This is just something that has been sitting in my notebook for about a week. I started it as an emotional dump, and I ended up completing it after sorting through my mom's clothes. Well, here it is. It's not especially raw, but it's out there. Nothing directly explains what happened before the story started, but I'm sure most of you can figure it out. It's alternate universe, as Jess lives with his mother in Stars Hollow, Rory and Jess have been friends since age six, and Luke and Lorelai were married. I'll accept a PM or inquiry as to what the story means.

Disclaimer: I own absolutely nothing related to Gilmore Girls. Pieces of conversation are stolen from my own consolation walk with my best friend Anthony. Thank him for that portion of Jess Mariano's personality.

She was falling deeper in a dark pool of water, struggling to break the surface. The pressure was forcing down on her, harder and faster.

"Hi, Sweets!"

"Mommy!" she called out as she spotted Lorelai floating peacefully in the same body of water. As she zoned in closer to embrace her mother, Rory's hand hit the glass window dividing them. "Mom?" she pleaded, touching her palm to the cold glass. She scurried along the giant pane splitting the mother and daughter pair, frantic to find a break. "Mom!" she cried out, the water pressing against her.

The ringing of her cell phone jarred Rory from her fitful state of sleep. Baby blanket in hand, she sat up and flipped open the cover of her phone.

"Hey." The soft male voice responded to her broken gasp of breath.

"Hi," she said gently, leaning against the headboard.

"I just…my mom just told me," he answered sympathetically. "How…how are you holding up?" His voice croaked as he mentally slapped himself for the stupid question. "Jeez. That was dumb," he corrected himself. "What are you doing?"

"Just trying to sleep it off," she murmured, pressing her face into the soft fabric of her blanket.

"You want to meet me at the corner?" he asked, referring to the spot between their houses where they always paired up.

"Sure," she said, swinging her legs out of bed. "Just putting some shoes on."

"Be there in a few," he said before shutting the phone.

Rory slipped her feet into her sneakers and snuck out the front door. Her hands were shoved in the pouch of her hoodie as she traipsed to the corner. She spotted his unruly hair and trademark leather jacket before he was completely in view.

He stood in front of her, unsure of how to respond or act. She shuffled her feet, scraping the cement softly. Outstretching his arms, Jess pulled her into the tightest hug she had ever been engulfed in. He rocked her gently before releasing her from his grip. "I don't know what to say," he said carefully.

"It's okay. No one does," she answered indifferently as they started to walk down the street. "Where are we going?"

"Just around," he answered simply. "Just walking around."

She nodded and walked next to her friend. "Thanks."

"For what?" he asked uncertainly, turning the corner.

"For just being you – my best friend." They leaned up against the wall and paused their walk for a moment.

"I care about you, Rory. We've been friends for years." He shuffled his fingers through his messy hair. "Why didn't you call me earlier?" he asked suddenly.

"What?" she asked.

"Call me earlier?" Why didn't you?" he asked again.

"Just, you know, thought you might be busy." She scraped her shoe against the pavement again.

"Hell, I'm never too busy at this time. You need me; you call me. That's how it's always been."

"I know," she said softly.

"You've probably heard it a million times today, but everything is going to work out." He shoved his hand in the depths of his pocket and pulled out a chocolate wrapped in gold foil. "Here," he said, causing her to outstretch her hands.

The candy was molded in the shape of a heart. Rory examined it before peeling the foil back from the piece of chocolate. "Thank you," she muttered.

"I'm always here for you, okay?" he reassured. "I'm a phone call or a street and a half away."

"I know," she said, biting the sweet chocolate in half and letting it melt on her tongue.

"Come on. Let's take a walk," he suggested absentmindedly. "I can't always say the right things, but walking around always makes me feel better." She nodded in agreement, aware of his habit that had developed years ago. "So we'll just walk around and you can clear your head a bit."

Rory toyed with the zipper on her hoodie while they walked through the town square.

Jess stepped on the wooden planks of the bridge. Together, they reached the edge and swung their legs over the bridge. Looking up at the deep night sky, the pair threw back their heads. "It's quiet," they said in unison.

