A Very Special Gift

Disclaimer: I don't own Bridge to Terabithia or its characters.

Author's notes: This is an LDD (Leslie Didn't Die) fan fiction story. The rope did break, but Leslie managed to survive.

In 2008, Christmas vacation came as slowly as every year before. It was easy to say that, since all the people were anxiously waiting for the holidays. Even the whole Aarons family was looking forward to it, including Jack and Mary.

For some reason or other, Jack had got a promotion at his job in the hardware store. His salary also got bigger, and this had given Jack an idea. He decided to give Mary a Christmas present she could've never dreamed of: a one-night stay at the nearest quality hotel in Virginia on Christmas Eve. There they would get anything fancy they could think about: massages, hot tubs etc. Mary and the rest of the family were completely thrilled when Jack announced the news. Mary was glad that she could spend some quality time with her husband for the first time in many years, and the kids were glad to have the house all to themselves.

Then Mary came up with another idea. She suddenly felt that she and Jack would need some company after all. So, she suggested that they could ask their neighbors, Bill and Judy Burke, to join them. At first Jack was a little hesitant about the suggestion, since they hadn't seen or even talked with the Burkes so often. But, in the end, he didn't want to ruin the Christmas spirit, and he decided to call them right away.

After Jack had called their neighbors, his 13-year-old brown-haired son, Jesse, approached him. "Dad, if you and Mom are going with Bill and Judy to the hotel, can Leslie stay here for the night?" Jesse asked his father.

"Sure, son. Where else would she go to?" Jack chuckled.

"Um… Is it all right if she would stay here for the rest of the holidays too?"

Jack looked at his son, a little surprised about what he had heard. "Jess, are you sure her parents wouldn't mind?"

"Dad, Bill and Judy are, like, the nicest parents you could think of! Of course they wouldn't mind. I think."

Jack chuckled again and, after a moment of silence, said: "All right, she can stay."

"Thanks, Dad", said Jesse and gave his father a short hug before hurrying upstairs to call his best friend.

And so Christmas Eve finally arrived. Jack and Mary woke up early in the morning to get ready to leave. They spent the entire morning packing their bags. Since they were staying only for one night, they didn't use the biggest suitcases they had. They settled for two smaller bags that could contain basic items like cellphones, magazines, combs, wallets, etc.

At around one o'clock in the afternoon Jesse was walking downstairs with his parents' bags in his hands when he heard somebody sing. He instantly recognized the sweet, soft voice. As Jesse touched the floor he turned around to look in the kitchen. There she was. Leslie Burke.

She was thirteen, like Jesse, but in his opinion she still looked pretty much the same she did when they first met. Her face was as cute as ever, she still had shoulder-length blonde hair, and most of all she still had the same outrageous fashion style. Even now she wore the exact same blue outfit from the day they first went to Terabithia, complete with socks covering her elbows. Apparently the outfit still fit her.

"You're quite a girl, Leslie", Jesse thought.

He stood still, looking at her in the kitchen. It was a very rare sight. She was actually cooking in the Aarons house. Ever since she was invited to stay there, she had been so excited that she asked if she could cook there at least once. Since it was Christmas, Jack and Mary decided to give Leslie the honor of cooking on Christmas Eve, Christmas Day and Boxing Day. After hearing this, Leslie had begun to jump around the family room with excitement and even given Jesse a short hug, which of course made him feel a bit embarrassed.

On Christmas Eve, Leslie decided to make a traditional Christmas dinner: ham, potatoes, potato and carrot casserole. But, she was also making a special treat for Jesse: steak, one of his favorites.

Jesse started to feel even hungrier as he saw Leslie with the steak on the frying pan. She was just about to flambé. Now he also recognized the song she was singing: Disco Inferno by The Trammps.

"Disco inferno!" Leslie sang and then ignited the steak. "Burn baby BURN!"

Amused by the situation, Jesse started chanting: "Fry, Leslie! Fry, Leslie! Fry, Leslie!"

Giggling, Leslie turned around and grinned at him.

"Didn't know Tina Turner was coming to visit", Jesse said sarcastically and, after Leslie grinned again and rolled her eyes, he walked to the front door with the bags.

"Jess, I must say, it's nice of you to help your parents with their bags", Leslie said.

Jesse put the bags down and answered: "Well, yeah, you know, they've been so kind to let you stay here for the holidays. I'd do anything to repay their kindness."

"Can't wait for them to leave either, huh?" Leslie asked with an obvious kind of tone.

"Hey, come on, does the Terminator want seconds?"

Leslie giggled again. She knew Jesse sometimes liked to refer to his father as the Terminator, because Jack could sometimes be quite rough.

"Where did you learn to cook anyway? Let alone flambé?" Jesse asked.

"My Dad taught me. Believe it or not, he's more of an expert in cooking than my Mom", Leslie said.

Jesse laughed and said: "Bill in the kitchen? I'd love to see that." From that he received another one of Leslie's grins he so much loved to look at.

Then Jack and Mary came downstairs, followed by Jesse's sisters.

"Dad, the bags are at the door", Jesse said.

