Author's Note: Merry Christmas, 2014! I've been enjoying Gilmore Girls Christmas stories old and new, and here's my entry - a few days late, but hopefully not a dollar short...
Thanks as always to my beta deepfriedcake, who takes time from her own fabulous stories to help make mine better, always.
Best wishes to all for a great 2015.
And remember, reviews are like the best stocking stuffers ever to us writers, so if you're reading - drop us a line and let us know what you think!
The Truth, Actually
Is That a Thing? (December 27, 2005)
"Luke! I'm glad you're here, you're just in time."
"Day three of the Twelve Days of Christmas Movie Marathon."
Luke groaned. "You were serious about that?"
"When have I ever not been serious about movie nights?"
Luke nodded, submitting to her logic. He hung up his coat and scarf and began working on his boots.
He was tired. Down to his bones tired. Bed sounded good, but an evening on the couch could work as well. Maybe Lorelai would let him snooze through whatever saccharine movie she had chosen.
"So what are we watching tonight?" he asked, making a conscious effort to lighten his tone.
"Love, Actually," Lorelai answered, wandering back in from the kitchen, holding a cup of cocoa in one hand and a plate of Christmas cookies in the other.
"Actually." She stopped on her journey to the couch to give him a kiss.
"The name of the movie is 'Love, Actually'."
"Sounds like a chick flick," Luke muttered as he headed into the kitchen, seeking a beer.
"I heard that," Lorelai called from the couch.
"Sorry," he said, a minute later, settling into 'his' corner of the couch. "I know you find that...dismissive."
"I do," Lorelai said cheerfully. "But yes, there are some elements of the movie that play to the ladies. But a fair number of elements - as in naked boobies - that play to the men as well. And it's funny, and fast-paced, and not so much about Christmas as taking place at Christmas, so you may not hate it."
"There's a ringing endorsement."
"Hey, knowing you and movies, and you and Christmas, that is a ringing endorsement..."
Luke took a swig of beer, swallowing both the amber liquid and a wave of guilt for being the grumpy, distracted guy he was.
The movie wasn't bad, he decided, about 10 minutes in. Hugh Grant as a single Prime Minister, that was requiring a little suspension of disbelief. But the has-been rock star was funny, and he'd always found that Colin guy, the one Lorelai was so gaga over from Pride and Prejudice and Bridget Jones, kind of funny in his dry delivery. And the way the movie moved from story to story was holding his attention.
Still, he was tired. He hadn't been sleeping well, and he knew why. Plus he'd been pre-occupied during the days too. Christmas had taken a lot of mental energy on his part, to seem upbeat and stay focused. And now in the days since, he was back to turning his dilemma over and over in his mind.
Did he want to see April? Did she want to see him? How was he supposed to be a father, out of nowhere? Did she even want a father? And why couldn't he bring himself to tell Lorelai? Each day that went by was making it harder, and more likely she would take it badly. He knew that, but every time he opened his mouth to say the words, he just couldn't make them come out.
He'd always been an abject coward, not to mention bad with words. Bad with taking the initiative. Except with Lorelai, when he finally made his move. But even then, when it came down to the actual declaration, he almost let himself get derailed by the stupidity that was Jason. He'd had to get angry before he spit it out, before he finally kissed her.
And now, having been together and broken up and getting back together and then engaged and surviving the the split from Rory not to mention the renovation... after all that, how was he going to tell her?
He had to tell her.
Maybe he'd close his eyes for just a minute...
A line from the movie startled him awake, as one of the lovelorn characters had her secret exposed.
Do you think everybody knows?
Do you think Karl knows?
Oh, that is...that is bad news.
Why is it so...we thought that maybe the time had come to do something about it.
Invite him out for a drink then after about 20 minutes, casually drop in to the conversation the fact that you'd like to marry him and have lots of sex and babies.
You know that?
Yes. And so does Karl. Think about it, for all our sakes. It's Christmas.
