A/N: I think we're drawing to a close with this. Thanks for reading and for all the wonderful feedback I've gotten!

I am not happy with this chapter but it's taking me too darn long to write it and I want it finished. (grumble grumble.) I'm willing to tweak it, so suggestions are welcome.

Disclaimer: I'm still at my stupid job so obviously I still don't own them.

Lorelai opened her eyes slowly and looked around the room. She caught a glimpse of the clock which read 8:43.

"Morning," she murmured to herself. "No alarm? Oh yeah, Christmas," she said as she remembered what day it was. She was almost fully awake now. "Luke?" she said, looking over to where he had been sleeping.

Luke was gone.

Lorelai wandered into the kitchen and prepared a pot of coffee. She went into the living room, grabbed a candy cane off the tree, then entered Rory's room. Rory was still sleeping. Lorelai climbed into bed beside her. "Are you dreaming of sugar plums?" she asked with a smile.

Rory started to stir. Lorelai presented her with the candy cane. "Merry Christmas," she said.

Rory grunted, still not fully awake.

"Hey, did you hear anything last night?" Lorelai asked.

Rory sat up in bed. "No, I did not hear sleigh bells or reindeer hooves on the roof," she replied. "You've asked me this every year since I was 3, and every year my answer is the same. You know what Einstein's definition of insanity was?"

"Combining florals and stripes?"

"It's doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results."

"Actually this time I have a real reason for asking," Lorelai informed her. "Luke came over last night."

"Luke came over? When?"

"Late. He came through the window – long story. But I'm having a real Nancy Drew moment here because he's gone now and so I'm wondering if I imagined the whole thing."

"Very intriguing. What's the last thing you remember?" Rory asked as she got out of bed and put on her robe.

"Well we exchanged gifts – "

"So how'd you like your aromatherapy foot massager?"

"Oh, he totally ignored our deal and picked out my gift on his own. Whole other story. Anyway I asked him to stay the night, he stripped down to his boxers and I was admiring his chest – "

"Too much information!" Rory complained.

Lorelai giggled and continued on. "And we got into bed and then we fell asleep. And when I woke up this morning he was gone," Lorelai said pensively.

"Well maybe he went home to go shower or something."

Suddenly Lorelai gasped. "Oh my God," she said as she got up from the bed. She started pacing the room, then wandered into the kitchen, all the while murmuring "Oh my God, oh my God," over and over to herself.

"Mom! What?" Rory asked, following after her.

Lorelai got out a box of Pop-Tarts and put a pair into the toaster, still murmuring to herself. She turned to Rory. "Oh my God!" she said, grabbing her by the shoulders.

"Mom! Get a grip! What's going on?"

"Oh my God. I think I told Luke that I love him. Oh my God!"

"OK, you have officially surpassed the Pope's daily quota of 'my Gods.' Tell me what happened."

"Well we got into bed and I was half-asleep. Really more like 9/10 asleep, and we were thanking each other for our gifts. Oh my God, Rory, he gave me the most gorgeous earrings that used to be his mother's."

"Wow," Rory said.

"And so I told him that I love the earrings, and it just slipped out...'I love you.' Oh my God!"

"And what did he say?"

"Nothing. I don't know, I was asleep by then," Lorelai replied. "For all I know he was asleep too and didn't even hear me."

"Or he could've said he loves you too," suggested Rory.

"Oh come on," Lorelai replied cynically. "We've only been together a few weeks!"

"Ten years and a few weeks," Rory corrected her.

"No, no, no! It's too soon!" insisted Lorelai. "And now I'm going to scare him off and probably screw up this whole thing, and it was going so well..." Lorelai trailed off, her voice sounding panicked.

"Did you mean it?" asked Rory.

"What?" asked Lorelai.

"Do you love him?"

Just then the doorbell rang. Rory looked outside. "Well I guess you didn't scare him off because he's here," she said.

"Oh my God!" said Lorelai, dashing towards the stairs. "I have to get dressed!"

"Hasn't he seen you naked already?" asked Rory.

"Too weird! Have to get dressed!" replied Lorelai as she ran up the stairs.

Rory opened the door and let Luke in. Luke was carrying several paper bags. He walked into the entryway, not watching where he was going, and almost fell over the grandfather clock.

"Shit, where did that thing come from?" he asked.

"Oh, that's Mom's Christmas present from my grandparents," explained Rory.

"Right," said Luke. "Because what this house really needed was a huge monolith standing in the entryway for people to trip on."

"What's in the bags?" asked Rory as she followed Luke into the kitchen.

