Title: Christmas Unwrapped
Author: Rainwater Tears (aka Elizabeth)
Summary: The long awaited sequel to Christmas Wrapping. Rory, Jess, Christmas, Stars Hollow. Oh the possibilities.
Disclaimers: If I owned "Gilmore Girls" then "Subway Stars" would have come true by now. It hasn't.
Author's Note: Lee wanted a sequel. Lee rocks. Therefore, a sequel. Thanks to everyone who gave me positive feedback on "Christmas Wrapping." You all rock, too. Especially if you reviewed. (hint hint) (And more thanks to Lee for her beta and for the title. I apologize for any remaining typos. My typing skills greatly disintegrated in the month I was at camp.)
Anything in italics is a flashback. This one isn't a one-parter. More to come.
Chapter one: We'll be home for Christmas
The wind is blowing hard as she exits the apartment building, a light blue ski cap in one hand and a matching knit purse in the other. There's a brightly wrapped box tucked under her arm. It's not snowing, but the piles along the curb are still white enough to suggest that it has recently. She hails a cab, climbs in, and disappears slowly down the street.
The kitchen was still there when Rory and Jess resurfaced from their kiss. Jess was almost surprised by this, though he knew he shouldn't be. Kitchen's didn't disappear. He'd just forgotten the world existed for a second.
"I need a shower," said Rory as she leaned back against the counter.
"I thought you said you were clean and I was dirty."
"Well, you were dirtier than me, but I still need a shower. Especially if we're gonna get in a car and drive to Stars Hollow. Cooped up BO is gross." To accentuate her point she did a weak rendition of the chicken dance, flapping her arms.
"Go. Shower. I'll wait," he said with a smile.
"Okay. There's coffee in the coffee pot and poptarts in the cabinet above the sink," she told him as she headed down the hall.
Jess silently poured himself some coffee and went to sit down on the couch, grabbing the book he had been reading the night before off the bookshelf. The second the first sip of coffee hit his tongue he spit it across the room with a loud "Jesus, Rory!"
"What?" She came running out of the bathroom and down the hall wearing snowflake pajama pants and a half unbottoned matching top.
"Did you use any water when you made this coffee?"
She winced. "Too strong?"
"I no longer have tastebuds."
"I'm going to go make some normal coffee. Take your shower."
"Don't worry, I'll set your sludge aside for later."
"Fine." She went back down the hall whistling "Grandma Got Run-over by a Reindeer," and he shook his head with a smile before heading back into the kitchenette.
The cab pulls up to a pale blue house in the suburbs. The snow here is a blinding white that the grungy cab has never seen before, and that the girl barely remembers. She pays the cabie and climbs out dragging the box behind her.
"We have to get a gift," Rory said as she climbed into the passenger seat of Jess's beat up car. It was nicer than the one he'd had as a teenager, but still not a work of art.
He sighed. "You've got to be kidding me. What's going to be open on Christmas Day?"
She thought for a second. "The movie theater?"
"You want to give your mom redvines for Christmas?"
"Well, she is a big fan of the redvine."
"What? It's true."
"Isn't the fact that we're gonna be there enough?"
"I guess." They drove in silence for awhile, except for the Christmas carols on the radio and Jess's accompanying whistle. Rory had never pictured him as the type to whistle along to a Christmas Carol, but then again, Jess was ever the enigma. The traffic wasn't too bad (most people were inside celebrating) but the snow made it slow going.
The girl stops at the door with her hand on the knob. Even from outside she can hear the bustle of holiday cheer. The house is full of loved ones. She takes her hand off the knob, choosing to knock instead, like any polite guest. She waits, staring at the gift in her hands.
When the door swings open she is hit by a gust of warmth. She smiles and looks up, up, up. The box falls from her hands as her smile falls from her face. She faintly hears its porcelain contents shatter.
The trip had been long, and when they finally drove past the "Welcome to Stars Hollow" sign they both breathed a sigh of thank-God-we're-here.
The house looked exactly the same as the last time Rory had visited, full of warmth and life. As she and Jess trudged through the snow and headed up the porch steps she questioned her decision to come, but when the door swung open before she reached it she felt better.
"Rory! You're here!" Lorelai pulled her into a hug right there on the porch, despite her lack of shoes or a coat.
"Hi Mom," came the muffled response.
Jess waited quietly while they had their mother/daughter moment, but when he got so cold that he could no longer feel his toes he interrupted with the suggestion of moving the party inside.
"Spoil sport," Lorelai growled in a much friendlier tone than she'd ever used with him before, but they did head inside.
