“Geez, sis, I didn’t think you could be more excited than when I got home from California” said Jess, watching Paris practically skip to the car ahead of him.
“Can it, Mariano!” she told him sharply, and yet it was impossible for her to stop smiling. “Can I help it if I’m missing the Gilmore girls’ presence in my life? You and your uncle are all well and good, but a woman needs female company sometimes. There are things I cannot talk to you about.”
“Thank God,” Jess muttered as they both climbed into Paris’ car, not even caring when she socked him in the shoulder for his comment.
They were headed to the airport to pick up Rory and Lorelai when they got in from their Europe trip. In truth, Jess was no less thrilled to have them back than Paris was. Obviously, Rory was his priority, but at this point, he would be glad to see Lorelai too. Luke wasn’t doing so great without her. He was extra grumpy of late, and Jess could live without it.
“I still can’t believe you and Luke worked together all that time over the summer and didn’t kill each other,” he said, thinking on it one more time. “I mean, you’re not exactly known for your calm.”
“I told you, we found a rhythm.” Paris shrugged, eyes on the road at all times. “Besides, he’s really not as bad to work for as you always say. He has certain small-town ideals that I guess are unshakeable after all this time, but he has a good work ethic, I’ll give him that.”
“I’m sure he was thrilled when you told him that.” Jess smirked wickedly.
“Actually, yes,” Paris agreed, either not noticing or choosing to ignore his obviously sarcastic tone. “Besides, with you away, and Rory and Lorelai too, I think it was good for him to have some younger company. Otherwise, he risked turning into a grumpy old man, and nobody wants to purchase food from that guy.”
Jess didn’t know what else to say to her, so he said nothing. Waiting until Paris was concentrating at a busy intersection, he leaned forward to put on the radio and retune it from NPR to some decent music. He half-expected Paris to complain, but instead found she was actually bouncing her head along to The Clash as it blared through the car. He had been trying to educate her in decent music for as long as they’d known each other. Nice to know he might finally have succeeded in instilling some taste in her, he supposed.
After tapping along to a fairly decent selection of old school pop, rock, and punk, Paris finally pulled her car into a space at the airport lot. She and Jess made their way inside and waited at Arrivals until finally the Gilmore girls appeared. Paris realised a little too late what she was going to have to bear witness to when Rory and Jess finally saw each other again.
“I swear, the theme from Love Story should be playing right now,” she said, rolling her eyes.
“The way they’re headed, I think more like the theme from Boogie Nights,” said Lorelai with a shudder as she turned away and Paris did the same.
They did not need to see their daughter and brother respectively getting half way to happy land in the middle of an airport - that was just wrong.
“So, Paris, how’ve you been?”
“Fine. Busy at the diner and getting ahead with the reading for Yale. How was Europe?”
“Very European,” said Lorelai with a smile. “We saw so many fantastic places and met all these amazing people. I don’t regret a second of it. Except not quite managing to meet Bono. That kinda sucked.”
Paris was about to note that she didn’t see the attraction but respected his love for the Third World when she realised Rory was reaching to hug her.
“Hey, Paris!” she said joyfully, pulling her friend close.
“Nice of you to join us,” said Paris, patting her on the back. “Seriously, how do you go that long without oxygen?”
“A lot of practice.” Jess noted, before seeing the look on Lorelai’s face and almost blushing. “Hey, welcome back,” he told her awkwardly.
“Hey yourself, kid. How was Cali?”
“It was good. Europe?”
“Wow, that was wordy,” said Rory sarcastically.
“Hey, when you get along as well as we do, you don’t need so many words, right, Jess?”
“Sure,” he replied, deliberately keeping it short for the bit.
He’d gotten used to this by now, Lorelai and her jokes and all. Honestly, he liked that she was this kind of wacky, even if she did have the ability to embarrass him or freak him out sometimes. She was a lot like Rory, and she didn’t want to castrate him for sleeping with her daughter, plus she made Luke insanely happy. It was a win-win-win as far as Jess could tell.
“So, where’s my man?” asked Lorelai then. “I kind of figured he missed me or something.”
“Oh, he missed you, believe me!” Paris assured her, pulling her into conversation as they headed for the car.
Rory and Jess lagged behind, their arms wrapped around each other still.
“As much fun as Europe was, I am very glad to be home.”
“Definitely. If it wasn’t clear already, Stars Hollow has one or two things that are very easy to miss.”
The look in Rory’s eyes was unmistakable and Jess couldn’t help but kiss her long and hard on the lips. They might’ve made it all the way to the parking lot without letting up, if they hadn’t crashed into somebody’s luggage trolley and almost knocked both themselves and it over.
“Well, that was embarrassing,” Rory noted as they continued walking after making eight or nine apologies. “But totally worth it.”
“I’ll agree with that.” Jess smiled.
“So, you’ve been back two weeks already, what’s been happening in town whilst we were gone?”
“Not much. Taylor’s opening his new soda shop soon, which is adding to Luke’s excellent mood, let me tell you.”
“Aaw, poor Luke,” Rory sympathised. “How’s Lane?”
“She’s good, from what I can tell,” Jess considered. “I haven’t seen her much, at least, not without her mom glued to her side. You know how it is.”
“Poor Lane. Well, at least Paris seems happy,” she said, gesturing ahead to where her friend talked animatedly and laughed with Lorelai. “I was worried about her being left behind when we both went away.”
“From what I hear, she and Luke kind of adopted each other for a while there.”
Rory made a face. “That’s... nice?”
“They seemed okay with it.” Jess shrugged. “Weird as that sounds.”
“Well, now the gang is all back together,” said Rory happily, snuggling ever closer into her boyfriend’s side. “And just one week left until we all go to Yale!”
She said it with such joy, Jess decided not to make any kind of negative comment. It wasn’t that he hated the idea of going to college exactly. When he had to think about choosing a major and picking out courses, he found he got really into it all. The literature from Yale made everything sound so exciting and interesting. Jess only hoped it proved to be as great as it seemed on paper.
Certainly, it didn’t suck knowing he was going to be living a little more independently, and on the same campus as Rory and Paris too. Of course, he was going to have room-mates he didn’t know and professors he might not care for. Jess chose not to worry about it too much. This was a great opportunity for him, everybody said so, and regardless of how it turned out later, he was going into this with an open mind and at least a little positivity. There was no other choice.
Rory had barely been back twenty-four hours when Taylor sprang the whole Ice Cream Queen thing on her. Usually she was so into town events, she could understand why he thought she would be up for this particular role, but quite honestly, she just didn’t have the time. The schedule she made herself for starting Yale looked a little cramped when she revisited it on her return from Europe, and Rory was determined to be ready ahead of time so she and Lorelai could spend a couple of days having fun before the day of her leaving. That meant no time for things like being the face of the Soda Shoppe launch.
Thankfully, Paris was still working her shifts in the diner until school started. That meant she was in town the day of Taylor’s store opening and wasted no time at all in wading in when the Town Selectman started putting Rory down.
“Listen to me, Doosey. You may own the grocery store and your quaint little candy store, but you’re not God!” she told him crossly. “Rory Gilmore is one of the most sickenly nice people that I know. She does everything for everybody, so just because she turned you down this one time does not give you the right to sully her reputation as town princess, okay?”
Rory wasn’t so sure she appreciated the actual wording, but the sentiment was true enough. Besides, it was the thought that counted, and it was kind of entertaining to see Paris almost bring Taylor to tears. Certainly, the rest of the townspeople who saw and heard the altercation seemed to think so. Jess was particularly impressed with his sister’s performance, though that didn’t stop him declaring that maybe she should get the Ice Cream Queen crown in the circumstances, in front of a bunch of bystanders who seemed quite happy to agree.
“Not if you paid me, wise ass,” she told her brother, with the same venom she had been spitting on Taylor, though a smile broke through as she turned to storm back into the diner.
Jess knew as well as she did that all those people being supportive of her did not suck for Paris. She had made friends here, maybe even some fans, and she didn’t hate the community spirit of Stars Hollow in general. Jess understood because he felt it too. As much as he tried to fight it in the beginning, the place got under your skin, the people too. It wasn’t so bad to feel you had a place to belong.
“I still have so many supplies to get together,” Rory told him then, consulting one of many lists. “This is crazy!”
“You want help?” he offered. “I don’t think I’m needed here for as long as Paris is around,” he said, hiking his thumb back towards the diner.
Rory gratefully accepted the offer and they started off walking towards the relevant stores, figuring out which things she needed to get herself and which Jess could pick up for her. Anything from the drugstore was a Rory task, but certain stationery items and things like a waste paper basket and such were easy enough for Jess to handle.
“I’ll bet Paris had all her stuff bought and packed right at the start of Summer.” Rory sighed.
“Pretty sure,” Jess agreed. “Seems as if she’s been working in the diner most of the time we were away.”
“Did she see Jamie at all?” asked Rory then. “I asked her about him, but she was kind of vague. They didn’t break up, did they?”
“Pretty sure they’re still together.” Jess shook his head. “Paris saw him a couple of times, so she said, but I don’t know. I leave all the boyfriend stuff to you girls. I do not need to hear that,” he said, hands raised in mock surrender.
Rory laughed at his expression, but knew he had a point. Jess was the last person who would want to hear about Paris and Jamie’s love life. Still, Rory made a note to ask her friend what was going on and soon. It seemed strange that she wouldn’t see as much as possible of Jamie over the Summer, especially when they wouldn’t be at the same college in the Fall.
Jess kissed Rory’s cheek as they parted ways at the next corner. He headed off, list in hand, and she watched him go for a moment before attending to her own shopping tasks. She did love that both Jess and Paris would be with her when Yale started next week. She also loved that her mom and Luke were engaged (even if Luke was a little self-conscious about people knowing Lorelai asked before he could). She loved that Sookie’s baby would be along in just a few short months. Everything was going well, all on the up and up, and though Rory was sure in these circumstances she should be worried about what was about to go wrong and ruin it all, she really wasn’t concerned. She felt good about where she was at and what was to come. The sun was shining and the world was a beautiful place. For all of these reasons, Rory Gilmore wore a wide smile as she practically skipped to the store.
Getting Rory and Jess settled in at Yale was not a simple undertaking. In fact, even moving the two of them and all their things as far as New Haven seemed to be a trial.
“You really thought this was going to work?” asked Luke, surveying the mess in the driveway. “Really?”
“I don’t know,” said his fiancée defensively, hugging a box of Rory’s clothes to her chest. “They shouldn’t have so much stuff!”
“They’re teenagers, Lorelai, they don’t travel light. They can’t come home every day so they’re going to need a lot of stuff. It was never going to fit into the truck all at once. I told you that, but did you listen?”
“Hey, when I suggested it the first time, you did not argue.”
“You were naked at the time! I would’ve agreed to anything!”
“Oh, geez!” Jess declared after that particular statement, actively covering his ears and moving away from the fight.
“Yeah, that took a turn.” Rory winced as she followed her boyfriend further down the driveway. “Usually, I think it’s cute when they get into these barely-a-fight fight things, but I did not need to hear that.”
“Amen,” Jess agreed. “So, you think we’ll actually make it onto campus before dark?” he asked, leaning on the trunk of his own car.
“Probably not,” said Rory easily. “But I’m sure everyone will understand if we show up a week late, so long as we explain we had no choice. Our families had truck-packing issues.”
“I’ll bet it happens all the time.”
Their witty banter was interrupted by a crash, and both Jess and Rory craned their necks to see Luke hefting boxes from one side of the truck to the other - again.
“Fine! We’ll try it that way, but it’s still not all going to fit!” he yelled at Lorelai’s retreating form.
“How’s Paris getting all her stuff to Yale?” asked Rory then.
“Hired a truck,” Jess told her. “Pretty big one too, from what she told me. I think you’re going to be fighting for any kind of space in your room.”
“I’m sure it’ll be fine.” Rory shrugged. “Well, for me anyway. I kind of feel sorry for the other two girls in our dorm. I mean, we know and love Paris, but for others, she’s kind of an acquired taste.”
Jess would’ve argued in his sister’s favour, but he already knew he couldn’t. She really was tough to get along with at first, and it was probably for the best that she had pulled strings to get herself and Rory in the same room. As for Jess himself, he had no idea who he would be sharing with. Chances were good he wouldn’t like any of them, so that was just great.
“Oh, I talked to her about Jamie,” said Rory then, leaning beside Jess. “They did see each other a few times over the Summer and everything seems fine. I’ll spare you the gory details,” she said with a grin.
“I appreciate that,” he told her, nodding his head. “So, how are we gonna do this? You want to risk the wrath of Luke and your mom? See if we can get some of this stuff split up between our cars?”
“I don’t see how else we’re ever going to get to Yale before midnight,” Rory considered. “You with me?”
“Always,” said Jess, taking the hand she offered. “Once more unto the breach.”
It took a while for them to calm down Luke and Lorelai, and then to make them see sense. It was clear all the belongings of both Rory and Jess were not going to fit in the truck alone, but Lorelai was determined to only make one trip in order to save Luke’s time, even though he pointed out that she had already wasted much of the day arguing with him.
An hour later, they were literally kissing and making up, Jess had a lot of his own stuff packed into his car and some of Rory’s things were in her own vehicle too. The larger items remained with Luke and they all set off convoy style to college.
On arrival, Jess helped Luke unload the truck first, putting first Rory’s mattress into place and then his own, followed by the smaller furniture items and heavy things that would’ve ruined the suspension in either car.
Meanwhile, Rory and Lorelai traipsed back and forth from Rory’s car with her own boxes of clothes, books, and more. Paris helped a little, but only a very little. She was way too interested in poking around the rooms of the other girls in their dorm who seemed to have moved in but were not actually present right now.
“This one looks like she might be the athletic type. Here’s hoping she keeps her sweating and stretching to a minimum. Nobody needs to see that.”
“I’m sure she’s a nice person, Paris,” Rory advised, breathing heavily as she dumped the last box of books onto the floor.
“The other room is locked, so God knows what that girl is like. Safety and security conscious, which isn’t necessarily a bad thing, but then, do we want some kind of baby who’s scared of her own shadow sharing our space?”
“Paris, why don’t you wait until our room-mates come back and actually meet them before you judge?” said Rory. “And in the meantime, maybe you could come help with boxes? Jess still has his whole car to unload.”
“Fine.” Paris rolled her eyes. “I guess I can carry a few things for brother dearest, but quite honestly, why he didn’t just let me hire someone for him like I offered?”
Despite Paris’ complaining, she and Rory waited at Jess’ car until he was ready and then helped transport box after box to his building. Luke was on hand to assist also, and the job was complete pretty fast. It was only after the last box had been deposited that any of Jess’ room-mates showed themselves.
“Oh, hi,” said a tall, dark-haired guy, seemingly almost blushing when he realised there were girls present. “I, er... I’m Marty.”
“Jess,” he introduced himself, shaking the guy’s hand.
“Good to meet you,” said Marty, smiling widely, though his eyes were straying to Rory and Paris more than a little. “You brought the whole family?”
“Not entirely” said Rory, when Jess seemed less than willing. “I’m Rory, Jess’ girlfriend, and this is Paris, she’s... well, his sister,” she opted for eventually, deciding it was true enough. “The people who just exited stage left are Luke, Jess’ uncle, and my mom, Lorelai.”
“Nice to meet everybody.” Marty nodded. “Uh, do you girls go here?”
“We do,” Rory agreed. “We’re Freshman, same as you and Jess.”
“Yes, which means we have just as much to do as these guys do,” said Paris pointedly. “Now we’ve completed our manual labour, we’ll be heading back, leave you guys alone to bond,” she told Jess, with a smirk he had seen before in the mirror too many times. “See you later.”
“Don’t let the door hit you on the way out, sis,” he told her acidly, though there was a smile to take the edge off his words.
When the girls were gone, Jess let out a sigh and turned back to look at Marty again. Bonding with the guys. Yeah, because he was so good at that stuff.
“Are all these boxes really books?” asked Marty, noticing the writing on each one piled near Jess’ bedroom door.
“Yup. You read much?”
“Some.” Marty shrugged.
“Great.” Jess nodded, turning away.
He had to assume his room-mate was at least a little intellectual or he wouldn’t be at Yale. Of course, there was just as much chance that he was on a football scholarship or something. He didn’t have to read much or know anything about literature. Maybe Marty and Jess would have other things in common. He could live in hope, otherwise, it was going to be a real long year.
“Hey, we found it!” said a voice then, two new faces appearing in the doorway. “Cool, everybody’s here.”
“You living here, man?” Jess asked the first guy that came barging past him.
“Sure.” He nodded, his friend clattering in after him, not noticing or caring that he smacked Jess with his bag on the way. “I’m Mike, this is Dan.”
All the necessary introductions were made, and the new arrivals explained that they were cousins from Iowa, both at Yale on sports scholarships. It was supposedly a completely fluke that they had gotten a room together, but they were a little too happy about it, as far as Jess could tell. It was a relief to realise that Marty was no more interested in Mike and Dan’s talk of sports and such than he was himself. Maybe they would get along better than Jess initially thought.
“I know. Yeah, I guess we should have. Well, it’s a little late now, but it’s not forever.”
As Jess approached Durfee Hall, he was surprised to find Paris outside, talking on the phone. He wondered who she was talking to at first, until he heard her say ‘I love you’. That wasn’t a phrase that ever came out of Paris’ mouth much, and Jess could count on one hand the number of people she was likely to have said it to her in her life. The most likely candidate for the phone call then was the boyfriend.
“Okay, bye,” said Paris then, ending the call.
“How’s Jamie?” asked Jess, coming to sit beside her on the bench.
“Fine,” she told him, with a great heaving sigh to follow. “He’s not exactly happy with me right now. Apparently, we didn’t spend enough time together over the summer. I mean, what does he want from me? I was working, helping out family. He should understand that, right?”
“Sure.” Jess nodded, though he wasn’t entirely buying Paris’ argument.
True enough that she filled in for him at the diner, but they both knew she didn’t have to be there every day. Even with the arrangements to be made for coming to Yale and reading to get done before classes began, Paris ought to have had plenty of time left over to spend with her boyfriend if she really wanted to. It made Jess wonder if the issue was rather that she just didn’t want to. So much for what Rory said earlier about everything seemingly being fine. Paris must have implied that to her for some reason, but Jess suspected it was far from the truth.
“He, er... He didn’t do anything, did he?”
Paris narrowed her eyes.
“What are you implying?”
“Nothing,” he assured her, hands raised in mock surrender. “I’m just asking. Checking,” he said, bumping his shoulder against hers when she looked away. “It’s a brother thing.”
“Yeah, well, thanks, but this sister doesn’t need your help right now,” Paris insisted. “He didn’t do anything” she promised, looking at Jess then. “He’s just... I don’t know, he wanted more time than I had to give him. I love the guy, I do, but I don’t want to be suffocated by him. God, even you and Rory with your sickeningly sweet romantic infatuation don’t spend every minute together.”
Jess didn’t have an answer to that. He was prepared to admit, if asked, that he would spend almost every minute with Rory if he could, if she wanted to, if it weren’t completely impractical. That was how much he loved her, and how much he had missed her when they were parted by way too many countries and an ocean besides. Paris didn’t ask, so he didn’t tell her.
“So, you meet your other room-mates?” she asked then.
“Two meat-heads from the mid-west.” Jess rolled his eyes. “But that Marty guy seems okay. He doesn’t read so much, but he knows old movies, some decent music, and he’s at my end of the socio-economic scale.”
“He’s a punk with no cash,” Paris summarised. “Wow. You two ought to get on like a house on fire.”
“Maybe.” Jess smirked. “How about your fellow female Yalies?”
“A fitness freak and a fifteen-year-old genius with absolutely zero common sense. It’s going to be a long year.” Paris rolled her eyes. “At least I have Rory as a buffer against the weirdoes.”
As if she heard her name and appeared on command, Rory poked her head around the corner then and smiled at the sight of Jess sat with Paris.
“Hey, you’re here!”
“Looks that way,” her boyfriend agreed, rising to meet her and kiss her ‘hello’. “You settled in okay?”
“Pretty much,” she agreed, nodding her head. “You just come to ask that?”
“Pretty much,” he echoed her words. “Thought it might be weird for you, being here, away from your mom.”
“It is, a little,” Rory agreed, not bothering to say it was the same for him and Paris.
She knew it wasn’t. Their homes lives had not always been so great and they were used to being away from family and left alone. Rory wasn’t. She always had her mom, and it was very strange to be otherwhere, knowing she wouldn’t be going home to not just Lorelai, but her own house, her own bed, every night.
“At least I have you guys here,” she noted with a smile. “Takes the edge off.”
“That’s fine, but don’t expect to come climbing into my bed if there’s a thunderstorm or you lose your safety blankie,” said Paris, getting up. “I’m not into the whole Selma-Sarah Michelle vibe.”
“Duly noted.” Rory nodded once, as her friend passed by her and went inside. “Well, with her being practically your sister, at least I don’t have to worry about you getting weird ideas from that comment.”
The look on Jess’ face proved that was true as he shook his head to dislodge the unpleasant pictures that were settling in too easily.
“So, I guess this is goodnight, huh?”
“I guess so,” she agreed, putting her arms around his neck. “Goodnight, Jess.”
“Goodnight, Rory,” he replied in kind, before laying his lips on hers.
“I’ll see you tomorrow,” she said, smiling widely as they parted.
“I’ll be here” Jess agreed, raising his hand in some kind of wave as she disappeared through the door. “I’ll be here,” he repeated to himself. “At Yale,” he added, looking around at the campus shining in the moonlight.
Jess let out a sigh, pushed his hands deep into his pockets and headed back to his building, wondering how long it would take before he started feeling like he belonged here.
“It feels weird.”
That was Lorelai’s pronouncement as she sat down with a bump on the stool by the counter. Luke wasn’t sure how he was supposed to respond to that, mostly because he hadn’t a clue what she was talking about. As much as he loved her, there were times when his fiancée really baffled him beyond belief.
“Good morning, Crazy Lady,” he said with a smile.
“Good morning, Handsome Diner Man,” she replied in kind, moving to lean over the counter and kiss him ‘hello’.
“Oh, yeah. Some guys need the whole bow-tie, dinner jacket, over-dressed thing to rate as handsome, but you? Throw on that hat and you’re golden,” she told him happily. “Speaking from experience, you literally do not need anything else,” she added with a saucy look.
Luke’s eyes went a little wide as he shushed her, but he was smiling none the less. She was being complimentary and he couldn’t mind that, he would just rather her not mention him in any kind of naked way where people might hear.
“So, something felt weird?” he said, bringing her back to her first comment.
“No, actually, everything feels weird!” she declared then, clearly recalling all too quickly what her original complaint had been about. “At home, it’s just... empty. A hole, a vacuum. A completely Rory-less zone. I miss my Rory, Luke.”
“Yeah, I have to admit, it seems pretty strange around here without Jess too.” Luke sighed. “Crazy as it sounds, I’m even missing Paris a little.”
“Hush your mouth!” Lorelai exclaimed dramatically. “Wow, you guys really buddied up this summer, huh?”
“She’s a good kid, really. Super intense, I’ll tell you that for nothing, but she worked hard, and it was clear from the way she was talking how much she appreciates having Jess in her life, and Rory too. I think mostly she was just lonely before that.”
“Aaaw, poor Paris,” Lorelai sympathised. “Well, now I know how she feels. She has my Rory and your Jess, leaving us with nobody but each other! Actually, now that I think about it, you and me alone, that’s not such a bad thing,” she said, grinning suddenly.
“Well, I guess I could come over tonight, if you’re feeling lonely.”
“Probably best. Check for prowlers, protect me from harm. Lord knows a woman alone like myself sure could use some protection,” she said, hands over her heart as she did he best Southern Belle bit.
“Happy to be of service, ma’am,” Luke told her, tipping his hat like a gent to amuse her all the more.
Unfortunately, her smile soon gave way to another heavy sigh.
“I do still miss Rory though, and it is so weird not having her around all of the time. I never realised how much she was just there. Like, I come home with funny anecdotes about my day and there’s no-one to tell them to. I order Chinese and there’s way too much because I have no-one to share it with. Even watching movies is no fun without company.”
“Well, I know I can’t compare to Rory, but I am happy to watch a movie with you tonight, and share take-out, and do whatever makes you happy.”
“You’re gonna make a very good husband, you know that?”
“I plan to do my best,” Luke promised her, happy to lean over the counter and kiss her one more time. “So, coffee?”
“Coffee,” she agreed, smiling much more genuinely than before now. “So, I have heard from my baby girl a couple of times, but she is pretty busy with her new classes and all. Has Jess been in touch?”
“Not really, but I didn’t expect it.” Luke shook his head. “We agreed he could still work some weekend shifts here if he had the time, but this first one, it was better for him to stay on campus and get used to the whole thing.”
“Right, right,” Lorelai nodded in agreement, thanking Luke for her coffee and immediately taking a long sip. “So, does he like his room-mates?”
“One of them, I think. Some guy named Marty?”
“Oh, Marty, yeah. Rory mentioned him too,” Lorelai recalled. “Seems like a good guy, friendly, good movie knowledge.”
“Well, I’m just glad Jess has made a friend. I’m all for him spending time with Rory and Paris, but he should really have some guy friends at his age, right?”
“Probably for the best. I’m sure he’ll be fine.”
Luke nodded his agreement and yet he wasn’t so sure. Jess hadn’t seemed so enthusiastic about the whole Yale thing when the time came, and he had described two of his room-mates as morons already. Yes, he did seem to get along with Marty, and he was happy to be where Rory and Paris were, but Luke was already having his doubts as to whether Jess would stick this thing out for the long haul. That bothered him more than a little, but he was determined to say nothing to his nephew or anyone else about it, at least not yet. No point in making trouble where there wasn’t any.
“So, how are things with the inn?” he asked Lorelai then, glad of the lack of customers for now so they had a chance to talk some more.
“They’re coming along. Slowly. Surely. We’re looking at potential decorators right now. It’s a big process.”
“I’m sure it’ll all be fine.”
“Sure, it will. Of course, it would all go a lot faster if I didn’t keep getting distracted by my beautiful, beautiful ring!” she said, flashing her left hand under Luke’s nose.
“Oddly enough, Lorelai, I’ve seen the ring. You know, since I bought it and all?” he reminded her, smiling indulgently.
“I know, and by the way, you have the best taste in jewellery of any guy I ever met, and I am including Michel in that!” she said definitely.
“Thanks, I think,” said Luke, considering that for a moment. “I’m glad you like it.”
“I love it,” said Lorelai definitely. “And I love you.”
They shared another kiss, then she finished up her coffee and said she really had to go. Apparently, inn designer people waited for no woman.
Luke smiled as he watched her leave. He really had no regrets about being with Lorelai, especially not about being engaged to her. She was the only woman he ever felt this way about, and the only one he could ever imagine spending his life tied to. He was really, really looking forward to their date tonight too. Well, there had to be at least one upside to the kids going off to college and leaving them alone!
“But you’re talking about the movie. The book is completely different!”
“Hey, speaking as someone who read the book and saw the movie, it’s actually not that different. Besides which, the motivation is still the same in either one.”
“You do realise that every time he can’t counter your argument, he waits for your boyfriend to do it for him, and then throws out a chirpy ‘what he said’ comment?” said Paris with a look.
“Hey, I do not!” Marty denied it hotly. “I just... Yeah, well, Jess has read a lot more books than I have. I hold my own on movies.”
“Of course, you do,” Rory told him kindly. “Nobody knows more about the Marx Brothers than Marty.”
“That I’ll agree with” said Jess, nodding his head.
They were quite the chatty bunch around the lunch table. Marty had joined the former-Chilton trio quite easily, making the three into a foursome that were happy to chat about movies, books, music, and all, as well as their classes and professors.
They were all taking at least one course with each other, so that was cool too. Of course, when they all started hanging out together most days, Paris had felt the need to make it quite clear to Marty that she was unavailable. He stammered through his apology if he gave her the impression he was interested at all, and Rory hid her giggles in Jess’ shoulder. Paris clearly terrified their new friend, certainly to the point where he would never dream of trying to date her. Only Paris would ever think he might.
“Oh, by the way,” said Rory to Jess then, “Mom left me a message to ask if we were coming home at all this weekend. I think she’s missing us.”
“She may be missing you, I doubt she’s missing me,” her boyfriend noted, rolling his eyes.
“Well, I’ll bet Luke is missing you. Anyway, Mom has this idea that you could come to Friday Night Dinner with me, then I could drive us back to the Hollow, and on Saturday, the four of us could all go on a double date or something.”
“A double date?” said Paris with a look. “You two, your mother and his uncle, all on a date together? Is it just me, or can anybody else hear banjoes?”
“Paris, stop it!” said Rory sounding pained. “You know we’re not related, stop being gross.”
“You wanna hear gross, you should be up early enough to hear Janet in the middle of her bending and stretching routine. It’s appalling,” she said of their room-mate’s habits.
“I have heard, and it’s really not so bad. She just likes to keep in shape.”
“From what I saw, it’s a shape worth keeping,” said Marty, more to his plate than to his friends.
“Hey, so he does know the difference between boys and girls,” said Jess, looking to Rory. “You owe me five bucks.”
Rory looked mortified when Marty suddenly looked at her with those sad, puppy dog eyes of his. She really hadn’t meant to cause offence with her comment. For starters, Marty was never supposed to know that she said that, and even if he did, she hadn’t meant it the way it sounded.
“I’m sorry,” she told him, blushing terribly. “I didn’t mean... I just... You seem so shy when it comes to girls. We thought maybe you liked guys, which would be absolutely fine. More than fine, actually, in this day and age, y’know?” she rambled badly. “But then Jess said you definitely liked girls because of some comment you made about Angelina Jolie.”
“Hey, room-mate code, man!” Marty said to Jess. “What happens in the dorm, stays in the dorm.”
“Really?” said Paris with a look. “So, what happens in the dorm, guys?”
“Butt out, sis,” Jess advised with a look of his own that was none too friendly given what she was implying, especially when he couldn’t fight back in the same way.
It was all very well imagining other girls having pillow fights and making out behind closed doors, but not his girlfriend with his sister, no way!
“So, back to the point!” said Rory eventually, facing Jess. “This weekend, you and me, Stars Hollow, yes?”
“Sure, I guess,” he agreed.
“Paris, will you be seeing Jamie?”
“Not this weekend,” she said, shaking her head. “I’ll stay here, get some reading done, enjoy the peace.”
“Because I make so much noise.” Rory rolled her eyes. “What about you, Marty? Any plans?”
“Er, I’m actually bar-tending at a party on Saturday. Gotta make that extra cash somehow,” he explained with a smile.
“Sounds good.” Rory smiled right back, glad he didn’t seem to be too offended by her earlier comments. “Well, I hope you make lots of tips.”
“Thanks, me too.”
They parted ways a few minutes later, all headed off to classes and study time. It hadn’t taken them long to fall into a new rhythm, spending time together and apart as needed. It was a big adjustment in some ways, especially for Rory who had been so close to her mom, both literally and figuratively, up to now, but at least they all had each other here. That wasn’t nothing.
“So, basically, Luke told Taylor that if he didn’t make the permit issues with the inn disappear or something, he was going to rue the day he made trouble for ‘his fiancée’,” said Lorelai proudly. “I had no idea I could love a word so much, but fiancée? It’s my new favourite, and I don’t see that changing for a very long time.”
“It might change. Y’know, when you’re a wife instead,” Rory suggested, hardly able to keep the amusement out of her voice or the smile off her face.
“Hmm, I do like the sound of that too,” Lorelai admitted. “but fiancée is good right now. Really, really good,” she said, looking dreamily at her man.
“You have no idea how happy it makes me to see you guys so happy,” said Rory, grinning wide.
“Well, you’re not exactly unhappy yourself, babe,” her mom pointed out. “You and Jess don’t seem to have suffered for spending even more time together.”
“Actually, we haven’t really... spent any more time together, I mean. With classes and everything, it probably evens out to about the same amount of time as when we were around here. It might even be less than when we were at Chilton together.”
Something passed over Rory’s face that gave Lorelai pause for thought. Her daughter and the boyfriend really seemed as stupidly happy and deliriously in love as ever for the most part, but right now there was something in Rory’s eyes that bothered Lorelai, something she wasn’t saying.
“Hey, sweets? Y’know, if something’s wrong, you can still tell me. You may be grown-up college girl now, but I’m still your mom. I still wanna help if anything’s bothering you.”
“Nothing is,” Rory insisted, shaking her head, though she saw immediately that Lorelai didn’t quite believe her. “I don’t know,” she admitted, “I think... I think Jess is still adjusting to the whole Yale thing.”
“Well, isn’t everybody?”
“I guess, but I always planned to go to college. So, did Paris. It’s different for Jess, the decision came later, and I keep thinking... Well, I wonder if he felt pushed into it too much, by me, and Paris, and Luke. Not in a bad way, I mean, none of us tried to make him do anything he didn’t want to do, it’s just... I don’t know, I’m probably being stupid.”
“I doubt that,” said Lorelai pointedly, “but you might be worrying for nothing. Knowing Jess the way we do, I seriously doubt he would do anything he really didn’t want to do and not say anything about it.”
Rory looked across at her boyfriend, taking animatedly with Luke at the counter, and sighed.
“You’re right,” she told Lorelai then. “I’m sure you’re right.”
“Aren’t I always?”
Rory wasn’t sure how to answer that for the best and was prevented from having to try when the guys joined them. Despite original plans to all attend Friday Night Dinner last night and then return to the Hollow for the whole weekend, Jess had begged off from visiting the grandparents in Hartford and driven himself home this morning instead. He caught up with Luke, worked a shift in the diner, and now the four of them were all going our together on a kind of double-date.
“You find your fifty-four cents?” asked Lorelai, smiling too much.
“It was a dollar eighty-seven, and yes, thank you,” said Luke smartly.
“Every cent counts,” said Jess, shrugging his shoulders.
“Huh. He does listen to me.” Luke smiled.
“I’m sorry, what did you say?” asked Jess, smirking wickedly as sat down beside Rory at the table.
“No, no. No sitting,” said Lorelai urgently. “Movie starts in ten and I do not want to be late. Kirk gets so cranky when that happens. Last time, he made an example of me - it was not pretty.”
“She is not exaggerating,” Rory confirmed before either of the guys could argue.
“Then let’s go,” said Jess, getting up again and offering a hand to his girlfriend.
They walked down the street towards the Black, White and Red, Rory and Jess in front and Luke and Lorelai a pace behind. Both couples had their arms around each other and were the picture of people in love.
“Look at the Gilmore girls, out with their fine young men,” said Miss Patty, smiling wide. “You almost make me jealous.”
“Sorry, Patty,” said Lorelai cheerfully. “I’m not sharing.”
“Me either!” Rory called over her shoulder.
“Spoil sports!” their neighbour declared, laughing as she walked on by.
Thankfully, they got to theatre in time for the movie, though neither Luke nor Jess was particularly enthralled to realise they were going to watch Pippy Longstocking. The girls were clearly loving it though, singing along to the theme song and stuffing themselves full of popcorn and candy. They talked through at least half the movie, catching up on general life stuff as well as making comments about what was happening on the screen. They were amusing enough to make up for the fact that neither of the guys much cared for the movie itself. As double dates went, it really wasn’t such a bad evening.
After the movie, they headed back to the Gilmore house, laden down with treats that Luke fetched from the diner. They all hung out in the living room for a while, sharing news and stories from the last couple of weeks. The girls in particular never tired of talking, but Luke and Jess were well-used to that by now.
“I swear, if you left them alone together for a year, they’d still find more to say,” said uncle to nephew as he put away dishes and Jess and returned from taking out the trash.
“They can talk,” he agreed, shifting awkwardly in place.
Luke couldn’t help but notice that his nephew didn’t seem eager to return to the living room but didn’t really look as if he wanted to be in the kitchen either. Something wasn’t right with Jess since he got home. Luke wondered if it had to do with Yale or Rory or something else entirely, but was just a little wary of asking. Jess wasn’t the most talkative of kids, at least, not about anything real or serious. Luke couldn’t really blame him. He wasn’t the sharing type himself, and certainly Liz was not the kind of mother Jess could really talk to about anything serious. He had hoped the two of them were close enough now to talk out anything that needed to be said, but Luke was always wary with Jess. He really didn’t want to push him away.
“Hey, you okay?” he asked carefully, mindful to keep his voice down and unheard by the Gilmore girls.
“Sure, yeah.” Jess shrugged. “I mean, I don’t think I’m getting that damn Pippy Longstocking song out of my head for a week, but I’ll live.”
“Yeah, that’s a little too catchy.” Luke nodded. “I actually meant, well, things are okay with you and Rory, right?”
“Yeah, they’re fine.”
“And with Yale?”
“Yes, Uncle Luke,” Jess intoned, more than a little sarcasm and irritation creeping into his tone now. “Seriously, what is this? Twenty questions?”
“No, I just... I just want to make sure you’re okay, that’s all.”
Jess thought about getting mad at being questioned. He never did like it, and yet he tried to make himself be calm and more accepting of help. Luke meant to be helpful, be the good guy, the kind of father figure that Jess ought to want in his life, he supposed. The trouble was he still wasn’t used to this, to having somebody care so much, and always want to know what was going on in his head. He didn’t hate it, it was only that even after a couple of years of being in Stars Hollow, knowing Luke, playing brother to Paris, being so close to Rory, he still hadn’t quite adjusted to being cared about all this much.
Taking a calming breath, Jess tried not to let it out like a sigh, since he knew that wouldn’t help at all.
“I’m fine,” he told Luke, meeting his eyes. “Rory and me, we’re fine, and Yale is fine. It’s all just kind of an adjustment is all, but it’s fine.”
“Yes, but is everything fine?” asked Luke, with a smirk akin to something his nephew would usually be found wearing.
“Ha ha,” said Jess, rolling his eyes. “Honestly, if I’m worried about anything, it’s Paris. She’s being really weird about her boyfriend.”
“Weird how?” asked Luke, as the two of them returned to the living room.
“Weird like not wanting to talk about the guy or spend any time with him,” he explained. “If I thought he did anything wrong, I’d tear off his kneecaps, but she swears that’s not it.”
“Paris and Jamie?” Rory checked, sure that was what they must be talking about. “Something is not right there.”
“You ask Paris if there’s a problem?” said Lorelai, frowning some.
“I did. She said everything was fine, but then when Jess talked to her about it, she kind of implied he was being clingy or something. How can you be clingy from Princeton?”
“Constant phone calls, emails, letters?” Lorelai suggested. “You don’t have to literally have a hold on someone to drag them down.”
“That doesn’t really sound like Jamie,” Rory considered.
“How well do we really know the guy?” asked Jess then. “I mean, I’ve spent more time with Marty in the last two weeks than I’ve ever really spent talking to Paris’ boyfriend.”
“I spent time with him in Washington last year, and I’ve seen him with Paris enough to know that he’s completely in love with her, and she was in love with him too.”
“Was?” Lorelai echoed.
“Is,” Rory amended, “or at least, I guess she still is. I don’t suppose it’s impossible to think they drifted apart. It does happen to people.” she considered, thinking of herself and Dean.
Though Jess had been a large factor in their eventual break up, if Rory was honest with herself, she had known for a while before that things between her and Dean hadn’t been as good as they should be. When people grew and changed, sometimes it was apart rather than together, it was a part of life, though she hated to think of that happening with Paris and Jamie. She certainly never, ever wanted it to happen to her and Jess. The very idea of it made her want to curl up closer to her boyfriend on the couch, just hold on and never let go.
“Well, either they’ll figure things out or they’ll call it a day and move on,” said Lorelai eventually. “All you can do is be there if Paris wants to talk, I guess.”
“We will be,” said Jess definitely, his arm around Rory as he kissed the top of her head. “Don’t worry about it, Ror. Paris knows she’s not alone, no matter what happens with the boyfriend.”
“I know.” Rory sighed. “It’s almost a shame that she frightens Marty so much-”
“Please, God, do not even finish that thought!” said Jess quickly. “As much as I love Paris, I would not sic her on Marty. The guy does not deserve that kind of pressure. I think he would literally curl up and die out of fear.”
“Your new friend Marty’s a fraidy cat?” asked Lorelai, clearly amused by the thought.
“Hey, they’re talking about dating Paris,” Luke reminded her. “I think most guys would be justifiably afraid of that situation.”
“Oh, you love Paris!”
“I don’t dislike her. She’s a good worker and a nice girl, when she wants to be, but you know as well as I do, she is not entirely... Well, she’s an intense personality.”
“Very well put,” said Rory with a giggle. “There’s no denying that Paris is an acquired taste, but she is a great person underneath all the spiky armour.”
“Then I’m sure whatever happens with her and Jamie or her and Marty or anybody else, she’ll do just fine,” said Lorelai. “Like Jess said, she has the two of you for support.”
“Always,” he confirmed, nodding his head.
“Speaking of always,” said Rory then, “you guys thought at all about setting a date for your wedding?”
“Not really,” said Lorelai, looking at her fiancé with a grin. “Being engaged is pretty cool right now, but we’re not going to wait forever. Things have just been a little too crazy lately to be making plans.”
“Between your mom’s inn and the diner, plus getting you guys settled at Yale and everything, things have been a little busy”, Luke agreed, taking a hold of Lorelai’s hand and kissing it. “But we definitely won’t wait too long.”
“Aaaw.” Rory sighed, hugging Jess ever tighter. “It’s so sweet.”
“Yeah,” he replied absently.
It wasn’t that he didn’t like the idea of his uncle marrying Lorelai. They were so happy and they deserved to be. Jess thought nothing about the fact that marriage would make him and Rory some kind of cousins by marriage, because that was a nothing sort of relationship anyway.
What bothered him was how life seemed to be carrying him forward lately without his making any real decisions about it. He was in Yale for four years now, stuck in quick sand, at least that was how to felt in some ways. If Lorelai and Luke got married, that would mean changes too. They’d want to live together, maybe here, maybe elsewhere, and Jess wasn’t sure what that meant for him.
When he was home, would he stay at the diner apartment or would he be expected to live with the family? He doubted him and Rory sharing a room was going to be okay with her mother or his uncle, despite the fact everybody knew they were sleeping together and had been for a while. It was too much, too many questions, too many serious things that made Jess instinctively want to run away. He wouldn’t do it, but that didn’t mean the urge wasn’t there sometimes.
“Hey, you okay?” asked Rory, looking up at him.
“Sure, yeah,” he told her, finding a smile. “I’m just tired. It’s fine.”
Rory kissed his cheek and laid her head back down on his shoulder. Jess stifled a sigh and tried to pay attention to conversation. For more than one reason, it didn’t come easy right now.
“Rory, seriously, it’s no big deal,” Marty insisted, even as his friend continued to look annoyed. “Those guys are just... that’s just the way they are.”
“Well, they shouldn’t be,” she said determinedly. “They’re no better than anybody else. They’re not better than you just because you served drinks at their party. You were doing a job, that’s all. You’re not beneath them.”
“Who’s not beneath who?” asked Jess, looking up from his book at the sound of his girlfriend’s angry tone.
“Me,” said Marty, coming to sit down heavily in the armchair of their common room. “Some guys I tended bar for last weekend saw us in the quad. Rory didn’t like their tone,” he explained.
“They were rude to Marty,” Rory complained as she came around to the couch to sit by Jess.
He moved his legs off the next seat over to make room for her and put his book on the table, wrapping an arm around his angry-looking girlfriend.
“They weren’t so rude,” Marty assured them both. “It’s really not a big deal.”
“You can rely on Rory to fight for truth, justice, and the American way,” said Jess, smiling until he saw that she very definitely was not. “Oh, come on. You get a little worked up about this stuff, Ror, and it’s not a big deal. So, the rich guys here are jerks. So, what? It’s not exactly a shock.”
“And hey, it’s not like they didn’t pay me for my work,” said Marty, shrugging his shoulders. “I made a lot of good tips out of a bunch of drunken idiots. If that means they talk down to me a little bit when they see me around campus, I don’t care.”
“Well, I do,” said Rory, arms still folded tightly across her chest and expression more than a little grumpy. “I hate the over-privileged few that think they can just treat everybody else like dirt. It’s not okay.”
“I agree with you,” Jess promised, “but maybe keep a hold on the anger, Jennifer Walters. Rich guys may be jerks but they have pull in places like this. I don’t want you pissing off the wrong person and getting into trouble. They’re not worth it.”
“They’re really not,” Marty agreed. “And I really don’t want you getting into trouble because of me.”
“I’m not going to do anything,” Rory huffed.
“Good.” Jess nodded once, kissing her cheek. “I have enough problems keeping Paris from killing people on an almost daily basis. She’s bad enough sometimes, but this past week or so, keeping her calm is like trying to tame a rattlesnake.”
“You think it’s about Jamie still?” asked Rory worriedly.
“I don’t know, she’s not really talking lately,” said Jess, shaking his head.
“I need to try harder with her. I’ve just been so busy with the work here and everything. I’ll talk to her again, tonight if I can,” she promised.
“Call me if you need me.”
They smiled at each other and shared a kiss that didn’t exactly end all that quickly. Marty realised they weren’t coming up for air any time soon and slipped off to his room. Neither Rory nor Jess noticed at all, they were having too much of a good time. When that good time got a little more serious, Rory pulled back. Jess looked a little dazed by the sudden loss of contact.
“I’m sorry.” Rory shook her head. “That was getting a little intense and this isn’t an entirely private place,” she pointed out, looking towards the door.
Anybody could barge in, and even if they locked the door, Jess’ other room-mates had a right to gain access. He knew that too, and got up, holding out his hand to lead Rory to his room. Though she put her fingers into his palm, she didn’t exactly move when he pulled on her arm.
“Jess,” she said, shaking her head some more. “Marty is right there,” she reminded him, gesturing to the proximity of one room to the other. “The walls here are like paper.”
