A/N: This is my Christmas gift (or other kind of gift if you're not a Christmas person) to all the lovely GG fans who read and reviewed my fic throughout the year, and to all other fans of Literati fic out there in web-land. May you have a wonderful Christmas (or other preferred event/holiday) and may this story make you smile! :)
Disclaimer: All recognisable characters and references from Gilmore Girls belong to Amy Sherman-Palladino and other folks that aren't me.
A Gilmore Christmas Miracle
24th December 2008 (18 months post-series approx.)
It didn't feel much like Christmas. Not in the warm sticky air that encompassed LA, and Rory was really feeling it as she made a mad dash for the airport. She was convinced she wasn't going to make it for a while there. The traffic on the roads was pretty crazy, it had been hell to get a cab, and then they crawled along at such a slow pace, Rory wondered if she wouldn't be better off getting out and running. Finally she made it to the airport, crashed in through the doors and pelted as fast as a Gilmore girls legs could carry her. It wasn't massively fast and she reached the check in desk with a pain in her side and hardly any breath left to speak. Shoving her ticket at the clerk, she hoped she had made it. Her watch said she might have, by the skin of her teeth. The grim look on the clerk's face said different. Rory's eyes went wide with panic.
"No, no, no!" she said frustratedly. "Please don't tell me I missed the flight. I cannot have missed the flight!"
"Ma'am, you haven't missed it," said the young man with a kind smile. "Unfortunately, that's only because it's been cancelled."
Rory's exclamation was so sudden and loud, they probably heard her from one side of the airport to the other. Those who stopped to stare went unnoticed by Miss Gilmore as she leaned into the desk and spoke quickly to the clerk.
"It cannot be cancelled. This is the last flight that can get me home for Christmas."
"I'm sorry, ma'am, there's simply nothing I can do," said the man with the name tag that said he was called Paul. "The weather in Connecticut has been particularly bad, there are no flights in or out of Hartford or New Haven today. I am sorry," he repeated.
Rory shook her head. "Okay, fine, no flight into Connecticut. How close can you get me?" she asked then, rifling in her purse. "I can buy another ticket. Transfer or a new one, it doesn't matter. Um, Boston or Philadelphia? New York? Somewhere on the east coast where I can drive in, please?"
"Most of our east coast flights already left," said Paul, wincing as he checked the listings. "I can offer you Boston tomorrow morning, Philadelphia would be tonight but it's full so again, tomorrow at the earliest, and New York... No sooner, I'm sorry," he told her sadly on checking all the information.
Rory felt herself deflating like a balloon going down. Tears came to her eyes, stinging so much she had to blink hard and that sent red-hot droplets running down her cheeks. She felt so stupid. First because she had waited until the last minute to go home for Christmas. Second because she was now openly crying in front of an airport check in clerk and anybody else who wandered by and saw her.
"Thank you," she muttered, the words coming out more like a strangled sob as she turned and walked away.
She dropped down into the neared seat, not caring if she was supposed to be there or not. Rory had no idea what to do. It was Christmas Eve, later in the day than she would like already, and she had no way home. Her mom was going to be so disappointed. Not just Lorelai, actually, but Luke too, and the grandparents, Lane and Zach, April, a whole host of townsfolk who had been looking forward to having little Rory Gilmore home for Christmas. That wasn't going to happen. Last year she had been lucky. The Obama campaign had her over in Boston on the 20th and it was easy enough to get home for a few days for Christmas before she was back on the road again. Now Rory really was living in the real world, working for a real life newspaper that had sent her to LA for an interview oppurtunity. She could see now why she was chosen. Nobody else wanted to be so far from home this time of year. They had wives, husbands, children to think of. Nobody thought Rory would mind because she was unattached and childless, but that wasn't the case.
For the first time in her whole life, Rory was alone for Christmas. The tears came full force now, sobs racking her body, making her stomach lurch with the force of each one. Being away from Stars Hollow so much was hard sometimes, but she could deal on any normal day. This was Christmas, it was special, it was something she had been looking forward to so much. Rory never felt so alone.
"Ma'am?" said a voice, and Rory looked up to see a box of tissue being waved in her direction by Paul. "I'm so sorry," he repeated. "I wish there was something I could do."
