Disclaimer: You know the drill…

This is a lovely present for my good pal, DiehardJavaJunkie14. Happy birthday, Java! You rock and all that stuff that I tell you all the time. So, everyone, wish her a great day.

This is a Christmassy piece – because I've been that way lately – and is pre-canon. A tad AU, too. Feedback is love and enjoy.

Ink

You sigh when you see the first snowflakes. Snow. Winter. Cold. A shiver creeps up your spine and you sigh again.

When, exactly, did you start worrying about these things?

You pick up your fallen duster and start waving it over the painting. You don't need to do this – Marcy, the new maid, is good at this, and you know she'll be staying – but you stand there, anyway, absently cleaning.

"Lorelai?" Mia appears in your line of sight, that motherly frown of concern on her face and you welcome it (because you were always looking for it and never found in the places that you needed). "Is there something wrong?"

"Oh, no, Mia," you say, laughing. You put that on so convincingly, it becomes real.

She nods slowly. "Alright. Just…go have some lunch soon, okay? You look pale."

"Sure."

She leaves, and you remain staring, because there is something wrong. It's snowing and cold and December and Christmas.

-

Rory runs to you after school – it's your favourite part of the day, because she hasn't outgrown the excitement of seeing you after a whole day of school. She throws her body, book bag and all at you, and you laugh, bending down to hug her. She's so sweet, this little girl of yours. "Hey," you say, straightening her hat. "How was your day?"

"It snowed, Mommy!" she exclaims.

"It did, didn't it?" you say. "Do you want to go for a snow walk tonight?"

"Really?" she asks, her eyes glowing.

"Of course," you reply. "I can't think of anyone else I'd rather go with. Unless you don't want to go…"

"No!" she shrieks. "I want to, I want to!"

"Alright then, kiddo," you say, taking her hand.

She pulls you down the hallway, dropping a mitt. You stoop to pick it up – and lock eyes with Rory's teacher. You get a death glare.

Of course you do. She kind of hates you. Because you're too young, too irresponsible, too… you try to smile, but you can't get it out.

It's just this kind of day.

-

"Mommy?" Rory asks.

"Mmm?"

"Mommy?" she asks, a little more insistently.

"Yes, sweets?"

"Do you know what I want for Christmas?"

"No," you say. "What do you want for Christmas?"

"I want a bike," she says.

You're quiet, nestled under the covers. A bike. "That's a good idea," you say.

"Tell Santa," she says.

"I will," you promise. "Go to sleep, babe."

"'Night, Mommy." She rolls over. "Mommy?"

"Rory…"

"Will Daddy come for Christmas?"

"Maybe," you say. "'Night."

You clutch at the blanket, pulling it to your nose. You squeeze your eyes shut, trying to stop the tears from spilling out, trying to keeps yourself from crying too loudly, because Rory needs sleep and you need to be above this.

She wants a bike for Christmas. You cry harder, because you know that even with the bonus Mia has promised you, you can't get her one.

And you already know that Christopher isn't coming.

-

Rory's eyes are like pebbles in a riverbed: shiny and smooth. You smooth back a stray hair and look at her. She's beautiful, in that serious little girl way of hers, staring up at you. "Are you ready?" you ask.

"Where are we going?" she asks for the millionth time.

You breathe. "We're going to visit Grandma and Grandpa," you say calmly. "We're going to their Christmas party. Okay?"

"Okay," she says. She frowns. "Will it be boring?"

"Probably," you admit. "But we'll go as soon as we can."

She nods.

"And there will be presents," you add, hopefully.

"Okay," she says, quietly.

"And after, we'll go see a movie," you say. You hope the theatre will be open. "Or maybe get pizza."

"Mommy," Rory begins, "do you want to go?"

"Go where, sweetie?" you ask.

"To the party," she says.

"I…think we should go, no matter what," you say. "After all, Grandma and Grandpa love you."

She struggles with her coat. You let her fasten the buttons before putting on your own.

Sigh, and you're out the door. The cold stings your eyes, and you can pretend the water there is because of the wind, and not because you're worried that Christmas is getting closer.

Another sigh, and you're driving to Hartford.

-

You sit in the kitchen with Sookie, drinking coffee and moaning. "Nothing, Sook," you say. "Nothing."

