Disclaimer: Not mine. No money. Don't sue. A/N: Depressing. Again, clich├ęd, but I wanted to. Hope you enjoy!

Second Verse

"That should be the last of it."

The trio stood in the living room. There were boxes everywhere. So many that they could hardly walk.

Lorelei sighed and looked from one girl to the other.

Stella, with her long, dark waves and cold blue eyes stood staring. Her expression was unreadable. The sixteen-year-old crossed her arms over her chest and sighed silently.

Julia's big, brown six-year-old eyes held unshed tears. Her chestnut brown hair was in a long braid that was slightly messy. It had been a long day.

"Okay, you guys," Lorelei said. "Uhm... Stella, you can have your mom's old room, and Julia, you can take the guest room upstairs, okay?"

Julia nodded, and began to head for the stairs.

Stella had other plans.

"Going out."

Lorelei stared as the teen walked to the front door, grabbing her leather jacket on the way.

"Out where?"

"Out, out."

"It's late, Stella. Stay in."

The door had already closed behind her as Lorelei's last words were spoken.

Lorelei sighed. "Damn you, Jess," she muttered. She turned back to Julia, who was still standing on the stairs. "Come on, Babe. Let's get you ready for bed."

******

She sat down on the bridge pretzel style and lit a cigarette. She looked around, and blew some smoke out with a sigh. Her mother had raved about this bridge. About how many fights and conversations and kisses she'd had on the bridge. Her father had given a smirk, and informed her that it was his favorite place in the tiny town, because his Uncle Luke had shoved him into the lake. She had to smirk a little at the memory of the laugh her mother had let out, even though the woman had heard the story a million time over.

That laugh was gone forever.

She heard footsteps.

"Oh. Wow. Hey, I'm sorry; I didn't think anyone else was here."

Stella looked over and tilted her head. He was tall, about her age, wearing a down jacket over a green sweater and blue jeans. His brown hair was straight, and hung in his eyes ever-so-slightly.

"No big deal," she replied, getting to her feet. "I didn't think people around here stayed out past nine."

He smirked a little. "Well, we're a wild bunch, for sure... you new around here?"

Stella nodded. "What was your first guess?" She took a drag off of her cigarette and blew out more smoke.

"I'm Paul Forrester," he said, holding out his hand.

She nodded at his hand. "Stella Mariano."

"Those things will kill you, you know," he commented, eyeing the cigarette that she held effortlessly between her fingers.

"Huh. You don't say."

"So ah... why did your family move here?"

She sighed. "My grandmother and uncle talked my dad into it."

"Doesn't your mom get a say?" Paul asked, looking kind of confused.

"Probably, except for that whole thing where she's dead."

His eyes widened. "Whoa... hey, I-"

She rolled her eyes and dropped her cigarette, stubbing it out with her shoe. "Whatever. I gotta go."

He watched her walk off. "Hey... you gonna be in school after the break is over?"

She shrugged, not turning to face him. "We shall see."

******

Jess walked slowly into his mother-in-law's house and sighed. Same as it ever was, only with boxes of his things. His things and his children's things. And Rory's things.

Rory.

God, Rory.

This was all her fault.

He sighed. "Lorelei?"

"Upstairs," was her hissed whisper.

He silently climbed the stairs, and found Lorelei standing in the doorway of the guest room. He stood next to her and peered in to see a curled up little ball of a person wrapped up in the bed.

He scratched the back of his dark hair and sighed. "You just get her to sleep?"

Lorelei nodded. "I think she might be faking, though."

Jess nodded back, and turned to the older woman. "Where's Stella?"

Lorelei rolled her eyes. "'Out,'" she quoted. "Do you enjoy having a clone?"

He looked at his shoes guiltily. "She's grieving."

"She's pushing people away," Lorelei replied. "She barely said anything the entire ride here. She's you all over."

Jess sighed. "I'll talk to her in the morning."

"Assuming that she's here."

"She's got nowhere else to go, but Luke's," Jess pointed out shoving his hands into the pockets of his leather jacket. "And there's no harm in that... shouldn't he be here by now, anyways?"

Lorelei frowned. "He's... he's been kind of detached since..."

"Yeah," he nodded.

"Daddy?"

Jess looked up at the little girl inside the room. She was sitting up in the bed, looking out at them blearily.

"Go on in, old man," Lorelei said gently. "I'm gonna head to sleep."

"I'm taking the couch?" Jess asked.

"It's all yours," she replied. "See you in the morning."

He nodded and walked into the bedroom. "Hey, Baby Girl."

Julia looked up at him and sniffed. "Where've you been?"

Jess sighed. "I was at work, and then I drove down here. You know that."

"But you weren't here," he said, wiping her eyes. "What if... what if you never came back, like Mommy?"

