Disclaimer: I own nothing except my own thoughts and ideas!
Wow, it's been quite a while, hasn't it? Sorry about that, I just was busy and not in the mood to write this story. Inspiration oddly struck me today, so I've managed to get out 4,000 plus words for you all.
Hopefully you all like it!
Luke pulled his truck up to Lorelai's, pushing the gear stick into park and turning off the engine. His eyes fell onto the white house that sat in front of him. He stepped out of the car and into the chilly early morning air. Getting up this early was the norm for Luke, but what he planned to do that day was far from what Luke would consider normal. After talking with Jess outside of that lawyer's office, where the kid begged him to find another way to go about getting custody, Luke decided to try just that. And that was why he was standing in front of Lorelai's house near seven in the morning on a Saturday, his mind flashing back to the image of his nephew sleeping soundly on his bed as he quietly snuck out. The kid had had a nightmare earlier that morning, around two, startling both Danes men awake, but Jess had shrugged it off, put on that blank, emotionless mask again, and went back to sleep after having a quick smoke. He was worried about his nephew's constant nightmares, and was definitely going to look into them more later on, but, for now, he'd deal with one massive problem concerning his troubled nephew at a time. Today, it was custody.
He had started his way out of town square before his mind fell back onto that sleeping nephew of his for the first time since he glanced the kid's way before leaving. He realized was leaving the kid without any supervision. Luke was almost afraid to leave his nephew alone. He didn't know what the kid would do, and he wanted to make sure someone had a good eye on him. That's when Lorelai came to mind. Surely, she'd watch over Jess for him for a few hours. He only planned to be gone half the day. He would have told Jess what he had planned to do last night, but he didn't want to bring up Liz or the custody case. Jess had been completely absorbed in a book anyway.
Since Luke lacked a cell phone and was already on the road, he had turned and made a pit stop at her house. The early morning wake up would probably not please the Gilmore, but he needed her to do him this favor. She had insisted that if he needed anything she'd be there, and he needed her now.
Luke made his way across the yard and up the old stairs that led to the front door. When he reached the door, he was hesitant to ring the doorbell, Rory suddenly came to mind. He didn't want to wake the teenage girl up, but, then again, how else was he going to talk to Lorelai? Luke pressed a finger against the button and heard the muffled sound of the ring from behind the door. A few seconds after that, Luke caught onto the faint sound of sluggish footstep gently pounding against the floor as they made their way to the door. He heard a swift clank and watched as the door swung open, revealing a very tired and disheveled Lorelai. She stared at Luke for a second, a little surprised to see the diner owner, before speaking up, "Have you come for an early morning booty call, Luke?" Lorelai jibed with a smile. "I'll have you know that if I haven't had my coffee, I'm pretty much dead."
"I can't believe you're already using sarcasm this early." Luke replied as he crossed his arms. "How are you possibly awake enough to come up with it?"
"Sarcasm is my second language, dear Luke." Lorelai reminded him, still wearing a smile though she looked half asleep. "My mind's just filled with jibes waiting to come out." She paused and leaned against the doorframe. "But, I'll try to keep my flannel and lumberjack comments to myself for now, if it pleases you. Now, what brings you here so early?"
"I'm wondering if you can do me a favor." He started. Lorelai gave a nod, motioning for him to go on. "I need to go somewhere for a few hours and I was wondering if you could check on Jess for me - make sure he's still breathing and all - while I'm gone."
"Of course, Luke." Lorelai replied. "Where are you going? To see that lawyer in Hartford again?"
"No." Luke told her, almost wishing himself that he was going to see that chunky lawyer instead of who he actually planned to visit. "I'm going to New York." A pause. "To talk to Liz."
"Oh." Lorelai replied, expression changing to one Luke couldn't exactly read.
"Jess doesn't want to get the law involved, and I'm hoping that maybe I can convince Liz to just let me keep him." Luke explained, stuffing his hands into his pockets. The kid had been through so much already, and he was hoping that he wouldn't have to put him through the ordeal of family court. Hopefully, his sister would comply.
