A/N: Long time, no update. I'm quite proud of this chapter; it took me a couple days to get it right, but it's helping a lot to progress the plot, plus answering a lot of the questions most of you probably had. Please please please with a cherry on top REVIEW!

Disclaimer: I swear I don't. No sueing, por favor.

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Rory closed her eyes; taking a deep breath and catching the faint after-taste of Jess' cologne. When she opened them, he had already gone and she could feel a warm breeze blowing from the open window. She walked over and shut it, surprised that she couldn't even make his figure out in the dark. How he could walk away so quickly and quietly was beyond her.

Sighing, she lay down on her bed. Her brow crinkled in confusion and she reached under her back to see what was so uncomfortable. She remembered Jess reaching behind her before he left but she had forgotten about it in the moment.

"Oh," she said softly, running her hand over the thin book. It was Howl. Her copy, although she couldn't even remember the last time she had it. Her mind flashed to Jess in the diner, when she had been crawling into her mom's car, and she recalled seeing him holding something. Apparently, this was it.

Crossing her legs, she stuffed her pillow behind her and began to flip through the book. The margins were filled with black ink, and the smudges from where she had turned the pages in her teenage years made it even harder to read. Nothing seemed to be different, though, and that was what confused her.

Then, on the last page, a sliver of paper fell from in between the pages. It was new and clean and white and unfamiliar, not the same faded writing that donned the rest of the book. It was folded in half, and when she opened it, she found the same handwriting she had been staring at for the past twenty minutes.

It was a poem.

You loved me when nobody else did

You loved me when I didn't deserve it

You loved me when you wouldn't say

You loved me when you weren't ready

You loved me when you were alive

And I loved you

I loved you when I was stupid

I loved you when I was young

I loved you when it was real

I loved you when everybody did

I loved you when nobody knew

Rory finished reading and found that she was having trouble catching her breath. Her heart was pounding harder and faster than she had ever felt. Slowly, she rose from her bed and put on her jacket, taking her time in case the shortness of breath caused her to fall or faint. She began to walk to Luke's.

The longer she walked, however, the angrier she became.

At Jess, for being so sweet and perfect and overdue.

At her mom, for jumping to conclusions and keeping old habits and losing touch.

At Luke, for taking so long to realize that he was in love.

At her grandma, for holding a grudge against Lorelai for eighteen years.

At her grandpa, for ignoring Emily and not appreciating her.

At Paris, for trying so hard to be better, when she was perfect as it is.

At the town, for pressuring her and judging all of her decisions.

But most of all, at herself. For being so stupid and so ignorant and taking so goddamn long.

"Luke!" she yelled, stomping into the diner and shutting the door so hard that the tiny bell on top threatened to fall to the ground. "Where is he, Luke? Where is he?"

"Where's who?" Luke asked, confused.

"Where's Jess, Luke? Where is he hiding?"

"Oh, jeez, déjà vu."

"Luke! Tell me, now!" Rory screamed. A couple people sitting at the tables nearest turned around and gave them dirty looks which quickly turned to surprise when they saw the owner of the loudest voice.

"Rory, calm down," Luke said, gently leading her outside. "Ceasar, hold on a sec, okay?"

Rory huffed outside, still fuming. "Just tell me when he is, Luke. If you don't tell me, I'm gonna find him anyway."

"What's going on with you, Ror?"

That was when she broke. "What's going on with me? You want to know what's going on with me?"

"Yes, please, Rory, maybe I can—"

"What?" Rory interrupted. "Maybe you can help? I'll tell you what, Luke, why don't you figure your own problems out before taking on mine."

"What are you talking about?"

"My mom, Luke!" Rory said.

"Wha…huh?" Luke stumbled.

"You've been in love with her for as long as I can remember, and I'm sure it was even before that. Every chance you get, something happens to mess it up. But guess what? It's not just her fault. Yes, she's a little oblivious, but you've always known that. And yet you continue to give her these tiny little signs that she's somehow supposed to decipher and, what, come running into your arms? If you wait around too long, Luke, she's not gonna be there anymore. She was engaged once and you did absolutely nothing about it. Are you going to let that happen again? Because if you are I'm going to have to ask you to give up. You may be able to wait around forever, but she isn't."

With that, Rory left, leaving Luke staring at the space she was standing, mouth gaping.

She kept stomping, filled with the same red hot anger as before her explosion, only now she was finally thinking clearly. If he wasn't at the diner, where else would he be?

As she felt her feet land on wood, sure enough, she saw a dark figure slumped on the bridge, smoke curling from the cigarette dangling from it's mouth and staring into the horizon.

"Jess!" Rory yelled, moving angrily forward and ripping the cigarette from his mouth. She throw it onto the ground, hard, and heatedly ground it into the bridge.

"Hey!" he said, confused. "What are you doing?"

"What is you're problem, Jess?" she asked, ignoring his question.

"What's my problem?" he said incredulously. "I'm not the one—"

"Oh, yes, you are!" Rory yelled. "Do you even realize you're effect on people? Don't you even bother to think about what other people might take from your irrational, irresponsible actions? Don't you think it might help to, just for a minute, at least pretend to care about other people's feelings?"

"What is this about, Rory?"

"What do you think it's about, asshole?!"

"What…the book? Rory, are you serious? That wasn't meant to hurt you!"

"Ugh," Rory snarled. "That is just so like you! Everyone was right, you know. You're just a stupid little jerk looking to get in my pants. You never loved me! You're just…" she trailed off. "You're so…" Instead of finishing her sentence, Rory opted to make a low, strangled, screaming noise and pushed Jess into the lake.

Jess fell in with a splash, coming back up and shaking his head around to get rid of the water.

"Oh," Rory whispered, her voice suddenly very soft. "Oh, I'm so sorry, Jess! I didn't mean it! I'm sorry!" She quickly shed her jacket and jumped into the water, immediately shaking from the cold.

"Jess!" she yelled, blinking rapidly to get rid of the water in her eyes. "Where are you?"

"I'm right here," he said, trembling. He waddled towards her, bringing his hands under the water to take hers. "I'm here."

"Oh," she said, shivering. "Hi."

"Hi," he repeated.

"I didn't mean it," she said delicately.

"I know."

"Good." She moved forward, taking his hands and putting them around her waist, then leaning her head onto his shaking body.

"I love you," he said quietly, his voice barely reaching her. "I love you."

"I know," she said. "I…I don't know." She looked up at him. "I don't know, Jess."

"That's okay," he replied. "Let's get out of here." He climbed onto the bridge, then took her hand and helped her up. After she was standing, he kept holding her hand. "Just don't take too long this time, okay?" He turned her hand over so that her knuckles were facing him. Then he placed a very light kiss on the tip of each finger before letting go. "Bye, Rory."

Rory watched him leave, feeling goosebumps form on her arms and neck, and pins and needles spread from each finger to each toe. "Bye," she said, long after he had gone.

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TBC…