Luke's eyes popped open. A flicker of panic passed through him, and his heart began to race.
Lorelai turned to look at him. "You okay babe?"
"Is that..." he croaked. His mouth was dry. "Is that a thing? Telling people the truth at Christmas?"
Lorelai shrugged. "It is in this movie. I never heard of it before. They mention it a few more times, toward the end I think."
"Huh." Luke cast his mind back, to earlier Christmases, wondering if that was true.
I don't hate Christmas, it just makes me sad. (December 12, 2000)
"Oh hey, turn out the lights." Lorelai crossed over to the window.
"For what? It's not the real procession, it's just the rehearsal."
"So, it's pretty."
"And why do they need to rehearse it? It's the same thing every year."
"Come on Luke, please."
He turned out the lights and joined her by the window.
"It's hard to imagine living somewhere else isn't it?" Lorelai asked him softly.
"Thanks for the hat."
"You're welcome. Looks good on you."
"Just watch the procession."
He watched. They watched. He felt himself relax, and feel like part of the town. And let himself enjoy just being with Lorelai.
When the last of the procession passed by, he asked, "Coffee?"
"For here or to go?"
"For here, but only if you join me."
Lorelai laughed. "God – your face. You'd think I just offered you poison."
"Join me as in sit with me. With a cup of tea in hand, if you'd like."
Luke nodded and turned to get their drinks.
The lights were low inside, and twinkling outside, creating an intimate feeling here in his everyday workplace. He sat across from Lorelai, and for once let himself look at her – really look at her. The spill of her dark curls, the curve of her cheek, her sparkling eyes, trained on him.
"What?" he asked, going for gruff and landing closer to warm.
She cocked her head to one side while continuing to look at him. "Just wondering."
"Why you hate Christmas."
Luke opened his mouth to protest but Lorelai was already talking again. "I mean, I don't think it's possible for a kid to naturally hate Christmas, if they have even halfway decent parents. Which, though you never really talk about them much, it sounds like you did. So I'm wondering why you ended up hating Christmas."
"I don't hate Christmas."
"Come on Luke, you can tell me the truth."
"I am. The truth is…I don't hate Christmas."
Luke looked at her, then down at his tea. These were just the types of questions he usually avoided with people. The invitations to talk about how he felt about something, why he felt the way he did about something. He let two or three neutral, non-communicative comebacks buzz around his head. Enough to mollify Lorelai's friendly curiosity, but without revealing too much.
"I don't hate Christmas, it just makes me…sad." He looked up at her, then back at his hands. "And, it's easier just to pretend to not care about Christmas, to be grumpy about it. Rail against the stupid commercialism and fake pomp and circumstance. All of which is true, by the way, in between the genuine parts." He paused. "But I don't hate Christmas."
"Why does it make you so sad?" Lorelai asked softly.
Luke looked up at her, searching her eyes for pity, or mocking. "Because…" he hesitated, not really comfortable putting any of this into words. "My dad – he died 11 years ago, a few weeks before Christmas. By Christmas, I had finished the bulk of the official stuff. The funeral and burial. Insurance, wills. Trying to assess the viability of the hardware store. Medical bills. I was working my way through all those tasks, those decisions. Hard as they were, they kept me from...the emotional part, the loss. And then Christmas hit, and so did...grief, I guess."
He shrugged. "Not that the two of us had done much with Christmas. But at least a nice meal, the traditional roast beef and potatoes my mom had always made, and a glass or two of the 'good' scotch, after dinner. A few gifts. Maybe get together with a couple of family friends. And now even that little bit was…gone."
He paused, glancing quickly at Lorelai and then away. "I did love Christmas as a kid – my mom and dad were amazing. Cookies, presents, letters to Santa. Mysterious gifts my dad made from wood - pull toys and a castle and puzzles. Aunts, uncles, and cousins to visit. Stockings on Christmas morning. The town pageant, the midnight service at church. The whole thing..."
