A/N: I wrote this a while back, but wanted to release it in time for Christmas. I hope you enjoy! Jess and Luke's relationship is my favorite on the show and I absolutely love writing little canon-compliant off-screen scenes between the two. Like most of my Jess fics this one does imply a backstory of neglect on the part of Liz, but the real focus of this story is Luke and Jess's bonding.
Watching Lorelai try to walk into Luke's Diner with seven tote bags stuffed in her arms was quite the sight. She couldn't get a grip on the doorknob and when someone finally opened it for her, she couldn't get through that door with all those bags. Try as she might to hold on, she wound up dropping most of the bags as she squeezed through the door.
She let out a groan, put the bags she was still carrying by the counter, and then went back to pick up the spilled ones. When all was done the floor by the counter had become flooded with bags.
"You can't put your bags there," Luke nagged.
Lorelai stuck up her pointer finger and then bent down, searching through the bags. She pulled out a box cloaked in Santa Clause wrapping paper and handed it to Luke.
Luke looked down at it like it was some sort of enigma.
"It's a present," Lorelai said. She continued to search through the bags.
"You don't have to buy me presents."
"Yes, I do…damn it, where is it?" She opened bag after bag, failing to find whatever she was looking for. "Why wouldn't I just put it right next to your gift?"
Luke crouched down next to Lorelai and helped her look. There were so many gifts, all with different wrapping paper: Christmas trees, reindeer, snowflakes. One even had a menorah. Luke picked that one up.
"Kirk's not Jewish," Luke said.
Lorelai snatched the box bag. "You don't have to be Jewish to enjoy menorah wrapping paper."
He picked up another box with snowmen on it.
"But Babette is Jewish."
Lorelai snatched that box too. "I didn't wrap based on religious affliction, Jesus!"
Lorelai glared at him.
Luke grinned sheepishly.
"Here it is!" Lorelai pulled out a present and handed it to Luke. It was also boxed shaped, but much smaller and felt denser than the first present. This one was for Jess.
"You really didn't have to get him anything," Luke said as they both stood up.
"Trust me, I didn't. It's from Rory. We're passing all these," she gestured at the huge pile of presents on the ground, "out as soon as she gets home from school. Thought we'd do it today before people leave for the holiday this weekend."
Luke put the two presents on the counter while Lorelai carefully stepped over the bags and reached a stool. His mood was now uplifted enough to forget about the OSHA violation that his floor had become. Someone cared enough about Jess to buy him a present. Maybe his nephew actually was adjusting to this town.
"I haven't gotten you anything," Luke admitted.
"I didn't expect you to. I'm sure you're busy just putting together Jess's gifts. Never had a kid during the holidays before."
"I didn't get anything for Jess," Luke admitted.
"What?!" Lorelai said, a little too loud. A few customers looked over at her. She blushed, leaned forward, and lowered her voice. "Luke, you can't not buy him gifts. It's Christmas and he's a kid. Everyone deserves gifts on Christmas, especially kids."
"I didn't say I wasn't going to get him anything, just that I haven't yet."
"Christmas is in five days!" Lorelai shouted. They got stares again.
"I know how to read a calendar."
The bell over the front door rang as Rory entered. She climbed over the bags piled in front of the counter and joined her mother on another stool. "Did he open it?" Rory asked with a big smile.
"You're just in time," Lorelai said. "Make his heart grow three times its original size, Cindy Lou Who."
Rory smiled. "Aw, is Luke being a grinch again? Just let Taylor hang some decorations in your window. They'll peel off."
"I'm not a grinch and I'm not letting Taylor anywhere near my windows."
The Gilmore girls laughed in unison. Lorelai picked up the box for Luke off the counter and handed it back to him. He wasn't going to argue with both Gilmores so he complied and opened it. Inside was a red and green flannel shirt.
"I know you have a million," Lorelai said, "but this one seemed festive, what with the colors, but not so festive that you'd hate it. It's…you. It's a kind of festive you'd actually wear."
Luke checked the tag. It was just his size. "How'd you know I'm an extra-large?" he asked.
"Please," Lorelai said. "What am I if not the fashion expert. I can size anyone up…do you like it."
Luke smiled and nodded. "I don't usually wear Christmas themed clothes, but I'll think I'll make an exception this year. Gonna put it on Christmas day."
Lorelai smiled back. Joy hung in the air between them for a moment before Rory interrupted by picking up Jess's gift and asking if he was in the apartment above. Luke nodded and the girl disappeared behind the curtain that led to the stairs.
"What'd she get him?" Luke asked.
"A book, what else?" Lorelai said.
"Yeah, that's probably smart."
There was a long, awkward moment of silence before Lorelai said, "Do you have any idea what you're going to get him?"
"Probably just cash."