“You planning on being loud?” he asked, with a look that sent a shudder through Rory that she couldn’t complain about.
“That’s not the point,” she told him anyway. “I’d just feel better if we were really alone, if we were going to...” she said, making some random gesture with her free hand.
Jess let out a sigh, but didn’t complain. Pulling Rory into his arms he kissed her one more time, at the very least making sure she knew what she was missing.
“Hmm, you don’t make it easy to say no,” said Rory as they pulled apart.
“You want me to be sorry for that, you’re in for a long wait.”
“I don’t want you to be sorry. Just maybe find out when all your room-mates are likely to be gone at the same time, then invite me over,” she told him, smiling widely.
“Sounds like a plan,” Jess agreed, running a hand through her hair. “Y’know, I didn’t think it mattered to me, but I’m actually kind of glad you didn’t get your hair cut so short.”
“Yeah, me too,” Rory agreed. “I gave it due consideration, new look for college and all, but it wouldn’t’ve looked right on me.”
“Hey, you would’ve been beautiful anyway,” Jess assured her, “but I like this better,” he admitted, putting her hair back behind her ear and watching her eyes fall shut.
“I like it too,” she admitted, not at all talking about her hair anymore as she revelled in his touch and went in for another kiss.
“I don’t think you stand a chance of ever getting any alone time in our dorm,” Paris told Rory. “I mean, Janet is out a lot, and I’m happy to clear out once in a while for your conjugal visits, but I’m pretty sure the prodigal child in that third room isn’t allowed out past seven on a school night. Not unless Mommy is going to come visit and hold her hand,” she said, rolling her eyes.
“Tanna is sweet,” Rory insisted. “She’s just young is all. I’m sure she’ll adjust to being here and start to go out more soon.”
“You better hope so,” said Paris with a look. “Guys get bored if they’re not getting any.”
“Paris!” Rory yelped, looking scandalised. “There is more to my relationship with Jess than sex.”
“Thank God, because trust me, I would not want to hear anything about the two of you if that was all it consisted off,” she said, shuddering badly. “Jess is my brother, maybe not in the traditional sense, but it’s how I see him. It’s bad enough knowing you two have engaged in the horizontal rhumba at all without being given a play by play.”
“Nobody was trying to give you a play by play, Paris.” Rory rolled her eyes as she let them both back into the dorm. “It’s just awkward right now, with us not getting any real alone time. Of course, it’s tougher on you and Jamie, being so far apart.”
“We talk,” said Paris, visibly squirming as she pushed past Rory and practically ran towards their shared bedroom.
Something was not right with her, and Rory knew it. Jess knew it too, and though they kept on asking what was wrong, it didn’t seem to do any good. It had to do with Jamie, that much was for sure, but with them seeing so little of each other, Rory just couldn’t understand how they were having any trouble. She hadn’t heard a fight and Paris always insisted everything was fine, but it couldn’t be, and Rory was now determined to get to the bottom of the issue.
“Paris, what is going on?” she asked, coming into the bedroom and closing the door behind her.
“Right now, I was hoping to start on this homework assignment,” she said, books already open on the desk. “Assuming that’s what you were asking.”
“You know that it’s not,” her friend told her, moving over into her line of view. “Paris, c’mon. Please, talk to me.”
Her eyes were fixed on her books but her tone betrayed her. She wasn’t so oblivious to what Rory was getting at and they both knew it. For whatever reason, she didn’t want to talk, but this had gone on long enough.
“Paris, something is not right with you. It hasn’t been right since we all came to Yale, maybe even a little bit before that, but for some reason you don’t want to tell me what’s wrong,” said Rory crossly. “I tried to be nice, I tried to be understanding. I thought if I just let you be for a while, you’d get over it, but you haven’t. You’re not yourself. I’ve noticed, and so has Jess. It seems to have something to do with Jamie, but you keep on telling us he’s fine.”
“He is fine.”
“But you’re not,” Rory insisted. “Paris, what is wrong? Did you break up? Did he do something? What is it?”
“I thought I was pregnant!”
The words came so suddenly, Rory felt as if they had struck her in the chest. Paris was wild-eyed and close to tears as her head whipped up and she faced her friend at last. The last word she had spoken echoed in Rory’s head like a bell ringing.
“Pregnant?” she echoed. “You thought you...? Are you?”
“No, I’m not. Thank God,” said Paris, letting out a long sigh. “But for a while there, I thought I could be.”
Rory sank down onto the edge of the bed, all the fight going out of her in a second. She hadn’t considered that. She had thought of a great many possibilities for Paris’ strange mood, her odd attitude when it came to Jamie. She wondered if they had fought, if he had hurt her, if she just didn’t love him anymore. She considered maybe Paris regretted choosing Yale rather than Princeton or was feeling bad about not spending more time with her boyfriend over the summer. All those options, but never this one. Never did it occur to her that Paris - straight-laced, sensible, forward-thinking Paris - would have had a pregnancy scare.
“Yeah, wow,” Paris echoed. “Kind of a big deal, huh?”
“I’ll say.” Rory nodded. “But you’re definitely not.”
“No, I’m definitely not. Mother Nature paid her call and proved the situation null and void,” she confirmed. “And I know what you’re thinking, how could Paris be so stupid, right? Well, I’m not. I take my pill regularly, never missed one, and we always use condoms too. No one kind of birth control is completely infallible, you have to be careful.”
“Preaching to the choir, Paris,” Rory assured her. “Result of a teenage pregnancy, right here. I’m well-educated in all the protection, trust me.”
“Well, even when you think you’ve got it covered, you can be wrong. Last month, I was late. Very late. Then it occurred to me that there was one occasion with Jamie when... when we got a little carried away. At the time, I figured it was fine, the pill would take care of it, but then when the usual monthly emission failed to occur on time, I started to wonder, then I started to panic. For two weeks, nothing, which I know was probably made worse by the stress of worrying about it, but what could I do? I bought a test. I was just working up the nerve to take it when proof positive came that I had nothing to worry about.”
“Oh, Paris.” Rory sighed. “Why didn’t you tell me?”
“You weren’t here,” her friend snapped, immediately regretting her tone when she saw the hurt on Rory’s face. “I’m not blaming you, I’m not. I could’ve called, I could’ve talked to you about it when you got home, I know. Hell, I could’ve talked to Jamie. I know I should have. If I had been, well, it would be his kid too, but I was just... I was terrified. It was easier to avoid him, so I did. I’ve been avoiding him ever since, and quite honestly, I’m not even sure why anymore.”
“I’m sorry, Paris,” said Rory, looking genuinely sad. “I’m sorry you’ve been struggling with this, all these weeks, but y’know, you could’ve talked to me, when I got home. I wouldn’t even have told Jess if you didn’t want me to.”
“I know.” Paris nodded and sighed once more. “I know I could’ve talked to you or Jess, even Lorelai. I mean, she would’ve understood more than anyone. I just felt so weird about it, y’know? I was shocked and panicked, and obviously having a baby would’ve been a huge inconvenience to my education and my career, not to mention my father would probably disown me, but... but a part of me had already decided that if I was, if there was a baby, I would’ve kept it. I would’ve made it work, somehow. Maybe with Jamie, maybe not, but I would have done it.”
She was actually crying now, tears pouring down her cheeks unchecked. Rory didn’t know what to say, so she said nothing at all. She just got up, went over to where Paris was sat and threw her arms around her, hugging her tight. This whole situation made so much more sense now, the bad moods, the quiet times, the avoidance of Jamie. Eventually, Rory knew she would have to advise Paris to talk to her boyfriend about what happened. It was the right thing to do, the only thing that made sense, but for now, those words were best left unspoken. Paris just needed a friend, a sister, maybe, rather than the brother that she sometimes relied upon. Rory was happy to take on that role, whenever and however she needed her.
Rory saw him first. She and Jess had just parted ways outside the building with a sweet kiss and promise to catch up with each other in the cafeteria at lunch. He headed off to class and Rory intended to go to her room when she heard someone call her name.
They should have known it was going to happen eventually. Jamie was nothing if not dedicated to Paris and so completely in love. He had proven it in so many ways over the past year, the only thing that made sense when he didn’t hear from his girlfriend in too long was that he would worry and show up at Yale.
“Hey, Rory,” he greeted her with a smile that didn’t look altogether genuine.
“Hey,” she replied, trying to be upbeat herself and knowing she wasn’t doing so well. “Um, how are you doing? How’s Princeton?”
“It’s still there”, he said, nodding his head. “I, er... I admit, I’m not doing so well this year as before. I guess it’s no surprise to you that I’m having some trouble concentrating.”
“Yeah,” said Rory, looking away.
She couldn’t tell Jamie anything that Paris had told her, it wouldn’t be right, breaking the whole sanctity of the sisterhood thing. Still, she felt so very awkward right now, knowing what at least part of the problem was in this relationship and unable to say anything.
“Um, you should come inside. I think Paris has a class right now, but there’s no reason you can’t hang out, wait for her to get back,” she said, heading for the door, key in hand to unlock it.
“Thanks, Rory. I really appreciate you being so kind to me.”
“Oh, of course. I don’t have any reason not to be nice,” she said, opening the door and glancing back at him. “Do I?” she checked warily.
“No, no,” Jamie promised her, looking awfully worried she might not believe it. “I swear, I can’t think of any reason why Paris is so distant lately. I actually hoped maybe you could tell me.”
“Jamie.” Rory sighed, bringing him into the dorm and offering him a seat. “I can’t. You know, you and Paris really need to talk to each other instead of me. Whatever I do or do not know, I can’t get in the middle of this.”
“This,” Jamie echoed, laughing painfully as he sank down into the couch cushions. “I’m not sure what this is anymore,” he admitted. “I barely saw Paris over the summer. A little more in the beginning but then it was like... like she just didn’t want to be with me anymore. When I talk to her, she says I’m being ridiculous. Of course, she loves me, of course she wants to be with me, but... I’m sorry,” he apologised the moment he caught sight of the look on Rory’s face.
“It’s fine,” she assured him. “I do understand, Jamie, but relationships are never easy and Paris is...”
“Never easy?” he supplied, with a smile he couldn’t help. “Don’t worry, I am aware, but I love her anyway.”
“And she loves you, Jamie. That much I will say, because we both know it’s true.”
“I’d like to hope so.”
“It’s a safe bet in my book,” she said, smiling a moment before a frown overtook her face. “Oh, no. Book!” she declared, hand slamming against the bag on her shoulder. “I’m so sorry, Jamie. I have to go, but you’re welcome to stay. Paris should be back in an hour or less.”
“I’ll be fine,” he assured her, waving away her concern. “And thanks, for letting me in and being so nice.”
“All part of the girlfriend’s best friend service,” she promised, raising her hand in a brief wave before hurrying out into the hall.
In her rush, Rory really wasn’t looking where she was going and ploughed right into oncoming traffic in the shape of three guys, one of which seemed a little too happy to have gotten so close.
“Well, hello, darling!” he declared, hands grasping her arms.
Rory fought to get away, and to be honest, he wasn’t exactly trying to stop her. He probably had a hold of her more by luck than by design, even trying to be helpful, but she didn’t care for strangers getting grabby.
“What is your problem?” she asked, shaking him off.
“No problem here, love,” he assured her, hands now raised in mock-surrender.
“Yeah, to be fair, you did run into us,” said his friend. “And Finn is a chronic sufferer of grab-hands syndrome,” he said way too seriously.
“Hey, guys. Come on,” said the third guy, the only one of the three that Rory recognised. “I’m sorry about Finn and Colin, they’re not at their best this morning.”
“Just get out of my way, Huntzberger,” she snapped at him, moving to pass.
Annoyingly, he didn’t let her go.
“So, you don’t like me,” he said, trying to meet her eyes as well as block her path. “And somehow you know my name, despite the fact I don’t think we ever met before.”
“Your reputation proceeds you, Logan,” said Finn with a knowing look. “Although, I don’t think I’d be so careless as to forget such a beauty,” he added, staring at Rory.
“You all met me before,” she reminded them, arms folded across her chest and eyes flashing with anger. “In the quad? By the coffee cart?” she prompted them. “I was with Marty.”
“Marty?” Logan echoed, looking to his friends for help.
They each looked as clueless as he was.
“Marty, my friend, Marty. He tended bar at a party for you guys.”
“Ah, yes, Marty!” said Logan, snapping his fingers and the memory apparently returned to him. “The guy who makes a kick-ass margarita!”
“He is capable of more than that, you know,” she told them smartly.
“I’m sure he is,” Logan agreed. “I don’t think they let guys into Yale for mixology alone.”
Rory felt her blood pressure rising so fast, she half expected the top of her head to blow off like a cartoon. This guy was insufferable, and the more he talked, the more she disliked him for every word out of his stupid mouth. Just because people were rich, they should not treat those less wealthy like servants, and she planned to tell Logan just exactly that, the moment he let her get a word in edgeways!
“I just got so mad about it, I really laid into the guy, which is not exactly like me. I mean, he was kind of insufferable, but I think maybe some of it had to do with the whole Paris and Jamie thing, and maybe even Jess too.”
“There’s still trouble with Paris and Jamie?” asked Lorelai with a frown. “I just assumed they figured things out.”
“They may have done, now. I mean, I had classes, met Jess for lunch, and then when I swung by the room they were gone. I came straight here when I was done this afternoon, so I have no idea what happened. I really, really hope they figured things out though. Jamie is such a nice guy, and if Paris just talked to him about what happened-”
“About what happened?” Lorelai echoed. “What did happen?”
“Oh, er... I’m kind of sworn to secrecy, sorry.”
“No problem, sweets. The sanctity of the sisterhood is what it is. I wouldn’t expect you to spill my secrets, I respect you for keeping Paris’ too,” she said definitely, ringing the Gilmores’ doorbell. “Besides, you’ll end up telling me later anyway.”
Rory opened her mouth to protest but didn’t get a chance as the maid opened the door and ushered them inside. The grandparents came to greet them next, Richard offering drinks, and Emily questioning Lorelai’s choice of outfit. As Friday Night Dinners went, this one was starting out fairly normal.
“Rory, you don’t seem so enthusiastic this evening,” said her grandpa when he handed her a soda. “I can’t believe you would be struggling at Yale.”
“Oh, no. Yale is fine, Grandpa. It’s good actually,” she said, finding a smile.
“Then perhaps it’s that young man of yours that has you so down,” said Emily acidly.
Lorelai rolled her eyes and turned away. Of course, her mother was going to start with Jess. Her other favourite topic was reasons why Luke was no good either. At least where Jess was concerned, Richard seemed willing to defend the kid a little bit.
“Everything is fine with Jess and me,” Rory insisted. “Yale is a big adjustment for him, just like it is for all of us, but we’re just fine.”
“I’m sure Jess will excel in such an environment,” said Richard, nodding his head. “He’s a very bright boy, he’s just never been given the opportunity to shine before.”
Emily scoffed into her drink and everyone else pretended to be too polite to notice.
Realising that if she didn’t make a subject change, she was just going to be hounded all night about her less-than-stellar mood, Rory started telling tales from college that her grandparents might find interesting. She mentioned classes, teachers, and assignments, as well as her friends whose names came up on a semi-regular basis.
“Well, you certainly seem to have settled in very well,” said Richard mid-way through dinner. “And this Marty that you mention, does he have a last name?”
“I’m sure he does.” Rory nodded. “But it’s just now occurring to me that I have no idea what it is. Huh.”
“I’m not sure we know anyone with a son or grandson named Martin that would be at Yale,” Emily considered. “You know quite a few of the up and coming young men seem to be at least a year ahead of you. Just last week, I was talking to Shira Huntzberger, and she was telling me that Logan-”
“Logan?” Rory echoed with surprise. “Logan Huntzberger? That’s... He’s Mitchum Huntzberger’s son?”
“Well, of course,” her grandmother assured her. “Oh, have you met the boy? I haven’t seen him in quite a while, but I understand that he’s grown up to be one of the most handsome and charming young men.”
Lorelai’s eyes were wide as the serving dishes as she shared a look with Rory across the table. Certainly, from what she had heard, Logan was not at all charming, though handsome she couldn’t vouch for. Rory looked incensed and ready to let rip in a big way, which was why Lorelai quickly thought of a subject change.
“Luke and I are engaged!” she announced out of nowhere.
“I beg your pardon?” asked Richard.
“What did you say?” said Emily in the same moment.
Lorelai pulled her ring from her purse and had her left hand up from her lap, flashing her ring at everyone in a second. Rory was left wondering what had happened for a moment, before she realised quite how her mother had saved her. Honestly, she had been telling her mom how she had to tell her parents about her engagement eventually, but every week she put it off a little longer, certain she was in for nothing but scorn when the news came out. Tonight, all focus had been on Rory, and when the grandparents started in on how some guy Rory so disliked was just saintly because he was rich and pretty, that was the final straw. There was bound to be an explosion and a disastrous fight. Better for Lorelai to throw herself on that particular grenade apparently. Rory was sure she’d never been more grateful for such a sacrifice.
Jess was just exiting the bedroom when Rory entered her dorm. She looked confused and he didn’t wonder at it.
“Hey,” he greeted her. “Good time at dinner?” he asked, smirking some.
“Not the greatest.” Rory shook her head. “You okay?”
Jess nodded. “Can’t say the same for Paris.”
They had talked about it at lunch, Rory telling Jess how Jamie had come to visit and that she was worried what would happen when he and Paris finally did talk. She had text to let him know neither Paris nor Jamie was around before she left for Hartford. Clearly, Jess had been worried too and had come to check on his sister. It didn’t seem as though he had found her in a good state.
“What happened?” asked Rory, she and Jess sitting down on the couch together, and talking in low voices.
“Long story short, and shoot me now for making this reference, but ‘they’re on a break’,” said Jess, rolling his eyes even as he air-quoted from Friends. “Your guess is as good as mine how long for.”
“Oh. Well, on a break is better than broken up, I guess.” Rory sighed. “Poor Paris, and poor Jamie too. I don’t even understand what went wrong.”
“C’mon, Ror,” Jess said, giving her a look. “I know she told you about the whole pregnancy thing.”
“She told you? Tonight?”
“It kind of came spilling out, yeah.”
“But she was never pregnant.”
“No, but she could’ve been, and when she told Jamie about it, apparently, he didn’t handle it so well. In Paris’ mind, if he couldn’t handle that, she can’t see him handling anything serious in the future either.”
“Yeah, because she handled it so well.” Rory rolled her eyes. “I’m sorry, Jess, I know you love her, I do too, but she really should’ve talked to him sooner.”
“For the record, I did tell her that,” he admitted with a sigh. “Other people’s relationships, huh?” he said, pulling her closer.
“Yup,” she agreed, glad of the hug she was getting right now, “and it has been a long day.”
“I’ll agree with that,” said Jess, kissing the top of her head, “and not to ruin your weekend, but I think you’ve got more trouble coming tomorrow. Gym Membership Barbie will probably be on the warpath,” he said, tilting his head towards Janet’s room. “Apparently, finding a different guy on the couch every time she gets home? Not something she’s comfortable with.”
“It was only Jamie and you.” Rory rolled her eyes. “What’s her problem?”
“I think Jamie and me,” Jess told her, smiling. “Also, Paris. Those two really didn’t hit it off.”
Rory groaned as if she might cry, burying her face in Jess’ shirt.
“Long, long day,” she grumbled. “I just want it to be over.”
“It is over,” Jess promised her. “Which is why I should probably go.”
A further noise of complaint escaped from Rory, but she did get up and allow her boyfriend to move. At the door, Jess moved to kiss her, but it was Rory who didn’t want to let go when he tried to leave. If they were anywhere that they could be alone, this situation would not have ended at a mere kiss goodnight.
“You’re killing me, Gilmore,” he told her breathlessly when they finally parted. “We’ve got to figure out a place to be alone sometime soon.”
“No arguments here,” she told him, grinning like a fool. “Did I mention that I love you?”
“A couple of times,” he told her, smiling just as wide. “I love you too,” he promised, kissing her lips one more time, then heading out of the building with a salute-type wave.
Rory closed the door and turned back towards the empty dorm room. If she went into the bedroom, Paris might want to talk about Jamie or cry all over her or something. If she stayed out here, she might at least get some sleep on the couch.
“Good night’s sleep or being a good friend?” she muttered to herself. “No contest,” she replied to her own question, heading straight for the bedroom door.
“Are you sure you’re okay?”
“For the hundredth time, Gilmore, I’m fine!” Paris snapped at her friend. “God, I’m taking a break in a relationship that wasn’t working. This is a positive step for Jamie and me, so stop acting like it’s a tragedy.”
“You’re right. I’m sorry, Paris,” said Rory, nodding once.
Of course, the fact that Paris had spent most of the weekend alternately crying and getting mad about the whole situation with her boyfriend seemed to have been completely forgotten when Monday morning dawned and classes needed attention again. Rory and Jess spent a lot of time with her, trying to sympathise and lift her spirits both. It wasn’t an easy job, or a fun one, but she was like a sister to them both at this point, so it was kind of their job.
“Anyway, the fact that you’re spending so much time with me doesn’t say much for your relationship either,” said Paris then. “Personally, I don’t think it’s natural-”
Rory was as startled as anyone to realise that another person had cut into what Paris was saying. Few would dare to interrupt Miss Geller even on a good day, and this was far from a one of those for her.
“I’m sorry, are you talking to us?”
“Well, actually, I was talking to Rory, but I don’t believe I’ve had the pleasure,” said the blond smoothly.
Rory rolled her eyes. “Paris, Logan. Logan, Paris,” she introduced quickly.
“I know who he is,” said Paris, narrowing her eyes. “Huntzberger, right? Son of media mogul Mitchum. I don’t think there’s a single person in this school that doesn’t know you.”
“Always nice to be noticed”. Logan smiled. “Excuse us, Paris,” he said then, taking a hold of Rory’s arm before she could protest and steering her away.
“What are you doing?” she asked crossly, pulling her elbow free.
“Actually, what I’m trying to do is apologise,” he assured her. “It’s been pointed out to me that whilst I was for the most part defending myself the other day, against a truly impressive dressing-down I might add, I probably could have been a little more gentlemanly about it.”
“I really don’t care what attitude you have with me,” she told him, hugging her books to her chest. “You seem to have missed my entire point, which was your attitude towards people in general.”
“People?” he echoed.
“People who don’t have as much money as you do,” she insisted. “You really weren’t listening at all, were you?”
“I swear that I was,” he told her, smiling too wide and dodging into her path when she tried to get away.
“I need to get to class.”
“And I respect that, I was just trying to say I’m sorry.”
“Fine, you’re sorry. Apology accepted. Can I go now?”
It was odd to look up and meet his eyes only to realise how pretty they were. That wasn’t a thought Rory often had about guys, but with Logan, it was hard to miss, at least now she’d stopped being hopping mad at him.
“Be my guest,” said Logan, moving aside at last. “Always a pleasure, Rory.”
“Likewise, I’m sure,” she replied as she disappeared from his sight.
Neither of them knew they were being watched. Logan certainly never noticed as he turned and walked away with the biggest grin on his face. Jess knew what classes Rory and Paris had first this morning and had come by to check that they were doing okay after a fairly trying weekend. He was running a little late thanks to his meat-head room-mates who seemed hell-bent on getting in his way this morning, and had arrived just in time to see some blond dick bothering Rory.
Of course, it occurred to Jess to swoop in and ask what was going on, but then he’d seen the look on her face, that girlish smile that women only got when they liked a guy. Not that Jess thought for a second that Rory would cheat on him, she just wasn’t that girl. Didn’t mean he had to like this guy that seemed to have an idea of getting close to her, and Jess didn’t like him, not at all.
“I still can’t believe that’s how your parents found out about our being engaged,” Luke declared, walking past Lorelai with more than one plate in each hands.
“God, how many different ways can I say that I’m sorry?” she asked him desperately. “I was getting Rory out of a jam. Like you wouldn’t have done the same thing, for Rory, for our Rory,” she said with a look, practically chasing her fiancé around the diner as he served.
“You know I would do anything for Rory, but that’s not the point,” he reminded her. “We were supposed to wait, that was your idea, and then we were going to go to them together and do it the right way.”
“As if there is even a right way with my parents!” Lorelai rolled her eyes. “And if there were a right way, it would probably change at random intervals just to stop me from ever truly knowing what it was, such is the nature of my mother and father!” she insisted, trying to get in his way when he made to breeze by her. “Luke, honey, come on. You’ve been like this all weekend. You cannot stay mad at me forever, can you?”
She turned on the big eyes and the pouty lips, lacing her fingers behind his neck and holding him still. All the fight went out of Luke in an instant and he sighed.
“No, I’m not... I’m really not mad at you,” he promised her, hands at her waist as he leaned in to plant a kiss on her lips. “I’m sorry.”
“You don’t have to be sorry, just be Luke,” she insisted. “What’s up, Diner Man?”
Something was wrong with him, and if he was just using the engagement announcement to cover it, deliberately or not, then Lorelai hadn’t a clue what the real problem was.
“Nothing is up,” he told her. “I’m fine. C’mon, what’s not to be fine about? The diner’s good, your inn is going well, the kids are doing good at Yale.”
“Yes, but something is on your mind,” she said, following him when he pulled away and disappeared behind the counter again. “A fiancée knows these things.”
Luke did at least smile at her use of that word and the way she flashed her engagement ring around when she said it. One thing he couldn’t worry about was his commitment to Lorelai or hers to him. As much as he felt weird at one time about her proposing to him, rather than the other way around, he didn’t care anymore. They were engaged, they were going to be together for the long haul, and that was all that mattered. Of course, Lorelai wasn’t he problem, but she was right when she insisted that he had one.
“I just... I don’t know, I’m a little worried about Jess,” he admitted at last, leaning over the counter to speak quietly to her where the gossips hopefully wouldn’t hear.
“Worried how?” asked Lorelai curiously. “Rory didn’t mention anything.”
“No, he’s not sick or in trouble or anything bad like that,” Luke insisted. “He just... He didn’t come home this weekend, again.”
“Well, babe, Rory didn’t come home either. From what she told me, they were taking care of Paris. You know, she and Jamie are kind of on the rocks lately.”
“I heard something about it.” Luke nodded. “But it’s not just this weekend, it’s... I can’t explain it, I just feel like something is wrong. Call it uncle’s intuition.”
“Uncle’s intuition?” Lorelai echoed, trying not to smile too much. “Really?”
“Hey, all the weird things you say, I can’t say one that doesn’t make absolute sense?” he checked, smirking because he knew she had a point.
“You know, I’m sure Jess is fine. Yale is a big adjustment, especially for the kid who always thought college wasn’t an option. He’s just getting used to it all, same as Rory and Paris. I’m sure they’ll all be fine,” she said, squeezing his hand. “And hey, if they have any problems, they have us to run to for help. That makes them the luckiest kids in the entire known world,” she promised happily.
“I love you, Crazy Lady. You know that, right?” he said, smiling fondly at her.
“Sure, sure. I guess you’re kind of cool too,” she replied with a cheeky wink, pulling her ringing cell from her purse.
Before Luke even had a chance to point her towards the door, she made to leave, blowing him a kiss with her free hand then picking up her ‘to go’ coffee on the way out.
“Hi, Mom. Everything okay?” she said into the phone.
“Yes, Lorelai, everything is absolutely fine,” Emily assured her, in a tone too chipper to mean anything good. “Are you having a pleasant day?”
“Uh, sure, yeah,” Lorelai told her warily. “Busy with the inn and all, but y’know, pretty good.”
“That’s wonderful,” her mother said, with an over the top smile that Lorelai could just picture inside her head. “Well, I don’t want to take up too much of your time, I was just calling to say we won’t be able to have you over for Friday Night Dinner this week.”
“Oh, really?” Lorelai checked, doing some semblance of a happy dance on the diner doorstep. “That’s a real shame.”
“Yes, well, I am sorry, but your father and I are hosting a Yale Alumni event, and I really don’t think you would have a good time.”
“No, you’re probably right. Well, I guess me and Rory’ll see you the week after then?”
“Oh, well, actually, I was thinking of inviting Rory along,” said Emily then. “I don’t know, I just thought it might be good for her to meet some of the former students, and they might bring their children along, so Rory might even be amongst her fellow Yalies. Can’t hurt to broaden her horizons in society.”
Lorelai winced at the very idea of subjecting her daughter to that kind of party, but then she remembered how Rory sometimes actually enjoyed spending time that way and she relaxed again.
“Well, obviously, you’ll have to ask Rory is she wants to go. I, for one, am so jealous that I’m not invited, but I guess I’ll get over it,” she said, with a level or sarcasm that even Emily couldn’t fail to notice.
“Yes, well,” she replied coolly, “I assume you will be more than happy to spend extra time with your fiancé,” she said pointedly.
“Oh, Mom, you are not wrong,” she replied, looking in through the window at her man.
Moments later, Lorelai rushed back into the diner, not bothering to move further than the open doorway since she was already running late.
“Luke, Friday night, my house, date night,” she insisted.
“Friday?” he said, frowning, clearly confused as he knew Fridays were always spent in Hartford.
“My mom cancelled. So, it’s a date?”
Luke smiled. “It’s a date,” he promised.
Lorelai grinned. “I love my life,” she declared, turning to leave and actually going this time.
“Yeah,” said Luke to himself. “Me too.”
“This is going to be a great opportunity for you, I’m almost jealous,” said Paris as she watched Rory get ready for the party at her grandparent’s house.
“Trust me, I would much rather be here with you, or at home with Mom, or out on a date with Jess,” Rory assured her, “but Grandma and Grandpa really want to introduce me to these people and I hate to disappoint them. Okay, how do I look?”
“Sickeningly good.” Paris sighed. “I think I’ll head over to Jess’ dorm, see if he has plans. The Illyiad’s just not doing it for me tonight. Worst case scenario, I might let him finally convince me to read one of his Kerouac catastrophes and spend the night editing it into what it ought to be.”
“Party animal!” Rory teased her, picking up her coat and purse to leave. “Don’t do anything I wouldn’t do.”
“That leaves me with a very short list!” Paris called after her, but she was smiling when she said it.
Rory really had been a very good friend to her in the past few weeks. They had been close for a while, but Paris’ default function had been to turn to Jess somehow. Now she realised there were certain things that it was just easier to talk to a fellow female about, and Rory was fast becoming the sister Paris was never biologically blessed with.
Strange as it was to Ms Geller even now, since she always believed she could do just fine on her own, it was nice to have family. If you didn’t get one via blood, there was apparently nothing to stop you making one for yourself.
Paris set off for Jess’ dorm without further delay. On her way out, she heard Janet yell something about her behaviour or her attitude. Since Paris cared not a bit what her room-mate thought of either thing, she summarily ignored her and kept on walking.
There was almost a party atmosphere across campus as Paris walked to the other building. College students on a Friday night tended towards the same habits as high schoolers, Paris noted, though with markedly more alcohol and easier access to beds for rampant sex.
At least when she reached Jess’ room she knew she would be safe from the party atmosphere that was never really her scene, and most especially not lately. Things with Jamie were so undefined. Technically, they were taking a break, but despite having gone over the finer points of what that meant at the time of deciding it, Paris now wasn’t so clear on what relationship she and her so-called boyfriend really had left. She was starting to wonder what the point was to any of it.
“Oh. Hey, Paris,” Marty greeted her with a smile as he opened the door. “You knocked,” he noted then. “That’s... new.”
“After the last time when I caught the free show from your meathead room-mate, I wasn’t taking any chances,” she said, shuddering at the thought. “Since Rory is at her grandparents tonight, I’m guessing Jess is here?”
“In his room,” Marty confirmed, ushering her through. “I’m on my way out. Going to...” he trailed off when he realised she was already gone. “Never mind,” he muttered, letting himself out.
Paris didn’t notice any of this, just gave a courtesy knock on Jess’ door and then let herself in when he replied.
“Hey, sis,” he greeted her, barely glancing up from his book. “One sec.”
She waited, almost too patiently for Paris, until he got to the bottom of the page and closed the book. Even then, Jess noticed she made no move to shift from the door, and she certainly wasn’t smiling or anything.
“Wow. You’re a real ray of sunshine tonight,” he dead-panned.
Paris rolled her eyes. “I’m not even going to bother to pull that redundant statement to pieces,” she told him, finally moving, wandering aimlessly in the too-small space, trailing her fingers along the spines of books he knew she would never want to read.
“So, to what do I owe the pleasure?” asked Jess, leaning back on his bed. “I mean, I know Rory is busy tonight, but usually I’d be passed over for Homer or Austen or some paper you really, really have to get an A on,” he said, smirking like he usually did.
Paris might’ve laughed on any normal occasion, but not today.
“Is there something wrong with me?” she asked, turning very suddenly to face him. “And I don’t want any lame jokes or your patented sarcastic comments, I’m being serious. Is there something wrong with me?”
Jess frowned as he realised there were tears welling in her eyes now. He sat up fast, shaking his head.
“Paris, I don’t-”
“I know I have my faults. I’m not perfect, far from it. I’ll never be as beautiful as Rory or as cool as you. Whatever, I can live with that, but I thought I was okay, you know? I thought I was smart enough and decent looking and... and now I don’t know anymore. I feel like there must be something wrong, right? There has to be.”
“Where is this coming from?” asked Jess, feeling completely at a loss. “Is this about Jamie?”
“Yes. No. Sort of,” she admitted, her hand to her forehead like she felt a headache coming on. “I just think maybe I don’t know how to care about people. Maybe that’s the real issue. I mean, Jamie loves me. He really, really does, and I love him, I do. I’m sure of it. I never would’ve slept with him if I wasn’t sure, but.... but now, it’s like, we’re on this break, and... and I don’t care, or I do care, but it’s better. It’s easier since I don’t have to try to make it work, you know?”
Though it often happened that Jess wished Rory was around when she wasn’t, he had never been more desperate of her company than right this second. Actually, if she wasn’t available, he would’ve accepted Lorelai, even Marty, or Luke. Hell, Dr Phil would be great right about now. Anybody who could help Paris with what she was struggling with, because Jess was fairly certain he was not the right guy. Didn’t mean he wouldn’t try though.
“Paris, if you don’t want to be with Jamie, break up with him,” he told her straight, the only way he really knew how to be with anyone. “Nobody is saying you have to date him.”
“I know. I know,” she insisted, pacing as much as the room would allow. “But that’s the problem. It’s easier to be on a break, but the idea of ending things permanently... It’s too strange. He’s my first boyfriend. My only boyfriend. I was lucky enough to find him, but what if...?”
She couldn’t finish the question, but Jess had a feeling he knew what the missing words were supposed to be.
“Hey,” he said, catching her by the arm on her next pass and maing her look at him. “He is not the only guy in the world that would like you.”
“Really? You’re sure about that? Because they’ve never exactly been lined up around the block for me,” she said, swallowing hard.
Jess pulled her down to sit beside him and gave her an awkward hug.
“Paris, you’re not always the easiest person to approach, but hey, Jamie did it. If he did, so will others. Besides, if they’re not even brave enough to try, then they’re not going to be good enough for you anyway, right?” he said with a smirk.
“Very true,” she agreed, trying for a smile and not entirely managing it. “Of course, it doesn’t help that you and Gilmore are so sickeningly sweet and in love. Not that I can exactly be mad at you for that. As much as it pains me to say it, I actually like that you’re so happy.”
“Yeah, well.” Jess shrugged. “As much as it pains me to say this, I wish you were so happy.”
It was as close as they were going to get to saying they loved each other and would always be there. With the two of them, it was just implied, as it would be with any brother and sister.
“Ugh, I hate feeling like this,” said Paris then, frustration in her tone. “I swear, it was much easier before I became irresistible to that Princeton man, but I know I have to cut him loose. If I loved him enough, I’d miss him more, and I don’t.”
“It happens.” Jess shrugged. “Hey, if everybody stayed with the first person they dated, Rory wouldn’t be with me, Lorelai wouldn’t be with Luke.”
“The world as we know it would probably implode,” Paris concluded. “Because there is no denying that Lorelai and Luke are right behind you and Rory in the sickeningly in love stakes,” she said with a heaving sigh. “So, maybe number two will be my guy, but I am not going to sit around waiting for him. I’m a Chilton graduate and a student of Yale, Goddamnit. I am not letting my education suffer anymore just because my romantic life is in the toilet.”
“Now that sounds like the Paris Geller I know,” said Jess with a smile. “Hey, you’re going out for the school paper next week, right? Maybe you’ll meet some unsuspecting guy there.”
“Maybe,” Paris considered. “What do you mean I’m going for the school paper?”
“Well, Rory too. When I said ‘you’ I mean the two of you.”
“Uh, the three of us,” Paris corrected. “You’re coming with us, you have to.”
“Need me to hold your hand, sis?” he teased her.
Paris rolled her eyes. “You’re going to major in English, Jess, and you’re one of the best writers I know. You have to sign up for The Yale Daily News, you’d be crazy not to.”
“You may be right, I may be crazy,” he quoted, matching her eyeroll with one of his own. “Paris, I don’t want to be a journalist.”
“Neither do I, you know this, but that doesn’t mean you don’t join the paper.”
Jess sighed and shook his head. Somehow, he almost wished they could go back to talking about boys. He had a feeling he’d done better with that than he was going to with this.
“So, whilst we haven’t set a date yet, I wanted you to be the first to know that Luke and me, we’re not waiting to get married. Plans are afoot, youngling. You’re going to be in that maid of honour dress sooner than you think!”
“That’s great, Mom. Really, I couldn’t be happier for you,” Rory insisted, though she was sure she didn’t sound as happy as she should be.
Lorelai certainly noticed there was a tone to her daughter’s voice that wasn’t all joy.
“Ugh, sorry, of course you’re not in the best mood, you’re spending time with my parents,” she realised belatedly. “But hey, you called me! What’s up?”
“This party is not a Yale alumni party,” Rory complained, “or it is, but it’s a total set-up.”
“A set-up?” Lorelai echoed. “For who? For you?”
“Oh, yeah,” Rory confirmed. “Despite knowing that I am in a perfectly stable and permanent romantic relationship, my grandmother has decided to invite all her and grandpa’s Yale friends that have Yale-attending sons my age. I don’t think I’ve seen a female under the age of thirty since the maid took my coat at the door.”
“Oh, my God!” Lorelai gasped. “You have got to be kidding me!”
“Really wish I was,” Rory replied. “Anyway, I just had to let you know what was going on. This is too crazy for words.”
“Rory, honey, you should just leave. You do not have to put up with that. God, bad enough if you were actually single, but you’re right, they know you’re with Jess. This is low even for Emily.”
“Agreed.” Rory sighed. “Well, I guess I should get back out there before somebody gets ideas about why I’ve been so long in the bathroom.”
“You didn’t hear the part about leaving?”
“I did, and I will, soon. Despite how mad I could be about this, I actually think maybe Grandma meant well, in her own special way.”
“You’re saintly, kid,” Lorelai told her definitely. “Be careful out there.”
“Always,” she said, smiling at her mother’s humour before hanging up the phone.
Staring into the mirror a moment, Rory washed her hands, took a deep breath and headed back out into the party. This was in no way her idea of fun, and yet she meant what she said. She really didn’t want to offend her grandparents, and there really was every chance they thought they were doing a nice thing, however misguided it might be.
“There’s the lady of the hour,” said a voice.
Rory closed her eyes and winced. “You have got to be kidding me,” she muttered, turning to look. “Logan Huntzberger. Of course, you’re here.”
“Of course, I am,” he agreed, smiling too much. “Quite the shindig thrown in your name.”
“Apparently,” she said, rolling her eyes. “Though to me it feels less party, more meat market.”
“Ooh, that’s a little harsh,” said Logan, smiling in spite of himself.
“It gets worse. I already have a boyfriend,” said Rory, folding her arms across her chest. “Not that my grandparents seem to care too much about that. Clearly, in their eyes, if I’m not dating a blue-blood, I’m not dating at all,” she said, sighing heavily.
“So, if you don’t like the party, then leave,” Logan suggested easily. “I happen to know a place where things are a little more relaxed and a little more fun, and it’s not far from here,” he said with a look. “You in?”
Rory opened her mouth to immediately say ‘no’ and yet the word never quite made it out of her mouth. She was smiling in spite of her better judgement and awfully curious about this alternative party that Logan spoke of. After his apology the other day, she had seen him a couple of times in the halls at Yale and he greeted her with a smile and a cheery greeting both times. They weren’t exactly friends, but at least she knew him a little, and she really wouldn’t mind an escort in escaping this insane party.
“How far is ‘not far’?” she asked, barely getting the question out before he grabbed first a bottle of champagne and then her hand.
“Right this way, my lady,” he told her, pulling her with him as he practically ran for the doors and out across the patio.
Somehow, it didn’t occur to Rory to do anything but let him take her along for the ride.
“Are you gonna keep smiling at me like that? It’s weird,” said Jess, side-eyeing his uncle.
“It’s weird that I’m happy to see you?” asked Luke with a look.
“No, it’s weird that you keep looking at me with the big grin on your face like Coco the Clown.”
Luke shook his head and went back to his receipts. He half-expected Jess to call and say he wouldn’t be home again this weekend, or to just stay at Yale without explanation. He was genuinely happy to have his nephew home for a couple of days, because as crazy as it seemed, he really started to miss him when he wasn’t around.
“Actually, I had a reason why I hoped you’d be home this weekend. There’s something I need to ask you,” he said, clapping his hands together and taking a deep breath.
Jess wasn’t sure what to expect as he looked up from his cleaning and waited for Luke to ask whatever it was he wanted to ask. It seemed kind of weird that he waited all day to get to this if it was so important, but then the diner had been pretty busy today, and it might be something he didn’t want spread all over the Hollow. Jess could understand that. Now it was late, the diner was closed, and Luke could speak freely. Except apparently, he wasn’t going to.
“Luke?” Jess prompted.
“Yeah,” he replied, clearly working up to something. “I, er... Well, the thing is, and I don’t know if you’ve spoken to Rory since last night, so you might know this part already, but Lorelai and I have decided not to wait too long to get married. We didn’t set a date yet, but it’s going to be sooner rather than later.”
“Okay,” said Jess, nodding his head. “None of that was a question.”
“Right,” Luke agreed. “Well, the thing is, or rather, the question is, Jess, would you... Would you maybe want to be my best man?”
“Huh,” said Jess, followed by a long silence that Luke wasn’t sure how to take.
The truth was, his nephew was kind of in shock. Honestly, Jess supposed that most people would have put two and two together and guessed what the question was bound to be. With all the talk of a family wedding and everything, it probably should’ve been obvious, but Jess wasn’t exactly the kind of person that got asked to be a best man, and he sure hadn’t expected Luke to pose such a question.
“’Huh’ as in yes or ‘huh’ as in no?” his uncle asked after a while.
“Yes. I mean, yeah, sure. If you want me to do it, I’m there,” said Jess, feeling a little overwhelmed still, evermore so when Luke wrapped his arms around him and gave him a big hug.
“Thank you, Jess,” he said, slapping him on the back before they parted. “That... This really means a lot to me.”
“Sure,” he said, nodding his head. “I just thought you’d have a friend or whatever that you’d wanna ask.”
“C’mon, you know I don’t have friends that I’m close to like that, and you’re family. It makes sense.”
Jess nodded like he understood, but he was still having trouble wrapping his head around the whole thing. It was cool, he could do it. Being a best man didn’t require much effort as far as he knew. Show up at the ceremony, hold onto the ring, maybe make a speech if he really had to, and go home with the maid honour. Since he was already certain that role was going to be taken by Rory, it was no hardship at all.
“So, do I get to throw you a bachelor party?” he asked Luke then, smirking wickedly, knowing very well such a thing would be his uncle’s idea of hell.
“Jess,” he said with a warning look.
“What? Gotta take my best man responsibilities seriously, right? So, you want strippers?”
“Maybe I’ll ask Kirk to take your place,” said Luke smartly.
“Now that I would love to see!” Jess laughed.
Luke laughed too, it was impossible not to.
“Seriously, man, it’s cool that you asked me,” said Jess, hardly looking at his uncle. “I wasn’t expecting it, but it’s cool.”
“Yeah,” Luke agreed with a smile, “I think so.”
“Hey, you’re back!” Rory declared as Paris came in through the door. “I was starting to worry.”
“I thought you went home for the weekend?” said her friend, dumping her bag onto her bed and sitting down beside it with a thud.
“I did, but Jess was working a lot and catching up with Luke, so I spent yesterday with Mom and then came back early today to get some work finished,” Rory explained. “How did it go at Princeton?”
“Horrible,” said Paris with a sigh. “I think I genuinely broke his heart. You hear people talk about it, a broken heart, but you always assume they’re exaggerating, unless maybe somebody died or something. All I did was tell Jamie we shouldn’t date anymore.”
“He took it badly?” Rory guessed.
“He cried.” Paris nodded.
“Yeah. Which just makes me more certain I did the right thing. I mean, who wants to date a crier, am I right? There’s no way Jess or Luke would bawl if you and Lorelai said goodbye. I mean, they’d be sad, and maybe behind closed doors they’d give into the emotion, but not in front of anybody. That is not a very manly thing to do.”
“I don’t know,” Rory considered. “I think it’s great when men show emotion. I mean, we’re all human. Shouldn’t we all be allowed to be sad when things go wrong? I would’ve thought it was a good thing that Jamie got upset. At least it proves he did care about you. You wouldn’t cry over somebody you couldn’t care less about.”
“True,” Paris agreed. “Well, for better or worse, it’s done. I’m free and single again. As awful as it was to hurt him like that, I think I made the right choice. It was never going to work out in the long term. I just couldn’t see it.”
“Then it’s good that you made a clean break,” Rory agreed, getting up from her desk chair and coming over to sit by Paris. “And you know, if you wanted to have a good cry about the whole thing, my shoulder is right here, and I won’t tell anyone it happened, ever.”
