On the Road

"I need your help."

Rory couldn't believe it. A minute ago she was watching The Brady Bunch on late night television, quietly chuckling at the clichés, when the doorbell rang. She had opened it to find Jess, dripping with rain and looking grim. He had a panicky look in his eyes and it looked like he had been crying.

"What is it? What's wrong? What did you do? Does Luke know you're here?" A torrent of questions burst out of her.

Jess hid his pleasure that Rory was concerned, but he just needed to explain. "No-one knows I'm here. I did something awful, Rory. Where's Lorelai?" he said as he came inside.

"She's at business class. What did you do?" Rory repeated her question. But Jess stayed silent and lowered his head. She didn't want to push him so she asked, "Do you want some coffee?"

Jess smiled. How like Rory, he thought. In England, the solution to life's problem is tea; in the Gilmore household, it's coffee. Jess nodded his head, and his eyes followed Rory as she moved towards the kitchen. He removed his jacket - it felt cold and was soaking wet. After throwing it on the heater, Jess watched a trickle of water cascade from it onto the floor. Feeling too tired to move any longer, he collapsed onto the couch, and winced at the squelching noise he made as he sat.





Rory paced around in the kitchen. What on earth could Jess have done that was troubling him this much? He'd done bad things before, but they never hurt anyone and he always was very tongue-in-cheek about his pranks. So what could have upset him so much? She poked her head around the corner into the living room. There he sat, and though she couldn't see his face, she could tell he was disturbed. She turned back into the kitchen and her back hit the wall. She let out a small groan and started to slide to the floor when the coffee maker started making a whistling noise. It sounded very, very wrong.



Jess heard the noise from where he was and got up. His shirt was sticking to him at the back from the rain, and he didn't really want Rory to see him looking so ridiculous, but he ran to the kitchen all the same. Rory was trying, in vain, to calm the coffee maker down.

"Susie, don't do this to me now!" The machine had a mind of its own, and if Jess hadn't been worried, he would have been greatly amused. Rory was wrapped up in 'Susie's' cords, and the crazy coffee maker looked as if it was tap-dancing. He held back his grin and, forgetting why he was there, he ran to the wall to unplug the wild appliance. Jess took the hysterical Rory in his arms and tried to pacify her. He let go as soon as he heard a strange muffled giggle coming from the girl in his arms. "The coffee machine… Susie… out of control…" Rory crumpled to the floor with embarrassed laughter.



Jess smiled and prepared to say it, what he had been dreading and longing to say ever since he arrived. "Come away with me."

"What?"

"I need to get out of here for a while. I can't be near Stars Hollow. The people will calm down eventually, but I need to go."

Rory suddenly remembered why Jess was in her house. Well, she thought, at least that ruled out murder. The people will calm down. What had he done?

"Jess, I can't go. I have school, I have friends here, and I have responsibilities." Rory said sadly. An adventure would be what she needed right now. "I have a boyfriend," she added.

Jess looked unfazed. "Please, Rory, you're the only friend I have. You're the only person I felt I could turn to."

Rory sighed. "Leaving home is not a good idea. Remember, my mom has no coffee now…" Rory joked.

"She can go to the diner. Give her another excuse to visit Luke."

"What?"

"Nothing."

Rory smiled, but inside she was torn. She knew that Dean would be crazily jealous, and that it might mean the end. But seeing Jess in this state, she couldn't help but agree.

"I promise it'll be worth your while."



Rory and Jess sat in the car. Rory still wanted to know what he'd done, but every time she asked, Jess became eerily silent and subdued. He'd grasp the steering wheel and stare at the road with immense concentration.

"Where are we going?" she asked, trying to break the awkward silence.

Jess shrugged and continued to drive.

"You don't know? You dragged me out of my house at 11pm while I was watching the Brady Bunch, and you had no idea where you were going to take me?"

"You were watching the Brady Bunch?"

"Be serious, Jess. This is important. Make your mind up now, or I'm taking the wheel and driving back to my house."

Jess liked that idea – Rory would then be so close he could kiss her forehead, but he tried to steer clear of the subject.

"Who's your favourite character? I always liked Peter…"

Rory sighed in exasperation and turned to look out of the car window. "Jess, stop!" He put on the brakes and went skidding into the side of the road. After recovering from the shock, he got out of the car and looked his right.

A motel.





"Hi, we'd like a room for two please." Rory nudged Jess in the small of his back. "Excuse us for a second. What?" he said as she dragged him away.

"Jess, how much money do you have?"

"Not enough for two separate rooms."

Rory murmured something inaudible while Jess returned to the desk. "A room for two."

"Yes, I remember," the receptionist said snidely. His badge said he was called Chadwick. "And how many beds?"

"One." Rory nudged him again. "Two."

"Ah. Having some relationship trouble, are we?" Chadwick remarked. "Well, that will be thirty dollars for the night. Minibar?"

"Yes."

"You do know there's 280 calories in a Snicker's bar?" Rory smiled. This man reminded her of Michel. All that was missing was the daft french accent.

"We'll have a minibar anyway, thanks." Jess turned to Rory while the receptionist dealt with their room, and smiled. It was a nice thought, sharing a room with Rory. Rory was staring at Chadwick's nametag.

"Are you really called Chadwick?"

No answer.

"Do people call you Chad?"

Still no answer.

"Can I call you Chad?"