"Thanks a lot, son", Jack answered and patted Jesse on the shoulder.

"Something sure smells good", Brenda said while sniffing the air.

"That would be the steak", Leslie said and walked beside Jesse.

"No Christmas is perfect without having your favorite food, huh?" she said and gave her best friend a pat on the back. Jesse smiled and blushed a little.

"Weird and weirder!" Brenda and Ellie chorused and started to laugh.

"You know, I've never asked you this. Which one of us is weird and which one is weirder?" Leslie asked.

Brenda and Ellie stopped laughing and stood in front of Jesse and Leslie, completely silent. Leslie raised her eyebrows and went back to cooking, leaving Jesse's sisters completely dumbfounded.

As Jack and Mary were checking their bags, they heard a car pull up in front of their house. Soon after that there was a knock on the door. Jack opened it, and was greeted by Bill and Judy Burke.

"Are you ready to leave?" Bill asked.

"Yeah, we'll be out in a minute", Jack answered.

The Burkes stepped inside for a quick visit. Bill found his daughter immediately in the kitchen. "Judging from the smell I can say you've really outdone yourself, Les", he said.

Leslie smiled at him, and then at Jesse. As if on cue, Bill walked towards Jesse. "I really hope my Leslie will make that steak just as you like it", Bill said quietly to the boy and winked. "I'd be damned if all my teaching went to waste." He and Jesse shared a small laugh.

"Bill! I think Jack and Mary are about to come!" Judy yelled.

"OK! Let's go and wait in the car. Oh, and before I forget… PT!" Bill yelled and soon the black-and-white dog came inside, barking wildly.

"Hey, you!" Leslie said and scratched the dog behind the ears.

"Jack, I really appreciate that you're allowing this 'monster' to stay in your house" Bill chuckled.

"No problem at all. Right, Jess?" Jack said.

"Yeah", Jesse answered.

After Bill went outside to join his wife in the car, Jack and Mary turned at the kids one more time. Jack said: "Now, kids, we trust you completely. Behave well and don't stay up too late."

"But, Daddy, you promised…" May Belle began but was interrupted by her father.

"Yes, sweetie, I remember that. You can open the presents under the tree late in the evening", Jack said, "but I still don't want you to be too tired tomorrow morning when we return. I'd like all of you to go to bed at one o'clock at the latest, OK?"

After the kids nodded in agreement, Jack and Mary wished them a Merry Christmas and left the house. The kids went outside to wave their parents goodbye until they were out of sight.

The kids spent the rest of the day eating Leslie's dinner, watching Christmassy shows on the TV, playing games, having fun with Prince Terrien, and then, of course, opening the presents. Mostly, they got what they wished for. May Belle and Joyce Ann got stuffed animals, Brenda and Ellie got new clothes, and Jesse got a couple of movies, and a new sketchbook from Leslie. As for Leslie, she hadn't really wished for anything, but she was actually surprised when she found five presents for her under the tree, and three of them were from Jesse.

Jesse had worked hard all year to get some money so that he was able to get his best friend anything she ever wanted. Leslie couldn't believe what she saw in front of her. She was absolutely amazed how much Jesse had thought of her. He had got her a bracelet, a blouse and a necklace, all three suitable for her style. Jesse was sure he saw Leslie's eyes watering. She looked up at him and quickly pulled him to a big hug. After recovering from the surprise, Jesse wrapped his arms around her. Without his knowledge, Leslie pointed her index finger at Brenda and Ellie just as they were going to chorus their "weird and weirder" line again.

By the time the presents were opened, it was almost midnight. The kids were watching an adaptation of Charles Dickens' A Christmas Carol on the TV. Jesse and Leslie sat on the couch with PT between them. Jesse's sisters sat on the floor. All of a sudden, Leslie whispered in Jesse's ear: "Let's go to Terabithia. I've got something in store for you."

Jesse looked at Leslie. He felt a tingle in his spine as he saw the rather devilish grin on her face. Without even knowing what he was doing, he nodded, and then Leslie stood up. After Jesse got up too, Leslie said: "May Belle, do you think you could take care of PT while we're away?"

May Belle started to grin. "Ooh, Jess and Leslie sitting in a…"

"Don't even start that!" Leslie said, holding her index finger up.

"OK, OK, we'll take care of him", May Belle laughed. "Where are you going anyway?"

"Into the woods", Jesse said. "If we don't come back until one o'clock, go to bed, OK?"

After his sisters agreed, Jesse and Leslie were off. They got their coats on and once they were outside, they ran across the fields to the creek. Although it wasn't common at Christmas in Lark Creek, it was very cold outside, so the water in the creek was frozen solid. Jesse and Leslie couldn't use the rope anymore, since it was broken about a year and a half ago. They carefully walked to the other side, into the woods, to their magical kingdom, Terabithia.

After a couple minutes of walking, they reached the tree house, their "castle". They climbed up and sat on the porch, like they always did. They sat silently for a moment until Jesse asked: "So, why did we have to come here?"

Leslie looked at him and then at the sky, and said: "Like I said, I've got something for you. Something I've been wanting to tell you for a long time."

