Happy Birthday, Sweet Sixteen

Disclaimer: I do not own the song or the characters. The stuff that happens, though is mine.

A/N: For the purposes of this story, Luke and Lorelai have been together since Rory was a baby. Jess is three years older than Rory, and he came to live with Luke and Lorelai when he was seven.

Tonight's the night I've waited for
Because you're not a baby anymore
You've turned into the prettiest girl I've ever seen
Happy birthday sweet sixteen

What happened to that funny face
My little tomboy now wears satin and lace
I can't believe my eyes you're just a teenage dream
Happy birthday sweet sixteen

"You almost ready?" My uncle Luke Danes called from the bathroom. "Lorelai hates it when we're late."

I rolled my eyes. I've lived with Lorelai, my Uncle Luke, and Lorelai's daughter Lorelai, aka Rory since I was nine until I was 17. I knew Lorelai's penchant for being late, and I also knew how much she hated it when someone else was late.

"I can't believe Rory's sixteen," I grumbled. "It was like yesterday she was six…"

"You sound like an old man," Luke laughed as he tied his tie. "I can't believe you agreed to come back for her birthday. I mean, you two really didn't part on the greatest terms."

That was true. The summer Rory was thirteen; I left to live with my father in Venice Beach, California. She'd had developed a crush on me while I was going through my punk phase and openly declared her feelings for me in front of two of my buddies. I say buddies not friends because the term friend doesn't describe Mark and Jack.

So of course I embarrassed her, called her a geek and told her I'd never love a bookworm like her. Rory could never let things go, so she reminded me in not uncertain terms that I was a book worm myself. Again, she did it in front of Mark and Jack.

The whole thing ended with me snapping a cruel comment to the effect of "Get away you little freak," and with Rory in tears. Oh, well. It was all in the past.

"That's in the past, Uncle Luke," I said. "She's probably over it by now. She's probably…Does she still have that boyfriend?"

"Holden?" Luke asked. "No. There's a new kid, Dean something sniffing around but nothing really came of it yet," he paused. "Come on, Jess. The traffic is going to be Hell."

"What traffic? It's Stars Hollow?"

"Oh, my friend," Luke grinned and I knew before he said it where we were going.

"No," I grumbled. "Not Hartford! Not the Gilmore house!"

Luke rolled his eyes and grimly nodded. "The Gilmore house."

By some miracle the traffic was relatively light, we only ended up being about a half an hour late. By the crowded streets and the busy valet, we could tell though that most of Rory's guest had arrived before we did.

When we entered the huge mansion our outer coats were taken by the maid and we were greeted by Emily Gilmore.

"Luke," she smiled and kissed his cheek. "You're late. Lorelai was getting worried. She thought maybe you weren't coming."

"Of course I was coming," Luke sighed. "I wouldn't miss my own kid's birthday party. I was waiting for Jess. He's sort of a surprise for Rory," Luke explained.

Perhaps, I should give you a little background information. Uncle Luke married "Aunt Lorelai" when I was four and Rory was only a tiny baby. Rory wasn't actually his daughter, but in his heart and heck in his mind she was. He loved her like his own, he paid for her private school, and he even got in a fight with the father or the first boy to make her cry. I got in a fight with boy himself. But more on that later. Emily was talking to me.

"Jess, oh my, you've grown up, haven't you?" she said.

"Nineteen, Mrs. Gilmore," I replied retreating to the formal name I'd used until I was fourteen.

"Nineteen! And you're attending college?" she continued.

"Yes, I just transferred from UC to University of Connecticut this semester," I told her.

"Majoring in?" she pressed.

"I'm still undeclared, but probably English literature," I said.

"Ah, literature. How nice. You don't find literature or reading too "geeky" then?" She needled using the word I used to hurt Rory three years ago. If she remembered it, chances are Rory did too.

I must have seems uneasy because Uncle Luke squeezed my shoulder as I answered, "Not at all, Mrs. Gilmore."

Luke and I moved further into the party until we found Lorelai by the open bar. "There you are," she smiled at Luke and kisses him. "Why so late?"

"Hey, Aunt Lorelai," I greeted not sure how Rory's mom would receive me.

"Jess!" she exclaimed and hugged me. "It's so good to see you. We didn't know if you'd make it. I hoped you would."

"I didn't know if I was going to come," I admitted. "But I wanted to see Rory."

"Rory's up in my old room right now," Lorelai said. "My mother invited some of her school mates from Chilton…"

"Rory's going to Chilton!" I marveled. "She'll hate it, those kids are so…"

Lorelai and Luke nodded. "She loves the school," he said. "But the students…I'll go up and talk to her," Luke offered.

"Luke's she really pretty upset. Give…" But I spoke up.

"Let me talk to her," I said.