"No you may not call me Chad," he said as he handed Jess the receipt, "Nor has anyone ever called me Chad. It has always been Chadwick." He turned to Jess. "You may leave as early as you like, sir, but we ask that, if you are not staying tomorrow night, you do so before three in the afternoon. The ice machine is on the second floor and a newspaper will be delivered at six. Have a pleasant stay, sir, and good luck with your girlfriend," Chadwick said sarcastically.

Jess didn't bother to correct him.





Lorelai grabbed her purse and, Starbucks in hand, slammed the car door. All lights were off. Good, she thought, Rory's asleep. She fumbled through her keys and finally opened the front door. Looking down, she saw damp dirty footprints on the floor. Odd, she thought. Rory said she was staying in tonight. She threw her bag lazily on the table, knocking the phone of the hook.

"No-one will call anyway," she said sleepily to herself, and fell backwards onto the sofa. She only lay for a few seconds when she felt moistness soaking through her shirt onto her back. Disgusted, she jumped up, and stared at the couch where she had sat. Something was definitely wrong.

"Rory?" Lorelai stumbled up the stairs, flipping on every light switch on the way. "Rory? Are you awake?"

She burst into Rory's room, and found it a mess, and there was no teenager under the covers of her snug bed. "Oh god…" Lorelai said, picked up the phone, and dialled.

"Luke?"





As Rory walked into the elevator, she suddenly realised that they hadn't planned this whole trip out completely. She had one small bag, with one change of clothes. Though she hoped she wouldn't need any more, the look on Jess's face when she first saw him tonight convinced her otherwise.

"What's wrong?" Jess said, noticing the look of concern on Rory's face.

"It's just… how long are we going to stay here? I only have one change of clothes and no pyjamas…" Jess smiled. "Really, Jess, what did you do?"

"I'll tell you when I'm ready."





"Luke she's gone."

"Who?"

Lorelai was in hysterics. "She's gone, she's gone, and I have no coffee!"

"Susie's gone?"

"Rory's gone! She's not here! Why does she always do this?" Luke was getting worried. Rory had run away before, but he had never heard Lorelai as upset as she was now.

"I'm coming over."

"Luke, she's gone." She broke down in tears.





Jess, knowing that having a bag would be nice, and knowing that he couldn't have had one, curiously watched Rory unpack her things.

"Um, Rory?"

"What?" Rory was agitated. After seeing the shower they were provided with, Rory's fears about the trip had been confirmed.

"Why are you unpacking?"

"Because I packed. You said we were leaving and I packed. Now I am unpacking. Make sense?" Though Jess knew she was angry with him, he couldn't help smiling.

"But we're leaving tomorrow. If you unpack, you'll have to pack again."

"Well, what would you do?"

"Tomorrow, when I needed to, I would get out my clothes. I'd take the clothes I was wearing off, and throw them in the bag. Then I would put on the other clothes."

"Throw them in the bag?"

"Yep."

"They'd get creased."

"I like to live on the wild side."





Luke didn't know whether to knock or just go in. He raised his hand to knock, but decided against it, and turned the doorknob. As the door swung open, he saw Lorelai pacing around the room, cordless phone in hand.

"Taylor?" Pause. "No, the cabbages were fine, it's just... have you seen Ror-" she turned and saw Luke standing in the doorway, dropped the phone and threw her arms around his neck. Luke didn't know what to say. He lifted her arms, and sat her down, then let Lorelai talk for him. "I just – I just don't know what I can do. My baby's out there and I don't know where? What if she's hurt? Why didn't she tell me, leave a note? She's not with Dean, she's not with Lane, she's not..." Lorelai looked up at Luke. "Where's Jess?"

"I dunno. It's midnight. He's never back this early."

"How could she be with Jess? I warned her, I told her to stay away, to be careful..."

"You what?" Luke felt a pang of annoyance.

Lorelai stared intensely at her hands. "She's probably not with Jess. Why would she be? Oh god, I'm so worried." And sobbing, Luke held her in his arms.

"We'll find her."





Rory had to smile as she lay in bed. Despite how much trouble she knew she was in, and despite the conditions of the bathroom, she was having a good time. At least their room had a coffee maker. Both of them were too tired to be creative, so they ended up naming it Fred. She sat, sipping her coffee, talking to Jess about little things, books they had read and movies they had seen. It was so natural; with Jess she could just talk and not worry about being embarrassed. She smiled, closed her eyes, and turned over.





Jess couldn't help worrying. What had he done? He suddenly felt guilty for dragging Rory all the way out here with him. But it was worth it, he thought to himself. Is she awake? He rolled and heard her breathing heavily, so he sighed and stared at the ceiling. He didn't know how much longer he could lie to her for, but he couldn't bear to tell her the truth. She wouldn't like him. But why had he done it? How could he have possible thought that it would do any good? At least Rory was here. That's all that mattered. He smiled, closed his eyes, and turned over.





"Morning, sleepyhead." Rory had woken up, opened her eyes to find Jess staring at her. "Time to get out of bed, time for breakfast, let's go."

"Jess, as the great lazy fat cat called Garfield once said, If we were meant to pop out of bed we would all sleep in toasters. Now go away," she murmured, turning away from him and suppressing a smile. She was normally an early riser, but the late night had gotten to her, and all she wanted was more sleep.

"I turned Fred on."

"Dirty."

