Summary: AU. Definitely. Rory took Jess up on his "come away with me" offer. Three months later, they're back. Sequel to Supposed to Be and Drive On

Thanks to Lydia for her input!

The Great Return

They came back to town on a sunny day in early August, parking the car in front of the diner.

She looked nearly the same as she had when she'd left, except for the golden tan her skin had acquired, the little bit of maturity she'd gained and the length of her hair, which was halfway to her elbows. Her t-shirt was thin, and her shorts were frayed.

He got out of the driver's side and looked around. He, too, looked a little older, with his skin a little darker than it normally was. He'd abandoned his leather jacket in the car, and was left in a plain t-shirt with his worn jeans.

He walked around the car and she took his hand when he reached her.

"What do you think?"

She shrugged. "Won't know until we go in."

He nodded and gave her hand a little squeeze. "Count of three?"

She smiled. "Count of three."

Luke looked up when the bell on the door rang. He nearly dropped the plate of food he'd been carrying. "Holy..."

"Hey, Luke," Rory smiled. She looked confident. Almost serene. She smiled and let of Jess's hand to walk up and hug Luke tightly.

Luke was caught off-guard for a moment, and thought about pushing her away to yell, and to lecture about the fact that she'd been missing for three months, but instead found himself returning the hug. She was an adult; her own person. He could no longer get away with reprimanding her as if she were a ten-year-old. He pulled her back to have a look. "The west really agrees with you."

She smiled wider. "Thanks. How are you?"

Luke nodded. "About the same as when you left. Things around here don't change too much."

"Does that mean you still serve coffee?"

He smirked. "Neither do you, I see."

She grinned and held her hand out to Jess, who took slow steps to walk up and reclaim it.

Luke and Jess stared intently at each other, neither one saying a word.

After a few moments, Jess let go of Rory's hand and reached into his back pocket. He pulled out an envelope and handed it to Luke.


"The money," Jess told him.

Luke sighed, raising his eyes to the ceiling. "Jess..."

"I owed you. I told you that."

Luke stared at his nephew again, understanding. He nodded, and looked down at the envelope, pulling out a piece of paper that was set amongst the crisp bills. He read the words "I'M SORRY" in black lettering that could only be Jess's.

The two men stared at each other more.

Rory watched them and smirked.

"You ah..." Luke cleared his throat. "You wanna get Rory her coffee and then get a few orders?"

Jess nodded and walked behind the counter to get to work.

Rory sat down at the counter across from Jess and smiled at him. This was forgiveness... in a... detached... masculine sort of way.

"And you better not have done anything illegal to get this cash," Luke snapped as he walked back to the storeroom.

Jess rolled his eyes, and Rory snickered. She leaned across the counter and kissed him softly as he set the mug of coffee down in front of her. "See?"

"We're not out of the woods yet," he told her, nodding to the door.

She turned around, and immediately lost some of her confidence.

Jess took her hand and kissed it gently before grabbing an order pad and walking over Taylor Doose's table. The aging man proceeded to choke on the juice he'd been drinking upon seeing the young man walk over to take his order with what passed for a smile in Jess Mariano's world. "Nice toupee."

Lorelai Gilmore stood, frozen in the doorway.

"Mom." Rory got off of her stool slowly.

The room- maybe even time- stood still for them as they stared at each other. Rory with nervous fear and Lorelai with complete shock.


"Hi, Mom."

Lorelai stood in silence for a long moment before rushing forward and throwing her arms around her daughter. "You are in so much trouble!"

Rory sniffed back happy tears and gave Jess a glance and a smile over her mother's shoulder.

Jess gave her a smirk, and slid his pencil behind his ear.