A/N: Catcher in the RYE: Guess what time it was when I wrote part one? IT WAS THREE IN THE MORNING!! WOOOOO! Which means that my typing skills resembled those of a five-year-old on a sugar high: AKA: no good. Excuse my typo!

"Huh. It must be genetic." Jess sat down next to his daughter and lit a cigarette.

She took a drag off of her own. "What are you doing here?"

"It's a free bridge... wait, this is my bridge," he smirked at her. "What are you doing here?"

She shrugged. "Just thinking. Sid had to get home. So did Paul."

Jess blinked. "Who's Paul?"

"A guy I met," Stella shrugged. "He's nice. He reads a lot."

Jess nodded. "This guy have a last name, or does he have extreme delusions of Prince?"

"Forrester."

Jess gave this some thought, and then turned to her. "Forrester?"

"Forrester."

"Forrester?"

"Is there an echo?" Stella asked. "Are you a parrot? Yes. Forrester."

Jess tried not to laugh as he stubbed out his cigarette.

"Hey... what's funny?"

"Do you know his dad's name?"

Stella blinked. "Mr. Forrester?"

Jess shook his head and sighed, putting an arm around her and pulling her into a half hug. "You're more like your mother than anybody thinks, you know that?"

"Whatever."

"Huh. Maybe not."

"Hey, Dad?"

"Hey, Stel?"

"Why did we move here?"

"Because your old man is a wussy who got scared shitless and needed help."

"I want to move back to New York."

"Nope."

Stella rolled her eyes and got to her feet. "We don't have to be here. We were doing fine in the city."

He sighed and got to his feet as well. "I'm sorry that you think it sucks... in some ways it does suck... okay, it sucks in a lot of ways, but... we're here. We're here because I can't take care of you and your sister by myself. Not when you're attitude is driving me crazy, and not when Julia is having sudden separation anxiety attacks."

Stella glared and shook her head. "This is crap. This town is crap, and this situation is crap, and if you expect me to just adjust to it then- "

She didn't get a chance to finish. He'd pushed her off the bridge and into the lake.

"Huh," Jess remarked, taking out another cigarette. "Luke was right... cathartic."

*****

"Jess! Why is your daughter soaked?!" Lorelai rushed over to the hall closet and rummaged through it, looking. "Luke?! Where did you put the towels?!"

"In the bathroom closet up here!" Luke replied from upstairs.

"They're no good to me up there!"

"Tough!" He threw down a towel and she caught it. She rushed over and wrapped it around Stella, helping her to dry off with it.

Luke walked down the stairs and gave both Jess and Stella a quizzical look.

Jess shrugged. "Just trying the Luke Danes method of parenting on for size."

Luke smirked getting his meaning. "Cathartic?"

"You have no idea," Jess replied.

Stella glared and stormed off to her room, slamming the door behind her.

Jess shook his head and walked into the kitchen to get something to drink.

Luke followed him. "What's her problem?"

"She wants to move back to the city."

"Well, gee, doesn't that sound familiar?" Luke quipped.

"Yeah but she doesn't wanna go back so she can drink a lot and steal things," Jess replied. "New York is her home."

"It was yours, too," Luke pointed out.

Jess shook his head. "Not the same. I didn't really think of it as home when I was her age... it was just better than here."

"You ah... you holding up?"

Jess nodded. "Yeah. It's just gonna be a big adjustment for the girls... being here..."

"How's the Times column?" Luke asked.

"Fine," the younger man replied, opening up a beer, and handing another to his uncle.

"Thanks... and the book?"

Jess gave another nod. "Coming along... Diner's good?"

"Diner's good."

"Good." Jess sighed as he finished up his beer quickly. "Julia okay?"

"Richard and Emily have been up there for a while," Luke replied. "Reading, or something... She probably won't go to sleep until you make an appearance."

Jess sighed. "This is getting out of hand."

"She just lost her mother, Jess," Luke replied. "She scared."

"Yeah," he nodded. "Frankly, so am I."

*****

"Why does the princess need to be saved?"

"Because she can't get out of the tower on her own."

"Why not?" Julia asked her grandfather from underneath her sheets. "Can't she climb out the window by herself? Can't she teach herself Kung-Fu and break down her door?"

Richard sighed.

"Rapunzel needs a better writer," Julia said sadly.

"Once upon a time..." said a voice from the door. "There was a beautiful- but deadly girl named Rapunzel. One day, an evil enchantress tried to lock her in a tower, so Rapunzel kicked her butt. Then she went and found a very attractive suitor, picked him up, slung him over her shoulder, and they lived happily ever after."

"See?" Julia giggled. "Daddy does it right." She flung her covers off and hopped out of bed to run to her father.

Jess sighed and picked her up. "Hi."

"Where were you?" Julia asked worriedly.

"Walking around with your sister," Jess replied.

"Oh."

"It's late," he said. "You should be sleeping."

"She wanted to wait for you," Richard said. "She was quite insistent."

"Sounds about right," Jess nodded. He looked to Julia. "You being trouble?"

She shook her head innocently.

"Where's Emily?" Jess asked, walking over and plopping Julia back in bed.

"She's waiting in the car," Richard sighed. "She's being irritable."

Jess nodded and pulled the covers up over his daughter.

Richard watched and sighed. "Julia, you are growing up so fast."

"No, she's not," Jess muttered absently. "Did you brush your teeth?"

She nodded.

"Wash your face?"

Again, she nodded.

"Need the bathroom?"

Julia considered, and then shook her head.

Jess nodded. "Say goodnight to Grandpa Richard, and get some sleep. You're gonna help me unpack the shipment at the shop tomorrow."

"Really?" Julia said excitedly. "I get to look at the new books?"

Jess nodded.