Paris smiled and shook her head. “Thanks, but I’m good. Let’s talk about something else. Your alumni meeting at your grandparents’ house on Friday night, how was that?”
“It was good.” Rory smiled widely. “Well, actually, the party they arranged was ridiculous. They invited all these people with sons our age. Apparently, Jess isn’t good enough for me and I should be dating a Yalie from a blue-blood family or nobody at all!”
“Wow. As much respect as I’ve always had for Richard and Emily, that’s pretty low. I mean, I understand that Jess doesn’t reach their exacting standards in so many ways, but he’s a good guy with a brain in his head. Your prospects could be a lot worse. Imagine if you were still with the bag boy.”
“Paris!” said Rory with a look.
“I’m serious. The guy was good-looking enough, but hardly God’s gift to the human intellect, plus he had major jealousy and anger-management issues.”
Rory felt like she should be defending Dean, but it was tough to argue with Paris’ accurate assessment. She kept her mouth shut because it was just easier.
“So, you said the party was good but that it wasn’t?” said Paris then, frowning as she realised Rory’s words made little sense.
“Oh, yeah. Well, some of the guys at the party decided to make their own fun in the pool house,” she explained, smiling overly much in Paris’ opinion. “We took some drinks and snacks with us and just hung out talking. I actually had a really good time.”
“You and a bunch of guys?” Paris checked.
“Well, yeah,” Rory agreed. “But it’s not how it sounds,” she clarified, suddenly realising how it might be misconstrued.
“Good, because it sounds like a gang bang.”
“Well it does! And I guarantee you know it does, and that’s why you haven’t told my brother anything about it, am I right?”
Rory looked away then, knowing she was only confirming just exactly what Paris suspected. It was true, she hadn’t told Jess about the party. Well, she had, in part. She just left out quite a few facts that probably she should have told him in the circumstances.
“Wow,” said Paris then. “Maybe Jess is going to be crying into his pillow over you sooner than I thought.”
“Don’t say that,” Rory snapped. “I’m not dumping Jess. I love him.”
“You sure about that?” Paris checked. “Sounds to me like you had a pretty good time without him.”
“I am allowed to have fun without him sometimes, Paris. It’s not a crime. It doesn’t mean I love him any less just because I hang out with friends and he’s not there.”
“You’re getting awfully defensive for a woman who did nothing wrong.”
“Well, you’re being awfully offensive for someone who is supposed to be my friend. Nothing happened with me and Logan.”
“Logan?” Paris echoed, eyes widening at an alarming rate. “You were hanging out with Logan Huntzberger and his pals?”
“Well, yes,” Rory admitted, feeling awkward now, so much so that she got up and went back to the desk, mostly so she didn’t have to look directly at Paris. “I may have judged them too harshly in the beginning. They’re actually really nice guys, and they may have let slip a little something that could help us with getting onto the Yale Daily News staff,” she said, recalling it then.
“Really?” said Paris, both looking and sounding unconvinced.
“You ever heard of The Life and Death Brigade?”
“The secret society? I’ve heard rumours. Nothing concrete, but that’s sort of the point with a secret society.”
“Well, Logan, Colin, and Finn are all members. At least I’m pretty sure,” said Rory happily, mouth grinning and eyes alight with excitement. “I think there’s a chance I could get the inside scoop. Can you imagine what a great first piece that would make for the paper?”
Paris was impressed, she couldn’t deny it, and as Rory waxed lyrical about all she knew so far about the Life and Deth Brigade and how she planned to find out more, she nodded along as if she were listening. The truth was, her mind was wandering. As much as she would like to trust Rory amongst a bunch of other guys, Logan Huntzberger had a reputation that could not be denied. Paris wanted to believe that Rory wouldn’t fall for his crap, especially when she was supposed to be committed to Jess, many a young woman had fallen victim to the charming bad-boy type who could afford as many night’s out on the town as a person could stand.
“Oh, also, I was wondering if you wanted to come back to Stars Hollow with me next weekend?” Rory was saying when Paris started listening again. “Jess isn’t so keen, but The Festival of Living Art is amazing. I’m sure you’d get a kick out of it.”
“Sure. I mean, maybe. Depends how busy I am,” said Paris, nodding her head and forcing a smile.
Right now, she couldn’t give a damn about art or newspapers or whatever else Rory was chattering away about. She wanted to be sure that nothing bad was going to happen to the most stable and loving relationship she had ever seen in her life. She didn’t know how to ensure Rory and Jess stayed solid, but she was Paris Geller, damnit, and she would find a way.
“No offence, Paris, but the last person I need relationship advice from is you,” said Jess definitely.
“I’m warning you, Mariano. Rory has started noticing other guys exist, and we’re not talking about losers like her ex or your simple room-mate.”
“Hey, sitting right here!” said Marty from the couch.
Paris rolled her eyes. “Logan Huntzberger, Jess. You do know his reputation?”
“The newspaper guy’s son? Yeah, I heard,” he agreed, nodding his head.
“Also rumoured to have slept with at least half the university,” said Marty around a mouthful of cornflakes, earning himself twin glares from Paris and Jess. “Sorry,” he apologised immediately.
“The man has a point,” Paris declared anyway. “Huntzberger will stop at nothing to get what, or rather who, he wants.”
“And what makes you so sure he wants Rory?” Jess asked Paris, pushing past her to get to his watch on the table. “And even if he did,” he continued without letting her answer, “what makes you so sure she would let him get his own way? I don’t know about you, but I actually trust my girlfriend.”
“Then you’re a fool,” said Paris definitely, getting in his way again. “As much as I like Rory, and you know I do, the girl is easily led. It wouldn’t be the first time she left the guy she’s dating for someone else.”
She met Jess’ eyes and they both knew he well understood her meaning. He was the guy that Rory left Dean for. In fact, she kissed him before she had officially broken up with Jolly Green. Jess didn’t want to believe that she would do the same to him, especially with someone like Logan, but she did have form. Besides, it wasn’t as if Jess hadn’t noticed the blond dick trying to put the moves on Rory.
“We need to go,” he said then, looking at his watch now it was firmly fastened on his wrist. “Marty, we’re out.”
“See you later!” he called behind them as they left.
“I’m not about to let you-” Paris began, only to be summarily ignored and cut off in her prime by Jess.
“Hey, man!” he called to someone who was coming out of a door down the hall. “We’re waiting on my girlfriend, but we’ll be there. Don’t start without us.”
“No problem, Jess, but don’t expect me to bend the rules for you. We start at eight sharp.”
“We’ll be there,” he promised, raising his hand in a brief wave.
“Who was that?” asked Paris, frowning at the retreating form of a guy she was sure she had never seen before in her life.
“That’s Doyle, our RA,” Jess explained. “He’s also the editor for the paper.”
“That guy?” she checked, eyes wide. “He’s so... short.”
Jess smiled and shook his head, not even bothering to get into that particular conversation. Thankfully, he was saved from having to as Rory walked up to join them.
“Hey. Sorry, guys. Mom was having a crisis of the outfit kind.”
“Figured it was something pretty important,” said Jess, completely dead-pan, as he moved to kiss her hello.
“Nothing is more embarrassing than showing up for work in a sweater that doesn’t match your pants,” she said equally as seriously when they parted. “Shall we?”
“Yes, we shall,” said Paris, before Jess could, pushing between them unnecessarily to head on down the hallway.
Rory gave Jess a questioning look. He rolled his eyes and shook his head, reaching to take her hand in his. They followed Paris to the Yale Daily News office. Naturally, Doyle was already there, along with way too many other people for Jess’ liking. It was loud and busy, as you might expect a newspaper office to be, and Rory and Paris had so many friends here already.
Jess sat on the edge of the desk nearest the door and planned to stay there. It was cool just to sit back and watch everybody else for a while, including Rory and Paris, as one mingled with her friends and the other networked for all she was worth. Jess sighed and barely noticed he had done it. This really wasn’t his scene. With each day that passed, he wondered more and more if he ever would feel like he really fit at Yale. He was smart enough, that was a given, as he had been for Chilton, but that didn’t mean he ought to be in either place.
The classes in college were okay, the ones he got to choose anyway. Anything to do with English usually held his attention, and since this was further education, his fellow students were both smart and had chosen to be here. Jess didn’t have the annoyance of idiots calling out stupid comments or screwing around when he wanted to concentrate. It was the other courses, the requirements that held no interest for Jess, that had him itching to skip out all the time. That and the push to be social a not small part of the time. Thankfully, two of his room-mates were usually absent from the dorm, and he and Marty did get along, but Mike and Dan had brought the party home twice already in the last couple of weeks, and Jess could live without it.
“You okay?” asked Rory, returning to his side.
“Sure, yeah,” he told her, forcing a smile. “Just waiting for the fun to start.”
“Looks like your wait is over,” said Rory, smiling more genuinely as Doyle called for everyone’s rapt attention.
Jess listened and looked interested. Actually, he didn’t hate the idea of working for the paper, even if he didn’t want to be a reporter of any kind. It couldn’t hurt to get a little more writing into his life, but he had a feeling he was going to hate being in this room with all the chatter and excitement.
“Oh, you have got to be kidding me,” he muttered when he turned and saw a familiar figure in the opposite corner.
It wasn’t as if it didn’t make sense for Huntzberger to work on the paper. His father owned real newspapers all over the place, so naturally, his son would be encouraged to sign up for the college paper. That didn’t explain why Logan was here now, at a meeting specifically for Freshman hoping to join the ranks of the Yale Daily News. Of course, Jess was well aware that he wouldn’t give a damn about the guy hanging around whenever and wherever if he hadn’t already shown an interest in Rory. For all that he tried to keep Paris from yammering about a potential connection between Rory and Logan, Jess knew it was there and he hated it.
As the crowd of new recruits applauded Doyle’s opening speech and each other, Jess snapped back into the room and clapped his hands together all of twice before the moment was over.
“This is so exciting!” said Rory, bouncing up and down beside him. “Writing for an actual paper. Getting published where people are actually going to see it.”
“That is the notion,” said Jess, smiling at her enthusiasm because it was impossible not to. “You and Paris are going to be running this place by senior year, aren’t you?”
“No. Well, maybe.” Rory grinned. “You know Paris, she will not be denied, and I cannot say that one day I wouldn’t want to run this place.”
“Wow, first day here, and she’s already planning her run for editor,” said Doyle from behind her. “You did say she was a go-getter.”
“I didn’t lie,” said Jess, nodding his head, “but it’s still Paris you gotta watch out for. Rory has ambition, but Paris? She takes no prisoners. Ever.”
“Duly noted.” Doyle nodded, looking over at Jess’ sister. “So, you got an idea for your first piece? We don’t assign for that, you just have to impress.”
“I have a few ideas,” said Jess, eyes narrowing at Logan without his hardly realising he was doing it.
Nobody else spotted it either, since Rory was already glancing in the general direction of the rich boy wonder.
“I was actually planning something pretty big,” she admitted to Doyle. “Have you ever heard of the Life and Death Brigade?”
When Rory and Paris went to Stars Hollow for the Festival of Living Art, Jess refused to go with them. He had no interest in the crazy mess that particular town event was going to be, and he was happy enough to be left behind in solitude. For one thing, he had to come up with an actual idea for his article for the paper, since he had lied his ass off to Doyle about having several.
He figured between that, a couple of good books, and Marty to talk to if he wanted, he would get through Saturday and Sunday just fine. Of course, that all changed with a knock on the door sometime Saturday afternoon when Jess was the only one home. He thought about ignoring whoever wanted attention, but that seemed like a bad idea. It could be an emergency, it could be Rory or Paris, it could even be Marty having forgotten his keys (again!), so Jess did the decent thing and got off his ass to go open the door. The second he saw who was there, he wished he hadn’t bothered.
“Hey,” said the blond, with a huge grin that Jess would just love to wipe off with his fist. “Is Marty around?”
“Nope,” said Jess shortly, moving to close the door in Logan’s face.
Unfortunately, he moved his foot into the gap too quickly and prevented the manoeuvre.
“That’s it, just no?” he asked. “You can’t tell me where I could find him?”
“Don’t know, don’t care,” Jess said with a fake smile of his own. “Now, get your foot out of my door.”
“Hey, I know you,” said Logan then, still not moving that foot. “You were at the paper the other day. You were with Rory. Oh my God, are you Jess?”
Jess wasn’t sure whether to be glad or not that Logan knew his name. If he heard it from Rory that meant that she mentioned him, which meant that Logan’s ‘love only me’ powers didn’t work on her at all. At the same time, Jess dreaded to think what else Logan knew about him. Rory had a horrible habit of describing Jess as sweet and other less than manly adjectives. That was not the picture Jess wanted Logan to have of him, especially not right now.
“You know, the other night, Rory would not stop talking about you,” said Logan then. “She doesn’t hold her alcohol too well, does she?”
If he was trying to wind up Jess, he was doing a great job. For one thing, Jess would very much like to know how Rory and Logan came to be drunk in each other’s company ‘the other night’. That aside, he considered, Logan probably didn’t mean to be an ass. Jess was pretty sure guys like him just couldn’t help themselves, they were born with a natural state of assness. Jess caught himself making up ridiculous words like ‘assness’ and realised that maybe he spent just a little too much time with the Gilmore girls.
“Look, man, Marty’s not here, Rory’s not here, and I have better things to do than this, so...” Jess made an ‘off you go’ gesture with his hand and then moved to close the door.
“Hey, you’re not very friendly, man,” said Logan, his foot still blocking the door and his hand pushing it open some more again. “What is your problem?”
“My problem is standing in my door, pissing me off,” said Jess, just now starting to really lose his cool. “You wanna talk to my room-mate, go look for him. You wanna talk to my girlfriend, you can’t,” he said, realising when Logan’s eyes-widened just how caveman that really sounded, “because she went home for the weekend,” he added quickly.
“That’s a real shame,” said Logan, nodding his head. “I thought Marty would want to tend bar at a party tonight, and hey, if Rory had been here, I might’ve invited her along. Rory’s a fun girl to have at a party, at least, she was last weekend. She tell you about that? Me, her, a bunch of my friends, in her grandparent’s pool-house?” he asked, eyes sparkling. “Yes, sir, we had a very good time.”
Jess should’ve known better. In a clear-headed moment, he was smart enough to realise that Logan was doing it on purpose, pushing his buttons, making what was doubtless an innocent evening at the Gilmore mansion sound like abject debauchery with his girlfriend at the centre. Unfortunately, Jess wasn’t feeling all that stable and calm right now, which was how he came to lose his temper, draw back his arm, and clock Logan right in the face.
“Are you stupid? Did you take a blow to the head and lose vital brain functions?”
Jess knew saying it was pointless, but he did it anyway. Paris was a juggernaut, she didn’t stop for anyone or anything, ever. He was a damn fool because he was the one who called her to confess his sins, but he needed someone to talk to, and Rory was not the right person in this situation. He had come to rely on Paris almost as much a she relied on him, even if he wasn’t anxious to admit it most of the time.
“You hit Logan Huntzberger!” she exclaimed, as if Jess didn’t already know. “Not that I’m suggesting for a moment you weren’t probably provoked, or that he didn’t have it coming, but he’s Logan Huntzberger!”
Jess moved the phone away from his head a moment, wincing at her volume. Like he needed any assistance in having a headache. The bruise on his forehead proved that wasn’t true, though of course Paris couldn’t see that from Stars Hollow.
“If you could stop saying his name, that would really help,” he assured her, returning the phone to his ear.
Paris scoffed. “You have to tell Rory.”
“Because, this was in some misguided, knight of the round table, idiocy to protect her honour or something,” said Paris, without missing a beat, “she should know that she’s the ridiculous reason for your stupid and thoughtless crime.”
Jess sighed, knowing she was right. He hated that she was right, but she most definitely was. As if she wasn’t going to notice the split lip and the bruises when they got back on Monday. At least Paris wasn’t threatening to go hand over the phone right now or spill all his secrets the second they hung up from their call. He had deliberately text Paris to ensure she wasn’t with Rory before he made his call. He got lucky. She was with Lane for now, and Paris was free to talk in the privacy of her own car where no Stars Hollow residents were likely to hear.
“I’ll talk to her when you guys get back,” he said, thinking of Rory and feeling just a little sick about the conversation they were going to have to have later. “I don’t want to ruin her weekend.”
Paris sighed audibly.
“My God, Jess, we leave you alone for one day.”
“I’m not a puppy that peed on the rug or a kid that pulled a Risky Business, Paris,” he snapped at her. “So, I hit a guy, so what? You know he had it coming.”
“I know he probably deliberately said things to provoke you,” she countered, knowing that much was true. She didn’t like what she was about to say, knowing how it would hurt him, but she really didn’t see she had a choice. “He really likes Rory,” she said regretfully, “and what those people want, they usually get.”
“Not this time,” said Jess immediately, steel in his voice.
“You do realise that’s not your decision to make?” Paris reminded him, wishing she was there to put a comforting hand on his shoulder and take some of the sting out of what she was telling him. “As much as it pains me to say it, if Rory chose Logan, you couldn’t stop her.”
There was a long painful silence on the other end of the line before Jess spoke again.
“You think she would?” he asked, sounding as scared as Paris had ever heard him - she hated that.
“No, not really,” she replied immediately. “I mean, he’s cute, he’s rich, he has power in the industry she loves, or at least his father does, but Rory tends towards the less shallow end of the spectrum. She loves you, I know that much. Tempting as Huntzberger may be, unless you hand her a reason to dump you, I don’t think she would.”
“Huh,” said Jess, clearly giving that one some thought.
Paris heard a knocking on her window and turned to glare when she realised it was Taylor. Right now was not a good time for him to talk to her about minor parking infractions, and she was pretty sure the look on her face told him that. Unfortunately, with Doose, he didn’t always pick up on such obvious hints.
“Does punching out her new friend count as a reason?” asked Jess in her ear.
“Depends,” she told him, wondering if she could get away with a similar move on Taylor - probably not. “Look, I have to go. Try not to do anything else stupid until we get back, okay?”
“I’ll do my best,” Jess promised, smiling in spite of the everything now. “Thanks, sis.”
She told him he was welcome and they ended their call. Jess dropped back onto his bed, and stared unseeing at the ceiling. He really should not have gotten into that fight with Huntzberger, and he could really live to regret it yet. Logan was probably the kind of guy to call the cops or at least report Jess to those in power at Yale. No matter what, Jess was going to have to face Rory and she was unlikely to be impressed by his pugnacity. All in all, it wasn’t the best day of Jess’ life, and despite her best attempts, Paris hadn’t made him feel all that much better about it.
“Okay, Paris. No, it’s fine, I understand. I’ll see you tomorrow. Okay, bye.”
Rory ended the call and frowned at her cell for a moment.
“She okay?” asked Lane, as they walked around the town square together.
“I think so, but she sounded kind of weird,” said Rory, shaking her head. “She said she wanted to head back to Yale now the festival was over. Something about some work to do that she forgot before.”
“Oh, well, that makes sense, I guess,” Lane considered. “So, pretty crazy weekend, huh?”
“I’ll say!” Rory agreed, shoving her cell back into her pocket and giving all her attention to the best friend she felt she really hadn’t given enough time to of late. “I mean, with the festival, and Sookie having the baby, and you guys getting a new guitarist.”
“I know.” Lane nodded her agreement. “Gil is great, but it is a little weird him being so much older.”
“Plus, he’s no Dave Rygalski,” said Rory with a smile, that expression fading when she noticed how Lane looked away. “I’m sorry,” she apologised immediately. “Should I not have mentioned-?”
“No, it’s fine. It’s fine,” Lane insisted. “It’s just... Well, I’ve hardly heard from him since he went to California, even though he promised to keep in touch,” she said, fingers lacing and unlacing in front of her as she walked in some awkward gesture. “I’ve been spending a lot of time with the other guys though, and... I don’t know, Zach is always really nice. He talks to me like a person. It’s different to how he is with other girls, you know?”
She had a particular smile on her face that Rory recognised of old. She wasn’t sure whether to be happy about it or concerned in the circumstances. Technically Lane and Dave didn’t break up. They were supposed to be doing the long-distance thing, and yet suddenly, Lane was noticing Zach, and mentioning him more than a little in the few conversations they had squeezed in since Yale began.
“You talk about Zach a lot lately,” she noted, as casually as possible. “Is something going on there?”
“Of course, not” said Lane, almost too quickly. “I mean, well, you seemed mention Logan Huntzberger a lot recently. What’s going on there?
“We kind of got to be friends, I guess, and he’s going to help me with a story on the Life and Death Brigade, but that’s all,” said Rory, shrugging her shoulders.
“And Jess doesn’t mind?”
“Of course not!” Rory scoffed at the suggestion. “He trusts me” she insisted, biting her lip before she continued, “and he kind of doesn’t know how much time we’ve spent together,” she admitted, looking sideways at Lane.
Her friend’s eyes widened. “Wow. Playing with fire,” she noted with a look. “Be careful, Rory.”
“It’s fine,” she insisted, finding a smile.
Lane didn’t look entirely convinced, but she said no more about it, for now.
“You didn’t have to come back, I’m fine,” said Jess when he opened the door to his dorm and found Paris on the other side.
“You’re fine now,” she agreed, following him to his bedroom, “but what about when the campus police come calling?”
“You don’t think they would’ve come by now if Huntzberger reported me?” he said, at least half-curious to hear her opinion, even though he had fooled himself into thinking it would be fine.
“Maybe,” Paris considered, dropping down into the desk chair as he sat down on the bed. “Jess, I love you, but you’re an idiot.”
“Thanks, sis,” he said, with a smirk that made the wound on his lip pull tight and hurt like hell.
“I’m serious,” she insisted. “Do you want to get kicked out of Yale?”
Jess met her eyes and considered his answer carefully. Eventually, he decided the truth was probably the way to go.
“Sometimes,” he admitted, trying not to hear her gasp or notice the range of emotions that crossed her face, but it was impossible. “No, I just... That guy is a tool, okay? He had it coming,” he said instead, glad of the subject change, but also meaning every single word very definitely.
“Agreed,” said Paris, nodding once, “but you have to be smarter than this, Jess. I need you here right now.”
He sighed too heavily, dropping his head into his hands for a moment, dragging his fingers back through his hair. He knew this. He understood Paris’ need for support right now, and Luke’s need to see him do well, and Rory’s need to have him close. It was why he was still here so far, no matter what.
“I’m sorry,” he said, glancing up at Paris again.
She shook her head, not denying his apology, he was certain, just unsure what to say to him for the best. A sigh escaped her and she leaned forward towards him, the slightest hint of a smile curving her lips.
“Did it feel good?” she asked him then. “Popping him like that?”
“It really did,” Jess admitted, glancing away, “but Rory is not going to like it.”
“I don’t know,” Paris considered. “So long as you tell her the kinds of things he was implying about her, she might be okay with it. Women like her, they’re into that whole ‘protector of my virtue’ thing,” she said with a smirk to rival any Jess had ever worn himself. “Which is ironic, since you’re the one who also took her virtue.”
Jess might’ve laughed if he didn’t think it would hurt. He at least managed a smile as he picked up a pillow and threw it at his sister.
“Shut up, Paris,” he told her, but man, was he ever glad to have her to talk to right now.
“Rory, come on!”
“No, Jess, you come on!” she countered, as he chased her out of his room and through the common area, which thankfully appeared empty at present. “What were you thinking? Or were you even thinking at all? You’re not a stupid person, why would you do this?”
Jess forced a breath through his lungs and tried to find his calm. It probably wasn’t going to happen, not in this fight. He held his temper as best he could with Rory most of the time, but right now they were talking about Logan and that was just one topic that made him see red (and maybe a little bit green) in ten seconds flat.
“Because it’s all my fault?” he said crossly. “Nevermind that the guy baited me, implying that he had a real good time with you and a whole bunch of his friends.”
Rory looked as hurt as she was angry, which was probably worse than just mad at him. Unfortunately, Jess wasn’t the type to pull his punches, not even for her sake. He was telling the truth, because it was all he could do right now.
“We did have a good time,” she admitted, “but not in any filthy, disgusting way that you’re thinking. How could you even believe that?”
“I don’t believe that,” he assured her, not sounding or feeling any less mad about it, “but it’s what he meant, Rory. He wanted to make me mad.”
“And apparently it didn’t take much.”
If Jess was angry then Rory was equally so, if not more. She hated that she left her boyfriend alone at Yale for one weekend and he managed to get into a fist fight with a friend of hers. Sure, Logan was a new acquaintance and maybe he had said something to annoy Jess, but Rory was not unaware that her boyfriend had a jealous streak a mile wide. Sometimes, it was even nice to have him be a little protective and territorial about her, but not like this. Not like some caveman. Especially not with a guy that could get him into so much trouble, and who held the key to her amazing story for the Yale Daily News. Not that she should be thinking about that right now, but somehow, Rory couldn’t help it.
“I can’t believe you’re mad at me about this.”
“Have you seen his face?” she asked, crossing her arms over her chest.
“Have you seen mine?” Jess countered, gesturing to his black eye and split lip.
Rory softened for all of a second before her temper flared again.
“You hit him first,” she reminded him, “you said as much yourself.”
“Geez, Rory!” Jess exclaimed, feeling like she would say anything right now just to put him in the wrong. “A couple of weeks ago you hated this guy for the way he was treating Marty.”
“Okay,” said a voice, Jess’ room-mate suddenly showing himself from his place hidden from view on the couch, “I so don’t want to be involved in this,” he said, literally running to his room and slamming the door.
Rory shook her head, full attention back on Jess now.
“I never hated Logan,” she told him crossly. “I didn’t like his attitude much, but I never hit him in the face for it. Jess, you’re not this dumb!”
“Says who?” he countered, tired of the back and forth, tired of her high and mighty attitude, actually. “Maybe I’m exactly this dumb. Maybe I shouldn’t even be in Yale!”
“Don’t be ridiculous,” Rory grumbled.
“No, come on. I’m such an idiot, how in the hell did they ever let me into college?”
“You’re being impossible!”
Jess knew she was right. In an attempt to get out of this mess he had started to change the subject to something he really did want to get into, but never quite knew how. The whole being at Yale thing was getting to him, just a little bit more with every day and week that passed. Maybe it was part of the reason why he got mad enough to take a swing at Huntzberger. Jess wouldn’t be at all stunned. Maybe he should swing by Psych 101 and ask somebody what they thought. Then again, maybe not.
With a sigh, he tried to think clearly and be at least a little bit calm. There was a good chance he was being the irrational one here, though he wasn’t quite ready to admit as much yet, if at all. One fact remained the same, no matter which way he sliced it. He had one question for Rory that he really needed an answer to, and he hoped she gave the right one, or this whole thing was about to be blown to hell.
“Why are you so mad at me about this?” he asked her, calmly as he could. “What is it about this guy?”
“It’s not about Logan,” she said snippily, “although you probably completely screwed up my article for the paper now.”
Jess laughed then, a humourless burst of sound that he had no control over. So that was what this was really about. Maybe his girlfriend wasn’t putting another guy before him, just the next step on the path to her chosen career.
“Way to consider your priorities, Ror,” he said sadly, grabbing his jacket from the back of the couch. “I’m done with this.”
“What do you mean you’re done with this?” asked Rory, turning quickly from the window. “Jess, we’re talking,” she insisted, even as he made for the door.
“And now we’re done,” he told her. “I’m out.”
He was gone before Rory could say another word. By the time she got out of the door and looked down the corridor he was leaving the building. She called his name once, but he completely ignored her. She wanted to scream.
“Yeah. That went well.”
Rory turned to see Paris right behind her. As always, she had impeccable timing. The look on her face suggested she wasn’t impressed with however much of the display she just witnessed. Right now, Rory couldn’t care less, and said as much as she stormed away, back to her own room.
Marty appeared at the door, looking out to see Paris hovering around still.
“Have they ever fought like that before?” he asked her worriedly.
“This bad?” she said, shaking her head. “Nope.”
“You think they’ll break up?”
Paris bit her lip and for once in her life admitted she didn’t know the answer to a question. Honestly, she hated the idea of Rory and Jess not being together, and not just for the selfish reasons some might assume. They were her brother and her sister, in every way but blood. If they broke up, she was going to have to make a choice, pick a side. As if it hadn’t been bad enough when her parents got divorced, and these two meant way more to her than mom and dad ever could these days.
“I have to be somewhere,” she said then, turning and walking away before Marty could say another word.
She was a woman on a mission, not entirely certain how she was going to make this better, but only determined that she had to. It wasn’t hard to get the information she needed. The big man on campus always has a well-known room number. Ask enough people, someone will point you in the right direction.
Before long, Paris was at the right door, knocking with all the authority she possessed until at last he answered.
“Hello, Huntzberger,” she greeted him coolly.
Logan looked confused.
“Do I know you?”
“Paris Geller,” she said politely but firmly, arms folded across her chest. “My brother’s fist gave you the Rocky look.”
She wasn’t entirely surprised to see Logan’s eyes widen at that.
“Mariano is your brother?”
“As far as you’re concerned, yes,” she told him. “I’m assuming you didn’t call the cops?”
“Maybe I did.”
“If you had, Jess would be in cuffs by now,” Paris pointed out easily. “So, why didn’t you? Come on, tough guy, why didn’t you?” she repeated when he said nothing and looked away.
“What’s the point?” he asked after a while.
Paris wasn’t sure what to make of that answer. In the end, she just went with her best guess, assuming she was most likely to be right - she usually was.
“The point is throwing your weight around, the way people of our social status are expected to,” she explained. “My father may not be quite as rich as yours, but I know how it goes. If you didn’t call the cops on Jess, then you have a reason, some other agenda. Is it Rory?”
“Okay, thanks for stopping by,” said Logan, moving to close the door, but Paris was faster.
“You’re fighting a losing battle with her,” she insisted, foot wedged where Logan couldn’t shift it without risking causing her an injury. “Even if you split her and Jess up, she would never date a guy like you. Miss Goody Two Shoes doesn’t have it in her.”
Logan looked amused. “You talk about all your friends like that, Paris?”
“I call ‘em like I see ‘em.” She shrugged, seeing no problem with her words. “It’s how I know exactly who and what you are. Find some other people to play games with, Huntzberger. Leave Rory and Jess alone.”
“Or I’ll be found in the bay, sleeping with the fishes?” he asked, grinning like a fool.
Paris didn’t find him the least bit amusing, giving him a hard look still.
“You were warned,” she told him, before turning on her heel and walking away.
“I’m having a serious crisis of the boyfriend kind!” Lane practically yelled the second Rory picked up the phone.
“You too, huh?” her friend replied, sounding as dejected as Lane had ever heard her.
“Rory, are you okay?”
“No,” she admitted, sniffling like she was crying, or maybe she just had been before. “Jess and me, we had this huge, huge fight. I don’t... I think we might’ve broken up.”
At that point she really did break down, and Lane felt just awful for her. In comparison to Rory’s tears, her only problems didn’t seem so huge. So, Mrs Kim may have sent the engagement urn to Dave Rygalski, and Lane may be considering the possibility that she was falling in love with Zach instead. That was nothing compared to Rory and Jess potentially breaking up.
“You want me to come over?” she asked, in between Rory’s heaving sobs.
“No. Yes. I don’t know,” she admitted, “I feel horrible. I wish I could come home, but I have classes, and... Lane, I hate this!”
She was just so upset, the call didn’t go on much longer, and the second it was over, Lane knew what she had to do. No doubt Rory hadn’t called Lorelai yet because she didn’t want to worry her, or maybe because she felt awkward, with Jess being Luke’s nephew, and Luke and Lorelai being engaged. Lane couldn’t be sure of the reason, but she did know that Rory needed her mom more than anyone else right now. She headed off to find her and was glad to spot her through the diner window.
Running inside, she spilled everything fast, out of Luke’s hearing. Somehow, she didn’t want to be the one to tell him that this whole thing might be Jess’ fault. Thankfully, she was just done telling the tale when he reappeared from the kitchen.
“Honey, I have to go to Yale,” Lorelai told him. “I’ll explain later!” she called as she flew out of the door.
Lane ran after her, asking Lorelai to let her know what was happening, and give Rory a hug from her. She promised she would, right before her Jeep sped off down the road towards New Haven.
“She was so upset. I cannot believe Jess would do this!”
Luke didn’t know what he was supposed to say as Lorelai stormed up and down the living room, waving her arms emphatically. She was really, really mad since she got back from Yale, and he did understand. Rory was upset, it was her mother’s job to want to fix that. Actually, he was usually right there with Lorelai, wanting to make it all better for her daughter. Unfortunately, it seemed the Gilmore girls were making this all Jess’ fault, and quite honestly, Luke was having trouble seeing it.
“Are you sure Jess actually broke up with her?” he checked.
“You think Rory would lie about something like that?” asked Lorelai, turning on him with wide eyes that flashed with fire.
“Of course not,” said Luke, rolling his eyes, “but she might’ve misunderstood. Seriously, Lorelai, Jess adores Rory, there’s no way he would break up with her. He loves her more than anything.”
“Huh! Not more than he loves punching rich guys in the face apparently/”
“He was provoked” said Luke automatically.
Lorelai was incensed. “Were you there?” she asked crossly.
“Were you?” he countered.
Luke at least knew he had her there. Neither of them had borne witness to any of the events at Yale, be they between Rory and Jess, or either of them and this Huntzberger character. That didn’t mean that Luke and Lorelai weren’t going to fight about it apparently.
“I know what Rory told me,” she said, folding her arms across her chest.
“And I know what Jess told me,” Luke reminded her, realising belatedly how childish they were both really being.
When she turned her back on him, Luke let out a long sigh. This really was so stupid. Somehow, he and his fiancée were in a major fight because her daughter and his nephew had a misunderstanding. Luke honestly believed that was all it was and that the kids were bound to work it out when they both calmed down. He only hoped the same could be said of him and Lorelai. He really hated to fight with her, but right now she was just so upset. If she would only calm down, Luke was sure she would see reason, at least, he hoped so.
“Come on, Lorelai,” he said then, approaching her from behind, “be reasonable.”
His hand didn’t quite make contact with her shoulder before she whipped around to face him, angry enough to spit.
“Reasonable?” she echoed incredulously. “I’ve just spent three hours comforting my daughter who is completely heart-broken over her boyfriend screwing things up for her, yelling at her, and dumping her,” she told him again, having already said as much at the beginning of this conversation, “and instead of being supportive of Rory, our Rory, you’re defending the idiot that did this to her!”
“Hey, that’s my nephew you’re talking about, and he is not an idiot,” Luke reminded her. “So, he may not have acted in the best way, but from what I hear, Rory could’ve behaved a little better too.”
Lorelai’s eyes went all the wider at that remark.
“You’re unbelievable!” she said angrily, turning on her heel and storming away.
“Lorelai!” Luke called after her as she ran for the stairs.
“Do not follow me!” she told him. “In fact, you can feel free to leave whenever you want, and please, let the door hit your ass on the way out!”
The bedroom door slammed shut upstairs and Luke growled in frustration.
“This is insane,” he muttered to himself, picking up his jacket and stalking towards the front door. He wrenched it open but stopped short of actually leaving.
He was a fool if he let his relationship with Lorelai fall apart just because the kids had a fight. Of course, he felt bad for Rory if she was hurting, but he had heard Jess’ side of this whole thing too and just wanted Lorelai to cut his nephew a little slack. He hadn’t done anything so terrible. In fact, the way he told it, this had all started because he stood up for Rory’s honour, for lack of a better turn of phrase. Besides, as much as he loved Rory, Luke meant what he said about her behaviour recently. If Jess was to be believed, and Luke didn’t really have a reason to doubt his word, Rory had been hanging out with some questionable company of late and not exactly making it clear to certain other guys that she was dating someone else.
“Maybe I’m insane,” said Luke to himself, slamming the front door shut without passing through it.
He threw his jacket back into the armchair before running up the stairs to Lorelai’s room. Pounding on the door, he received the expected response of her telling him where to go, again. Luke didn’t care. He wasn’t giving up so easy.
“I’m not going anywhere until we figure this out,” he insisted. “And you don’t have to let me in or come out of that room, but you do have to listen.
Now, I don’t know exactly what happened with Rory and Jess, but you can’t expect me to put all the blame on him, any more than I would expect you to put all the blame on her. I love both of those kids as if I raised them, you know that better than anyone. You should also know how I feel about you.
We’re engaged, Lorelai, and that means something to me. Just because you were the one to propose, it wasn’t like I hadn’t thought about it a hundred times myself, before we were even together, because honestly, I...
Anyway, if you want to doubt Jess’ word or be mad at him, well, that’s your right, but if you’re going to start doubting how much I care about Rory or you, then you need to tell me now, because that is no foundation to build a marriage on.”
It was the most Lorelai had heard him say all in one go in a long time. Luke wasn’t a talker and certainly not a speech maker. He and Jess had that in common. It made them both come off grumpy sometimes, but the Gilmore girls knew better. They just weren’t chatty, but their girlfriends balanced them out well by talking a mile a minute at any given opportunity.
Of course, Lorelai had learnt long ago that when you had a man like Luke who didn’t say much, you really had to pay attention to what they did say, because those words mattered. Certainly, he had just given quite the speech and left her with a lot to think about, some of which she knew she ought to answer immediately, before she lost her chance.
Moving to the bedroom door, she hesitated just a moment before releasing the lock and opening up the door. Luke was two paces down the hall, apparently sure that he was wasting his time by now. Lorelai hated that she made him think so.
“I don’t doubt that you love me, Luke,” she assured him, “or Rory. I know how much she means to you too, but you have to understand-”
“Of course, I understand,” he cut in, meeting her eyes. “Lorelai, I’m no happier about the kids fighting or breaking up than you are. I’m not saying Jess is blameless, or that this is all Rory’s fault, but we can’t take sides in this. We can’t let what we have fall apart because things are rough with the two of them right now.”
“I know,” she said, wiping one eye with the back of her hand. “I just hate it, Luke. It breaks my heart to see Rory hurt, and I just want somebody to blame. She’s calling Jess the bad guy, you know I have to side with her. It doesn’t mean I hate him, not really, and it certainly doesn’t change how I feel about you.”
Luke nodded that he understood, but he really didn’t know what to say. He was asking her to see things from his point of view and Lorelai was trying. Now he had to see it the way she did too, and he knew it ought to be easy to do. If Rory’s boyfriend was anyone else, he would want to knock the little punk into next Thursday for making her cry. Hell, he had tried to do just that when Dean was to blame for her tears years ago. It was so hard to know what to think now they were caught in the middle between Rory and Jess.
“I can’t believe I’m actually saying this but... you think we should call Paris?”
“Paris?” Lorelai echoed.
“I was just thinking, she’s actually at Yale, in the middle of everything that’s going on, plus she loves Jess and Rory almost as much as we do. She’s opinionated and kind of crazy, but she’s probably one of the most honest people I ever met.”
“Painfully so sometimes,” Lorelai said with a chuckle she could not help. “I guess she could maybe fill in some gaps, give us some perspective on the situation. I just want to help, Luke. I hate that Rory’s hurting.”
“I hate that she is too, but I’m also worried about Jess,” Luke admitted. “You know what I’m saying is true. He’s crazy about Rory. There has to be more to this than there seems.”
Lorelai nodded and slowly crossed the space between them, stopping a pace in front of her fiancé.
“So, you still wanna marry me, right?” she checked.
“Wasn’t so sure you still wanted to marry me,” he admitted.
“Luke Danes, I’d marry you tomorrow if I could,” she promised him, reaching for his hand. “I’m so sorry about before.”
“Forget it,” he told her, looking down at their fingers entwining. “For what it’s worth, I’m sorry too. We’re supposed to be the adults here, and we end up fighting worse than the teenagers we’ve been raising.”
“Yeah, that is pretty stupid,” Lorelai agreed with a smile she couldn’t help as she moved a little closer. “But we’re okay, right?”
“We’re okay,” Luke promised, sliding his arms around her. “And I’m sure Rory and Jess will be too, in time.”
“I hope so. You know you might have had a brainwave about Paris. I think I’ll give her a call, see what I can find out. I don’t like going behind Rory’s back, but what else can I do?”
“Well, that was fun,” said Paris as she hung up from her call.
“Weird call?” asked Marty, barely glancing away from the TV as she came back into the dorm.
“Rory’s mom,” she explained. “Seems she and her fiancé, Luke - that’s Jess’ uncle - want all the gossip on the break up, and I’m the number one source,” she said, dropping down onto the other end of the couch with a sigh.
“Wow. Awkward,” said Marty, giving that one due consideration.
“Amazing deduction, Sherlock.” Paris rolled her eyes. “Anyway, I gave her all the facts. What she does with them is her business. I’ve done all I can already,” she said, checking her watch. “I thought Jess would be back from class by now. I know he’s not dumb enough to think we’re meeting at my dorm, given the situation.”
“Maybe he wants to go over there, try to make things up with Rory,” Marty considered. “You want them back together, right?”
“Sure, if that’s what they want. I don’t think Huntzberger will make any more trouble, but that doesn’t undo what’s been said and done already. Damn Mariano for being so easily riled. Not that I’m saying Logan didn’t deserve the punch in the face. I’d’ve done it long ago if I thought I could get away with it, and of course, Gilmore has to be so gullible as to think the rich boy is blameless. Not that it’s all her fault either. Like I told Lorelai, they’re both as bad as each other really.”
“I’ll be happier when they’re back together.”
“You, me, and everybody else, man.” Paris sighed.
She really wished she knew what else to do to fix this situation between two people she cared so much about, but short of locking Rory and Jess in a room together and refusing to let them out until they kissed and made up (which may not work anyway) she was all out of ideas for now.
Jess expected to have more trouble getting to see Rory. He knew it was likely Paris would stop him from making further arguments with his girlfriend, whether in an attempt to stop him getting into more trouble, or to play sister solidarity with Rory. He also knew if he didn’t get things figured out with his girlfriend quickly, there was every chance that her mom, his uncle, and half of Stars Hollow were going to get dragged into this mess.
Yesterday he was too mad about their fight to think straight. Today, he had spent three classes thinking about nothing but the state of his relationship with Rory, the last of which was English, Jess’ favourite part of Yale, which usually took all his concentration very easily. This couldn’t go on, and he knew it. It needed figuring out and it was going to be now, before things got really stupid.
When he knocked on the door to the dorm, it was Janet who answered, the sporty girl who Paris had no time for but Rory seemed okay with.
“Oh, it’s you,” she said, looking disappointed, which presumably meant she was expecting someone else, maybe her own boyfriend.
“Is Rory here?”
“In her room.” Janet nodded, standing aside to let him through.
Jess barely managed a ‘thanks’ as he rushed towards the door, knocking quickly and not really waiting for a response before he peeked inside. Rory was lying on her bed with her back to him, but turned now to see who was there. She certainly looked surprised to see him, and Jess wasn’t sure whether to take that as a good sign or a bad one.
“What are you doing here?” she asked, sitting up and hugging her knees to her chest.
Her eyes were red and puffy from crying and Jess felt like a heel. Sure, not all of this was his fault, but that didn’t mean he took any pleasure in seeing Rory upset. In fact, it broke his heart.
“We need to talk,” he said, coming further into the room and closing the door behind him. “C’mon, Ror, you know we do,” he said, shoving his hands in his pockets because he didn’t know what else to do with them.
“Funny, you didn’t want to talk earlier. You didn’t even want to be in the same room as me,” she reminded him bitterly. “You said we were done, Jess.”
“Yeah, but I didn’t...”
He stopped talking when he realised how she had taken his words. This was actually worse than he thought. Jess hadn’t thought that was possible.
“Rory, I meant the conversation was over. I needed to get out, clear my head, calm down. I wasn’t... You didn’t seriously think I was breaking up with you?”
“What was I supposed to think, Jess?” she yelled when he dared to come a couple of steps closer. “You hit a friend of mine, caused all kinds of trouble, pretty much accused me of cheating on you-,”
“No, I didn’t.”
“-and then you say we’re done. Think about it from my side, Jess. It sounds like a break up to me.”
“Hey, you said things too,” he reminded her crossly, “and you weren’t exactly on my side when it came to Huntzberger. You know how that made me feel, Rory? I’ll tell you, about an inch tall! Especially when you seemed to care more about your damn newspaper article than about me!”
Rory’s mouth fell open all by itself, but there were no words coming out, so she made a point of closing it again. She knew he had a point. It was one thing she definitely did regret in their fight earlier today. She was also patently aware that she ought to be glad she had a boyfriend that stood up for her and believed that she would never cheat on him rather than whatever tale Logan may have told. A lot of thinking had led her to the conclusion that she may have been wrong on more than a couple of points, but admitting it didn’t thrill her at all.
“Look, can’t be just get past this already?” said Jess then, daring to sit down on the very end of her bed. “I get that hitting Logan in the face was not my finest hour, but you gotta admit, he had it coming.”
“Violence never solved anything,” said Rory, looking away, “but if he said what you implied he said...”
“Which he did,” Jess said definitely.
“Then I guess you at least had an excuse to be mad at him.”
“Thanks for the permission,” he said, getting a harsh look for his trouble. “What do you want me to say, Ror? I already said I shouldn’t’ve let him get to me, but I did and it’s done. I’m not going to pretend I’m sorry I hit him, but I am sorry that it made you mad at me. Isn’t that enough?”
Rory wanted to say yes. She wanted it to be okay with her and Jess again, because fighting with him was just awful, and thinking they were over just about broke her heart. The more she thought about it, the more she could see his point about Logan making him mad, provoking him into a fight. She also knew she had sort if implied her new friend and her potential article for the paper were more important than her boyfriend, which was not cool. Jess was sorry he hurt her and she couldn’t really ask for more than that.
