I own nothing. Everything belongs to ASP. Don't we all wish we owned Jess. Sigh.

February 2004

Two men stand in front of an open grave. Neither has said a word since the ceremony finished. The casket was lowered into the frozen ground and everyone had left minutes before. It seemed like hours to them. After a moment longer, the older of the two men grabbed the younger man's elbow and tugged slightly.

"C'mon. Let's go somewhere warmer. You'll freeze out here."

It had just started snowing again. The forecaster had predicted another six inches that night. He really wanted to get to shelter, any shelter, before that started. He knew home wasn't going to be possible for a few more days. That's where he truly wanted to be. Home. No death, just normal routine. He liked routine. This was just too much for him, but he had to think of this boy. Boy-well, he'd always be a boy to him.

"I don't want to go home."

"Then we'll get some coffee. C'mon, it'll be much warmer than this."

"Yeah, alright."

The younger let the older man pull him towards his truck and they got in and waited for the heat to warm them up. It did come on, but it wasn't successful in warming either of them. The coldness they felt wasn't weather related.

Sitting in a booth with their coffee, Luke watched Jess carefully. He hadn't said anything really, the whole two days he'd been there. Luke had gotten the call three days ago, as the only next of kin they could get a hold of, and Luke had called Jimmy's. Jess was on a plane in an hour, and they traveled to New York together. He wished he'd say anything; he worried about him holding this in too.

"So, uh," he cleared his throat, "do you have to be back in California soon?"

"Nah, I got a one-way ticket."

"Cause it's cheaper, or,"

"Cause I thought it'd stick around a while."

"In New York? Alone?"

"New York crossed my mind. So did coming back with you."

"To Stars Hollow?"

"That is where you live, isn't' it?"

Luke didn't want to say anything about Nicole or Litchfield. After he'd had that fight with Lorelai, he'd pretty much decided to stay. He hadn't told her that. Or Nicole. He hadn't talked to either since he got the call. He just closed the diner and left. He took in a deep breath and let it out slowly.

"Yes, it's where I live. Why would you want to come back?"

"Well, I figure I could go to community college in Hartford. I got my GED."

"Good for you!"

Jess looked sidelong at Luke and raised one eyebrow.

"Seriously, I think college is where you belong. That was sort of the point of the rules I enforced on you. So you'd go somewhere and become something."

"Yeah, well, being in California and seeing Jimmy-the guy runs a hot dog stand. I just, didn't want that to be me."

"Well, I run a diner."

"It's different, I'm not sure how to explain it. I just don't want to be my dad."

Luke nodded. He didn't want Jess to become Jimmy either.

"So, can I come back with you? I mean, after we clean out Liz's stuff?"

Luke looked at Jess. He wanted more than anything for this kid to get a real fresh start. He couldn't even call his parents mom and dad. They didn't deserve it, he knew that. Now his mom was gone, and his dad always had been.

"Yeah. But we aren't going back till this damn snow melts a little."

"Hey Luke?"

"Yeah?" "Thanks."

Later that night-3am. In Liz's apartment.

Luke lay on Liz's old bed. Jess had taken up on the couch, he mumbled something about his old room and took a book and a blanket in the front room. He couldn't sleep, and he knew why. His conscious getting the better of him, he picked up the phone receiver and dialed a number.

"Rory?" yelled the voice on the other end, in a panicked tone.

"No, Lorelai, it's Luke. I'm sorry, I didn't mean to wake you."

"Luke, God, its 3am? What the hell is going on?"

"I just, I'm in New York."


"No, it's not what you think. I'm here with Jess."

"Jess? Why is-I thought he was in California."

"Liz died."

"Oh, poor kid-poor you! Are you guys okay?"

"Yeah, the funeral was today. It's sort of a blizzard out there, and we have to clean out the apartment before we go, but we'll be home in a week or so."


"Jess isn't going back to California."

"Oh god. Rory."

"Look, she's at school, and he's well, if he bugs her, I'll kill him, okay?"

"No, don't worry about us. Do you need me to do anything for you?"

"Nah, I just didn't want you to break down the diner's door for coffee. I'll have Caesar open in a day or so, now that I know what the situation is. I got the call three days ago, and I sort of went into automatic pilot mode."

"What happened?"

"To Liz? She uh, well, they said she just collapsed. She was at work and passed out. The doctors said it was an aneurysm. No pain, just gone."

"I'm so sorry, Luke."

"Thanks. It's late, you should get to sleep."

"You too. Give Jess my condolences, will you?"

"I will. Goodnight."

"Night, Luke."

Day. Liz's place.

Bam. Bam. Bam. Thud. Crash.


Luke shot up right out of bed. The light assaulted his eyes. He looked at the nightstand clock to see 11:12am. Why had he slept so long? Probably because he didn't fall asleep till after he talked to Lorelai, he thought groggily to himself on his way out of the bedroom.



"What the hell was that?"

He walked into the front room. Jess has several boxed packed up. He was right now lying on the floor under a floor lamp, a couple of blankets and a box. Luke laughed.

"Thanks, Uncle Luke, nice to know you care. Could ya help?"

