|Christmas Past and Present
Author: abc79-de PM
Trory: A WHW-universe Christmas ficlet. Rory and Tristan go to pick out a Christmas tree.Rated: Fiction T - English - Rory G. & Tristan D. - Words: 5,001 - Reviews: 4 - Favs: 5 - Follows: 3 - Published: 12-27-11 - Status: Complete - id: 7678160
|A+ A- Full 3/4 1/2 Expand Tighten|
Christmas Past and Present (A WHW Christmas Story)
Rory Dugrey roamed through a back row of pre-cut Christmas trees, under the festive strings of lights that illuminated the lot that had been transformed into an annual mecca for local holiday decorating needs. Wreaths lined the outer open post fences that designated the confines of the vendor's offerings. Instead of searching for the perfect tree, a time-honored tradition for as long as their family had been in existence, she was idly stepping through the snow-dusted grass and fallen pine needles and talking on her cell phone.
"You aren't disappointed?" Jake asked from his end of the extension—which was across an ocean and in a very different time zone. It was currently the next morning in London, from where he was calling his mother in New York.
"We'll miss you, but it sounds like an amazing trip," Rory said with a melancholic honesty. "You'll have a great time."
"We just haven't gotten a lot of time to travel. Jules has been in school and I've been working, and it just seemed to make sense. And we're coming home next summer for a visit after she graduates."
Rory reached out and ran her hand across the branches of the nearest tree. "Jess is okay with it?"
"Yeah. She called home yesterday. I know Ella isn't going to be around either. We can change our plans and come back if we need to," he offered.
"No, your trip is all planned. Last minute trans-Atlantic plane fares at the holidays are probably a bit outrageous, besides."
"It's just one year," he supplied to ease her displeasure.
"You two should go enjoy Christmas together. Get away while you still can."
Jake groaned. "Mom, we have plenty of carefree years ahead of us. You don't need to start wondering when we'll be having kids yet."
Rory turned and began wandering back down the same aisle of generally identical fir trees. "I'm not encouraging you to start having kids. You are kids. I'm just saying, things start happening fast. Pretty soon your kids are grown and touring Europe at Christmas instead of coming home."
"You and Dad could come over and do some travel of your own. We could meet you in Paris or Rome. You love Rome."
Rory smiled halfheartedly. "I do. But I have a business trip in a couple of weeks and we'll be rushing just to get up to Stars Hollow on time. Jetting off to Europe isn't on the schedule this year."
"I'll call and touch base. Maybe Ella can split her time with Grey's family or something."
"Yeah, maybe," Rory mused, nodding as she spied her husband, who was waving her over to another row of trees. "Give Jules our love."
"I will. Bye."
"Bye," Rory said and with a heavy sigh she stepped through the well-trodden path of soft, damp needles that covered the grass.
"What do you think?" Tristan asked his wife, indicating the evergreen next to him that was leaned up against the posts.
She shrugged and shoved her hands into her pockets. "It's fine."
Tristan eyed her with concern. "Was that Ella on the phone?"
Rory shook her head and focused on the tree. "No, Jake."
"When are they coming in? Did you tell him to come into LaGuardia? There's all the construction on the way to JFK, and with all the extra traffic," he led.
Rory scrunched her shoulders and gave him a tight smile. "It doesn't matter. They're not coming home."
"Since when?" Tristan asked, surprised by her news.
She turned and began inspecting the next tree, though her heart wasn't in it. She had trouble imagining how all their collected and cherished ornaments would look adorning the branches when she knew that her kids wouldn't be in her living room, gathered around it on Christmas morning.
"He said he and Jules have been busy and it's a good chance for them to do some traveling. He said he'd call."
Tristan's forehead creased in thought as he watched his wife continue down the bank of trees. He took a few steps over the layers of fallen debris and melted snow and put his gloved hands on her shoulders. "So it's just going to be us this year?"
She nodded and remained otherwise silent. She bit her lip and silently cursed the cold for making her nose run and her eyes tear up. When she turned to face her husband, he took one look at her bright eyes and pink nose and wrapped her in his arms. Her face rubbed against his warm winter jacket, the one she'd bought him a few years back when they'd all gone skiing as a family of four, when the idea of them all being together was just a fact of life, not an event to be arranged. It had been the last year of high school for Ella, and they'd spent three days at a ski lodge, two and a half of which she'd spent in the lodge itself, reading and sipping hot cocoa after finding her only way to stop on skis was to fall over.