“I’m sorry too,” she admitted then, sniffing back further tears that she barely knew she had left to cry. “Jess, I just... I hate this. I can’t stand it when we fight, and... and I was just so worried you were going to get into trouble.”
“I get it,” he promised her, reaching for her hand. “We both screwed up.”
“I guess we did,” she admitted, nodding her head as she moved a little closer. “Can we please never fight like this again?”
“Works for me,” he told her, inching forward the same as she was. “So, we’re cool?”
“Like Frank at the Sands,” she told him, with a smile he was so very glad to see.
He nodded his head and smiled right back. “That’s cool.”
“Of all the rooms in all of Yale.”
Rory startled when she heard a voice from the corner of the Yale Daily News office. Her hand covered her heart as she looked over, just at the moment the owner pushed himself into view on a swivel chair.
“Logan, hey,” she greeted him with a nervous smile. “I, er... I don’t know why, I thought nobody would be here over lunch. I was just dropping this off for Doyle,” she explained, waving the piece of paper in her hand.
“Far as I know that’s not a crime,” he told her, getting up from his seat and walking over. “How have you been, Ace?”
“Well, you want to be a journalist, right?” he said, nodding towards the paper in her hands. “Gonna get all the big scoops, Ace Reporter?”
“That is the plan,” she agreed, now understanding what he meant, “but don’t worry, I don’t expect you to do me any favours, you know, with the whole secret society thing,” she told him, lowering her voice, despite the fact they were very much alone in the room. “After everything that’s happened, I wouldn’t... well, I understand that I’m probably not your favourite person right now.”
“What did you do?” he asked curiously, perching on the edge of the desk nearest to where Rory was standing.
“Well, nothing, really, but Jess-”
“You don’t control your boyfriend, do you?” asked Logan curiously. “I mean, I know women that try, but most have been known to fail, even if they don’t realise it.”
“I don’t control Jess,” Rory agreed. “I don’t try to, I just... What happened was because of me, and I’m sorry, Logan. I’d like to say that Jess is too, but I’m not so sure that would be true, actually.”
“Relax, Ace,” Logan told her, smiling good-naturedly at her awkward rambling. “The truth is, I probably wasn’t being my most charming self when I talked to the boyfriend,” he admitted. “I wouldn’t go so far as to say I was exactly provoking violence, but hey, college campus, guys rough-housing, it’s expected, right? Anyway, aren’t women supposed to be flattered when men fight over them?”
Rory’s mouth open and closed without any sound coming out. The way Logan made it sound, it was as if he and Jess were duelling for her hand or her honour or something. It was a little too romance novel for her to be comfortable with the idea when she was very definitely dating Jess and was almost certain that she never gave Logan any reason to believe he had a chance with her, had she? Then she remembered what Jess had implied about what Logan said to make him want to start a fist fight in the first place. It made her wonder why she had come in here apologising to Logan for Jess’ behaviour.
“I don’t really want anyone fighting over me,” she said pointedly. “I’m not a prize for anyone to win. I love Jess, we’ve been dating for a while now. I’m not saying he should’ve hit you, Logan, but he did seem to think you were implying a little more than drinking and talking happened in my grandparents’ pool house a couple of weeks ago,” she said, eyes on the floor because she was so embarrassed just talking about it. “I don’t like him thinking I would cheat on him. I wouldn’t.”
“Of course, you wouldn’t,” said Logan, smiling just a little too much for Rory’s liking. “I never said you would, or that you did.”
“Good.” Rory nodded once. “Well, I should go. I have a lot of homework to get done, and the weekend is filling up fast. Tomorrow is the big game, after all.”
“Didn’t have you down for a sports fan, Ace.”
“I’m not, not really,” she admitted, putting her article down on Doyle’s desk and then retreating quickly to the exit. “My grandparents are insisting on going and they invited me and my mom along. I’m not sure I can imagine Richard and Emily Gilmore tailgating, but it might be fun.”
“I’m sure it will be. Well, maybe I’ll see you there,” said Logan, raising his hand in a salute-like wave.
“You’re into sports?” she checked, sure that couldn’t be right.
“I’m into free beer and I like to support my school,” he told her, shrugging his shoulders.
“Makes sense,” Rory agreed, smiling before she turned to walk away. “Well, that could’ve gone worse,” she said to herself as she headed back to her dorm.
“I accept you blowing me off to make out with your girlfriend, but for class? I did not see that coming.”
“I’m five minutes late, Paris,” Jess told her, rolling his eyes at her dramatics. “That does not qualify as blowing you off.”
“Maybe not,” she acquiesced. “I guess I shouldn’t complain. At least you’re smiling.”
Jess could have passed that off easily enough as a result of his making up with Rory. Even three days later, he was pretty sure Paris would buy it, but it wasn’t the whole truth. It seemed weird to tell anybody that what had him so happy was actually an intellectual pursuit, praise from a professor, and a possible plan for the future. Those things were so not Jess in many ways, and yet they were the truth.
The problem was, as much as he wanted to tell Paris about it, Jess was keenly aware of the big deal she would make that he would sooner avoid. Still, he did want to explain, and he figured she wouldn’t hate his news.
“Here’s the deal, sis,” he warned as they headed out to lunch together. “If I tell you this, you have to promise that you’re not going to make a huge deal out of it, and you will not run your mouth to anybody about it either, okay?”
Paris narrowed her eyes at him.
“Are you on drugs?”
“Well, what else is such a big deal and needs to be kept a secret?”
“With you? Everything,” Jess countered, rolling his eyes. “Seriously, Paris, I am not on drugs or doing anything illegal. Now do you want to know what’s going on or not?”
“Okay,” said Jess, taking a deep breath as they walked out of the doors and towards the dining hall. “So, I wrote a short story for an English assignment, and the professor kind of lost her mind over it, as if it was the best thing she ever read.”
“You write well, I know this,” Paris agreed.
“Apparently, better than well. Apparently, grade A+ and then some,” Jess explained, “and honestly? I really got into the whole thing. So, the next thing I know, Miss Fuller is telling me I have real talent and asking if I ever considered writing a full-length novel. The truth is, the thought has crossed my mind, so...”
“So?” Paris prompted when Jess left the sentence just hanging there. “You’re writing a book?”
“I’m kind of writing a book,” he admitted, nodding his agreement. “Crazy, right?”
“No, not crazy,” Paris assured him. “It makes complete sense to me. You love to read, you have talent for writing in all its forms. You don’t get to be a professor of English at Yale for nothing, so Fuller clearly knows what she’s talking about. No, I don’t think it’s crazy, Jess. I actually think it’s pretty amazing.”
She was smiling when she said it, that genuine, open smile that Jess knew hardly anybody ever got to see. He was one of the rare few, but then Paris was his sister, in all but blood.
“Thanks, sis,” he said, smiling right back at her, “but I meant what I said before. Don’t tell anybody about this yet, okay?”
“Who would I tell? Except for Rory, I guess, but she already knows, right?”
“Wrong,” Jess confirmed, opening the door to the dining hall and holding it for Paris. “It’s not like I don’t want to tell her, I just...”
“Don’t want to tell her?” Paris checked as she passed by him into the hall. “I thought you guys were all Buffy and Angel again.”
“Please!” Jess scoffed. “First off, if you’re going to make a Buffy reference, I’d be Spike, not Angel. Second, I’m pretty sure she likes to run her boyfriends through with swords. Third, I never said there was any problem with me and Rory. Yes, we are back together and everything is cool, I just haven’t got around to telling her about the book idea yet.”
“And you don’t want me spoiling the big surprise,” Paris guessed. “That’s fine, I get it. As hooked on phonics as Gilmore is, I think I’d rather be out of audio range when you do tell her. Only dolphins can hear her when she gets overly thrilled about books. It’s embarrassing.”
Jess opened his mouth to respond to that just as Paris started yelling at some jerk who decided to cut into the lunch line, making a real spectacle of herself into the process.
“Yeah,” said Jess softly, “real embarrassing.”
“I’m so sorry I’ve been kind of absent lately,” said Rory into the phone. “I was going to come home this weekend, but now there’s this football game and my grandparents want us all to be there-”
“Rory, it’s fine,” Lane assured her. “I get it. Yale takes a lot of time and effort, and everybody has family commitments. Besides, you were having those major relationship problems too.”
“Oh, yeah,” she said, sighing heavily. “I hate fighting with Jess. It would feel too weird not to be with him, but that all felt a little too much like a break-up.”
“But it wasn’t, right?” Lane checked.
“Well, not really. It was just the nastiest fight ever, but we worked it out.”
“That’s good. So, everything is fine now?”
“Sure,” said Rory, though somehow Lane didn’t feel that answer was enough or at all convincing, truth be told. “I mean, yeah, we made up. It’s cool.”
“It’s cool?” Lane echoed. “Rory, what’s wrong?”
“It’s nothing really,” her friend insisted. “I mean, Jess was sorry for what he did, and I was sorry for what I did. We made up, and I do still love him.”
“But?” prompted Lane, sure that was the next word due to put in an appearance.
It bothered her more than a little to realise it. After all, Rory and Jess had been dating a long time now, and Lane had never known her best friend to be happier, even when she was with Dean.
Everything should be great for Rory right now, being at Yale with a boyfriend who adored her, and Paris, who was almost like a sister. Lane tried her best not to be jealous of her friend’s situation and often failed miserably at it, no matter how hard she tried. She was having trouble understanding why Rory didn’t sound happier, but was almost more worried about having her explain it.
“I don’t know, Lane,” she said sadly. “I just... I think maybe I expected too much. Yale was supposed to be this big adventure, and it is. It’s good, I’m learning a lot, working hard. It’s worth it, it really is. It’s just that things are so different.”
“To high school?” Lane checked.
“Oh, yeah, but it’s not just that. Jess is different, Paris too, actually. You know, she broke up with Jamie?”
“You mentioned, yeah, but that doesn’t really change things for you and Jess, does it?”
“No, what changes things for us is him, or maybe it’s me too. I don’t know. He’s different, Lane. Half the time, I feel like he doesn’t want to be here at all, and then I start wondering how much of it is Yale and... and how much is me. I mean, hitting Logan the way he did? It’s like he was looking to get into trouble. I thought he got over that years ago.”
“From what I heard, Logan was winding him up pretty badly,” Lane considered. “Besides, you said yourself, you had been spending time with Logan and not telling Jess. That comes off a little guilty, even if it’s innocent.”
“I know,” Rory admitted. “That’s when I start wondering how much of the problem is Jess and how much of it is me. Shouldn’t I be more honest? Shouldn’t I want to be on Jess’ side no matter what?”
“I think you’re asking the wrong person.” Lane sighed. “I don’t even have a boyfriend anymore.”
“Oh, Lane, no!” Rory gasped in shock. “You and Dave are definitely over?”
“It was never going to last anyway. Not long distance, it was too hard,” she said sadly. “And I’ll be honest, my heart wasn’t really in it anymore.”
The way she said it caught Rory’s attention and stopped her dead in her tracks when she thought to pile more sympathy onto her friend.
“Okay, that sounds like maybe your heart is into somebody else,” she noted.
“Maybe,” Lane admitted, unable to hold in a giggle. “Now, don’t judge me, but you know how I mentioned before that I’ve kind of been spending a lot of time with Zach?”
“Okay, what is wrong with you?”
The question came so suddenly into the silence that Jess felt himself physically jump. He glanced up from his legal pad to see his uncle staring at him, hands on hips, concern in his eyes though he was trying to hide it under annoyance. It was a patented Luke Danes look that Jess knew well, though he wasn’t entirely sure what he’d done to earn it today.
“Nothing,” he said, shaking his head. “What? Am I writing too loud?”
“No, not too loud,” Luke admitted. “In fact, I’m more worried about the lack of loud, if I’m honest. You come home for the weekend, you spend all of your time with your nose in a book, and that’s fine, it’s normal, I embrace that now,” he explained, “but this time it’s writing, not reading, a whole bunch of pretty audible sighing, and no punk bands blasting or TV blaring. This is not like you, Jess.”
He smirked at the way Luke described it, he couldn’t help it.
“So, because I’m not being a pain in your ass, there must be something wrong with me?”
“Pretty much.” Luke nodded easily. “So, what is it?”
Jess considered all the answers that he could give to that question. Each one would be honest, except for the one he already tried which was ‘nothing.’ There were things on his mind, more than one, but it was awkward to share with Luke, as it was Paris, or even Rory. Everybody was so closely connected to everybody else, which was great when things were going well, but a total pain when they weren’t.
“A better question would be, what is this?” he said pointedly, waving the legal pad towards Luke.
“And the answer to that question would be?” his uncle prompted, never one for the kinds of games that Jess took pleasure in dragging him into whether he liked it or not.
“Well, it’s not much yet, but one day, I guess it could be a book.”
Jess watched Luke’s eyes grow wide at that answer. He was pretty sure his uncle was expecting to hear it was an essay for school, maybe a letter explaining how he was dropping out of college, or one to his father or mother maybe. There were a hundred things his scribblings could be about, but Jess would lay good money that Luke never would’ve put ‘novel’ out there as a top ten guess.
“A book?” he echoed eventually. “You? You’re writing a book?”
“Yeah.” Jess nodded. “Well, it’s a short novel, and I don’t know if it’s going to work out but... I don’t know, my English professor seemed pretty psyched about the whole idea and I was enjoying it so... yeah, I’m writing a book.”
“That’s incredible, Jess,” said Luke then. “Seriously, I can’t... You’re writing a book.”
“Don’t get too jazzed,” his nephew advised with a smirk. “It’s not like it’ll probably ever be published or anything. I’m still trying to figure out a decent ending and I might never finish it, actually, but for now, it’s a cool side project. Might even get some extra credit for it if I turn it in to Ms. Fuller sometime.”
The look on Luke’s face was dumb to say the least, but Jess didn’t mind seeing it. There was more than a little pride in that expression, and it was all for him. Jess really wasn’t used to that. Liz never cared enough about his school work, or anything really, to be proud of his achievements, which was probably why he stopped trying for quite a while. There hadn’t really been anybody else around to pay any attention, not until Luke, and of course, Paris.
“You can stop now,” said Jess, looking back at his paper and scribbling down nonsense just so he was doing something. “It’s not the big deal you’re trying to make it.”
“You’re not going to stop me being proud of you, nephew,” said Luke anyway. “Come on, this is amazing. If your professor is encouraging this, she must think you have talent.”
“Maybe,” Jess relented, “but even she hasn’t read it yet. Paris has been angling for the chance for a week, but there’s no way I’m having her be editor-in-chief. She’s great, but there are limits.”
“Well, you have Rory to help you out if you need a second opinion, right?”
Jess was hoping that Luke wouldn’t notice how he evaded that particular question. The truth was, he hadn’t told his girlfriend about the book yet. Actually, he had barely had the opportunity even if he wanted to. Whilst a part of him did want to share the news, an even larger part decided against.
“What’s going on with you and Rory?”
Two seconds later, the legal pad was unceremoniously snatched out of his hands.
“Jess, come on,” Luke urged him, holding the pad too far away for him to get without getting up off the bed and physically chasing him around. “What’s going on?”
“Nothing,” Jess repeated. “Actually, literally, nothing.”
“And what does that mean?”
With a heavy sigh, Jess admitted defeat. Apparently, he wasn’t getting out of this without explaining all to Luke. In some ways, he was glad, because it was killing him having all this stuff in his head and no-one to talk to. On the other hand, he knew he was about to put the both of them in a really awkward position. They may be uncle and nephew, but their respective girlfriends were mother and daughter too. This was never going to end well, but Luke just might be of more use and slightly less likely to open his mouth to the wrong person about the wrong thing than Paris, and she was the only other person Jess would trust with his private business.
“Things are just weird lately, with me and Rory,” he admitted. “I don’t know, with the whole Yale thing... We just don’t see much of each other.”
“Well, you have classes and work to do,” said Luke, shrugging his shoulders. “That’s just the way it is.”
“It’s more than that.” Jess shook his head. “We had plenty of time together between classes and at lunch and on weekends before. Then we had that stupid fight, but we fixed it and everything was supposed to be cool.”
“But it’s not cool,” Luke guessed, pinching the bridge of his nose. “Oh, Jess. What the hell happened?”
“I have no idea. It’s like Rory just has better things to do than be with me. Not that it’s all her. I don’t even know why I didn’t tell her about the book. It’s probably my fault anyway. It’s always the guy, right?”
“Well, that’s what women will tell you, sure,” Luke agreed, wearing a smirk his nephew would’ve been proud of when he looked up at him. “Relationships are tough, Jess. Both sides have to work at it or it falls apart.”
“I don’t think we’ve completely fallen apart, but the tiles are loose and there’s a couple of choice cracks in the wall,” he said with a sigh. “It’s just tough to talk to anybody about it, you know? Paris is my sister, but she’s also Rory’s best friend and her room-mate. You’re here and you’ll listen, which is cool, but then you and Lorelai-”
“Hey, it doesn’t matter about me and Lorelai,” Luke insisted. “We’re adults and we’re completely capable of keeping what we have separated from what you and Rory have. I just want you both to be happy. If that’s together, that’s great, but if it’s apart, that’s okay too.”
“I don’t want to break up with her,” Jess admitted. “Honestly? I kind of just want things back the way they were before. It just seems like that’s impossible lately. Yale’s changed things.”
“Well, maybe with the break coming up for Thanksgiving, you guys can spend some time back here, away from Yale. Could help.”
“Maybe,” Jess agreed. “Gotta hope so.”
Luke nodded, unsure what else to do. He handed the legal pad back to Jess and patted him on the back, before walking away. He hoped he had helped, if only by giving Jess the chance to state all his worries out loud. He also really hoped that the kids could work out their relationship and be happy again soon. As much as Luke said it was okay if they broke up, so long as they were happy, he had a hard time believing that would be the result of Rory and Jess no longer being together.
“So glad I’m not a teenager anymore,” he muttered to himself, as he headed back downstairs.
“So now Grandma is mad at Grandpa, and they’re both acting like it’s as much my mom’s fault as anyone’s when really it’s this other woman that Grandpa used to date. Friday Night was just awful, and then I figured I should really come back here to get some more work done, but honestly, I’m so tired, I’m barely concentrating... and you’re not even listening.”
“What?” Paris looked up fast, apparently completely oblivious to whatever Rory had been saying, just as her friend suspected. “Did you say something?”
“No, I said about eight things,” said Rory with a look, “but apparently, I was talking to myself.”
“Well, you get a little rambley sometimes, Gilmore. I zone out.” Paris shrugged. “Anyway, how come you’re not in Stars Hollow this weekend? I’m pretty sure Jess said that’s where he’d be.”
“Oh.” Rory frowned at the question, then shook her head. “I didn’t know he was going. That’s weird.”
“Not really,” Paris scoffed. Off Rory’s confused look she added; “Well, let’s face it, you guys haven’t exactly been spending a lot of time together lately.”
“That’s just... horribly accurate,” Rory realised, feeling instantly guilty.
Some of it, possibly a large part, was definitely her fault. If she hadn’t even taken notice of how little time she and Jess had spent together recently, it didn’t say much about her girlfriending abilities, or her love for her boyfriend. Of course, Jess should be making an effort too. She hadn’t exactly been dodging his calls or refusing to make dates. He just hadn’t been around lately. Most likely they were both to blame.
Pulling her phone from her pocket, Rory checked she hadn’t missed any messages. Actually, there was a text to say that Jess would be in Stars Hollow for the weekend, and it was marked ‘read.’ All Rory could think was that she hit the button without realising.
“Huh,” she said to herself. “I guess things have been a little weird since the whole fight thing.”
“Took you long enough to notice,” said Paris, rolling her eyes. “Look, I’m not on anybody’s side in this - you’re pretty much my best friend and you know I’ll always see Jess as my brother - but you’re the woman, so I have to appeal to you to be the one with any good sense in all of this. Please, for everybody’s sake, just make it work, or end it now. I can’t handle witnessing another train wreck like the breakdown of my parents’ marriage, okay?”
“I promise you, Paris, me and Jess will figure things out,” said Rory, with perhaps a little more confidence than she felt.
She turned back to her desk but could no longer concentrate on the paper in front of her, not that her heart had really been in it before. Rory did not want to break up with Jess, not at all. Things just seemed to have changed so much since they came to Yale. They had to get better at communicating, that was for sure, and she planned to make a more conscious effort from here on out. She didn’t like the idea of the consequences if she failed.
They had all come back to Stars Hollow for Thanksgiving and a family dinner was planned at the Crap Shack. Luke was cooking, Lorelai was ‘helping’ (read: getting in Luke’s way), whilst Rory stretched out on the couch watching the Macy’s parade with Paris’ sarcastic commentary. Jess had been there, briefly, and then Luke made a big deal about a utensil he had forgotten to bring over and Jess offered to go fetch it. Somehow, after an hour, he still wasn’t back.
“You think he’s okay?” asked Rory, frowning hard.
“Relax, Gilmore,” Paris told her. “Jess is a big boy, he doesn’t need help crossing the street. He probably just got talking to someone, or distracted by a book in the apartment. You know how he is.”
Rory knew Paris was probably right, but she wasn’t happy. She had hoped when they finally came home for Thanksgiving, she and Jess would get to spend some real quality time together, something they seemed to struggle to do at Yale. It wasn’t that she objected to also seeing more of her mom and Luke, or that she minded seeing ever more of Paris either, but Jess was Rory’s priority right now, and it was really starting to seem as if she wasn’t his.
No sooner had Rory started to get antsy about the whole situation, then Jess returned, potato ricer in hand. He gave no excuse for where he had been, just offered to take Lorelai’s place in the kitchen and help with the rest of the dinner prep. Lorelai joined the girls on the couch and they all made fun of whatever people they could find on TV until dinner was finally ready.
It was a nice family dinner, good food, good conversation, and everybody with plenty to be thankful for. Rory found a lot to smile about, but her heart wasn’t truly in the happy feeling of the day, truth be told. She really wished she could talk to Jess alone, but that didn’t seem likely to happen yet.
“That was amazing, Luke,” said Jess when he’d eaten all he could. “Thanks.”
“Hey, you helped,” his uncle reminded him.
Lorelai cleared her throat loudly in protest.
“You... were also there,” said Luke diplomatically.
“Meh, true enough,” Lorelai acquiesced, leaning back further in her chair. “Wow, am I ever full?”
“It was a delicious meal, Luke,” Paris told him. “I mean, it was pretty obvious the cranberry sauce came out of a can, but you can’t be expected to do everything,” she said, patting his arm.
“Thank you, Paris,” he replied, unable to even care that it was kind of a backhanded compliment - he was well used to Paris’ ways by now.
“I think I’m gonna take a walk,” said Jess, getting up suddenly.
“A walk? Seriously?” asked Rory, sure she looked as confused as she felt.
“Sure.” Jess nodded. “You wanna come with?”
Rory’s mouth opened and closed twice without any sound coming out. She looked at Luke, her mom, Paris, and none of them seemed to think it was a strange request. It was to Rory, but she wasn’t about to argue. After all, she had been looking to get some alone time with Jess for too long now, and here he was offering her the chance. As much as her full stomach would probably prefer she stay put, Rory wasn’t listening. She wanted to go, and she was going.
“I’ll get my coat,” she said, heading for her room.
She missed the significant look that passed between Jess and the rest of the assembled family when her back was turned. If Rory had seen it, she might not have been quite so confused about this unexpected walk she and Jess were suddenly going on.
“So,” she said as they stepped out onto the porch, both bundled up against the cold.
“So,” he echoed, reaching an arm around her shoulders and pulling her close. “Let’s walk.”
They set off down the driveway and then turned onto the street. They walked in companionable silence, Rory happily leaning into Jess’ embrace, her arm sliding around his waist as they went. It was cold out, but neither of them was really feeling it. They were keeping each other warm.
“This is nice,” said Rory after a while, just as they reached the town square. “I feel like it’s been a lifetime since we were just alone together.”
“I know,” Jess agreed. “Which is most of the reason for the walk,” he admitted. “Yale has been kind of crazy. I feel like I hardly see you, and when I do, Paris is there, or Marty, or a hundred other people. We’re hardly ever home at the same time, and when we are, there’s Luke or your mom, or Paris again. It’s not that I don’t want to be around them-”
“It’s just sometimes it’s nice to be alone,” said Rory, looking up at him with a smile she couldn’t help.
“Exactly,” Jess agreed. “Come on.”
He urged Rory to keep walking, crossing the street to where the diner stood, closed up for the rest of the day thanks to the holiday. Jess’ arm slipped from around Rory’s shoulders and he fished in his pocket for his keys.
“What are you doing?” she asked, frowning some.
“Well, there’s a key in my hand and I’m headed for a lock,” he told her, smirking hard. “I’ll let you fill in the blanks from there.”
“I thought we were walking.”
“We walked, now we’re going inside for a while.”
Rory followed him into the diner, though she was confused as to why. Before she had a chance to ask any further questions, Jess was disappearing behind the curtain and she had to hurry to catch up. They headed up the stairs one behind the other, and then Jess stopped abruptly, causing Rory to almost crash right into him by the door to the apartment.
“What is going on?” she asked him, looking puzzled still.
Jess didn’t say a word, just wore a smirk she knew too well and opened the apartment door, gesturing for Rory to go on in. She turned and entered the room, gasping in shock at the set-up that met her eyes.
“Jess, what is this?”
“This is a long overdue date,” he told her simply, moving around her and further into the apartment. “There was no point in me cooking you dinner, since we already ate the world’s supply of turkey and pumpkin pie, but I got movies, snacks for later, all the best music on the stereo,” he explained, turning it on to prove his point. “It’s nothing special, but it’s someplace to be alone together for a while. Luke’s pretty much living with your mom now, so he has no problem with us hanging here as much as we want this weekend.”
Rory felt stupid as she realised why her vision was blurring. Tears were filling her eyes and she couldn’t help it at all. Running at Jess, she flung her arms around him, kissing him long and hard on the lips.
“This is wonderful,” she told him moments later, the two of them still holding each other close. “Jess, I love it, and I love you.”
“I love you too,” he promised her, the truth of it showing in his eyes as he gazed at her. “I just thought we could use some time, just you and me.”
“Definitely,” she agreed. “It feels like forever since we went out together, and probably longer since we... stayed in together,” she said pointedly.
“Not gonna lie, the thought had occurred to me,” he admitted.
Rory pushed her body ever closer to his, fingers running through his hair.
“Y’know, I just thought of a really great way to burn off all that food we ate.”
“Oh, yeah?” asked Jess, unable to keep the smirk off his lips, at least until Rory started kissing him and backing him towards the bed.
“I think it’ll do them good, a little alone time,” said Paris to Luke as they sat in the living room together, not really watching whatever junk was on TV. “Of course, there should be a lot more to a romantic relationship than just sex, but the physicalities of these things have to be taken into consideration. I mean, you’re a man of the world, Luke, you know this.”
“Sure, sure,” he said absently, clearly not hearing a word.
Paris frowned and sat up from her formerly relaxed position. Her eyes flitted to the stairs, up which Lorelai had headed a few minutes before. She needed to sleep off some of the turkey and all, or so she said. Paris wished she could be more certain Rory’s mom was truly asleep before she broached the next topic with Luke.
“So, you and Lorelai,” she said in a low voice, just in case. “Everything okay there?”
“What?” asked Luke, clearly started by the question. “Of course, everything is okay, Paris. Lorelai and I are engaged.”
“Hey, my parents were married and we all know what happened there. Your sister and my father, same thing. A ring does not guarantee a happily ever after, especially not in this day and age,” said Paris easily. “Come on, Luke, tell me your problems. God knows, you don’t have anyone else to talk to, and the last thing I want is for you and Lorelai to become another divorce statistic. That’s if you ever make it down the aisle...”
“Paris!” Luke half-yelled, not at all happy about what she was implying, probably because he was so worried she might be right. The moment he remembered that Lorelai was upstairs and probably barely half-asleep, he moderated his tone. “Nothing is wrong, not really,” he said then. “I mean, I don’t think so anyway. It’s just... Lorelai is a little distant lately. We had this fight, when Rory and Jess had their not-a-break-up thing,” he explained, “but we figured it out, I thought we were fine, but...”
“She’s distant,” Paris supplied. “Well, I’m probably stating the obvious here, but did you try asking her if anything was wrong?”
“Of course, I did.” Luke rolled his eyes. “Lorelai says she’s fine, she’s just stressed out with all the arrangements for the new inn. It’s the same thing that she says when I ask if she wants to move forward with the wedding arrangements. Honestly, that part bothers me more.”
“Come on, Danes, you can’t seriously think she wants to back out of marrying you,” said Paris, taking her turn at an eye-roll then. “She asked you to marry her, remember? Not the other way around.”
“I know that, but she’s just different lately.”
“Yeah, distant, you said that already,” said Paris with a sigh. “Well, are you keeping her satisfied in the bedroom?”
“We have no problems there, thank you,” said Luke quickly. “It’s not that.”
“Okay, okay.” Paris held her hands up in mock surrender. “Well, maybe she is just run off her feet with the new inn. You try taking some of the work off her hands? I mean, there must be something you can help out with.”
“I wouldn’t know where to start, honestly, but I guess I could ask,” Luke considered. “Thanks, Paris.”
“No problem, man,” she told him with a smile before turning her attention back to the television.
It took Luke a moment to realise that he had just taken relationship advice from Paris Geller, willingly and without argument. Quite honestly, he had missed talking to her the last few weeks, after becoming so used to her company over the summer. He was smiling as he sat back in the chair and settled in to watch TV in decent company for a while.
“Yep, it has definitely been too long since we did that,” said Rory, struggling to catch her breath for a moment. “How were we so dumb as to forget how good that was?”
“I didn’t forget,” said Jess definitely, kissing her shoulder and pulling the covers higher over their entwined bodies. “I missed you, Ror.”
“I missed you too,” she told him, snuggling closer. “I didn’t know it was possible to miss somebody so much when you saw them practically every day, but it is.”
They lay in silence a while, bodies humming from the experience of making love after too long without, passion sated, hearts full and happy. In some ways, maybe it was worth the absence from each other’s lives and each other’s beds. Maybe that was what made today so good. Still, neither Rory nor Jess ever wanted to be parted in any way ever again.
“These last few weeks... I don’t want things to be like that anymore,” said Rory thoughtfully. “I know we both have a lot going on, and Yale is going to keep us busy for a long time yet, but we have to be better at making time for us.”
“Agreed,” said Jess, holding her close. “From now on, we make space in the schedule, no matter what.”
“That’s a deal,” said Rory, turning her head to kiss him soundly on the lips.
When she pulled back she found Jess looking at her in a strange way she couldn’t quite figure out.
“I have to tell you something,” he confessed, worrying Rory more than he should perhaps. “I kind of have this secret. It wasn’t supposed to be one, not really, I just... I don’t know, I didn’t get a chance to tell you at first and then when I did... I don’t know, I just didn’t.”
“What kind of secret?” asked Rory warily.
Jess wasn’t sure how to explain, and so he didn’t, at least not in words. Hopping out of bed, he moved across the room and went rifling through his bag that was dumped in the far corner. Rory watched him, partly curious about what was going on, partly just enjoying the view, if she were honest. A minute later, Jess came hurrying back to her, hopping under the covers beside her, shivering from cold.
“So, you know Ms Fuller, the English professor?”
“If she’s your secret, I’m not sure I want to know,” said Rory, teasing him, and he knew it.
“She had us write a short story for class, and apparently, mine was impressive.”
“You’re a great writer,” Rory told him easily. “I know this already.”
“Yeah, well, I didn’t,” Jess admitted. “At least, it never occurred to me that I was write a novel good, not until she said it.”
Rory’s eyes shifted to the legal pad she could now see grasped in Jess’ hands. It was covered in his very familiar handwriting, pages and pages of it, she realised, as he flipped through to show her.
“This is... You’re writing a novel?” she gasped.
“I’m writing kind of a long story,” Jess corrected her. “I guess you could call it a novel, but I’m pretty sure it only becomes one of those if it’s published, which it probably never will be,” he explained, “but yeah, I’m kind of writing it anyway, and the things is... I love it.”
Rory’s eyes were wide as saucers when she looked up from the pad to meet Jess’ gaze. He looked so happy, almost excited about this. She hadn’t seen that look in too long. Yale didn’t seem to enthuse him at all. It wasn’t his dream, not like it was for Rory and Paris, but this story, this potential novel, it had him practically giddy.
“Jess, this is amazing,” she told him honestly. “So amazing.”
“Read it first before you get too jazzed,” he advised, moving down under the covers some more and encouraging her to do the same before they both froze to death.
“I can read it?” she checked.
“Sure,” Jess told her, nodding his head. “Actually, I want you to. Just promise not to edit too harshly okay?”
“You want me to edit it?”
“Well, I’m not about to ask Paris. As much as I love her, I’d actually like some of my manuscript left when the process is over.”
“Wow,” said Rory then, eyes already skimming the first page. “I can’t wait to get started. I knew you could do something like this, Jess, I just knew. Your writing is so good, I always told you that.”
“I know that you did,” he agreed, basking in the glow of her pride in him and love for him at the same time, “but articles for The Franklin weren’t really my thing. Honestly? I’m probably going to talk to Doyle about dropping out of the Yale Daily News too.”
“Oh, well, I understand that,” said Rory sadly. “I do wish you were going to be there with me and Paris, but if it’s not what you want to do, I can deal.”
Jess leaned in closer and kissed her lips. He really appreciated her not making a big deal about his dropping out of the paper. Paris was bound to, but at least he didn’t have to fight with Rory about it.
“Hey, don’t start reading now,” he said, pulling the pad from her hands when he realised Rory was already at the bottom of the first page. “I had other plans for today.”
“Other plans?” she echoed, even as he took the story away from her. “What kind of other plans?” she asked, wide eyed in fake innocence.
“Well, it is Thanksgiving,” said Jess, pulling her body closer, “and I promise you’ll be feeling all kinds of thankful in the next few minutes.”
Rory wasn’t surprised to find he was absolutely right about that.
When Thanksgiving was over, Rory, Jess, and Paris all returned to Yale, and time seemed to start flying by, but the important thing was that Rory and Jess made time for each other. Of course, they tried not to abandon Paris into the bargain, but she seemed to have her own stuff going on most of the time anyway, so she didn’t mind much that Rory and Jess were, in her words, ‘as sickeningly in love as ever.’
They made sure to see each other every day, if not at lunch then between classes, or sometimes in the evening for a real date of some kind. One particularly busy day, they had even settled for studying alongside each other in the library. Well, Rory studied, Jess worked on his novel.
Weekends they made sure to meet up too, either at Yale or at home in the Hollow. It was nice to realise that after all that intense being together they were not sick of the sight of each other. Honestly, it was a revelation to both Rory and Jess to realise quite how much they had missed each other before. The other nice thing, Jess thought, was that the name 'Huntzberger’ wasn’t even mentioned. They saw him a couple of times at the Daily News office, but he made no move to talk to Rory or start anything with Jess. Hopefully, that particular chapter of their lives was over and done with.
Today was the first day that Rory and Jess would not physically be able to see each other, and in an attempt not to drift apart at all, they were substituting a face-to-face meeting with a phone call. Rory was in her room, buried under her books so she could get through all the work that seemed to have ganged up on her, and Jess was headed back from class to his dorm too.
“I cannot believe that you literally live with Paris and you didn’t get around to asking her about Christmas yet,” he said, navigating around first a couple making out in the hall, and then a student carrying way too many books at one time. “How is it possible that you haven’t seen her?”
“I’ve seen her,” Rory admitted, “but very briefly. I don’t know, she seems to be out a lot lately. I did make sure she knew that she didn’t have to do that on our account, but she said that’s not it. She just has a social life, apparently.”
“Paris? My sister? A social life? I’m not buying,” said Jess definitely.
“Well, she has something or somebody that she’s going to all of the time,” Rory assured him. “She’s not here now, and I can’t see that anything’s moved since she left early this morning.”
“So, you’ll try to track her down and talk to her about Christmas? I know she’s Jewish and everything, but she has to spend the holiday somewhere, and Mom and Luke said she’s always welcome at ours.”
“I will try to get a hold of her when I can,” Jess promised, “but right now I’m back in my building and I really need to see Doyle about the paper.”
“Right, sure,” Rory agreed, sounding just a little sad.
Jess tried not to notice as he said his goodbyes for now and hung up the phone. The truth was he just couldn’t stick with the Yale Daily News anymore. He didn’t really have the time for it, and he couldn’t be bothered to make that time, especially not now he was working on his novel most of the time. He gave it a few more weeks, partly to more easily spend extra time with Rory, and partly for Paris’ sake, but now he had to make a sacrifice somewhere and the paper was it.
Walking right past his own dorm, he went up to his RA’s door and knocked. After a couple of minutes, he figured nobody was going to answer, and with a sigh, moved to leave. Jess stopped when he then heard movement behind the door, hushed voices and clattering around. Then suddenly the door opened and there was Doyle, shirtless and barefoot, looking kind of panicked, a look that only seemed to increase when he saw Jess.
“Hey, man,” he said, leaning into the door jamb a little and presumably trying to be cool (which he failed at spectacularly). “You need something?”
“Kind of, yeah,” said Jess, nodding his head, “but if this is a bad time, I can-”
“No, it’s not a bad time. It’s a fine time. As your RA, I am always here for you. What’s up?”
He rattled it all out so fast, Jess was one hundred percent sure that it definitely wasn’t fine, but he figured he may as well say what he came to say and get it over with. The part of him that was slightly concerned that Doyle would argue the point of his leaving the paper was relieved to realise he was very unlikely to now, because he clearly had something, or possibly even someone, he would rather be doing.
“Er, it’s the paper,” he said, running a hand back through his hair. “Honestly, I only signed up because Rory and Paris really wanted me to. It’s not my thing, and I have a lot of other stuff going on now, so I’m out.”
“Well, that’s fine,” said Doyle, nodding his head. “Freshman are free to drop out whenever, so long as they don’t have any assignments outstanding or anything.”
“Which I don’t,” Jess confirmed.
“Which you don’t, so hey, you’re free to go!” said Doyle, grinning just a little overly much.
“Okay then,” said Jess, deciding now really was the time to go. “So, I’ll just-”
“Doyle, what the hell are you doing?” said a voice that Jess knew far too well.
His head was already spinning at the prospect of what was happening before Paris ever wrenched the door open wider and peered out at him.
“Aaw, geez!” he declared, realising how under-dressed she was, and immediately turning away. “I do not need to know about this!” he added for good measure, striding away to his dorm room.
“Jess!” Paris yelled behind him.
He pretended not to hear, it was easier that way.
“Hey, Jess,” Marty greeted him from the couch. “You okay?”
“Never been better,” he dead-panned, slamming into his bedroom.
“Conversation with him is getting tougher,” said Marty to himself, going back to his textbook.
He read all of a paragraph or two when a knocking started up on the door. He looked to Jess’ room but realised he wasn’t coming out, so Marty got up to answer it himself. An agitated Paris burst in the moment he opened the door, yelling Jess’ name rather too close to Marty’s ear for comfort.
“You ever get that feeling like you’re just a secondary character in someone else’s story?” he asked himself, rolling his eyes and taking himself off to his own room.
“Your room-mate has started talking to himself,” said Paris as she slammed into Jess’ bedroom.
“Oh, yeah? Well, my sister has lost her mind and started sleeping with my RA, so what are you gonna do?” he told her crossly.
“So, having an active sex life means I’ve lost my mind now?” asked Paris.
The look on Jess’ face was a picture.
“Okay, first of all, please, for the love of God, never mention that you have a sex life in front of me ever again,” he told her. “Second of all, it’s not as if I thought you were gonna become a nun after you broke up with Jamie, or that I have any right to tell you who you can or can’t date, but I thought you had better taste and judgement than to jump into bed with Doyle McMaster!”
“What is wrong with Doyle? He happens to be a nice guy.”
“I never said he wasn’t.”
“So, what’s the problem?”
Jess didn’t have an answer for that one, no snappy comeback, nothing. The truth was, Doyle was a nice guy. A bit of a weirdo sometimes, but some of the best people were a little unhinged. Paris’ first impression of the guy was solely based on his height, but he figured that wasn’t a factor when they were doing what they’d been doing, and wow, Jess so wished he hadn’t gone down that road in his head.
“Paris, I just... Just be careful, okay?” he said eventually, not even looking at her when he did so.
“Define careful,” she demanded rather than asked, in a way only Paris could. “Because the last thing I need from you is a safe sex talk.”
“I don’t mean... Just be careful, okay?” he tried again, making himself meet her eyes this time.
It wasn’t about the pregnancy scare from before, or even specifically about Doyle. This was Jess pulling the protective brother routine, and as much as Paris wanted to be mad at him for it, there was just no way she could. It was actually really cool that he cared about her like that, even if she never did quite feel she’d gotten used to it.
“I know what I’m doing,” she promised, in a more reasonable tone.
“Yeah? So, how come you kept it all a secret?” asked Jess, tilting his head as he stared at her. “If you’re so sure what you and McMaster are doing is what you want, how come I don’t know about it? How come Rory doesn’t know?”
“Because I... I wasn’t sure,” she admitted then, sinking down to sit beside him on the edge of the bed. “You know the only guy I ever dated was Jamie, and how worried I was that I’d never meet another guy that I could... that would want me for me. Doyle and I, it wasn’t a plan. I didn’t look at him and see hearts and hear The Carpenters singing ‘Close to You,’ she explained, watching her own fingers lace and unlace in her lap. “We just talked a lot, first about the paper, and then about other stuff. I’d stay late at the newspaper office and not even notice how long we’d been talking. He lets me rant about things and he usually agrees with me, but honestly? When he doesn’t, it’s almost more fun,” she admitted, with a smile she couldn’t help.
“Yeah, I get that,” said Jess, nodding his head. “Why’d you think I talk up Hemingway so much in front of Rory?”
“I think that was part of the problem too,” Paris admitted then. “You and Rory. You’re so perfect together. I know you’ve had problems, but in the end, you always figure them out. You’re like this perfect couple, and when things happened with me and Doyle, I don’t know, I just felt like what I had could never measure up to what you guys have, so why tell you? Why embarrass myself in front of two of the only people in the world with opinions of me that actually matter?”
She hugged herself and turned her face away, not on the verge of tears or anything as girly as that, but hurting, feeling bad, because of Jess. He hated to think that he had caused that, no matter how much he hadn’t meant to.
“Paris, me and Rory... you can’t compare us to you and Jamie or you and Doyle or whoever else you choose to date. It’s never gonna be the same. It’s not supposed to be.”
“I know,” she admitted, glancing back at him. “I guess even the smartest people can be dumb sometimes.”
“I guess so,” said Jess, nodding his head, “but can you say it again when I have some kind of voice recorder running, because I really wanna be able to prove you said that.”
Paris laughed when he did, shoving Jess so hard in the shoulder that he almost tipped over, mostly because he hadn’t expected it. It was cool though, to see her smiling and laughing. For a minute there, he really thought she was going to cry, and that would’ve sucked.
“So, you and Doyle.”
“Me and Doyle,” she confirmed, “and it is more than sex, for the record. I actually really like him, and he seems to like me too,” she said, with the kind of girlish smile hardly ever seen on the face of Paris Geller.
“That’s cool, sis,” Jess told her. “You’re happy, I’m happy.”
“At least now I know why me and Rory have hardly seen you lately,” he realised.
“Huh, I’m surprised you noticed I was gone!” Paris scoffed. “Every time I do see you two together, you’re hanging onto each other being cute or actually sucking face so hard you sound like a pair of sink plungers,” she said, rolling her eyes. “Not that I hate it so much. I like that you’re happy too, both of you.”
“Geez, Geller, could you be more sappy?” said Jess, shoving her shoulder with his own.
“You started it, Mariano” she countered, returning the gesture.
“Well, on the subject of happy families and being sappy, what are you doing for Christmas break?”
“If you’re inviting me to Stars Hollow then I’ll come along,” she said easily.
“That’s cool,” Jess confirmed.
“Yeah.” Paris got up to leave then, but stopped and turned back at the door. “How’re Luke and Lorelai these days?”
“Fine, as far as I know,” said Jess, clearly confused by the question. “Why’d you ask?”
“It’s probably nothing,” said Paris, waving away his concern. “It’s just, when I got talking to Luke at Thanksgiving, he said something about Lorelai not being herself lately. Being kind of distant, not really wanting to talk about the wedding. I basically told him to suck it up, be a man, and straight-out ask her what was going on.”
“Maybe he did,” Jess considered. “Far as I know they’re doing okay.”
“That’s good,” said Paris, nodding her head. “Well, I’ll see you later.”
Jess raised a hand in a gesture of goodbye, but his mind was already heading off in the opposite direction. He really hoped he was right and there was nothing wrong between Luke and Lorelai. He figured he would’ve heard about it by now if there were, but just to be on the safe side, he’d ask Rory about it as soon as he could.
“So, your mom hasn’t said anything to you about things not being okay Luke?” Jess checked over breakfast the next morning.
“Nope, not a word,” Rory confirmed, pushing her cereal down into the milk some more. “Paris probably has it wrong, you know how she can overreact, and even if there was something minor going on at Thanksgiving, that was weeks ago now. They must’ve figured it out, right?”
“Right,” Jess agreed, taking a drink from his cup. “So, Paris told you about her and Doyle?”
“Yes, and I really did not see that coming!” she admitted around a mouthful of cereal that she tried to chew swallow just as fast as possible. “I mean, Doyle? Really? I know he’s a nice guy and everything, but I can’t imagine him dating Paris. Honestly, I can’t imagine him dating anybody.”
“I guess if they’re happy, that’s what matters.” Jess shrugged.
