Summary: Say Goodnight, Gracie rewrite. After Jimmy storms out of the diner, Rory gathers the courage to talk to Jess. They make up (and not only that), but Jess's life is still quite a mess and there is a lot up to Luke...
A/N: This scenario has been begging me to be written. I'm not sure yet whether this will be two chapters long or if I'm going to continue with this into season 4 timeline, so I would really appreciate if you would review and let me know what you think.
Disclaimer: I don't own the Gilmores! I swear! Convincing enough? I borrowed a part of the dialogue from the show too.
Lorelai was exhausted, which made it pretty easy for Rory to tell her mother that she had to deal with something and she'd see her at home, probably in the morning.
It was getting late and the town square was emptying. There seemed to be something foreboding in the air that evening. Foreboding what, she didn't know. Rory crossed the empty town square, listening to the distant sounds of someone's fast steps, a TV playing in a house across the street. She wasn't scared, she was never really scared in this town. But something was off, she could feel it.
The feeling intensified when she saw the diner door wide open though the lights were off. She looked around but Luke was not in sight, neither was his truck. The windows of the apartment were dark. She peeked in through the door to see Jess sitting at a table in the middle of the diner, his face buried in his crossed arms on the table.
She stopped for a moment, pondering on whether she should just go in or keep avoiding him but that limbo they seemed to be in was driving her crazy for the past two days so finally she gathered her courage and climbed the two steps, entering the diner.
"Hey," came a muffled reply but he didn't move.
He shrugged. He looked so... distant. As well as small and vulnerable, even though she couldn't see his face. Her heart melted a little at the sight of him like that. She'd never seen Jess vulnerable. Throughout the months they've been dating, she discovered that underneath his tough exterior he could be sweet, cute even, always denying it of course, but showing weakness was entirely un-Jess Mariano. Yet here he was, looking like that, making it impossible for Rory to stay angry at him for what happened in Kyle's bedroom, for the fight with Dean, for walking away without talking to her. It worried her. She wanted to know what exactly was going on in that stubborn head of his because the only thing that she could tell on her own was that something was wrong with him. She walked over to him slowly and put a hand in his hair, toying with his dark curls, fighting her instincts to ask him a million questions, demand answers instantly and instead trying to give him time to speak on his own.
"Rory?" he mumbled finally, his face still hidden. She didn't stop fumbling with his hair.
"Yeah?" She held her breath, waiting for him to speak.
"I love you."
That, she didn't see coming. She stiffened and complete silence surrounded them, except for the pounding of her heart and his seemingly shaky breathing.
"I need coffee," she said very weakly and reached out for a half-full cup that stood on the table next to Jess's elbow.
He finally lifted up his head, sensing what she was doing. "Wait, that's Jimmy's!"
She gave him a confused look, their eyes meeting for the first time. "Jimmy's?"
"I just... had a surprise visitor," he explained wearily.
"Some... friend from New York?"
He exhaled deeply. "My poor excuse for a father showed up," he answered, and however hard he tried to hide it, she heard his voice break a little.
She wasn't capable of saying more and neither was he, as he got up, leaned against the counter and shoved his hands into his pockets. They spent minutes like that, him looking down at his shoes, her looking at him. "Jess, I need you to talk to me," she whispered eventually.
He looked up at her with a pained expression. "I'm a fucking loser, Rory." She shook her head slowly. "I am. That's my genetic code. My father decided to see me for the first time in what, eighteen years, told me I look different and stormed out. And you know what the even greater part is? Luke knew," he spit out angrily. "He went to see Jimmy last night but didn't feel like telling me that my daddy's in town."
"He probably tried to protect you," she reasoned.
"I don't need him to protect me!" It came out harsher than he intended and they fell into tense silence again, full of questions and bad news still to be announced. "I'm sorry for the Kyle's bedroom thing," he said, hiding his face in his hands. "I was a complete jerk."
