Author's note: I must thank everyone for the vast outpouring of support that this story has received. Special thanks to HonorInSilence, for sharing some brilliant ideas with me, many of which found their way into this story. Without that, this story probably would've foundered a long time ago.
Sadly, we've come to the end of this fic. I've really enjoyed writing it.
Fortunately, though, this isn't the end of the story. There will be a sequel.
Jess didn't read self-help books. He just didn't. He wasn't that kind of guy. The fact that he was actually reading one was irrelevant - as long as no one could see
him doing it, it didn't count. Hence it being hidden behind a magazine.
He was back in Stars Hollow. Not permanently, Jess didn't think he was ready for that, but his mother, Liz, was getting married (for about the fifth time) and Luke wanted him to be there. He didn't particularly care that Liz wanted him to give her away. His experience with her boyfriends and past husbands was - well, to call it bad was an understatement.
Still, Luke wanted him to be there, and Jess owed Luke. Besides, Rory might be there, and maybe, just maybe, they could have that normal conversation about normal things like normal people that she'd promised all those months ago.
But, in the meantime, Jess was sitting on a bench in the town square, reading a disguised self-help book in the rather sceptical hopes that he might be able to learn how to be a better person, but, more importantly, find out how to get Rory back.
Jess nearly launched like a rocket when Rory sat down next to him. He shut his magazine on the book so that she couldn't see what he was doing.
It was only then that Jess saw that it wasn't actually Rory. Sure, bright blue eyes, thin body, dark hair that was all there. She even looked the same age. But it wasn't Rory.
"So, everyone else is watching that guy over there flailing around trying to get the wedding set up, or is helping that guy flail." she said conversationally. "Except you. So what're you doing?"
"Reading." Jess said flatly, getting up.
The girl followed him. "Yeah, I saw that. I can also see the book that you've got wrapped in the magazine. What're you reading there? Mein Kampf? The Fountainhead?"
"It's called "None of your business" by G.O. Away." Jess replied.
"Oh, hilarious. There was me thinking that you were reading something controversial and interesting."
"Look, quit following me already, okay? Whatever you want, go get it somewhere else."
The girl shrugged. "I would, but my guardian was distracted by the book shop, and he told me to have a look around the town. It's a small town."
Jess smiled at that. "Oh, I know that. Believe me. But go bother someone else, will you?"
"I thought we were naming random times of day."
"Why would we do that?"
"I don't know. I assumed that anyone who'd come and pester someone they've never met must be a little crazy."
"Dawn's my name."
"Ah." Jess said, and continued walking.
Dawn waited for a moment to see if he would reply. He didn't, so she prompted him. "And you are?"
"Might I refer you to the title and author of my book?" Jess said drily.
"Okay, I'll leave you in peace. I'll just go and break into the school." Dawn said brightly.
Jess turned and watched as Dawn sauntered off to the school building as though she hadn't a care in the world. She really was going to break in.
Jess was tempted to leave her to it, but, well, this was interesting
. Having something interesting happen in Stars Hollow was a rarity. Well, unless it was him making the something interesting happen.
Besides, he was the bad boy in this town. It had been him who'd stolen some police tape and drawn a chalk outline of a body outside Taylor's market. Jess wasn't going to let someone break into a school without being there. It would ruin his reputation.
But, more importantly, it would be fun.
Jess shook his head and went after her.
Dawn hadn't gone very far. She was examining the pictures on the wall. More specifically, a picture of Rory taking part in some asinine school event.
"Ah, I knew you wouldn't be able to resist." Dawn said without looking up.
"How, exactly, did you know that?"
"You smell of cigarette smoke. Sure sign of a bad boy."
Jess snorted. "Ha. And there I was cutting back."
"You probably should." Dawn agreed. "Smoking doesn't really work out unless you're a vampire."
Jess frowned at the statement, but let it pass. "Kind of surprising to see a Gilmore doing something naughty. Didn't think you had it in you."
Dawn looked up at him, clearly baffled. "What?"
Jess tilted his head. "What are you, Rory's cousin? I didn't know she had one."
Understanding dawned on Dawn. "Oh, no. I'm not related to Rory. Not at all. I've only ever met her for about five minutes."
"Funny." Jess said. "You look like you could be sisters."
Dawn shrugged. "We aren't."
"So, this your school?" Dawn asked, gesturing.
"It was. I failed to graduate last year." Jess admitted.
"I was meant to graduate this year, but that kind of didn't work out. So I'm looking at schools to see where I can finish high school. A friend said that this is a nice town, so I thought I'd come see what it's like."
"It's a bloody small, boring town is what is."
Dawn smiled, but it didn't reach her eyes. "Whoa, hold on there, Spike. I could really do with a small boring town right now."
Jess looked at her closely. Apparently, Dawn wasn't actually the perky, extroverted friend she appeared to be. Well, wasn't that interesting?
"I could give you a tour, if you like." Jess offered. "I might just about have spent enough time here to figure out where everything is."
"Sure. I'd like that."
They walked on. Jess asked "So, why didn't you graduate?"
"My entire town collapsed into a giant crater."
Lorelai sat herself down at the bar. "Coffee?"
Luke shook his head. "Somehow, Liz got behind the counter and managed to pour all my coffee in the bin. She's just gone to get as much as she can from Doose's, but it'll be a while."
Lorelai was about to launch into a diatribe about how a diner should have an infinite supply of coffee - as should anywhere in the entire universe - when a bespectacled gentleman in a suit slid his mug over to her.
"Here. You can have mine." he said in an English accent. "Don't worry, I haven't drunk any."
"Thanks." Lorelai said warmly.
Bespectacled Guy stood to leave. "No problem. You look like you need it."
Luke looked thoughtfully at the man as he walked to the door. "I could've sworn I just served that guy tea."
Lorelai sniffed her mug. "Nope, definitely coffee."
Luke shrugged. "Oh well. Anyway, Lorelai, I wanted to ask-"
"Excuse me, did you say Lorelai?" Bespectacled Guy said, coming back.
"Yes." Luke said warily.
"You're Rory's mother?"
"I am. Why? Has something happened?"
"Not exactly. But could you give this to her?" He handed Lorelai an unmarked envelope. Lorelai took it. He walked out.
"Luke, just hold on a moment." Lorelai said, before hurrying out after Bespectacled Guy. "Who are you?"
"I think you'd best ask your daughter that."
"What is this?" Lorelai asked, holding up the envelope.
"It's an apology." Seeing Lorelai's nonplussed expression, Bespectacled Guy said "You can open it if you like."
Lorelai did. Two thirds of it she didn't understand, but one third she understood very well. She'd give it to Rory.
"Who are you?" Lorelai asked again.
"Rupert Giles, if you must know. Now, if you'll excuse me, I really must find D-" Giles stopped, smiled and said "My daughter. I've got to find my daughter."
Later, Rory sat, staring at the contents of the envelope that Lorelai had given her.
The first item was a necklace with a curious design on the pendant. It was strangely warm.
The second was a piece of paper with a symbol drawn on it. It was the mirror image of the design on the amulet.
On the other side of the piece of paper was a note, and it was this that Rory was staring at.
It was a phone number. Below it, it said three words. Never had three words been subjected to such scrutiny.Xander is alive.