A big thanks to my beta Broken Daisy. Without her help I never would have started this story...
This is my first attempt at a Gilmore Girls story. I usually write for other fandoms, but have always wanted to try my hand at writing for this show. This is going to be an AU story, but I will try to add canon aspects as it goes on...
I can tell you right now this is not going to be a short story. And for those who do not want to follow something long that's fine if you want to skip this and read something else.
For those who do want to follow it, I really hope you enjoy this chapter.
So, I own nothing, let me know what you think, and thanks for reading
It wasn't the first time Ms. Cadan had to call the cops on the people next to her. The girl, who had to be twenty at the latest, seemed to attract men who were neither good for her nor good for her small son. Twice the police took the little boy from her. He was given back weeks later, after she had gotten clean. Only she never stayed clean. She'd find another junkie, bring him home, and it'd start right back up again.
Tonight was no different. Ms. Cadan was awoken, very early in the morning, by screams and crashes. She sat up, glancing at the wall behind her bed. The shrill sounds of swear words could be heard through the thin walls. Ms. Cadan reached for her phone, grumbling under her breath, only to freeze when two gunshots rang out.
She was stunned for a quarter of a second before-with shaking fingers-she dialed 911.
There were times when Luke Danes wondered why he opened a diner. He didn't like greasy food, he sometimes found people annoying, and it's not like the place was hopping. His place had only been open for about a year, and the town's people were still getting used to the fact the William's Hardware wasn't around anymore.
Of course, it wasn't like he was struggling either. The place did have its regulars but business wasn't exactly ideal. And he knew that usually the first year of any new business was the worst, but he had been hoping he'd hit his stride before the one year marker. Buddy had told him to be patient, but that was kind of hard to do when he was trying to live off this diner.
He poured coffee into Ms. Patty and Babette's mugs; both had their heads together, gossiping about things Luke didn't care about. He walked behind the counter, his new cook ringing a bell as he placed a plate of food down.
Ceaser wasn't the ideal employee, he tended to argue with Luke, but he was a decent enough cook and was willing to work for Luke for a few cents lower than minimum wage. Luke promised to pay him more when business picked up.
"Where's the extra bacon?" Luke asked glancing down at the plate.
"What are you talking about? A new order just came in last night."
"No bacon," Ceaser insisted crossing his arms.
"Ceaser," Luke said in a warning tone.
"Luke, that woman does not need any more bacon," Ceaser pointed out gesturing to a larger woman sitting by the window.
Though Luke silently agreed with him, he had opened the diner to make money not insult his customers, so he kept his comments to himself and said, "She wants extra bacon, give her extra bacon."
"I am not above firing you," Luke growled. He knew Ceaser needed the job; it was the only way could pay for his car.
"If she dies of a heart attack, you better hope the family doesn't sue you," Ceaser relented with a sigh and added two more pieces of bacon. Luke picked up the plate, carrying it over to the woman, setting it down in front of her.
He almost said 'you should try a salad once in a while,' but willed himself to stay silent and moved back toward the counter. He was about to refill Kirk's soda, the thirteen year old always planting himself at Luke's counter-with a comic book-after school, when his phone rang.
He replaced Kirk's glass, moving towards the phone and picking it up, "Luke's?" he expected someone wanting takeout, but was surprised when a voice asked, "Are you Lucas Danes?"
"Yeah," he responded a little testily. He hated when people called him 'Lucas.'
"This is Nurse Quinn from New York Community Hospital…"
Luke's first thought was: Crap, what did Liz do now? If he knew his sister like he did, there was no doubt this was about her. She had wanted to move to New York, she had packed herself and her son up, and she was prone to getting into trouble. Something must have happened to her; unless it was Jess. And if something happened to her son…
He let his eyes ghost around his diner, knowing that if he continued this conversation around these people it would be the talk of the town. So, Luke said," Hold on," and maneuvered around the counter, still wondering just what his sister had done now. The phone line stretched nearly taut, he closed himself into the storage room. "What can I do for you?" Luke questioned sitting down on a bucket.