"Cash?!" Lorelai repeated back. Again, stares. "You can't give him cash. Luke, a gift is supposed to come from the bottom of the heart. It's supposed to say I care enough about you to know what you like. Cash just says, oops, I forgot about you because I don't really care. Do you want Jess to think you don't care?"
"Jess doesn't put this much thought into gifts. If I get him cash then he can just get what he wants."
"Is cash what you want?" Lorelai asked.
"Sure. Lot easier than picking out something that the person will probably hate."
Lorelai's lip trembled. "You hate the shirt?"
"What—no! I don't hate your gifts." He took the hat off your head. "Haven't I worn this every day since you gave it to me?"
Lorelai's frown instantly turned back to a smile. It was so quick that Luke suspected Lorelai had just been manipulating Luke. "See. You do prefer gifts over cash."
Luke put his hat back on, backwards like always. "Well sure, if the gift is from someone with your crazy magical abilities to know what's perfect. I'm just not that kind of person. I know the kinds of things Jess likes. I mean…I know he likes books…and music…and disgusting-shirts that should never be worn inside a diner, but not what kinds."
"Then ask Rory for help. They're friendly. She knows what he likes."
"Then won't it really be a gift from Rory."
Lorelai shook her head like Luke was a moron. "No, because you're paying for it." She smirked. "Plus, it says, yeah I needed help, but at least I knew who to ask for help because I know who your friends are. I care!"
"Fine," Luke said. "If it'll get you off my back I'll ask Rory what books he wants, okay?"
Rory came back downstairs. "That was the last book he needed to finish his Bradbury collection," she said through a grin. "Well, at least the novel portion."
The girls went over to the floor and picked up the bags. "We're off," Lorelai said.
"Aren't you going to eat?" Luke asked.
"Bah! No time. Sookie and Jackson leave for the airport at four. Call the house tonight and we'll help you with that thing."
Lorelai and Rory rushed out the door. Luke could hear Rory say, "What thing?" before the door slammed shut behind them. With the chaos of the Gilmores and their presents gone the diner seemed nearly dead. There were only a few customers, and Cesar could handle them. He went upstairs to check on Jess. Did Jess actually want to do this whole Christmas thing?
Jess was sitting on the couch with his back against the armrest and with his legs and feet lying across the cushions. Luke approached him with caution, as if Jess was a baby gazelle who would run away at the slightest sign of provocation.
"Good book?" Luke asked. The name Bradbury was on the spine so it must have been the one Rory just gave him. Boy, Jess doesn't waste any time with his books.
"Uh-huh," Jess said absentmindedly and turned the page.
"Got any plans for break?" Luke tried again.
Jess put the book down again, a sneer on his face. He looked like Luke just asked him to beat a child. In Jess's world, the worse sin you could commit was interrupting his reading.
"Well, I would go home but you told Liz you thought it was best if I stay here, right?" Jess said. He locked eyes with Luke and continued to hold the gaze until Luke broke the eye contact.
Did Jess know? Did he know that Liz didn't want Jess home for Christmas break and Luke had to cover for her? He had to at least suspect something. "Right," Luke said, his heartbreaking just a little. He had been so sure he had Jess convinced this time. He even bragged about it to Lorelai. How foolish he had been.
"You know, if you and your mom had any traditions, we could do them too," Luke suggested.
"You gonna pass out from so much egg nog that you don't notice your addict boyfriend stealing everything in the apartment's that's not bolted down?" Jess asked.
"Or maybe passing out with a blunt in your hand, that you drop onto some curtains, and get the whole apartment condemned so we have to spend the holiday sleeping in the car."
"Jess, did that—"
He stood up in one fluid motion. "I'm out of here." He grabbed his coat, that ratty green one with the holes in the lining, and stormed out.
Luke just stood there dumbstruck. How obtuse was he that he had no idea what had been happening to his sister and nephew all these years?
Jess was not a happy kid, that much was clear. He was angry and hostile and rude. But he also kind of deserved the right to be angry and hostile and rude. He had a crappy childhood. Like, the crappiest of all crappy childhoods. And Luke hadn't really realized before the Christmas holiday.
Liz was always a bit of a ne're-do-well, and Luke doubted she ever won any mother of the year awards, but he always thought, or maybe just hoped, that she had always tried her best with Jess. Burning down their house was not her best.
Luke wasn't exactly Mr. Christmas Spirit, but he could pretend to get into the holiday spirit for Jess. The kid deserved some happy memories. He needed to do something big—not that one Christmas could make up for sixteen bad ones, but Luke had to try something.
That's how he found himself at a Christmas tree farm. Rows and rows of Evergreens were laid out as far as the eye could see. Families walked through the farm, picking out their favorite tree. Little children ran away, bundled up in puffy coats and scarves, so excited for the upcoming holiday. Should Luke had brought Jess? Would Jess even come? Probably not and this would be better if it was a surprise.
