A/N: I don't own Gilmore Girls. Thanks for reading!
Jess hung up the phone in a mix of shock and anger. They didn't know what they were doing. She was a brilliant reporter. Young, maybe, but brilliant all the same.
He ran his hand through his hair, wishing he could do something for her. She had sounded crushed on the phone, even though she tried to play it down.
He sank into a chair and sat, lost in thought, for minutes.
A thought hit him hard and he wondered why it hadn't occurred to him sooner.
He had to go see her. Go comfort her. She was alone right now, as far as he knew. She had never mentioned any friends on the trail.
He had to get to her. Fast.
He hurried down the stairs. "Chris? Matt?"
He found them in the tiny space they used for a kitchen.
"What's up?" Matt asked as he entered.
"I need a few days off."
Matt looked at him closely. "Something wrong?"
"Rory was let go from her reporting job today."
"Wow. What happened?" Matt asked.
"Is her writing…" Chris trailed off.
"No." The word came out quickly. "No, she's amazing. I don't know what they were thinking." He sighed, looking away. "Anyway, she's really upset. I just don't want her alone."
Lorelai was probably already packing her bags, he realized. But he didn't know when she would get there, and until then…He looked back at Matt and Chris.
"I'll make it up to you guys."
Matt looked at Chris.
"Go ahead, man." Chris said. "Just don't expect there to be any mint chocolate chip cookies left when you get back."
He nodded. "Duly noted. Thanks."
"And don't get eaten by a cow or anything. Aren't there a lot of cows in Iowa?" Matt spoke up.
Jess snorted. "I think I'll be okay."
He was on the road in less than half and hour, pressing the limits of the speed signs that dotted the road.
Two hours later, he got pulled over.
He figured the officer wouldn't buy his reason of hurrying across several states to comfort his now jobless girlfriend, who wasn't even technically his girlfriend, so he remained mostly silent. Back on the road, he was more careful and only went a mile over the speed limit - a number that he found to be increasing more and more with each passing hour.
By 1:00 a.m., he was checking into a hotel in Iowa and resisting the urge to go directly to Rory's apartment. He paused, hand on the door. He turned away for a second, then shook his head.
He would be there, first thing in the morning…
At eight, he knocked on her door.
"Rory, it's me."
A few moments later, shuffling could be heard inside the room. Neither spoke when she opened the door. Her eyes were watery and bloodshot. Jess reached out and pulled her into his arms. He had never hugged her much before - it all felt too mushy for him - but now he simply stood and held her.
Sometime later, she asked "Why are you here?"
A smart remark about 'just being in the neighborhood' came to his mind, but he thought better of it. "Didn't want you to be alone."
"Thank you." She whispered.
"Do you want to get some coffee?"
She shook her head against him. He frowned. She was even worse off than he had thought. He pushed her away slightly.
"What exactly happened?"
"Nothing. They just let me go. It - it's probably stupid that I'm so upset anyway."
He guided her to a chair in the room, and pulled up another for himself.
He gave her a look that clearly stated he knew otherwise. "Well, it's a good thing I brought The Old Man and the Sea. I'll read it to you."
"No, wait. I'll talk."
"I knew that would do it."
"Not fair." She tried to smile, then blew out a shaky sigh. "What Shannon actually wanted to talk to me about was the fact that I no longer have a job. They said it was nothing personal, but there was nothing left for me to contribute. That's about it. I'm out of a job." She was sat in silence for a moment before she tensed and spoke again. "And to think I was getting promoted. I'm so stupid."
"You're not one to get so down about stuff like this."
"It just reminded me a little too much about what Mitchum Huntzburger, Logan's dad, said. I was an intern for him, and he told me I 'didn't have what it took to be a reporter.' That's," She paused, taking a breath. "A lot of the reason I dropped out of Yale."
Jess hated seeing her like this - so fragile and vulnerable. He reached out and brushed her fingers, intertwining them.
"Have you talked to your mom yet?"
She shook her head quickly. "No. If I tell her, the entire town will find out, and I'll have to tell my grandparents. They'llbe so disapointed in me, and I'll have to figure out where I'm going to live, where I;m going to work..." She sniffed. "I don't want to deal with all that right now. I can't deal with that right now."
He didn't know what to say, so he just squeezed her hand.
She spoke again. "All my life, I've had people telling me I could do anything I put my mind to. It's not a bad thing, necessarily, but I've gotten used to it and it kills me to hear otherwise."
"Rory, listen to me. There are always going to be people saying you can't do it."
"I know." She looked down.
"But you're stronger than that. I know you are."
"Jess, I have been sitting here sobbing my eyes out and eating ice cream since I got the news."