"What's that?"

"Well… Ever since we first met, I knew there was something special between us. Don't you think so?"

"If you mean that we were two outcasts who found each other, then yes."

"No, Jess. I'm talking about something much more special than just us becoming best friends. How can I tell you this…?" She thought for a minute. "Remember the day when you gave me Prince Terrien?"

"Sure."

"Remember what I did?"

"Yeah, you hugged me."

"Didn't you feel anything when I did that?"

"Well", Jesse chuckled, "I did feel a bit embarrassed. I had never got hugged by anyone else than somebody from my family."

Leslie giggled. "Well, let's try something else. Remember when we went to search for your Dad's keys? After we got them it started to rain, right?"

"Yup."

"So… When we started to go separate ways, you stopped to look at me."

"Yeah, and you turned around smiling and gave me that shy little wave", Jesse said softly.

Leslie giggled again. She loved to do that every time she was with Jesse. "Yeah…"

They stayed silent again for a moment, looking at the starry sky. "Now when you mentioned it, I did feel something that day", Jesse said.

"And what would that be?"

"I don't know. I just stared at you and…suddenly I realized how lucky I was. I realized how special you were." In a sudden move, Leslie turned to look at him. "I'm sorry. I shouldn't have said that", Jesse said, looking away from her.

"Jesse Aarons, why do you think I started this topic in the first place?" Jesse turned to look at her again. "Look", Leslie said, "I think I have a pretty good idea about this situation. I know how you feel about me."

"Leslie…" Jesse stopped as Leslie put her index finger on his mouth.

"You don't have to be afraid anymore, Jess. You don't have to be afraid to admit your feelings. Didn't you even think that I felt like that when I hugged you back then?" Leslie said, referring to the day she got PT.

"Les, I think it's pretty common that best friends hug each other every now and then."

"Please, cut the sarcasm, Jesse. This is serious, and I know you know that", she said, looked straight in his eyes and took his right arm with her left. "Jess, I couldn't find a better time to tell you this. And I don't think there even is. Consider this as my last, and biggest, Christmas gift for you. Jesse Aarons…I love you."

They looked at each other for a few seconds in complete silence. Jesse couldn't believe it, but he could hear the distant sound of the church bells. It was midnight. And then, without warning, Leslie leaned her head towards Jesse's, and kissed him on his lips.

At first Jesse shuddered, but as he saw how much Leslie really cared about him, he went on with the kiss. He felt so happy that he didn't need to worry anymore if she didn't feel about him the way he felt about her. The two seventh graders were caught up in the moment. They didn't know what was going on in the world around them. The only thing they could focus on was the kiss.

After about a minute, they broke apart to get some air. They looked at each other again, and smiled in a way they'd never smiled before.

"Thank you, Leslie", Jesse said.

"Don't you have anything else to say?" Leslie said, managing to giggle again.

When Jesse saw her beautiful smile that could melt anyone's heart, he finally had the courage to admit his feelings. "I love you too, Leslie Burke."

Now, it was his turn to make the first move. He moved closer to her, put his arms around her waist, and kissed her. Then she wrapped her arms around his neck, deepening the kiss.

Suddenly, they could hear the flapping wings of the Terabithian Warriors. Indeed, many of the dragonfly-like creatures had gathered around the tree house. Soon there were lots of other different Terabithians around the "castle". They started clapping and shouting, honoring their King and Queen, who smiled at each other.

As Jesse and Leslie were walking back to his house, the clock was a few minutes past one. When they reached the house, they noticed that Jesse's sisters had actually done as they agreed. All the lights inside were turned off. Jesse and Leslie opened the front door carefully. They didn't want to wake up his sisters. They stepped inside silently and made their way upstairs to Jesse's room. They didn't need to worry about disturbing his little sisters, since they had their own room now. Jesse lay down on his bed, looked at Leslie and patted the empty space next to him.

"Jess, are you sure? What if your sisters see us? Not to mention your parents." Leslie asked.

"Hey, Mom and Dad won't be back until about 11 in the morning. I bet we're up by then."

Leslie smiled again. "Very well, my King", she said in her sweet, soft, "royal" voice and lay down next to her loved one.

"Leslie, thank you so much. There isn't a better Christmas gift than this."

"You're welcome, Jesse."

"I love you, Leslie."

"I love you too, Jess."

After saying good night, the young lovers kissed once again. Jesse pulled Leslie closer to him and she placed her head on his chest and wrapped her arms around him. As they fell asleep, they both knew that their future would be bright. They felt happier than ever before. They finally "had" each other. They had finally admitted their true feelings. All that mattered to them now was their friendship, and love.

Author's notes:

If you didn't already guess, I made a reference to actor Robert Patrick when Jess called his father the Terminator.

Ideas for the scene where Leslie sings Disco Inferno and talks with Jess were basically taken from the opening scenes of Vying for Attention and The Butler Did It, two episodes of the 2nd season of The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air.

I hope you liked this little Christmassy BTT story. I'm going to put up a longer fan fic soon.