A few weeks ago, Stars Hollow had a Christmas tree sale in the town square, with hundreds of Christmas trees shipped in from a farm like this. At the time Luke scoffed at the dummies willing to throw their hard-earned cash away on a silly tradition that encouraged deforestation. Now he was one of those dummies.
Luke walked down the rows, looking at the trees, and breathed in their piney scents. He needed to find the perfect one, a big one with no patches, reaching all the way up to the ceiling. He was pretty sure he had Christmas decorations in storage. They hadn't been used since his father died. In fact, Luke had stopped celebrating Christmas all together after his old man was gone.
Finally, Luke stopped in front of a huge tree. It was labeled as a nine-footer, the maximum height Luke could go and still have room for the tree topper. He smiled to himself. Yes, this tree was perfect. He went off to find an employee of the farm who helped him move the tree to his truck. It extended far beyond the length of the truck bed. He hoped it would hold up during transportation.
Before he returned to the diner Luke had one more stop to make. He reached the storage facility where he kept most of his father's old things. Though he had no need for them Luke had been unable to part with any of them. His packrat ways worked for him today, though, as now he would have Christmas items to fill the apartment and diner with.
Luke walked down the long columns of storage sheds until he finally found the one he was looking for. Number 153. He was pretty sure that was his shed—it had been far too long since he last visited here. He put the key into the lock and it opened. Good. Luke pulled the shed door up and stepped inside. It felt like stepping into a time capsule going back to his childhood.
The antique war items were stored on one wall—it was mostly old and broken muskets or medical supplies claimed to have been used in the revolutionary war. In the boxes below that were his father's old collection of historical novels. His father, a veteran himself, was a huge military and history buff. Luke had never understood the interest—he thought glorifying wars set a bad precedent—but looking at that stuff always made him feel reminiscent of the old man.
There was also a box of his mother's old crocheted blankets and a ton of his and Liz's old toys. He walked past those boxes and found the holiday decorations in the back. Dad always went all out for every holiday. He loved them, especially the family time. Their family wasn't very large, Mom died when Luke and Liz were young, so it was just the three of them, and occasionally Uncle Louie, who would treat every holiday as an excuse to get drunk. But if their dad taught them anything it was how the holiday was about family. Maybe that's why Luke hated Christmas so much, he didn't have anyone to celebrate with.
Well, now he had Jess.
Luke opened up the box labeled Christmas but what he saw broke his heart. Most of the ornaments had been smashed to smithereens, many others were chipped. "No, no, no," he said as he carefully sorted through them trying to see if any were salvageable. There were a few that held very special meaning to him and he hoped they were somehow spared that fate. The painted ones he and his sister made the year before his mother died were completely destroyed. As was the baby ornament his dad had bought the year Jess was born. Liz and Jess never came by to visit that Christmas and it had devastated the old man. He still loved that damn ornament, though.
It was Luke's fault, really. When he packed up this stuff he wasn't careful about it. He didn't treat them like they were the fragile items they were. They were probably all destroyed when he moved them into this place, either from putting them down too hard or from the ride over. Luke had just been so devastated over his father's death that he never bothered to treat the items his dad loved with any real care.
Luke continued to look through the box. Finally, he saw the tree topper, his mother's favorite item. It was an angel holding candles that lit up, and it was dressed in a cloth gown that she hand-sewed herself. It was nearly okay, but one of the arms had broken off. It was now a one-armed angel holding one candle. It would have to do. It wasn't really Christmas without his mother's favorite tree topper.
Luke carefully picked up the angel and left the storage unit. There was nothing else for him to take. He locked up behind him and went to his truck. This was going to be harder than he expected.
Jess groaned as he woke. Winter break had officially started. And yet there was only more monotony for Jess to look forward to. So what if school was out for a week? He still had to work at the diner and see the townspeople every damn day. There was no escaping the torture that was Stars Hollow.
He pulled his sheets over his head and tried to steal a few more minutes of sleep. No success. Finally, Jess gave up and sat up on his bed. Bed was a bit of an overstatement. Jess was really just sleeping on a mattress on Luke's floor. His mother sent him away to live with someone who didn't even have room for him. How screwed up was that?
Where was Luke, anyway? Luke was an early riser every day, but normally he would have woken Jess up a few times since 6 AM, coming upstairs to do this or that while Jess slept the hours away and Luke ran his business. Not this morning, though.
Jess got dressed and bundled up in his winter coat. It was worn out, having already been old when he picked it up at Goodwill last year. He went downstairs and heard the loud chatter of the dinner patrons. Still blinking the sleep out of his eyes, Jess stepped out from behind the curtain that separated the diner from the stairs that led to the upstairs apartment. In one fluid motion, he pulled his book out of his back pocket and looked for where he last left off.
