WHAT IT IS: This is a one-parter. I got this idea and had to run with it. It might be a little confusing, but it's supposed to be. I hope it gets clearer by the end. No real pairing here, but you'll get the idea. Enjoy! -- Amy

WHAT I OWN: Nothing. Pertaining to this story, I own the order I put the words in, but I do not own the rights to Gilmore Girls, the Cosby Show or Saliva's Rest in Pieces.

RATING: PG-13/R. Just some language. I can never write Jess without saying a handful of colorful words. Its just seems wrong. Much more PG-13 though.

High Stakes

"Look at me, my depth perception must be off again. You got much closer than I thought you did."—Saliva's Rest in Pieces

She had never been a runner. She always imagined that if forced to run a long distance, she'd probably collapse after a short time. But she ran like the wind, as fast as her legs would take her. She had a sense of dread overcoming ever molecule of her body. She feared stopping, lest whatever she was running from catch her. The dress she was wearing, the beautiful one that Lorelai had made for her to wear in Sookie's wedding, was flowing all around her as she ran. At long last a safe place came into view, lit by a break in the trees by the moon, she saw the old potting shed that she had grown up in. Her first home. Now her safe haven from this ominous force. She opened the door and flung herself inside, shutting out whatever evil lurked outside.

She turned into the room, which was all lit up on this night. In the middle of the room was a large card table and sitting around it were Luke, Jess, Dean and Tristan. She blinked a few times and proceeded to stare open- mouthed at the vision before her. It was obvious a poker game had been going on for quite some time now. 'How is this even possible?' she thought to herself, not understanding, but realizing they were talking animatedly. Perhaps that was due to the amount of beer bottles that were discarded about the room.

Tristan raised a beer up to his lips and took a sip as he dealt out the next round of cards. Each man sorted through their cards as they continued their conversation they had been having.

"So why the hell are you whining about it now, bagboy? You married someone else, that's it. Your choice," Tristan pointed out.

"You aren't listening to me, at all. I still love her!" Dean exclaimed, handing Tristan two cards back, in exchange for two more.

"Look, you're just telling us what a dumbass you are. We knew that already. You broke up with her, twice. You married someone else, it's over."

"Jess, I broke up with her because I had to. You made it impossible for me to do anything else."

Jess handed Tristan one card, then Luke waved his hand, indicating he needed no cards. Tristan took two for himself and they started throwing multicolored chips into the middle of the table.

"Whatever, man. You did what you did and now you live with it. You can't just have her back."

"Why do you even care?"

"I told her I love her. How could you even think that you wishing you hadn't dumped her could compete with that?"

"You're both idiots," Tristan commented, after calling the hand.

Luke raked in the pile from the middle towards him. "As much as I hate to agree with him, he's right."

"What are you even talking about, Dugrey, you never even dated her," Jess pointed out.

"Yeah, but I'm the only one that didn't leave her," Tristan said plaintively.

"Correction, you're the only one to not date her then leave her. You still left her."

"I hate you, do you know that, bagboy?" Tristan uttered, handing over the cards to Dean.

Rory looked on the game amazed. They were talking about her! They had to be. Could they not see her? What in hell was going on? She continued to stare at the men as they continued talking.

"Not as much as I hate you," Dean commented.

"Guys, stop. We're here to play poker, not talk. And for the record, you're all idiots."

"Oh, cause you're so great, going after what you want?" Jess scoffed.

"What's your problem?"

"Look, just cause you don't have the balls to talk to Lorelai," Jess started.

"Jess, you don't know what you're talking about. Why else would you tell Rory you loved her and walk away?"

"At least she told me she loved me," Dean pointed out.

"And look where that got you," Tristan said, handing him his card exchange.

"Shut up, Tristan."

"Seriously, what do any of you have to offer her? Dean, you're married and dropped out of college to work construction. Jess, you're a high school dropout working as a messenger. And you, well, I have no idea what the hell your problem is, but you probably don't deserve her either," Luke went round the table as he opened another beer. He threw on another five dollars to the bet, and all the others anted up before showing their cards.

"Hey, I have plenty to offer her. I'm at Harvard studying law."

"Rory's no trophy wife."

"I never said she was."

"No, but that's all your kind cares about," Jess spat out.

Rory was about to open her mouth in protest when the door opened suddenly next to her. She had moved in the room further, so the door just barely missed hitting her. Lorelai came bursting through the door, followed quickly by Christopher. Lorelai was laughing and her long hair was streaming behind her. Chris grabbed her around the waist and swung her around to face him. He kissed her passionately and her giggles subsided. Rory looked on in confusion. Her parents both looked so youthful and carefree, but they were definitely her parents. Why were her parents here, and why were they acting like that? God, has the entire universe been turned upside down? Her head was starting to hurt, but none more than when she noticed the entire poker group was oblivious to the new addition to the small space. It was slowly getting crowded in here.

"So are we still playing winner takes all?" Dean asked, eagerly.

"Yes, that's why we're here, right?" Tristan asked getting bored of telling Dean the same thing four hundred times.

"Luke, I still don't get what the hell you're doing here," Jess commented.

"That's none of your business."