"Rory, we can't stay here. Someone will find us."

"Is that really that bad?"

"Rory..."

"Fine." Rory groaned and dragged herself out of bed. "I'm getting changed now. Do you mind?" Jess, sensing that he wasn't wanted, strolled into the bathroom, and took out his book. "On the road" by Jack Kerouac. Suitable, he thought.

Rory began to undress, and as she did so, threw her dirty clothes into her bag. It felt good.

An hour later, fully nourished with chocolate chip pancakes and coffee, Jess and Rory were back on the road.





"So, Chadwick, huh?" Lorelai grinned.

Luke was pleased that she was cheering up, but he was starting to worry about Jess. True, he too had run off multiple times without telling him, but each time had caused him more worry than before. "Excuse me, Chadwick," Lorelai giggled, and Luke glared at her disapprovingly. "Have you seen two kids come by?"

"I'm sorry, I don't know. How old were they? 4, 5?"

"They're both seventeen."

"Sorry, no. I haven't."

"Really?" Lorelai lost her light-heartedness and her heart sank. This was the forth motel they'd come across, and none had seen a sign of Jess or Rory.

"I might have."

"What?"

"I'm afraid that information will cost you."

Luke was not amused. "Look, these are our kids. They are missing." He grabbed Chadwick by the collar. "If you know something, and don't tell us, you may be responsible for the death of two kids. Or the death of one receptionist."

"Look, look," Chadwick was spluttering for breath. "I saw two kids," Luke put him down, "but they weren't yours, they were a couple. They can't have been your kids."

Luke and Lorelai looked at each other, trying to understand. Then it clicked. "Oh, no" they said in unison.

"You see, the boy, Jess, that's his kid," Lorelai said, indicating Luke, "and the girl, Rory, that's mine."

"How quaint." Chadwick said, then immediately stood back, out of reach of Luke. "The boy. Dark hair. And the girl, brownish."

"Yes, yes," said Lorelai, breathless with anticipation, "Where are they?"

"They left this morning."





The car pulled into the parking lot. It was not far from the centre of town, but it was past noon, and Rory was starving.

"Where are we?"

"I'm not sure. Let's walk. We can find out once we get there."

Though the town they were in wasn't large enough to qualify as a city, it was still large, very large. Jess and Rory went past the shops together, walking close together, but not hand in hand. As Jess realised, he stopped. And he knew it was useless.

"Jess?"

"Yeah. Coming."

Rory saw that something was wrong, and spent a minute before the obvious struck her. It was what he had done. The guilt was weighing heavy on him now, and she felt so sorry for him. Her curious side was dying to know, but she respected his decision, and would wait until he was ready.

"Look. We're in Westlake."

They passed an antique's shop, and Rory suddenly felt homesick. Did Lane know she was gone? Trying to keep her mind off of Stars Hollow, she said, "If I wasn't here right now, I'd be in Chemistry."

"Me too."

"Blowing something up, no doubt." They smiled.





"Favourite book?"

"Jack Kerouac, 'On the Road'. I have it with me. Thought it was appropriate."

"I should have known, the beats." Someone she could finally talk to about books. Dean first saw her while she was reading, and was fascinated by her concentration, but he never had the interest the Rory did. Jess, though failing in English at Stars Hollow High, did.

"You?"

"Anna Karenin."

"How did I not guess?"

"What's the supposed to mean?" Rory stopped, indignant.

Jess turned to face her. "You're just the sort of person who would like Anna Karenin. Russian novel, big, fancy, romantic..."

"Have you even read it?"

"Of course. Took me two days."

"Wow." Rory smiled. "That's 425 pages a day."

"Well, I kinda got into it. It's not bad."

Rory stood in shock as Jess walked away. She beamed, and ran to catch up.





Luke and Lorelai drove in silence. Neither knew what to say to each other. As they passed the sign that said Westlake, 2 miles, Lorelai turned to Luke and opened her mouth to say something, but she couldn't. Instead she reached out her hand and let it rest on his. Luke turned and smiled.

"I'm sure they're fine."

There was an awkward pause. Then Luke abruptly turned the car around.

"Where are we going?"

"Home. Lorelai, there's nothing more we can do. We don't know how many different places Rory and Jess could be in. We just have to call the police and leave it to them. In the meantime, we can try to relax."

"Relax? I don't relax. Coffee addicts don't relax."

"Try. But think – Rory could have called you at home, and you would have missed it. You can't not be there to miss another call."

"Luke. I have a cell phone."

Luke was stumped.





"Whad'ya want?" the waitress asked in a weary voice.

"We'll have two hamburgers with fries."

"And coffee," Rory added. Jess smiled. At least Rory's addiction to coffee was something he could count on.

The waitress mumbled something indistinguishable and walked away, swinging her hips as she stepped and twiddling her pen between her fingers.

They sat for a minute, when Rory pulled out a book and started reading.

"Carry a book everywhere you go." Jess said with a smirk. "What is it today?"

"Howl. Allen Ginsberg. It's the one you wrote in," Rory said without looking up.

"I saw the best minds of our generation destroyed by madness, starving hysterical naked." Rory didn't reply, so he waited quietly until the food came, and the book went away.

"Enjoy your meal," said the waitress maliciously.

Rory popped a fry into her mouth while saying, "So... what are we doing today?"

Jess shrugged. "Well, we don't have to go to school."

"Like you would go to school anyway."