Jess settled down on a barstool in front of the counter and began reading. Through his peripheral vision, though, he could tell something was off. Jess lowered the book.
The diner was filled wall to wall with Christmas decorations. It was like something straight out of a Hallmark movie. The windows had paper snowflakes taped to them and the windowsills held cotton balls, made to look like snow. There were also paper snowflakes hanging off of strings from the ceiling. And to top it all of there was a Goddamn Christmas tree in the back of the diner in the little nook next to the kitchen. What the Hell had happened?
"Luke!" Jess called.
Luke popped out of the kitchen, a spatula in his hand. Shockingly, he hadn't been kidnapped? So why had he allowed this monstrosity into his diner? A few weeks ago, Taylor had come into the diner and asked Luke to put up decorations and Luke nearly threw his ass out onto the sidewalk. If Luke was anything, he was a grinch. Hell, he hated all holidays. He had ranted just as much when he was asked to put decorations up for Halloween and Thanksgiving.
"What?" Luke asked.
Jess gestured at the diner.
"What?" Luke asked again.
"What the Hell happened? Is Taylor holding one of your loved ones hostage and should I be offended he didn't choose me?"
Luke sighed "It's just Christmas decorations. You got a problem with them?"
"I do if they were made by my Pod-Person-Uncle."
"Ha. Ha," Luke said dryly.
Jess shook his head. This was too much to take in. Luke was acting just way too weird for him. "Whatever." He stood up from the stool, stuffed his book into his back pocket, zipped up his jacket, and left the diner.
Luke's heart ached. He had stayed up all night to put those damn Christmas decorations up for Jess and Jess hated it. He had gone too far. The decorations were too much. He should have just done something small upstairs instead of letting Lorelai's words about what "kids deserve" worm her way into his brain. This is something Rory would have loved, but Jess wasn't Rory.
Well, what's done is done. There was no time to second guess his actions. The diner was slammed today and he stupidly let Jess walk out without asking for him to take an extra shift.
People from all over Stars Hollow were coming to the diner today to see the rare occasion of it being decorated for Christmas. It was a once in a lifetime opportunity and they knew it. Gossip about Luke's deteriorating mental state spread around town, but Luke ignored it. He knew his reasons for decorating the diner.
"So, you finally caved," Taylor said when he entered. He looked as smug as ever and sauntered right up to the counter.
"Stuff it or I throw all the decorations to the curb along with you," Luke warned.
"Well, that's not really in the spirit of the holiday."
Luke lifted the coffee pot. "Is me pouring this in your lap in the spirit?"
Taylor glared. "I'll take one in a cup to go, thank you very much." He turned to someone sitting at the counter next to him. "The customer service here is atrocious. No wonder he needed the extra atmosphere to bring people in."
After Taylor, there were comments from Kirk, Miss Patty, Babette, and even Mrs. Kim, who only stopped in to ask why he didn't have a nativity scene up and left without ordering.
The cherry on top, though, was Lorelai Gilmore. Of course, she stopped by to just gawk and comment. She always had something to add. She and Rory sat down at the counter and waited for Luke to come up with them to take their order.
"What year is it?" Lorelai asked.
"Who's the president?"
"What's going on here?" Luke asked Rory, the sensible Gilmore.
"I think she's asking the standard concussion questions," Rory said.
Luke closed the order pad shut and put his hands firmly on the counter so he could give Lorelai a good glare.
Lorelai gave that lovely disarming smile that always got Luke to forget why he was so annoyed. "So…" she said and gestured at the diner.
"So, what happened? Taylor finally wear you down?"
"He better not be telling people he did!" Luke stuck his finger in Lorelai's face.
"That's one story," Rory said. "Others are saying Jess did it as a prank to annoy you, but honestly I think that's way too much effort for him. And of course, there's the insanity theory and kidnapped and replaced with a doppelganger theory, which are the usual fodder for these situations but also a little too farfetched for reality, if you ask me."
"So, what's the real reason?" Lorelai asked, her voice getting higher and higher pitched with every second. She was even bouncing slightly on her chair. If he kept her waiting any longer she might actually explode with anticipation.
"There is no reason. Just wanted the diner to look festive."
Lorelai laughed, but when Luke didn't crack a smile she stopped. "Oh my God, are you serious? Luke! I don't think I've ever heard you use the world festive before. What is really going on?"
Luke sighed. No one in this town could ever just let things be. Maybe he should have just limited the decorations to the apartment, no matter how small they were. And he had thought he had been so clever about these decorations too. He got up shortly after Jess went to bed and snuck downstairs to put all the decorations up. Since he had no unbroken decorations he had handcraft them all. He thought he had done a pretty good job, but maybe it was too much. And Jess didn't even seem to care.