"But then my mom got sick. Pancreatic cancer. I had just turned 10, Christmas was coming. They knew she was sick, knew her prognosis, and I knew something was wrong, but they didn't tell us until after Christmas. She wanted one last happy, carefree Christmas. But I knew something was wrong. And so when they told us, just after the New Year, I was so angry. Like, it was all a lie. All the fun at Christmas. Just a big lie..."
He stared off into the distance for a moment. "So… I don't hate Christmas. It just makes me really sad. There's just...loss, that runs under it for me."
"That makes sense," Lorelai said. "That makes complete and total sense."
She reached across and covered his clasped hands with one of hers. "I'm sorry that Christmas makes you sad."
I'm Glad You're Here (December 18, 2001)
Luke threw his hands up in frustration. "Taylor! I told you I'd deal with it. Now get out."
"I'm serious, Lucas. You handle it, or the police will."
He snorted. "On what evidence?"
Taylor huffed and puffed and finally left.
Luke sighed. The diner was empty – classic mid-afternoon lull, as Kirk would describe it.
No time like the present.
"Caesar, I'm upstairs for a bit."
"Got it, Luke."
He headed up, but felt weighed down with each step. Entering the apartment, he was more depressed than angry. He could tell Jess was home because the music was on, though just a notch below the usual ear-bleeding decibel level.
He turned the music off and sat down on the couch to wait, slumping down further and further in search of a comfortable position.
Several minutes later Jess emerged from the bathroom. "What's with you?" he asked, taking in Luke's unusual posture.
Luke chose not to answer.
Jess moved about the apartment, checking various stacks of books, glancing over at Luke from time to time as he did. Finally finding the book he was looking for, he tucked it into his back pocket and grabbed up his leather jacket. He headed for the door, but stopped by the couch. His voice dripping with annoyance, he asked, "Seriously, Luke. What's your deal?"
Luke sighed. "If I ask you a question," he said quietly, "Would you just tell me the truth? No BS?"
Jess' frown deepened. "If I ask you a question, would you tell me the truth, no BS?"
"When have I ever lied to you, Jess?"
He looked Luke straight in the eye. "Did my mom call and ask for me to come to New York for Christmas?"
Luke looked at him steadily. "No, she didn't."
Jess gave a short, firm nod.
"Did you knock the head off some idiotic snowman?"
Luke nodded as well, appreciating the honest answer, but then rolled his eyes in frustration. "I thought we were past the petty vandalism."
"It wasn't petty vandalism. That guy was a ringer, some professional sculptor from out of town, keeping more…local efforts from winning."
Jess was no longer looking him in the eye. He suddenly seemed younger to Luke, and more vulnerable, than his usual cocky self.
"That actually makes me feel better. Makes you less sociopathic, and more just a typically stupid teenage guy."
Jess smirked, his cheeks coloring just a bit. He turned and headed to the door.
"I'm glad you're here, Jess."
Jess paused, his hand on the doorknob.
"I'm glad you're here, in general, and I'm glad you'll be here for Christmas."
"Okay," Jess said quietly, and slipped out the door.
"Okay," Luke replied, as the door clicked shut.
I am lonely. (December 23, 2002)
"Finally gonna sit down, Maisie?"
"It wouldn't be a Sniffy's Christmas party if I didn't find you in a corner booth, all alone."
"Hey, I did my part. Talked and ate and mingled. I deserve a break." He raised his half-full beer.
"I know, I know. I appreciate you coming out every year, even though parties aren't your thing."
"Thanks, Maisie. But I actually like this party."
"Well, we're honored."
"As you should be."
They sat in easy silence for a few minutes, looking over the crowd of revelers.
"I saw you talking with Joanna Cooper earlier."
"Did you now?" Luke replied neutrally.
"Maybe a little tipsy," Maisie observed as Joanna threw her head back and laughed loudly at something Maisie's daughter Megan was saying.