The house hadn't changed much in ten years. There was a new couch, and the walls had been repainted a slightly darker shade of yellow, but other than that it was the same. While Lorelai and Rory hugged again Jess walked over to the mantel.
This had always been his favorite part of the house, a row of pictures in mismatched frames that told the Gilore Girls life story. They changed periodically, the collection growing every year, bu the stars stayed the same. There was one picture of Rory that he particularly liked.
It had clearly been taken her first day of Kindergarten, the index card around her neck and the pink plastic lunchbox in her hand gave that away. Lorelai had pulled her hair back into pigtails, but she had clearly dressed herself, as the red stockings and green dress did not match at all. The reason Jess loved the picture so much, though, was the big grin on her face.
Not many people could smile the way Rory could, with such honesty and happiness. She didn't just smile with her mouth, she smiled with her whole body. Her eyes lit up, she stood up a little straighter, and she glowed with joy.
Jess continued down the row of pictures, noticing additions (one or Rory's dad and step-mom, one of Lane and Dave), stopping every now and then to examine some of his favorites, and enjoying the familiarity of it all.
The last picture on the mantel was also the biggest. The frame was silver with stars engraved on three sides and the date "May 30, 2006" on the last. The picture itself was of Lorelai and Luke, Lorelai in as untraditional a traditional wedding dress as possible (long white and sleeveless with a simple pink bow below the bust) and Luke in a suit. They were smiling at eachother, Luke laughing at something Lorelai had said, and clearly having a good time.
Jess had not attended the wedding, although he had been invited. He had spent years avoiding Stars Hollow, only ever willing to see Luke if it meant Luke coming to New York, just for fear of seeing Rory. It was out of embarrassment more than anything else. He had, for once, opened up to her, and she had rejected him without a second thought. It took him years to get over that, and if it hadn't been for some bizarre chance of fate the night before he would still be hiding out in his tiny New York City apartment, eating a hastily assembled meal and watching the "Christmas Story" marathon.
When Jess looked up from the picture Luke was standing next to him dressed less like Luke and more like an accountant. Jess held out his hand to shake but Luke pulled him into a hug. A very manly hug, but a hug all the same.
"What's with the suit?" Jess asked when the hug was over.
"You laugh and I'll make you sleep in your car," was Luke's gruff reply.
"Aww, now you wouldn't do that to me, Uncle Luke, you love me too much."
Luke snorted. "Lorelai is gonna make you dress up, too, Emily and Richard are among her dinner guests."
Jess groaned. "They hate me. Or Rory's grandmother does anyway. Now I've never met her grandfather, but I'm sure he's heard enough from her grandmother to form a few opinions."
"When did you meet Emily?"
"The same day I got beaked."
Luke tried to hold back a laugh but failed. "Ah, yes, the beaking incident."
"Shut up, it's not that funny, and besides, Rory doesn't know about it, and I'd much rather she didn't."
"Rory doesn't know about it? How the hell did you explain the black eye?"
"I told her I got hit by a football." "Since when have you ever been known to play football?"
"I don't know. She bought it."
"Who bought what?" Rory had snuck up behind them just in time to hear Jess's last sentence. She looked up at him and entwined her fingers with his as she waited for a response.
"Oh, it's nothing." Jess saw something register in her eyes, something like disappointment, but he didn't say anything. Instead he gripped her hand a little tighter and smiled. "So your grandparents are coming to dinner?"
She smiled and nodded. "Yup, and you have to change."
Jess groaned and Luke chuckled. "How the hell did I get myself into this?"
Rory just smiled in response.
There's a toddler running around, but she doesn't ask who he belongs to, his brown hair and abnormal height are enough of a give-away.
Every now and then a familiar face will come up and say hello to her, tell her she looks older, and ask her why she doesn't visit more often. She's got her response all worked out. "Hi! Thank you. My job keeps me really busy." Sometimes, to mix things up, she says "do you really think so?" instead of "thank you," or "my boss is a real jerk," instead of "work keeps me really busy," but for the most part people don't approach her, and she just stands quietly at the mantel wondering why she decided to come.
Her mother's greeting was as superficial as they come, a hug, a kiss on the cheek, a "hey sweeetie, how've you been?" and then a quick departure. It would have been depressing if she hadn't still been realing in shock from her impromptu meeting with Dean at the door.
They had not talked in four years, not since her "worst mistake of my life don't come near me ever again" speech to him a week after the Dragonfly's test run. She knew her mother still talked to him, but she didn't think Lorelai would invite them to the same party.
Without anyone noticing she silently slips out the front door and wades over to the garage. The snow makes it hard to open the doors, but she finally manages and disappears inside.