"True."

"How about we go to a museum." Jess didn't look too thrilled. "Look, how much money do you have?"

"Not much."

"Really, Jess, how much?"

"Not much."

Rory sighed and took a big bite out of her hamburger, then grabbed a tissue to clean the sauce off her mouth.

How cute, Jess thought.





"I have to call my mom."

"What?" Jess stared at her. "Why?"

"Because she doesn't know where I am. Because I've done this twice before, and both times she's been really emotional about it. Because I don't want her to worry that I've run off or been kidnapped by some axe-murderer." It struck her that she could have run off with an axe-murderer, that she still didn't know what Jess had done.

"If Lorelai knows who you're with and where we are, she will not be happy."

"Jess, my mother is not stupid. You're missing. I'm missing. I think she might put the facts together. Now I'm going to call my mom," Rory said and walked towards the phone booth.

"From where?" Jess asked.

"You're not blind. The phone booth."

"Rory, you have no money."

"But you do." Rory made puppy eyes at him. Jess was wondering how far she would go to get a quarter, a kiss maybe, but he said nothing and turned away.

"Fine," Rory said. "But my mom might just kill you when she finds us."

As they walked towards the parking lot, Rory slid her hand around Jess's waist. Jess smiled. This was really too easy, he thought, but his face dropped when Rory's hand came clenched out of his pocket, holding one quarter.

She squealed and ran off to the phone booth.





Her cell phone was ringing. "Why isn't she picking up?" Rory thought in despair. Suddenly the ringing stopped. "Mom?"

"Rory? Rory? Is that you?"

It was comforting hearing Lorelai's voice again. She looked at Jess, standing next to her, crazily gesticulating so that Rory wouldn't give away their location. "Mom, I just wanted to call to tell you I'm safe."

"Oh, thank god. Where are you?"

"At a phone booth."

"Well, obviously, but could you give me something a little more specific? A phone booth next to a tree, for example? Maybe a phone booth in Stars Hollow or Hartford?"

"I don't know what city we're in," Rory lied, and immediately began to feel guilty. "I don't know when I'll be back, but I promise you I am safe."

"You're safe? How can you say that? You're a million miles from your home..."

"I'm with Jess." Jess winced. His fears were confirmed when he heard an angry diatribe from the phone, and saw Rory nodding her head and shaking it alternately. Then she said, "Mom, I'm fine. I love you," and hung up.

"Rory?" No answer. Lorelai turned to Luke. "That girl is in big trouble."





"I hope you know you just made me lie to my mother."

"And you've never lied to her before?"

"Only once. And she wasn't happy." Rory grabbed Jess by the arm and dragged him back to the car, threw him inside, then said, "Drive."

Jess was perplexed. "Where?"

"Look, I don't know. Jess, I don't want you to get in trouble. You've done something bad, but you can't stay away from Stars Hollow forever. Then again, I don't want you sent away."

The car started and they began to drive.





"Hey Luke, I've been waiting for my coffee for twenty minutes!" Kirk shouted, approaching the counter. Luke, on the phone, waved him away.

"Yes. Seventeen. No, they are not a couple. Yes, I know they haven't eloped. Why? Because the girl has a boyfriend. Look, can you just try to find them? Black hair, about 5'9". The girl has brown hair, about two inches shorter. Yes. Thank you. I know." He hung up.

"What did he say?" Lorelai said, emerging out of the storage room. She had been looking better ever since Rory had called but was still apprehensive. She hated it when Rory lied.

"They'll find them."

"Find who?" asked Kirk.

"Oh no. No-one, Kirk, really." If this gets out it will be all over town and then, Lorelai thought, Dean will find out. And that would be the end.

"Where's Rory?" Kirk was catching on.

"She went into school early today. Wanted to catch up on her Hemingway essay."

"She finished it last night."

"What? Kirk, have you been stalking us?"

Kirk fidgeted around in his chair for a moment. "No comment."

Lorelai sighed, exasperated. She grabbed the coffee from the machine, and sat down in front of Luke. She looked at him pleadingly.

"Rory's missing."

"Luke! That is not what I meant!" Lorelai buried her head in her arms.

Kirk looked unsurprised. "Do you want some help finding her?"

"No. We're fine. Now take your coffee and go." Luke pushed the cup under his nose and pointed to the window.

"Fine," Kirk said and immediately sat down with Miss Patty, talking animatedly.

Lorelai moaned. "Oh no…"





Jess opened the car door and looked out. "Rory," he said, "You want to see this." Rory got out of the car and gasped. In front of her was the largest library she had ever seen. She ran through the double doors and stopped in awe. There were hundreds and hundreds of rows of books, stretching almost as far as she could see. Jess walked in the door behind her. "I'll be back," he whispered in her ear. She barely heard him, but disappeared into the maze of shelves.





It was a poor excuse to be alone, but he knew Rory could spend hours in the library without even realising he was gone. He needed to find her something. Something she would really love. And though every minute he spent away from Rory was a minute he regretted, though he knew he couldn't win her over with fancy gifts, he needed to find something. So that she wouldn't be mad when he told her. But that was crazy, he thought. He could give her a diamond ring and she would still hate him. He couldn't believe that he had done it, but there was no going back now. He walked down the mainstreet, window-shopping for something that screamed Rory. Nothing did. Nothing even whispered Rory. Nothing in any of these shops would be as special to her as she was to him.