"I'll have Megan ask her to stay over, maybe. They go way back."
"But if she prefers her own bed, maybe I can get someone to offer her a ride home."
"You're so subtle, Maisie. I love that about you."
"Well, here's direct for you then. Aren't you lonely, Lucas? You seem lonely."
"How could I be lonely, when I have my ever-delightful teen nephew living with me?"
He continued to look out at the crowd. "I am, Maisie. I am lonely."
"So, why not do something about it? Take a chance, give a pretty, tipsy girl a ride home. Ask her out on a date."
"You know me, Maisie. I'm not much of a dater."
"Well what's more important? Not dating, or not being lonely?
"Doesn't have to be Joanna, could be anyone. How about that Lorelai you often mention? Seems like you two are close."
"She pretty? Ever get tipsy?"
Luke snorted. "Yes, and definitely yes."
"So, ask her out."
"We're just friends, Maisie."
"Well, that's okay. Any good romantic relationship has a foundation of friendship. Sometimes becoming best friends happens after you fall in love, like with me and Buddy, or with your parents. Sometimes you fall in love after you've been friends for a while, like Mike and Patty," she said, pointing at her son and his wife.
Luke didn't reply, just kept sipping his beer, and looking out at the crowd.
"Well, think about it. Offer Joanna a ride home, or ask your Lorelai out on a date."
"I will. Think about it. Thanks, Maisie."
"Anytime, dear. Merry Christmas." She squeezed his shoulder and got up, leaving him to ponder.
I do love this town. (December 24, 2003)
"Oh, good, you made it before the end." Nicole said as Luke entered the apartment.
"Before the end of what?" Luke said, sitting down next to her on the couch.
"The end of It's a Wonderful Life."
"Oh goody," he said, taking off his hat and running his hands through his hair. "Maybe I could just grab a shower, meet you back here when it's over?"
"No, watch with me." She turned back to the screen, where Bert the cop was shooting at George Bailey. "And…commercial," she noted.
Luke snorted. "Love how they make a two hour movie three hours long with all the stupid ads."
"Yeah. But the commercials are sweet and sappy too."
Luke glanced over at her. "I wouldn't have pegged you as a sappy movie gal."
"Oh, everyone's sappy at Christmas, aren't they? Besides, Capra's movies have a lot of layers. There's a darkness to them."
"I took a couple of film classes, in undergrad. We analyzed a few of his films. They may have happy endings, but they show a pretty seamy underbelly of American capitalism and democracy along the way."
"Okay then," Luke said, stretching his neck and settling in. "Sorry I came up so late – tonight was a little busier than I thought, so I still had a fair amount of prep to get through for tomorrow before I could get closed up."
"That's fine. You didn't mind me just showing up tonight, out of the blue?"
"No, of course not."
"I thought it would be nice, spend a little time together on Christmas Eve and Christmas morning."
"And I don't open till noon, so we can even sleep in, a little."
"That'd be nice. But I'll be out of your way by 10, hit the road to my parents in plenty of time to get there for Christmas dinner. Which starts at 2, go figure."
"They okay, with me not coming? Are you? I don't open on Christmas every year - not like Thanksgiving - but a few folks asked me and I had already said yes, before you mentioned maybe visiting your parents."
"It's fine, Luke. We already talked this through. It's not like we're…" she stopped and chuckled. "Well, I guess we are married, but not…married married."
Luke smiled as well. "Yeah. They doing okay with that?"
"Well, they're confused. But patient. They trust me…us…to work it out."
Luke glanced back at the TV, not sure how to respond to that.
The movie had come back on. George was back at the bridge, pleading to live again. Nicole turned back to the TV as well. They watched quietly for a few minutes.
"Zuzu's petals…" she murmured, just before Jimmy Stewart did.
Now George was running down the streets, through the snow. 'Merry Christmas, you old Savings and Loan.'
