Hello, Dolly! Part 5

Rory woke up that evening on the couch in her mother's office, and blinked, looking around the dim room. She felt cold, and still tired. She took the soft, decorative throw blanket from the back of the couch and wrapped it around herself.

The events of the past day swam through her head and she lay back down, closing her eyes. What had happened? Why had Dean treated her like that? Part of her wanted to seek him out…get answers. The other, however, was screaming at her to never go near him again, and it was winning. Even thinking about what could have happened to her made her nauseous.

She never thought something like that could happen to her, and it almost had.

The door slowly opened and light from the Dragonfly's lobby flooded the room. Rory squinted and sat up.

"Hey," Luke's silhouette said quietly. "I thought you might be hungry." He held up a plate of food.

She smiled a little and nodded.

He grinned and walked forward, sitting on the couch with her. "How ya feeling?"

She nodded and carefully took the plate of food from him. "A little better."

"Good," he said.

She poked at her food with her fork, and then looked at him. "I really wanna thank you for what you did for me today."

"Its okay, Rory," Luke nodded.

"No," she snapped, putting her food on the coffee table. "If you hadn't shown up when you did…"

"Hey," he said adamantly. "I would never let anything happen to you."

She stared at him for a moment before wrapping her arms around him in a hug. He patted her back awkwardly. She pulled away a moment later.

"Where's Jess?" Rory asked.

Luke sighed and smirked. "Having a very awkward dinner with your mother and your grandmother."

Rory glared suspiciously. "No."

Luke nodded. "Yep."

"Are they killing him?" she asked worriedly. "Is he making horrible comments? Is there blood?"

"Not that I know of," Luke smirked. "I wouldn't worry too much."

"I yelled at my grandmother," Rory sighed.

Luke patted her on the shoulder. "Don't worry. Your mom filled her in on what's going on."

"She did?" Rory asked, still sounding worried. "About everything?"

"The basics," Luke nodded. "I think she's just worried about you more than anything else."

Rory nodded back. "It's my fault."

"No way," Luke snapped. "You are not blaming this on yourself."

"I didn't have to meet him," she argued. "I could have said no."

"You didn't go there expecting him to try what he tried," Luke told her. "You're not a mind-reader. I'm sure if you were, you probably woulda stayed home."

She sighed and nodded. "Yeah."

They sat in silence for a long moment.

"You gonna come out soon?" Luke asked.

Rory shrugged. "I don't know."

"You want me to go get Jess?"

Rory sighed. "Not yet."

Luke nodded. "Okay. Well, I'm gonna go, and they're gonna ask about you. What do you want me to tell them?"

She smiled just a little. "Tired, and eating."

"You got it," Luke smirked. He patted her shoulder again and got up, glancing back at her before leaving the room.

She watched the door for a moment, before picking up her fork again and digging in. She was starving.

oooooo

Jess sat at the round table in the Dragonfly's dining room awkwardly. Next to him sat Lorelai Gilmore, and next to her sat Emily Gilmore.

He wasn't letting it show, but this was possibly one of the most nerve-wracking experiences of his life.

"So, Jess," Emily said politely. "You're moving back to Stars Hollow."

He nodded slowly and swallowed his food. "I am," he replied shortly.

"To be with Rory," Emily stated.

He didn't nod at this. "To spend time with my uncle and to be with Rory."

"I had no idea you and Luke were close," Emily replied coldly.

Jess didn't say anything.

Lorelai sighed. She looked from Jess to Emily, and then back to Emily, and then to Jess again. "Oh, my god!" she yelled to no one in particular.

"What?" Emily asked. "Why are you yelling?"

"Because you two are stubborn…asses!"

"Excuse me?" Emily snapped.

Jess didn't have anything to say to this. He was well aware of his stubborn ass status.

"You two can't get along for like…three seconds!" Lorelai cried. "Mom, you're sitting here interrogating him, and judging him, and you!" she pointed at Jess. "You are not even trying!"

"Nope," Jess admitted.

"Your girlfriend," she pointed at Jess again, and then pointed to her mother. "And your granddaughter is in the other room. She has just been through something crazy, and scary and traumatic, and you two can't even be bothered to try and get along!"

"I didn't do anything," Jess replied evenly. "She's asking me questions, I'm answering them."

"Okay, that's it," Lorelai growled, obviously frustrated. "Both of you, get up."

"What are you doing?" Emily asked, flustered.

"Oh, no," Jess muttered, getting to his feet.

Emily sighed and got to hers as well.

Lorelai smiled. "Now, let's start over."

"This is ridiculous," Emily argued.

"She's ridiculous," Jess replied.

"At least you agree on something," Lorelai snapped. She sighed. "Okay. Jess, come over here."

He rolled his eyes and walked over to stand on Lorelai's other side.

Lorelai smiled again and cleared her throat. "Mom, I'd like you to meet Luke's nephew and Rory's boyfriend, Jess Mariano. He's from New York, and he's moving back to Stars Hollow for the summer, so he can be closer to Rory and hang out with Luke."

Neither said a word.

Lorelai was undeterred. "Jess, this is my mother, and Rory's grandmother, Emily Gilmore. She lives in Hartford just south of here, and we go there every Friday for dinner. They've been helping Rory with her college tuition."

Still, they stayed silent.

"Shake hands or I'll hurt both of you," Lorelai told them through gritted teeth.

"Nice to meet you," Jess muttered, shaking her hand.

"Charmed," Emily replied sarcastically.