"You think it'll work?" Lorelai asked, crossing her arms and studying her friend. She felt for him. This situation was very difficult, and she admired him for taking it on. Taking on a teenager was not an easy task, but taking on one like Jess - a very damaged kid - would complicate the matter even more. If she was in Luke's position, she didn't know if she'd be able to handle it - hell, most people would have probably tossed Jess into foster care or sent him away to a hospital, unable to deal with the boy. Luke wasn't like that though. Her friend was a good man, a man who would always put his family first and never toss them aside if the going got too rough.
Luke kept quiet for a second, face not shining much assurance, before giving a shrug of his shoulders.
"I don't know." He answered. "But I've got to at least give it a shot. I'm not too thrilled about going to see her, especially after what she did to Jess. It's going to be hard to keep my temper in check."
"Well, if that temper does make an appearance, add in a few nasty names from me." She told him. "She deserves a lot worse than just a few bad names for what she did to that boy, though." She paused for a brief second, uncrossing her arms and standing up straight. "Don't worry about Jess while you're there though, I'll keep a good watch on him." She gave Luke a small smile. "The kid won't even be able to have a smoke without me glaring down his back, I promise." She raised a hand up. "Scout's honor."
Luke gave a nod, lips forming a small smile as well.
"Thanks, Lorelai." He told her. "I'll call Caesar when I get to New York and tell him to let you up when you come."
Luke decided to keep the diner open that day, leaving Caesar in charge. He had quickly given him a call before he left, alerting him that he would be the one opening at seven thirty. It was a Saturday, one of his best days for business, and hell, Luke was going to need the money if he couldn't convince Liz to let him keep Jess. Lawyers cost a hell of a lot - something he had forgotten.
"So, the diner will be open today." She exclaimed. "Thank God! I was wondering how I was going to feed my daughter this morning. Me and cooking don't really work well on Saturday mornings."
"You and cooking never work well." Luke replied with a roll of his eyes. "The only thing I could imagine you cooking on a Saturday morning is a Pop Tart."
"And it would be a mighty fine Pop Tart, I can assure you." She declared with a smile, pointing a finger his way. "The best damn Pop Tart ever heated in a toaster!"
"I've got to get going." Luke told her seconds later, eyes glancing down at his watch and taking in the time. He wanted to get to New York as quickly as he could. The sooner he was there, the sooner he'd be able to get it over with and start heading back here. He hated cities for one, and this trip wasn't exactly shining any hope of a good time to change his views.
"Go on, then." Lorelai told him, ushering him away with her hands. "Your nephew's in good hands until you return."
Luke started his way back to his car, taking a few steps back as he still faced the Gilmore. "Thanks again, Lorelai. I really appreciate -"
"Luke," She cut the man off with a smile, "it's no problem. Now, get going and give her hell. Make sure that kid stays here permanently, whatever it takes."
Luke nodded and stared at the smiling Lorelai for a few more seconds before swiftly turning on his heels and spotting his car a few feet off. He sped up, determined and ready to get on with his trip. He was going to make sure his nephew stayed with him. He'd protect that kid like he promised himself he would years ago. He would not be letting him down again, he wouldn't stop fighting this time. Like Lorelai said: whatever it takes, he would do it.
Jess had woken up to an empty apartment and the humming of customers in the diner below. Luke had left a note, written in his nearly illegible handwriting, stating that he'd gone out somewhere and he'd be back a bit later. There was the expected reminders to eat and to please, smoke outside. But Jess wasn't going to be taking them into consideration. He had already lit his first cigarette, but he had opened the window to dump his ash. There, that was compromise. Technically, that was outside.
The streets felt quiet, even if there were people about them. Even with the noise downstairs, with the TV on, playing some stupid sitcom at a high volume, things still felt too quiet for him. In New York, there was always cars blaring their horns, sirens blasting down streets. This felt like silence to him, and silence was uncomfortable. He felt like a sore thumb in silence, he stuck out when there wasn't something overtaking him, like a siren or a massive crowd of people to distract wandering eyes from him.