Nicole turned to him. "Tell the truth," she said, smiling, "You've got a little George Bailey in you, no?"
Luke looked at her. "What do you mean?"
"I mean you act all grumpy about your family and friends, but you love your diner, love your town."
Luke was quiet for a moment. "I do love this town."
"How come?" Nicole asked.
"I just…it's home. It's where I belong. Behind the counter, serving all the various nuts and crazies who live here. Plus the few normal ones."
"See. George Bailey."
"But I choose to live here. I could've left. Maybe not when my dad was sick, but after that."
Nicole was quiet for a minute. "And what if...you were here every day, working, serving all the loons and such, but sleeping somewhere else?"
"Say, in an apartment with me. Somewhere between here and Hartford. Somewhere from which each of us had not as easy, but not so terrible, a commute?"
"You want us to live together?"
"Something to think about, down the road." She paused, seeming to wait for him to respond. When he didn't, she added, "No rush, no pressure. Just something to think about. You'd still be here, every day, in the town you love."
"I would be."
They watched the TV, the whole town pouring into the Bailey's house, saving the day with money and love.
Luke nodded. "Okay, I'll think about it…"
Nicole smiled, and gave his hand a quick squeeze.
I love you. (December 22, 2004)
"The tree is so pretty."
"Thanks for helping."
"Thanks for letting me. I know you and Rory have a lot of traditions."
"That now include you, happily."
Luke put his arm around Lorelai, and she moved in even closer to him.
"This is nice," she commented.
"It is," he agreed. "How long is Rory out for?"
"Three or four hours, at least. She and Lane had most of their shopping left to do, plus dinner at the food court."
"Busy girls. And they haven't had much time together lately."
Luke felt peaceful. His shopping was done, the tree was up. He was actually looking forward to the next few days, to being part of the Gilmore Christmas craziness. He pondered that for a moment, thinking about how much had changed for him, this year.
"Hey, remember a few years back, when you gave me my hat? That Christmas?"
"The one when my dad was in the hospital? Yeah."
"Remember how I told you Christmas make me sad?"
"It doesn't feel that way anymore."
Lorelai turned to meet his eyes. "It doesn't?"
"Nope. It's like…it's still there, the loss, the sadness. But there's more now."
"Who are you and what have you done with Luke?"
He rolled his eyes. "I'm trying to be serious here, Lorelai."
"I know, that's why I'm so confused."
He shrugged. "Okay. See if I ever try and tell you something nice again..."
She grabbed his arm. "I'm sorry, Luke. I'll be serious too. Tell me what you meant. You said there's more now, besides the sadness?"
"Yup. More. You, and Rory. Decorating the tree. Watching movies. Actually wanting to buy gifts, looking forward to watching you two open them."
"I know. It's like, with my dark day. It wasn't as dark, this year, because I have you now."
"I love you, Lorelai."
She gaped at him. He grinned at her, and reached over to wipe a tear that had spilled from one of her eyes.
"Luke…wow. Way to hit me with the sappy stuff…"
He leaned over and kissed her softly. "I'm not trying to be sappy. I'm just trying to tell you the truth. And the truth is that you make me happy, you make Christmas fun again, and I love you."
She grinned back at him, and leaned forward to kiss him, soft and lingering. Pulling back slightly, she kissed first one cheek, then the other. "I love you too, Luke," she said quickly, but confidently.
He looked into her eyes and saw the truth there. This time they both moved in, and kissed each other with more heat.
She stood and reached for his hand, "Come upstairs."
"We have time?"
"All the time in the world."
I found out that I have a kid. (December 27, 2005)
Another line from the movie broke into Luke's reverie.
If you can't say it at Christmas, when can you?
"Shit." He sat up suddenly.
"Luke? What's wrong? Were you dreaming?"
"No, I wasn't asleep. I was thinking – remembering."
"Remembering what? What's wrong?"