“Agreed, but I have to admit, I did kind of have this hope that somehow Paris and Marty might get it together,” Rory mused. “I know what we said in the beginning about him not being able to handle her, but he always seems so lonely, and then Paris was lonely too. They could’ve made a cute couple.”
“Maybe,” Jess considered. “I think Marty has problems with talking to girls.”
“You could help him with that,” suggested Rory. “One thing you never hear said about Jess Mariano, ‘Wow, isn’t he shy?’” she teased.
He smirked at that comment, he couldn’t help it.
“You’re the one with the female room-mates You don’t think one of them would be Marty dating material?”
“Well, Janet’s spoken for, and Tanna, she’s sweet but a little strange... but then I guess, so is Marty?”
“There you go, a match made in Heaven,” Jess declared, finishing off his last bite of several. “So, you think Luke and Lorelai are okay?”
“Pretty sure.” Rory nodded. “I mean, Mom has been acting a little weird lately, to be honest, but I figure it’s just stress about the inn and everything.”
“Maybe,” Jess agreed. “Kind of a big deal.”
“Yeah, it would be a reason why the wedding plans aren’t moving along so quickly also, but I’ll check in with her later, make sure everything’s okay.”
“Sounds like a plan.”
Rory wasn’t sure how the festive season managed to pass by so quickly. She and Jess took Paris with them to Stars Hollow for Christmas and she pretty much stayed for the whole of the holidays, right through New Year.
So much for thinking there were problems with Luke and Lorelai, it fast became clear to them all that nobody could be more in love than the two adults they all cared for most in the world. If all the kissing under the mistletoe was anything to go by, they were doing just fine.
“I mean, I didn’t say anything,” said Paris as she sat across from Rory in the diner, “it’s their house after all, but it’s been every day and a lot of times. I’m just worried that at their age they’re going to overdo it.”
“Paris!” her friend gasped. “My mom and Luke are not that old.”
“I never said old, just... of an age,” she said, strangely tactfully for Paris. “Men of Luke’s age have to watch their blood pressure, that’s just scientific fact.”
“Is she talking about that again?” asked Jess as he brought them both their breakfast. “Seriously, Paris, other people making out in their own home? Not any of your business.”
“Hey, as much as it’s a little weird to bear witness to - and it’s got to be ten times more weird for the two of you, given the connection their marriage will make between you - I’m just happy that they’re happy. It was strangely distressing to think of them breaking up.”
“Well, clearly they’re not going to do that,” said Rory with a smile. “I was worried but seeing them so together like this? All fears quelled.”
“Huh,” said Jess with a look.
“Okay, that’s not a sound I want to hear right now.”
“I have to agree. You see more problems?” asked Paris curiously.
“I don’t know.” Jess shrugged. “I mean, sure, they’re all over each other, but did you hear either of them mention the wedding or marriage or anything this whole week?”
“Well, no,” Rory considered.
“And did they not say way back in September that they were not planning to have a long engagement? Luke even asked me about being best man.”
“Mom asked me to be maid of honour too.”
“But since then, no word?” Paris checked.
“Nothing,” Rory realised aloud, “but the inn, and the diner. There’s always so much going on.”
“You really think that would stop your mom if she really wanted this wedding to happen?” asked Jess with a look. “I’m sorry, Ror, but I can’t help thinking something really is wrong.”
“But I asked Mom if everything was okay and she said it was fine. She would never lie to me.”
“Maybe it’s less of a lie and more a twisting of the truth,” Paris considered, shoving a piece of pancake into her mouth and chewing thoughtfully. “I mean, how does one really define ‘fine’? Things between Luke and Lorelai might be construed as fine, they’re still in love, they’re not fighting or breaking up or anything, but there definitely has not been any talk of weddings or marriage in my hearing.”
Jess looked from Paris to Rory, watching her bite her lip and begin to worry. He really didn’t want her stressing about this and now wished he never brought it up.
“Look, maybe they’re just delaying some because of how busy they are, like you said,” he suggested to her. “If it was anything else, they’d tell us. Even if Luke didn’t tell me, you know Lorelai would tell you, you just said so.”
“I guess.” Rory nodded.
“Back me up, Paris,” said Jess with a look that told her it was not a request.
“Sure, could be,” she said, nodding her head.
“Exactly. That’s probably all it is. So, don’t worry so much, okay?” he said to Rory, leaning over to kiss her quickly before getting back to work.
“We should eat,” said Rory then, giving her full attention to her breakfast. “We really don’t want to be too late getting back to Yale. I’ll bet you’re missing Doyle.”
“I guess so,” Paris considered, unable to keep the smile off her lips when she spoke of him. “It’s weird, I shouldn’t be so attracted to the odd little midget, but somehow he just got under my skin.”
“Some guys will do that,” said Rory, casting her eyes at Jess a moment and smiling. “I never expected it to happen to me the way it did.”
“Doyle and I are nothing like you and my brother,” said Paris definitely.
“Oh, really?” asked Rory, looking back at her friend. “How are you so different?”
“We just... we connect, on an intellectual level, and... and it’s just different,” she said firmly, though no further explanation came.
Rory laughed, she couldn’t help it. As if she and Jess didn’t also connect in a completely intellectual level. Their whole relationship started with books and the love of them! Besides, she knew damn well that the whole of the Paris/Doyle romance was not based on cerebral pursuits.
“Yeah, intellectual,” she said, around a mouthful of her breakfast. “From the way Jess described it when he first found out about you two of you, you were having a really good intellectual time.”
“Shut up!” said Paris, with much less force and anger than she meant.
It was one of the few times Rory had seen her friend blush, and the smile that wouldn’t shift off her face proved without question that Paris was feeling way more for Doyle than she ever let on. She said she liked him, but if it wasn’t love, then Rory would be surprised. If certainly seemed that way from Paris’ side.
“You know I’m happy for you, right?” she said then. “Seriously. When you and Jamie were over, I was a little worried about you. You seemed so perfect together, I have to admit I wondered if you were making the right choice.”
“You want the truth? Me too,” Paris confessed, “but now there’s Doyle and... I can’t compare the two, but I like him a lot, and he seems to like me too. It doesn’t have to be forever. I know life isn’t a fairy-tale, I’m not naive, but for now, I’m happy.”
“Happy is good,” said Rory, smiling because her friend was smiling.
It seemed everybody was pretty happy right about now, and that was never a bad thing.
“Lorelai! I’m heading over to the diner now!” Luke called up the stairs. “I know Jess said he was fine until the lunch rush, but I don’t want him and the girls being too late getting back to Yale.”
“I’ll be down in a sec and I’ll come with!” she yelled back. “I’m trying to find Rory’s bracelet that I borrowed. It’s silver and pretty and... it’s not down there is it?”
Luke turned around and checked on the coffee table, the mantle shelf, by the phone. He didn’t see anything that looked bracelet-like and told Lorelai as much. Of course, he knew if they couldn’t find it they might never leave this side of the kids heading back to college. In fact, they would be lucky if they got out of the house before graduation.
“If I were a bracelet, where would I be?” he said to himself, wandering into the kitchen, before deciding that was the last place Lorelai was going to have left anything.
Rummaging around in the living room again, he lifted magazines and even checked down the side of the sofa cushions, coming up with seventy-five cents, a pen, and something pink he was pretty sure was for putting a woman’s hair up in some way. No bracelet.
With a sigh, Luke headed back to the table where the phone sat and checked amongst the picture frames and such on there. He pulled open the top drawer and peered inside, then the second one, all to no avail. What did catch his eye in there was nothing like a bracelet but the red lettering on more than one envelope was very hard to ignore. It was wrong to snoop and Luke really wasn’t the type, but those looked suspiciously like overdue bills and there was no way he could just dismiss that as nothing.
Lorelai’s feet thundered down the stairs, startling Luke from his staring, but just a beat too late, he realised.
“I found it, it was...” Lorelai’s words all went away as she reached his side and saw what he was looking at before. “What are you doing?”
“I was looking for the bracelet,” he explained. “Lorelai, what is all this?” he asked her.
“Papers,” she said, moving to slam the drawer shut. “Bills and papers. Nothing major.”
“I didn’t look on purpose, you know that,” Luke insisted, “but I saw anyway. Those look like final demands.”
“I got busy, the bills didn’t get paid on time, but it’s fine,” she insisted. “I’m dealing.”
“Luke, I said it’s fine. God, I know you’re Mr Uber Organised but you know I flake sometimes. It’s no big deal.”
She looked genuine and the last thing Luke wanted to do was call her a liar. She was his fiancée, the woman he loved and trusted most in the world. Lorelai just wasn’t the type to lie, not to him of all people.
“Okay,” he said at last. “If you say it’s fine, then it’s fine,” he agreed, nodding his head. “I know if you needed help-”
“Then you would be the first to know,” Lorelai finished for him, smiling widely. “Now, let’s get to the diner, see the kids for as long as we can before they have to ride off into that educational sunset again.”
“Right,” said Luke, following her towards the front door.
His eyes strayed back towards the drawer with the red bills even as he went, but Lorelai had said it was fine, so it was. Of course, it was.
“Hey, Luke,” said Lane with a grin just as soon as he stepped into the diner.
“Hi,” he replied, frowning some as he realised she was wearing an apron and serving customers. “Jess, why is Lane working in my diner?” he asked, approaching the table where his nephew was sat with Rory and Paris.
“She’s not working, not technically,” said Jess.
“Working would denote tasks performed in lieu of receiving monetary gain,” said Paris, the way only Paris could. “Lane is more... auditioning.”
“She really needs a job,” Rory explained. “Jess explained that you’d probably need some help once we all headed back to college, and the next thing we knew Lane was claiming his apron and taking orders.”
“She’s pretty good actually,” said Paris thoughtfully. “I’d give her an eight out of ten.”
“I’d go seven,” said Jess with a smirk, “but only because I have a rep to protect as the bad guy.”
“You’re not so tough,” Rory told him, kissing his cheek.
“Fine, she gets an eight.”
“Hey, could I maybe choose my own staff, above and beyond the scoring system of Team Yale?” asked Luke, adjusting his hat.
“Come on, honey, what’s the problem?” said Lorelai then. “Lane’s a good kid. She’ll be nice to the customers, she won’t steal, she lives right across the square. What’s to say no to?”
“Nothing.” Luke shrugged. “I’d just like to feel like maybe I have some say over my own business is all. Lane?” he called to her then. “When you’re done with that order, come over to the counter, we’ll talk terms.”
“Yes!” she exclaimed happily. “Be right there, boss!”
“That’s our good deed done for the day,” said Rory happily.
“Then I guess it’s time to head out.” Paris sighed. “Lorelai, it’s been a pleasure as always.”
“Great to see you, Paris. You’re welcome any time.”
“Thanks,” she said, smiling like she meant it. “I’ll see you two back at school,” she told Rory and Jess then, heading out to her car that was parked right outside.
“I’m gonna say ‘bye’ to Luke,” said Jess, sliding out of his seat and heading for the counter to cut in on Lane’s interview just for a minute.
Rory got up and faced her mom.
“Here we go again!” she said, reaching to hug her. “It’s been such a great holiday.”
“It really has,” Lorelai agreed, hugging her tight. “Be good, baby girl, and if you can’t be good, be careful,” she told her with a wink as they parted.
“Always,” Rory promised, before her smile slipped a little. “Mom, everything is okay, right? With you and Luke, and the inn?”
“Sweetie, everything is fine,” Lorelai assured her. “You just said we had a really great holiday. Everybody is happy, everything is fine, and yes, I know in the movies this is usually the part where everything goes really, really wrong, but that’s not going to happen here. This is Stars Hollow, only good stuff is allowed, especially in the Gilmore-Danes-Mariano-Geller clan,” she said, taking a deep breath right after. “We’ve got to find a shorter name for this clan.”
“I’ll work on it,” Rory promised, hugging her mom one more time. “I’ll call you.”
“You better,” Lorelai told her. “Take care of each other,” she said as Jess returned to them.
“Always,” he agreed, grabbing a hold of Rory’s hand. “Let’s go, Gilmore”
“Right behind you, Mariano. Let’s go kick this semester’s butt!”
“Why are you making a big deal out of this?”
“Maybe because it is a big deal. Lorelai, I’m your fiancé. Your parents only know about that because you used the announcement as a way to get the heat off Rory one night at dinner, and now they know, they finally invite me to dinner, and you say no without even asking me!”
“I was saving you! You know how I feel about those Friday Night Dinners, why would I subject someone I love to that torture?”
“Oh, I don’t know, maybe because we’re supposed to be getting married? That’s going to make your family, my family, and as much as I’ll agree that the prospect of being related to that particular part of your family does not thrill me, the point is I’m still supposed to get to talk to them once in a while!”
“You’re being ridiculous!”
“I’m being ridiculous?!”
The door slammed above and almost every staff member and patron of Luke’s diner winced at the sound. The fight had started only a few moments ago but hadn’t taken long to get into full swing. It would be bad enough if this was the first such incident, but it wasn’t.
“Six o’clock this morning. Six o’clock!” Babette told Miss Patty in nothing like a quiet voice. “Usually the girls aren’t even up at that time, but this morning, yelling and screaming. I swear, if it wasn’t Luke and Lorelai, I’d’ve called the cops!”
“Well, darling, it sounds positively vicious. What on earth set them off?”
“I wasn’t getting too many words, just a lot of slamming and yelling, but this part at least has something to do with the parents, I reckon.”
“The Gilmores are a little highbrow,” said Miss Patty knowingly. “Wonderful as our Luke is, he’s certainly not a blue-blood.”
“I’m just glad the kids aren’t here to see this.” Babette sighed. “You know Rory would hate to see her mother and Luke so upset with each other.”
“You know I think even Jess and that sister of his would be hurt by such a drama. They seemed to have become as much a part of that family as anyone. Did you see them over the holidays? They made such a darling family portrait.”
“Well, it’s a good thing that they got back to being busy at Yale before all this happened. They didn’t ought to be seeing or hearing any of this.”
The conversation was cut short when suddenly there was a thunder of footsteps on the stairs and then Lorelai appeared from behind the curtain. Silence reigned in the diner as all faces turned to look at her.
“What?” she asked, her face red from anger, no doubt, but possibly also from a few tears nobody was supposed to know about.
“Morning, doll,” Babette greeted her as cheerily as she could. “You doin’ okay?”
“Just peachy,” said Lorelai acidly before storming out of the door with a clang.
“Oh, dear.” Miss Patty sighed. “I don’t think that particular fight is over yet.”
“Well, it oughta be soon,” said her friend. “Those two are meant to be together and we all waited long enough for it to happen. If they fall at the last hurdle, what chance does anybody else stand of making a relationship work?”
“Beats me, honey,” said Miss Patty putting her chin in her hand. “I’m sure I never figured it out.”
Rory heaved a sigh as she stepped out of the lecture hall.
“Wow. That must’ve been one riveting class.”
The smile was back on her face in a second as she looked across and saw Jess leaning on the wall, wearing that smirk that she had come to love so much.
“Professor Walsh has one of those voices. It’s not his fault but five minutes in I’m just fighting the sandman,” she explained as she walked to meet her boyfriend. “Hi.”
“Hi,” he replied, kissing her soundly. “I came to take you to lunch. Figured in the last two weeks we’ve pretty much seen nothing but this campus, so maybe we could drive into New Haven, find a diner or something?”
“Sounds like a plan to me,” Rory agreed, smiling happily. “Fresh air and good food might actually wake me up after that lecture,” she said, trying to stifle another yawn.
Jess put his arm around her shoulders as they walked out. Rory explained she was going to have to go back to her dorm before they headed out so she could drop off her books and pick up a jacket.
“Well, you won’t be picking up Paris, I know that much,” Jess told her. “She was knocking on Doyle’s door when I left the building.”
“She is spending a lot of time there lately,” Rory noted. “So long as she’s happy we’re happy for her, right?”
“Right,” Jess agreed.
“Speaking of friends and their new romances, Lane called last night. We were on the phone for hours, which probably also isn’t helping my sleepy state,” she explained. “She’s really stuck on Zach, but I’m not sure he’s noticed yet.”
“Huh. That guy wouldn’t notice something if you beat him over the head with it.”
“Jess, that’s mean!”
“I’m sorry, but Zach is not exactly the smartest guy I ever met.”
“Granted, but he’s nice, and Lane really likes him.”
“Then for her sake, I hope he wakes up and notices her,” said Jess honestly. “She deserves something good to happen to her.”
“Ah, but something good already did. Maybe, anyway,” said Rory as they reached her dorm room door. “The other thing she was telling about last night was a potential gig for the band - at CBGBs!”
“You’re kidding me?” said Jess, eyes wide at the very idea.
“Nope, Gil set it up, but the clincher is that it’s at like one in the morning, there’s no way Lane is going to be able to go. Mrs Kim would find out and I’m pretty sure that’s a crime for which there is not enough punishment.”
“Geez, even I wouldn’t cross Mrs Kim,” Jess admitted, waiting by the door as Rory ducked into her room a minute.
The last thing he needed was Janet scowling at him or Tanna deciding she wanted to make nice again. Jess really didn’t have the patience. So much for trying to hook up the younger of the two with Marty, both Rory and Jess found it was just too much hassle and probably they were both best left to their own devices unless they actually asked for dating help.
“Were you planning to go home this weekend?” asked Rory as she emerged, pulling on her jacket.
“Well, I wasn’t sure whether to or not, but it’s been a couple of weeks and I don’t like to leave mom alone too long.”
“She has Luke,” Jess considered.
“I know, and I have you, but that’s not the same thing.”
Jess gave that some thought and then shrugged his shoulders. The girls needed each other, he supposed, not just their boyfriends. He actually wouldn’t mind the chance to spend a little time with Luke, truth be told. Paris was great, but she was still female. Guys needed male company sometimes, and even if Jess had nothing specific to talk to Luke about, he figured his uncle might appreciate having him around for a day or two, if only to help out in the diner.
“You want me to drive you over Friday night?” he offered. “I could drop you at your grandparents, head back to Stars Hollow. Your mom can bring you home after, right?”
“Sure,” Rory agreed. “Of course, if I asked my grandma, you could probably-”
“No,” said Jess quickly. “Come on, Ror, I thought you loved me enough to keep me away from your grandparents as much as possible.”
“You know I love you,” she agreed, leaning into him, “but you do realise that if we’re going to be together, at some point, you will have to spend some time with my family again. Besides, Grandpa likes you.”
“And Grandma hates me,” he reminded her. “Maybe, someday, if they invite me, I’ll come to dinner, but not this week, okay?”
“Okay,” she agreed, kissing his cheek. “Now, if you love me, feed me.”
“Yes, ma’am,” he told her, kissing her back with a smile.
Lane had thought the ringing of the church bells every hour on the hour was loud. It was, and pretty annoying after a while too, but it paled in comparison to the yelling she heard coming from the Gilmore girls’ house when she reached the back door.
“You still don’t get it!”
“What I don’t get, Luke, is why you suddenly have this crazy need to spend time with my parents. I mean, what’s the draw? My mom’s snobby attitude or my dad’s indifference?”
“They’re not that bad. They were good enough for you when you needed to put Rory through school!”
“Oh, that is low!”
They continued arguing back and forth, and Lane winced at the sound. She heard rumours in town about the couple fighting, but she had assumed Luke and Lorelai would’ve figured it out by now. They usually did. It seemed things had gotten pretty bad this time around. Maybe now wasn’t the best time to ask for help in covering with Mama Kim so she could sneak out to CBGB’s for a concert.
Turning to go, she covered her ears when the bells began to ring again. Even this far from the church, they were practically deafening. Lorelai must’ve heard them inside the house because Lane was sure she heard her yell about them too as she beat a hasty retreat.
“Those damn bells! What is wrong with them?”
“They’re ringing, Lorelai,” Luke reminded her loudly, mostly to be heard over the sound. “It’s what they’re supposed to do. Not that I expect you to understand that. Lately, you don’t seem to want to do anything you’re supposed to.”
“Oh, I’m sorry, Luke. Am I not sticking to my wifely duties? Newsflash, buddy, we’re not married yet!”
“And at this rate we never will be! You seem to be doing everything to avoid the arrangements lately. I thought it was about the inn, and God knows I tried to lend a hand where I could, not that you really wanna let me, but I tried. Now, I don’t know. Is it a money thing?”
Lorelai’s eyes went wide at that question, but the fact she gave no immediate answer told Luke all he needed to know.
“It is. This has something to do with those bills I found, doesn’t it? Are you struggling?”
“You don’t know anything,” said Lorelai crossly, pushing past him towards the door.
“Lorelai!” he called after her, but she didn’t stop, just grabbed her jacket and headed out. “Lorelai!” Luke tried again, giving chase, only to find the door closed in his face.
By the time he opened it again and rushed down the porch steps, Lorelai was in her Jeep and driving away. Luke practically growled in frustration, mostly because of the fight, partly because those damn bells were still ringing! Storming over to his car, he got in, slamming the door shut. He really was completely sick of this day.
“Hey, you surfaced,” said Jess with a wicked smirk when he opened the door to find Paris on the other side. “I was starting to think you and Doyle were hibernating in there.”
“Please! As if you never spent so long holed up with Rory that we thought you guys were never coming back to reality,” she said, rolling her eyes. “Anyway, since we haven’t seen much of each other lately, for a lot of reasons, I thought I should check in. How’re things, Jess?”
“Things are fine, Paris,” he told her, leaning on the door jamb with his arms folded much like hers were. “Seriously, they are” he insisted when she made a face like she thought he was messing with her. “Me and Rory are headed to Stars Hollow for the weekend, I’m working on the second draft of my manuscript, and everything’s cool.”
“Luke and Lorelai?”
“Happy as the proverbial clams last I heard.”
“That’s good.” Paris nodded, and yet she still looked like she had more to say. “I just... well, like I said, we haven’t seen much of each other lately, and I’m aware that we aren’t required to live in each other’s pockets, nobody wants that, but I also don’t want you to feel that just because I have a boyfriend now I don’t have time for... for family.”
Jess smiled at that, he couldn’t help it.
“Thought never crossed my mind, sis,” he promised her.
“That’s good,” she replied, smiling right back. “So, a weekend home with the folks, huh?”
“That’s the plan. If I don’t show up at least every other week, Luke gets antsy, and you know how Rory and Lorelai are.”
“Don’t I just?” Paris rolled her eyes, though her smile remained.
“You can come along, if you want?” Jess offered then. “Of course, if you have plans with the boyfriend...”
“We’re not joined at the hip,” Paris protested, struggling to maintain any kind of angry expression when she saw the smirk on her brother’s lips. “You’re disgusting.”
“I didn’t say a word!” he told her, hands held up in mock surrender, though they both knew just precisely what he was thinking. “The offer stands, Paris. You’re always welcome in the Hollow, but if you have plans, don’t stress. It’s cool to have you around, but I’m a big boy, I won’t cry if I don’t see you for one weekend.”
Paris nodded in understanding, smiling yet. It didn’t suck to know she and Jess were still as close as ever they had been. It was true that they didn’t have to see each other every minute of every day, but they were there if they should need each other. That was never a bad feeling, and one that Paris had grown so accustomed to, she would hate for him to go away at all.
“You know, Doyle says he’s sorry you left the paper,” she said suddenly. “If you wanted to come back-”
“Paris, it’s not gonna happen,” Jess told her, for what felt like the twentieth time. “I’m not the journalist type. You heard the part about the second draft of the short novel, right?”
“Right, the one I’m not permitted to read.”
“When it’s done, then you can. In the meantime, Rory is enough of an editor for me, thanks.”
“I’ll bet she puts smiley faces in the margins and grants you favours for really good punctuation or something.”
“To quote Lorelai, dirty,” said Jess, making a face. “You keep the kinky games you play with McMaster to yourself, okay?”
Paris moved to slap him in the shoulder for that remark, but Jess moved away too fast, anticipated the move. They were both laughing then as Paris said she should go already and eventually walked away. Jess watched her disappear down the hall and sighed. He would never tell her, but he had kind of missed seeing so much of his sister this past week or so. It was good to catch up, just to have that reassurance she was still there. It was too easy to assume any and all family or friends that were supposed to have his back would disappear before long, but Paris wasn’t like that, any more than Luke or Lorelai or Rory would be. Still, it was a tough habit for Jess to break after the example set by his own parents and so many others that came before.
Luke needed somewhere to channel his rage and this seemed like the perfect opportunity. Besides, it wouldn’t really be vandalism. In fact, he kind of saw it as public service. Not one person in Stars Hollow was enjoying the ridiculous bells anymore, even those that had loved them when they first started to ring again. They were a menace to all and Luke was doing everybody in a fifty-mile radius a favour by breaking them. That was the story he was telling himself, in any case.
Inside the church, he checked nobody had seen him enter and crossed to the stairs that would take him up to where the bells resided. He nearly jumped completely out of his skin when a shadow moved across the wall and suddenly he realised he wasn’t alone.
“What in the-, Lorelai?”
“Luke? What the hell are you doing here?” she asked him crossly.
“Don’t say ‘hell’,” he advised, nodding towards the crucifix hung on the wall.
Lorelai rolled her eyes. “They have Jewish services in here, also. I don’t think it’s consecrated Christian ground.”
“Either way,” said Luke pointedly. “Why are you here?”
“I’m guessing the same reason you are,” she told him, lifting a small toolbox into view.
“So?” she countered. “We are supposed to be engaged, so we share, right?”
She turned towards the stairs, but stopped short of going up when a clanging sound made her jump. Looking back, she saw that Luke had dropped his much larger toolbox onto the ground.
“What?” she asked. “What’s with the folded arms glowery thing you’ve got going on? Because I am not getting back into a fight with you right now, not here, not now.”
“Lorelai, I don’t want to fight with you at all,” he told her, shaking his head. “Come on, this whole thing has got way out of hand. I know I got mad about Friday Night Dinner, but I thought you would see my point on that eventually.”
“I do,” said Lorelai, sighing as her gaze dropped to her shoes.
“And when I brought up those bills and all the money stuff, I just... I only wanna help, you know that, right? I mean, you just said we’re engaged. That means sharing everything, at least, I thought it did.”
“It does,” Lorelai muttered, not looking up yet, even when Luke stepped right over his toolbox to stand before her.
“Then can we please stop fighting and just be reasonable with each other already?” Luke suggested, one hand going to her head and encouraging her to look at him. “Please?”
“I’m sorry, Luke,” she said, finally meeting his eyes in the dim light. “I just... I don’t know, I’m not used to having somebody to lean on like that. I mean, you’ve always been there for me, I’m not denying it and I’m grateful, but... but this inn and everything, it’s my thing, mine and Sookie’s. I still want to be your wife, I absolutely do, but it’s hard. It’s hard for me to admit that I’m struggling, that... that I’m seriously running out of money,” she confessed at last. “I really am.”
“I figured.” Luke nodded, his hand cradling her cheek as he pulled her closer. “I just wanna help, Lorelai. I mean, come on, when we’re married, what’s yours is mine and what’s mine or yours. Does it matter if we start on that a little early?”
Lorelai smiled at that innate kindness, forever present in her fiance. He really was kind of amazing.
“I love you, Luke Danes,” she told him, dropping the toolbox to the floor near his so she could reach her arms up around his neck. “You’re the greatest guy in the world, and I know, I know that sometimes I make no sense, and I get all crazy about stuff that you don’t get, but if you can deal with it, I promise, I will try to be different-”
“No,” Luke cut in, his thumb placed gently on her lips so she could say no more for the moment. “I don’t want you to be different, Lorelai. I love you because you’re you, crazy and all,” he promised with a smile. “I just wish you would let me help you once in a while with the stuff that matters. That’s what couples are supposed to do, right? Lean on each other, stand together, be a united force.”
“Yeah,” she said, nodding her head. “That sounds good. I guess it’s just tough for people like us who are so used to standing alone.”
“Then we need to get better at remembering that we’re not alone anymore.”
“Agreed,” she said, smiling widely as she moved in for a good long kiss.
When they parted, there was a look in her eyes that Luke knew too well, and yet her words surprised him when they were spoken.
“Hey, Luke? You wanna lean on each other while we seriously break some bells?”
“Oh, God, yes!” he agreed with real enthusiasm, picking up both toolboxes and running after her up the stairs.
“You’re smiling a lot considering where we are,” said Rory, standing across from her mom on the doorstep of the Gilmore Mansion.
“I’m happy, so sue me,” Lorelai countered.
“Hey, I thought you were supposed to bring Luke along this week, what happened there?”
“Long story. Short version is that he’s coming next week instead, and hey, maybe we convince Emily and Richard to invite Jess also, make it a real party.”
“I’m now not sure if you’re teasing, but you are scaring me,” said Rory, even as she rang the bell. “I’m glad you’re happy, but I still say it’s kind of bizarre given where we are.”
“What can I say, kid? I had a really great night with my man last night.”
Rory’s phone buzzed in her pocket then and she scrambled to get to it and shut it off before the door opened. Thankfully the maid must’ve been slacking.
“Anyone important?” asked Lorelai curiously.
“Um, Lane. Which is weird because she knows I’d be here and couldn’t answer.” Rory frowned. “I’ll call her just as soon as we get out.”
“Sounds like a plan. Geez, don’t tell me Emily fired the maid and actually forgot,” she said then, reaching to ring the bell again.
Given she had a few seconds, Rory fired off a speedy text to Jess before shutting off her phone, just as the door opened.
“The way Kirk told it, I expected to walk in here and find blood on the walls,” said Jess looking in through the doorway to the diner apartment. “Either you did a real good clean up or he was exaggerating about the way you and Lorelai have been fighting.”
“Hello, nephew” said Luke, rolling his eyes at the way Jess had spoken. “Those gossips are still on that, huh?”
“That and something about the destruction of public property, which for once I can’t be blamed for,” he explained, shrugging his bag off his shoulder onto the bed. “Something about bells?”
“Oh, that’s nothing,” Luke waved away the query. “Er, so, if you want the whole story, yes, Lorelai and I had a difference of opinion on some things, but it’s all fine now. You know how it is, all couples fight.”
“Sure.” Jess nodded, deciding not to prod any further.
If even half of what Kirk said was accurate, that had been more than a simple fight between his uncle and Rory’s mom. It seemed they had been yelling and screaming about everything all over town for the better part of two days, but so long as they had it figured out now, Jess figured there was no point in making a big deal.
“So, other than fights that are now resolved, anything else going on that I need to hear?”
“Not that I know of.” Luke shook his head. “Things okay with you?”
“Yup. I just dropped Rory at her grandparents, she’s getting a ride back with her mom. I don’t know how much we’ll see each other. Pretty sure they’re going to have some kind of girly weekend or whatever. So, if you need a hand in the diner?”
“Sure, I could always use a hand,” Luke agreed. “You didn’t bring Paris?”
“The new boyfriend is monopolising her time,” Jess explained, rolling his eyes. “I guess it’s cool that she’s happy.”
“He’s a decent guy?”
Jess smiled at that. It was kind of cool that Luke was looking out for Paris too. They were the unlikeliest people to have become buddies, but then Jess supposed himself and Paris were quite an odd pairing for brother and sister also. Like the saying went, ‘it takes all kinds to make a world.’
Luke said something about leftover pie and headed downstairs to fetch it and Jess pulled his phone out of his pocket when it buzzed. Rory had sent him a text, presumably seconds before she went into dinner with her grandparents.
‘Please check on Lane? I think something’s wrong.’
Jess frowned at that but figured he wasn’t getting any more information. He and Lane were not exactly close but he liked her well enough and if Rory wanted him to check on her, he absolutely would, though he wasn’t clear on what trouble she could be in that would require his help.
“Luke?” he called as he ran down the stairs. “I need to-”
He stopped short of saying anymore as he realised there was no need to go in search of Lane. There she was with her arms wrapped around a baffled looking Luke, crying into his chest like her heart would break, a bag on the floor by her feet.
When Jess went and knocked on Paris and Rory’s dorm room door, he wasn’t quite prepared for Lane to answer it. Of course, he knew she was staying there. It was him that had driven her here last night, after all, but he had assumed she would still be in a corner crying or ranting about what happened with her mother. It was what she had been doing all weekend long, in fact, ever since showing up at the diner and crying all over a very startled Luke. She certainly looked more chipper now.
“Hey, how do you take your coffee?”
“Er, black?” said Jess vaguely, confused as to why that was Lane’s opening question, or really why she was asking him any questions at all.
“Got it!” she said, squeezing by him and practically running from the building.
Jess caught the door as it swung in her wake and wandered into the dorm. Thankfully, he found Rory sitting on the couch and not any of her dorm-mates.
“So, Lane’s feeling better?”
“More or less,” Rory agreed, nodding her head. “She’s decided that if she’s going to stay here, she needs to be useful. First task, coffee run.”
“Cool,” said Jess, coming to sit beside his girlfriend. “Hi.”
“Hi,” she replied in kind, kissing him soundly. “I thought we were meeting for lunch later?”
“We were. We still can, if you want,” Jess confirmed.
“Okay.” Rory nodded. “I don’t want this to sound like I’m not happy to see you but how come you’re here? Random visits are great but not so much like you.”
“Honestly?” he said, making a face even as he confessed. “I kind of wanted to make sure Lane was okay.”
“Aww, that’s so sweet!”
“Yeah, that’s what I was going for.” Jess rolled his eyes. “I swear, spending so much time with you and Paris and Lorelai and even Lane, it’s not good for me. A guy should have male friends.”
“You have male friends.” Rory reminded him. “You have Marty, and you have Luke.”
“True, and hey, I’m not complaining that most of the people closest to me are women, I just think maybe I shouldn’t be so caught up in all the drama.”
“Lane sure is having a lot of that right now.” Rory sighed, leaning back on the couch with Jess, his arm around her shoulders. “I mean, I figured Mrs Kim would find out about CBGB’s and that would be what finally blew Lane’s cover. I never would’ve guessed that her deciding not to go would cause all the trouble.”
“CBGB’s caused nothing.” Jess told her definitely. “That was all down to Zach.”
“But he never would’ve been comforting Lane if she wasn’t so upset about the gig not happening, so they wouldn’t have kissed right there in the square where they could be seen. If Mrs Kim hadn’t found out about Lane kissing a boy, there wouldn’t have been a fight, and then Lane wouldn’t have gone ahead and confessed everything in a fit of panic and tears.”
Jess felt like his head was spinning after that particular speech, long-winded and fast-paced as it was.
“Man, you would think I’d be used to that by now,” he said, blinking hard. “I guess some of the blame at least lands with the gig not happening, but I refuse to blame the venue specifically.”
“I would never ask you to do that,” said Rory, grinning at how dumb this conversation was, before kissing Jess one more time. “Okay, I need to get ready for class. Hopefully, Lane will make it back with the coffee before I have to go.”
“I’ll hang here until she gets back,” said Jess, picking up the TV remote. “Where’s Paris anyway?”
“Oh, she said Lane could have her bed for a couple of nights,” explained Rory from the doorway to her bedroom. “I’m not really supposed to tell you this on account of the fact, and I quote, ‘you might get all big brother about it,’ but she’s going to be crashing at Doyle’s for a while.”
“Huh,” said Jess, turning towards the TV again and switching it on.
He knew he probably surprised Rory by not over-reacting. The fact was, he didn’t especially like the idea of Paris with any guy that might hurt her, but he was pretty sure that Doyle wasn’t the type to cheat on her or just drop her when he got bored. He seemed like a decent person, from what Jess knew of him, and if Paris was happy, he knew from experience it was better to be happy for her than try to start a fight.
Though his eyes were pointed at the TV, Jess wasn’t really seeing what was on the screen at all. He would feel bad about fighting with Paris over Doyle, or anything else for that matter. What he felt worse about right now was lying to Rory.
When she asked why he came over, he just bottled out of telling her the whole truth. He did care about Lane and how she was doing, but that was so far from being the real reason why he came here. This past weekend, he had planned to talk to Rory about something that had been on his mind for quite some time, but when Lane had her crisis, she became the focus of everyone’s attention. Jess didn’t deny her that, his issues would keep for another day, but even now he had the perfect opportunity to spill his guts, he still wasn’t doing it. He just didn’t know where to start.
“Jess?” Rory poked her head out of the bedroom door suddenly. “Did I leave my black sweater with the zipper in your room? I can’t find it anywhere and I don’t remember taking it home.”
“Not that I noticed, but maybe,” he considered. “You need me to go look?”
“Um, no. It’s fine. I’ll change again.”
Jess watched her disappear back into her room then smiled and shook his head. Women and their clothes, he was never going to understand it. Guys just threw on a shirt and pants, no drama. Girls could not seem to manage that.
A second later, the dorm-room door opened and in rushed Lane with two trays of coffees and a bag that almost definitely contained Danishes or similar. She was smiling widely, which was great to see, but as a long-time user of the fake smile and other similar expressions, Jess knew only too well that Lane was not coping so well with what happened.
“Hey, you doing okay, coffee girl?” he asked her with a half a smile.
“Sure, yeah. I’m doing just fine,” said Lane, still grinning too much and they both knew it. “Kind of, more or less,” she added, shrugging her shoulders. “I knew this had to happen someday. I couldn’t pretend my whole life. Now Mama knows the truth and I have to accept that she can’t accept me for what I am.”
“Honestly? No idea.” Lane laughed a little manically. “Maybe he loves me, maybe he hates me. I kinda hope it’s somewhere in between but, who knows?”
Rory emerged from her bedroom ready to leave then, thanking Lane for the coffee and promising to be back in a couple of hours to check on her.
“You gonna walk me to class?” she asked Jess.
“Sure,” he agreed, also thanking Lane for his beverage. “You still planning on working your shifts at the diner?” he asked then as he and Rory were leaving. “I know Luke still needs the help.”
“Maybe, soon.” Lane nodded. “It’s a little tough for me to get back and forth between here and there right now.”
“Well, I’m heading over this weekend. I can take you back.”
“And I’ll bet Mom wouldn’t mind you crashing in my room for a couple of nights,” said Rory easily.
“Thanks, guys.” Lane smiled a lot more genuinely than before. “I’ll call Luke later, see if he wants me to work.”
“Cool.” Jess nodded, following Rory out the door.
It was a couple of days before Jess ran into Paris, despite the fact she was living at Doyle’s place just down the hall from her his room. Even then, it was actually in the library that they almost literally collided.
“Hey, you do still go here,” she said, smirking the way he usually did. “I was beginning to wonder.”
“Hey, it’s you that’s been holed up in the RA’s room for days. For the sake of my sanity, I choose to believe you’re doing nothing but playing checkers in there.”
“If it helps you, sure.” Paris rolled her eyes. “Actually, we have played chess a couple of times.”
“I kicked his ass, obviously.”
“Obviously.” Jess smiled. “Well, I know Lane appreciates you giving up your bed for a while. Rory too, actually.”
“I sympathise with the whole ‘parents who don’t get it’ thing,” Paris reminded him. “I guess it’s something that Mrs Kim actually cares what Lane does with her life. It’s more than either of us ever had.”
“If we had better parents, we might never have met,” Jess considered.
“Wow, my life could’ve been that good?” Paris countered, smirking terribly.
“Ha ha,” said Jess flatly, rolling his eyes. “You’d be lost without me, Geller.”
“Like you’d do any better without me, Mariano.”
This was the closest they usually got to admitting they loved each other like siblings would, but that was okay. They knew their connection well enough, sometimes the words weren’t needed anyway.
“So, how goes the great American novel?”
“I told you, many times now, it’s really not that ambitious. It’s just a short novel, but it’s going pretty well. Rory did some proof reading and editing on it. The long job is going to be typing it all up on the computer.”
“Well, if you will be old-fashioned with your pencil and your legal pad.”
“Hey, don’t mock the process. It’s worked for me so far.”
The librarian shushed them when they got a little too loud. Paris and Jess made faces but nonetheless lowered their voices a little, then just got bored of trying and went elsewhere to talk. It was good to catch up, and yet, when it came to the one topic that had been on Jess’ mind more than a little for a while now, he never said a word.
He had almost thought it would be easier to bring up with Paris than with Rory, but it wasn’t. Maybe this weekend he’d have better luck with Luke. One thing was for sure, this thing wasn’t going to go away. He had to talk it out with somebody and it had to be soon.
“I’m sorry, Jess. I know we had plans this weekend, but I really, really have to get this paper finished, plus I have reading to do-”
“Rory, I told you, it’s fine,” he insisted. “I get it. You have a lot to do and it’ll be easier here than in the Hollow.”
“You’re the best boyfriend ever,” she said definitely.
“I know.” He smirked back at her from the edge of her bed. “So, you getting out of Friday Night Dinner too?”
“Probably not, but I can drive straight back here after it’s over and get as much done as I can. You’re taking Lane home with you, Janet’s already gone off somewhere with the boyfriend since it’s their anniversary, and even Tanna has plans. I think she said she was visiting her grandma or something. She left pretty early this morning since she doesn’t have classes today.”
“Does she actually put on the red cape and take her basket?”
“Don’t be mean,” Rory told him, even as she laughed at the joke. “She can’t help being younger.”
“Your room-mates are all cracked,” he told her, pulling her close the moment she got close enough for him to reach.
“Are you including your sister in that?” she asked with a look.
“Are you kidding? Paris is the worst of them all sometimes. Just because I love her doesn’t mean I’m blind to the crazy.”
“Good point.” Rory nodded, knowing she felt much the same. “I am sorry we don’t get to spend this weekend together,” she apologised again, sitting down in his lap.
“Don’t worry about it,” he told her easily. “We’re here right now and nobody else is, right?”
“True, but Lane won’t be long. She just went to get snacks for the ride home for you two.”
“How long you think she’ll be?”
“I don’t know, she left like a minute before you got here and she has to walk all the way into New Haven and back. Still, probably less than an hour.”
“Hmm, now, what can we do to kill time for an hour?” asked Jess with a look in his eyes that Rory knew too well.
“Hmm, well,” she said, pretending to consider that question seriously, “we could study, or we could play Monopoly, or-”
Her words were cut off by Jess’ lips on her own as he pulled her down onto the bed with him and kissed her thoroughly. There was only one way he wanted to spend the next hour alone with his girlfriend, and Rory was more than amenable to the suggestion.
Jess had actually thought things were going his way this weekend. Sure, it sucked that Rory wanted to stay back at Yale but she had her reasons and he respected that. He had Lane for company on the ride home, which was cool. They talked about all kinds of music, in between her needing Jess’ reassurance that Luke still wanted to employ her and that Mrs Kim was unlikely to hate her forever, regardless of what happened.
At least Jess was guaranteed plenty of time in which to talk to Luke about the things on his mind. One thing in particular, actually. Well, he thought the time alone with his uncle would be a guaranteed, until he reached the diner door.
“There’s my boy!”
The words were as familiar as the voice, then suddenly Liz was barrelling towards Jess, hugging him so tight, he could barely breathe. The last thing he needed to deal with right now was the return of his mother, especially when neither Rory nor Paris were available to act as a buffer between him and Liz.
The look on Luke’s face in those first few moments proved he was no more thrilled about the situation than Jess was, not least because Liz had brought the new boyfriend along to meet her brother and son. Unsurprisingly, this was not the first guy she had picked up since her marriage to Ira Geller broke down less than two years ago. By Jess’ count he was maybe the third, though during those semi-regular phone calls he had with Liz, he didn’t always pay rapt attention when she was giving the details of her love life. Still, he was pretty sure he would’ve noticed if she told him she was coming to visit.
“How come you’re here?” he asked her out right. “Did you know she was coming?” he checked with Luke across the counter.
“I wanted to surprise my two best guys!” she said over-emphatically as ever. “Well, two of my three best guys,” she corrected, letting go of Jess to go all over the guy sat on the nearby stool. “Jess, this is TJ.”
“Guess what it stands for,” said TJ, grinning too wide.
“You really don’t want me to,” countered Jess.
Luke smirked but didn’t admonish his nephew at all, just swooped in to offer refreshments in the hopes of defusing the situation before it got too bad. Once he knew what Liz and TJ wanted to drink and eat, he encouraged them to go hang out in the apartment upstairs, promising he and Jess would follow in a minute.
The moment they were out of sight, Jess picked up his bag again.
“Bye,” he said flatly, raising his hand in a very brief wave and turning to go.
“Hey, stop!” said Luke, stretching over the counter to grab Jess’s shoulder. “You’re not seriously going to leave.”
“Yale is way more appealing than this, and that’s really saying something,” he said, muttering the last part, though Luke didn’t seem to catch on anyway. “You really didn’t know she was coming?”
“She said she might come back for her school reunion,” Luke admitted, “but it was months ago that she mentioned it and I figured she forgot by now. I sure didn’t mention it again, so I’m guessing one of her nutty friends did. Probable Crazy Carrie Duncan.” Luke shuddered.
Jess almost asked what that was all about, but then thought better of it. He so didn’t want to be here, not for as long as Liz was going to be around. It sure blew to hell any plans he had about talking things through with Luke too. Still, if he went back to Yale, he’d really be no better off. His room-mates were throwing a party for their friends whilst Jess was away and Marty was busy too. Paris would be with Doyle and Rory had all that studying to do, which was why she hadn’t come home herself.
“Come on, man,” said Luke then, a pleading look on his face as Jess glanced up. “Don’t leave me with your mom and the guy who already offered to do my portrait on his Etch-A-Sketch.”
“Seriously?” said Jess, not sure whether to be disturbed or amused by that particular revelation. “Maybe if we shake him real hard he’ll disappear,” he said thoughtfully, the smirk he wore so well breaking through in a moment.
“Hey, I may be driven to that before the day is out,” said Luke, looking as if he was not at all kidding.
“Fine, I’ll stay.” Jess sighed, dropping his bag back down on the floor.
Luke breathed a sigh of relief and his nephew couldn’t blame him. It probably would be easier to handle Liz and the amazing TJ if they tag-teamed it. Besides, with all the favours Luke had done for him in the last couple of years, Jess knew he owed him, he just wished paying him back didn’t involve spending so much time with his mom and the latest boyfriend. Life could be so cruel.