Luke leaned forward, finally letting them in on his secret. "I did it for Jess. I felt bad that his mom didn't invite him home for the holidays and I wanted to do something special for him."
"Aw!" Lorelai said. "Luke, that is the sweetest thing I ever heard."
Luke blushed. "Yeah, well, it didn't matter. Jess didn't care. He saw, he mocked, he left. So much for the all-nighter I pulled putting this all together."
"You pulled an all-nighter?" Rory asked
"Well, I had to handmake pretty much everything. All the Christmas decorations from my Dad's place were ruined. Plus, I bought the tree yesterday. It's fine though. I'm not a big holiday person, I should have realized Jess wouldn't care."
Rory and Lorelai both frowned. The pity in their eyes was worse than when they were just teasing him. He should have just kept this to himself.
"Well, I think this is really nice," Lorelai said. She reached over and put her hand on Luke's arms. "That kid doesn't realize how lucky he is to have you."
Luke sheepishly looked away. How did she always know the exact right words to say? "I'll be right back," he said and went into the kitchen. When he returned he had the tree topper in his hands.
He handed it to Lorelai. "This was my mother's favorite tree topper. I know it's a little worse for wear, but she loved it and I wanted a little part of her on the tree. We used it every Christmas after she died."
Lorelai took the tree topper in her hand and turned it over. The chipped and broken parts had been glued back on, though the signs of damage were still obvious. They didn't matter to Luke though. The angel's gown was also still torn. Luke hadn't fixed that.
"Wait a second," Lorelai said and she gently placed the tree topper on the counter. She then dug through her purse. "Aha! There it is." She pulled out some white thread and a needle then picked up the angel.
"Oh you don't have to—"
"Please," Lorelai said. "What use am I if not for my mending abilities." She quickly stitched up the gown, but that left an unseemly seam, so Lorelai created the same seam on the other parallel side of the dress, so the seam looked like it was apart of the design, and not there to fix an accident. She handed the angel back to Luke.
"That looks...even better than before. Thank you!"
"Hey, it's what I do."
Luke smiled down at the angel. Happy memories of his childhood ran through his brain. He remembered how every year his dad would alternate between lifting Luke or Liz up so they could put the topper on, at least when they were little. He wanted to give that honor to Jess this year, but Jess didn't care.
"Hey Rory, you want to put it on top?" he asked.
"Really?" she asked.
Luke nodded. He handed her the angel then went into the back to find a step stool ladder. He placed it next to the tree and Rory climbed up to the top, then placed the angel. Luke smiled like a proud father. He knew she wasn't his but he loved her just the same anyway. At least someone could appreciate what he was offering.
Rory lowered herself down from the step stool ladder and everyone in the diner clapped. Luke and Rory blushed. They hadn't noticed everyone watching her as she climbed up. She gave Luke a quick hug before joining her mother at the counter.
"Thanks, Luke. It really means something to be a part of," she looked around the dinner, "well whatever you want to call this mental breakdown."
"I'm not having a mental break down!" Luke said. "Damnit, I just told you two why I'm doing this."
"Sure Luke," Lorelai said. "Sure." The two Gilmores laughed as Luke rolled his eyes.
After Luke's, Rory peeled off from her mother to go the Stars Hollow Books. She still had a few gifts to pick up and honestly, she wanted to do a little shopping for herself during the holiday sales. It didn't take long to spot Jess in one of the aisles, sitting down with a book, reading. Rory went to the aisle and pretended to browse as she stepped closer and closer to Jess.
"You know Luke is swamped today, right?"
"Huh?" Jess looked up from the book.
"Luke. Your uncle. The man who gives you clothes and shelter. The man who just put together a Christmas extravaganza for you in one night."
"What?" Jess closed the book and placed it on his lap as he raised his eyebrow.
"The Christmas decorations? He did that for you. He wanted you to have a nice Christmas. And he stayed up all night doing it because all his childhood decorations were ruined so he had to make all the decorations from scratch. He did an amazing thing and you don't care."
"Are we in a fight?" Jess asked, a smirk on his lips.
Jess never took anything seriously. He never cared when he hurt people's feelings. How he could be so selfish?
"Yes, we're in a fight. Luke cares about you and I care about him. Why do you always do this? Why do you always treat Luke like dirt when he tries so hard to make you a nice home? He took you in. He defends you when you annoy everyone else in town. Can't you just appreciate that for once?"
Jess was silent.
"You know what? Never mind. Keep on being selfish, it's what you're best at."
"I didn't know he did it for me," Jess said as Rory started to walk away. She turned around and waited for Jess to continue. He stood up and closed the book in his hands. "I thought…I don't know, I thought he had just lost his mind."
"That was the prevailing theory around town."
"So, you understand why I wanted to get away before the men in the white coats arrived, right?"