"Luke, come on. We have such a special connection, you can tell me," Jess added sarcastically.

Luke glared at Jess and dealt the cards. Rory suddenly paid a lot more attention to the chips on the table. She wasn't sure of the stakes or which color meant what, but it was easy to see Jess had a lot of chips. Not quite as much as Luke, but he was definitely gaining on him. She honestly didn't understand the winner takes all comment, or why Luke wouldn't want to win their money. Her thoughts were interrupted again by the voice of her father.

"Lor, come on," Chris pleaded.

"Chris, seriously,"

"I am serious. I want you to marry me."

Lorelai fell silent again, staring into Chris' eyes, getting lost somewhere in there as she always did. He had a hold on her like no one else ever had. When she didn't respond after a few moments, Chris brushed some hair back from her face and brought his lips gently to hers.

Rory watched the loving exchange, noting the confusion, love and trepidation in her mother's expression.

"Damnit, Luke, just tell me what the fuck you're doing here!"

"Jess, did it ever occur to you that somebody's been looking out for you all this time?"

Jess sat back in his chair, having folded his hand on the last go around the table. Tristan had upped the ante by twenty dollars, and he knew his cards were worthless. No point in even bluffing, not to lose out to this suit-in-training.

"What do you mean, you're going to help me out?"

Luke remained silent, throwing another twenty onto the growing pot in the middle.

"I'd still like to know what Tristan thinks he can get out of this. She never liked you, are you that thick?" Dean turned to Tristan.

"She never had the opportunity to find out. She had you two fighting over her like she was some damn prize." Having shown his royal flush, Tristan scraped all the chips towards him.

"I love her! Why does everyone assume I was just out to sleep with her?" Jess' voice escaladed.

"Well, obviously she doesn't love you," Dean stated simply.

"How do you come to that conclusion?" Luke questioned.

"She's not with him."

Jess began dealing the next hand, shaking his head.

"She's not with any of you guys. She hasn't been up to that stuff since Jess, well, you know," Luke trailed off, looking at Jess then away guiltily.

"I'm such a bastard," Jess mumbled, putting his head down on the table.

"I second that," Tristan concurred.

"Shut up!" Luke yelled.

Just then, the door flew open again, this time Rory let out a little yelp in shock. She had been so engrossed in Jess, tears welling up in her eyes. Taylor Doose stormed over to the table. 'At least they can see someone here,' she thought to herself.

"This is against all the town bylaws. As a member of the Stars Hollow Town Association, the Stars Hollow Decency Commission, and the --," Taylor rambled.

"Taylor, you're the only person on all those committees and associations and would-be cults," Luke pointed out bitingly.

"Gambling in the city limits is illegal, Luke. You're all going to have to come with me."

Rory looked on now more perplexed. She looked over to her mom to see if she noticed Taylor barging in, but her mom was sneaking out of a window in the back of the shed. Her father was crossing the room in front of her and stopped in front of Jess. Chris grabbed Jess by the shirt collar and pulled him up towards him until they were almost nose-to-nose.

"So you're the punk that hurt my kid," Chris growled.

"Who the hell are you?" Jess shot back.

"I'm Rory's dad."

"Wow, another winner joining the group, huh?"

At that, Chris pulled his arm back and took at swing at Jess who blocked it and pushed Chris back. Upon a second attempt Chris was making at hurling himself at Jess, Luke threw himself between the two.

"What, now you're going to protect him? He breaks my kid's heart over and over again and he just gets to walk away unscathed?" Chris yells.

"STOP IT! STOP ALL OF THIS!!" Rory screamed at the top of her lungs.

"Rory, Rory, what's wrong?" Lorelai was standing over her daughter, shaking her as hard as she could, trying to wake her up. Rory sat bolt upright in bed, tears and sweat coating her face. She looked down, surprised not to see the bridesmaid's dress, but her own pajamas. She was in her bedroom, in her own bed, and her mother was here and looked back to normal.

"Mom," Rory cried out and hugged her mother tightly, almost to check to see if she were real.

"Honey, I can't breath anymore, oh, man, are you okay?"

"I had a nightmare."

"Do you want to talk about it?"

"Well, you were there with Dad. Luke, Jess, Dean and Tristan were playing poker and Taylor came in and broke it up. But no one could really see me. You and dad couldn't seem to see the guys. It was just unsettling."

"Have you been eating at night?"

"No, what does that have to do with anything?"

"Didn't you ever see that Cosby show episode where Cliff ate the sausage sandwich and all those kooky things happened in his dream? I'm sure there was a moral to the story, I mean, come on, it's a Nick at Nite favorite."

"Mom, you're rambling."

"Well, you wake up to hear your kid screaming in the middle of the night, see how well you do. So, was there a moral to this nightmare?"

Rory's eyes got wide as she focused and began to see the thread that held the whole string of events together. She wasn't showing herself, she was hiding from what she really wanted. She ran to the place where she always felt safe, to see all her secrets. How she used to long for her parents to get together. How the men in her life tied in, interweaving, then the biggest realization of all hit her like a ton of bricks. The one truth that she was most afraid of admitting to herself.

"Jess," she whispered.