"We could go see them in January. I have some vacation time to use. And you'll be done with that assignment just after the new year, right?"
She nodded. "Yeah. It's not a big deal. I told him to enjoy the trip and the time together."
His hand rested over the back of her uncovered head. "It was bound to happen sooner or later."
Rory pried herself off of her husband's warm, strong chest and wiped away a rebellious tear. "It's fine. In fact, it's probably good. I'm busy, and you're working a lot, and we're barely going to make it to Mom's. We won't be around to see them much, even if they could make it back."
Tristan nodded, but didn't believe his wife's effort to talk herself down was working as well as she thought it was. "We are busy."
"In fact, maybe we don't even really need a tree this year," she said, glancing around the lot at the selection of trees skeptically. "Why go through all that work for just us?"
He stepped back and his expression was such that showed he wasn't sure quite what had happened to his wife. "I think you're overcompensating."
She breathed out hard in the cold night air, a puff of white forming in front of her mouth before it was swallowed up by the chilly air around it and disappeared. "You hate putting all the lights up."
"I don't hate it. I am convinced that you sneak out and buy more every year and then insist that we've always had the same number, however."
"I only replace strings that don't work anymore. It's no use putting up lights that won't turn on," she defended her likely misleading actions.
"I almost believed you until the LED lights showed up two years ago," he said as he smiled at her. "And I don't mind doing it because you love it."
"I loved doing it for the kids," she amended, without passion behind her words.
"Come on," he said as he grabbed her hand and led her back down to the main entrance, where they were selling hot chocolate and gingerbread men. There were multiple families searching for their trees and sipping hot beverages to keep warm on the cold December night. He ordered two hot chocolates and two cookies, handing her half the order before he paid. Rory smiled nostalgically at all the younger kids, eagerly dragging their parents to their choice of trees or begging for more treats. Her eyes trained on one young girl, in a pink snowsuit, who was clinging to her father as he held her in his arms. Her cheeks were pink from the cold and her little finger pointed out a tree that he would no doubt happily load onto the car for no other reason that he was wrapped around that same finger. It didn't seem so long ago that they'd been one of those families.
"How's your drink?" he asked as they moved off to the side to let other patrons move up the line.
"Hot. And chocolately," she added in a sarcastic tone.
"Does it remind you of anything?" he ignored her blithe comments and pressed on. "With trees and the dusting of snow and the faint sound of Christmas music playing in the background?"
She nodded in concession. "We do this every year, because it's a tradition. But now that the kids aren't here," she trailed off, trying to focus on anything but the other families around them or her husband's concerned eyes. She kicked at spot on the ground with the toe of her shoe until she unearthed a small patch of grass.
"Tradition did not start being important when we had kids," he reminded her. "Think back, to the first year we were together, that first Christmas."
She smiled. "I took you to my grandparents' party and we took a whole tray of apple tarts and that hard mulled cider out to the pool house and only the Christmas lights were on," she remembered.
They'd been making the rounds at the Gilmore's Annual Holiday party, speaking politely about their respective college experiences thus far to people that were at best acquaintances of their families. At times they had their backs to one another, but Tristan had stayed within arm's length of her all evening. The moment Rory spotted the first silver tray loaded with apple tarts emerge from the kitchen, she excused herself from discussing what a lovely job her grandmother had done with the party with a slightly intoxicated and heavily perfumed woman and slipped her hand into Tristan's as a signal to end his conversation as well. She led him back to the kitchen wordlessly, where she scooped up a tray that was next in line to head out to the guests and suggested he grab something to drink on their way through the kitchen as they made for the rear entrance of the house.
With a bottle filled with amber fluid in the crook of one arm and his other hand still encasing hers, he shuffled over the frosted sidewalk at her lead toward the pool house, which had been donned with exterior holiday light strings and a smaller version of the large Christmas tree that was in the main house sat lit up in the main entertaining space of the smaller building.
"Tired of sharing me already?" he asked, pleased to be secluded for a while.
She put the tray down on the kitchen counter and moved to get two small plates out of the cabinet in the kitchenette. She plated the treats and handed him one. "The glasses are up there," she indicated, and he thusly obtained two glasses and poured their drinks. She held out her half-full glass for a toast.
"To our own little party," she offered and they chimed their glasses together and each took a sip.
He put his drink and plate down and slid his hands around her waist. She held her plate out awkwardly, still trying to keep hold if it as he pulled her in close to his torso. "Don't you want your tart?"