He returned, the gift safe in his pocket, and tried to find Rory. She was sitting cross-legged in the children's section, reading a book that looked twice her size. He coughed and she looked up.

"It's comfier here. The big kids seats don't have cushions," she said with a pout.





"It's all over town. Everyone knows. Soon Dean will know that she ran off with your stupid nephew and then they will break up and it will be all my fault."

"Rory ran away, and it's your fault?" Luke tried to comfort her, but it was no good.

"Every day since I was sixteen I blamed my parents for driving me away. How can I expect her not to blame me? How is this any different?" Tears were welling up in Lorelai's eyes, but she held them back."

"Rory's not pregnant. You raised a good kid." Lorelai sniffed. "Do you want me to stay here tonight?" Lorelai shook her head. "I can you know."

"Thank you."





It was late afternoon and Rory and Jess were searching for another place to sleep. "We could always sleep in the car…" Jess suggested.

Rory glared at him. "Yeah, Jess, like my mom would be happy with that."

"She doesn't have to find out."

"Jess, we are finding a hotel with a nice, comfy bed."

"One bed?"

"If there's one bed, I get it. You sleep on the floor."

"Two beds." Jess sighed. Of course. Try as he might, Dean would always be in her thoughts. He scanned the road, but there was no sign of accommodation anywhere. His hand slipped slightly on the steering wheel. Rory looked at him, concerned. He was obviously still torturing himself about what he'd done.

They pulled up to a bed and breakfast. It was one of those curious little places that looked as though the owners decided the house was too big for them, so they rented out the rooms to passing travellers. The only indication that it wasn't a normal house was a small wooden sign at the entrance of the drive, with cracked paint reading "Brenda's Bed and Breakfa t".

"Only $15 per room, per night. We can have two rooms." Jess looked at Rory imploringly.

"But," Rory said, after much consideration, "That would be a waste of money. One room. Two beds." Jess tried to conceal his excitement.





Dean sat on his bed, running his fingers through his hair. He had left fourteen messages on her machine. Either Rory was ignoring him, of the rumours were true – she had run off with Jess. Dean was in the Kim's antiques shop when her overheard Taylor talking to Babette. "Poor child. He must have tricked her into it. That Jess is such a bad influence. We should have kicked him out of Stars Hollow as soon as he stole your gnome, Babette."

But Dean knew that Rory was smart, it was part of the reason why he loved her. If she had left town with Jess, it would have been her decision. Which worried him. He had suspected something was going on between Jess and his girlfriend for a while now, and although he knew that Rory wouldn't betray him, he couldn't help but worry.

The phone rang. "Yes?" he barked.

"Dean, it's Lorelai. I wanted you to hear this from me first."





"It's dark already."

"Jess it's ten. It's supposed to be dark. It's the time where God says 'Hey, you know what? Forget about the light.'" Rory pulled back the covers to her bed and got in.

"What are you doing?"

Rory shot him a look and said, "Getting in bed."

"Why?"

"Because I need my beauty sleep."

"No you don't." Rory lay down. "Come for a walk." He didn't want her to sleep. Every minute he wasn't talking to her was a minute wasted. "Please?" To Jess's delight, Rory conceded.

"Sure. It's not like I'm in my pyjamas or anything."

"Hey," Jess replied as she put her shoes on, "Are you regretting that you came?" There was a pause, and Rory turned to face him.

"Not yet."





Clara walked into her big brother's room, and saw him crying. She ran up to him and threw her arms around his neck. Lying on his bed next to him was a picture of Rory, the girl who made her cry last year. "I love you Dean."

"Thanks, Clara."





"Ow!" Kirk screamed out in pain as he tripped over the hose in the Gilmore girls' front garden. "Damnit!" He ran to the wall and leant up against it creeping inch by inch to the window.

Lorelai threw open the door and stepped outside. "Rory? Is that you?" Luke followed her out of the house, pushed up his sleeves and looked around for the intruder. That's strange, Kirk thought. Why was Luke here? He heard Lorelai's voice yelling, "Luke, check around the back!" Busted. He ran out into the trees and out of sight of the house.

"He went off that way." Luke ran around to where he heard the trees rustle. Sprinting up to him, Lorelai said, "It's ok. Let him go. Probably just some poor soul who wanted to get a glimpse of the famous Gilmore Girls. Kirk, most likely. Why don't we go back inside?"

"I could've pounded him." Luke said dejectedly as he turned towards the door.

"Fine. Just remember to bring me back the carcass when you're done. Make a fine rug."





Jess wondered how to approach the subject. It wasn't sensitive, but his intentions would be obvious if he was the one who started the conversation. In a way, that issue hurt him too much to even think about, but he needed to know. He threw caution to the wind. "So how did you meet Dean?"

"He went to my school." Rory raised her eyebrows and tried not to smile. Subtle, Jess, she thought sarcastically.

"No, but how did you become... you know... boyfriend and girlfriend?"

"Well, one day he just came up to me. He said he had seen me reading my book and admired my concentration. I helped him find his job at Taylor's market, and it just kinda went from there."

"He saw you reading?"

"Yes."

"But he doesn't read."

"He does. A bit. He read Lord of the Rings after seeing the movie." Jess saw Rory becoming uncomfortable, so he didn't reply. They walked together past the old cinema, past the flower shop and the newsagents.

