Summary: Rory calls. Jess worries

Rating: PG-13 for stuff

Thanks to Christie for encouraging the idea and Elise for beta-ing and loving it.

Gently

She started calling him out of the clear, blue sky.

"No reason," she told him. "Just to catch up."

They'd long since buried the hatchet. They'd realized at Luke and Lorelai's wedding that staying angry and bitter with each really didn't make much sense. It wasn't as if they really hated each other.

He could never hate her. She could never look him in the eyes and truly hate him.

So, officially, they were friends, and it was good. They smiled at each other at holiday gatherings, and sent birthday cards. She'd introduced him to Robin, and he'd smiled and shook the other man's hand.

Jess and Rory were okay.

And then the calls started.

She would never really tell him why she called. "I just need someone to talk to," she would tell him. "Robin... he went out for a while."

And he could tell she'd been crying. He'd made her cry enough times to know.

He worried.

Coincidentally, they visited Luke and Lorelai on the same weekend, and she seemed...

Different.

Jumpy.

She wore long sleeves and lots of make-up.

And it was June.

"Nice shirt," he'd teased. "Cold, grandma?"

She'd given him a tight smile and a little laugh, but nothing more, and he knew.

Oh, he knew.

Apparently, everyone knew.

But, hell; Stars Hollow, you know?

He said nothing. It wasn't his business. Not his relationship. Not his problem. Sure, they were friends but he'd been in this situation before... sticking his nose in would do nothing.

So he sat back, cigarette between his lips, hands in his pockets, and waited.

Christmas rolled around and she came to dinner alone. Make-up smeared ever so slightly, skin pale, hands shaky.

Still, he said nothing. It was Lorelai's job to say something. To be the mother and pull her into her old bedroom and argue with her.

"He's hurting you!"

"That's ridiculous!"

"He hits you!"

"He doesn't! You're crazy!"

Denial. River in Egypt? Probably not so much.

On New Years Eve she never made it to Stars Hollow. She called at eight, and told Luke that she was "sick," and he asked to speak to her.

"Hey."

"Hey." Her voice was raspy. It had become normal.

"Sick?"

"Yeah," she told him. "I'm sorry. I was looking forward to seeing you... I loved that book you lent me."

"Yeah?"

"Yeah."

"You gonna be okay?" he asked casually. "You don't sound great."

"I'll be fine soon."

Bullshit. Bullshit, bullshit, bullshit.

She showed up on his doorstep on Valentines Day. No make-up. No long sleeves. Bruised arms. Black eye.

His gaze remained calm, and he kept it as warm as he could. Even if his heart was cracking for her... again.

They stood there staring until she burst into tears. He ushered her inside, and let her use the shower. He gave her one of his t-shirts and a worn pair of jeans, along with an ice pack for her eye.

She repaid him with a kiss. First kiss in five years. Good kiss.

She spent the night in his bed, and he laid sleepless on the squishy couch.

In the morning, she went home.

He didn't hear from her for two weeks.

Two weeks.

And he worried.

When she did call, she said the same thing she'd been saying. "I just need someone to talk to."

He sighed and listened. Talked when he thought he should, and listened some more.

He went back to saying nothing. It wasn't his business.

Until the phone rang and it was the other Gilmore.

Lorelai was in shambles, but he refused to get involved.

"She'll hate me for it."

And Lorelai hung up.

April rolled around, and nothing changed. She'd call, he'd listen, and it was killing him.

They ran into each other at a movie one night, and she looked...

She wasn't...

And he cracked in two. Last straw. Snapped like a twig.

The next day he let himself into their apartment and started packing everything he knew to be hers.

She came home from work moments after he arrived and found him in the bedroom, shoving her clothing into a suitcase.

"What are you doing?"

He didn't bother with an answer. He only kept stuffing clothes and books and shoes into the suitcase.

She watched him from the doorway. "Jess..."

"Is this all of your clothing in here, or do you have more somewhere?" He asked, as if it was the most normal thing in the world.

"Stop, Jess."

Again, he ignored her, packing more of her things.

"Jess!" She stormed over to him and began undoing his work, taking her belongings out of the suitcase.

He turned to her, jaw set.

"I'm not leaving."

"You're staying."

She nodded.

"You're staying here."

Again, she nodded. "I'm staying here."

"Here, where the guy who's supposed to be your boyfriend is smacking you around."

She glared. "He-"

"It's killing you."

She couldn't argue with that. She was too tired.

"It's killing you, and it's killing me to sit back and watch."

Her lower lip trembled slightly, but her eyes stayed defiant.

He started to repack the things she'd taken out, and she watched without another word.

When he finished packing her things, he lifted her suitcase and held his free hand out to her.

She stared at it for a moment before slowly taking it in hers. She let him guide her to the door, and stopped for a moment, but he tugged on her arm gently. Gently. She took one last look, and followed him out.