AN: Takes place during Lorelai's Graduation Day, starting when Rory gets to New York, AU/What if type thing… probably been done before (and the "Jess is abused" definately has been, I've read several amazing stories), I can't remember seeing any for this specific episode…but either way, this is my take. I know nothing about New York. I have never been there – so please don't complain that "this story doesn't make sense with the actual layout of Washington Square Park, or New York," or anything like that. I also have no idea how long it's been since Jess left. I'm saying around just under three weeks. I know nothing about medical stuff, if it's off (which it probably is), I'm sorry.
Disclaimer for all chapters: Anything you recognize, I don't own – Gilmore Girls, any dialogue from the show, any franchise, brand name, etc. Don't sue me. I'm broke.
Warning: deals with abuse.
When Rory finally found Washington Square Park, she realized how ridiculous it was for her to have assumed she could get there and find Jess right away. The park was huge. And not only that, she realized, but she had no way of knowing that Jess would even be there. He had been there when he had called her, but he obviously didn't live there. He surely had other places he visited – not to mention wherever he lived, where he probably spent most of his time. She spent the better part of the day wandering along the park's paths, checking benches, popular areas, stores just beyond the perimeter of the park… She finally sat down, exhausted, on a bench close to where she had started her search, in the corner of the park that was closest to the Port Authority Bus Terminal, where she had walked from. She was starting to regret coming at all, despite the ache inside of her that dearly missed her friend, that regretted the way things had been when he had left Stars Hollow, that desperately needed to somehow make things right, to fix a wrong she didn't even really fully understand – a wrong that needed to be fixed with enough time to get her back to Stars Hollow for her mother's graduation.
She rubbed at her eyes with the heels of her palms, trying to ignore the growl of her stomach as it protested its neglect. It was nearing two in the afternoon, and she hadn't eaten anything since breakfast.
She stood up, picked up her bag, and had just started walking with the intention of leaving the park to find somewhere to eat, when she caught a glimpse of a familiar figure, walking, head down, hand stuffed in his jacket pocket. But it was New York, she reminded herself, population over-18 million. There was bound to be someone out there who dressed and walked like him. But the hair was the right colour too; he was the same height, of similar build… but she could see a cast on one of the person's arms. Jess hadn't broken his arm that she knew of – so it couldn't be.
Still, she couldn't ignore the nagging feeling at the back of her mind that it was Jess. She stood still, watching as he walked over to one of the benches across from the one she had been sitting at, and sat down, curly bangs obscuring his eyes (Jess gels his hair, she reminded herself), still staring at the ground as he pulled out a book from his back pocket, and, opening it, started to read. And that was it – her mind made up, she made her way slightly closer to him, becoming more and more sure, as the distance between them closed, and his features became more clear, that it was, in fact, Jess.
When had Jess gotten a cast?
"Jess?" she asked, tentatively, quietly. She was sure it was him by then, but he made no motion to indicate that he had heard her. "Jess?" she tried again, this time louder and more insistently.
He finally looked up, and her eyes widened at the sight of his face. One of his eyes was swollen shut, bruising spreading across his right cheek, and up, around his face, disappearing under his hair. There was a still-healing scrape across his chin, angry and red against the pallor of the rest of his face. He didn't say anything, just stared at her, mouth slightly open, apparently searching for the right words to say – or any words to say, really. She could see he was tensed, ready to bolt, but she slowly made her way up to him, sitting down on the bench beside him, putting a gentle hand on his uninjured arm.
It was a strange mirror image – her broken left arm, her right arm on his, his broken arm curled in to his chest, much like hers was, only his was in a sling. She stared down at their two pairs of knees, unsure what to say.
However, when she did open her mouth, she wished that she was still lingering in uncertainty, for the words that she said were quite possibly the last ones she wanted to say at that moment.
"Who'd you get in a fight with?" She cringed as soon as she heard herself say them, and looked away from him guiltily. "I'm sorry, I…"
"I fell down some stairs."
She felt even worse then, but all she could get out was a short "Oh."
What he didn't tell her was that he hadn't fallen down stairs so much as been pushed down them, and that the stairs certainly hadn't produced a fist to throw at his eye, or grown hands that wrenched at his arm, pulling him around to collide with the wall, his head banging loudly and painfully. The stairs also hadn't put those hands around his neck, tightening dangerously until a well-placed kick to the stomach gave him temporary reprieve, leaving him to stumble through his blurred vision for the stairs of the apartment building, only to find himself being pushed roughly till he fell, tumbling down in a haze of pain, unsure what part of the pounding was his limp body hitting stair after stair, and what part was his head, throbbing in itself as his brain screamed from both past and present agony.