"So I told you about my past, how about you? Why did you leave New York?"

"That's classified information, miss."

Rory thought for a while. "I'll tell the whole town that you watch 'I dream of Jeannie'"

"That is, if we ever go back." Rory glared at him. "Ok, Blackmail. Nice trick." He paused. "I put a pair of girls' underwear on the headmaster's desk."

Rory burst out laughing. "Is that it? That's all you did?"

"Yep."

"Whose underwear was it?"

"I'm not telling."

"How did you get it?"

"I'm definitely not telling."

"I just thought that would have been a commonplace occurrence in New York."

"It was. It was just that, and everything I'd done before. Plus my mom hates me. She could never stand to have me around, so she dumped me on her brother."

Rory looked at the ground, and suddenly felt sorry for him. Poor Jess. He must hate it in Stars Hollow. But what kind of thing could he have done to make him crazy enough to run away? "Luke really loves you, you know."

"I know."





"There. Susie's ready to go." Luke picked up his toolbox and turned to Lorelai.

"Thanks, Bert," Lorelai said with a smirk. She hadn't heard from Rory since that one call, and Luke hadn't heard at all from Jess. "Luke, they'll be back soon, won't they?"

"I hope so. There's no one to help me in the diner. Though it took more energy getting Jess to do his job than it would have if I'd done it. So, where should I put Bert? You know, lay him to rest."

"Bert can sleep in the garage. You can sleep on the sofa."

"Fine with me." Lorelai watched Luke walk away, carting his toolbox to the garage.





"Morning, sleepyhead." Rory shook Jess vigorously and threw off his blankets. "Wake up."

Jess groaned. "The tables have turned, I see."

"Barbara had breakfast ready for us. We've done the bed. Now we do the breakfast."

"Yeah, yeah, wait." Then Jess realised that he had no spare clothes, so didn't need to get changed. Rory, though wearing the same outfit that she wore yesterday, looked as gorgeous as ever. "Let's go."

Rory was unexpectedly optimistic this morning. She almost sprinted down the stairs, taking them three at a time, while Jess found it hard doing one. By the time he entered the living room, Rory had two buttered pieces of toast on the plate in front of her, and was sipping a giant cup of coffee.

"Someone got out on the wrong side of the bed," commented Barbara, a plump, cheery, middle-aged woman, referring to the state of his hair.

"Thanks for breakfast," Jess replied and sat down opposite Rory. He wasn't hungry, so he just watched her eat. Thankfully, she was too involved in her coffee to notice. It was captivating. Suddenly Jess realised what he was thinking. What would Taylor or Kirk think of him if they knew he was staring at the town's daughter while she ate? Not like they had a high opinion of him anyway.

"Aren't you eating? It's good."

"No, that's Ok. Thanks, Barbara, but I'm really not hungry."

"Well, you two are an odd couple." She said as she cleared away his plate. "Normally the girl is the one who doesn't eat and the man can't stop."

Rory looked up and smiled proudly at Jess.





"Jess, here's the deal. Yesterday you basically kidnapped me. Then you woke me up at some unsightly hour, and I'd just like to tell you that it's my turn now. We are going to do everything my way. And don't even think about complaining, because it will get you nowhere," Rory explained as they said goodbye to Barbara.

"I lock up at midnight, so be back by then!" she yelled to their backs. "Have fun kids!"

"Oh, I will," said Rory as she hopped into the car, with a knowing smile plastered on her face. As the car pulled out of the driveway, Jess glanced at Rory then asked, in a subdued voice, where they were going. "Secret" she answered.

"Rory. I'm driving. How can we get there if I don't know where or what it is?"

"Good point. Get out."

"What?"

"Get out. I'm driving." Rory unfastened her seatbelt and put her hand on the door handle.

Jess looked at her like she was crazy. "You are not jumping out of a moving car."

"I know. You're stopping for me."

"Who says?"

"I do." Jess sighed in surrender. He pulled the car over to the right side of the road and swapped seats with Rory, who was now about to drive them to God-knows-where.





As Lorelai walked into the Independence Inn, Sookie ran up to her, almost knocking her over saying "Luke stayed over last night? You let Luke stay over? What happened?" She started to jump around but Lorelai, knowing her clumsy nature put her hands on Sookie's shoulders and held her still.

"Yes, Luke stayed over. No, nothing happened."

Sookie's face dropped. "Nothing happened?"

"Well, he fixed Susie."

"That's nice." Sookie turned around to enter the kitchen again, but changed her mind. "Have you heard yet again from Rory?"

"No. Oh, Michel? You don't exchange information for money, do you?"

"I might do." Lorelai glared at him. "Of course not, Lorelai. I know better than that. I know that if I did, you would not only fire me, but get the whole town to hunt me down and attack me," Michel said as he walked towards the lobby.

"Good."





"Oh no."

"Oh yes. Come on Jess, it'll be fun! I've never done it before, and I've always wanted to, and… just come on!" Jess followed Rory unwillingly inside the building and he flinched away from the brightly coloured clown that was singing in a deafening voice:

"Welcome. Hello. And a good morning to you too.

Be glad. Be happy. You're with us, don't be blue."

Jess shivered with a look of disgust across his face. He looked at Rory, who was beaming with delight.

"That's right, you're here your at

Tootin' scootin' all about hootin'

Tiny Tot's fun house."

"Why are you doing this to me?"