Luke spied the Pop-Tarts box on the kitchen counter. "I brought you two breakfast. I thought you might like something other than Pop-Tarts on Christmas morning." He set the bags down on the table and started unpacking them. "We've got pancakes, waffles, omelet, sausage..."

Rory suddenly gasped. "What is that?" she accused, pointing to a container of fruit salad.

"Don't worry, it's for me," Luke said.

Lorelai returned from upstairs, dressed in a loud Christmas T-shirt and jeans.

"Hey," Luke said to her, walking over to give her a kiss.

"Hey," Lorelai replied, avoiding his gaze, clearly uncomfortable. She gave him a quick peck on the lips then squirmed away from him. "Aww, you brought us breakfast!" she said in an overly cheerful voice.

Luke looked at her, surprised and dismayed at her reaction. "Yeah, well I thought you might want some real food to eat on Christmas. Anyway, I'll get out of your hair, I know you probably have crazy mother-daughter Christmas things to do."

"Oh, we'll just be watching the 24-hour marathon of A Christmas Story," Rory informed him. "Stay and eat with us at least!"

Lorelai squirmed uncomfortably. "Uh, yeah, you should stay," she said. "Why don't we bring this all into the living room so we can watch the movie?"

Rory grabbed the bags and started carting them into the living room. Luke came over to Lorelai who was searching for plates in the cabinets. "Is everything OK?" he asked her as he came up behind her and encircled her with his arms.

"Oh, yeah, fine," Lorelai said as she pulled away from his embrace in her quest for dishes. She grabbed a stack of plates and handed them to him. "Here, you take these in, I'll be in in a moment."

Luke brought the plates into the living room. Lorelai began nervously puttering around the kitchen, looking for things to keep herself busy. She poured the remaining coffee into a cup and started another pot. She began washing the dishes in the sink when Rory came in.

"Mom," she said in an accusatory voice.

"What?" Lorelai asked.

"Put down the sponge and step away from the sink," she said. "What are you doing?"

"Just a little cleaning up," Lorelai explained.

"Mom, you need to talk to him. Well, that is unless you were planning on re-papering all the shelves, and I think the floor could stand to be re-grouted too, that should keep you busy for a while."

"Hey, I like grouting tile," Lorelai defended herself.

Rory came over, took Lorelai by the hand and started to drag her into the living room. "Come on, it'll be fine," she said. She gave Lorelai a push in the direction of the living room, and then disappeared into her room, giving them privacy.

Lorelai slowly entered the living room where Luke sat, watching TV. She sat down on the couch, making sure some space remained between them.

"I made some blueberry pancakes for you," he said, indicating the food spread out on the coffee table.

"Oh...thanks," Lorelai said as she helped herself to some food.

Luke moved over towards her and put his arm around her. "Nice clock," he said, indicating the grandfather clock. "You putting an addition on the house for it?"

"Oh yeah," Lorelai replied. "I could've told my parents a thousand other things they could've given me, things that I'd actually use but no, they have to give me some overpriced antique that doesn't even keep good time. I can't even bring it to the Inn; the chimes would scare all our guests away."

They sat in silence for a few minutes as Lorelai ate, then she put her plate down, pushed his arm off of her shoulders and stood up. "I need some coffee," she explained. "You want anything to drink?"

Luke shook his head. "No thanks," he said. Lorelai went into the kitchen as Luke stared after her, a confused look on his face.

Lorelai returned a few minutes later carrying a mug of coffee. As she entered the room, Luke stood up.

"I think I'm going to get going. I know you're going to your parents' and you probably want some Gilmore mother-daughter time to open your presents," he said, indicating the mounds of wrapped gifts piled under the tree.

"Oh, uh, OK," Lorelai said as she put down her coffee and walked him over to the door. She walked with Luke out onto the porch, where they both paused for a moment.

"Hey, Luke," Lorelai began. "I, uh, I know that things are kind of weird, and...well...I just wasn't sure if I said something to you last night or if I just dreamt it..." Lorelai refused to meet his gaze.

"You didn't– "Luke started to say but Lorelai cut him off.

"Because if I did, well I was half asleep...I didn't really...I mean...I..." Lorelai stammered.

"Yeah, OK," Luke said, turning to leave. "I'll talk to you later," he said as he walked down the stairs and towards his truck.

Lorelai watched him as he drove away. Luke did not look back.

Lorelai and Rory pulled up into Emily and Richard's driveway, got out of the Jeep and walked towards the door.