"You have it in you, though. "
They didn't speak for a few seconds, before she burst out, "But what about you? You had people tell you you wouldn't amount to anything, and look at you now. Maybe it's all a contradiction. Maybe -"
"That's different, Rory. If I had kept on my same path, I wouldn't have been any better than anyone said I would be. If I hadn't met you, I would have never written a book." He gave a half-smile, glancing down. "But you…people say you can do it because you can. You're like…Supergirl or something." He squinted briefly at his own words, then continued. "Maybe not everyone you meet will agree, but not everyone agrees that Hemmingway was a literary genius, either."
She gave a watery laugh. "True. But Supergirl? I didn't know you were into that stuff."
"Liz called me the other day. T.J. was playing Superman reruns in the background."
"So, how about that coffee, now?"
She stood up. "Jess Mariano, you're really not too bad at pep talks."
"Don't tell anyone."
She just smiled. She reached for the door, but spun back around to face him. "Do I at least get a cape?"
"You said I was Supergirl. Does that mean I get a cape?"
"Yeah. We'll stop at the party store on the way."
Jess did everything in his power to cheer her up. They strolled along the streets of Des Moines, visiting the numerous shops. After a couple of hours, Rory seemed to be doing better, and he could occasionally get a smile or laugh out of her.
She grabbed his arm. "Come on."
"Wha-?" Before he could say anything else, she had pulled him inside a quaint coffee shop.
"Didn't you just have two cups?"
"Right. Never mind."
"That implies you're having a smaller size than a large."
"There is no way anyone can tell how good a cup of coffee is if they just have those puny little samples."
He raised his eyebrows.
"I'm serious! Some coffee requires a few bitter gulps to get used to it, and by then, the sample's gone. Other coffees taste really bad once you've had a lot."
"I think you're just trying to justify your abnormal caffeine intake."
"Think what you want." She studied the menu. "I'll have a large white chocolate macchiato."
Jess stepped up to the counter and relayed the order. He started to get his wallet out, but Rory stopped him.
"Jess, no. You've been paying all day. I've got it."
"It's not a big deal. Though I do feel guilty about feeding your coffee addiction."
Her eyes clouded over. "Just because I'm out of a job doesn't mean I can't pay for my own coffee."
"I wasn't implying that." He said calmly.
She studied him, then looked down, embarrassed. "Sorry. I'm guess I'm a little sensitive."
"It's fine." He handed the cashier the money.
"Thanks." She said quietly. Then a little more brightly, "Hey, while you're at it, order a cinnamon roll."
"One cinnamon roll, too, please."
"Turning back to her, Jess sighed. "That's clogging your arteries."
"You're turning into Luke."
"I'm shutting up now."
She laughed. "Wise choice."
"White chocolate macchiato," A worker called.
Rory grabbed it and sniffed appreciatively. "Mmm."
"What even is that?"
Jess took a sip. "That's disgusting."
"That's why you need a large. It gets better the more you drink it."
"You don't appreciate good coffee."
"More for you and your mom. You guys could drink the entire world's supply."
"Don't even think about it," he teased. "Come on. I saw a book store across the street."
The sun had set and the moonlight danced off her hair as he walked her back to her apartment. She smiled at him and his breath caught in his throat. He couldn't deny it - he loved her, more than ever. He wanted nothing more than to lean in and kiss her. But he couldn't risk losing her again. What they had now was the closest he'd come to having her since they were eighteen.
"Thanks again for coming." She said.
"Are you heading back to Philadelphia tonight?"
He shook his head briefly. "My flight leaves tomorrow afternoon."
"Where are you staying? I can come by tomorrow to see you off."
"That's okay." He saw her face fall, but she quickly recovered.
"Oh. Well, I -"
"I can come by here tomorrow. It's on my way anyway. Is nine thirty okay?" He glanced at her and smirked. "What? You thought I didn't want to see you anymore?"
"Um…You could have gotten tired of me." She grimaced slightly after she spoke.
"If I got tired of you that easily, I wouldn't have driven to Iowa." He nudged her gently. "Not to mention the speeding ticket I earned on the way over."
She blushed. "Right." Her head shot up and she met his gaze. "Wait. You didn't mention getting a ticket."
"Happens when you go fifteen miles over the speed limit."
He shrugged and smirked. "You going to give me an impromptu driver's ed class?"
"I'm considering it."
The pink in her cheeks glowed against the dim light. She was beautiful. He didn't want to go back to Philly. Not without knowing when he would see her again. He risked a glance at her lips. Maybe she was ready…He stopped himself. There's too much on the line. Just take it slow. He leaned in and brushed her cheek softly with his lips.
"I'll see you tomorrow, Rory Gilmore." It came out huskier than he intended, and he stepped away quickly.
He shot her a half-smile over his shoulder as he walked back to his car. He unlocked it, but couldn't resist a glance back at her door. A thrill rushed through him as he noticed her waiting in the doorway, watching him. She lifted her hand in a wave as he lowered himself in and drove away, a smile desperately tugging at his mouth.
A/N: Honestly, I think Jess would be great at pep talks. Or just terrible. But I prefer to think of the former. ;)