The flimsy paper fluttered gently as it was blue-tacked it to the window of Luke's Diner. Jess Mariano stepped back to admire his handiwork, running his hand through his unruly, thick dark hair. He stifled a yawn and went back to pouring coffee for his uncle's customers as the words on the poster pronounced "Help wanted. Urgent. Apply within." and waited to change his life forever.

~*~

A few days later, news reached the diner-via Babette and Miss Patty, as usual- that there were some new people in town. Lorelai was, of course, overly excited about meeting them and Luke was his usual grumpy self. Jess didn't really think anything of it. He never paid much attention to the town gossips anyway, he always thought that the news they had was pointless and uninteresting, a view not shared by his girlfriend, Rory, who was just as hyper as her mother about any small town goings-on.

Rory had come into the diner that morning to get her usual cup of coffee. She was wearing her Chilton uniform and Jess almost spilt boiling hot coffee all over her in an attempt to get to her as quickly as possibly and still look cool in that effortless James Dean way that he had down so well. She laughed at him whilst drinking her coffee and complaining about a calculus test that she hadn't studied enough for. He was only half listening-Rory studied too much for all her tests in his opinion. She drained her coffee as he explained for the thousandth time that he wasn't going to school that day because Luke needed some extra help in the diner. He was kind of hoping that Rory would take the hint and apply for the job so he could spend more time with her but so far she had remained dense.

Just as she was kissing him goodbye, a girl walked through the door and looked around. Jess quickly pushed Rory off his face, telling her that she would miss her bus if she didn't leave asap. When she had left-grudgingly-he studied the girl who had just come in. She was about 5"6, slim and wearing skinny jeans and a tight Rolling Stones tee. She had short, messy dark brown hair and was looking at him quizzically, which was when he realised that she had asked him a question. "Sorry," he muttered, whilst trying to work out the exact colour of her eyes-"like dark chocolate," he thought-"what did you say?"

She smiled at him, showing dazzlingly white teeth and making her face even more beautiful.

"That's ok. I suppose I should've figured that you wouldn't be listening. She's pretty." The girl laughed-a light, tinkling sound that reached all the way up to her stunning eyes and made them sparkle. Jess finally realised that she was talking about Rory and mumbled something incoherent in reply.

"Anyway," she continued brightly, "I'm looking for Luke Danes, you wouldn't happen to know where he is, would you?"

~*~

"Her name's Casey Harper," came Luke's voice from the kitchen. "Apparently her family moved away from here when she was two, but I don't remember them."

"Huh. You learn something new every day!"

"*Anyway*, she's gonna take the job in exchange for somewhere to stay."

"How old is she?"

"Your age. So I want you to look out for her, ok?"

"Sure thing, boss."

"And, Jess? Cut it out with the sarcasm for a few days, ok? We don't wanna scare the poor girl!"

"I'll see what I can do but I'm making no promises. Besides, if she can survive my sarcasm and your people skills then we'll *really* find out what she's made of, won't we?"

"Jess…"

~*~

"Are (kiss). You (kiss). Kidding (kiss)? I love meeting new people, Jess!"

"Yeah but I don't have a clue what she's like. For all I know, she could be Sharon Stone in, 'Fatal Attraction' or Meg Ryan in, 'When Harry Met Sally'!"

"Well then, I promise that if I see her boiling any bunnies or faking it in a café, I'll back away quickly!" laughed Rory as she digested the images and gave Jess enough time to realise what he had just said.

"Yeah, I guess…but if I'm right, you'll be sorry!" he laughed, slipping his arm around her and kissing her.

~*~

His afternoon with Rory and Casey having gone well (he had introduced her to Taylor and she had resisted the urge to strangle him so he assumed this was good), Jess decided to go back to the diner and re-read his favourite Hemmingway novel, but when he opened the apartment door, the light was on and Casey was sat cross-legged on the blow-up bed, singing along to "Suffragette City" with her nose stuck into "Pride and Prejudice". She was so absorbed in her reading and music that she didn't notice him coming in and only looked up when the refrigerator door clicked loudly after he had retrieved a soda from its depths.

"Hey," she breathed, flashing her sparkling smile at him-it just wasn't fair when she did that, he thought to himself.

"Hey. Good book?"

"You should know," she giggled softly. "It's yours, and very well thumbed by the looks of it."

She flicked through the pages thoughtfully as he took in the measure of her. He liked her more and more each time he saw her and it worried him. She took his breath away and he was reminded of how it had been Rory at the beginning every time his heart beat faster and he had to shake himself back into reality.