Oh God, he couldn't do this. He couldn't stay here.
He had been thinking about that ever since their trip to Hartford. This wasn't him. Living in a small town, above a diner. Small towns were for happy people. Like on TV. You never saw someone like him in a small town. They were filled with cheery, quirky, smiling neighbors. The eccentric lady who lived next door, the clumsy, comical idiot cop. Smiling, innocent children who had problems along the lines of losing a dog or breaking something of their parents. Who would he be in a small town? Where does someone as screwed up as him fit in?
No, it just doesn't work. He shouldn't be here. It's decided.
He got up from his spot at the window, cigarette still dangling between his lips as he made his way over to the closet and pulled out his duffle bag. It was time to leave. He couldn't take it here, he couldn't stay somewhere that he stuck out. He didn't belong anywhere, but at least in the city it wasn't as noticeable. He was just some kid to most, he wasn't the son of Liz Danes, he didn't feel like such a freak. And making Luke take him in like this? It was wrong. Luke didn't deserve to have to put up with him. Luke was a good man, and Jess, he was just bad. Liz had always told him he was bad, he wasn't Jess anymore. Jess was a good boy, Jess didn't give attitude, Jess loved his mother ... You're not Jess, you're not my son! But he was Jess, and that voice didn't belong to his mother. That voice belonged to whatever thing whispered these evil things to her, placed this thought in her head that he wasn't her son anymore. He hated whatever that voice was, he hated it for what it made Liz do to him. His mother could have been a good mother. He could see it sometimes, he could place her face on any woman from one of those old sitcoms and see his mother being sane, normal, good. If only the voices didn't talk to her, if only she didn't do drugs, if only things had been different for her ...
Jess stuffed articles of clothing into his duffle bag, looking around his messy half of the room to find clean clothes. He took a quick drag from his cigarette, running a hand through his unkempt hair while looking around the room, thinking, planning. He was running, he'd never done that before. But it wouldn't be too hard, right? He had practically been taking care of himself since he was a little kid. He could handle this. He'd borrow some money from Luke for a bus ticket - no, no. He couldn't take Luke's money. That wouldn't be right. He wasn't going to steal from the man, nor would he be his burden. Luke was too good of a guy, this shouldn't be happening to him. It was selfish of him for staying this long anyway, and it was selfish for him to be wanting to stay. He liked Luke, he remembered things being okay for him here when he was a kid, and Luke was the closest thing he had to any type of real parent. But, he was easier when he was a kid. He wasn't damaged goods, he wasn't so screwed up.
He wouldn't be selfish and stay because it felt safe, because he liked his uncle. He wouldn't force his uncle to keep him because he wanted a parent. He had grown up a long time ago, he didn't need a parent anymore. It was already decided. He was leaving. He'd hitchhike to a city, start over there. He'd be okay.
"Planning to bolt already, huh?"
The voice startled him, causing his body to jolt and he quickly turned to the voice, spotting Lorelai Gilmore standing in the door, arms crossed, smiling slightly.
"Did Luke's flannel obsession scare you away?" She asked. "It is a scary thing, isn't it? I mean, all flannel, all the time? It's a little too much."
Jess just stared at her, eyes a little wide, surprised by her sudden appearance. He gripped the strap of his duffle bag, and seconds later turned back to his stuff, starting to stuff books into the near full bag. He didn't care if she caught him, by the time Luke got back he would make sure he was long gone.
After finishing with what he felt he needed, he dropped his bag for a second and tossed his cigarette out the window, grabbing his pack from the windowsill and stuff them in his pocket, along with a paperback in his back pocket. He swiftly grabbed up his duffle bag and picked his leather jacket up off the floor, nearing the door. Lorelai quickly shut it and kept her place in front of it, arms crossed.
Jess went to grab the knob, but Lorelai slid to the side, blocking his hand from the knob.
"Sorry, Jess. But I can't let you leave." She informed him. "Luke would never let me eat here again if I did that, and let me tell you, that would kill me. Literally."