"Come on, are you telling me that you have never dreamed of sliding down one of these slides or climbing up one of the ropes?" Rory put special emphasis on every word like the bizarre clown had. By now Jess had almost successfully walked backwards towards the exit but just as the electric doors swung open again, he was dragged back in by Rory.

"Now you're just being no fun," Rory sulked. Jess suddenly turned anxiously to the café, his only chance to keep his pride intact.

"Oh no you don't. We'll have two tickets please" Rory ordered the ticket bearer, clinging onto Jess' arm who seemed to be clawing his way across to the café. "You can save all that energy for when you're in here."

Jess was desperate, there was only one thing that he could think of that could help him now. He turned round slowly and gave her puppy eyes (It worked for Rory all the time, why couldn't it work for him?)

"That's pathetic," said Rory hauling Jess in through the fun house's doors

"Anti-Christ"

"Blasphemy," scolded Rory as she forced Jess up the rope to the top "Now all we've got to do is sort out your puppy eyes. You sad face was appalling and quite frankly if I didn't know you I'd be terrified. Didn't you see that little child that ran away crying when you tried it?"

"That's the idea."

"Now your lips have to tremble slightly like so," Rory demonstrated to Jess who was now climbing of his own accord, "now you try…"

They had finally reached the top. Jess had almost perfected the puppy eyes.

"You know my mum taught me that when I was two, she said it was a necessity."

"It's worked well so far."

Rory immediately launched herself down the slide, and Jess looked on admiringly. No matter how many stupid things she did, he would always love her. Jess soon pursued her, going down the slide himself, but when he reached the bottom she was nowhere to be seen. "Rory? Rory?" He glanced around but couldn't see her. Beneath him was a young boy, about five years old, round-faced, plump and looking at him in astonishment.

"What are you looking at, punk?"





"So, you in the mood to humiliate me more?" Jess asked as he turned to Rory, who was in the drivers seat, hands firmly on the steering wheel.

"I was thinking you'd had enough for one day. Maybe tomorrow. I can spend the whole night thinking of new and awful ways to humiliate you," she said, without taking her eyes off the road.

"That's comforting," Jess said, continuing to stare at her. He watched her as she drove, and wondered if it was working, the whole trip. But he knew that he had to tell her what he'd done, and it was the only thing that terrified him. "Penny for your thoughts."

"I was just wondering. Despite me not humiliating you anymore," (Jess smiled) "it's still my day. Maybe we could have a movie night. Get popcorn, pizza, finger puppets…"

"Finger puppets?"

"Don't ask."

"What movies?"

Rory was silent as she pulled into the parking space outside the rental store, but she had a knowing grin on her face. They burst into the shop and Rory darted out of sight. It was a while before Jess found her again, but when he did, she was holding two videos up in her hands, 'Rebel without a cause' and 'Bedknobs and Broomsticks.'

"'Bedknobs and Broomsticks?' Really?"





James Dean was lighting a cigarette and Jess, with popcorn half way up to his mouth, glanced out of the corner of his eye at Rory, who was sitting on the other side of the couch. She seemed to be really enjoying the movie – well, Jess thought, it was her choice. Barbara had given them the use of her living room; the place where they slept had no TV. Jess was slightly annoyed that Barbara had such a big, luxurious couch, as it meant he had to sit further from Rory, but he was content watching the movie and knowing that Rory was pleased.

Rory squealed when a gunshot rang through the air, and all Jess wanted to do was put his arm around her shoulder, though he knew it would be inappropriate. He managed to restrain himself, but Rory must have noticed the sad look on his face because she said "Do you like the movie?"

"Of course," he replied.

As soon as the movie finished, Rory ejected the tape and replaced it with "Bedknobs and Broomsticks."

"We need something to cheer us up."

"And 'Bedknobs and Broomsticks' is supposed to do that?"

"Absolutely." As soon as the movie started, they resumed their seats, and Jess tried to understand what Rory saw in this movie. To him it seemed juvenile and brainless.

"Oh sure, she's a witch and the bed can fly," he said sarcastically.

"I think you're at the age of not believing."

"Oh no, here we go again."

She started to sing. "When you set aside your childhood heroes, and your dreams are lost upon a shelf," at this point she got up and started moving towards him. "You're at the age of not believing and most of all you doubt yourself. You're a castaway where no one hears you, on a barren isle in a lonely sea. Where did all the happy endings go? Where could all the good times be?" Jess was nervous. Rory was so close to him now that he could feel her every breath on his neck. "You must face the age of not believing. Doubting everything you ever knew, until at last you start believing there's something wonderful in you." She smiled and fell on the couch next to him, then lay her head on Jess's lap. He'd changed his mind. 'Bedknobs and Broomsticks' was the best movie ever.





As the credits started rolling, Jess looked down and saw that Rory was sleeping. He lent over and kissed her gently on the forehead and his heart was beating like a hummingbird's. "Night night," she murmured. He didn't want to disturb her so he just sat and thought. He had to tell her. He was terrified of doing it, but he had to. Maybe she would forgive him, he thought, maybe she'd understand, but he doubted it. He turned and saw Barbara looking at him from the doorway, but as soon as she realised that she'd noticed him she threw up her hands, smiled and left. Jess closed his eyes and tried to sleep.





"I'm ready to tell you now." Rory had just woken up and was still lying in Jess' lap. She rose slowly and yawned, stretching her arms far above her head.