This is where Lorelai has deposited all of Rory's stuff. When Luke moved in they needed more space. All of his extra belongings (what he didn't leave in the apartment, but wouldn't fit anywhere else) went into Rory's bedroom, and all of Rory's things were moved into the garage with the idea that they would winterize it and use it as a sort of apartment for Rory/ guest house, but it never happened. Rory has stopped visiting, Jess never started, and any other guests they could have live close enough to walk home at the end of the evening. There is no need.
She sits down on her bed. The wood has been chewed by termites, the mattress looks about ready to die, and the surrounding boxes are full of memories destroyed by rain, snow, mice, and age. She starts to cry.
When Emily and Richard arrived it was Jess who opened the door. Lorelai was busy trying to convince Luke to put his jacket back on, if not his tie (he'd taken both off upon seeing Jess in khakis and a button up shirt) and Rory was fighting with her hair, although Jess had tried to convince her it looked fine.
"Who are you?" was the first thing to pop out of Emily's mouth when she saw him.
The older woman didn't really look any different from the last time Jess had seen her. She had a few wrinkles, and she didn't appear to be quite as strict with her hair coloring regimen anymore, but she looked good for a 71 year old woman.
"Jess Mariano," he said sticking out his hand to shake and praying she wouldn't remember him.
She ignored the hand. "Rory's punk ex-boyfriend?"
"Rory's sarcastic current boyfriend." Rory herself had walked into the hall in time to respond to her grandmother. "Hi Grandma, Grandpa!"
"Rory!" Richard Gilmore had been quietly watching the whole exchange from the doorway, but at Rory's entrance he immediately enveloped her in a hug.
"Rory, what are you doing here?" asked Emily.
"I'm visiting my family for Christmas."
"You haven't come to visit in six years."
"Well it was about time then, wasn't it? And besides, Jess hasn't been down to Stars Hollow in awhile either, so we thought we'd come together." She shot her grandmother a brilliant smile. "Come on in."
They entered the living room just as Lorelai and Luke were descending. Luke was back in the jacket and grumbling under his breath, but when he spotted his mother-in-law he stopped. The woman still terrified him after 12 years.
"Hey Mom, Dad, I see you've met Jess," said Lorelai as she hugged her father. Her relationship with her parents had gotten increasingly better over ten years, especially after she married Luke, and she had reached a point where time with them was no longer a chore, fights were rare, and not every gift had to be exchanged for something more practical (and/ or fun).
"Yes, we've met Jess," Emily muttered and Lorelai smiled.
"Good." The six stood in silence for a few moments.
"Are we the first ones here?" Emily asked sounding somewhere between annoyed and bored.
"Oh, yeah, everyone else should be arriving soon."
"Who else is coming, Mom? You didn't say," Rory asked. She sat down on the dark blue couch, smoothing out her skirt. The fight with her hair had clearly been resolved as it looked beautiful cascading down her back in loose curls. Her eyes matched her pale blue blouse perfectly and her skirt (white with blue polka-dots) flattered her long legs beautifully.
"Sookie, Jackson, Davey, Anne, Kirk, Lulu, and Theodore."
Rory knew Sookie, Jackson, Davey, Kirk, and Lulu, but Anne and Theodore were mysteries to her.
"Theodore, that's Kirk and Lulu's kid, right?" Jess asked from beside her.
"How did you know that?" Rory asked.
"I got a birth announcement in the mail about three years ago. Besides, didn't they name you godfather, Luke?" Rory looked over at Luke standing beside her grandfather, shifting uncomfortably.
"Maybe," he muttered.
"Yes," Lorelai said at the same time.
Richard laughed. He had always liked Luke, always, and he couldn't have been prouder of Lorelai when she finally married him.
"I don't know Anne or Davey, though," said Jess.
"They're Sookie and Jackson's kids. Terror's the both of them, but they're sweet," Lorelai said.
"Yeah, sticky sweet," Luke added. "They can't enter the house without bringing a trail of jam, candy, and other assorted goo with them." Just then the doorbell rang. Lorelai shushed Luke and ran to answer it.
From the garage she hears people start to leave. it's just past one AM and she's fallen asleep on her old bed, her face stiff from tears and her knees pulled up to her chest.
She digs through her purse to find her cell phone and calls a Connecticut cab company who's number she still remembers. The cab arrives at 1:45. All the lights are out in the house now, her broken gift tucked under the tree to be opened in the morning. There's no card attached, but even with the trinket in pieces her mother will know who it's from.
She climbs slowly into the backseat and waits for the lights of the city to come back into view.