He stared at the little girl for a long moment before slowly taking a seat on the bed, and pulling his hands out of his jacket. "I'm not going anywhere," he told her.

"But you stayed away so long," she said quietly.

He stared at the girl in front of him, seeing little tiny pieces of Rory, and himself all wrapped up in one small package. She looked so sad. He'd do anything to take that away from her.

He'd do anything to have Rory back.

He pulled a novel out of his back pocket and played with it a little. "You wanna hear a story?"

She nodded, and climbed out from under the lilac-colored comforter straight into his lap.

He rested his chin gently on the top of her head, and opened up the book to the place he'd left off. He began to read. "'Call me Ishmael...'"

*****

"Stella! Wait up!"

She slowed her pace, taking the cigarette out of her mouth as Luke jogged up next to her after locking up the diner.

"What are you doing out here?" he asked. "It's late."

She shrugged.

Luke sighed and gave her a look of disdain as she flicked some ash from the cigarette between her fingers. "Those things are bad for you, Stel."

She gave him another shrug and took a drag off of the thin cancer stick.

He sighed. "When did you guys get here?"

"Tonight."

"Does Lorelei know where you are?"

"Maybe."

"Does your dad?"

"He wasn't there when I left," she told him, her voice holding no emotion.

Luke sighed and shoved his hands into the pockets of his jeans. "Are you... uh... how are you holding up?"

"I'm standing," Stella replied.

"See anything you like around here?"

She could tell he was having a hard time keeping up conversation. "I found Mom and Dad's bridge."

"Yeah?"

Stella nodded.

Luke nodded. "You headed back to your grandmother's house?"

"I guess," she replied. "Dad's probably here by now."

Luke nodded as they walked along.

*****

He sat on the couch after tucking Julia into bed. She'd fallen asleep in the middle of chapter two.

'So, what now, Jess?' he thought. 'What now that the only woman you ever actually loved is six feet under, and you have two girls to finish raising? What now that Luke and Lorelei have talked you into moving all the way the hell back to shit town?'

His thoughts were interrupted by the front door opening. He turned to see Stella and Luke walk in. Luke, obviously trying to be quiet, and Stella, obviously not giving a damn who she did and didn't wake.

Jess got up. "Hey."

Stella gave him a nod, and headed off for her mother's old rooming, slamming the door behind her.

Both Luke and Jess watched her go.

"So, uh... they got everything here," Luke noticed, looking around at the boxes.

Jess nodded. "Yeah. I gotta go through it all... figure out how to condense down."

"You start looking for an apartment yet?"

Jess nodded. "I've got a few prospects lined up."

"And the book store?"

"All mine," Jess replied. "I start up there tomorrow."

Luke nodded. "Holding up?"

"I'm standing."

"That's exactly what Stella said."

"Huh."

"Funeral is this weekend."

Jess glared. "I know, Luke. I helped Lorelei plan it, remember?"

"Yeah... yeah, I know," Luke replied. He cleared his throat. "You ah... you gonna be okay on the couch?"

"Slept on worse."

Luke nodded. "She went to the bridge tonight." He watched Jess swallow hard at his words. Sore spot. "She's exactly like you."

"I tried really hard to keep that from happening," Jess said quietly. "She was doing better... stayed home to help out...She went to class... she was a completely different person..."

"Before Rory died."

His eyes lowered to his shoes, and he said nothing.

Luke squeezed his eyes shut. Damn. "Jess, I-"

"It's late," Jess told him in a shaky tone. "I'm gonna go crash."

Luke nodded. "Yeah. Me, too."

*****

"Hey, there. It's pretty late. Where've you been?"

Paul looked up at his father as he walked through the front door. "Oh, I just went for a walk... Hey, Dad, did you know we've got new people in town?"

Dean sighed. "Well, an old friend of mine recently passed away... the funeral is this weekend, so a lot of her family and friends are probably in town."

"Well, see..." Paul sat across from his father at the kitchen table. "I met this girl tonight, and she said that her family was moving here."

"Oh yeah?" Dean asked, smirking at him sixteen-year-old son. "What girl?"

"Stella Mariano."

Dean stared, shocked at his son. "Mariano?"

Paul nodded. "Yeah. She's... well, she's kind of... interesting... like something out of a Salinger novel."

Dean blinked. "Salinger?"

Paul sighed. "Catcher in the Wry? Franny and Zooey...? He's an author, Dad."

"Oh."

"Anyways," Paul went on. "She seemed... I don't know. Interesting."

"Paul, I don't know if you should pursue hanging out with her," Dean warned. "Marianos aren't exactly the nicest, sanest, most kind-hearted of broods."

Paul shrugged. "We'll see. I'm gonna go wash up and read a little before bed."

Dean nodded, and sighed.