"Move." He hissed seconds later, narrowing his eyes at her. She was pissing him off now. Why was it her business to get involved in this? If he wanted to leave she couldn't stop him. She had no authority over him, she had no fucking right to come in here and block the door.
"Nope." She shook her head, standing her ground.
The two of them stared at each other, both wearing challenging glares, ready for a fight. He was determined to leave, and she was determined to make him stay. One thing Jess didn't know was that Gilmore's were very determined, and once they set their mind to something, they wouldn't stop until they've won.
"You don't understand!" Jess insisted, "I can't stay here!"
"Try me." Lorelai replied, ready to listen and reason with the kid. Luke would kill her if she let him leave, and he was in no way ready to go out on his on. Studying the kid showed her that. He hadn't showered, hadn't combed his hair. She bet he hadn't even ate yet. He needed help, he needed Luke.
"I don't belong here. I don't fit." He told her, hoisting his bag up higher onto his shoulders, eyes off toward the ground. "I won't make Luke take care of me."
"You're not making him, Jess." Lorelai informed him. "He wants to."
Jess let out a snort. "No one wants to take care of someone like me."
"Well, kid, I can assure you, Luke does." She replied. Staring at the kid, she couldn't help but feel sorry for him. He was so down on himself, it was heartbreaking. Had Liz really beaten him down so much? How could a woman who was supposed to be his mother do that to him? She really hoped Luke was giving her a piece of his mind, and she really hoped Liz would do the right thing and give Jess a good home.
"I'm better off on my own." Jess retorted with a shrug.
"Jess, I know -"
"No, you don't know!" He cut her off fiercely, light brown eyes flashing back up to her blue ones. "Don't act like you know anything about me or my life! I know what's best for me, and leaving is the only thing that'll work!"
He hated when people did that; acted like they knew what he was going through, like they knew anything about the living hell he'd been through. People knew nothing, and he planned to keep it that way. The look that this stupid Gilmore was giving him now assured him that he wasn't going to be telling. He already got pitiful looks, and he didn't need to make the pity even worse by exposing his scars.
"You're right, Jess." She suddenly declared, surprising him, causing his eyes to go a little wide. "I don't know anything about you or you life, but I do know this: Luke would do anything for you. He's determined to make things right now, to fix this, tohelp you, and if you stick this out instead of running away, I can promise you things will work out. You'll be okay. Luke will take care of you the way your mother should have."
Jess stayed silent, eyes stuck on some spot on the ground, still clutching his bag with white knuckles. He still wanted to leave, Lorelai could tell that much, but she could tell she was also getting through to him a little. If she kept assuring him that things here would be okay, maybe she could get him to unpack that bag and stay, at least for today.
"How about this," Lorelai started, determined to keep the kid here for just a bit longer. "You stay for a little while, see how things go. Now, I can't keep you from leaving forever, and neither can Luke, so if you don't like the way things are going after a couple weeks, you can leave if you want. But please, Jess, give it a shot. For Luke."
Jess stood silent, contemplating what the older woman had said to him. His grip on the bag began to uncoil, and seconds later he had thrown his bag and jacket back over to his messy side of the apartment.
"For Luke." He mumbled to her, turning his back to her and pulling out a cigarette as he headed over toward the television.
Lorelai's lips grew an accomplished smile as she watched the boy plop back down onto the couch and smoke his cigarette, eyes landing back onto the TV, sucked into the show. She had won the battle, and Jess would be staying - for now, at least. Hopefully, Luke could make sure that it would be permanent.
Luke made his way down the familiar corridor that he had travelled with Jess days prior, remembering the route his nephew had taken him through, leading them to his apartment door. He had remembered the number surprisingly, even though he had only made a quick glance at it. As he reached the door, the smell of piss floating around the hallway finally starting to make his stomach feel a bit sick, he knocked, hoping his sister was home. He knew she was out of jail, and he had come early to make sure he caught her before she could go out, but from what he remembered, his sister rarely went out.