At that moment, Luke walked back in. "So Rory's still pretty tired, but she's eating so that's-" He stopped as he got a look at Emily and Jess shaking hands loosely. "What the hell is going on?"

"I'm reintroducing Jess and Emily," Lorelai smiled. "They're pals now!"

Emily took her hand book and sighed; seemingly making sure the two rings she had been wearing were still on her fingers. "May I sit back down now?"

Jess paid no attention. "She want any visitors?" he asked his uncle.

"Nah, I think she wants to be alone for now," Luke replied. "She'll come out when she's ready."

Jess nodded and sat down in his chair, staring at his food.

Emily watched him as she slowly sat back down.

Sookie rushed out at the moment. "Hey, guys, how is everything?"

"Wonderful, Sookie, as always," Emily smiled politely.

"Jess, would you like more soda?" Sookie asked.

"Can I have a beer?" Jess asked, looking up at her.

"A few more months," Luke snapped. "It's not that long a wait."

"Oh, come on," Jess snapped. "Who cares if I'm twenty-one? It's not like I haven't been drinking since I was fourteen."

Emily gave him a shocked look.

"It was Christmas!" Jess defended. "Liz gave me a six-pack!"

"I don't see, Liz, do you?" Luke snapped.

"Like that's anything new," Jess muttered.

"A few more months," Luke repeated.

"Fine," Jess sighed. "One more month."

"How much do you drink, Jess?" Emily asked, trying her best to sound casual.

"I don't know, I think I'm drunk right now," Jess retorted.

At that moment, the door to the Firefly burst open, and Richard came storming in, looking ready to kill someone. "Where is he?" he cried. "Where is he, I'll ring his neck!"

Lorelai got up hurriedly and rushed out to the front hall. "He's not here, Dad. I don't know where he is."

Richard's expression turned from angry to worried. "Lorelai, is Rory alright? Where is she?"

"She's in my office," Lorelai replied calmly. "She's eating her dinner, and having some quiet time. Mom and Jess and Luke and I are in the dining room. Why don't you join us?"

"Who on earth is Jess?"

Lorelai sighed. "He's Luke's nephew, and…uhm…Rory's boyfriend."

Richard squinted. "I didn't know Rory had a new-…wait…is this the boy that broke her wrist?"

"Dad…"

"And then left her without saying good-bye?"

"Dad…"

"I'll kill him, too."

"No, you can't do that, Rory loves him," Lorelai blurted out. "And…he's done a lot of growing up since then…I think." She shook her head. "Let's go meet him before you go passing judgment."

Richard sighed and followed Lorelai into the dining room, where Jess was still staring into his plate. He looked up and his eyes widened ever-so-slightly.

"Hello," Richard said awkwardly. "You must be Jess."

Jess nodded slowly.

"Jess, this is my dad, Richard Gilmore," Lorelai introduced. She poked him in the arm and he got to his feet.

"Hi," Jess said quietly.

"So," Richard snapped, seeming to get straight to business. "Where were you when that horrible boy was attacking my granddaughter?"

Luke was about to open his mouth, but Jess beat him to it.

"I was working in the diner," Jess replied. "I was going to call her this tonight after Luke and I got back from my place in New York."

"And what would you be doing there?" Richard asked. He was obviously in full interrogation mode.

"Getting my stuff," Jess replied stiffly. "I'm moving back here."

"To be with Rory."

"And to spend time with my family," Jess added. "Yeah."

"And did you leave before you found out what happened?"

"Luke beat the crap out of Dean," Lorelai blurted out.

"Excuse me?" Richard asked, turning to his daughter.

"Luke…beat him up. He found Dean trying to force himself onto Rory, and…got mad."

"And where were you then?" Richard asked, turning back to Jess.

"Rory ran by the diner when I was waiting for Luke to get back," Jess muttered. "I stayed with her until we left."

"I see," Richard replied softly. "You care about my granddaughter?"

Jess nodded, looking down.

Richard seemed to calm down a little and nodded back. He took a seat at the table. "Jess?"

He looked up at Richard with a raised eyebrow.

"Do you read at all?"

Jess rolled his eyes and pulled a shabby paperback out of his back pocket.

Richard glanced at the title. "Hemingway?"

"Yup."

"Rory hates Hemingway."

"I know."

"You like him?"

"Wouldn't be reading it if I didn't."

"I like him, too."

"Huh."

"Oh, my god, I think they're bonding," Lorelai whispered to Luke.

Emily rolled her eyes. "I'm going to go see how Rory is doing."

"No," Lorelai snapped.

"What?"

"Luke said she wanted to be alone," Lorelai said. "We need to give her time."

"Time's up," said a voice from the doorway.

The group looked up to see Rory standing in the doorway. She held her fork and knife, and an empty plate.

"I'm still hungry," she said sheepishly.

Both Emily and Richard got to their feet to meet their granddaughter, but Lorelai pulled them both gently down.

"Take a seat, Honey," Lorelai smiled.

Rory nodded and pulled up a chair next to Jess, sticking her fork into his mashed potatoes and taking a bite. She nodded. "Sookie does it again."

"How are you feeling?" Richard asked.

"Hungry," Rory replied.

He gave her a bewildered look.

"I'm okay," she told them. "I am…I mean…shaken, but…I'm fine…really."

"They're not buying it," Jess stage whispered.

Rory looked down. "I don't wanna talk about it right now," she told them. "I just want to have a nice dinner."

Emily nodded. "Of course…"

Lorelai watched Rory eat, and she gave him a glance in return, before turning back to Jess's plate.