Rory had actually thought things were going to be pretty boring for her this weekend. She had a paper she really needed to finish then, if she had time, she planned to get a head start on the next round of reading for another class. It ought to have been easy enough with Paris over at Doyle’s place and Lane back in the Hollow for a while. No distractions, not even Jess since he had gone home for the weekend too. She could just sit down and work. At least, that had been the plan.
The note slipped under her door might have been a little alarming if she didn’t recognise the handwriting. It matched perfectly with a page of notes Doyle gave her a while back to type up into a story for The Yale Daily News, and those notes had come with the name Huntzberger attached.
It wasn’t as if she and Logan hadn’t talked at all lately. After the whole awkward thing with him and Jess getting into a fight, Rory had made her feelings clear about the guys duelling over her honour or whatever and everybody moved on. Rory and Jess were solid again and Rory and Logan were, well, they were sort of passing acquaintances. Maybe a little more than that. Not quite friends. Friendish, Rory found herself thinking, though of course sat alone in her room she wasn’t really required to define what she and Logan were to anybody else.
The note was pretty short and to the point. It seemed The Life and Death Brigade had plans this weekend and for whatever reason, Logan was still willing to give Rory the inside scoop for a killer article. She would be a fool not to take the opportunity, and yet Rory hesitated.
The last time she spent any amount of time with Logan and his friends, well, that was just exactly what had caused him and Jess to turn into Forman and Ali. Of course, this was different. This wasn’t a party as such, not something Rory would be doing for fun. It was an event she was going to report on, practically a job, and a chance to show off her journalistic skills. Something that would be a key step in the career she planned to have post-Yale.
Her eyes went to her desk. The paper she needed to get done was almost finished. In an hour she would be done. The reading wasn’t so important and she could easily squeeze it in on Monday. The class it was for wasn’t until later in the week, so it couldn’t make so very much difference.
Rory gave it all of another minute’s consideration before finally her decision was made. She was going to spend the rest of her weekend with The Life and Death Brigade, she was going to blow the lid off this whole organisation, and the article she would write for The Yale Daily News was going to be legendary.
Jess really wasn’t sure how this had happened. Actually, that wasn’t a hundred percent true. If he had to guess, he would have said that he and Liz would’ve got into it a whole lot sooner than ten o’clock at night. It was actually a miracle that they managed to spend around eight hours in close proximity without something terrible happening, but eventually it had to happen.
He couldn’t really say what started it. Liz and TJ playing at being loves young dream was kind of sickening, plus the baby voice she kept using when talking to Jess grated on his nerves every time. Luke tried his best to keep the peace, but then Liz had started telling TJ about Rory, and comments were made. Somehow Paris’ name came up, Liz made a less than pleasant remark about her, and Jess just felt himself getting more and more mad. Eventually, it was inevitable that he was going to explode, so he left, quickly, before he said anything even worse than had already escaped his mouth.
Luke chased him down to the diner proper, practically begging him not to leave mad, not to go back to Yale before they got a chance to talk some more. Jess wasn’t sure where else he was supposed to go, until Luke suggested the Gilmore house.
“Of course,” Luke told him, nodding his head. “Lane was going to stay there but then Sookie came into the diner to check how she was doing, they got talking about the whole Zach and Lane situation, and Sookie insisted Lane go stay with her and Jackson for as long as she wanted. So, I’ll call ahead to Lorelai, let her know you’re coming. I’ll get Liz and TJ set up upstairs then I’ll come over too. I can’t imagine Rory’s going to mind too much if you sleep in her room for the night.”
“I’d say call and ask her but she hasn’t answered any of the text messages I’ve sent in the last six hours begging her to come rescue me from hell,” said Jess, more of a growl than words, in truth.
Still, he had taken Luke up on his offer and driven over to the Crap Shack for the night. Now here he was, sat on the couch whilst Lorelai put clean sheets on her daughter’s bed for him. That was a sentence Jess never thought would be true, but life was funny sometimes.
“All done,” she said as she returned to the living room. “So, your mom is still...”
“Yeah, she is,” said Jess, not willing to pick an adjective any more than Lorelai was for fear of what it would lead to. “I just wasn’t ready for her this weekend. Her timing really, really sucks,” he said sadly, face in his hand for a few moments.
When he looked up again he realised Lorelai was looking at him strangely. He stared back at her, waiting for whatever question was on her mind, because there clearly was one. After a moment, she sat herself down in the armchair and leaned towards him with her elbows on her knees.
“What’s on your mind, Jess?”
“The fact that my mother’s a whack job?”
“No, that’s not it.” Lorelai shook her head. “See, I know she drives you crazy, and of all people, I’m the first person to understand about crazy-driving mothers, but this is more than that. You didn’t just complain about Liz being here in general, you complained about her timing. Why specifically this weekend did you not want her here?”
“I just didn’t, okay?” Jess squirmed.
He so didn’t want to have this conversation with Lorelai. Jess hadn’t even been sure how he was going to bring it up with Luke actually. It certainly wasn’t something he wanted to raise with Paris or even Rory.
“Jess, seriously,” said Lorelai, getting his attention back. “If you need to talk to someone, I get that I’m not first choice, but-”
“I know.” Jess cut in. “I remember that day on the porch. When Luke had been hounding me about going to college. I stormed out and you followed me. You were really cool about everything.”
“I have my moments.” Lorelai smiled. “Seem to remember telling you then that if you ever needed a friendly ear, I got two available.”
“Yeah.” Jess nodded. “Problem is, if I tell you then you’re gonna feel the need to tell Luke and/or Rory.”
“Not if you need me not to,” Lorelai promised. “Unless we’re headed into a confession of something totally illegal or crazy dangerous.”
“Nothing like that,” Jess assured her with a smile. “It’s just... well, I’ve been thinking a lot lately about the future. My future,” he began to tell her then, though he was looking down at his hands more than up at Lorelai and they both noticed. “It’s not that I don’t appreciate everything Luke’s done for me or that I’m failing or anything, because I’m not. I... I just don’t think Yale is where I wanna be.”
At the end, he looked up and was surprised to see Lorelai smiling.
“Wow. Honestly? I was expecting something way, way worse than that,” she admitted, letting out a breath she had clearly been holding this whole time. “So, you gave college, ironically, the good-old college try and it’s not for you,” she said then, shrugging her shoulders. “Nobody said you had to do all four years.”
“Seriously? You think Luke or Rory or Paris is going to be okay with me being a drop-out?”
“Maybe you don’t drop out,” said Lorelai thoughtfully. “Maybe you put Yale on hold for a while. Then if after six months or a year or whatever you want to go back, that’s cool, and if you don’t then you don’t.”
Jess blinked at her in astonishment.
“You’re being weirdly cool and calm about this.”
“You’re not my kid.” Lorelai chuckled. “I’m not sure I’d be too jazzed if I was having this conversation with Rory, but then she’s a very different person to you, Jess. She’s been dreaming of college and a journalism career forever and now she’s living that dream, or at least the first part of it. You got a little rail-roared into all of this. It’s okay if you want to change your mind, just so long as you have a new plan, because trust me, the world is not kind to those with no direction.”
“I have the start of a plan, I think,” said Jess honestly. “It needs some work but I figured I could at least finish this year at Yale, so I have some time.”
“Okay then.” Lorelai nodded. “You know, you’ve got a good head on your shoulders, Jess. You’re a good kid, book smart, street smart, uber talented with the writing from what I hear. Not every job requires a college education. Not every person has to walk the same path. I mean, hey, look at me. I didn’t even finish high school but I’m doing okay.”
“More than okay,” Jess reminded her. “Come on, you raised a kid on your own from the age of sixteen, got your education, and now you’re starting your own business. That’s pretty amazing.”
“What’s pretty amazing?” asked Luke as he came in then.
“Me. We’re talking about the amazingness of me,” said Lorelai honestly.
Luke looked between her and Jess like he wasn’t quite sure he believed it. Not that Jess could blame him because it was a little strange.
“That’s actually true,” he said anyway since it was. “Um, I’m gonna go get some sleep, but in the morning, can we talk?” he asked Luke as he got to his feet.
“Sure. Anytime,” his uncle promised him. “Everything okay?”
Jess looked at Lorelai and saw her encouraging smile. He was wearing a similar expression when he looked back to Luke.
“Yeah, I think it will be,” he told him, before heading off to bed.
Today probably could’ve gone worse.
Rory really wasn’t sure how this had happened. She had to be a little crazy to willingly put on a blindfold and get in a car with Logan, his buddies Colin and Finn, and their friend Stephanie, to be taken to places unknown in the first place, but she figured Christianne Amanpour had gone a whole lot further for a story. What was a little consensual kidnapping between friendish people?
Quite honestly, the whole event had been fun. Listening to the guys talk without the letter E, watching them shoot each other with paintball guns, sleeping overnight in a fancy looking tent and being presented with this really beautiful dress this morning. Rory had made copious notes for her article and could hardly wait to write it up. Of course, it sucked that she hadn’t been allowed to bring her cell along or even hold onto the camera that she had tried to sneak in, but that was okay. She would remember it all and tell everyone about it when she got home - if she lived that long.
“This was so not the plan,” she said, looking cautiously over the edge of the twenty-storey structure on which she now stood. “I’m supposed to be observing, not taking part,” she told Logan desperately.
“Come on, Ace, where’s your sense of adventure?” he asked her, grinning too wide. “You want to be this great reporter someday, you gotta learn to take a risk once in a while, right?”
“I take risks,” she countered, flinching even as some guy started to attach the safety line to the harness she had already been squeezed into. “I live with Paris, that’s pretty ballsy all on its own. I stole from the corner store once and... and...”
“And I’m sure you have a very nice small-town life with your mom and your friends and your pugilistically-inclined boyfriend,” said Logan, unable to keep for smiling, especially when she looked ready to scold him for his choice of words, “but forget all that for a second. Too many people go through life just existing, Rory. This is a chance to really live.”
“Or die,” she countered, swallowing hard as she took one more look at how far away the ground was. “That’s the name of this group, right? The Life and Death Brigade. I’m too young to die, Logan. There’s too much I didn’t get to do yet. I don’t think I can-”
Before she had a chance to ramble anymore, he took a firm hold of her upper arms, pulled her closer, and laid his lips on hers. Rory was too startled to argue, too stunned to react at all. The next thing she knew it was over, Logan had a hold of only her hand now as someone else shoved an umbrella into her free hand and asked if she was ready.
“I just took a risk and lived to tell the tale,” said Logan, meeting her eyes. “Your turn, Ace.”
Rory shifted her gaze from Logan to the guy asking her a second time if she was ready.
“Ready,” she said, nodding once, not really knowing what else she could do, and then she jumped.
“Hey, Luke? You still in there?” asked Jess, wearing a smirk a mile wide, almost tempted to tap his uncle on the forehead as well.
Now probably wasn’t the time for humour, especially when Luke’s reaction was going to be less than happy. Of course, Jess had gained a little confidence in his decision about leaving Yale since he talked to Lorelai about it. Even if Luke did blow up, Jess had a feeling Lorelai would back him and everything would get smoothed over. The fact was, he wasn’t going to know what Luke was thinking until he actually spoke.
“Don’t be a wiseass,” he said with a patented Luke Danes look. “I’m... processing, I guess,” he said, waving his hand in a random gesture.
Then he got up and paced the living room a couple more times.
“Okay,” said Jess more to himself than his uncle, waiting some more, until finally Luke had decided what his opinion on all this really was.
“Well, I guess if you really don’t think college is for you then that’s your choice,” he said, heaving a sigh. “You tried it at least and you seem to have some kind of alternative plan, so all I can really say is okay. If you feel like this is what you need to do then I support you, Jess,” he told him, sitting down on the arm of the chair.
“Thanks,” his nephew replied, smiling now and unable to help it. “I just... I didn’t want you mad at me or thinking that I’m not grateful, you know?”
“I’m not mad and I don’t think that,” Luke promised him. “I just want what’s best for you and I figured that was college, but it’s not everybody’s path. Wasn’t mine,” he said, shrugging his shoulders. “Even if your grandpa hadn’t’ve got sick the way he did, I can’t really see me sticking it out. Of course, I was never as smart as you are.”
“You’re smart enough,” Jess assured him. “But it’s like you said, college isn’t for everybody. I just don’t fit there. I wanted to, for Rory and Paris, for you, even for me, I guess, but it’s not working.”
“Then there’s no point in you wasting any more time or me wasting any more money.”
“That’s what I thought, but like I said, I’ll finish out the year, it’s paid for anyway and it’d be cool to complete my classes, and then, move on.”
“If that’s what makes you happy, Jess, then that’s fine with me.”
Jess could hardly believe how lucky he was to have Luke for an uncle. He certainly hadn’t done too well in the parental lottery. Jimmy was a decent enough guy but running out when Jess was first born remained one of the scuzzier things any father could do to a kid. As for Liz, her latest visit only made Jess all the more certain that his life would’ve been a real mess if he had continued living with her. She was one of the least stable people he had ever met and though he loved her, the way a son couldn’t help but love his mother, he couldn’t deal with her all the time.
Luke was the kind of parent everyone should have if they could manage it. Jess hoped his uncle knew how grateful he was for the support, even when it was tough for him to say so.
“Well, I guess I have to see Liz and the amazing TJ again before I head back to Yale,” he said then, blowing out a long breath.
“Yeah, you probably should,” Luke agreed. “I should get over to the diner anyway. I can’t leave Caesar and Lane alone to deal with things for too long.”
“Hey, if you want, we could split the pain up some,” Jess suggested, getting to his feet when Luke did. “You cover the diner, I’ll visit with the crazy gang, then we’ll switch. Means neither of us goes complete nuts and the diner is never short-staffed either.”
Luke smiled and patted Jess on the shoulder.
“Sounds like a plan, nephew,” he agreed.
Though it was never going to be an ideal situation for either of them, Luke and Jess did stick to their plan and did both make it through without anybody going nuts or getting badly hurt, including TJ, which was definitely a miracle. As afternoon turned to evening, Jess said he really ought to be getting back to school. He had an early class Monday so he shouldn’t stay another night.
Liz made a huge deal of hugging and kissing Jess, calling him her baby boy and telling him how proud she was. He never mentioned the whole dropping out of Yale thing. Quite honestly, he didn’t see it as any of her business. She hadn’t encouraged him to go to college or paid the fees, that was all Luke, and so far, it was only him and Lorelai that knew of Jess’ plans. Jess was going to have to tell Rory pretty fast, because despite Lorelai’s vow of silence, doubtless she or Luke would be overheard discussing it with each other or something and the whole town would know within a day or two. That was just the way things worked in Stars Hollow. Job one when he got back to Yale was to tell Rory his news and then Paris too.
Since they lived in the same dorm, Jess had hoped to only make his speech once, but when he arrived at their door late on Sunday he found Rory and no Paris.
“I guess she’s still with Doyle,” his girlfriend told him.
“You guess?” asked Jess, frowning some. “Wouldn’t you know? I mean, you’ve been here all weekend, right?”
Rory opened her mouth to answer and then closed it again fast. She was supposed to have been in her dorm all weekend, but as a matter of fact, she hadn’t been at all. There was no reason why she shouldn’t tell Jess what had happened, except for one, and his name was Logan.
“Rory?” Jess prompted, wondering what the weird look on her face was all about. “You okay?”
“I’m fine,” she promised, though to Jess’ mind she didn’t look it.
From his place perched on the end of her bed, he watched Rory close the door, go towards her desk chair, change her mind and start pacing a little. It was like Luke and the Yale announcement all over again, expect Jess hadn’t had a chance yet to tell Rory his news. Clearly, she had some announcement of her own to make or maybe some bad news she had to tell him. A hundred different scenarios ran through Jess’ head, everything from Rory being pregnant to her wanting to break up with him. Right now, he wasn’t sure how he would deal with either of those.
“I, er... I was going to be here all weekend,” she said then, tucking her hair behind her ears with both hands. “That was the plan, obviously, otherwise I wouldn’t have told you that it was the plan.”
She laughed nervously and Jess felt his heart drop to his stomach. Something was wrong, he was sure of it now. Honestly, he wasn’t sure if he just wanted Rory to spit it out already and get it over with or if he would rather bolt for the door and never hear whatever awful thing she had to tell him.
“So,” she said eventually, “you remember when we joined the paper and I had that idea for a really great story?”
“An expose on the secret society,” said Jess mechanically, noting that Rory still wasn’t looking directly at him and suddenly having a horrible feeling he knew why. “Huntzberger was going to give you the story.”
“Well, he was going to give me the information I needed for the story,” Rory explained, “but not just Logan, his friends too. Anyway, they came by this weekend,” she went on, pacing some more, looking at the carpet way too much. “They invited me to an event they were having which would give me the chance to gather all the intel I needed to write the most amazing piece for the Yale Daily News.”
She dared to look at Jess now, her expression somewhere between nervous and hopeful. Rory knew he wasn’t going to be thrilled knowing she spent a lot of time with Logan, even though he ought to trust her enough not to care. Probably the larger issue would be that she had been other than where she had said she’d be and maintaining impressive radio silence.
Rory was sure that at some point Jess would’ve called or sent her a text of some kind, expecting she would reply eventually, but up to now she hadn’t managed to check her phone, not since she left for the Life and Death Brigade event yesterday afternoon.
“They make you leave your cell behind?” asked Jess, looking less than thrilled.
“Um, no. Technically it was there, but it had to be switched off. Rules of the deal.”
“Jess, please don’t be mad about this,” she urged him, coming over to sit beside him. “You know this story was a big deal for me, and after everything, you do trust me, right?”
“With my life,” Jess promised her. “I just don’t trust Huntzberger, that’s all, and I really wish you could’ve told me where you were.”
“I didn’t really get the chance, it all happened so fast,” Rory explained. “Besides, you were in Stars Hollow and I was here, I figured it didn’t make any difference if I went out for a while.”
“It doesn’t. I’m not your keeper, Rory, and I’m not trying to be,” said Jess, shaking his head, “but if this was so important, how come you didn’t want to tell me about it? I tried to call you. In fact, I lost count of the number of text messages I sent, practically begging for you to come rescue me.”
He got up off the bed so suddenly, Rory almost pitched over into the space where he had been a moment before.
“Rescue you?” she echoed, staring up at him in confusion. “From Stars Hollow?”
“From Liz and her latest freak of the week,” Jess told her crossly. “I was pretty much in hell over there and it might’ve helped if I could’ve at least talked to you about it. I mean, geez, you and Paris have spent months, years even, trying to get me to talk it out and the one time I have something to talk about, radio silence, twice over.”
“I’m sorry,” said Rory sadly. “Jess, you know if I’d had any idea... you know I’m always here for you,” she told him, getting up and putting her arms around him.
Jess sighed and let himself be hugged, his own arms sliding around Rory’s back and keeping her close then. He didn’t want to be mad at her, it was the very last thing he wanted, and he supposed her minor revelation could’ve been a whole lot worse. So, she went out with Huntzberger. There were plenty of other people there too, male and female, and Rory wasn’t dumb enough to do anything she shouldn’t or didn’t want to.
“Did you and your mom fight?” she asked, moving to meet his eyes.
“Not really.” Jess shook his head. “Mostly I played avoidance tactics. Luke helped. Actually, your mom was pretty cool too. She let me sleep over in your room,” he told her with a smile that was far from innocent.
“Seems like such a waste for you to be in my bed when I’m not there,” she told him, somehow succeeding in making herself blush into the bargain. “Of course, we’re alone right now and I’m not expecting Paris back for a while...”
When she leaned in to kiss him, Jess couldn’t deny her, but he was mindful of where this situation was headed. He had come here for a reason and as much as he loved Rory and certainly didn’t object to the idea of falling into bed, this wasn’t why he dropped by. He really ought to make his own confession since she had already made hers.
“Rory, we have to talk,” he said between kisses. “As much as I’d rather do this, I gotta get this out.”
“Wow,” she said, pulling back. “That sounds serious, and you look very serious.”
“It’s okay, it’s nothing awful, I promise,” he told her, brushing her hair back off her face where it had fallen down. “I, er... the main reason I went home this weekend was to talk to Luke about some stuff. Plans for the future, that kind of thing.”
“Plans for the future,” Rory echoed. “Well, whatever your plans are, they include me, right?”
“I shouldn’t even answer that question on the grounds of it being possibly the dumbest thing you ever asked me,” he told her, rolling his eyes. “Yes, Rory, my future plans include you, in a very large way. I can’t believe you even had to ask.”
“Sorry,” she told him, smiling in spite of herself. “So, future plans, with me in them.”
“Well, you’re definitely there, there’s no question on that, but as for Yale? Not so much.”
Jess watched her eyes go wide and her mouth drop open. He had definitely shocked her, and Rory wasn’t easily shocked. Fortunately, she seemed to lose all sense of speech for a few seconds, giving Jess time to further explain.
“It’s not that I can’t deal with the classes or that I don’t love seeing you and Paris all the time, but you know as well as I do, I’m not cut out for college, Ror. This was never my dream. It’s not making me happy.”
She closed her mouth as the surprise faded, then she just looked kind of sad.
“I know,” she admitted, nodding her head. “Honestly, when we first started, I half expected you to regret it within the first month, but then things got better. You seemed not to hate being here.”
“I don’t hate it,” he assured her. “It’s not about liking the place or the teachers or even the classes. I could do it, I just don’t want to, at least not after this first year. You understand, right?”
“Mmhmm,” she said, lips pressed together, eyes getting glassy.
Now Jess really wished she hadn’t lost her words and found tears instead. He hated that he was causing Rory to be upset, but he had to do this. For once in his life, Jess had to do what was right for him, not for Liz or Paris or Luke. He had a chance to make his life what he wanted it to be. Yale just wasn’t it.
“So, what do you say, Gilmore?” he said then, trying for humour to cheer her up. “Think you can stand to date a drop out?”
“You won’t be a drop out, Jess, or a quitter,” she promised, swallowing hard. “You’re just going to take a different path, that’s all, and whatever it is, I’m going to be there to support you, always.”
It meant a lot to hear her say that and Jess hoped the way he hugged and kissed her then proved it, because honestly, his words had also gone away now, and if he really had to try to form any, he had a feeling he was going to come close to crying too.
Rory was as good as her word when it came to supporting Jess. She made sure she was there when he had to tell Paris about his leaving Yale when Freshman year ended, because there was no doubt he was going to need somebody in his corner then. Paris did make a big speech about the advantages of a college education and then grilled Jess for a good hour on what he had planned to do instead. After assuring her that he was probably going to take a couple of classes at the community college to help him along, and planned to have a more credible job than being Luke’s hired help at the diner, she seemed willing to let it go. She even admitted that she understood his decision.
“Not everybody is cut out for the academic rat race. You can do it, I know you can, but if your heart’s not in it, then I guess your being happy is more important to me than having you around 24/7.”
It was one of the nicest things she ever said to him, and yet Jess was quick to tell her she was a sap for bothering. She called him a delinquent drop out and his response was ‘I love you too, sis,’ so Rory knew no real harm had been done.
From that day on, Rory just seemed to be busy all the time. As if her workload hadn’t been large enough already, it seemed to intensify as the next week wore on, making her wish she really hadn’t promised an epic article to Doyle for the Yale Daily News, and that she hadn’t skipped out on her reading and studying this weekend to go camping in style and jumping off a scaffold.
The guilt wasn’t helping. Every time she sat down to go through her notes, work on her article, or even take five minutes to think of the fun she had with the Life and Death Brigade, Rory’s stomach tied in multiple knots. She told Jess about the trip, about paintball and sedan chairs and even jumping from the scaffold with an umbrella in her hand - that last part even impressed him - but she never showed him the photographs and she never mentioned the moment Logan kissed her.
Rory thought she would feel better if she could talk to her mom, but somehow every time she tried to call, Lorelai was never home or at the diner or available on her cell. Rory was reduced to brief emails, which her mom did reply to, but that really didn’t seem like the right way to discuss potentially cheating on her boyfriend.
Besides, Rory was just so busy, she would never have had time to type all of that into an email. Every day seemed to being more reading, another essay, a further assignment. She didn’t even see Jess as much as she would’ve liked to, which seemed terrible after learning he would be gone from Yale when the end of the year came. Unfortunately, it just couldn’t be helped. If she wanted to keep up, she had to keep going.
It really didn’t help when her advisor asked her to drop by to talk. Rory couldn’t imagine what that was about and didn’t exactly have the time to spare, but she figured it might be important so maybe she should make time. She had a few minutes between classes so went to the office on the off chance and knocked on the door. She was actually smiling when she got ushered inside, but her expression had changed vastly by the time she exited no more than ten minutes later.
Rory tried her mom’s number first and when she got no reply she called Jess’ cell which also went to voicemail. That was when the tears came. It was so embarrassing to be sobbing in the hall way, seen by most everyone to be falling apart. Rory took off at a run, out through the swing doors into the fresh air. She realised a little too late that her dorm was in the complete opposite direction. Turning to go back she didn’t look properly and ploughed straight into someone coming the other way.
“Hey, where’s the fire?” asked a familiar voice. “Ace?”
“Logan,” said Rory, more of a gurgle than his name as she fought to see him clearly through her tears. “I’m sorry, I...”
“Hey, what’s going on?” he asked, eyes full of concern. “Rory, talk to me. What happened?”
“I’m so stupid!” she cried hopelessly, tears well and truly overtaking her.
Logan pulled her into his arms in a moment and held her as she cried. Of course, he was more than a little aware that people could see them and for the sake of Rory’s embarrassment as much as anything, he ushered her inside. He took her straight to his dorm, since it was closer than her own, and was glad to find nobody there.
“Come on, sit down,” he told her, closing the door behind them.
A bottle appeared from some secret place and then he was thrusting a glass into Rory’s shaking hands.
“It really should be brandy but this is all there is right now,” he explained, joining her on the couch. “Now, what happened? Is there somebody I can call, or maybe punch in the face?”
Through her sobbing, Rory giggled at what ought to have been a joke. She felt so stupid, making a real show of herself in public and all over something so simple as a class-load that was crushing her. This she explained to Logan in short order, hiccupping and sniffling all the time, and drinking down her large scotch that was oddly comforting even as it burned her throat.
“And I know it’s dumb to be so upset about dropping a class. I mean, people do it all the time and it’s not like I have to leave Yale or anything, it’s just one class, but... but I feel so stupid!”
Logan had his arms around her again in a moment as Rory cried it out into his jacket. It was all too much, the work, dropping a class, not being able to reach her mom for a week, and knowing Jess was dropping out soon. She was crumbling under the pressure, trying to hold it all together and failing. It was a great relief to be able to let it all out like this.
“Hey, you are far from stupid, Ace,” Logan promised her, rubbing her back and kissing the top of her head. “I’ve met a lot of women in my life, a lot,” he emphasised, hoping to make her smile even a little and pleased to see he succeeded, “but on the smart scale, you rank right up there in the top ten, easily. Probably top three, but we’d have to better acquainted for me to be sure.”
“Better acquainted?” she echoed, peering up at him with damp, red-rimmed eyes.
They were close, so close that she was going a little out of focus before Logan’s eyes.
“Ace, I didn’t...” he began to protest, but not strongly enough it seemed.
This time, she kissed him.
“I’m a horrible person.”
Rory’s head hit the food court table with an audible thunk the moment after she said those words.“Sweetie, you’re not horrible,” Lorelai assured her, putting her hand to her hair. “You just... well, you made a couple of mistakes. We’ve all been there.”
“Yes, we have,” Lane agreed, sucking Orange Julius up threw her straw. “We really need a pact, a non-kissing pact,” she said definitely. “No more kissing guys, because as great as it seems at the time, it leads to no good, absolutely no good!” she said definitely.
“Hey, I’m not being part of any non-kissing pact,” said Lorelai quickly. “I have a fiance, I am allowed to kiss him and I most certainly will.”
Rory groaned, her face still smooshed against the table top.
“I had a boyfriend,” she said, looking up then. “I was allowed to kiss him.”
“Honey, you still have a boyfriend,” her mom reminded her.
“Yes, but for how long? Jess is going to go crazy when he finds out I kissed Logan. I’m pretty sure I must’ve been crazy when I did it. What was I thinking?”
“Rory, you were upset,” Lane reminded her, putting a hand to her arm in comfort. “You just found out you had to drop a class and you’ve been under so much pressure recently. I just feel bad that I really haven’t been there when you need me lately.”
“Amen, sister-friend,” Lorelai agreed whole-heartedly. “Between the inn and Luke and then my mom railroading me into attending that benefit, I’ve been kind of absent too. I’m so sorry, sweets.”
“Stop, please.” Rory shook her head. “I mean, thank you, for wanting to be there for me, I do appreciate it, but I don’t have an excuse for what I’ve done. Yes, I was upset about college and the whole dropping a class thing and of course my workload has been stressful, that was sort of the point, but practically cheating on my boyfriend just because nobody else was there to be nice to me is pretty pathetic, don’t you think?”
Neither Lorelai nor Lane were prepared to say that, especially not in those words. They shared a look, neither wanting to even nod their heads in agreement, though they knew that what Rory said was true.
“Come on, look at it from Jess’ point of view,” said Rory when she got no response. “If he had kissed another girl under the circumstances that I kissed Logan, would you expect me to forgive him?”
Lorelai made a face.
“Well, no, not really,” she began, continuing fast when she realised an ‘I told you so’ was coming from Rory, “but I will say that Jess is a decent guy and we do get along. If he could explain himself properly and seemed genuinely sorry for what he did, maybe he should be forgiven,” she considered. “After all, it was weird circumstances and it was just one kiss.”
Rory looked away and Lorelai’s eyes widened some.
“It was just a kiss, wasn’t it?” asked Lane, look similarly concerned.
“It was,” Rory confirmed, making them both sigh with relief. “It just wasn’t the first time,” she admitted in a small voice.
“Oh, Rory.” Lorelai shook her head. “Babe, I raised you better than that.”
“I know, I know!” she exclaimed, covering her face with her hands. “Like I said, I’m a horrible person, I just... the first time, Logan kissed me. It was that weekend, at the Life and Death Brigade event, right before we made that jump.”
She had explained as much as she could about that weekend in an email to Lorelai and attached a picture of the jump, plus the article she had written for the Yale Daily News so she had all the details, all expect the part about the kiss.
“I figured it was just one of those spur of the moment things that people do before they perform a death-defying stunt. It didn’t seem worth mentioning.”
“Until it happened again,” said Lane with a look.
“Yeah, well, this time was definitely my fault.” Rory sighed. “I don’t know why I did it. I just wanted to feel better and it was like my good sense had just switched itself off somewhere along the line.”
“I’m guessing that was the double scotch and a whole barrel load of stress and tears.” Lorelai nodded knowingly. “Sadness and grief plus alcohol almost never ends well, especially when there’s a pretty face nearby that you’re not supposed to put your lips on.”
Lane stared at her, clearly trying to figure out if Lorelai was speaking from experience or not. Somehow it didn’t seem the right time to ask.
“Well, I was upset when I kissed Zach, but stone cold sober too,” she said then. “Even if I had been at all drunk, I’d’ve sobered up fast when Mama Kim caught me.”
“Please tell me things are looking up in your life at least?” asked Rory then, happy to deflect from her own problems for at least a little while.
“Up and down,” said Lane, shrugging her shoulders and taking another drink from her straw. “Mama is talking to me, but only just. She lets me pick up my mail and she’s packed up my things ready to go when I find a place to live permanently.”
“That’s a little more down than up,” Lorelai noted, wincing at the news.
“There’s potentially some more up,” Lane assured her. “There’s an apartment up for rent that we think we can afford, and by we I mean the band - Zach, Brian, and me. I’d have my own room, it’d all be above-board. Even if me and Zach do decide to... well, date, I guess, I wouldn’t just... you know?”
“We get it, babe,” Lorelai assured her. “I’m happy for you that you’re getting things figured out. I mean, as much as I’m cool having you stay nights with me and I know Sookie will always say the same, it’ll be good for you to have a real place of your own.”
“Yeah, and I think it’s actually going to be better for me out in the world on my own, well, with the guys, not my mom. We can’t all get along so well with our mothers as you do,” she told Rory with a sad smile.
“Ain’t that the truth?” Lorelai agreed easily, sipping her coffee. “So, Lane and Zach are on course, things aren’t so bad with Mrs Kim. The inn is coming along great, and me and Luke couldn’t be happier. So, just you to figure out, sweets,” she told Rory then. “What can we do to help?”
“I’m not sure there’s anything anyone can do.” Rory shook her head. “I screwed up, I have to fix it. I guess I just have to tell Jess what happened, apologise, and hope he can understand.”
“He loves you, Rory,” said Lane kindly. “I’m sure he’ll forgive you.”
“Maybe,” she considered, sighing heavily, “but will Paris? She and Jess are so close, I mess things up with one and I lose the other too. I’m actually running the risk of losing my boyfriend and a really good friend at the same time if I tell the truth.”
“But honey, if you lie, I’m not sure you can handle the guilt,” Lorelai advised her. “Besides, these things have a habit of coming out in the end whether you want them to or not and then it’s worse. Can you really imagine someone like Logan keeping his mouth shut in front of Jess?”
“They barely see each other.” Rory shrugged. “They’re not in the same classes and Jess gave up the paper so he never sees him there. Plus, he’s leaving Yale this summer...”
“Rory, come on,” Lorelai urged her. “You know you can’t do this. You can’t keep this from Jess and just hope he never finds out.”
“I know,” she groaned, face-palming and looking fit to burst into tears, “but I hate this. Everything has been so good lately. Jess’ book is all but finished, he’s looking for publishers, seeing if he can get a deal. I know he’s leaving Yale but he’s so positive about the future, and sad as I am that I won’t see him as much, I was happy for him too. Our relationship is probably in the best place it’s ever been, or it was, until I stupidly threw myself at Logan.”
Her own fist slammed against her forehead and tears came to her eyes. It hurt, inside and out, but Rory had no-one but herself to blame. Her mom and Lane could say all the comforting, supportive things that they wanted but it wouldn’t change anything. At the end of the day, Rory was going to have to tell Jess what happened, make him see how sorry she was, and hope that he understood. It was the only road left open to her but she wasn’t a fan of the view.
When Rory got back to Yale she figured she would at least have her bedroom to herself. Jess and Paris had decided they ought to catch up and decided to spend some of the weekend together, and with Rory eager to visit with her mom, it kind of worked out perfectly. Of course, just when she was hoping for a few moments alone to get her head together before she had to face Jess with the news of her kissing another guy, Rory got the shock of finding said boyfriend and her room-mate right there in front of her.
“Hey, the wandering Gilmore returns,” said Paris, grinning wide. “You have fun back at the homestead?”
“Er, yeah, sure,” she said, shaking her head. “It was good to catch up with my mom after this past week.”
“What’d she say when you told her about dropping a class?” asked Jess curiously.
Rory could barely look at him as she put her bag down on the bed behind him.
“Um, she was fine, supportive. You know Mom.”
“Yeah, she was pretty cool when I talked to her about the whole leaving Yale.”
“That is the problem with having cool parents and guardians.” Paris rolled her eyes. “Not that I think your advisor was wrong to encourage you to drop a class. That workload was killing you,” she told Rory without hesitation, “but all this support for Jess dropping out? I don’t hold to that.”
“You said you were happy so long as I was happy,” Jess reminded her.
“I lied, so sue me,” she countered, smirking the way he usually would. “Jess, you know I do want you to be happy, I’d just like it better if you could be happy here, further educating yourself, that’s all.”
“Love you too, sis,” he told her, smiling.
“Um, I should go,” said Rory, reaching for her bag.
“You just got here,” Jess reminded her.
“I did, but you guys are having some brother-sister time and I don’t want to intrude on that.”
“Correction,” said Paris, “we were having some brother-sister time, and then we found we were all caught up and I had reading to do, so Jess was really just hanging out until you came home. He’s all yours Pippy Longstocking. Now go, I have to get through the rest of this book before tomorrow afternoon,” she told them, showing them a fairly hefty tome that she was barely half way through.
“Yes, ma’am.” Jess saluted as he got up from the bed. “Coffee?” he said to Rory.
She tried not to squirm.
“Sure, coffee is good.”
“Good? I thought it was life to you Gilmore girls,” he joked, heading out of the room.
“Yeah, something like that,” Rory muttered, retrieving her bag and following him through the dorm to the door.
“Are you okay?” asked Jess as they went out into the hallway. “You seem... weird.”
“Just what every girl longs to hear,” said Rory with a wry smile.
“You know I didn’t mean it that way.”
“I know. I’m just... I have stuff on my mind, I guess,” she said, not untruthfully.
Of course, it wasn’t exactly an honest answer anyway. She came here to tell Jess about the stuff that was on her mind and now she was backing out. As far as Rory was concerned, she really didn’t have a choice. She needed for them to be alone when she did this, not with Paris playing the peanut gallery, and certainly not any place public.
“Is anyone home in your dorm?” she asked Jess then.
“The goon squad,” he said, rolling his eyes, speaking of his two room-mates who he liked less. “Sorry, we’re going to be in public, so you’re just gonna have to keep your hands to yourself, Miss Gilmore,” he teased her, moving in for a kiss.
She didn’t flinch as his arms wrapped around her and he pressed his lips against hers. Rory wanted this, she wanted Jess, she loved him so much, and had been such an idiot to let anything happen with Logan. Sure, it was just a kiss. Well, kind of two kisses, but she only initiated one. She was being so unfair to Jess by acting that way and by keeping it a secret too. Plus, she was being a bitch to Logan into the bargain. That meant she was going to have to have two very awkward conversations yet. Well, maybe it would be better if she dealt with Logan first. After all, he was bound to be less mad than Jess was. She could build up to the bigger conversation later.
“I love you, you know, that right?” she asked Jess as they parted.
“Sure.” He nodded, studying her expression for a moment and wondering what it meant. “I love you too. Rory, you’re not a failure for dropping a class,” he assured her, sure that must be what was causing her current mood.
It only made Rory feel more guilty when he was being so sweet.
“I know, but thank you,” she told him, forcing a smile so she wouldn’t cry. “Let’s go get that coffee,” she said then, the two of them turning towards the exit with their arms around each other.
They looked like the picture perfect happy couple in love. Rory only hoped it would last.
“These was not the circumstances under which I wanted to see you next, hon,” said Lorelai sadly, hugging Rory close the moment she came in the front door.
“I know,” she agreed with a sigh. “How’s Grandpa?”
“Last I heard, holding it together, just. You doing okay?”
“Yeah, I’m okay.” Rory nodded. “Honestly? As sad as I am for Grandpa and even for you, I barely knew Gran. I don’t really have much to miss, you know?”
“I know, sweets, but you should know she was gosh darn proud of her great grand-daughter, I know that much.”
“I don’t hate knowing that.” Rory smiled, looking up at Lorelai. “I wish I was as proud of me,” she said then, sighing some. “I still didn’t tell Jess about Logan.”
“Rory!” Lorelai gasped, releasing her daughter and meeting her eyes. “How could you not tell him, it’s been days?”
“Five in fact,” Rory agreed. “I don’t know, Mom, I just... there never seems to be a good time. I thought maybe I should talk to Logan first, you know, start with the somewhat awkward conversation that was less likely to turn into a fight and then build up to the more awkward, more fighty conversation after?”
“And Logan was fine. I apologised for my behaviour, he said it wasn’t a big deal. I asked that he not mention it happened to anyone and he promised he wouldn’t. That was pretty much it.”
It really had been that simple and Rory could hardly believe she got so lucky. She half-expected Logan to be an ass about the whole thing in one way or another, like telling all his friends that she was his latest conquest or worse, delighting in telling Jess some version of the truth. He never did either, as far as Rory knew.
“Sweets, you cannot keep something like this from Jess,” Lorelai reminded her as they sat down on the couch together. “It’s not fair on him and frankly, it’s not fair on me.”
“Yes, on me,” Lorelai insisted. “I’m engaged to Jess’ uncle in case you forgot. I have this juicy piece of information about something significant that could affect the relationship between you and Jess and I can’t say a word about it to Luke. I also can’t say anything to Jess, so thank God I haven’t seen him for a while.”
“He is coming home tomorrow,” she admitted, moving her car keys from one hand to the other and watching them go back and forth. “I left him giving his manuscript a final once over.”
Lorelai let out a sigh and ran a hand over her forehead. Rory was priority one, always had been and always would be, but honestly, Lorelai was kind of at a loss right now. She had loyalty to Luke too and she actually really liked Jess. They were good people and it was Rory who had done wrong this time. There was no wiggle room, no way out, not this time.
“Honey, you’re a big girl now,” she said after a while. “You’re also a good person, I know that best of anyone, but you made a mistake. Now, it’s not the end of the world, you don’t deserve a public flogging for one lousy kiss, but you do need to talk to Jess about this, for everybody’s sake, including your own,” she said, her hand on Rory’s arm.
“I know” Rory sighed. “I know I do, and I will, tomorrow.”
“Sounds like a positive plan,” Lorelai agreed. “You can bring Jess here to break the news if you want. I have stuff going on at the inn, a meeting with Sookie, and I’ll probably swing by your grandparent’s place too. I know we’re headed there tonight, but I’m guessing they might need some extra support right now.”
Rory nodded but she was only half listening. She really was not looking forward to the conversation that lie ahead, but she had already put it off for far too long.
“I guess now I just have to hope Jess doesn’t bring Paris home with him, though I’m pretty sure he will. She’s been talking about making a visit soon.”
“Well, if she does, I’ll sic her on Luke or something,” said Lorelai, waving away her daughter’s concern. “Those two get along weirdly well since last summer.”
That almost raised a smile with Rory but she couldn’t quite manage it. Her fingers were twisting a loose thread in her lap and her teeth were worrying her lip as she thought about facing Jess tomorrow. If she could just find the right words, she was sure it would be fine, but was there really a good way to tell your boyfriend you cheated on him?
Luke wasn’t sure what to think when Lorelai told him that Paris would be working in the diner on Saturday. Before he had a chance to question her too much, she told him that Jess would be too busy with Rory but that Paris was completely available and more than willing to help out. Luke couldn’t exactly say the extra pair of hands wouldn’t come in handy and he did like Paris. He had actually kind of missed her sometimes since spending so much time with her last summer. She had really grown on him, as crazy as that seemed, and had become like a part of the family, not just for Jess but for Luke too.
Of course, it was when she started dealing with Taylor on his behalf that Luke remembered exactly why he liked Paris so much.
“Of course the children are laughing at you. My God, be glad they’re not running away in fear in case that thing leaps off your head and chases them, gnashing its teeth.”
“Now, listen to me, young lady-,”
“No, Doose, you listen to me,” Paris cut in without pause. “If you’re going to walk around with something resembling a dead animal on your head, you’re only going to get what you deserve from me, the local kids, and anybody else you run across. Now either sit down and drink your coffee or leave!”
Luke couldn’t keep the grin off his face as Paris swept back over to the counter, triumphant, waving the empty coffee pot in her hand.
“We need a more coffee,” she told Luke.
“I think Taylor needs a little more than that,” he said, smirking terribly as he took the pot from Paris’ hand. “Nice work.”
“Some people just need a firm hard is all. That guy has issues. Seriously, a psychiatrist would have a field day with the way his mind works,” she said, shaking her head.
“We usually say that about Kirk,” said Luke as he put the on a fresh pot of coffee.
“I’m not sure even the greatest minds of psychiatry and medicine combined could help that poor deluded soul. You know Jess and I saw him walking seven dogs on our way into town, seven! All different breeds and sizes. If that’s not just asking for blood to be drawn.”
“With a little luck,” said Luke, coming back over to the counter and lowering his voice, “it’ll be Taylor’s blood.”
“In the words of your fiancée, amen to that.” Paris rolled her eyes. “Speaking of, how go the wedding plans? You guys actually set a date yet?”
“No, we haven’t, but we’ve been talking about it, at least, when we can. We’re both pretty busy,” Luke explained. “Still, after the big blow out a couple of weeks ago, we’re definitely back on track, talking more and everything.”
“How about you and, er... Doyle, right?”
“Yeah, that is his name,” she confirmed, smiling in spite of herself. “It’s going well. I like him, he likes me. We have some pretty good talks and the sex isn’t half bad, so I plan on keeping him around for a while.”
The moment she was done talking, she picked up a cloth from behind the counter and went to bus some tables. Honestly, by that point, Luke was glad to see her go. He like Paris a lot but he really, really did not need to know anything about her sex life!
Jess had been over at the Crap Shack for an hour and still Rory hadn’t told him about Logan and what happened the other day. She meant to, she really did, but when he arrived he was being so sweet and sympathetic about Trix’s passing and then he and Rory got talking about Paris and how she and Luke would be getting along. Rory made coffee and Jess told her about his book and where he planned on pitching it for publishing. Sixty minutes just flew by and still she had not said a word about why she wanted to be alone with him.
Of course, Jess had made the assumption that he knew exactly why, which was how it came to be that the moment they were sat down on the couch together, without mugs in their hands or anything else left to say, he started kissing her, and then more than kissing her.
Rory so would’ve liked to just give in and go with what he had planned, but the guilty, gnawing feeling in her stomach wouldn’t let her. It was spoiling the good feelings she should be getting from being close to Jess and she just couldn’t stand it.
“Jess,” she said, pulling away. “Jess, please, I need to talk to you.”
“Can’t we talk some more later?” he asked, lips attacking her neck. “It’s been a while, Ror.”
“I know,” she agreed, her brain getting foggier all the time. “I just...” she forgot what she just when his lips found hers again.