"You were in a funk all night," she stated.
"Still doesn't give me an excuse."
She waited for him to elaborate but he didn't. She was about to yell at him because of how frustrated she was getting but she realised that he didn't need that. "Well?" she only asked. He didn't answer and she couldn't take it anymore. "Jess," she cried desperately, "usually your Mr. Monosyllable act is quite endearing but now it's just driving be crazy! You don't trust me, is that it?"
"Then what is it?"
"It's embarrassing," he said, running his hand through his unruly hair.
"Jess, say it," she urged through gritted teeth. "Say it or I'm out of here."
"I'm... I'm not graduating."
"I'm not graduating," he repeated. "I missed out on too many classes. It's just -" he groaned, "bureaucracy. I could still catch up and pass all my finals but Merton wouldn't let me. Unless I do the whole year all over again."
She looked at him with her hand over her forehead, trying to process. "Did you tell Luke yet?" she asked quietly.
"Nah. I wanted to tell him tonight but there's this whole new honesty thing we're trying," he remarked cynically.
"You should tell him."
Jess grimaced. "I will. It can't be as hard as telling you anyway."
He exhaled deeply but shakily. He did his part. He told her all the important stuff that was bothering him right at that moment. It was her turn, so she took a few tentative steps towards him and wrapped her arms around him. He didn't expect that so it took him a couple of seconds to reciprocate the embrace and rest his chin on her temple.
"So... about that first thing you said to me when I came in..." she started.
His entire body seemingly tensed up at that. "Right. My timing sucks and it came out as the lamest 'I love you' ever," he nodded self-deprecatingly, his hand nervously running up and down her arm.
She looked up at him, her eyes suddenly shining from the realisation that he really meant it. "No," she shook her head, offering him a small smile, "although I am slightly jealous of that table because it heard it before me... I just... I love you too, Jess," she breathed into his neck.
She loved that look in his eyes. Like he couldn't believe how lucky he was. There was something pure and innocent about it, despite the fact that he certainly wasn't the poster child for innocence, that look in his eyes made her feel like she was the only person in the world. She couldn't doubt his words when he had that look in his eyes.
They neared each other sheepishly, as if they had never kissed before. There was something new in this kiss, a promise, an intensity and tenderness that both of them were wary to release before, scared of pushing the other away with it.
When they pulled away, their fingers interlocked, he slid to the floor to sit against the counter and pulled her with him. She smiled at him and he couldn't help but wonder how this girl was able to make him feel so safe with a simple smile. He rested his head on her shoulder, at which her smile grew even brighter.
"How are you taking this so calmly?" he asked. "As if it wasn't bad enough that the town princess is with the town... hoodlum, or whatever they call me, now I'm also a high-school drop-out. You sure you don't wanna dump me?" His tone was only half-serious but the question was real.
"I'm sure, silly," she answered with a pout and cuddled closer to him.
He tilted his head to look her in the eye. "I hate that you're seeing me like this," he said solemnly.
"I don't," she assured. "I mean... I hate to see you in this situation but I want to be here through the bad stuff too, Jess." He looked at her for a moment and moved in to kiss her again, pulling her closer by the waist. The kiss lasted long enough for her to make an important decision. "Hey, where is Luke, anyway?" she asked, trying to sound cool.
"He went to see some Broadway musical with Nicole again."
"Will he be back tonight?"
"Really late, why?"
She hesitated for a moment, choosing the correct wording for the next question. "You wanna... go upstairs?" If the diner wasn't almost dark, he would have seen her blush.
Of all people, he was the one who knew that she wasn't quite as innocent as everyone thought she was. He liked that, he liked knowing that he had an effect on her, that he challenged her on many different levels. But Rory Gilmore basically propositioning him – that must have been his wishful thinking. After all, going upstairs to an empty, dark apartment could be completely innocent.
His eyes met hers uncertainly, searching for some clues.