"Thank you," she told him with a very watery smile as she took the box gratefully. "You're a good man, Paul. It's not your fault," she said with a sniffle.
He nodded his thanks for the sentiment but obviously had to return to his desk or maybe just get home for Christmas himself. Rory didn't want to think about it and blew her noise noisily into a wad of tissue. She had no idea where she was going to go or what she was going to do now. There was a chance she could get a hotel room nearby. She had her credit card, but spending a lonely Christmas in a room by herself didn't appeal. Rory would almost rather stay at the airport. Maybe she could get a flight tomorrow, though by the time she made it there she would probably have to head straight back out.
"This sucks!" she said too loudly for a person talking to herself.
Her name being spoken startled her completely, especially since she was sure she knew that voice. Turning in her seat, Rory was amazed and elated to see a familiar face.
"Jess!" she exclaimed with real joy, leaping from her seat and throwing herself into his arms.
"Wow," he remarked as he hugged her back, eyes closing momentarily at the sensation of having Rory in his arms one more time. "This is... I never expected to see you here."
"Me either," she said, pulling back to see his face. "Oh, Jess, I was just... I was having the worst day and now you're here. You're here!" she enthused, hugging him some more.
Jess meant to be flattered. He was, he supposed, but Rory's red-rimmed eyes and over-excitement at his mere presence was unsettling, especially after the last time they parted company in Philly more than two years ago.
"Rory," he said, trying to see her face. "What's going on? What are you doing here?"
"Trying to get home," she said, expression fading back to sadness in a second. "The flight is cancelled, and all the others are tomorrow or full. I'm stuck here, by myself, for Christmas."
She started to cry again and it broke Jess' heart to see that. Last time he saw her, Rory hurt him badly, but that didn't mean her sadness brought him any joy. He loved her now just as he had loved her then and from the moment they first met. He wondered if there was a way for that feeling to ever completely leave him. Not seeing her for two or three years hadn't extinguished the flame in his heart. Somehow Jess doubted anything ever would, but focusing on that now was doing this situation no good.
"Not by yourself," he said suddenly. "I'm here, and if you can't get a flight back, I'm figuring I can't either," he said with a shrug.
"You were trying to get to Stars Hollow?" asked Rory with a frown. "I didn't know."
"Neither did I," Jess explained, encouraging her to retake her seat and dropping down into the one next to her, pulling his duffel into his lap. "I was out in Venice Beach visiting with Jimmy, Sasha, and Lil. Closer it got to Christmas, the more I thought it might be cool to drop in on Luke. I guess I should've checked the east coast forecast first."
"Me too," said Rory, sighing heavily and dabbing at her eyes some more. "At least we found each other."
"We did that," he agreed with a nod. "I still don't get why you were on this side of the country today?"
"Big interview," Rory grumbled. "I thought it was some big oppurtunity for me, but now I see they sent the junior spinster who nobody would miss if she didn't get home for Christmas."
Jess wanted to laugh but he wouldn't dare. It wasn't that her being upset was funny, but her calling herself a junior spinster and all, complete with fat lip, it was adorable.
"I'm sorry you can't get home", he said, hand briefly on her arm. "I know what it means to you."
"I'm sorry too," said Rory, meeting his eyes. "Jess, I mean it, I really am. More than two years... I should've called or come back to see you again to apologise. I know I should've..."
"Rory, let's not," he said, shaking his head.
"I have to," she insisted, her hand on his where it lay on the arm rest between them. "I don't know what I was thinking when I took Logan back after what he did to me, and then to come running to you, to... to use you like I did. It was so wrong of me," she said definitely. "I don't regret seeing you. I never can regret any moment we spent together, Jess, no matter when or where or what the consequences were," she said with a genuine smile that he was pleased to see.
"Yeah, I know what you mean," he told her, smiling right on back. "Honestly, you did hurt me that day, but I guess I deserved it, in a way. Rory, we both know I didn't always treat you right when we were together. I guess it took us both a while to grow up, huh?"
"I guess it did," she agreed, nodding her head. "Though honestly, I still have to wonder if I've really grown up at all. I mean, here I am, sitting in an airport on Christmas Eve, crying for my mommy," she said, almost managing to laugh at herself. "Actually, I should call her, let her know what's happening. She'll be so disappointed."