"Mr. Danes we found your sister and her boyfriend dead, in their apartment," Nurse Quinn said slowly. It felt like his stomach had dropped to somewhere near his feet. "We need you to claim the body."
"How did she…?" Luke asked through numb lips. He was suddenly cold. Why was he so cold? He recalled being warm seconds beforehand.
"The doctor will explain more," the nurse interrupted sounding like she wanted the call to end.
"Hey, my sister just died," Luke argued, anger warming him slightly.
"Sir, this is not the first phone call I've made. Not the first junkie to die. I'm sorry if I don't have sympathy for people like that."
Luke growled, but managed to push his retort away. With some forced calm, he asked, "What about her son? Jess?" Luke hadn't seen Jess in almost two years. Not since the day of his father's funeral, when Liz announced she was packing her and her son up and moving to New York. It wasn't like Luke hadn't tried to go see Jess, he did, but Liz would never stay in one place long enough for him to visit.
"He's fine, a little malnourished, a couple bruises, but otherwise he'll be okay." A couple bruises? What the hell did that mean? "Mr. Danes, we found your number in your sister's purse. We really need you to…"
"I'll be there as soon as I can."
The nurse hung up, the dial tone droning in Luke's ear. He glanced down at the floor, letting his phone fall from his hand. His sister was dead, Liz was dead. A small part of him wasn't surprised, and he hated that part. The rest of him just felt numb. He slowly pushed himself to his feet, walking out of the storage room.
He looked around his diner, at all the people talking and laughing, none of them aware of what had just happened. He knew there was no reason to be angry with any of them, they didn't kill his sister, but all of a sudden he wanted everyone out.
"Out! He shouted, the entire diner going silent. "Everyone out! Out! Out! We're closed!" he pulled his dish towel from his pocket, brandishing it at the closest table. Andrew jumped to his feet, knocking his plate to the floor. He rushed toward the door, the others quickly following. Once the place was cleared out, Ceaser threw him a confused look from the kitchen.
Luke let out a great gust of air. "Take the rest of the day," he said to the younger guy and rushed out of the diner. He had a two hour drive to make.
Luke hated hospitals. They always had a funny smell, sick people were around every corner, and he had watched both his parents die in a hospital. Rarely did anything good ever happen to him in a hospital. He wasn't looking forward to this visit at all.
He parked his truck next to an Oldsmobile but didn't turn the truck off right away. Instead he stared out the windshield, looking past the traffic and buildings. The whole way he had tried to convince himself that it wasn't Liz. He tried to convince himself that perhaps she had left her purse with a friend. A friend who had been the one killed, and maybe she had a little boy, too. But that was wishful thinking on his part; the nurse had said 'claim the body' not 'I.D. the body.'
He turned his truck off, pulling the keys from the ignition. He took a breath before pushing his door open and getting out of the vehicle. Then he locked up his truck, pocketed his keys, and slowly walked toward the entrance.
It took a half an hour until he actually spoke to the head nurse. It took him twenty more minutes for her to actually get a hold of the doctor who pronounced Liz dead. While he was waiting for the doctor, he approached the nurse again.
"Sir, he'll be down here as soon as he's…" she started looking up at him.
"No, do you know where my nephew is? He's three, dark hair, brown eyes…" he was going off what he knew about Jess. He was fairly certain his looks hadn't changed much in two years. He may have gotten slightly taller, most likely spoke more, but it wasn't like he was a new person.
"The little boy brought in with her?" the nurse asked and Luke nodded. "He was with the social worker."
"And where's she?"
"She's…" the nurse trailed off, reaching for her phone, but stopped and nodded behind Luke. "There she is." Luke turned to see a red head walking toward him carrying a small, dark haired boy. He moved toward the woman, his eyes on his nephew. There was no denying Jimmy was Jess' father. They shared the same dark hair and the same dark eyes. There was also a chance Jess probably wouldn't be as tall as Luke when he got older, either.
"Hi," he greeted the woman still looking at Jess, taking in the bruises on his arm and across his face. Luke didn't want to believe his sister could do this, but he knew what she liked to do; he knew the kind of guys she attracted… Wait, strike that; had liked to do; had attracted. She could no longer do those things or attract those people.
