around Matt and Chris) he was starting to function in his adult form rather than his Rebel Without a Cause glory.  It was about 2 PM and he had just finished a meeting with one of the local artists whose works would be on their walls in February.  Sex-themed, so of course it was Chris’s idea.  He met with the artist, Anita, confirming that of course the art was very abstract (it was, he honestly couldn’t tell if he was looking at a Metallica album cover or a still life of a fruit bowl) and that her lover and portrait model, Lorraine, didn’t object to the display.  After learning far too much about how little Lorraine minded, and her avid pursuit, in fact, of such opportunities, Jess excused himself to go stock shelves, handing her off to Matt with a smirk and a “Have fun, you two.  Or three?”.  He knew Matt would want to kick his ass later but sometimes Jess had to get up to his old tricks.  It made life fun.

As Jess tried to fit in an extra copy of the stubborn tome (goddamn hardbacks, he always hated the things), he heard a crash.  Sighing, he set the book on top of the shelf and  started walking over to the other side of the store.  “Matt, I swear to God, if that was the fucking Sanders stack…”  He stopped dead in his tracks.  His eyes were frozen onto the pair of cerulean orbs locked on his. 

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