"You should go back and help out at the diner then. Let Luke know you appreciate him."
Jess put the book back on the shelf. "Yeah, I will…I will!" he said when Rory rolled her eyes. "I have an errand to run first but I will go by the diner after that. I'll be there for the dinner rush, I swear." He started to head for the bookstore exit and then turned back to Rory for one last question. "Hey, what was your theory on why he did it?"
"Huh," Jess said, then left.
The diner was getting slammed with the dinner rush by the time Jess returned. "Where have you been all day?" Luke snapped when his lazy, ungrateful nephew returned. He had three plates covering his hands and arms, and he was trying very hard to keep them balanced as he walked over to the table where they belonged.
"It's my day off," Jess shot back.
"Well, could you give me a hand?" Luke asked.
"Yeah, give me a minute!" Jess said. He had a bag in his hand, but Luke couldn't see where it was from before Jess reached the curtains that blocked off the stairwell. Jess was back in about five minutes and he went straight to refilling coffee cups.
"Where were you all day?" Luke asked when Jess returned behind the counter.
"Thanks for elaborating," Luke said. He went back to serving orders while Jess starting taking some.
The dinner rush extended well into the evening, much past how long it usually lasted. "Why are you so busy today?" Jess asked. "It's three days before Christmas. Doesn't anyone in this town spend time with their families?"
Luke gestured at the diner. "They think I've gone insane."
"Well, haven't you?"
"Ha. Ha," Luke said dryly. Luke picked up the coffee pot and handed it to Jess. "Just go refill everyone's cups."
Jess did as he was told. The diner continued to be busy until closing time. At least they both made good tips. When the last customer had left Jess and Luke went upstairs and Jess squirreled his tip money away in his duffel bag. Jess quickly got ready for bed while Luke gathered the small portable TV to watch downstairs so Jess could pump the apartment full of the deafening noise Jess called music.
"Do you really need to play that every night?"
"Yup," Jess said.
"It blocks out the noise."
"Car alarms, screaming, neighbors. Noise."
"You hear a lot of people screaming on the streets of Stars Hollow?"
"I used to use it to block out noise in New York. Now I need it to sleep. Okay? Can you stop dissecting my sleeping habits?" Jess plopped down on the bed then reached for his stereo.
"Not reading tonight?"
"Tired. Will you go away now?" Jess turned on the music and laid back and pulled his covers over his head.
Luke didn't know what he should've expected. Of course, nothing changed. Jess didn't want to be here and no matter how much Luke tried to make the apartment feel like home it would never be for Jess. Luke headed for the door but stopped in place when he heard the music turn down.
"Luke!" Jess called from the bedroom.
Luke walked back toward the bedroom and looked for Jess. "Yeah?"
Jess had pulled his covers back down but was still laying on the bed. "The decorations were nice," he said. Then he reached back over and turned the music back up.
Luke smiled to himself. Well, that was something.
December 23 & 24
The next day was much like the day before. The diner was open and slammed. At least Jess stuck around to work this time. After all, how could he show his uncle how grateful he was for all that Luke did if Jess ditched him two days in a row?
On Christmas Eve the diner closed early and Luke had the bright idea to make Christmas cookies with Jess. Jess really didn't want to bake with his uncle, but Luke seemed so excited about the idea that Jess finally agreed to sitting at the kitchen table while Luke did all the prep work. Perhaps an unbalanced compromise, but it had to be more than Luke was actually expecting. This was Jess, after all.
"What are you reading?" Luke asked as he mixed the flour with sugar and eggs.
"Frankenstein," Jess said.
"Isn't that more of a Halloween story?"
"You really expected me to be sitting here reading A Christmas Carol?"
"Well…maybe…just thought it'd be nice to get into the Christmas spirit."
Jess rolled his eyes and turned the page. "You and this Christmas spirit all of a sudden. It's like I'm living with Taylor." Jess lowered his book. "You and Taylor didn't body switch, did you? He's not all of a sudden really grumpy and wearing flannel."
"You know what, forget it?"
Jess frowned. Luke didn't need to be mocked. He was doing this for Jess. And while Jess certainly didn't need all this—he and his mom never really made a big to do about the holidays—it was the thought that counted, right?
Jess stood up and went into the bedroom, searching through his things.
"So, I guess I'm making cookies all alone?" Luke asked. He slammed the dough onto the cookie tray and grumbled, "I don't even eat sugar."
Jess returned after a minute with a new book in his hands. "Happy?" Jess asked and showed the book cover to his uncle.
"Pet Sematary?" Luke asked. "How is that even remotely better…do you think it's October? Would you rather we carve pumpkins and go door to door hounding the neighbors to give up all their candy under threat of vandalism?"
"It takes place during Christmas," Jess said matter-of-factly.
Luke rolled his eyes. "Oh, right. How could I have forgotten?"