"Can I help you, sir?" the woman asked and Luke looked her way.
"He's my nephew," he responded slowly.
"Liz Danes was your sister?" the lady asked carefully. Luke nodded, his mind too preoccupied to get annoyed with the woman for asking something he had already confirmed. She looked toward the nurse, who was just getting off the phone, and said, "Can you confirm he is her brother?"
"I checked his I.D. twice. I'm fairly certain he is Lucas Danes."
The social worker turned her attention back to Luke, unconsciously tightening her hold on Jess, and said, "I would like to discuss your nephew's living arrangements with you."
"Okay," Luke replied.
"Let's go sit over here," the woman said and led Luke over to two seats in the corner, away from the patients waiting for medical attention.
Luke awkwardly sat down, wondering when the woman was going to hand Jess over. It's not like he was some stranger who owned a windowless van; he was his uncle.
"Was the man found with your sister your nephew's father?" The nurse had mentioned a boyfriend. Luke figured he was partially responsible for Jess' bruises. If he wasn't already dead, Luke would have rung his neck.
"No, Jess' father hasn't been in the picture for three years," Luke replied recalling Jimmy going for diapers and conveniently forgetting to return to his wife and newborn son. He was another man Luke wanted to strangle.
"Do you know where we can find him?"
"I honestly don't think he wants a three year old hanging around."
"I see," the social worker muttered. "Is there any other relatives who can take Jess?"
"Our dad died almost two years ago, our mom's been gone for almost two decades. We have an uncle who lives in Florida, but I know he doesn't want any children." Luke was starting to wonder why the woman just didn't ask him to take Jess. He may not like children, but it wasn't like he was going to abandon Jess like everyone else.
"Mr. Danes, we have reason to believe this boy has been physically abused. He would not allow the male EMTs to touch him, barely trusted the female EMT, and took some convincing to let me pick him up."
"What does this…?"
"I know you are wondering why I haven't suggested he go with you, and here's why. I am not sure how ready you are to take care of a child in Jess' situation."
"But he's my nephew."
"And he has been abused by his mother and her boyfriends. Did you know he was taken, twice, from your sister? She managed to get him back, but it was only a matter of time before she failed to do just that. I'm not sure how Jess will respond to being taken by another male, especially if he's scared of being hit again."
"Are you suggesting…?" Luke trailed off. "I would never hit him!"
"But how can I be sure of that?"
Luke could see where the woman was coming from, but it still didn't make him less angry. This was Jess' well-being they were talking about, what was best for Jess; sending him to live in an orphanage, when his uncle was willing to take him, didn't sound like the lady had Jess' best interests at heart.
"Look, I know you think you have Jess' best interest at heart, and this may be selfish, but my sister just died. She was one of the few people I had left. By taking Jess away, by not giving me the chance to raise him, makes me feel like I'm failing Liz somehow.
"And I know, I know, he was abused, he may not trust me, but by not giving me the chance you're pretty much saying he can never learn to trust me; that he can never learn to trust anyone." Luke watched the woman carefully, wondering if she was going to laugh in his face and take Jess anyway. What she did, instead, didn't surprise him that much, but he still didn't like it.
She took a breath, let it out, and said, "I cannot allow you to take Jess home tonight, not without following the proper procedures."
"But…" Luke began to protest
"It's the way things are done, Mr. Danes," the social worker spoke over him. "But I will allow him to sit with you. Is that okay?"
"Yes," Luke agreed after a moments hesitation. Deep down, he knew he wasn't going to sway this lady's decision.
"Okay." With some reluctance, she slowly handed Jess over. At first, the mistrust in Jess' eyes made Luke think the small boy was going to throw a fit. But instead he allowed himself to be taken by Luke, though the older man could feel his nephew quiver slightly.
"Hey, it's okay," he whispered to Jess.
Luke wasn't a kid person; he usually found them sticky, dirty, and annoying, but with Jess it was different. He felt the instant connection. He wanted to protect this little boy no matter what. "I'm your uncle Luke," he continued when the boy's large, brown eyes looked up at him. He gave Jess a smile, wrapped his arms around him, and whispered, "I'll never hurt you. I promise…"