But he didn't tell her any of it.
Instead, he slowly stood up, shoving his book back in his pocket, gave her a half-hearted smile, and asked her if she was hungry.
They made their way down the street, neither saying a word, toward a nearby hotdog stand, and, each buying one, went back to the park and sat down on one of the benches. Rory watched as Jess carefully ate his one-handed, his broken arm still held close to his body in a sling. She wanted to ask him more about it – when had it happened, was he ok? Sitting next to him, taking the time to get a good look at him, she could decisively say he looked terrible. He was thinner. She didn't know why she hadn't noticed before, but he definitely looked like he had lost weight – even though he hadn't had any to lose in the first place. She supposed it wasn't completely obvious on first glance because of his jacket, but she still berated herself for not noticing earlier that more was wrong with him. His face was pale, and he looked exhausted, worn out – not to mention all the bruises, and the obviously broken arm. He had always been quiet, but she wondered if maybe he was being quieter than usual. She couldn't tell – it had been almost three weeks since she had last seen him.
"Are you ok?" She looked up at him in shock. He was the one who looked like he was ready to pass out, and he was asking her if she was ok? "Your arm?" His voice was nervous, even though he was trying to keep it even. She could see there was misery in his eyes, and she didn't know how to get rid of it. He needed to know that it wasn't his fault – he had to. But then she realized that Jess was probably the kind of person who would blame himself forever for something like that, whether he deserved the blame or not. "Rory?" He was sounding worried by then, so she hastened to reassure him.
"It's fine. Just a tiny hairline fracture, it doesn't even hurt. I'm getting the cast off the day after tomorrow." She looked down at his arm, realizing he hadn't once moved it from its position. She was free to move her arm as she liked, the cast being more of an annoyance at that point than anything. "What about yours?" He looked slightly surprised that she was asking, and hesitated before answering.
"It's fine." She frowned slightly.
"When did you get it?" He hesitated again, thinking.
"Five days ago."
"When is it coming off?"
"In a while."
"Jess…" When he didn't answer, she asked again, more insistently. "How long?"
"A month or two. Closer to two. Maybe more." She looked surprised. It must have been a bad break.
"What kind of break?" He looked nervous at that, which made her own worry grow. "Jess?"
"Compound fracture," he mumbled.
"What? Jess, but that means…"
"The bone popped out, yeah, I know. My arm, Rory." She ignored the slightly biting tone to his voice. He defended himself with harsh words – she knew that. In fact, she was one of two people in the entirety of Stars Hollow who really did know that. Everyone else wrote him off as heartless and rude and cruel – but she knew otherwise. And she knew that Luke did too.
"But it means months and months of therapy, Jess! Your arm won't be the same for a long time, and…" He turned away from her just slightly, a frown marring his features, and she realized that he knew that too. "Sorry, you already know." He nodded almost imperceptibly. He knew that he would need therapy. He also knew that his mother would never pay for therapy. She was jobless and broke, living (and drinking, among other things) off the meagre income of her latest boyfriend, who had moved in with her. Her latest boyfriend, who was, at the bottom of it all, the cause of every hurt he had had to bear since he had come back to New York. He refused to acknowledge the ache that festered inside him with the knowledge that his mother had once again gone off with another man who would hurt her, that his mother was still drinking, still getting high… that his mother still couldn't bring herself to really care for him. All his physical hurts, though, could be credited to the new guy – Jim. He was taller than the Jim of four years ago, but thinner. He had hair the same colour of Fred from two years ago, a long nose like Joe from when he was eleven, dark eyes under heavy brows just like Paul of five years ago, and had a love for drowning in alcohol and whatever else he could get his hands on, and a penchant for violence like every other Jim and Fred and Joe and Paul and Greg and Anthony and Randy and Russell and Brad and Ralph that Jess could ever remember his mother bringing home. And he was sure that they all shared a mutual hatred of him.
He was pulled out of his thoughts by Rory's voice – "Can we see your house?" All of his shutters went up at then, all of his defences, as the brusqueness that he usually reserved for those that hated him, that he hated in return, (although it could be said that it was the other, less rough side of him that was reserved, as it was much less used) came out in full force.
"Why not? Come on, Jess…" she looked at him pleadingly, but he was having none of it.
"I'm sure it's not that bad, Jess… I don't care if it's messy, or anything, I just want to see where you live, learn a bit about your life, and…" he cut her off.
"No. Go home, Rory." She looked hurt, so he softened his voice a fraction. "Don't you have your mom's graduation to get to?" She was still frowning at him, disappointment in her eyes, but she stood up, nodding, gathered her things, and set off in the direction of the bus terminal.
He didn't follow her.