A/N: So, the results of the poll put two fics at the top with just one vote between them, and honestly? They were the two I was most excited to write, so yay! The other story had just one more vote than this one but the muses go where the muses go, and I rewatched Teach Me Tonight very recently so, yeah, you're getting this one for now, but 'Home Is Where You Are' is in the works too... kinda. I hope you'll be happy with this fic for now. Please let me know in a review! :)
Disclaimer: All recognisable characters belong to Amy Sherman-Palladino and other folks that aren't me. Some dialogue in Chapter 1 borrowed from 'Teach Me Tonight', written by Amy Sherman-Palladino.
"You're such an amateur eater!"
Rory Gilmore was laughing and blushing at the same time as she finished off her ice-cream and noted Jess was hardly half way through his own cone.
"Hey, I'm sorry I don't eat like you," he smirked. "I swear, the Gilmore DNA is a whole other world."
"All about the metabolism, baby."
Rory blushed all the more when she realised what she had said and to whom.
"My Mom says it," she muttered, unlocking the car and climbing into the driver's side. "Anyway, if I drive we know we'll get back to the diner in good time, no dallying, and you can get on with your studying, like you promised," she told Jess as he joined her in the car.
"Yeah, I guess I did promise," he sighed, trying to make the most of his ice-cream while he had the chance.
Studying was not his favourite pass time, not by a long shot. Of course, any time spent with Rory was a bonus, so he'd do it, if only to please her. Then there was Luke. Honestly, his uncle was being pretty decent to him so far, and Jess figured he could stand to be a semi-good student for his sake too.
"Why are you so down on school anyway?" asked Rory as they headed back to the diner through the darkened streets of good old Stars Hollow. "It's not as if you're dumb. You might be the smartest guy I ever met, you certainly read enough, so what's the problem? Is it like a cool thing?"
"I couldn't care less about being cool," Jess rolled his eyes, swallowing his final mouthful of wafer cone before he said anymore. "I just know I'm never going to college, so why waste the time in high school?"
"And why aren't you going to college?"
"Ask my mother," he said bitterly, "she could give you a couple reasons. Oh, and I'm sure Principal Mertin can chime in with a few good ones. In fact, ask your mother. She doesn't know me all that well but I'm sure she could improvise a few things"
"Do not give me that whole 'I'm so misunderstood, Kurt Cobainy' thing," Rory sighed, sparing him a brief glance. "You are way stronger than that and I don't even wanna hear it. You have to go to college."
Rory hated it when Jess continued to be so down on himself, but she didn't say a word. It wasn't as if he was stupid, he could do so much with his life, but Jess seemed happy just to drift, to make no plans and go wherever life took him. She wanted him to want more because she did, and because he was capable of it. He must've known she was going to counter all his arguments eventually, which is why he turned things around on her, asking where she saw her own future headed after Chilton and Harvard.
"I'm gonna be a journalist," she said with a grin she couldn't help, eyes firmly on the road as she made the next turn.
"Christiane Amanpour," she confirmed.
"You're gonna be an overseas correspondent?"
Rory was unable to help looking at Jess a moment when she heard the surprise in his voice. She didn't like that it hurt, even a little bit, but it did. He didn't think she could do it, and that bothered her. It made her wonder if he was right, and self-doubt was the enemy.
"Hey, I didn't mean to freak you out. I'm sorry," he apologised the second he realised what he'd done. "I'm sure you'll do it. You will, I promise."
His hand landed gently on her arm, making everything inside of Rory tense up and relax at the same time. It was the weirdest feeling and yet she kind of liked it somehow. It was almost a shame when his fingers slid away. Rory forced herself to concentrate on driving. That was the important thing, they had to get back to the diner. Jess needed to study, not because he wasn't smart but because he needed to buckle down and learn something already.
The radio started another song, and a smile came to Rory's lips unbidden when she realised it was The Clash singing. Not 'Guns of Brixton' as she and Jess had been discussing back at Luke's but still, it was kind of coincidental. She glanced his way a moment and saw that smile that never failed in making her insides turn it mush. Times like these she seemed to forget that she was even dating Dean Forester. The forgetting made her remember, which made no sense, but it did. The guilt came as Rory forced her eyes back onto the road ahead. It was dark, she should concentrate, even as her head bobbed along to 'I Fought The Law' and she swore she heard Jess humming the tune. They liked so many of the same things, music and books and movies. It was nice to have another friend she could share all that stuff with.
"Jess..." she began, not even really sure what she was going to say anyway.
She looked over at him and saw panic spread across his face.
"Rory!" he yelled, pointing out into the road.
Her head whipped around to see... but it was too late.
"Oh, Rory, great," Lorelai smiled widely at her daughter's voice on the line. "Tell me, was it the China Ball, the China Doll, or the China Wall that had the really good shrimp balls?"
She was rearranging the take out drawer and was entirely proud of herself for weeding out the crappy restaurants and marking up the menus of the good ones with smiley face stickers on the best dishes. Maybe it would be a task better shared with her baby girl, but it was going pretty well solo actually.
"Mom, I need you to be calm."