Seconds after his knock the door opened a crack, and Liz's hazel eyes peered out from the filthy apartment. When she spotted him, those eyes got wider, and the crack in the door did the same.
"What the hell are you doing here?" She hissed his way, clearly unhappy to see him at her front door. "I don't want to see you."
She started to slam the door, but Luke's hand quickly went to stop it from shutting, expecting this reaction.
"Liz, we've got to talk about Jess." Luke insisted, the two glaring each other down from the small crack in the door.
She stared for a few seconds more before letting go of the door, allowing Luke to push it open. He followed her into the apartment, watching as she made her way over to the couch. He closed the door behind him, studying his disheveled sister's form. She looked worse than Jess had, which wasn't much of a surprise. Her hair wasn't combed, and she hadn't even gotten dressed yet. She looked much older. She wasn't aging well. His sister used to be so beautiful, but she had taken a hard fall once she was diagnosed.
She suddenly turned around swiftly, an ashtray releasing from her hand and heading straight toward his head.
"You stole him from me!" She screamed at him as Luke quickly dodged, the tray smashing into the wall and denting it, a few pieces of it breaking off.
"He's my son Luke, why do you keep taking him from me!" She was furious, temper out of control, and she was clearly off her meds, as Luke had suspected. God, why couldn't his sister take her pills, for Jess' sake? He hated seeing her like this. He loved his sister to death, and it was painful to see her so screwed up.
"You know, they warned me you would do this one day." She told him, letting out a sick laugh. "They told me to you'd try to take him back. That's why I never told you where we were. I kept us hidden."
"They aren't real, Liz!" Luke reminded her. The voices told her a lot of things, and he hated those voices as much as Jess did. His sister wasn't his sister when the voices took over. "You tried to kill him, and you almost succeeded. Thank God you didn't."
"I didn't want to kill him! I didn't mean for that to happen." She insisted, voice going down a few notches in volume. She went silent for a seconds, taking a seat down on the couch, reaching out for her pack of cigarettes. She was calming down, thankfully.
"Luke," she started again, seconds later. "You have to understand, I don't mean to hurt him, I really don't. It's just-"
"I know you don't." Luke let out a sigh and sat down next to Liz on the couch. She was acting like his sister again, the sister he had taken care of for so many years, the little sister he always vowed to protect. He couldn't bare to hate her when she was like this. He could hate the voices, he could hate the fact she never liked to take her meds, but God, he couldn't hate Liz. He wanted to, and at times, he felt like he did, but she was his sister. How could he ever truly hate her?
"Why did you stop taking the medication?" Luke asked her as she lit her cigarette. "It helped."
"It made me feel like crap, too." She informed him, taking a drag. "And it made me feel crazy. Reminded me that I am crazy."
"Liz, you've got to start taking the pills again. You've got to get this under control again." He told her, receiving a nod in reply from his sister. "You've got to worry about yourself right now, you need to worry about getting better. Just, let me take care of Jess. Don't make us go to court for this. This is tearing him apart already without that. Just, let me keep him."
"No." Liz shook her head, temper beginning to rise again. "He's my kid, Luke! If you want a kid so bad go have your own, but he's mine!" She paused, inhaling quick and exhaling a cloud of smoke. "I can get better and take care of him. It's my job. And besides, he's all I've got, Luke, and I can't be alone. He's the only one who stays with me."
"Fine." Luke let out a sigh and rose from his seat, staring down at his sister. "I'll fight for him then. If you're going to really do this, I'll make sure he'll never you see again. I don't trust you with him, Liz. I never will again."
"Stop messing with my life, Luke!" Liz shouted, rising up from the couch as Luke began to walk away. "I don't need my big brother anymore! He's my son! My baby! I'll never let you have him!"
Luke didn't respond, didn't even look back. He slammed the door swiftly behind him and started his way down the hallway, ready more than ever to get back to Stars Hollow, and to Jess.
Thanks you all so much for reading, and I hope you review!
I don't know when the next update will be, to be honest, but I will try to continue, I promise!:)
Thanks again for reading!