Luke looked as if he were about to protest, but Lorelai smiled. "She'll be glad to see you, Jess. She missed you. My old room is upstairs, fifth door on the right."

I nodded and started for the stairs when Luke caught up to me. He must have sprinted to get me that fast. "Jess, be nice. I don't want Rory's birthday totally ruined and I don't want Lorelai to be anymore upset."

I studied Luke's face. He'd always been protective of Rory. She was after all his little girl, but usually while he worried about Lorelai and tried to make her happy, he usually let things go. Lorelai was exciteable, she always got crazy. In fact, there were only four times before I could remember Luke didn't want to get her excited and that was…

"Uncle Luke, is Aunt Lorelai…"

He smiled and nodded. "No one knows yet in case it's like the last time…"

The summer that Rory turned twelve, Luke and Lorelai finally had a baby of their own. A few years before Lorelai had miscarried a baby of theirs, the loss devastated her. Now, only a few years ago, Lorelai found she was pregnant again. She lost that baby also. Thus, Uncle Luke was a little protective of his pregnant wife.

"I hope it's not, Uncle Luke," I said sincerely. "I won't upset anyone. I promise."

Uncle Luke nodded and let me go upstairs.

I could hear muffled sobs through the thick oak door. Rory was not really a crier, althought I do recall her crying to me at times.

I was nervous that Rory would still hate me for how rude I was before I left. I did try to apologize of course, but she was too angry and hurt to hear me. Anyway, I wanted to see her, the girl I've know since childhood, as an adult. So with a deep breath, I knocked on the door.

"Go away!" was the tearful reply.

I wanted my presence to be a surprise so I didn't call through the door. I tried to door knob. It was opened.

The door squeaked as it opened and Rory sniffled. "Go away, Mom," she cried her back to me.

I observed her as she was lying on the bed. Her hair was still long and straight. It still looked like spun silk. Her body had become longer, which was no real surprise, Lorelai was 5'9", and I could see, even from behind that her body had become softer, curvier, more feminine, more grown-up.

When Rory was little, I would comfort her by sitting beside her stroking her hair. As I moved closer to her, my fingers itched to do the same, yet didn't anger her by taking liberties I shouldn't, so I said simply, "It's not Mom."

"Jess?" Rory rolled over and surprise registered on her face.

Rory's eyes were red from crying, but her cheeks were not blotchy like most girls were when they had been crying. No, correction, like most women's were when they were crying. My little Rory was now a woman, I could plainly see that.

Rory was full grown woman, her tall, slim figure accentuated in a dress mad of satin and lace. Her funny metal grin was gone now, for when she smiled I saw white perfect teeth. She had become beautiful, the girl I'd once seen as a sister, was now the prettiest thing I'd ever laid eyes on, and I had laid eyes on many girls in California. But none of them could hold a candle to the vision before me.

"Happy Birthday, Sweet Sixteen!" I smiled. "Why the tears, pretty girl?" I asked using the endearment I'd use most of our lives, realizing how true it was.

Rory shrugged and sat down on her mother's old bed. "Grandma…Grandma invited all these kids from school," she shrugged again. "It's stupid. What are you doing here?"

"Uncle Luke invited me when I talked to him last week?" I replied.

"And you came?" she seemed surprised. "Of course I came," I said. "You think I'd miss your sweet sixteen?"

"Well, I haven't seen you in three years," Rory reminded me. "You didn't call or even write…"

"I called Luke," I replied in my defense. "I wasn't sure if you'd forgive me."

Rory frowned and flopped down on the bed. "You were right anyway," she cried. "I am a freak."

"Hey," I whispered, now taking the liberty of stroking her hair. I was completely wrong. You're smart, not a freak or a geek, or whatever mean things I said. You even got into Chilton, that's so great, Rory," I tried to comfort her.

"No one there likes me," she confessed. "They thing I'm a rube."

"Not everyone has to like you, Rory. NO one liked me in California, but I got on all right. Hell, no one much liked me in Stars Hollow either. Anyway, it's there loss if they don't like a pretty smart woman like you."

"Now I know you're just saying that," she sniffed. "I'm not pretty. I'm gross."

"Only when you eat," I joked. Then said seriously, "Oh, Rory. You are very pretty. I can't believe my own eyes at how beautiful you grew up to be," I told her and meant it.

Rory rolled over and hugged me, keeping her wet face in my neck. I held her close, stroking her hair, feeling the familiar pull on my heart strings that I'd always got with Rory. I let her cry as I remembered the first day I felt that pull. A day that, by the time this is finished, I'll mark as one sent from angels.

End Part One

Next Part: When You were Only Six: Jess keeps and eye on Rory for Luke while he plays ball with his friends. What happens when Taylor's nasty grandson, starts bothering Rory?