"What happened? Let me guess, that swan is back?" Luke laughed harder, and started taking the items off of a very pissed Jess.

"No, I was trying to take the bulbs out of the lamp to pack this shit up, and I was standing on the couch, when I lost my balance. I reached out, pulling the lamp down, the blankets on my way, in an attempt to stabilize myself on the way down, and then the box sort of fell off the couch."

"Well, sorry I slept so long. It took me awhile to get to sleep."

"Yeah, I just sort of read all night."

"Jess, have you slept, uh, at all lately?"

Jess shook his head.

Luke decided to let him talk when he was ready, and started helping him pack the rest of the apartment. It couldn't be easy on the kid, no matter how much he hated his mom.

Liz's place. The last night in New York.

They'd been in New York a week. They got out of the apartment; it was too loaded with boxes to really move around in it. They left for dinner before coming back to load the truck up.

Now sitting in a pizza place down the street, Jess had a smile on his face. Luke thought he was hallucinating for a moment. Maybe he was finally cracking up. It'd been a long week, after all.

"You know, we used to come here all the time."

"You and Liz?"

"Yeah, not for a while, but all the time when I was little."

"Do you want to go somewhere else?"

"No. No, it's just. She wasn't so bad all the time, you know? Sometimes she'd snap out of it and be a real person. Almost mom-like. We'd go out for pizza and then she'd take me to the park. We'd get ice cream cones."

"You know, she couldn't really help it."

"I know. I never told her that. I just wanted a regular mom. One that wasn't nuts."

"I think Jimmy leaving didn't help."

Jess snorted. "Ya think?"


"I think the most sane thing she ever did was send me to you. Look, Luke, I'm sorry I gave you such a hard time. I wasn't-I just,"

"It's okay, Jess, you're family. Enough said."

"I owe you more than that. All you ever tried to do was help, and Rory, god, I was horrible to both of you. I'm just not used to the having someone thing, you know? It's no excuse, but I'm going to be better. School and work, and I'm paying you rent."

"Jess, about Rory."


"Just, do you think it's a good idea to see her again? I mean, she was pretty upset when you left, she went through a rough time."

"I called her."


"When I was in California. It was the day she graduated."

"What'd she say?"

"Tons. That I screwed up. That she might have loved me. That she would've helped me if I had said anything to her. That she was moving on."

"What did you say?"



"Not even hello. She knew it was me, though. She let me have it. I think she was crying, or trying not too. I couldn't say anything that she hadn't, so she got done, and we hung up."


"I don't think it's a good idea to see her, but, I'm sure she's fine. She's at school, and she's got her mom and friends. I'm sure even a boyfriend."


"No? She doesn't have school?"

"No, she doesn't have a boyfriend. She went out on a date, but it was somewhat of a disaster."

"She tells you about her dates?"

"NO, I was at Lorelai's watching movies when she called, during the date."

"YOU were watching movies at LORELAI's?"

"Uh, yeah."

"Really." He raised an eyebrow at Luke.

"Shut up. It was just a movie."


"Back to Rory, please."


"Just don't, you know,"

"Do anything stupid? Hurt her? Too late, Luke. I'll try to be out of her way."


Inside the truck. The next day.

Jess had the radio blaring, reading while Luke drove. Luke was thinking about Lorelai, Nicole, the town, and what he'd have to deal with when he got back. He looked over at Jess, who was his number one priority right now. Helping him with finding a job, getting into a school, that's all he wanted to deal with right now, because everything else in his life was too scary. The routine had been thrown away.

Luke reached over and turned down the radio. Jess looked up from his book to his uncle.

"Uh, Jess, there are some things, that uh, well, some stuff happened after you left, I just don't want you to be surprised when you get back."

"What, did Taylor finally lose it and declare himself President of Stars Hollow Land?"

"No, I mean-well, I got married."

"To Lorelai?"

"WHAT? No, to Nicole."


"Because we were on a boat, and I don't know. We had it annulled."


"Well, we were getting a divorce. And she decided she wanted to not get a divorce, and start dating again."

"Did Lorelai have a heart attack about any of this?"

"Sort of. But more so when I told her I was moving to Litchfield with Nicole."

"WHAT? I thought we were going to Stars Hollow?"

"We are. I was going to move in with Nicole, but after the fight I had with Lor, I just, well, didn't make any plans with Nicole, and then I got the call from the hospital. So, we're going to Stars Hollow. And there might be some uh, confrontations from women, and I'd like no grief from you. I'll help you do whatever you want, job, school, apartment if you get tired of living with me, if you want, but just, know that I have this situation, and yeah. That's all."

"Wow, so wait, you're married?"

"Yes." Luke said in a strained voice.

"Huh." Jess chuckled to himself.

"What?" Same strained voice.

"Nothing, just sorry. I have to get this out of my system."

"You do that. You're also unpacking all this by yourself."

"No, no I'm sorry. Wait."

Luke stopped the truck in front of the diner and got out, leaving jess in the truck. Jess scrambled out to follow Luke, but stopped dead when he saw a familiar reflection in the glass.