"Good." Though she was happy that he was finally ready to be honest with her, she was slightly uneasy. He could have committed the most heinous crime, and she had been with him for the past three days, unconditionally trusting him. "Go on."

"Do you want me to wait until you wake up properly?" Jess asked, though he knew it was unwise. Her sleepiness may soften the blow.

"Nope. I'm awake." She paused and he said nothing. "You don't have to say, you know."

"I do. But I don't want to. You'll hate me."

"I won't," she said reassuringly, but Jess didn't believe her.

"It's pretty awful."

"Look, I've been imagining that you were a rapist or an axe-murderer. It really can't be that bad." Jess smiled. Maybe, after all...

"I did nothing."

"Jess, you can say. I won't be angry."

"I did nothing."

"Really, Jess, I won't be mad."

"I lied to you." He looked down at his feet, and started to panic. He never wanted to see the look on her face. "I did nothing. I dragged you away from school because I wanted to spend time with you. I just..." Tears welled up in his eyes, but he held them back. "I just wanted to get out of Stars Hollow and take the only good thing there with me."

He continued to look at his shuffling feet. He was afraid that her disgusted expression might kill him. He rose, careful to avoid her eyes, and left the room. Jess ran up the stairs and pulled the present out of his jacket pocket, then tossed it lightly on the bed and quickly scribbled a note to go with it. Barbara met him as he came darting down the stairs and, observing that he was dismayed, hugged him tightly. "It'll all turn out okay," she said reassuringly.

"Thanks. I'm going for a walk. I think she needs time to cool off."





Rory was furious. Jess had lied to her, betrayed her trust. How could he have possibly thought that this would turn out in his favour? He'd said he wanted to spend time around her. He could have done that in Stars Hollow instead of drawing her away, taking her to a place that felt a million miles away from home. He'd played with her emotions – she hated him, she liked him, hated him, liked him. And lying in his arms last night had felt so comfortable, so normal. She loved Dean, she always had and felt as though she always would, and being with Jess made her feel unfaithful, agitated her more. She buried her head in her hands, then immediately got up. This wasn't her fault, it wasn't her choice – it was Jess. Why should she feel bad about it? She had done nothing. She walked past Barbara on the way to the bedroom, but avoided eye contact. She opened the door carefully and her glance fell on her bed, where she saw a small parcel, wrapped in comic strips and tied with a small brown cord, lying with a note. Rory picked it up and delicately untied the string. The package fell open revealing a book – 'The importance of being earnest,' by Oscar Wilde. She picked up the note and saw:

"The pure and simple truth is rarely pure and never simple."

I'm so sorry,

Jess.

"Barbara? Can I use your phone?" she said, going out into the hallway.

"Of course dear. Whatever you want."

She dialled and the phone rang. "Mom?"

"Rory? Nice to hear from you. I thought you'd forgotten about me. Oh but no, I haven't been worrying about you. Not at all."

"I'm really sorry. Mom, can you pick me up?"

"Where are you?"

Rory shrugged and handed the phone to Barbara who gave Lorelai the address. "She'll be coming presently, hon. So you live near Hartford, huh?"

She nodded, smiled and started to read.





In the car, Lorelai was trying to make pleasant conversation. "So did you at least have fun?"

"Mom, don't do this." Rory said pleadingly.

"No, really, I want to know. Did you enjoy deceiving me?"

"Not that aspect of it, no."

"Dean's really upset, you know."

"I know. But Jess is my friend. And he came to me needing help. He said he'd done something awful and needed a companion. I had to do something."

"What did he do?"

"I'd rather not talk about that."

"Did he not tell you?"

"He told me. But I said I wouldn't let anyone else know."

Lorelai was disappointed that her daughter wouldn't share it with her. They used to tell each other everything. "I love you mom," she heard her say.

"I love you too. But don't run away again."





Jess had driven home the day before, after paying and thanking Barbara. "Let me know how it turns out," she said. He was now lying on his bed thinking, as he had been doing since he arrived. He was afraid of venturing into the diner and finding Rory with Dean, or Rory with Lorelai or, worst of all, Rory on her own.

Luke walked in and declared, "Get the mail."

"Why?"

"Because you've been gone for two days and I've had no help around the diner. Now you're back and you're helping me."

"You spent time with Lorelai while I was gone."

"So?"

"You liked it."

"I did not. Get the mail." Jess stood up, resigned and went out the back to the mailbox. He opened it and took out one small letter, in a handmade envelope. He opened it and read.

Jess,

"I hope you have not been leading a double life, pretending to be wicked and being really good all the time. That would be hypocrisy."

Love Rory.

He smiled and looked up, noticing a rustling in the bushes.

"You liked the play then."

Rory emerged sheepishly from behind the tree. "I did. But it was completely irrelevant."

"The title was relevant.

"True." She walked closer to him and smiled.

Jess drew in a breath and gathered up his courage. "I am so, so sorry for what I did. I know you're probably in trouble with your mom, and in trouble with Dean, but I never wanted to hurt you. I've… I've said this before. But I want to let you know that I'm sorry. Please don't hate me."

Rory grinned and kissed him on the cheek. "One day," she said, turned and sprinted into the diner. Jess followed her with his eyes and spotted Luke peering out of the curtain. He stuck his middle finger up at him, but Luke just smiled and went back to serving the customers.