"She wants a bike?" Sookie asks.

"Yes," you say.

"And you found that normal?"

"She's five. Everyone has a bike."

"Okay."

"Any ideas would be helpful."

"Well, I don't have any bikes lying around."

"I know." You get up. "Thanks for the coffee."

"Honey," she says. "You'll get something."

"But I don't want her to be disappointed," you say.

"She won't be," Sookie says.

"She will be, she will," you say. "He's not coming."

"Christopher?" she asks.

You shake your head. "He called."

"Oh," Sookie says.

"Yeah," you mumble. "I want something to be right."

-

You sit up on Christmas Eve, wrapping presents, playing music and silently sending Mia psychic beams of thanks every thirty seconds or so, for taking Rory.

It's sad, you think. You're sitting on the floor of the potting shed, wrapping gifts, and being alone. You look at the empty spot by the tree where you wanted to put Rory's bike.

Your teardrops fall onto the paper, bleeding through. Like ink blots. You wipe your nose.

-

You pull your hat down on your head even tighter. It's so cold outside – insanely so – and you wander aimlessly. Nothing is open. Chris isn't coming. You have no money. Rory has no bike.

Christmas is supposed to be happy, right?

You trudge through the snow and stop in the middle of the street. Centre of town.

"Oh, God," you mumble. There's nothing but a row of depressing dark stores.

You hug yourself, trying to get the feeling back in your hands.

"What are you doing?" a male voice yells at you.

You turn around. A truck, the only thing out here besides you. "I'm standing," you say. "Oh. Sorry." You dash to the curb, and he parks beside you.

"That's stupid, you know," he tells you, getting out of his truck. "Standing in the middle of the street."

"I know," you say. "But there's nothing open."

"It's Christmas Eve," he says.

"I know," you reply. "It's Christmas Eve and my kid is going to be disappointed because I can't buy her a bike because I'm broke and her dad isn't coming and I don't know why – I called and asked him, but he said he was busy, whatever that means – and I don't want to let her down more than he will -" you break off, stupidly. "You don't care."

"You have a daughter," he says.

"Yes," you say. "Rory. She's five."

"Wow," the guy says.

"Yeah, well." You kick the snow. "So…I better go. I mean, I still have to wrap presents and prepare myself for explanations and stuff like that."

"You need a bike?" he asks.

"Yes," you say. "But, I can't get one -"

"No, you can," he says.

"What?" you ask.

He shrugs. "Where do you live?"

"The Independence Inn," you say. You blush, horribly. "The potting…shed."

"Alright," he says. "Come on."

"What?" you repeat. "No, no, I couldn't – I don't even know your name…"

"Luke Danes," he says.

"Hi," you say. "Lorelai Gilmore."

"I have an old bike," he explains. "Your daughter can have it."

"Really?" you say.

"Really."

You stare at him, this guy…with amazing blue eyes and a gruff voice and who's being so sweet…and you blush some more. You blab at him, he gives Rory a bike?

Sure, it makes sense.

"Come on," he urges. "You've got…" he glances at his watch, "three hours?"

"Okay," you say.

-

You sneak it in the shed with Luke, finding Mia sitting beside a slumbering Rory. "Hello," she whispers.

"Hi," you say. "This is, uh…"

"Lucas!" Mia exclaims.

"Hi, Mia," he says. He places the bike near the tree for you. "Merry Christmas."

"The same to you," she says. "What are you doing here?"

"Uh…Lorelai needed a bike," he replies. "And I had one."

"That's perfectly sweet of you," Mia says.

"Yes, thank you," you say. "So, so much."

He shrugs.

"She'll love it," you add.

"Kids usually do," he says. He watches as you take Mia's place by Rory, kissing Rory's forehead.

"Merry Christmas," you whisper.

He smiles.

-

You squeeze your eyes shut, pulling the blankets over your head. Rory bounces on you, squealing. "Mommy, look!" she says. "Look!"

"Did Santa come?" you ask, feigning surprise.

"Yeah!" she says, clamouring off the bed. "He left you something, too."

She hands you an envelope. You tear it open. It's a card, from Luke. You stare at the embossed surface, and smile, because maybe, this is what you wanted for Christmas.

A friend.