That wasn't an answer to her question, and the request immediately put Lorelai on high alert. She dropped the menus she'd been holding and took a breath.
"Calm about what?"
"Calm about what I have to tell you," said Rory shakily. "I'm okay, but... well, I got in an accident."
"What? What accident? What do you mean you got in an accident?" asked Lorelai, trying her best not to hyperventilate, but failing badly in her attempts.
"Jess and I went for ice cream," Rory explained, "and we were just driving and it was dark and this dog or cat or possum, I don't know, but it was small and furry, and it ran out into the middle of the road, so I swerved and..."
"You swerved and what?" her mother checked, all of a flurry. "Rory, are you okay? Where are you?"
"We're at the hospital, and I'm fine" she confirmed, "but Jess... Oh Mom, they won't tell me what's going on and when they brought us in he wasn't even awake."
Tears crept into her voice, and Lorelai couldn't stand it. She was no fan of Jess, that was for sure, but the kid wasn't even awake after a car accident? That wasn't good, not at all.
"Oh, God!" she gasped. "Um, is Luke there? Does he know what happened?" she asked, trying not to panic because that wouldn't help Rory.
"I don't know," her daughter started to full on cry. "I'm so scared, Mom."
"Okay. Okay, I'll be right there," she promised. "Hold on, sweetheart."
Luke started at the sound of crazy banging on the diner door. He had only been home a few minutes to find the diner locked and the kids gone. He figured Rory and Jess had just taken a break or maybe gone over to the Gilmore house for some reason. He wasn't worried, not until he turned around and found Lorelai on the other side of the door looking completely freaked out.
"Hey, what is going on?" he asked as he unlocked and let her inside.
"Luke, come on, we have to get to the hospital," she told him quickly, tears in her eyes as she literally grabbed at his arm and pulled.
"The hospital?" he checked, completely baffled by this whole situation. "What? Why? What happened?"
"There was an accident!" Lorelai told him too loudly, clearly just this side of hysterical. "Rory and Jess went out in her car. They swerved for something and crashed, they're at the hospital!"
"Oh geez, no!" Luke gasped, stopping a moment to let the news sink in.
A second later he was fishing his keys out of his pocket and all but running to the truck with Lorelai hot on his heels. They were inside the vehicle and speeding off down the street, leaving rubber in their wake inside of a minute. Luke never broke speed limits or drove in any way erratically, but to hell with the rules of the road right now. Two of the most important people in his life were in the hospital, and he was going to get there as fast as he could.
"Do we know if they're okay?" he asked Lorelai as he drove.
"Rory is fine, she called me and I came straight over to you," she explained, struggling to speak as emotion filled her throat. "Jess is... She doesn't know much, because she's not family and they won't tell her. I'm guessing they tried to call you but you were still out."
"I literally got in five minutes before you got to the diner," he agreed, feeling numb. "So, it's bad, right? If Rory needs a doctor to tell her things, if Jess can't tell her for himself..."
He glanced over at Lorelai who could only bite her lip and shake her head. She didn't know what to say. There was relief coursing through her that her own daughter seemed fine, but at the same time such a terrible mixture of guilt and fear for Luke's nephew. It was no secret that she never particular cared for Jess Mariano, but she hated the idea that he might be seriously hurt, for Luke's sake, and for Rory's too. They cared for this guy, and on a human being level, Lorelai cared too. As easy as it was to want to kick the ass of a person you didn't much like, wishing real physical damage on someone, that would just be wrong. It might be worse than they thought. If Jess wasn't even awake, if he died... Lorelai wanted to be sick. She couldn't imagine how Luke was feeling. He looked so stoic and calm, but inside he had to be freaking out just as much as she was.
They arrived at the hospital in record time. Lorelai was out of the truck before it hardly stopped moving and Luke was barely a second behind her. They rushed into the building and up to the reception desk where an unwilling nurse didn't seem to want to be massively helpful.
"Hey, do you remember in Terms of Endearment, that scene where Shirley MacLaine is in the hospital and freaks out because they won't give her daughter a shot? Yeah, well, she got that from me and she toned it down a little. So, once again, I'm looking for my daughter, Rory Gilmore, and his nephew, Jess Mariano," she said snippily as Luke hovered by her side.
The nurse started to consult her clipboard, but needn't have bothered. Just as soon as Lorelai heard 'Mom?' in the most familiar voice, she rushed to Rory, her crying daughter meeting her half way across the waiting area.
"Oh, sweetheart!" Lorelai gasped at the sight of a baby, looking mercifully unscathed.
"I'm fine, I swear, they checked me over, and I'm fine," she said definitely, shaking her head. "Luke, I'm so sorry," she said then looking up at her friend. "I don't know what happened, and Jess... I'm just so sorry!"
He hugged her when she started to cry, a strange moment for both of them but it felt like the most natural thing in the world right now. When a doctor appeared a second later, looking grim faced and way too serious, Lorelai, Rory, and Luke all knew he was looking for them.
"Are you the family of Jess Mariano?"
"That would be us," Luke semi-lied, after all, there was nobody closer to him in this world than the Gilmore girls these days.
"I'm afraid not all the news is positive..."
To Be Continued...