He smiled. "I wouldn't call you a tart, but I do want you," he admitted openly.
"You have no idea what you're missing," she said before she took a bite of the treat that was only offered once a year in the Gilmore house. She'd been tempted to request them for her birthday in the past, but something about apple tarts only belonged with Christmas. It was a tradition, and well worth the wait and the officious party that went along with them. "It's the best thing I've ever tasted."
He dipped his head and licked the smear of filling that had been left behind on the corner of her mouth after her bite. He leaned back up and raked his upper teeth over his own lip to finish off the remnant that had transferred to him and used his finger to remove the excess from her skin. "Good, but not the best thing I've tasted," he said with a gleam in his eyes. They hadn't been dating a long time, but definitely long enough for her to know what the look on his face meant.
"I brought you here specifically for these tarts," she said with a small degree of difficulty, having been more than a little derailed by his help in wiping off her face.
"And I came here specifically for you," he turned her words back around, earning the reward of her putting her plate down next to his and sliding her arms up around his shoulders.
"You did?" she smiled gleefully. He'd already done more than enough in regards to being with her over the last couple of months, but it still made her happy to hear him say such things.
"Do you think I just wanted to spend an evening in a suit with a bunch of people my parents age and older, discussing my choice of college or their recent car purchases, or worse, their golf game?"
Rory smiled. "It doesn't seem like you mind it all that much," she offered. "You make it look easy. Or maybe you just look really good in a suit. Either way," she complimented him.
He shook his head. "I'm used to the Hartford parties, but it doesn't mean I would rather be talking to a bunch of half-drunk society types all night when I could be alone with you. I miss you. I didn't come back to see anyone but you. "
She leaned her forehead against his and breathed him in. "It's just for a little while longer. One more semester and we'll be together a lot more often."
"I've already started planning spring break," he said, slipping his hand up her neck and into her hair, which she'd left down in a mass of soft, brown, wavy locks. It'd been three weeks since he'd been able to get up to visit, and their one night together prior in her dorm room had been a flurry of reacquainting kisses before they'd landed in her bed and only come out to go to this party. He'd had the suggestion to skip it altogether on the tip of his tongue several times, the last and strongest urge was when he was helping her zip up her dress moments before leaving. The only thing that had stopped him was her excitement and anticipation. He had never expected her to get excited about a Hartford society party, but he did know that family was very important to her. He'd taken his time in fastening her zipper, caressing his fingers along her smooth skin as he glided it up into place, in an effort to elicit a last-minute change in plans from her, but none had come. He couldn't complain given where they'd ended up, in a tangled embrace in a room lit only by the soft glow of the Christmas tree. She was the only gift he'd wanted that year.
"You have?" she asked as he placed soft, warm kisses on her cheek and down to her neck. "Where are we going?"
"Someplace warm," he said with a nuzzle into her skin.
"Warm sounds good," she agreed readily, parting her knees to allow his leg to ease between them.
"Maybe Mexico or an island," he said, tracing a finger along the neckline of her dress. It wasn't the most revealing garment, but its soft, sheer material clung to her in all the right places and definitely left just enough to his imagination to want so much more. "Somewhere secluded."
"We're secluded here," she said as she bit her lip, her eyes filled with desire.
"Are you cold?" he asked, slipping the fabric down her shoulder and kissing the pale, freckled skin that had been hidden from view.
She murmured and leaned into his touch. "A little, but I bet you could warm me up."
He smirked. "I bet you're right."
"Thanks for coming with me tonight," she said as she backed toward the tree, him advancing slowly toward her. "It's not the most obvious kind of fun, but it's something we always do. I wanted to include you in all the things I love about this time of year."
"We could make it a lot more fun," he winked at her as she stopped next to the lit up tree and he kissed her, sealing the decision to enjoy their seclusion for a while before topping off the night with apple tarts and obligatory goodbyes in the main house.
"Then there was sleigh rides at the Dragonfly," he supplemented her memory.
"Which was the hardest sell of all the activities I'd had planned for us," she remembered easily.
It was freezing outside, below actually, and they were bundled up to the point of unrecognizability in hats and coats and scarfs and gloves. Rory did notice, however, that his jacket stopped just shy of his posterior, which was nicely showcased in a pair of well-fitting jeans. She was already having a good time, but he looked as if he needed a little convincing.
"This is crazy," he informed her as they got in line behind a dozen other people.