Julia leaned over and hugged Richard. "G'night, Grandpa."

Richard smiled and hugged back gently. "Goodnight, Julia. Sleep well."

Jess kissed his daughter on the forehead as Richard got to his feet.

"G'night, Daddy."

"Night, Little Girl."

"Love you."

Jess nodded as he turned out the light. "Me, too."

Richard followed the younger man out into the hall and cleared his throat. "How are you?"

"Fine," Jess replied, leaning against the wall with his hands in his pockets.

"And Stella?"

"Wet, but fine."

Richard raised an eyebrow.

Jess didn't acknowledge this. "Is there something you wanted to talk about?"

"Well, now that you mention it, yes," Richard admitted. "Emily and I would like to have you and the girls for dinner this Friday."

"Baked, broiled, or deep-fried?"

"Excuse me?"

Jess shook his head. "Go on."

"Well... we wanted to discuss Stella's future."

Jess blinked. "Huh."

"Is that a yes, or a no on dinner?" Richard asked.

"I'll talk to her about it," Jess replied. "I'll call you when we decide."

Richard nodded. "Alright, then. Goodnight, Jess."

He nodded and stood there.

*****

"It baffles the mind," Lorelai said, shaking her head as she sat down across from Luke in the kitchen. "One minute, he's bawling like he's three and the next, he's... Jess."

Luke sighed. "He's embarrassed, Lorelai. He doesn't do the emotional break-down thing too often."

She nodded and took a sip of her coffee.

Jess walked in and sighed. "Is Stella still in her room?"

Luke nodded. "I think so."

Lorelai turned to look at him. "Feeling better?"

Jess nodded. "I'm fine." He headed for Rory's old room.

Lorelai watched him go, and Luke pulled her into a hug.

******

"Dad!" Stella called. "Our classic lit section is too big!"

"Never," Jess replied, as he used his pocket knife to open up yet another box of books.

"How did we wind up with this place anyways?" Stella asked as she stacked books by author.

"Andrew left it to your mother," Jess explained. "And since your mother can't run it, it's up to me..." He sighed and looked around. "Where's Julia?"

Stella looked around. "JULES!!"

Jess squeezed his eyes shut. "Stella..."

She rolled her eyes.

"I'm in the back!" Julia called.

Jess got up from his hunched position over his box and walked to the back of the store to find his daughter with a stack of books in front of her. "Aren't you supposed to be helping?"

"I am," She replied. "I'm making sure these are readable."

Jess sighed.

Stella rolled her eyes again as she shelved.

"Having fun?"

She looked up and smirked. "Hi, Paul."

"Hey," he replied, sliding a book off of the shelf next to the one she was filling. He began skimming through it. "It's pretty cool that your dad owns this place now."

She shrugged. "Guess so."

"Well, I think it's cool," he told her. "You read this?" He held up Jane Eyre.

She nodded. "Yeah. It's pretty good... I'm not the biggest Bronte fan, but to each their own."

"What're you stacking?" he asked.

"Dickens. Lots, and lots of Dickens."

"You like Dickens?"

Jess stopped as he walked back down the isles of shelves. He listened.

"I adore Dickens," she replied, holding a copy of David Copperfield.

"He's okay," Paul nodded.

"Okay?"

"Verbose."

Stella rolled her eyes and kept shelving. "Beautifully so... and remember that he was paid by the word."

He nodded. "Point."

Stella smirked. "Who's your favorite?"

"Uh," Paul sighed. "Tough call. I like a lot of different authors."

"Me, too," she nodded. "Do you like Barrie?"

"As in J.M?" Paul asked. "As in Peter Pan?"

"Yup."

"I don't know... He's okay."

"I love that book."

"Why?" Paul asked. "It's nothing special. It's just a fairy tale."

She nodded a little and kept shelving. "My mom used to read it to me when I was a kid."

Paul stared at her. "Oh," he said softly. "That's..."

"You wanna get outta here?" she asked suddenly.

Jess flinched. Those words. So familiar. He shouldn't have been surprised. He sauntered up. "Hey."

"Hey, Dad," Stella replied. "I think I'm gonna take a break."

He nodded.

"Hi, Mr. Mariano," Paul said, holding out his hand. "I'm Paul."

Jess nodded. "So I've heard." He turned to Stella. "Don't be too long. I still need your help. Your sister is too busy making sure the books are 'readable.'"

Stella rolled her eyes. "Sure."

"Be back soon?"

"Yeah, Dad," she nodded.

Jess gave Paul an once-over and shook his head with a sigh. "Have fun." He walked back over to the box he'd been unloading.

Paul blinked as he followed Stella out of the shop. "What's with him?"

"He's Jess Mariano," Stella smirked. "What isn't with him?"

Paul looked a little confused for a moment, but only followed.

*****

When Stella got back to the shop an hour later, she found her father sitting behind the counter, reading.

"I thought you said you'd be back soon."

She shrugged and leaned on the counter. "I lied."

Jess put down his book sighed. "Sid stopped by."

"Cool. Can I go hunt him down?"

Jess shrugged. "I guess."

"Well, do you need my help here?"

"Does it matter?"

"Is that a guilt trip?"

"Stop answering my questions with more questions," Jess said.

"You started it."

Jess gave her a warning look.

She sighed. "Okay. I'll stay. Can I call Sid, though?"

He nodded, and picked up the cordless phone. "Before you do, I have to ask you something?"

"What?" she asked.

"You wanna go to Friday dinner at Richard and Emily's?"

"Sure. Gimme the phone."

Jess nodded, and began dialing.

"You said you were gonna give me the phone!"

"I gotta make a call," Jess smirked.

"Jerk."

Jess laughed a little. "Hey, Emily, it's Jess..."