"I am really not in the mood for my parents right now," Lorelai grumbled.

"Oh come on, we'll just stay a few hours, eat ourselves silly, and then we can go home and watch some of your new Green Acres DVDs," Rory said.

"Yeah, I really think we outdid ourselves this year with our presents. You're gonna be the envy of all the other kids at the Yale newspaper with your Christiane Amanpour mouse pad," Lorelai said.

"And I'll never be late for any meetings with my Hello Kitty watch," Rory added.

They rang the bell and the maid opened the door and ushered them in. She took their coats and Lorelai and Rory went into the sitting room, where there were a number of people milling around and talking.

"Lorelai, Rory," Emily said as she saw them and came over to greet them.

"Merry Christmas, Grandma," Rory said, kissing her hello.

Emily turned to Lorelai. "Merry Christmas, Lorelai. Did you get the gift we sent?"

"Yes, Mom, it's very nice. Very big," Lorelai replied.

"It's a grandfather clock, it's supposed to be big," Emily replied. "By the way your cousin Tasha is here, she was looking for you a little while ago."

"Ugh, I am so not in the mood for Tasha today," Lorelai complained. "Little Miss Perfect Husband, Perfect Family, loves to rub my nose in it...God, I can't wait until she gets divorced."

"Where'd you hear she's getting divorced?" Rory asked.

"Come on, they're rich, late 30s, that midlife crisis is just on the horizon, the divorce is inevitable," Lorelai replied.

Just then Richard came over to greet them. "Lorelai, you look very nice," Richard commented upon seeing her.

"I shaved my legs too," she pointed out.

"Yes you do look nice," Emily agreed. "Those are beautiful earrings, I don't think I've seen you wear them before," Emily said.

"Oh, they're new," she replied.

"They don't look new," Emily said, coming closer to examine them. "In fact they look like precious antiques."

"Well, I robbed a pawnshop," Lorelai explained. She saw Emily glaring at her, so she explained, "Uh, they're actually from Luke. Christmas present."

"They were his mother's," Rory interjected. Lorelai threw her a look indicating she had said too much.

"I see," Emily said coldly.

Lorelai sighed. "What, Mom?"

"Nothing, Lorelai. Excuse me, I need to go check on the brunch buffet." Emily turned and walked towards the kitchen. Lorelai gave Rory a questioning look, then went after Emily into the kitchen.

"At the risk of making what's already been a memorably bad Christmas worse, what's going on, Mom?: Lorelai asked.

Emily sighed. "Lorelai, I just think it's in rather bad taste for you to be accepting gifts like that."

"Gifts like what?" Lorelai asked.

"That is an extremely personal gift that he gave you, especially considering you've only been dating him a short time."

"Mom, it's Luke. I've known him forever. I don't understand what the problem is here," Lorelai said, getting angry.

"Open your eyes, Lorelai. It's plainly obvious that this man is in love with you –"

"What?" Lorelai said, speechless.

"And the problem is," Emily continued, "that in another few weeks, or maybe months even, you'll get tired of him and cast him aside just like you've done to every other man in your life, and it's just not right for you to be leading him on and letting him give you his mother's earrings."

Lorelai stood aghast at Emily's words.

"Now if you'll excuse me I need to find the maid and get these things moved out to the dining room," Emily said as she turned and walked away.

Lorelai and Rory walked out of the house and headed towards the Jeep to go home.

"Another memorable Christmas with my parents," Lorelai grumbled. "You realize that that pen they gave you is worth like a thousand dollars, don't you?"

"You looked like you were having fun with cousin Tasha," Rory said.

"Fun? Maybe a little. She was getting in all those 'single mother' jabs she loves to spring on me. I don't know, I guess I'd just listened to one too many, so I may have kind of suggested that I saw her husband in the guest bedroom, alone with the maid," Lorelai giggled.

"You didn't," Rory accused.

"She had it coming."

"Well at least the food was good. Hey, who was that guy you were talking to?" Rory asked.

"Oh my God! The coolest thing ever," Lorelai explained. "I saw him standing by himself and I'd never seen him at any family gatherings so I had to find out who he was. Turns out he's second cousin Diane's youngest son. And get this – he just got out of prison!"

"Prison? A Gilmore in prison?" Rory asked.

"I couldn't believe it either. It took some prodding to get it out of him, too." Lorelai sighed. "I think that's the best thing that's happened all day. A controversial member of the Gilmore family! Can you believe it?

"It is rather mind-boggling," Rory agreed.

"And we've been well-fed today, so I guess it hasn't been a total loss," said Lorelai.

