Jess stepped off the rickety bus and into the watery sunlight. To the residents of Stars Hollow, this was the height of summer. He knew differently.
That summer in California had been the best and worst of his life. One huge summer-long juxtaposition of crazy. He'd got to meet his dad, which had worked out better than either of them had expected. It had also kept him away from Rory, who was becoming increasingly clingy.
The one major negative was that he hadn't seen Casey in over a month. He hadn't even heard from her and he cursed Rory for telling her to stay away from him.
He ran to the diner, heaving his heavy duffel bag onto his back. He had to see her. The bell above the door clanged loudly as he bolted through the door, but he stopped suddenly when he saw an unfamiliar sight stood by the cash register.
Luke tapped him lightly on the shoulder.
"Nice of you to announce yourself, Jess!"
"What the hell is Dean doing here?"
Dean Forrester-Rory's ex-boyfriend and his arch-rival. Jess despised him.
"Um…" Luke hesitated and just at that moment, Casey bounded down the stairs. Jess' mouth fell open. She was even more perfect than he had remembered.
He made a beeline for her but she hadn't even seen him. She was too busy staring at Dean.
"Hey, beautiful," he said when he saw her.
"Ready to go?" he asked her.
"Not just yet…"
She leaned over the counter and kissed him.
"Now I am," she smiled before shouting, "Luke? I'm taking my break now!"
They rushed out of the door, fingers interlocked.
Jess turned to Luke.
"You have *got* to be kidding me!"
"What can I say, Jess? She's with Dean now."
Everywhere he went, people were talking about the new Town Couple: Casey and Dean. Didn't they look sweet together? Weren't they just perfect? Yada yada yada. Sometimes it felt like every time he turned a corner, they were there, holding hands or kissing or just sat together, gazing into each other's eyes. He felt like asking someone to pass the bucket. He even caught Dean running his fingers through her hair and felt genuinely sick. It should have been him!
"Your hair's longer."
"I like it. Suits you."
"So, you and Dean, huh?"
"He makes you happy?"
"If you were really happy with him, you wouldn't sound so damn guilty right now."
"We shouldn't be having this conversation, Jess."
"Yeah? Why's that, huh? Was it too much for you to wait for me to come back for you?" he burst out.
"Oh, I'm sorry, was that what you were doing? I must have missed that when I saw you with your tongue stuck down Rory's throat yesterday!"
"What was the point of dumping her when you were too busy with Mister Frankenstein-scowl-bag-boy?!"
"I waited, Jess! But *nothing*! No note, call, wish-you-were-here postcard, smoke signal or even a damn fruit basket!"
"You never contacted me either! How the hell was I supposed to know what was going on with us?!"
"I would've thought it was obvious how I felt about you!"
"So what now?"
"Are you still with Rory?"
hesitated. He couldn't answer.
"Not a difficult question, Jess. Yes or no. Are you still with Rory?"
"Yes," he sighed.
"Then I'm still with Dean and this conversation is over."
The apartment door snapped open and Luke came in, looking flustered.
"Haven't you guys ever heard of keeping it down?" he shouted. "I've got a diner full of people down there who just heard every charming little word you just said!"
"Is…?" Casey started.
"Yeah, he's down there."
Jess' smile was triumphant.
"Don't you go looking so damn pleased with yourself," Luke chided. "Rory's there too."
"Well that was suitably hellish."
"Why *exactly* did you feel the need to open your big mouth?!"
"Me? It's you who was going on about your feelings for me!"
"You're such an arrogant pig sometimes, Jess!"
He could see that she was fighting back laughter because she was nipping at her bottom lip with her teeth-it was so damn cute when she did that, it just wasn't fair!
Eventually her sense of humour won the battle against anger and she burst out laughing.
"That…Was…The…*Worst*…Pig…Impression…I…Have…Ever…Heard!" she choked out between giggles.
"Hey, I never said I was an expert on farm animals!" he laughed, before stepping forward and lacing his fingers in-between hers.
"So," he murmured into her hair. "I'm not with Rory anymore…"
"And I'm not with Dean…"
"So where does that leave us?"
"Well that depends…"
"On what?" he asked, puzzled.
She stood up on her tiptoes and kissed him tentatively.
"Well, I think that clears everything up," he said, smiling.