Of course, it was wrong to let this happen right now, she knew it was, but it was also really tough to resist Jess’ advances sometimes. Thinking that reminded Rory too much of Logan’s words to her the other day when she apologised for coming onto him. He had told her that if she had tried to do more than kiss him he might’ve given in because she would be tough to resist. It sobered Rory up very quickly to recall that conversation.
“Jess, we can’t,” she said, extracting herself from his grip by physically getting up.
He almost tipped over from sitting to lying on the couch the moment she was gone, then looked up at her with wide eyes and bruised lips, so confused at being rejected that way.
“Rory, what is going on?” he asked then, sure there had to be something.
This was the second time in two weeks that they had a conversation like this, where she looked all cut up about something and Jess felt the need to worry about what it was. The last time it had been about Logan Huntzberger. Jess really hoped this wasn’t take two.
“I have to tell you something,” said Rory, hugging herself, “and I really hope when I do you’ll understand. I know you’re not going to like it but I’d appreciate if you let me just say the whole thing and then react after that, okay?”
“Okay,” said Jess, sitting himself up straight on the couch and nodding once.
He had to tell Rory about leaving Yale at the end of the year, knowing she wouldn’t be thrilled. She was upset but she took it pretty well considering and had been entirely supportive since. He had tried to be the same when she had to drop a class, knowing what a huge deal that was for her. Whatever she was about to tell him, Jess would attempt to be reasonable about it. Of course, if she was about to mention Huntzberger, he wasn’t so sure he was going to manage it.
“Okay,” said Rory then, taking a deep breath. “Well, you remember when I told you about my weekend with The Life and Death Brigade? Well, I left out one part. It was a really small part, not really a big deal, but I feel like I should’ve told you about it, because you’re my boyfriend and we should be completely honest with each other.
“So, when I was on the scaffold with my umbrella waiting to jump, the truth is, I was with Logan. He was actually holding my hand when we jumped, which I personally don’t think is a big deal, and I’m sure even you realise that it’s not. The thing is before the jump, like two seconds before, I was rambling about being nervous. I mean, me rambling, what are the odds, right?
“Anyway, I was, and as a kind of way to calm my nerves, I think, or something, Logan kissed me. It was not a serious kiss, it was practically a peck, but it happened and I really should’ve told you sooner.”
She paused there, daring to look at Jess after five minutes of keeping her eyes on everything but her boyfriend. He didn’t look thrilled, but he also didn’t look like he was ready to commit Logan-o-cide, so that was something.
“He kissed you?” he asked, fairly calmly considering.
“Yes,” Rory confirmed, “but I’m actually not done yet,” she admitted, wincing even as she said the words. “The next week, after my advisor talked to me about dropping a class,” she began, sitting down on the coffee table opposite Jess and making herself look at him. “I was so upset, beyond upset. I tried calling mom, I tried calling you. Anyway, I ran out of the building and... and right into Logan. He was really nice to me, he took me back to his dorm and he got me a drink and told me everything would be fine. He was a real friend when I needed someone.”
“A real friend,” Jess echoed, unsure if Rory was done with her story yet.
“He was,” she confirmed, nodding her head, “and he didn’t try anything, Jess, I swear. No moves were made by Logan. All I can think is that I had this moment of temporary insanity...”
Jess’ eyes narrowed at the sound of those words, just when Rory thought she might’ve got away with this. She knew she was wrong now.
“You can get mad, Jess, because you have every right to, but you have to know that it was just a stupid mistake and I am so sorry.”
He was on his feet in a second, pacing the floor and Rory leapt up a moment later, desperately pleading for him to just listen.
“Did you sleep with him?” he asked her, too loudly.
“No! I would never do that!” Rory yelled back at him. “It was just a kiss. One stupid kiss, which I regretted the second it happened.”
“Just a kiss? Just a second kiss with the same guy? A guy that I already got into a fist fight with for being an absolute ass about you?” asked Jess, waving one arm in emphatic gestures. “What the hell, Rory?”
“Please, stop yelling at me!” she urged him, tears filling her eyes. “I’m sorry, Jess. I just told you I was sorry. I didn’t mean for it to happen.”
“No, you never mean for it to happen, do you, Rory?” said Jess coldly, moving away when she reached for him.
“What does that mean?” she asked, looking hurt.
In this moment, Jess couldn’t care about that.
“It means exactly what you think it means,” he told her. “Funny how when you kissed me the first time you were still dating Dean. Did you tell him you were sorry? That you didn’t mean for it to happen? Geez, I must be stupid!”
“Jess!” Rory yelled behind him, even as he made for the door. “Jess, please!”
“Leave me alone, Rory!” he told her, pushing forward out of the house and slamming the door behind him.
Jess didn’t care if she followed him, though he would prefer that she didn’t. He needed to get away for a while, anywhere that wasn’t here. God, he couldn’t believe she had done this. Sure, it was just a kiss. Some people would say he was crazy to throw away a relationship like he and Rory had for something so insignificant, but it wasn’t so small and paltry a thing. It was two kisses, with a guy that Jess already had a run-in with, that he already hated, and Rory had tried to hide it from him too. Jess really couldn’t handle this.
Slamming into the diner, he walked straight up to Paris without a moment’s pause.
“Take me back to Yale,” he told her, “please,” he added as an afterthought.
After all, none of this was her fault. It was highly likely she had no idea what just happened. Rory wouldn’t risk telling Paris anything because Jess’ sister at least had loyalty to him.
“What happened?” she asked, frowning hard.
Paris was stunned by the sight of him, looking as close to angry tears as she had ever seen him. As far as she knew, Jess had been having a date-like occasion with Rory. She really could not understand what had gone so wrong.
“Paris, please. Don’t ask questions, just drive me back, or I can get a bus-”
“No,” she insisted, grabbing his arm when he turned to storm out again. “I should tell Luke I’m leaving,” she said, glancing towards the curtain.
“I’ll wait in the car.”
Paris nodded, handing over the keys before rushing off to find Luke, taking her apron off on the way. By the time she got out to the car, she found Jess sat in the passenger seat, foot tapping with pent up energy and face red and pained. She hardly dare ask what was going on again, but she supposed she was going to have to.
“I told Luke there was an emergency and I had to go back to Yale. I didn’t mention you and he didn’t ask,” she said, sliding into the driver’s side and starting the engine. “Are you going to tell me what happened?”
“Not now,” said Jess, shaking his head. “Just drive, Paris, please.”
He didn’t even look at her, just kept his eyes focused straight ahead. Paris was almost certain he was trying not to cry where anyone could see him. Clearly, he and Rory had some kind of fight, presumably a major one. Paris had no idea what was going on, but she was sure on one thing. If Rory was the reason that Jess had gotten this upset, then Gilmore was going down.
Jess wouldn’t talk to Rory. She tried calling, texting, hanging around his dorm, his classes, the cafeteria, but he never seemed to be where she looked, and when he was, he just walked away, seemingly unable to deal with her. It hurt so much, but Rory couldn’t blame him for freezing her out. As her mother had told her, if she turned the situation around, if Jess had gone kissing some other girl, she would be so broken, so angry. Sometimes, Rory wished Lorelai wouldn’t take the logical route, but she couldn’t deny she was wrong.
“It’s been four days,” she told her on the phone, “and it’s not just Jess. Paris is almost never here and when she is she barely talks to me. She’s just so mad about it.”
“Well, honey, she sees herself as Jess’ sister,” Lorelai reminded her. “Family like that, they stand by each other. Imagine how mad you would be on my behalf if somebody cheated on me, or how mad I would be if this situation was the other way around.”
Rory sighed. Of course, she knew she was right. She knew that Paris was right too when she gave Rory all her opinions on the situation. To be fair, she laid most of the blame on Logan, but she was still mad at Rory, more so for the fact she had been what Paris called ‘easily led’ and a ‘catastrophic example to intelligent young women everywhere.’ She wouldn’t tell Rory if Jess was okay. She wouldn’t fight Rory’s corner with him at all, though she looked kind of sad about it when she said so yesterday. All of this, Rory told Lorelai, only to hear her mom sigh too.
“Sweets, I wish I could make it better, but you know I can’t,” she told her. “Hey, at least spring break is coming up. You can come home, spend some time with me and Luke, and with Lane and the guys. That should help, right?”
“I guess,” said Rory, though she didn’t sound any more convincing than she felt. “I don’t know if Jess and Paris will stay here or if she’ll take him to her house. I can’t imagine that they’ll want to be in Stars Hollow when they know I’ll be there. God, I’m such a horrible person, I’m keeping Jess and Luke apart too.”
“You’re really not horrible, Rory,” her mother assured her. “Besides, you’re not keeping Jess away. He didn’t plan to come in the first place.”
“What? Mom, what do you know that I don’t?”
“I don’t know.” Lorelai squirmed, though Rory couldn’t see her she could hear it in her tone of voice. “I just... well, I’m not sure if I’m supposed to say anything, but Jess told Luke and Luke told me and nobody actually told me that you weren’t supposed to know, and damn it, you’re my daughter, so I have every right to tell you, right?”
“Yes, you do,” said Rory quickly. “What do I need to know?”
“Well, it seems as if Paris heard about some kids from Yale going to Florida to do the traditional spring break thing and pretty much invited herself. She’s taking Jess along with.”
“What?” Rory gasped. “Paris and Jess are doing spring break?”
“Apparently. I know, it seems almost as unlikely as you doing spring break, but that’s what Jess told Luke. I can’t think why he’d lie about something like that.”
“That’s why Paris was packing so much,” said Rory, staring at nothing as the thought hit her. “She said she was getting stuff together to go stay over with Doyle again, but she packed way too much. It’s her bag for Florida, isn’t it?”
“I guess so.” Lorelai sighed. “Sweets, I’m so sorry. I know this all sucks for you right now, but you know, maybe this is a good thing. You know, Paris and Jess going away for a while? Maybe when they’ve both had time to cool off, have a change of scenery, think about what’s happened, well, when they get back, they might be in a more talky mood.”
“Maybe,” Rory agreed though she wasn’t entirely convinced. “I really hope so. I love Jess so much, Mom, I can’t... I can’t stand the idea that this is it, that we’ll never be together again.”
“I’m sure it won’t come to that, hon,” Lorelai sympathised.
Unfortunately, she couldn’t say for sure what would happen with the kids. Her own relationship was on much more stable ground these days, and thankfully even the great Rory and Jess break-up, be it temporary or permanent, didn’t seem to have done it much harm. Luke and Lorelai were determined not to let it.
After ending the call with her baby girl, Lorelai threw the phone into the armchair, reached for a cushion to put over her face, and screamed into it for a few moments. It was all so frustrating. Things at the inn kept going one step forward, two steps back, she and Luke still hadn’t found time to really make any firm plans about their wedding, and now Rory and Jess were falling apart with no hint of a reconciliation. It was awful and Lorelai only had one solution for that. Screw the money issues, just for today, because she was going shopping!
“She wasn’t in there,” said Paris, emerging from her dorm with a bag in each hand. “I told you, she has class.”
“I know.” Jess nodded. “But ever since Luke told me that she knows we’re headed out for spring break, I keep expecting her to try and stop us.”
“She doesn’t know we’re leaving a day early, doofus,” Paris reminded her brother, rolling her eyes into the bargain. “Besides, even if she asked you not to go, you’re a big boy. Just say no.”
Jess shook his head and followed Paris outside to where the car was waiting, the rest of their peers already inside waiting to go. He wasn’t really looking forward to spring break in Florida. In fact, it was kind of his idea of hell. Still, not seeing Rory or hearing about her at all for at least a week sounded like a really great idea. There was nothing to stop him hiding in a hotel room with a stack of books on one side and a stack of CDs on the other. Well, except for Paris, but Jess was pretty sure his sister was never going to be the Girls Gone Wild type, no matter what else happened. She was hell bent on making sure he had a good time though and that he didn’t think about Rory too much. Fat chance of that, as far as Jess was concerned, no matter how much he wished he could banish her from his mind.
“I thought for sure if you were coming along, Paris, you’d be bringing that boyfriend that we hear so much about,” said Janet as they piled into the car.
“My love life is none of your business, Fitness Barbie!” she snapped back at her.
Jess didn’t wonder at it. There was no love lost between Paris and Janet, though that was only half the reason for her attitude today. Jess heard raised voices coming from Doyle’s room late last night and one of them was definitely Paris’ own dulcet tone. Next thing he knew, she was banging on his door, asking to sleep on the couch. There were no tears, no recriminations, and no explanation. Jess just checked she was okay and was abruptly told she was fine and couldn’t wait to go away to Florida already. Apparently, that was all the explanation he was getting for now.
Settling down in the back seat with a book, Jess decided not worry about Paris’ relationship or his own for a while. He was headed towards sun, sea, sand, and hopefully no trouble. Whether he was actually going to enjoy himself at all, Jess couldn’t say, but he supposed he ought to try. After all, this was the only year he planned on spending at Yale and therefore his only chance to really do spring break. Maybe he ought to embrace it. Maybe he would, and yet, more likely, he probably wouldn’t.
Lorelai practically leapt out of her skin when she heard Luke arrive at the house. When she picked up the phone to call him earlier, she had found the light blinking to say she had a message, only to find it was Luke himself, telling her he would be over around seven as he had something to tell her. Since she had been calling to suggest something similar, Lorelai never made her call, just waited around on tenterhooks until her fiancé finally arrived.
“Hey,” they said at the same time, both laughing like loons when they realised it, only to do the very same thing again a second later. “I have something to tell you.”
“Ladies first,” said Luke, forever the gentleman.
“Er, in what universe was I ever misconstrued to be a lady?” Lorelai scoffed. “You go.”
Luke rolled his eyes but none the less took the lead.
“Okay. So, this is all very flexible and optional, there is no pressure whatsoever, it’s just a suggestion, a possibility,” he rambled, in a style not unlike the Gilmore girls themselves. “The thing is, Reverend Skinner came into the diner today and he asked if we’d gotten any further with our wedding plans. I said no, he asked if there were any problems, I said no again, we’ve just been busy with your inn and my diner and the kids and all.
“Anyway, he’s talking about bookings and how busy he is, except for this one Saturday in May. Sad story about some guy who landed up in the hospital and just when they thought he was fine, the fiancée came down with the same disease or whatever. Anyway, their wedding is on hold, so there’s this gap in the schedule for this one Saturday in May and Reverend Skinner was asking if maybe we wanted it.”
Lorelai’s eyes went wide and a gasp escaped her lips as Luke stared at her. He hadn’t actually told Reverend Skinner that he and Lorelai did want the space, knowing he had to talk to her first, but he may have asked him not to tell anyone about it for the next twenty-four hours just in case.
Lorelai had said she didn’t want to wait too long to marry Luke and he certainly had no hesitation in marrying her. It seemed kind of perfect actually, but at the same time, May was very close, and it would probably coincide with the inn opening. That could create a lot of stress for both of them, especially Lorelai, hence Luke’s nervous disposition as he waited for her to say something.
On this one occasion, Lorelai appeared to be dumbstruck, and then, just when Luke was really starting to get concerned by her lack of response, she ran.
“Lorelai?” he called behind her as she pelted up the stairs.
“Hold that thought!” she yelled back to him, just before she disappeared from sight.
Luke really had no idea what to think but barely had time to try before Lorelai came running back down the stairs again with a garment bag in her hands.
“This,” she said, running a gentle hand over the bag, “is the perfect dress.”
“The perfect dress?” Luke echoed, shaking his head.
“The perfect wedding dress,” Lorelai clarified. “Obviously, I’m not going to show you because, hello, worst luck ever, but I was at the mall today, not looking for a dress, not really looking for anything in particular. Honestly, I just wanted to feel better with all the Rory and Jess drama and everything, so I went to the mall, and there in a window, the most amazing wedding dress, 50% off, and it’s perfect. I mean, literally perfect. This is fate, Luke. It’s supposed to be. I got the dress the very same day Reverend Skinner talks to you about a cancellation. If it was any more kismet we’d be Nelson and Hardy, baby!”
Luke wasn’t sure whether to frown or laugh at that particular reference, but he supposed it didn’t really matter. If he wasn’t used to Lorelai’s wacky ways by now, he never would be, and no matter what, he really did want to marry her as soon as possible.
“So, we’re taking the date?” he checked.
“We’re so taking the date!” Lorelai enthused, throwing herself into his arms, bagged dress and all.
Luke couldn’t have been happier and was so glad that Lorelai seemed to be much the same. With all the Rory and Jess drama, at least they had come through okay this time. Maybe some happy news like this was what everybody needed right now.
“This is wrong, isn’t it?” said Paris, throwing herself down to sit on the bed next to Jess’ own.
“Brothers and sisters share rooms, Paris. It’s not weird, it’s just cheaper,” said Jess, not even looking up.
He was laid out on the other bed, one arm behind his head and his nose firmly in a paperback, the same place he had been since about ten minutes after they arrived. He seemed oblivious to the fact that this was what Paris thought was so wrong, and not the sleeping arrangements.
“I’m talking about us staying in with books while on spring break in Florida,” she told him crossly. “We could’ve stayed home and done this.”
“We came for the weather and the escape,” Jess told her, turning the page, still not looking at her. “Well, I did anyway.”
The truth was he had hardly read a word the whole time he had been lying there, and it had been a while. Jess thought coming away from Connecticut would help put Rory out of his head, but it didn’t. He couldn’t be around her right now, even after several days. He knew they would end up fighting more and he really didn’t want that, but to forgive her and move on was just impossible right now. Running away, even temporarily and with Paris tagging along, it seemed like such a great plan, but now they were here and nothing had really changed.
“Don’t pretend it’s making a damn difference, brother dear,” said Paris then, as if she had read his mind or something. “Little Miss Gilmore is as much on your mind here as she was back at Yale.”
Jess didn’t reply. He couldn’t. He told Paris the bare minimum about what happened with him and Rory, then he deliberately clammed up. He wasn’t much for sharing at the best of times and on this topic, he seriously did not have the words.
“Fine,” said Paris coolly. “You don’t want to talk? Then how about you just listen. Doyle and I... I’m pretty sure we’re over too.”
That actually got Jess’ attention. He still didn’t say anything, mostly because he had no idea what he should say, but he put down the book and sat up on the edge of the bed facing Paris now.
“It was so stupid really. I mean, we were just... well, it wasn’t all sex, we had some pretty great conversations too, but we never really went out on a date or talked about being serious. It was all just meant to be fun, at least, I thought so and then do you know what the stupid idiot goes and says to me? ‘I love you.’ That’s what he said, ‘I love you.’
“I’m almost certain it was some misguided attempt to comfort me after I told him about you and Rory and feeling kind of torn. Don’t get me wrong, I’m completely loyal to you, not only as my brother but as the injured party in the case, but it’s not easy for me. Gilmore has been a good friend to me, the best where fellow women are concerned.
“Anyway, that’s not the point. Doyle actually said he loved me and I... I just sat there. I stared, I... I freaked out, I guess, and then I just left.”
Jess’ eyes went wide and then he shook his head.
“Wait a second, Doyle said he loved you and you... ran?”
“I panicked, okay? I wasn’t ready for that!” Paris complained too loudly. “I don’t know what to tell you, except I feel horrible about it, but I just... I couldn’t say it back and I don’t know why,” she admitted, tears welling in her eyes. “What’s wrong with me, Jess?”
“There’s nothing wrong with you,” he promised, moving to sit beside her and putting his arm around her shoulders. “Seriously, you’re fine,” he said definitely, pulling her close and kissing the top of her head.
“I don’t feel fine. I feel like a freak,” Paris complained.
“Yeah, well. I feel like my heart got stomped on by Rory Gilmore, so we’re both in a bad place right now,” he admitted with a sigh.
They sat together in silence a moment or two and then Paris almost physically jumped when Jess spoke very suddenly.
“Get up. We’re going out.”
“We’re what?” asked Paris, looking bemused by his sudden leap into action.
“Shoes, jacket, be ready, we’re leaving,” said Jess, standing over her and snapping his fingers very close to her nose. “I need a drink, you need a drink, in fact I’m pretty sure we need a lot of drinks, and what better time and place than spring break in Florida? C’mon, Geller, let’s go all out cliché for once, what do you say?”
“You’re serious,” she realised aloud. “Geez, next thing is you’ll be suggesting the beach for tomorrow,” she said, though she did get up and make moves to find some shoes already.
“Maybe I will,” Jess shrugged, reaching for his watch and strapping it to his wrist. “When in Rome, right?”
Paris couldn’t figure out if running into Madeline and Louise during spring break in Florida was the best thing ever or the worst. To be honest, she had drunk so much at this point, she barely remembered what any of those words even meant. At least she felt better about Doyle, mostly because she hadn’t thought about him much in the last few hours as the world grew ever fuzzier. Jess sure looked like he was having fun too, crammed onto the bench seat with Louise on one side and Madeline on the other. They liked him before the drinking ever started, and the attention wasn’t doing his ego any harm after Gilmore’s attempts to crush it.
“I’m not surprised you and Mary broke up,” said Louise, her fingers making patterns near Jess’ knee. “She really never was your speed, was she?”
“I thought they were just about as smart as each other.” Madeline frowned.
Paris laughed too loudly.
“Speed, Madeline. How fast a person is? From 0 to slutty in 3.5 seconds,” she said with a significant look in Louise’s direction.
“Just because we’re not all prudes like you, Paris,” she replied acidly.
“Hey, she’s not a prude,” said Jess, shaking his head. “She has this thing going for older guys,” he reminded the girls, who both squealed and giggled at the prospect.
“Can it, Mariano!” Paris told him crossly, though not crossly enough because everything was coming out soft and bendy under the influence of the booze. “Anyway, you girls should really stop calling Gilmore by ‘Mary’,” she told them then. “Unless you plan on adding a Magdalene.”
“What does that mean?” Madeline asked Jess.
“Nothing,” he told her, emptying his paper cup one more time.
“It means that Rory has had a little trouble being faithful lately,” said Paris, not caring anymore whether she was supposed to or not.
“Ooh, naughty Miss Gilmore!” Louise cackled. “Not that I understand why she would want to when she has you,” she told Jess then. “Well, if she’s going to play around, that gives you licence for a little pay back. I’m very good in that capacity... or I can be very bad, if that’s your idea of fun.”
Jess blinked hard, trying to look anywhere but at Louise’s chest, which wasn’t easy when she was making a point of pushing it in his face. She wasn’t unattractive, he was all aware of that, but he did tend to prefer brunettes as a rule. Of course, turning away from Louise put Madeline in his line of sight. She was pretty and made a point of smiling at him a whole lot, not just tonight, but way back when they were at Chilton too. He had a feeling that if he really wanted to get his own back on Rory, she could help him out and he might even enjoy himself. As that thought lumbered its way through his foggy head, Jess started wondering why he had allowed himself to get quite this drunk.
“I shouldn’t be here,” he said, trying to move and finding it almost impossible, not only because the girls didn’t really want to let him escape, but moreover from the effect of too many strong drinks on his system. “Paris, my legs don’t work,” he told her. “That hasn’t happened in a very long time.”
“You’ll live,” she assured him. “Just don’t try to walk.”
“It’s not as if we want you to go anywhere,” said Louise, leaning in close again.
“I’m comfy with you right here,” Madeline told him, turning to lean on him some more.
“You’ve got eyes like stars,” Jess told her, the words out his mouth before he really processed them, followed by a strange giggling sound as he realised how dumb that sounded.
“You really think so?” asked Madeline, fluttering her eyelashes, apparently not caring if he meant the compliment or not.
“Sure,” he told her, not seeing why he should take it back anyway.
After all, it wasn’t like he and Rory were really together at this point. He kind of wondered if they ever would be again, if they could be after what had happened. It hurt to think about it all even now, drunk as he was.
“You know, what?” said Louise, getting everyone’s attention, as was her usual aim in life. “I think maybe Rory Gilmore needs to know that she can’t treat our Jess this way. She ought to be told that maybe she’s not the only girl in the world for him.”
When Jess managed to focus his eyes on her waving hand he realised she had his cell right there between her fingers. When she leaned in before, she wasn’t just being flirty, she was picking his pocket.
“What are you doing?” he asked, more than a little slow on the uptake thanks to the alcohol - it really had been a long time since he got drunk like this.
“Oh, just calling an old friend,” she said, hitting the speed-dial for Rory’s cell and waiting with the phone at her ear.
“Don’t worry, Jess,” said Madeline, her hand at his cheek as she turned his head until he was looking at her again. “You can do better.”
Louise was laughing when Rory’s voicemail kicked in and then she started to leave a message. Jess didn’t catch all of what she was saying. One minute he was staring at Madeline, who was so close he could almost taste her, and the next she was practically in his lap, kissing him like her life depended on it.
“You know you really don’t have to be involved in all of this if you don’t want to,” said Lorelai for what had to be the seventh time since she arrived at the diner.
Luke rolled his eyes and continued to review the guest list in his hand.
“I’m getting a little tired of repeating myself, Lorelai,” he told her, without looking up. “It’s fine. For the last time, it’s my wedding too and I want to be a part of organising it. Besides, I’m used to running the diner. Your to do list for the inn is practically never-ending, so we’ll work on the wedding stuff together, get it done in half the time, and save you the headache, okay?”
“Okay,” she agreed again, though Luke had no doubt they would have the same conversation a dozen more times before the week was out. “I mean, I’d ask Rory for help with some stuff, but I’m just not sure I should. You know, it’s kind of like rubbing her nose in our happiness when she’s in such a bad place with Jess. This morning she didn’t even want to get out of bed. She was still there when I left, which is so not like Rory.”
“I know.” Luke sighed. “The only issue with this list is her and Jess. I mean, as much as I don’t hold with all these stupid traditions and customs, the best man and the maid of honour is kind of a traditional pairing, right?”
“Right.” Lorelai nodded her agreement. “It seemed so perfect when we decided on it, but now? I just really hope they work things out, somehow.”
“Me too. I mean, I know Rory did wrong and as much as I love her, that’s not okay, but at the same time, a couple of lousy kisses that were almost definitely that rich kid’s fault? I don’t know why Jess can’t just forgive her already.”
“Come on, Luke,” said Lorelai, shaking her head. “You honestly think you’d be so quick to forgive me if you found out I kissed another guy? I’m not so sure I’d be okay with you kissing another woman.”
“I know,” Luke agreed, sighing one more time. “I just want one of them to find a way to make it okay, you know? Screw logic, I just want them happy.”
“You and me both, babe,” Lorelai agreed. “You heard from Jess at all since he and Paris went to Florida?”
“Not a word, but then I don’t exactly think kids on spring break make regular calls home to their worried parents and guardians.” He rolled his eyes.
“Honestly, I’m still having a little trouble with the idea of Jess and Paris going wild for the week.”
“Hopefully not too wild,” said Luke with a look. “You know what they say, when the usually quiet people suddenly decide to go crazy, they go really crazy. I just don’t want either of them doing anything too stupid.”
“I’m sure they’ll be fine. They’re both good kids.” Lorelai smiled, putting her hand over Luke’s own on the counter. “Speaking of good kids, Lane seems to be doing better. She has her own place now, you know?”
“I know.” Luke nodded, putting the guest list down and leaning closer to Lorelai over the counter. “I’m just glad Mrs Kim thinks greasy food is borne of the devil. Means she never comes in here asking me any questions about how Lane’s living now. Can you imagine how crazy she’s going to go when she hears two guys are living in the same apartment as her daughter?”
“Yeah, there’s gonna be Big Trouble in Little Korea when that one gets out,” Lorelai agreed. “Still, I think Lane can handle it. She’s really grown up these past few weeks. I guess she’s had to. Speaking of Lane and her new room-mates, you think we should talk to the band about playing at the wedding?”
“Lane’s band?” asked Luke, blinking hard. “I thought you’d want, like, a string quartet or something fancy like that.”
“Maybe for the walking down the aisle type of a thing, but a rock band might be cool for the reception.”
“If that’s what you want.” Luke shrugged. “I’m easy.”
“Only for me, I hope.” Lorelai winked at him, loving that she was still the only woman in the world that could make him blush like that. “Anyway, can you imagine how much my mother will hate it?”
“Book Lane’s band,” said Luke definitely.
Lorelai giggled and leaned in to kiss his lips.
“We make the perfect team.”
“Yes, we do,” he agreed, kissing her this time. “So, are you inviting the band to the ceremony too?” he checked then, looking back at the list of guests.
“Hmm, I guess we could,” Lorelai considered. “Having it in the square was such a good idea. At least this way we don’t have to stick to a certain number of people, unless Taylor finds a by-law that says we do.”
“You leave Taylor to me,” said Luke definitely. “We will plan this wedding exactly how we want to have it and if he doesn’t like it, he’ll have me to deal with.”
“My hero,” said Lorelai girlishly, hands clasped together as she looked at him adoringly. “And hey, if you can’t get Taylor to give in, from what I hear, we can always set Paris on him.”
Luke grinned. “Now, that’s actually not a bad idea.”
Rory just couldn’t summon the energy to get out of bed. Given that it was spring break, she didn’t really have anywhere pressing to be, and though there was some studying she would have to do at some point, it wasn’t so desperate that she must get to it today. Her mom had offered to take her to the diner for breakfast or to meet her for lunch later if she wanted instead. Breakfast was never going to happen and now the clock said past twelve. She could get up for lunch, but Rory didn’t really want to.
If anybody else had behaved this way over a guy, Rory knew she would call them pathetic, behind their back if not to their face. Sure, she had hurt Jess and he had every right to be mad at her, but she shouldn’t allow herself to wallow like this just because of that. A part of her actually wanted to go to Florida and track him down, make him talk to her. Surely, she at least deserved a conversation, even if all Jess did was yell at her or break up with her. This living in limbo, not knowing what might happen next, it was killing Rory by degrees.
Maybe running off to Florida was a stupid plan. After all, she didn’t know exactly where Jess and Paris had gone. That didn’t mean Rory couldn’t call. Maybe Jess wouldn’t pick up if he saw it was her, but there was a chance Paris might. It was a vague chance but still.
Rory started to think of what she could say that hadn’t already been said. Sorry was the obvious choice, but she had apologised to Jess at the time of her confession and afterwards via text. She had tried to get Paris to plead her case but she refused. Rory supposed she couldn’t really blame her. Jess and Paris might not be related by blood but they were brother and sister in every other way. Family came first, that was just the rules, but Rory wished right now that it wasn’t.
Reaching for her phone on the nightstand, Rory switched it on, surprised to realise she had one new voicemail message. Her heart skipped a beat as she wondered if it might be Jess that had tried to call. If she missed him, she would kick herself, but it would be a good sign at least if he had wanted to talk.
Putting the phone to her ear, Rory’s nervous smile gave way to a frown when the message began to play. A terrible cackle of laughter that she thought she should recognise assaulted her ear and then a voice she definitely knew, though it was not Jess’ own.
“Hey, Mary, it’s Louise,” she said, sounding as mean as she had ever tried to be. “I’m here in Florida with Madeline and Paris and a certain guy that I think you used to date. Well, we just wanted you to know that we know you cheated and that Madeline plans on making sure Jess gets his own back on you. Ooh, in fact, I think they started already - woohoo!”
There was a cacophony of drunken laughter and then the line went dead.
Lorelai couldn’t believe this was happening.
When Lane came around to see Rory, only to find her BFF was out moping for Jess some more, Lorelai was more than happy to fill in as a listening ear. It was actually not so awkward being asked about sex by somebody else’s kid, after all much of the time, Lane felt like she belonged with the Gilmore girls much more than with her own mother. It seemed she was having issues of the mom kind even now, finding that, as much as she would like to get closer with Zach and had even been considering the possibility of sex, she absolutely couldn’t bring herself to go there - unless he married her first.
Lorelai and Lane had a pretty frank discussion about the whole ‘being ready’ thing, plus a recap of the most important birds and bees areas - everything from condoms and birth control pills to what to expect when the time comes. Lane had left much happier than she showed up and Lorelai was glad. Unfortunately, a shock had hit her less than five minutes later.
It seemed that Lane had not quite been able to tell Zach that their getting really close was being prevented by Mama Kim’s voice in her head. On this occasion at least, she had blamed the time of the month. Thinking about that, Lorelai suddenly frowned, grabbing her datebook from her purse and flipping the pages. She had to flip several before she found what she was looking for, and then she said a couple of curse words that very rarely left her lips.
The trip to the drugstore was made in double-quick time before she thought better of her purchase. Sure, there were privacy rules when it came to doctors, and even pharmacists ought to be discreet, but Lorelai knew just exactly what Stars Hollow was like. If she went in and bought a pregnancy test, the whole town was going to be speculating by lunch time. No, better to go elsewhere to make her purchase. She turned around to head back the way she came and found the diner in her line of sight.
“Yeah, that conversation should probably come first,” Lorelai muttered to herself, taking a deep breath and pushing on into Luke’s.
Luke himself looked pretty busy when she got there, which was weird considering it was too late for breakfast and too early for lunch. Still, Lorelai sat herself down at a table and waited impatiently for her fiancé to have the time to talk. Even then she was going to have to convince him to go somewhere private for this particular news. Lorelai was thinking all of this when suddenly the diner door popped open with the usual jingling of bells and in walked the last person she expected to see.
“Hi,” he said to her, or possibly to Luke her over shoulder, Lorelai couldn’t be sure.
“Jess? What are you...?” said Luke, getting no further before his nephew disappeared behind the curtain. “What is he doing here?” he asked Lorelai instead.
“I don’t know.” She shook her head. “He looked kinda... green.”
“I really can’t...” said Luke, plates in both hands and more customers arriving at that same moment.
“I’ll go,” Lorelai offered, knowing somebody should. “It’s fine,” she promised Luke, dropping a quick kiss on his cheek before rushing towards the stairs.
Honestly, she was almost relieved not to have to have the pregnancy conversation right now. Not that she relished the idea of making nice with Rory’s boyfriend or ex-boyfriend or whatever Jess was right now. Maybe the pregnancy conversation would’ve been easier, even if the whole diner was listening.
Shaking her head, Lorelai knocked on the apartment door, then covered her eyes with one hand and used the other to open the door a little.
“Lorelai?” he replied, voice loud enough that he had to be right in front of her.
She peeked between her fingers and then sighed, letting her hand drop.
“I didn’t know if you were changing clothes.”
“I’m not,” said Jess, gesturing to his fully-clothed state.
“Cool.” Lorelai nodded once, closing the door behind her. “There are certain views a woman doesn’t need when it comes to her daughter’s boyfriend.”
Lorelai couldn’t be sure if that response was because he just liked it (which he definitely seemed to) or because Jess didn’t consider himself Rory’s boyfriend anymore. Right now, she wasn’t of a mind to ask. She watched Jess get himself a bottle of water from the fridge, and shook her head, ‘no, thanks’ when he offered her one.
“So, how’re you doing Jess?” she asked then.
“Fine,” he told her warily, sitting down on the nearest chair.
“Really?” she checked, joining him at the table. “You look a little less than fine. Good time in Florida? Drink the place dry already?” she asked with a smirk.
“You throw up?”
“Over about a mile of beach.”
“Pretty.” Lorelai grimaced. “Paris too?”
“Oh, yeah,” Jess confirmed seriously, taking careful sips of his water.
“Well, you two must’ve looked real attractive.”
“Probably. You know, she ran to Florida because her boyfriend told her he loved her, while I ran to Florida because...”
Lorelai waited for the rest of Jess’ sentence but it never came. In the end, she figured she may as well try to fill it in for him.
“Because?” she echoed. “You’re not sure if Rory loves you? Oh, Jess, she does. She really, really does,” she insisted, even as Jess physically turned away from her. “I swear I didn’t come up here to plead her case, but since you brought it up, Rory feels just awful about what happened.”
“I know that she does,” he replied, passing his water bottle from hand to hand, “but it still happened.”
“It did,” Lorelai agreed, “and I’m not saying that’s okay. Rory is my daughter and I love her to death, but I’m not going to defend what she did, Jess, because it was not cool,” she said definitely. “That said, everybody makes mistakes, right?”
Their eyes met for a second and then Jess looked away again. He wondered if Lorelai knew. She couldn’t, not really. She might suspect the truth but she couldn’t really know. Not even Rory knew. Jess wished he didn’t know either but as much as the memory was hazy, it was still there. Madeline’s lips on his, her hands in his hair. Jess took another long drink of water and then sighed.
“Is Rory at the house?”
“Far as I know.” Lorelai nodded.
Jess nodded too, got up from his seat and went over to the closet.
Lorelai wasn’t sure if she was supposed to say anything else or not. She wanted Rory and Jess to patch things up if they possibly could, and at least she didn’t seem to have made matters worse with her little intervention. That was something. She sat up straighter in her seat when Jess looked back at her, eagerly awaiting the next opportunity to help put the young lovers back on track.
“Er, now I need to change clothes,” he told her awkwardly.
“Oh, right,” said Lorelai, shaking her head and standing up fast. “Sorry!” she added, practically running for the door.
She headed back downstairs only to find Luke still rushing between the kitchen and all the many tables full of customers. Business was booming, which couldn’t be a bad thing, but it kind of scuppered any chance she hoped to have of telling Luke her potential news, both about herself and about Rory and Jess.
“Everything okay?” he asked as he passed by her, empty dishes in hand.
“I think it could be,” said Lorelai, unintentionally cryptic as she thought it over. “Um, I’ll come back when you’re not so busy, or I’ll see you later at home?”
“Okay.” Luke nodded.
He might’ve said more after that if he’d gotten the chance, but Lorelai was already gone.
Rory didn’t know what to do.
It had been bad enough living with the guilt of cheating on Jess and having him and Paris pretty much cut her out of their lives for the last week or so. Now it was just worse. Yesterday, finally plucking up the courage to try to call Jess or even Paris in Florida had led to her finding a voice mail from Louise Grant of all people, calling from Jess’ cell, while the man himself was apparently getting even on his girlfriend with Madeline Lynn. The whole situation made Rory feel so sick.
How could she really complain? As far as Jess was concerned they were probably broken up now, so it didn’t really matter what he did. Even if they were only on some kind of Ross-and-Rachel style break, how could Rory be mad at him for kissing another girl when she had started it by kissing another guy? Unless he had gone further than that with Madeline. Rory felt nauseous at the very idea and felt new tears fall from her eyes. Sniffing hard, she dragged the back of her hand across her face and fought for composure, especially when she felt a shadow fall over her. She had company.
“Rory? What’s wrong?”
She looked up in surprise to find maybe the last person she expected to see standing over her.
“Dean. What are...? Um, I was just...”
“Crying on the bridge,” he filled in for her, sinking down by her side. “Did you fight with Lorelai?”
“No, nothing like that,” she explained, swallowing hard. “I, er... I did a stupid thing, and you of all people are going to think I’m horrible.”
“Somehow, I doubt that,” he told her, smiling kindly. “Come on, what’s this horrible thing you think you did?”
“I cheated on Jess.”
Rory wasn’t sure what reaction she expected from Dean on that one. They had found a way to be friends in a strange way since their break up. She moved on with Jess and Dean actually went ahead and married Lindsay, so it was patently clear to both Rory and her ex that they were the permanent kind of over, with no hard feelings left to bear. They said ‘hi’ to each other if they met in the street or a store, ran through the usual pleasantries, but they really hadn’t had any kind of real deep conversation in more than a year.
“You cheated on Jess,” Dean echoed. “Wow.”
“Yeah, I know. Kind of a habit with me, isn’t it?” said Rory sadly, looking down at her own hands in her lap. “I can’t believe I was so stupid. I really never meant for it to happen, it just did. I mean, Logan kissing me, I know I should’ve stopped it but I didn’t, it happened so fast. I think Jess could’ve gotten over that but then... then I was dumb enough to go ahead and kiss Logan in what had to be a moment of weakness or madness or... something. All I know is I really, really wish it had never happened!”
By the end of her rambling speech, she was crying again. Dean put an arm around her and rubbed her back in a friendly gesture of comfort.
“Well, so much for thinking you two wouldn’t last,” he said, shaking his head. “I never wanted to believe it was real with you guys but you really do love him.”
“How can you say that?” asked Rory, swinging her head around to look at him so fast she nearly gave herself whiplash. “If I loved Jess as much as I should, I would never have done what I did.”
“Okay, that’s one theory,” Dean considered, “but look at it this way, when we were together, you kissed Jess, and then not long after that, we broke up so that you could be with Jess,” he recapped, managing not to wince at all as he said it. “Now you say you kissed this Logan guy, but you’re not breaking up with Jess to be with him. You’re sitting on the bridge crying your eyes out because all you want is to have Jess forgive you for your mistake. That has to prove something, right?”
Rory sniffled and nodded her head.
“I guess so,” she agreed. “I mean, I do love Jess. I love him so much and I... I just wish it was enough. I’m not sure he loves me anymore, not after what I did, and then he and Paris went to Florida for spring break and I think he... well, he met up with these girls and...”
She was crying on Dean’s shoulder again and he let her. It hurt him to see her in so much pain but for once it wasn’t his place to jump in and play hero. At last, he had moved beyond believing he was the Prince Charming in Rory Gilmore’s princess-like life. It might’ve been nice, but their time had passed. Like he just told her, she was proving how much she loved Jess with the way she was feeling so guilty and sad right now.
“People make mistakes,” he told her, hugging her close, “but when you love someone for real, it never goes away, no matter what happens.”
Rory pulled away to look at him then and saw an old familiar spark in his eyes. Dean was her past, she was sure on that, but it was nice to be friends again, to be able to remember what they once meant to each other and have that be okay.
“I’m sorry, Rory, but I really have to go,” he said then, catching sight of his watch. “Lindsay’s expecting me home.”
“Go,” she told him, smiling bravely. “Thank you, Dean. You helped... a lot.”
He smiled and nodded as he got up to leave. Rory watched him walk away and she sighed. She really never expected to be finding comfort and good advice from her ex like that, but he genuinely had made her feel better about things. He made an excellent point about her true feelings. When she started things with Jess, she didn’t feel as guilty as she should because she already knew she and Dean could never work out. This situation was so different. She didn’t want Logan, not like that. He was a nice guy and as a friend he was just fine, but it was Jess who Rory loved. She didn’t believe she could ever love anyone else as much. If that was true for him too, and she was pretty sure it was, they could work through anything if they really wanted to.
Getting up from the bridge, she dusted off the back of her pants and turned to walk home. She stopped after just one step when she realised she was not alone.
“Hi,” she said to Jess, wiping at her tear stained cheeks with both hands.
“Hi,” he replied in kind, hands shoved deep in his pockets as he wandered towards her. “I think we need to talk.”
“I’m so sorry about this,” said Lorelai for about the seventeenth time since she got to Sookie’s house.
“Sweetie, it’s fine,” her friend promised her, also for the seventeenth time. “I love that you came here. I mean, I know an argument could be made for Luke being the one that you share this moment with, but I can’t help being so proud that I get to be here.”
Sookie was grinning a mile wide when Lorelai turned to look at her. They were sat on the closed lid of the toilet and the edge of the tub respectively, Sookie holding baby Davey close in her arms, while Lorelai waited for the pregnancy test to give its result.
Yes, she should be sat with Luke waiting on these results, or even with Rory, but right now those people just were not options. Luke was so busy and could potentially have Jess to deal with yet, then there was Rory all in her doldrums about her potential break up. Lorelai had considered doing this test by herself in a service station bathroom on her way back from Woodbridge (the only place she considered it was safe to buy the test without anybody she knew finding out about it) but in the end, she really needed someone to hold her hand, at least metaphorically. Sookie was her go-to girl and apparently happy to be so.
“So, what are we hoping for? Positive? Negative?”
“Honestly?” said Lorelai, shaking her head. “I’m not even sure that I know. I mean, it’s me and Luke, you know? We talked about it, and someday, sure, we have a vague kind of a plan about kids and everything, but now? Right now, with the wedding and the inn and Rory and Jess and everything that’s going on? I don’t know, Sook. It’s not the best timing ever.”
Sookie looked awkward and Lorelai felt bad. There was no good answer her friend could give to her, no right or wrong. The truth was that Lorelai was literally half-and-half on what result she wanted to present itself on that little plastic stick. Having Luke’s baby, that would be amazing. Starting again from the beginning with a real family around and everything, it was bound to be great. Still, what she said about timing was also true. God only knew how they would cope with them both working full time, a new business just beginning, plus the kids they already had being in such a mess right now.
“I’m the most selfish woman in the world,” she said then, running her hands back through her hair. “I cannot believe I want this result to be anything but positive. I mean, if there’s a kid on the way, I gotta be happy about that, right?”
“I don’t think anybody can tell you what you should be feeling about anything, sweetie,” said Sookie kindly. “I mean, Jackson and me, we were thrilled when we found out I was pregnant with Davey here.”
“No, honey, you were thrilled, Jackson had a calculator-related meltdown for a couple of days, then he was thrilled,” said Lorelai with a smirk she couldn’t help.
“You know what I mean.” Sookie rolled her eyes. “The point is, we were happy but we also had concerns. There’s a lot to think about with a baby, like if you have enough money, if you have enough time, all kinds of things, but it’s still a good thing if it happens, right? If it’s you and the man you love that made that baby?”
“Yeah, I know.” Lorelai smiled. “Hell, when I found out I was pregnant with Rory, the timing and the situation could not have been worse, but that turned out pretty good. That kid is the best thing in my life, I can’t imagine being without her.”
“Exactly.” Sookie nodded, adjusting Davey in her arms and kissing his forehead as he slept soundly. “So, if you’re pregnant then it’ll be awesome and if you’re not, well, then it’ll happen when it’s supposed to happen.”
Lorelai nodded, knowing Sookie was right. Still when the oven timer rang she felt herself violently jump and her hand was shaking all over again as she reached for the pregnancy test.
“I guess it’s cooked,” she joked, forcing herself to breathe as she checked the display of lines.
“Well?” asked Sookie, hardly able to wait for the answer and finding Lorelai’s expression completely unreadable.
