A phone is picked up; a number dialed by memorization. The one she calls is the last she expects to, but the first that comes to mind. Her fingers drum fervently against the desk, anxious for a response. It rings and rings and rings. And rings some more. Just as she is ready to give in and accept that he isn't there, a voice so distinctly unforgettable provides a response.

"What? Whoever this is, I'm late for work and if it's not fucking somebody dying, then I'll kill you."

Her features contort, and she lowers her eyes at the reminder. She opens her mouth to speak, then pauses, second guessing making this call altogether. His unbound irritation breaks her from her hesitance.

"Come on, asshole, I can hear you breathing."

"Lorelai's dying," she whispers. She can't say 'Mom' because that cements the fact that her mother is going to disappear in front of her. The secondary name is the one she offers, a thin line with which she can distance herself from the truth.

He recognizes her instantly and curses himself for not thinking before he speaks. It is a flaw he has mastered unapologetically until this moment. "Where are you?"

"My apartment."

"Don't go anywhere. Give me twenty minutes." He waits until he hears the click of the dial tone, knowing that she has to end the call first to keep whatever shred of control she's hanging onto.

The train seems to take longer today than it ever has, and he waits, sucking down a cigarette impatiently. When it arrives he pushes past passengers and ensures that he is closest to the exit.

His thoughts are muddled; posing too many questions that he cannot answer. Why she would call him persists as the most bewildering. They haven't spoken in a year, at least. And that was the routine Christmas greeting on her part, one he knows she does more out of obligation than anything else. A card is too impartial for her, but frequency in contact bridges a gap she's unwilling to go near.

His stop is three blocks from her apartment building, and he jogs the rest of the way. Breathing is almost impossible when he approaches his destination, but he keeps running irrespective of that. Once he stops, he examines the brownstone. He's certain this is her building because there's a stinging vision of her kissing a man he assumes was or is a significant other.

With a gloved hand, he presses the buzzer with her name written in.

"Who is it?" she inquires softly.

"Jess," he says.

"Oh. Um, hold on a minute."

Her impeccable timing shows that it is exactly one minute before she buzzes him in, and he searches for the number that was marked beside her name outside. As he reaches it, he braces himself. He hasn't had a real conversation with her in years, and this is the least likely of circumstances in which he expects to.

She opens the door before he can knock, and moves out of the way so that he can come inside. Her eyes are red with the remnants of tears, and while he wants to provide some sort of comfort, it isn't something within his power.

"You didn't have to come," she says.

"You wouldn't call if it wasn't important," he replies, not intending it to be offensive but realizing after he has said it that it might be.

If she is hurt, she makes no note of it. She starts to walk away from him and he follows behind cautiously.

"Do you want some coffee?" she questions.

He means to decline but her expression begs him to reconsider. So he finds himself cringing against the taste of the bitter liquid, all the while watching her clean the studio space with frantic desperation.

"Rory, what are you doing?"

"This place is a mess. I can't believe I didn't try and at least, you know, straighten it up a little before you came over. That's what you do, you clean up when you have company."

Under different conditions he might find some amusement in her compulsiveness, but right now it's nothing short of painful to witness. She's trying to avoid the situation at hand, the truth of her detriment and he is well aware of the fact.

He stands behind her and puts a tentative hand to her shoulder.

She stiffens, and he thinks that he has done the wrong thing until she turns around. Tears cloud her eyes with malicious intent and she falls into his arms.

"I just...she called me today, and it's something with her heart, god I'm horrible I don't even know. I can't do this Jess, I can't."

He doesn't speak for fear of saying the wrong thing. What he does do is run his fingers through her hair, the way he hasn't done in ages. And he lets her cry, because the rarity of this occurrence deems it necessary that she do so.

Deciding she's finished, she pulls away from him. "I'm sorry," she whispers, her head lowering shamefully. Vulnerability in any form is something she tries not to make apparent, and something he of all people shouldn't be privy to.

"Don't worry about it."

"You didn't finish your coffee."

"Not a big fan of the coffee. But thanks for making it," he adds the last part so as not to sound ungrateful.

"Oh. Oh yeah, I forgot that you don't like it. Well, don't worry, I made it for me...it just so happened that you were here for the making of, so I was being polite." Her valiant effort to lighten the mood unwittingly dampens it, and he decides not to retaliate because it is, to him, too inappropriate to do so in her fragile state.

"Do you need to go home?"

"Yeah, I have to. She needs me."

"I'll book your flight," he states, and as he starts for the phone her small, thin voice stops him.

"Jess?" she inquires meekly.

"Yeah?" He looks back at her, wondering when exactly she became so small.

"Will you come with me? Please?"

The plea surprises him. He contemplates the idea and thinks it's a bad one. This is the kind of premise that leads to obstacles he can't handle, especially not when she is involved. However, for the first time in a long time, she is depending on him without her guard up.

Letting her down isn't an option.

"Sure. I'll go," he nods.