Jess grinned, a rare gesture that crossed his features only in Rory's presence. "Still have it, don't we?"

Rory returned the smile and continued to look up at the sky. "After thirteen years, I sure hope so."

"We're going to make it out in the end," Jess said after a lapse in conversation. "You're never getting rid of me."

"I'd never even think of it, Mariano." She glanced over at Jess, who was in the process of digging through his pockets. When he produced another elaborately wrapped chocolate, he turned to her and handed his friend the morsel. "We're too good for each other," she said, peeling back the foil carefully. "How am I going to do this, Jess?" she asked at last.

His mouth straightened out. Jess knew she would ask for his advice sooner or later, he just didn't know how to respond to her. "You're strong," he answered. "It doesn't sound like much in the long run, but it is. And I," Jess paused to turn Rory's cheek toward him gently with his hand, "Am going to be here every step of the way." She nodded pitifully, the tears starting to well up in her bright blue eyes.

"It's not fair, Jess. It's just really not fair," she whispered, accepting the hug Jess offered. "I don't want to do this. Not without her. It's just...really unfair."

"I know," he said. "I would love to be able to fix this and make it all go away, but I can't. I can, however, provide you with as much chocolate as possible." He sifted through the contents of his pocket and dropped another golden heart in her hand.

Rory peeked at her watch while she let the chocolate melt in her mouth. It was quickly nearing midnight and she should have headed back home sooner. "It's getting late."

Jess swung her feet over the water. "Yeah. I know."

"We should probably head back, don't you think?" Rory asked, getting to her feet.

"Sure. If you want to." Jess looked at his own watch before standing up. It was fifteen minutes until midnight. They walked away from the bridge in silence, neither sure what to say to the other. Pausing, Jess headed toward the gazebo and Rory trailed behind him.

"What are you scheming, mister?" she demanded jokingly.

"Nothing. Just taking the scenic route." They walked through the gazebo and across town again until they neared Rory's street. Whenever they met up, Jess would always walk Rory to her door.

"Thanks for being here for me tonight, Jess," Rory said, digging the toe of her sneaker into the stair.

"It's nothing. You'd do the same for me," he said. Rory nodded in agreement. The two friends had always been attached to the hip. Jess dug in his pocket to produce a handful of heart shaped chocolates. "The worst day of your life is behind you," he noted, passing the candy to Rory. "Eat these and call me later today." Jess steadied himself against the banister and waited for Rory to sneak back inside her house.

Glancing down at her watch, Rory noticed that it was already seven past midnight. She smiled slightly and looked back at Jess. "You kept me out past midnight."

"Just wanted your day to end on a better note than it began." He nodded and shoved his hands in the leather jacket. "I'll see you around, Rory."

"Thanks," she said again. "I really didn't want to talk about it. Thanks for not pushing me to talk about it."

Jess nodded.

"All day, they've been making me talk about it. I just wanted to act normal around you." Rory scuffed her sneaker nervously again.

"You know I'm here when you do want to talk."

"I just don't think I'm ready to talk about it yet."

"Well, I'm here when you're ready," Jess established.

"I'm glad," she responded, pulling open the door.

"Goodnight, Rory," he said gently as she escaped past the door and shut it behind her.

Rory's eyes darted around the empty house. She could hear Luke's snores from upstairs, but knew that was all there was upstairs. Just Luke and his loud snoring. Sighing, Rory flipped on her bedroom light and fingered the pendant at her throat. Her breath caught as she stared at the bulletin board. It was filled with better times in her life. Times when she didn't want to close her eyes and simply disappear. Rory tossed the pocketful of chocolates on her bed before throwing herself on it. A pang of anguish hit her as she turned over to hug a teddy bear her mother had given her. The day's event had bothered her enough as it was without the after effects. Tears running down her cheeks and sobs threatening to escape her lips, Rory grabbed her pink cell phone and dialed a familiar number.

"'Lo?" the voice on the other end answered casually.

"Jess," she responded, the sob tipping off her lips.

"Rory," he said gently.

"I...I'm ready to talk now," she cried, gripping onto her baby blanket. "I'm ready to talk now."