"Welcome to Stars Hollow," she said assuredly from behind a scarf. "We did this a few years ago and people loved it. Mom wanted to start off the first year at the Dragonfly with something quaint and memorable, and what with her incapacity to feel the cold of winter and freakish love of snow, a little something like sub-freezing temperatures and a seventy-five percent chance of snow weren't going to dampen her plans—if anything they only made her more sure that this idea was genius."
"You guys do seem to be big on your traditions," he said, stamping his feet alternately to keep blood flow going.
"You haven't seen anything yet," she said brightly, herself taken to bouncing in place to encourage everything to keep moving in her body as it should. "Especially since Mom's pregnant; she's gone into overdrive. She may even attempt to bake cookies by herself."
Tristan smirked. "Isn't Luke afraid she'll burn down the house if she goes near the stove?"
"Do you think Luke can stop her from doing anything now that she's hopped up on baby hormones?" Rory posed.
"Good point. So, you don't normally do Christmas cookies?"
She nodded and shivered all at once. "We do, but usually Sookie bakes the cookies and we just decorate them. Mom is quite gifted at adding unique flair to any inanimate object. Her piece de resistance was the drunken elf cookies of '97."
He shook his head at the absurdity before gesturing toward a sleigh slowing down in front of them. "I think this one's ours. Here," he said, stepping into the sleigh and offering his gloved hand out to hers. She grabbed hold and joined him, taking a moment to arrange blankets over them and snuggle as far into him as possible given their layers of extra clothing. She glanced up at him with wide and eager blue eyes. Her cheeks were rosy from the cold and her joy at having him around to participate in her favorite time of year was evident in her eyes.
"Still think this is crazy?"
"I think I'm starting to see the appeal," he admitted as he pressed his cold nose against her hat and kissed her temple with his warm lips. She smiled and rested her head against his shoulder as the horse began to trot at a gentle clip and guided them around the area surrounding the grounds of the Dragonfly Inn as the snow began to fall all over the picturesque town.
"And then there was Miss Patty's Christmas party; not to mention my family's party and Christmas Eve with Luke and Lorelai and Sookie and Jackson," he listed off the other gatherings they'd attended, though the one that had stuck out in his mind had definitely been the annual party that the local dancer teacher had thrown.
"Who is that woman and why is she looking at me like she just got out of prison?" Tristan asked as he wrapped an arm around Rory's waist. She took a sip of punch and located the woman in question, despite having heard the description before. She giggled. "That's Miss Patty."
"I think I'm her type."
"You're male. That's pretty much all she needs," Rory said, handing him her cup.
He grabbed it and took a sniff. "Wow. How many of these have you had?"
She held up two fingers. "Well, one and a half. The rest of that is yours, or I'm going to be sick before Patty sits on Santa's lap."
"There's an image. Do you normally get sloshed at the Stars Hollow holiday party?"
She shook her head. "No, but this year Mom can't drink, and you're here, and hey, did you see the mistletoe?" she asked in a somewhat disjointed manner.
"Are you trying to get me drunk and take advantage of me?" he checked with interest.
She put her thumb and index finger about an inch apart before peering at him through the gap with squinty eyes. "A little. And just so you know, Mom's sleeping at Luke's tonight, something about craving pumpkin pie fresh out of the diner's oven at four in the morning," she said as she grabbed his hand and led him toward the mistletoe.
"You know, you don't need to fabricate a reason to kiss me," he smiled at his tipsy girlfriend amid the throng of merry party-goers that were singing and dancing to Christmas music and in various states of inebriation.
"I know," she said with a look of concentration. "I've just never been kissed under the mistletoe before."
"Well, then I'll make sure I do it properly," he said seriously, putting the punch down on the nearest surface and taking her face into his hands.
He brushed his lips firmly over hers and smiled into the kiss as she instantly grabbed hold of the back of his neck to prolong the contact. Her lips parted and he tasted the sweet tang of the punch on her tongue. Her eyes remained closed as he barely inched back from her. A dreamy expression covered her face. "How was that?" he asked in a soft tone.
"Mmmm. I think I've had the perfect amount of punch," she mused. Her eyes fluttered open and focused on his as he smiled at her. "Hi."
"Hi," he said, attempting not to laugh at her. "Should we get you home?"