"The food has been good and plentiful," said Rory.

They drove home the rest of the way and pulled up to the house just as snow started falling. Lorelai hurried inside and checked the answering machine but there were no messages on it. She sighed, picked up the phone and dialed.

"Hello?" came Luke's voice on the other end.

"Up for a walk?" she asked abruptly.

"Um, well I was just...well OK," Luke replied.

"I'll be right over," Lorelai said, then hung up the phone. "Rory, I have to go out, I'll see you later," she said as she grabbed her hat and coat and rushed out the door.

Luke was downstairs in the diner by the time she got there. He saw her and came outside.

"Hey," he said to her, avoiding her gaze.

Lorelai also noticed that he did not kiss her.

They began walking through the town square which was well illuminated with Christmas lights. The snow was falling at a steady rate now, not too heavily, but enough to blanket the town in a fresh layer of white. Being Christmas, all the stores were closed, so everything was quiet, made even quieter by the falling snow.

They walked in silence, not touching, not looking at each other, for several minutes. Finally Luke broke the silence. "How'd it go at your parents'?" he asked.

"Oh, the usual. They berate me, they buy completely inappropriate gifts for Rory and feed us totally fabulous food. They send their regards by the way."

Luke nodded in acknowledgement.

"Maybe you can come along next year," Lorelai suggested gently.

"Yeah, we'll see," Luke said.

They walked in silence for several more minutes.

"God I love the snow," Lorelai said suddenly, looking up and sticking her tongue out to catch snowflakes. "It's totally magical. It transforms places. Places like Stars Hollow, or Hartford, or my parents' back yard, that sometimes seem like humans have totally taken control of, it's like Mother Nature is giving us a gentle reminder that she's really in charge. Even my front yard, where you can see the street a few yards away, it totally seems like this unspoiled wild wonderland." Lorelai took a deep breath of the frigid winter air while Luke watched her with a blank expression.

They circled around the square and walked back in front of the diner. "Well I've got to get up early tomorrow, there's always a crowd here the day after a holiday, so I'll talk to you tomorrow," Luke said as he started heading inside.

"Luke?" Lorelai stopped him.

"Mm?" Luke turned around.

"OK, I – I need to say something. I wasn't going to say it but if this is the way things are going to be, well I just can't take the weirdness. This is almost as weird as a sci-fi convention, or my mother apologizing for anything she's ever done, or...or anything whatsoever concerning Christopher Walken – "

"Lorelai," Luke cut her off.

Lorelai sighed. "Look, I know what I said last night, and obviously you heard me, hence the weirdness. I wasn't planning on saying it, I was half asleep, otherwise I never would've – "

"Lorelai you already told me all this," Luke said, annoyed. "I've gotta go." He turned and started opening the door to the diner.

"I love you," Lorelai said to his back.

"What?" Luke said, turning around, surprised.

"I – I know it's too soon and I'm probably going to scare you off, but it's already out there thanks to my damn sleepy babbling and things can't get any weirder than they already are so I thought you should know that I did mean it, so we can at least clear the air. I know it's fast and I'm not expecting you to say it too so don't worry about that, I – I just wanted you to know so maybe we can let it lie for a while until you're ready, if you're ever ready, that is...I just hate this weirdness and I wanted you to know."

As Lorelai spoke, Luke's expression gradually went from anger to confusion until a smile gradually spread across his face, and finally he started chuckling.

"What?" Lorelai asked, taken aback by his reaction.

Luke was laughing audibly by now. "I think I prefer the sleepy babbling to the awake babbling," he said finally. "But next time at least try to stay awake for the entire conversation."

"What? Stop it!" Lorelai said as Luke continued laughing.

"Lorelai, nothing about this relationship has been fast," Luke finally said. "Though it's definitely been weird."

"Did I say something else last night that I forgot about?" Lorelai asked.

"No. I said something that you forgot about."


"I'm not sure I want to tell you," Luke said, thoroughly enjoying tormenting her.

However Lorelai was getting upset. "Fine, Luke, I'm going home then. Give me a call when you're ready to stop the Dick Cheney routine." Tears were in her eyes as she turned and started walking away.

"Lorelai," Luke said quietly. She stopped walking as he went over to her. He put his hands on her shoulders, turned her around and took her in his arms.

"I said 'I love you too,'" he whispered into her ear.

The snow continued to fall all around them, illuminated by the colorful Christmas lights hung around the town square as Luke and Lorelai held each other and sealed their declarations of love with a kiss.