"It is a thing. The telling the truth at Christmas. I just never thought about it, never realized it."
"Five years ago I told you the truth, that I didn't hate Christmas, that Christmas made me sad. That was a big thing for me, to admit that, to share a truth like that with you."
"Four years ago I told Jess I was happy to have him here. Also hard to say, also true."
"Three years ago I told Maisie I was lonely, that I didn't want to be alone anymore. She told me to ask you out, but instead I drove Joanna Cooper home and pretended that was a date, and taught you to fish and pretended it wasn't killing me that you were learning to fish for another guy, a guy with coffee..."
Lorelai narrowed her eyes. "Joanna who now?"
Luke pressed on. "Two years ago I told Nicole I love this town. Also true, and not to be shared with anyone, ever, by the way."
This time she narrowed her eyes and frowned. "You admitted something to Nicole you'd never even told me?"
"Moving on..." Luke looked at her hopefully.
She gave a small shrug.
"Last year I told you I loved you. Knees knocking, heart racing, but absolutely true."
Lorelai smiled at that, and leaned in for a kiss, but Luke stopped her, taking her hands in his. "Lorelai, I have to tell you something. Something hard, something I should've told you right from the beginning, but…I've been too scared. And I don't even know why, or what of, exactly, I haven't worked that out. I just keep going over it in my head, worried that you'll hate me…"
"Luke, you're scaring me."
"I'm sorry. I'm sorry. Let me just…say it. Tell you."
He took a deep breath, trying to calm his racing heart. He shut his eyes for a moment, then opened them again. Looking deep into her eyes, he saw that she did look scared, but loving.
'Trust her,' he thought. 'Trust her. She loves you.'
"Lorelai, I found out that I have a kid."
I love Christmas. (December 25, 2006)
"Tell the truth, Luke, you love Christmas."
Luke didn't turn around or miss a beat, he just kept washing the dishes. "I…like Christmas."
"You love Christmas."
"I love you."
"Yeah, yeah. So you love your wife of six months, 22 days and…" she looked up at the clock. "3 hours and 18 minutes. Old news. The new news is - you love Christmas."
"I like Christmas, I admit it, why can't that be enough for you?" He handed her the platter from the roast beef, too big to fit in the drying rack.
She caught the dripping water with her dish towel, continuing to goad him as she dried. "It would be enough, except it's not the truth. The truth is you love Christmas. Because even though it still makes you sad, down in a little corner of your heart, now you've got me, and Rory, and April, and Jess and Liz and Doula and even TJ to make it a lot less sad. And, last but not least, today you got the best gift ever. So just admit it."
"Yes. A stick with your pee on it. All wrapped up with a bow. Definitely the best gift ever," he teased.
Lorelai crossed over to him and lifted his hands out of the dishwater. She captured them in her towel and gently dried them off, her head bent as if it were the most important task in the world.
Finished, she tossed the towel on the counter and took his hands in hers. Dropping her teasing tone, she spoke seriously. "Last year, you had a soon-to-be stepdaughter and a recently discovered long-lost daughter. And this year...after this long, started-out-awful-ended-up-wonderful year...this day, you found out that you have another daughter, or son, on the way. As long as you live, you'll remember this Christmas, the Christmas you found out that amazing news, and you'll never be able to fully be sad on Christmas again."
Luke looked at her, at the love shining out of her eyes, and felt his own tear up.
"You don't hate Christmas, you were happy to have Jess live with you, you used to be lonely, you love this town, you love me, you are April's father, and You. Love. Christmas."
"Ok, you got me. I do. I love Christmas."
She smiled. "Now was that so hard?"
"I love Christmas, and I love you. And Rory, and April, and Jess and Liz and Doula. And the little peanut inside of you, God help him or her when they get here and find out TJ is their uncle..."
Lorelai hugged him then, wrapping her hands around his neck. "Little Peanut'll be just fine. And he or she will love Christmas too."