She nodded and grabbed a fistful of his shirt. "Yes," she said, then glanced up above them. "Except we don't have any mistletoe at home. Luke threw it away when Mom kept making him stop under it. He was late opening the diner a couple of weeks ago because of the mistletoe and after that it mysteriously disappeared each time she tried to replace it," she explained.
"We don't need the mistletoe," he assured her, stroking her cheek with his thumb.
She shrugged one shoulder and gave him a sheepish smile. "It was a really good kiss."
"I promise to keep up the quality without props," he teased her.
"I know it's not really the mistletoe," she said in a slightly dejected manner.
"I think it's partially the punch," he supplied.
"I think," she said, pulling him in closer so that their lips were set to meet again. "It's because it was you underneath the mistletoe."
"So you need me, not the mistletoe," he concluded.
She lowered her lashes and stared at his lips. "I'm glad you're here now. For all of this. With me."
He chuckled. "You're a little more drunk than I'd thought. What's in this punch?"
She tipped her chin up to gaze up at him. "I don't know. But I do know you're very handsome."
He nodded. "I think that's my cue to walk you home and get you to bed."
She leaned into him as he supported her with his arms firmly around her waist. "Are you enjoying this week at all? I know it's a lot to take in."
He kissed the top of her head, which was adorned with glitter that had seemed to be all over everything in the dance studio where the party had been held and errant strands of tinsel. As it had almost every other night that week since he'd come up north to spend winter break with her, it had begun snowing lightly at some point after the sun went down. "It all makes you really happy. I definitely enjoy seeing that."
She smiled happily as they walked through her hometown toward her house with snow crunching under her feet. It struck her that she'd never been quite that happy as she was in that moment. He wasn't just a part of her life—he was taking part in all aspects of her life.
"And even with all that, you still decorated your dorm room with Christmas lights and wreaths and garlands and that snow in a can stuff. I even remember you making a gingerbread house."
"Well, I couldn't make those at home. Mom always ate all the building supplies before anything actually got constructed."
"You do all this because you love it, not for the kids."
She turned and reexamined the lot of trees. "They do have a nice selection. Some years it's hard to find one that doesn't look like it should be a stand-in for that tree on the Charlie Brown special," she pointed out.
"And we did come all the way here and freeze various parts of our bodies to get a tree. I would appreciate some follow through, even if you do want to go on pretending that this isn't for us just as much as it ever was for the kids."
Rory bit her lip. "We should get a tree. But we don't have to go all out. You don't have to get on that ladder on the roof."
"You've said that before. The problem is, if I don't do it, you decide you can do it, and I think we both know that's not going to have a good outcome."
"I was only trapped up there for a half an hour before you got home and saved me. Our house looks really good all decked out in Christmas lights," she began her yearly defense.
"It does. All your overzealous plans for celebrating always makes Christmas perfect. Not just for the kids, but for me. I love spending Christmas with you, and I have ever since we got together. And all that stuff your mom did for you and Will, and you did for our kids, someday Ella and Jake will do it for their kids and drive their respective spouses nuts."
Rory smiled. "Grey probably hires someone to do exterior lights. And Jake doesn't want us pushing the idea of kids on him yet."
Tristan smirked knowingly. "He talked to Jess."
Rory examined her husband—the way his mouth turned up at the edges and the twinkle in his eyes. He had been withholding information from her. "About what?"
"About asking Jules to marry him," Tristan laid it out simply before he took a sip of hot chocolate that was now still warm but almost gone. He popped the last leg of his gingerbread man into his mouth and chewed as she reacted.
"Did he talk to you too?" Rory demanded. "When did he talk to Jess?"
Tristan swallowed and took his last sip. "Calm down. He called Jess over Thanksgiving weekend. He hasn't talked to me about specific plans, but he's said some things that have made me sure he was thinking about it. When Jess told me, it just firmed up my beliefs. If they're staying in Europe for break, he might do it then."
Rory's face melted into a proud, but partial, smile. "Did Jess give his blessing?"
Tristan shot her a look. "What do you think?"
She laughed. "I think Jess talks a good game, but underneath it all, he's too romantic—not to mention completely devoted to his daughter—to do anything but welcome Jake into his family."
"He said that he told Jake as long as Jules was willing to marry him, he was okay with it."
Rory gazed up into her husband's blue eyes, noting the reflection of the twinkly lights in them. "Let's get our tree and get home. I'm freezing, even with the hot chocolate."
He wrapped his arm back around her shoulders and they turned back down toward the rows of trees. "Come on. I think I saw the perfect one while you were talking to Jake."