"You mean..." he trailed off, briefly questioning since when did Jess Mariano get sheepish at the mention of sex.
She nodded in response.
"Rory, I don't want this to happen because you feel sorry for me." And he certainly didn't say that he loved her in order to get her to bed. He hoped she knew that.
God, he was becoming a such a freaking puddle of goo tonight. There, Gilmore, pleased with yourself?
"That's not why, Jess," she said, squeezing his hand. "Look at us, being all grown up and discussing stuff," she gave him a small smile as he stood up and extended his hand to her to help her get up. He kissed her immediately to mask the flood of different feelings that took over him.
His focus instantly shifted from the argument whether this was right or wrong to Rory, the way her arms were wrapped around his neck, her whole body flush against him. When their lips parted, she pulled him lightly in the direction of the curtain.
"You're sure Luke's not coming home yet?"
He looked at his watch. "The show is only starting right about now."
The walk up the stairs was a torture. For both of them. It was full of delicious anticipation but also nervousness that was familiar to Rory, as she felt it many times when she was near him, but new to Jess. He was scared, and despite his honest effort, there was no other way to call it. He had been with girls before, but he was never that nervous, not even before his own first time. With Rory, as much as he wanted to be with her, he was afraid that this would change her somehow.
He didn't want to change her. He only wanted to bring out the real Rory out of the shell of the small town princess.
As soon as he locked the door of the apartment behind them, he drew her close and tucked her hair behind her ear. "Rory, it still doesn't have to go any further, okay? Just say-" She didn't answer him, only sneaked her hands under his shirt. He smirked for the first time that evening. "As you wish, Miss Gilmore."
"So that's what all the fuss is about," she murmured against his shoulder as they lay tangled together in his bed. He only chuckled and she looked up at him. "Jess?"
"Why were you scared?"
Shit. He hoped she wouldn't notice. "Because it's you," he answered simply.
"Oh." She hid her face in the crook of his neck. "I love you."
He couldn't help but grin. "You told me that already."
"Does it get old?"
"Nope," he said and kissed the tip of her nose which brought a happy smile to her face. She kissed him fully and wrapped her arms around his neck as he hovered above her.
"Jess... I need to go home."
He sighed. She had succeeded in making him forget about everything else. Jimmy. Luke. School. Being a disappointment. Now it was coming back to him and he was beginning to feel like shit again, despite Rory Gilmore telling him 'I love you' whilst lying in his bed. Naked.
"Are you mad at me?"
"Does it look like I'm mad at you?" she answered with a question.
"Well, you really did want to go to the prom."
"We can go to Chilton prom."
"We can?" he inquired.
"And when we get tired of all the high society brats, can we make out in the teachers' bathroom?" he smirked.
"That may be hard to arrange, I hear that's a pretty elite spot and reservations for it sell out way before the prom tickets." He pouted and she laughed. "Turn around, I need to dress."
His eyebrows raised, smirk in place, no clothing. No time. Dammit. "Jess! Turn!"
"Okay, okay," he turned and started getting dressed himself. He was done in time to watch her pull her shirt on and his mouth went dry, regardless of the fact that it was a mere visual.
She caught his hand and pecked him on the lips. "I'll see you tomorrow."
"You're going somewhere without me?" he questioned.
"Home," she answered. He pulled her towards the apartment door. "You're walking me home?" she asked, grinning.
"It's after midnight."
"Aw, that's so sweet!" she gushed and he gave her a dirty look. "But you should stay. I need quiet time to think about how I should tell my mom anyway."
"Ouch," he winced.
"Yeah... You're still walking with me," she stated as they exited the diner.
"You're still talking instead of thinking."
"Okay. Thinking now."
She did try to think about Lorelai and how to tell her about the evening, but with Jess's arm tightly around her waist it wasn't particularly easy.
"Got any genius ideas yet?" he asked as they stopped on the front porch of her house.
"Not yet," she said.
