"Please…" Rory begged. "Try to talk him out of this…"

Luke exhaled deeply. "Rory…. Maybe joining the navy would be a good thing. I mean, he'll learn to respect authority, and he'll form bonds and make friends…"

Rory's eyes batted back and forth quickly. "How can you just let him go? He's sixteen."

"When I was sixteen, I was taking care of my younger sister and working… I had a house to take care of, bills to pay. Your mom and I worked hard for everything when we were younger and it's taught both of us so much. We're better because of it."

"You're giving up on him." Rory's eyes began to tear up. "Just admit it."

"No. I'm not." Luke replied. "I'm hoping more than anything that this may be what it takes to get Jess back on track."

"We can get him back on track. Us… you, me, mom…" A single tear rolled down her cheek.

Luke reached over and put his hand on Rory's shoulder. "Rory, Jess made this decision… and I think it's a good one. I don't want to discourage him from this. He's not like you. He wasn't close to either of his parents… he's never been good in school or had dreams to go to college."

"Look, if you're mad over what I said earlier today, I'm really sorry. I didn't mean to say those things… I - I …" Rory hung her head.

"Don't worry about earlier today. Sometimes we all say things we don't mean." Luke attempted to pull the young girl into a hug, but Rory backed away.

"Where's mom?" She asked.

"Upstairs…"

Without a word being said, Rory rushed up to her mother's room. Surely, Lorelai would step up and make things right. Her mother had never let her down before. Several minutes later, Rory sat on the edge of Luke and Lorelai's bed trying to comprehend their reasoning.

"Sweetie… Jess knows what he wants." Lorelai began. "This could be a great opportunity for him. You should encourage him."

"He's not thinking clearly." Rory muttered.

"The navy isn't a bad thing, Rory. It's not like prison or alternative school." Luke bent down in front of her. "He'll become a very proud man. He'll have self respect…"

"He shouldn't have to go the navy to get it." Rory countered.

"Well, how respectful have you been towards, Jess?" Lorelai asked.

"What?" Rory asked.

"You don't exactly treat him like gold." Luke replied. "He doesn't get any respect from teaches or peers either."

Rory shook her head several times. Arguing over this was pointless, no one else saw it her way. "Fine… if everyone thinks it's such a good idea, then I guess it must be." She angrily bolted up from the bed. "Good night." She rushed out the door and down the stairs to her room.

Lorelai sighed and stood from the bed.

"Where you going?" Luke asked.

"Basement…" Lorelai replied vaguely.

After several knocks, Jess finally opened the door. He was surprised to see Lorelai standing on the other side. He had expected Rory to come back for round two.

"Hey. Can I come in for a few?" Lorelai aside pleasantly.

"She told you?"

"Who told me what?" Lorelai asked.

"Alright… come in." Jess opened the door wider.

Lorelai followed down into the basement. It was the first time she had been in it since Jess had moved in.

"Wow… this place doesn't even look like a basement anymore. Definitely better since you've re-decorated."

"I wouldn't call it re-decorating." Jess replied as he sat down at his desk.

"In any sense… it's very cool. Shame you'll be leaving it behind." Lorelai added smoothly.

Jess smiled. "Yeah, well, win some and lose some."

Lorelai sat down on a large storage trunk beside Jess' desk. She prepared herself to be taken more seriously. "She has a funny way of showing it, Jess… but she does care about you."

"Not the way I care about her." Jess openly stated. He felt no need to hide his feelings any longer. Truth was truth, and it needed said.

"Sometimes you can never really tell with Rory." Lorelai leaned back against the wall. "I know she's very upset over you leaving. That tells me she's going to miss you."

"Yeah. I'll miss her too." Jess agreed. "But my mind is made up."

"I know that. I'm not here to change to your mind." Lorelai cleared her throat. "Just – Just know that you don't have to go, Jess. You're more than welcome to stay here. Things have been crazy, for lack of a better term, for all of us. I can't blame you for wanting out. But… just know, you don't have to go…"

A smile crept across Jess' face. "Thanks, Lorelai."

"Well, I guess all I can say now is: Good luck." Lorelai stood from the trunk. "If you want, we'll come with you to the bus station in the morning."

Jess stood as well. "Actually, I'd rather go it alone."

"Okay." Lorelai whispered. "Understandable."

They stood in silence for several seconds. It was the longest conversation they had ever had and definitely the most meaningful. Maybe it was Lorelai's motherly instinct or maybe it was some other bizarre reason, but at that moment she felt sorry for Jess. She could sense his fear and loneliness. His secret desires to fit it… be normal… have a family. In so many ways his feelings were a reflection of her own. Lorelai reached over and quickly hugged Jess. It only lasted for a couple of seconds, but it was powerful none the less. Not another word was spoken between them. Lorelai walked out of the basement and closed the door behind her. Jess started off into space for several moments before turning off the lamp and laying down in his bed. He lay there for hours, his head cloudy and aching.

The next morning, Luke was the first to awake. He walked downstairs, hoping to at least say goodbye to Jess before he had gone. It was too late, however, Jess had gotten up hours before and was already on his way to Maryland. He left a note on the basement door for Luke and Lorelai. Luke opened it and read it to himself:

L&L:

Thank you. For everything. You've tried more than any other two people in the world ever would have. Be confident in my decision. I am. I hope you both get what you need to keep each other strong. I'll write when I get settled into boot camp.

Sincerely,

Jess M.

A/N: Alright, folks… that's it! Lol. I hope you've enjoyed the story. It seems like I've been writing it for years and some parts felt dragged out and boring, but all and all I'm satisfied. Just a reminder that I'm planning to write a third July Rain soon. Probably the story of my next. I feel I need to step away from this story for a while and regroup my ideas and thoughts. I also have another story I'm wanting to start. Anyway, leave your final reviews for me and be sure to keep a look out for July Rain III.