FIVE.

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(we're skipping around a bit in this chapter

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(we're skipping around a bit in this chapter. but it's like over the course of like a week. hope that's okay. also the first two sections focus more on marley and her other relationships with the characters, so don't be surprised by the lack of jess. however, this is a big chapter for them, boys. strap in. this is also unedited. will fix in the morning. love u. -mags)

✧✧✧

IT HAD BEEN nearly two months since Jess Mariano had left Stars Hollow and things had been quiet, to say the least.

Marley worked more hours now, though these hours were in a less stressful environment. It seemed like a decent tradeoff to her. Luke hadn't been as on edge as he had once been, but it was obvious he wasn't feeling one-hundred percent. Not many people saw it, but Marley did. He'd become so accustomed to his nephew being around him all the time that now that he wasn't... it was different. A good different in some ways, but different nonetheless.

That was how both Marley and Luke felt. They knew that that fact he was gone was probably for the better, but it didn't always seem like it. Especially not today, when they could use an extra set of hands on deck.

The diner was packed this morning. It was a Saturday, so the early morning rush was expected, but the Brunch hour rush was something that had taken both of them by surprise. Marley held in a groan as she skirted around the family in the corner table, trying her best not to spill hot coffee on the five-year-olds who were standing on their chairs. She glared at the family then transferred that look to Luke who returned it.

"Can we please kick them out?" she asked, putting the coffee pot back beneath the brewer.

"You wanna be the one to tell Stone-Cold Steve Austin to shut his kid up?" he countered. Marley glanced over at the father of the family who looked as though he could crush Marley into dust at any given second. She groaned. "Yeah, I didn't think so."

"If I throw some arsenic into their waffles, will you fire me?"

"I'm not going to be an accessory to the murder of a family of seven."

"Fine, if I spit on their waffles, will you fire me?"

"That's a health code violation."

"But will you fire me?"

"Go give Babette her omelet and get out of my face."

Marley scowled at him. "Coward," she muttered, practically hearing Luke roll his eyes in response. She grabbed the two plates sitting on Caesar's window and brought them to Babette and Morey who sat in the middle of the diner.

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