Jess opened up the new book and continued to read as Luke did all the work for the cookies. Finally, they were ready to go into the oven. Luke set a timer and sat down at a table.
Jess glanced up from his book. "You want to watch a movie?" Jess asked.
"Let me guess, Nightmare before Christmas?"
Jess raised an eyebrow. "Actually, I was thinking Die Hard."
"Die Hard," Jess said with an uncharacteristic grin. It felt strange on his face.
"Jess, what aren't you getting about Christmas?"
"It's a Christmas movie!"
"It's an action movie about terrorism."
"That takes place during Christmas!"
Luke rolled his eyes again.
"This is the best compromise you're going to get," Jess said. He walked over to his things and pulled out a copy of the video from Stars Hollow Video.
"When'd you pick this up?" Luke asked.
Jess shrugged. "Couple days ago. I knew it might snow tonight and I wanted something to watch if we got snowed in." He didn't admit he went out looking specifically for the movie after the Rory confrontation the other day. It was that and one other surprise. But if Luke hated his idea so much, Jess doubted his other one could gather a better reaction. He would just keep that one to himself.
"Fine," Luke said. "I guess it doesn't matter what we watch as long as we do something together, right?"
"Man, if you're going to get sappy on me, I'm going to take my chances out in the blizzard."
Luke snatched the video from Jess and put it on the VCR. Jess sat down on the couch and waited for the movie to start. While the FBI warnings were shown on-screen Jess turned to his uncle, who was now sitting next to him on the couch, and said, "I didn't realize Christmas was such a big deal to you."
"It's not," Luke said.
"So, the decorations, the cookies, the movie—"
"Movie was your idea."
"You really do it because of me?"
Luke was quiet for a long moment. He finally said, "Rory tell you?"
"Well, it sure wasn't Lorelai…you don't have to do this kind of stuff for me, you know. I'm fine with the way you do things."
The movie's opening credits began. As the scenes that set up the story were laid out Jess found his focus waning. "Liz wasn't big on Christmas either," Jess said as McClane arrived at Nakatomi Plaza.
"I was fine with the way things are. You know Liz and I weren't big on Christmas back home either."
"And don't you think that's sad? Don't you think you deserve one good Christmas?"
Jess thought about all the crappy Christmases he had with his mom. He thought about the worst ones, the ones he accidently told Luke about a few days ago during a heated argument. He didn't think his Christmas's were bad, he just thought they were what they were. Why did Luke have to make such a big deal about it?
"Maybe it wasn't all for you," Luke admitted. "I don't have a kid of my own and I probably won't ever…maybe I just wanted to have a taste of a real family Christmas one last time, like when I was a kid with my dad and your mom. Or maybe everyone in town is right that I've gone nuts."
"Well they are the experts, aren't they?" Jess mumbled. He glanced over at his uncle again. This was really meaningful to him, wasn't it? "You know, Lorelai probably has some movies that have a stronger Christmas theme in them. You could call her and I could run by to pick one up if you'd really rather watch something else."
"This is fine," Luke said. "It's snowing too hard outside anyway."
Jess tried to relax but he couldn't. This night really did mean something to Luke, didn't it?
The buzzer for the cookies went off and Luke started to get up to get them but Jess told him he could handle it.
"I need to put another sheet in," Luke said.
"I can use a cookie-cutter." Jess went into the kitchen and Luke followed anyway. Dialogue from Die Hard filled the silence as Luke gawked at Jess took the cookies out and plated them. After rolling out some more dough and using the Christmas tree-shape cookie cutter—when did Luke even buy that thing in the first place—Jess put in a second batch.
With the second batch in the oven Jess finally picked up a cookie from the first batch and bit into it. It was warm and chewy. The perfect homemade cookie.
"I have frosting," Luke said. "I could add a little food dye to make it green too."
Jess nodded and Luke mixed up the frosting and dye. Together they sat down at the table, sneaking glances at the TV while they decorated the cookies. Luke even ate a couple as they worked.
"Won't your body shut down if you have a drop of glucose?" Jess asked.
"It's the holidays. I can have one cookie."
"But two?!" Jess pretended to sound mortified.
"Keep this up and I'll turn off Die Hard."
The second batch of cookies came out of the oven and they used the rest of the frosting on them. Luke grabbed the cooking supplies and dumped them in the sink to soak until they finished the movie. Then he reached for the butter knives they used to frost the cookies.
"Hey!" Jess said before Luke could drop them into the sink, "I was going to eat that."
"Frosting? You were going to eat frosting?"
"But…it's just sugar. You can't just eat frosting."
"Why not?" Jess asked. "Mom always let me."
Luke's eyebrow wrinkled but he handed back the knives without another word. Jess licked both knives clean, then tossed them into the sink with the rest of the baking supplies.