“Huh, would you look at that,” she said eventually. “Negative. Not pregnant,” she confirmed.
“Oh,” said Sookie. “Well, that’s... that’s okay, right?”
“Sure.” Lorelai nodded. “Probably for the best in the circumstances. All the busy stuff going on, bad timing, it’s just easier this way,” she rambled some, dumping the test in the trash and washing her hands.
“Lorelai?” Sookie stood behind her and caught side of her friend’s face in the mirror above the sink. “Oh, sweetie.”
“I’m sorry,” Lorelai cried, struggling to get her words out. “It’s so stupid, I just... a part of me really wanted it to be true, you know?”
As she began to really cry, Sookie looked around awkwardly, dashing out of the room to deposit Davey in his crib. She came rushing back a minute later, flinging her arms around Lorelai and letting her cry it all out on her shoulder.
“Someday this is going to happen for you, when the time is right, and then you and Luke are going to be the best parents ever,” she promised, rubbing Lorelai’s back. “Well, at least tied for first place with me and Jackson.”
Lorelai laughed and cried at the same time, unable to do anything else right now. She felt so foolish, but she just couldn’t help it, and to think she was going to have explain this to Luke yet. God only knew how he would react.
“So,” said Rory, staring out across the rippling water of the lake.
“So,” Jess echoed, looking in the same direction.
“You said we needed to talk,” she reminded him, glancing sideways. “I kind of thought that meant that you had something to say.”
Jess nodded like she was right and yet kept his silence a while longer. Rory watched him shift in place, rub the back of his neck with one hand, and seemingly consider his words carefully before he dare say a single one.
“Something happened... in Florida.”
“With Madeline,” said Rory, nodding her head.
Jess’ looked up at her so fast she was surprised he didn’t hurt himself.
“You called me,” she explained, “or actually Louise did, using your cell. From what I heard you and Madeline got very close.”
She sounded bitter and angry, Rory knew it and she also knew she probably had no right. That didn’t mean she could help it at all. She was mad at Jess for doing just exactly what he had been so mad at her for doing, even if she had started this whole mess. Two wrongs didn’t make a right, it was a proverb for a reason, not that she was about to say so.
“That was not what it sounded like,” said Jess definitely. “Okay, yeah, Madeline had this idea of how she wanted to help me get back at you for what happened with Huntzberger, but I did not encourage her. At least, not on purpose.”
“But you told her and Louise what I did!” said Rory, starting to yell as tears welled in her eyes.
“Come on, Rory, I was still mad about it, and honestly, I was more than a little drunk,” said Jess, getting a little loud himself now. “You cannot be mad at me for that!”
“I guess not,” she admitted. “So, what exactly did happen with Madeline? I know she always liked you so-”
“She kissed me,” Jess said fast, ripping off the band aid because it seemed like the best thing for the both of them right now. “I probably kissed her back too, but I honestly don’t remember too well because I was really, really drunk,” he confessed, his hand on Rory’s arm to get her attention then. “What I do know is, nothing else happened, okay?” he said, meeting her eyes. “I’m pretty sure it could have, if Madeline got her way, but it didn’t. I may not remember all the details of that night, but I do remember throwing up, a lot, and the beach spinning like a merry-go-round,” he told her then, looking green just thinking about it. “Paris was right there with me, Rory, she can tell you if you don’t believe me. I did not sleep with Madeline Lynn or anybody else, okay?”
“I believe you,” said Rory, knowing that he would never lie about something like that, any more than she would.
In fact, after everything that had happened, with her hiding things and all, Jess was probably more likely to tell the whole truth from the get-go, just to keep from being a hypocrite. He was so mad at Rory for her indiscretion, she couldn’t blame him for that, and maybe his allowing anything at all to happen with Madeline was petty and vengeful, but she did understand. She might well have done the same thing in his position. Didn’t mean it hurt any less to hear about it, of course.
“So, now we’ve both made mistakes, you can forgive me?” she asked, trying to sound more hopeful than bitter, but honestly, it wasn’t coming easy.
“No,” said Jess. “Well, yeah,” he tried a second later, rubbing his forehead that already ached. “Rory, it’s not like I did it on purpose. It wasn’t a plan to even things out. I didn’t kiss Madeline for revenge, she kissed me, and... and honestly, I let it happen because I figured why the hell not, but it wasn’t to hurt you or get even, it just wasn’t,” he promised her. “The truth is, I’m glad it happened, because in the end, it put things into perspective. I always knew I loved you, Rory, but Madeline proved to me, without a doubt, that I can’t stop,” he said, meeting her eyes one more time. “I couldn’t let anything happen with her, or anybody else, because no matter what mistake you made with Huntzberger, I don’t want anybody else. There’s just you and that’s it.”
Rory bit her lip and nodded her head, feeling one tear streak down her cheek even though she was trying to hold them all in. Jess loved her so much, it was why she felt so bad about what happened with Logan, it was how she was able to hurt him so much with her error in judgement.
“I got some perspective too,” she admitted. “I understand how I made you feel by doing what I did, because when I found out you did the same thing, it crushed me.”
Jess hated to see her cry, and quite honestly, if he hadn’t learnt to build his walls up so strong and high, he would’ve been bawling along with her right now. They really had made a hell of a mess of this relationship lately. He only hoped it was salvageable yet.
“So, basically, we’re both idiots,” he said, smirking some, “but at least we love each other, right?”
“Right.” Rory smiled through her tears, leaning in closer to Jess, her head dropping onto his shoulder. “I am sorry, Jess,” she told him definitely.
“Yeah, I’m sorry too,” he said, wrapping his arm around her as her’s crept around his back too. “You think we can maybe just forget the last couple of weeks ever happened?”
“No,” said Rory making him look at her strangely. “I want us both to remember this,” she confirmed, gazing up at him, “so nothing this dumb ever comes between us again.”
“Yeah, that sounds good,” Jess agreed, not protesting at all when Rory shifted ever closer and kissed his lips.
It had been a hell of week, and the Gilmore girls, plus their significant others, were certainly looking forward to seeing the back of it. Unfortunately, before a fresh new week was able to begin, before the weekend could even be enjoyed, there was one more hurdle to get over - Friday Night Dinner.
“And you just said I’d go?” asked Luke, eyes wide and jaw slack.
“Come on, Luke!” Lorelai huffed. “The last time you were invited and I refused on your behalf, you went a little crazy about it. I figured this time the thing to do was accept.”
“You have to admit, that’s logical,” said Jess from behind his book.
“I certainly thought so,” Rory agreed, nodding her head. “Which is why when Grandpa also suggested that you come along, I may have said you’d love to.”
Now it was Jess’ turn to look shocked and not at all amused. Rory tried her best to lean away from him but the stool would only allow her so much before she would fall off the other side onto the diner floor. Also, hiding in her book wasn’t working so well for her as it always seemed to work for her boyfriend.
“I’m going too?” he checked, putting his hand in the way of Rory seeing the words in her novel and pressing the book down onto the counter. “How did that happen?”
“I just told you,” she reminded him. “Grandpa decided if Luke was coming with mom to talk about the wedding and stuff then it was only right that I bring you along. I mean, we are the maid of honour and the best man, plus both you and Luke are going to be part of the family after the wedding.”
“Please, don’t remind me about that part.” Jess grimaced, not least because he could do without recalling that he and Rory would technically be part of the same family once her mom became his aunt and his uncle became her step-dad.
“Oh, come on, guys,” said Lorelai, rolling her eyes. “Take it like men! It’s just one dinner. Me and Rory have to endure this torture every single Friday night.”
“Can we also bring Paris?” asked Jess, looking at Luke.
“Yes, we should definitely bring Paris,” he agreed, pointing a finger first at Jess and then at Lorelai. “You know, I’ll bet she would love to come.”
“I doubt Emily is going to go for that at short notice, especially when it’s going to make her table uneven.”
“Plus, since she and Doyle patched things up they seem to be joined at the hip, or lips, or both,” said Rory thoughtfully, trying not to giggle when she saw a shudder of disgust run through Jess. “I doubt she’ll want to be anywhere but Yale this weekend.”
“Oh, so they did patch things up?” Luke checked. “Last I heard something had gone wrong.”
“Something was Paris’ brain,” Jess explained. “Apparently, Doyle said he loved her and she kinda freaked. It took getting drunk in Florida for her to realise she loved him too.”
“Who knew that was the fixer for any and all relationship problems?” said Lorelai, clearly meaning to tease. “Getting drunk in Florida is the new couples therapy,” she said with a wink.
“Not funny, Mom,” Rory advised her, though she was smiling all the same.
“So, Friday Night Dinner,” said Jess clearing his throat. “We’ve done it before, I figure we can do it again,” he said then, looking at Luke.
“Safety in numbers, I guess.” His uncle shrugged. “Remind me, do I need a tie?”
“Nope, no ties,” Lorelai assured him. “Just put your sexy self in a button-down shirt and pants that aren’t jeans, you’ll be good to go.”
“Same applies for you,” Rory told Jess.
“Huh. You mean I gotta leave my Metallica T-shirt at home?” he asked her, smirking hard.
“Just for one night, I think you’ll survive,” she told him, kissing his cheek. “You really don’t mind coming to dinner, do you?”
“Would I be going if I did?” he asked her, eyes never leaving the page in which he was now once again engrossed. “It’s not like I’m doing it because I love you or anything,” he said, smirking yet.
“Of course not.” Rory smiled too wide. “The thought never entered my head.”
She opened up her own book again, scooching a little closer to Jess and laying her head on his shoulder as she got back to reading.
“If they were any cuter I’d throw up,” Lorelai whispered to Luke.
“I know, they are almost too adorable,” he replied, shaking his head. “Makes me glad to see them back together though.”
“You know we can hear you, right?” Jess called from further down the counter. “We’re reading but we’re not deaf.”
“Hey, we’re only saying nice things,” Lorelai countered. “Be happy about that or I’m telling my mother that you defiled her granddaughter.”
“Lorelai!” Luke yelled, making a disgusted face.
She was all innocence as she stared at him.
All Rory could do was laugh.
“Well, of course, a proper wedding should be much more meticulously planned and prepared for than this,” said Emily, taking a dainty bite of her dinner, “but then Lorelai never has been one to play by anybody’s rules.”
“No, Mom, I just don’t necessarily like to play by society’s rules” her daughter corrected. “In the words of Johnny Rotten, I am an anarchist!”
“Lorelai, really,” her father scolded. “You are not an anarchist. For one thing I never saw an anarchist with good personal hygiene.”
“I always thought you were more David Bowie’s ‘Rebel, Rebel’,” said Rory thoughtfully, staring across the table at her mom. “Except you’re definitely a girl.”
“If we’re going for the revolution, we’re women, honey, not girls.”
“I stand corrected.” Rory smiled, putting another forkful of mashed potatoes into her mouth.
“Are you able to keep up with all this back and forth, Luke?” asked Richard curiously. “I confess they quite lose me in all their in-jokes and references.”
“I get the gist,” said Luke, nodding his head. “If it makes them happy, I just let them do whatever.”
“Oh, yes, very wise,” Richard agreed. “Always better to keep the ladies happy.”
“Amen to that,” said Jess, never looking up from his plate.
He had hoped to be involved in conversation as little as possible, and for as long as Emily was getting at Lorelai about her wedding arrangements, he felt pretty safe. Not putting his head above the parapet was working well so far. Unfortunately, he had now actually spoken without prompting and that meant all attention was on him.
“Now, Jess,” said Richard looking his way, “how are you doing at Yale? Prospering just as our Rory is, I’m sure.”
“It’s going okay.” Jess nodded. “Er, but honestly, it’s not really what I want to do with my life, so I’ll be leaving at the end of Freshman year.”
Emily’s flatware clattering against her plate was accompanied by Luke’s doing much the same. Lorelai bit her lip as Rory looked panicked. They were all waiting on Richard’s reaction now, expecting some kind of explosion, especially Rory and Lorelai who remembered only too well how dear old grandpa had savaged Dean back in the day for not having any solid future plans.
“I assume you have alternative plans, young man?”
“Yes, sir,” said Jess like a reflex, making Rory’s mouth drop open even wider. “Er, I’ve actually been working on a short novel, submitting it to publishers, seeing what happens there. My English professor actually has some contacts she put me on to so it could happen. In the meantime, I’m working in the diner with Luke, looking for additional work, and planning on taking a couple of classes at the community college that might help me out too.”
Lorelai’s mouth was gaping as wide open as her daughter’s by the end of that speech, and Luke’s dropped right along with it when he heard Richard’s reply.
“Excellent,” he said, clapping his hands together. “Well, you certainly seem to have things all figured out, and I’m very interested to hear more about this novel of yours. From what Rory tells me about your extensive reading, I’m certain your writing will be of excellent quality also.”
“I’d like to think so,” said Jess, smiling genuinely as he went right back to eating.
“Close your mouth, Lorelai, you look like one of those clown games at the fair,” said Emily, taking a long drink from her wine glass.
Lorelai couldn’t even argue that she was far from the only one gaping at what just happened. She was way too stunned.
“I’m very proud of Jess, Grandpa,” said Rory, recovering first from all the shock. “College just isn’t for everybody.”
“Indeed so.” Richard nodded. “You know several of this country’s greatest presidents never attended college at all? In any case, change can be a wonderful thing. Now just because my branching out in my own business did not end up being a complete success, that doesn’t mean one shouldn’t try new things. Look at your mother and her friend with this inn idea. Now, no-one can guarantee that will work out, but it’s not stopping them from giving it a try.”
“I’m sure it’s going to go great,” said Luke, squeezing Lorelai’s hand.
“Gotta hope so,” she agreed, smiling at his supportive gesture and words. “I have to admit, I feel a little overwhelmed with the wedding and the Dragonfly opening only a week apart, but it’s a good kind of overwhelmed. All good things all the time.”
“We’ll make it work,” said Rory definitely. “I know Jess and I have school but we will make time to help with the inn and with the wedding. Paris said she would pitch in too, if you need her.”
“You guys are the best.” Lorelai grinned.
“You know your father and I would help also if we knew what you needed,” said Emily, laying her recently retrieved flatware neatly on her empty plate. “I’m sure I’ve made multiple offers but I was never referred to as being ‘the best’.”
Lorelai looked at Rory and rolled her eyes just as soon as Emily was distracted in instructing the maid to bring out the dessert. There was still so much of the evening to get through, better to take a deep breath and try not to make too many waves. Of course, since they had all gone to dinner almost specifically to talk about wedding plans, there really was no avoiding the subject. Lorelai held it together fairly well with the help of Luke, Rory, and even Jess. When the evening was finally over, all four of them heaved a group sigh of relief on the doorstep.
“That was... intense,” said Jess, shaking his head.
“I cannot believe you got away with telling my grandparents you’re dropping out of Yale,” said Rory, smiling none the less. “No lecture, no fighting. Amazing!”
“I know!” Lorelai declared, clearly equally as surrpised, albeit pleasantly so. “I almost thought about mentioning the whole thought I was pregnant thing just to see what would happen.”
“And that would’ve been a bad plan,” said Luke with a look. “You really think your parents would’ve taken the possibility of a second out-of-wedlock baby all that well?”
“Well, no, but there is no baby.”
“But they might decide to shoot Luke for touching you before the big day,” said Jess thoughtfully.
Lorelai and Luke shared a look and then both shook their heads.
“Let’s go home,” he suggested, ushering everyone into the truck.
They talked some more on the way back to the Hollow and then Jess suggested maybe Luke could drop him and Rory off at the diner before heading on back to the Crap Shack with Lorelai. Nobody had a reason to argue with the plan and the kids were duly left to their own devices.
“At least I taught Rory about safe sex,” said Lorelai as Luke drove them towards her home. “Us having a baby would be one thing, I do not want her and Jess getting into that position, not now.”
“Believe me, I made sure Jess knows how important it is to... be safe,” said Luke firmly but awkwardly - he really was not at all comfortable with that kind of discussion, but it had been necessary.
“You’re not disappointed, are you?” said Lorelai then. “About the not-a-baby? I mean, I know we talked about it already and we agreed that it’s probably for the best, you know, timing-issues and all, and it is, for the best I mean, but...”
“But you kind of hoped you were pregnant?” said Luke, pulling the truck into the driveway and turning off the engine.
“A little bit, yeah,” Lorelai confessed, turning to look at him. “It would be pretty special to know I was having your baby,” she said, hand going to his cheek.
“And some day, I would love for that to happen,” he told her, turning to kiss her palm. “Now just wasn’t the time, but some day, it probably will be.”
“And if it’s not?”
“If it’s not then we’ll survive,” Luke promised. “We have each other, and Rory and Jess.”
“And Paris and Lane,” Lorelai added with a smile. “We have a lot of kids somehow.”
Luke leaned over, taking her face in his hands and kissing her softly.
“Maybe one day there’ll be another one, and maybe there won’t, but I’m always gonna love you, Lorelai Gilmore. You know that, right?”
“I know that,” she assured him, smiling wide. “I love you too, Luke Danes, and I can’t wait to marry you.”
As April blurred into May, time just seemed to start flying. Everybody had something to do all of the time, with hardly a minute to spare. If Rory wasn’t studying or actually taking finals, she was helping her mom with the inn or wedding arrangements. Jess pitched in where he could too, putting in shifts at the diner to free up Luke so he could assist Lorelai with a view to having her head not explode pre-wedding day and inn opening. Of course, Jess had other priorities too, like finishing up his single year at Yale and getting the manuscript of his short novel into the best possible shape then pitching it to publishers. It meant that Jess and Rory didn’t see quite as much of each other as they might’ve liked for a couple of weeks, but summer was coming and then they ought to get the chance to spend some real quality time, at least when Jess wasn’t working for a living.
“It’s getting ridiculous,” Rory complained, heaving a huge sigh. “I just can’t fit everything in, at least not if days keep being as little as twenty-four hours long.”
“Come on, Gilmore, let’s put a halt on the whining,” said Paris, rolling her eyes as she turned from her desk to stare at her friend. “What do you need? I mean, obviously, I can’t study for you and I’m certainly not taking your place on some date with my brother, but if there’s anything on your plate that I can help with, tell me now.”
“Are you sure, Paris?” asked Rory. “I mean, you have your own finals plus Doyle and the paper and everything.”
“Stop helping me to find excuses not to help you,” Paris insisted, getting up and coming over to her friend’s side of the room. “For God’s sakes, the self-flagellation should’ve ended weeks ago. I know it took me a little longer than it took Jess to forgive you for what you did with Huntzberger, but that’s to be expected. He’s the one that’s in love with you, not me. Personally, I’m still appalled by your taste. If you were going to cheat, I’m sure you could’ve found someone more worthy, but that’s just my opinion.”
Rory looked away, as ashamed of herself as she had been before. Jess forgave her for her mistake, partly because he had easily fallen into the trap of making one of his own in the heat of the moment, but more so because he loved Rory and and knew she was truly sorry. Paris was a whole other ballgame. She was determined to sentence Rory to a set amount of time in which she must be without her friend and confidante at Yale so that she might learn her lesson. Rory had to admit, she had always thought that getting rid of Paris for a while might not be so bad, but actually, it had been truly awful.
“You know I’m sorry that the way I acted affected us so much, Paris,” she said honestly. “I apologised to Jess so many times, but I really hadn’t thought about how it affected you.”
“Being stuck in the middle between my brother and my best friend was in no way amusing to me,” said Paris, folding her arms across her chest. “I thought I made that pretty clear. Now, give me something to do before I change my mind about helping.”
Apparently, they weren’t going to address the fact that Paris just referred to Rory as her best friend, but that was okay. Knowing how she and Jess were about expressing their sibling-type love for each other, Rory couldn’t really think that Paris would be any more comfortable with talking about a friendship-level of affection either. It was still nice to know she meant so much to her though.
“Um, I’d love to give you something off the list, Paris, but there’s not much that’s... well, transferable,” Rory considered. “Not unless you want to go to Stars Hollow for me?”
“To do what exactly?”
“Well, a couple of things actually. Mom and Sookie were hoping I’d be an extra pair of hands for inn stuff this Sunday, since most of next week they’ll be concentrated on the wedding, and I said I’d take a shift at the diner for Jess on Saturday since he has so much to do already and neither of us wants to let Luke down. Honestly, I should stay here and study but I was going to take my books with me and try to fit in the reading for my last couple of finals around my other tasks-”
“I’ll go,” said Paris easily.
“Yes, Gilmore, seriously. God, why would I say it if I didn’t mean it?”
Rory grinned big. It was true enough that Paris could be a real pain in the ass sometimes and more than a little crazy to boot, but honestly, she could be such a great friend too. Acting on instinct, Rory launched herself at Paris and hugged her tight. It was a nice surprise to find she was being hugged back rather than pushed away.
“I actually like working in the diner,” Paris confessed as they parted, “and I really haven’t been involved in the wedding arrangements at all. You know, Lorelai has been... not exactly a substitute mom, but a cool aunt, certainly.”
“Well, you are Jess’ sister, and Mom is marrying Luke, so... I guess she kind of will be your aunt a week from Saturday.” Rory smiled.
“Yeah.” Paris smiled right back. “I guess she will.”
“I mean, it’s an improvement. She’s talking to me, kind of, a little, but she refuses to come see the apartment and any time I even vaguely mention Zach, well, the expression is too scary to mention.”
Lane sighed and tossed another wedding favour into the box, looking forlorn. Lorelai and Sookie shared a look, not really knowing what to say for the best. They had both tried to get Mrs Kim to go easy on her daughter, but she was having none of it, and there was only so much bear-poking they were prepared to do. Lorelai had hoped roping in Lane to help with a whole bunch of tasks to do with the wedding and the inn this weekend would cheer her up, but all she had done so far was complain and look sad.
“Sweetie, I’m sure she’ll come around in time,” said Sookie kindly, patting Lane’s hand. “She’s your mother and she loves you, she’s just... well, it’s a lot for her to take in.”
“It’s been more than a month.” Lane shook her head. “I thought she would be over the worst of it by now.”
“Yeah, we’re talking about your mother,” said Lorelai with a look. “She’s right up there on the unforgiving scale with my mother. It’s gonna take a little more time than that, babe.”
The back door suddenly opening got all three of them to look up at once, expecting maybe Luke or even Rory. They all got a surprise when they saw who was actually there.
“Paris? What are you doing here?” asked Lorelai. “I thought you were covering Jess’ shift at the diner today.”
“I was but Luke knew if he left the diner to come here, he would get roped into the parts of the wedding arrangements that would drive him crazy, so he said he would rather let me go early, if I would agree to come help out with favours or table decorations or whatever it is you’re doing.”
“A little of both of those things plus a whole lot more,” said Sookie, looking around at the devastation across the kitchen table, counters, and floor.
“An extra pair of hands is always welcome, Paris, but you already volunteered to help with the menus and linens for the inn tomorrow. I can’t ask you to do anymore.”
“You’re not asking, I’m volunteering,” she reminded her, removing her jacket and literally rolling up her sleeves. “It’s what family is for. Now, point me at a benign and pointless task that you feel will make your wedding day perfect.”
Lorelai couldn’t help but smile, partly in amusement at the way Paris phrased it but mostly at just how sweet the girl could be, despite what some might think. She soon had her daughter’s boyfriend’s pseudo sister sat by her, tying ribbons in perfect bows on favours for the wedding reception. Unfortunately, all this was done to a litany of sighs and grumbles from Lane that did kind of seem to be never-ending of late.
“You know, they always talk about how disappointing children can be, but personally, I’m looking to the parents on this one,” said Paris, shaking her head. “I mean, sure, you’ve been great with Rory, the best actually” she told Lorelai easily.
“Well, thank you, Paris. That’s very sweet.”
“Sure, no problem, but look at the other side of the scales. Jess’ dad left the day he was born, didn’t bother to check in again until he was eighteen. Rory’s dad is pretty absent from the picture, and my father, although technically he still lives in the same house as me, probably couldn’t pick me out of a line up these days, he sees so little of me.
“My mother is in even more permanent absence from my life these past three years than she was when she was still married to Dad, and that’s really saying something, and as for Liz, my God, that woman is a shocking example of motherhood. I’m not saying she didn’t try to be nice to me or that she doesn’t care for Jess at all, but she’s certainly disappointed a lot of people in her time, her son chief amongst them.”
“Add my parents to your list and I’ll give you an ‘amen,’ Paris,” said Lorelai with a wry smile.
“I have to admit, as much respect as I have for Richard and Emily, they can be somewhat judgemental,” Paris considered. “As for your mother,” she continued then, looking to Lane, “she ought to be thanking God for a daughter like you. I mean, look at you, you’re nineteen years old with your own job, your own accommodation, and from what I hear you’re not letting that guitar-playing doofus of a boyfriend of yours pop your cherry until you get a ring on your finger. What kind of mother complains about these things?”
Nobody could answer that question, not least because they were all so shocked by the blunt turn of phrase that they couldn’t form words at all. After all this time, Lorelai, Lane, and even Sookie ought to be used to Paris’ ways and yet she could still surprise them sometimes.
“I have half a mind to let Mrs Kim know about some of the depraved and downright disturbing behaviour I’ve seen at Yale this year. It may be an Ivy League college, but you should see some of the displays I’ve seen. I swear, if your mother saw them, Lane, she would think you were a real-live angel by comparison.”
Tossing one more favour into the box, Paris declared she was going to the bathroom and disappeared from the room. Lane, Lorelai, and Sookie were sharing astonished looks for a good thirty seconds after that, until finally Lorelai spoke.
“Well, if nothing else comes out of today, I think we solved one problem,” she considered. “Maybe the way to get through to Mrs Kim is just to set Paris on her.”
As crazy as it sounded, Lane couldn’t help but think she might be right!
“Marty, hey!” Rory smiled widely when he opened the dorm door to her knock. “I feel like I haven’t seen you in forever. How’s things?”
“Things are good,” he told her, smiling just as wide. “I’ve been a little busy, you know, with studying and... well, my girlfriend.”
“Girlfriend?” she echoed as he ushered her inside. “How come I didn’t know about this?”
“Like you said, we kind of haven’t seen each other much lately,” said Marty, shifting awkwardly, “but I’m glad you’re here now. I’ve missed you and Paris actually. Not that I’ve even seen that much of Jess lately either, and he lives in the next room. I hear him sometimes, moving around in there but, yeah, we haven’t really been hanging out much. It’s been a weird couple of months.”
“It really has,” Rory agreed, nodding her head. “Um, you do know about Jess leaving?”
“Sure, yeah. He told me about that. Kinda sad.”
“Kinda is,” she agreed easily, “but I’ll be back next year and so will Paris. We should really make more of an effort to hang out. I mean, if you want to.”
“I’d love to. I really think you and Lucy would get along.”
“Lucy? Oh, the girlfriend!” Rory realised aloud. “Right, yeah. We should definitely make sure that happens.”
They both turned as Jess’ door came open very suddenly.
“I thought I heard your voice,” he said, smiling at Rory.
“Hey. Look, the lesser-spotted Marty.”
“I know. I’ve barely seen him and I live here,” Jess agreed. “You know, he has a girlfriend now?”
“I’ve been hearing.”
“Guys, standing right here,” Marty reminded them.
Rory tried not to laugh as Jess smirked terribly.
“It’s cool,” Marty assured his buddy, rolling his eyes. “Nice to see you, Rory,” he said then, raising a hand in a wave before retreating back into his own room.
“You too, Marty!” she called as he disappeared. “Aww, I missed him.”
“Well, you’ll have time to hang out with him next year,” said Jess, wandering out to stand in front of Rory and taking hold of both her hands in his own. “In fact, I plan on encouraging it.”
“Really? Why’s that?”
“You and Paris need somebody to watch your back when I’m not around. Marty’s not quite as cool as me, but he’ll do,” said Jess, smirking all over again.
“Oh, I dunno” Rory teased him. “Marty’s pretty cool. He’s smart, good looking, all around nice guy.”
“Oh yeah?” said Jess smiling yet.
“Yeah.” Rory nodded, trying not to laugh as they both leaned in closer. “But personally, I kinda have a thing for his dorm-mate,” she said softly, her lips almost touching Jess’ own.
“Nice save, Gilmore,” he told her just before they kissed.
It was fully five minutes before they came up for air, and even then, it was only so Jess could try to entice Rory into his bedroom. She called upon all her will power and refused him, reluctantly, but for very good reasons.
“I seriously only came for a fix,” she told him, claiming one more kiss. “I have so much studying to do if I want to nail these finals, and I know you have just as much to do yourself.”
“It can wait,” Jess insisted, pulling her close again.
“No, it can’t,” Rory insisted, even as her resolve began to melt. “Come on, we’re busy. It’s why Paris is playing both you and me in today’s production of The Stars Hollow Show.”
“Hey, she is the one who always insists on regular study breaks,” he said, kissing her over and over between phrases, “and making the most of the time we have, and she was really happy we got back together, and...”
“Mmm, no more ands,” Rory insisted, pulling Jess towards his bedroom.
Maybe they could spare just a little time. After all, they wouldn’t be college co-eds together for much longer.
It hadn’t actually been planned like this, but as luck would have it, Jess and Paris were done with their finals the day before Luke and Lorelai’s wedding. Unfortunately, Rory had her last one early in the morning on the Saturday itself.
“If I could trade with you, you know I would,” Jess had told her sweetly.
That was when Paris had started threatening to vomit and reminding them she was still a little mad at them for spending a good chunk of the weekend before having sex while she covered their jobs and tasks in the Hollow.
“Come on, sis, you know you loved being there,” Jess had insisted.
Paris didn’t agree but she also didn’t disagree, which seemed significant to all concerned. Despite her complaining, she was apparently more than willing to help out with moving both Rory and Jess out of Yale. She even roped Doyle in to help too.
By the time Rory headed into her last final, her dorm was clear of all belongings, Paris and Doyle were on their way back to Stars Hollow for what was likely to be the wedding of the year, and Jess was headed to his car to do the same. He was half way across the parking lot with the last box from Rory’s room in his arms when he heard a voice call to him. Turning around, Jess was less than impressed to see Logan Huntzberger approaching.
“Hey, man, I was hoping I’d see you before it was too late.”
Jess didn’t say anything in response. He honestly didn’t know where to begin. It was probably lucky he was carrying Rory’s belongings or he might’ve just taken a swing at Huntzberger simply for walking over to him. After all, he was leaving Yale for good today, Jess didn’t really see what he had to lose. Of course, if the blond dick managed to land a punch of his own, Jess might be showing up to Luke and Lorelai’s wedding with the start of a new black eye, so maybe it really wasn’t worth the trouble.
“So, listen, I heard talk at the paper that you were leaving this great establishment and not coming back, and I thought after everything that’s happened, well, I wanted to shake your hand, Jess,” said Logan, seemingly sincere in all his words and looks, though Jess had a hard time believing it. “I figure you’re man enough to let bygones be bygones if a guy apologises, right? Well, consider this my apology. I’m sorry if I made your life harder or caused problems in your relationship with Rory.
“Now, I’m not saying I really did anything I’m ashamed of. I know she told you the honest truth about what happened with the two of us and I don’t think I was ever exactly ungentlemanly with her, but I’m willing to admit, I chanced my arm,” he said, smirking some. “What can I say, Jess, you’ve got a beautiful, intelligent, amazing woman to call your girlfriend, and she really loves you, you know?”
“I know.” Jess nodded, unsure what Logan really expected him to say or do next.
Shaking hands was out unless he put down the box and though he supposed he ought to at least say he accepted the other guy’s apology, he kind of didn’t want to. To show weakness now almost felt like giving Huntzberger permission to move in on Rory when Yale started up again in the Fall, and yet, Jess had more faith in Rory than that. She made her mistake and she was so damn sorry for it, he was sure she would never let someone like Logan come between them again.
“So, you accept my apology, right? We’re good.”
“Sure,” said Jess, carefully putting Rory’s box on the ground. “We’re good,” he assured Logan, offering his hand.
“That’s the spirit.” Logan grinned as he took that hand and shook it firmly. “Always better to be friends than enemies, right?”
“I guess so.” Jess nodded. “But just so we’re very clear, man, Rory chose me. She’s always going to choose me.”
“And I will not be the one trying to convince her to do otherwise,” said Logan, hands held up in mock surrender. “You have my word on that.”
“I don’t really care what you do, Huntzberger,” said Jess, smiling as he picked up the box again. “I trust Rory. Now, I gotta go, I have a wedding to get to,” he said as he turned and calmly walked away, still smiling.
Rory could not be more thrilled than when she got out of her last final. She went practically running to her car, dialling Lorelai’s number on the way.
“I’m coming, I’m coming, I’m coming!” she intoned the moment her mother picked up.
“I’m getting married today!” Lorelai declared in her ear. “Can you believe that?”
“Yes, I can, and I am going to be there just as fast as the speed limit will allow!” Rory told her, scrambling to get in the car.
“Okay, hon, but you hang up the phone and drive safe, capiche? I don’t want my wedding running late because we had to waste time coming to scrape you off the highway.”
“Sounds reasonable. I’ll be there as fast and safely as I can. Bye!”
Hanging up her cell, Rory threw it in her purse, and started up the car. Seat belt on, mirror checked, she took one last look at Yale and smiled.
“Be back soon,” she told the building and then she was off.
The trip that usually took half an hour at best passed even more quickly as Rory drove as quickly as she dare. Twenty-two minutes after setting off she was pulling into the driveway of her own home, narrowly avoiding the other cars that were already parked there.
The Crap Shack was so full of people, Rory felt like it took as long to get from the front door to her mom’s bedroom as it did from Yale to Stars Hollow, but it was worth it when she finally walked in and saw Lorelai in her wedding dress.
“Oh, mom!” she gasped. “You look amazing.”
“It’s the perfect dress,” Lorelai reminded her.
“No, it’s not just the dress,” Rory assured her, holding her hands and meeting her eyes. “You’re glowing, Mom. You’re just... you look so happy and so beautiful.”
“Thanks, baby girl,” said Lorelai, pulling her into a careful hug, mindful of in any way crumpling her dress. “Now, get into that maid of honour dress already, we only have so much time! You know your grandma has the stylist on standby for your hair and Lane brought extra make up supplies in case you need them. It’s all systems go, babe!”
“I noticed that downstairs. You know, Sookie was talking a mile a minute to Lane about the cake, and Grandma was holding Davey which distracted her from even noticing me at first, then there was Grandpa in the kitchen practicing this speech he wrote for the reception to the captive audience of Paris and Doyle - it’s chaos!”
“Right now, I’m not even thinking about it,” Lorelai confessed. “The only people on my mind today have been you with your final, and my Luke,” she said, smiling widely. “You think he’s nervous?”
“Luke? I doubt it.” Rory shook his head. “He loves you so much, Mom, he always has. I’m sure he’s too certain about today to be nervous at all.”
“I hope so,” Lorelai agreed. “Now, go, go go. Dress, hair, make up, fast as you can!”
“I’m going!” Rory promised, laughing all the way as she left the room and tripped down the stairs as fast as her legs would go.
Immediately, Emily handed off baby Davey to Sookie and ushered Rory towards her own bedroom to be changed, styled, and otherwise prepared for the wedding. They were intercepted at the door by an agitated looking Paris.
“Hey, is your mom okay?” she asked Rory.
“Yeah, she’s fine. You can go up and see her if you want, I’m sure she won’t mind.”
“No, it’s cool. I just wanted to check in, make sure she wasn’t having any last-minute wobbles,” Paris confirmed. “I’m heading over to the diner in a sec, make sure Jess is coping okay with Luke. You know those two can wind each other up faster than anyone and the last thing we need today is a family feud.”
“Good thinking, Paris.” Rory smiled. “Now, I’m sorry, but I gotta go.”
Emily finally succeeded in getting Rory into her room and closing the door, and Paris turned back into the kitchen to find Doyle giving Richard tips on some of the phrasing in his speech. Without even bothering to tell them where she was going, she slipped away and hurried down to the diner to check on the guys.
A couple of good slams of her hand on the main door brought Jess down to greet her, though he didn’t look so chipper about the interruption.
“Wow. It’s almost like you belong in that suit,” said Paris the moment he let her in the door. “Who knew you scrubbed up so well?”
“Not looking so bad yourself, sis,” said Jess, losing the scowl all of a sudden. “You lose Doyle already?”
“I left him at the Gilmores', he’s fine. I figured I’d come over here, make sure you and good old Uncle Luke are doing okay.”
“He’s fine, just a little jittery. I guess that’s normal.”
“I suppose so. There’s no denying marriage is a big step, or it should be anyway.”
“Try telling Liz that.” Jess rolled his eyes. “You know she called last week and announced she married the new guy already?”
“Seriously? How many husbands is that now?”
“I lost count years ago,” Jess told her with a look. “Actually, I think Liz lost count years ago. She’s not even coming here today because she’s, and I quote, ‘indebted to the Ren Fayre.’”
“Oh, geez!” Paris exclaimed, sounding perhaps a little too much like her brother.
“Exactly,” he agreed, rolling his eyes. “Anyway, you coming up?” he asked then, gesturing towards the stairs.
“Sure,” Paris agreed, following him to the curtain and then up.
They found Luke yelling at his own sleeve, which was just a little disturbing.
“Jittery was an understatement,” Paris remarked to Jess.
He only rolled his eyes and moved out of the line of fire. Paris, in her usual brand of brave-or-stupid, stepped up to take his place. She smacked Luke’s hand so he would move it and then commenced fastening his cufflinks for herself.
“Men are morons,” she muttered as she made fast work of the very thing Luke had been struggling with for the past five minutes or more. “I mean, you males have your uses, and some of you aren’t bad company or even bad to look at, but you really are all morons sometimes, you know that?”
“There are times when women aren’t so perfect either,” Luke remarked snippily, “but thanks, anyway,” he added, realising his cufflinks were now done.
“You’re welcome,” she said, smiling at him. “I just thought I’d come by, see how you were holding up. Kind of a big day for you two.”
“Lorelai and I are very sure this is what we want, Paris. I’m gonna do my best to make her happy.”
“That’s good,” she agreed, “but when I said ‘you two’ I was thinking more of you and him,” she admitted, hiking her thumb towards Jess. “I mean, sure, it’s you getting married, Luke, but we all know the best man and the maid of honour are going to be next down the aisle.”
“Geez, Paris!” Jess groaned. “We’re nineteen! Rory and I are not getting married.”
“Not yet maybe.” Paris smirked the way he usually would. “But can you honestly tell me you see a future for you that doesn’t have Rory attached?”
Jess didn’t have an answer for that one, just as Paris knew he wouldn’t.
“Well, personally, I hope that my future has all of you in it,” said Luke honestly. “I may be marrying Lorelai today, and becoming Rory’s step-father, I guess, but I will always be your uncle, Jess, and Paris,” he said, looking to her with almost a fatherly gaze that she certainly hadn’t seen much of in her life from anyone, least of all the man who was officially her dad. “Well, whatever you need, sweetheart, you got it,” he told her, nodding his head. “You’re a part of this crazy family too, you know? Whether you like it or not,” he said, his hand briefly at her shoulder.
“Thank you,” she replied, finding her voice had suddenly turned very soft and fragile. “I, er... I guess you would all be kind of lost without me,” she said then, clearing her throat. “Um, so, we should get this show on the road.”
“Sounds like a plan,” Luke agreed. “Jess, have you-”
“Yes, for the hundred and twenty seventh time, I’ve got the rings,” his nephew told him quickly.
On that note, it was probably time to go.
The ceremony was beautiful and there wasn’t a dry eye in the square as everybody watched Lorelai Gilmore and Luke Danes finally tie the knot. It had been a long time coming, but at last they were wed, and nobody could have looked happier about it than Mr and Mrs Danes themselves. Of course, another couple came a very close second.
“Isn’t it beautiful and romantic and perfect?” said Rory happily as she and Jess followed the newlyweds back down the aisle and out into the gathering of all their family and friends.
“It’s not bad,” he teased her. “You look amazing by the way,” he told her then, not having had the opportunity pre-ceremony.
“Thank you, and I was meaning to say the same to you,” Rory told him. “If I knew you cleaned up this good, I’d’ve convinced Mom and Luke to get married a whole lot sooner.”
In the next few moments, everyone was headed towards a multitude of assorted vehicles to be transported on to the Dragonfly Inn. Of course, it didn’t open for business until the following Saturday, but the final round of work was presently on hold so that the wedding reception could be held there. It didn’t even seem to bother Luke or Lorelai that they weren’t really getting a honeymoon thanks to the inn opening - they were just thrilled to be man and wife at last.
Jess drove himself and Rory, plus Paris and Doyle, to the reception, right behind the fancy hired car that was bringing the bride and groom. Nobody was supposed to arrive at the inn before any of them, and yet somehow, they seemed to have managed it.
“What is going on?” asked Rory, trying to see who exactly it was standing on the porch.
“Isn’t that Lane?” said Paris, squinting against the sun.
“Which would make the guy on his knees Zach,” noted Jess as he parked the car and they all rushed out.
They were just in time to catch the end of Zach’s impassioned speech as he held out a ring for Lane with both her and her mother looking on.
“And I know I’m probably not the guy either of you had in mind, and honestly, I so didn’t see this coming either, it’s all happened crazy-fast, but if marriage is what it takes to make you happy, Lane, and your mom too, then I wanna do this. I love you, babe. Will you marry me?”
“Oh my gosh, yes!” Lane declared happily, throwing herself into Zach’s arms.
“Wow. An engagement on our wedding day, how cool is that?” Lorelai grinned, actually bouncing up and down and clapping, she was just so excited.
“And you thought we’d be next,” said Jess to Paris without even thinking about the fact Rory might be surprised - she actually didn’t look that stunned, truth be told.
“Well, the only thing that was going to get Mrs Kim to come around faster than me working on her was this,” said Paris, actually looking impressed. “Seriously though, could you stand to be married to that?” she asked Rory with a look.
“Zach? Honestly, no,” she admitted, “but then, I already got the best guy in the world. Anybody else would be a real disappointment,” she said, gazing lovingly at Jess.
“For that, I might even dance with you in there,” he told her.
Rory smiled all the wider as they headed inside and the party really got started.
Everybody danced until their feet hurt, everybody ate and drank until they could take no more, and there were so many people wanting to make speeches and toasts that it felt as if the Gilmore-Danes wedding reception would never end, and yet nobody minded at all. They all had such a good time, celebrating the great union they had all waited too long to see come to fruition. It was past midnight before the happy couple finally set off for home, a blissful wedding night in the house that was no longer just the Crap Shack, but a real family home.
“It’s still okay for me to crash at the diner with you, right?” Rory checked with Jess as soon as they were done waving off her mom and his uncle.
“Actually, I had an alternate plan,” he told her, looking past her at Paris who was smiling too wide when Rory turned to see.
“You’re up to something,” she said, looking from sister to brother. “Jess...”
“Don’t ask questions, just trust me, okay?”
“Okay.” Rory nodded, watching as Jess threw the diner keys to Paris.
“Don’t burn the place down and do not do anything other than sleep, okay?”
“Yes, brother dear,” said Paris, smirking as much as he ever had. “Have fun.”
“We will,” Jess assured her, taking a hold of Rory’s hand and leading her to the car.
She had no idea where they were going and got more and more bemused as Jess drove out of Stars Hollow and seemingly towards New Haven. She wanted to remark on the fact they were done with Yale and all their stuff was already moved out, Jess’ to never return, sadly. Just when the mystery of the tour was starting to get to Rory, Jess pulled the car up next to the kerb and switched off the engine.
“Where are we?” she asked, looking out into the gloom.
“I thought we had a no questions policy,” Jess reminded her, smiling too much as he hopped out of the car and ran around to open her door too.
Leading her by the hand, he took her over to a door that he opened with a key and then up inside a building. They went up two flights of stairs where Jess unlocked another door and let them both into an apartment. He flipped on the light and the whole place was bare and empty, no furniture, peeling wallpaper, and a bare bulb hanging from the ceiling.
“I’d ask what we’re doing here, but that would be a question,” said Rory, giving Jess a look. “Jess?”
“Welcome to my apartment,” he told her then, spreading his arms wide. “I signed the paperwork yesterday. Luke helped me out with the first month’s rent, but from here on out, I’m going to try to make it on my own. I figured having a place near Yale wouldn’t hurt, at least for now, and there’s more stores in town I can apply to work at to keep me going until the book thing happens, or I decide I want to do something else.”
“Jess.” Rory shook her head, for once feeling kind of lost for words. “You got this apartment... because of me?” she checked.
“Well, I’ll admit the fact that Paris is also going to be at Yale is a factor, she is my sister after all, but yeah, a lot of it was to be close to you,” he admitted, nodding his head. “It needs a lot of work but I think-”
It was as far as he got before Rory was in his arms, kissing him senseless.
“I love it, Jess,” she told him breathlessly when they parted, “and I love you. I’m going to help you decorate and then I’ll come over all the time. It’ll be like having our own place. I mean, it’ll be your place but you know what I mean. You and me, Jess, it’s going to be so great.”
“I was hoping you’d say that. All of that, actually,” he told her, smiling as he tucked her hair back behind her ear. “So, I did a little setting up in the other room already.”
“Setting up?” said Rory seriously, unsure what to think as Jess grabbed her hand and pulled her towards the bedroom.
Inside there was an a rug, an airmatress, and blankets with pillows set up much like a bed, plus some decent lighting too. It was in no way a place to sleep every night, but just for now, just for the two of them on this special occasion, Rory thought it was perfect.
“I love you, Jess Mariano,” she said, throwing her arms up around his neck and pulling him as close as she could. “You know, I don’t think I ever thanked Paris’ dad for marrying Liz, but I really should have. That one weird decision did wonders for my life, even if it didn’t work out for them.”
“Yeah, I know what you mean,” said Jess, moving in to kiss her, shutting the door on the rest of the world at the same time.