"It's not your fault," Jess insisted, fingers linking with hers. "Lorelai will understand."
Rory looked down at their joined hands and found a small smile.
"Thank you, Jess," she told him, and somehow they both knew it was for way more than just telling her it would all be okay. "Thank you," she repeated meeting his eyes.
He nodded once, then cleared his throat. "You call your mom," he advised. "Then I may have a plan that works a little better than spending Christmas in an airport."
"Okay," Rory agreed, suddenly not feeling quite so crappy about not getting home for Christmas.
She had no idea what Jess had in mind, but she trusted that it was going to be okay.
"This is amazing!" said Rory with the widest smile Jess had seen on her lips in years.
The fact he put that expression on her face made it so much better, the very best Christmas gift that Jess ever could have gotten. Not that he really did that much. Stranded as they both were, the only way forward was to get a hotel room and make the best of a bad situation. Not that Jess ever thought of seeing Rory as bad, but this certainly wasn't where she wanted to be on Christmas Eve. He hoped it was fast becoming a good second option. The smile said it was.
"You always were easily pleased," he said, dropping onto the second bed a few feet from hers.
The large TV on the opposite wall was paused on the opening title sequence of It's a Wonderful Life. Rory's bed was strewn with bags of Christmas candy and a couple of pizzas were on the end of Jess' bed. They had already raided the mini bar, soft Christmas music was playing in the background, and with the curtains drawn and the lights down, it was easy to believe they were someplace else, someplace closer to home maybe. Jess only had to fight Rory just a little bit when it came to paying for everything. At some point he was going to have to tell her about the advance he'd gotten from a book deal that nobody knew about yet, but for now, it wasn't important.
"This isn't going to work," said Rory then, frowning slightly. "You're too far away."
Jess bit his lip, a hundred dirty comments running through his head. Where he and Rory were concerned, there was no bed sharing to think back on and there was no way he was taking advantage of the situation tonight. A twin room was the best way forward, and yet, now she wanted him closer.
"I'm too far, or the pizza is too far?" he asked, hoping that keeping the mood light would result in his not going crazy tonight.
"Both," said Rory, pouting like a child. "Maybe we should've just... or not," she reconsidered.
The words 'double bed' were somewhere in the unspoken part of her sentence and Jess wasn't even going to go near that. With a sigh, he rolled off his bed and braced accordingly. With a heave, he shifted his bed closer to the one Rory was lying on. When there was barely an inch left between the two, he hopped back into place, shoving the pizza closer to Rory.
"Better?" he asked with a smirk he couldn't help.
"Better," she grinned, popping a gumdrop into her mouth.
Picking up the remote, Rory hit play and settled in to watch the movie. Jess leant back comfortably, eyes drifting to Rory way more than they were on the screen. He had seen the movie a hundred times, or it felt as if he had. This was one he had never watched with Rory though.
Feeling his eyes on her, Rory glanced at Jess with a questioning look on her face. He shook his head slightly, like he didn't know what to say or maybe that he didn't even know why she was looking at him, but they both knew that was a lie.
"We never spent a whole Christmas together before," he said eventually.
"I guess we never did," she agreed, turning then to reach for her glass on the nightstand. "To our first real Christmas?"
"Our first Christmas," replied Jess with a smirk, clinking his beer bottle against her glass. "Hopefully not the last?" he tried.
"Definitely not," she agreed easily, taking a drink.
An hour later, they had laughed, cried, and critiqued their way through half of It's A Wonderful Life, eaten two large pizzas, a small country's worth of candy, and were wrapped in each other's arms across the join between the two beds. Rory looked up at Jess and he looked down at her.
"What?" he asked, hardly able to focus on her when she was so very close.
She only smiled and leaned in to softly kiss his lips.
"Merry Christmas, Jess," she whispered as she pulled back a little.
"Merry Christmas, Rory," he replied in kind, daring to move in for a kiss himself.
She didn't stop him, didn't protest, just fell into the moment for a few seconds more. Less than a minute later they were back to watching the movie, and somehow all was right with the world.