"You know you just called her Mom, right?" Luke asked.
"Your mom. You just called her Mom, not Liz."
"Huh," Jess said. So he had. He hadn't even noticed doing so either. Maybe that was because he was remembering good memories with her for once. His mom was far from perfect, very far, but she did have her moments, like the time she got a hankering for sugar and made something from every major baking category—cake, pie, brownies, cookies—all in one night!
Or maybe Luke had just finally succeeded in putting him into the holiday spirit, and that was supposed to come with forgiveness and stuff, right? Either way, it wasn't like saying Mom was going to become a habit. Still, it felt oddly comforting that he was able to let go of his anger at her for a second and call her that once more.
After Jess went to sleep Luke snuck down early to hide some presents under the tree. Maybe it was childish, but Luke never had a kid in his house before. He wanted to do the Santa thing even if Jess was way too old. Then Luke went back upstairs and back to bed.
Hours later when the sun was streaming in through the windows Luke arose early and shook Jess awake.
Jess turned over and put his pillow over his head. "Go away. It's vacation. The diner is closed. Let me sleep in."
"Jess, get up!" Luke repeated.
Jess grumbled but finally rolled out of bed. "You're Satan incarnated, you know that?"
Hopefully waking Jess up early would be worth it once Jess saw the presents. They were getting along so well last night during Die Hard and he didn't want to screw that up. "Come with me," Luke said.
Jess followed Luke to the door and they went downstairs. They went into the dinner.
"What am I looking at Luke."
Luke pointed to the Christmas tree in the back of the diner, the floor beneath it littered presents.
Jess's eyes opened up wide. "Wha…how…why?"
Jess took a few tentative steps over to the pile and bent down. There weren't a ton of presents, but there was still a good amount. Mostly books, and based on Luke's wrapping job, that was probably obvious. He had gotten the book suggestions from Rory, so he was pretty sure Jess would like them. There were also a few CD albums that Lane had actually suggested. The biggest present, though, was a black, leather coat, poorly wrapped. Luke had noticed that Jess's green winter coat wasn't holding up too well.
Jess stood up without picking up a present.
"Aren't you going to open them?" Luke asked.
"I'll be right back," Jess said. He ran upstairs leaving Luke down in the diner dumbfounded.
Was it too much? Did Jess hate it?
After Jess hadn't returned for a few minutes Luke decided to go up there after him. For all he knew Jess had escaped out one of the windows and made true of his threat to take his chances with the elements if Luke got too sappy. But just as Luke was about to go up, Jess came back downstairs, with a wad of newspaper in his hands. Upon closer inspection, it was clear that the newspapers were wrapped, poorly, around something. Jess handed it to Luke.
"Here," he said.
Luke looked between the newspaper wad and his nephew.
"What's this?" Luke asked.
"Open it and you'll find out."
"Is this a gift?" Luke asked.
"God, for someone whose diner is decorated like this," Jess gestured at the diner, "you really don't get Christmas, do you?"
"You got me a gift?" Luke said, trying to comprehend it. "I thought you said you weren't going to get me a gift."
"Yeah, well, I changed my mind," Jess said. "Will you just open it?"
Luke carefully peeled the tape off of the sides and pulled the pieces of newspaper away. Honestly, he half expected some sort of prank to be wrapped inside. Would those snakes that come in the prank peanut brittle jar fit in this wad?
Finally, he removed the last layer of newspaper, revealing…a hat. A baseball cap to be specific. Luke held it in his hands and then looked between it and Jess. "You bought me a hat?"
Jess leaned forward and clicked something on the bill, then a flood of lights poured out in front of the hat. "The brim has a flashlight in it."
Luke turned it around, accidentally flashing the light in his eyes. He found the switch and the bill and turned it off, then looked back at Jess. "You bought me a flashlight hat?"
"I saw it a camping store and thought, well, you like camping and you like hats…course you'd have to wear that one like a normal person, with the bill to the front…you hate it don't you? I knew you were going to hate it. I screwed up with Die Hard and I screwed up with this. Sorry, it was a stupid gift. I'll return it and get you a gift card or something."
"Jess!" Luke said and pulled the hat away from Jess when he tried to take it back. "This is the most thoughtful thing you have ever done."
"You not only got me a gift, but you got me a great one. One I'm going to use every camping trip. Thank you!" Luke leaned forward and pulled Jess into a hug, and surprisingly enough Jess hugged him back.
When the hug finally ended Jess looked over at the gifts under the tree. "So…those are like all books, aren't they?"
Luke laughed. "Pretty much. What else is there to get you?"
Jess went back over to the tree and picked up the poorly wrapped jacket. It was huge in his hands. "Huh, can't wait to see what this book is." He smirked at Luke and they both laughed. In the end, it really was Jess's best Christmas.