"Call if you need reinforcements, okay? I can't sink any lower in Lorelai's books anyway."
She bit her lip and looked him straight in the eye. "You're gonna be okay? With school and your dad and all?"
He shrugged, trying to appear careless. "I guess."
"Okay. We'll... talk... tomorrow."
"Today," he corrected.
And after one final kiss, she disappeared inside the house.
He walked back into the apartment and his eyes fell on his bed instantly. It was made, more or less, but the memories weren't erased because of that. Just as he was about to lose himself in thoughts of Rory again, the apartment door opened and Luke walked in confidently. It made Jess's blood boil, as he remembered the earlier part of the night.
"What are you still doing up?" Luke asked at the sight of his nephew.
"Waiting for you to have a little heart-to-heart," Jess answered with a scowl on his face.
"Oh yes, we haven't had one of those in a while."
To stall or not to stall – that is the question. "So I hear you went to see my father last night."
Luke froze and sighed. Although he insisted that the secret of parenting was to visualise the reality you want and then, if necessary, lie to bring it about, he somehow sensed that it wouldn't work in this particular instance. "Yeah, I did."
"Were you gonna tell me?"
"He came by," he said casually, avoiding Jess's eyes that seemed like they had the power to kill.
"He came by?"
"I didn't think he'd have the guts."
"So what were you thinking?"
"Jess, I don't like your father very much."
Well, neither did Jess himself. Still. "So because you don't like him, that means I can't know he's here?"
"You know he's here."
"No thanks to you!"
"Shouldn't have come from me in the first place."
"So what, you don't think you owed it to me to tell me, prepare me?"
"No, Jess, I didn't. With everything that's going on here with you, I kinda hoped he'd just walk away, but. . .once again, Jimmy makes the wrong move. What a shock."
Luke being judgemental made Jess's resolve to try and stay calm crumble. Considering all the events of the evening, he was holding up for a long time anyway. "Oh, who the hell are you to decide what the right move is?"
"I'm the one who's saving your ass constantly. I'm the one who just wrote a check to Kyle's father so he wouldn't press charges against you. I'm the one trying to knock some sense into that thick head of yours about the future."
"Oh, here we go."
"You don't take anything seriously," Luke yelled and Jess just stood there, putting his hands in his pockets, unable to deny that. "That's why you're doing so crappy in school. You're smart enough, you read more than anyone I've ever seen. There's no reason why you should be barely graduating."
Deep breath. "I'm not."
"You're not what?"
"I'm not graduating!"
"Yes, you are!"
"No, I'm not."
"Yes, you are!"
"No, I'm not!" This was getting kind of old.
"Yes, you are, because we had an agreement that if you were gonna live here, you were gonna go to school and you were gonna graduate!"
"Well, I didn't and I'm not."
"What is wrong with you? What, did you do this just to spite me?"
"Look, forget it, it's done." He knew full well that he screwed that one up, he really didn't need Luke repeating it.
"What's your life now? Wal-Mart full time, that's your great future? Gonna take the plunge and buy yourself a second blue vest?"
"Maybe, why not? What's wrong with it? I mean, it's no diner."
"Hey, I own this business, kid! I built it, this is mine! I'm not at the mercy of some boss waiting and hoping to be chosen employee of the month for a couple extra hundred bucks and a plaque. I'm always employee of the month. I'm employee of the year, of the century, of the universe. You should be so lucky to have a job like mine. Okay, here's what we're gonna do. You're gonna live here one more year, you're gonna quit your job, you're gonna take twelfth grade over again, and you will graduate."
"No." He didn't give it that much thought, 'no' just seemed like the right answer. And when he did think about it... another year of school would be hell indeed.
"I'm not playing with you here, Jess. You quit your job, you go to school," Luke sounded surprisingly authoritative.
"I am not going back to school!"
"So that's it?"
"Yeah, that's it."
"Then you gotta go."