A/N: Here is the story that I wrote for PinkHammer for the Support Stacie Stocking Stuffer Auction. Thank you so much for paying so much for me. I'm still in awe that people were fighting for one of my stories. You've been a fabulous owner Pink and I'm pleased that you finally get to see this all pretty on BWR without my many grammatical errors. I hope you don't mind that it's a little over 2500 words. *giggles*
Olivia_Jane, thank you for your brainstorming help. Without you, I never would have been able to start this. A Canadian chocolate bar is on its way to you this week.
*Hands Jewels12 a brand new set of juggling balls, flowers and chocolates* Thank you, thank you, thank you for your amazing betaing on this story. I know it's been tough to get to between holidays, family, power outages and the sheer volume of your workload, so thank you so much for taking the time to do this. Nobody does it better than my QT!
And now, without further ado, I present you:
Just Another Humdrum Holiday
Lorelai breezed into the diner, her arms filled with shopping bags, leaving a trail of melting snow in her wake. She lifted herself up onto a stool, dumped the bags at her feet, and yanked off her hat and gloves just as Luke strode up, coffee pot in hand.
"You are a god," she breathed, sipping at the cup of coffee he'd placed in front of her.
"You have a problem," he shot back, trying to ignore the way her damp curls framed her face.
Lorelai pouted in mock-offence. "I'm a busy person, Luke. Busy people need coffee to help them do the things busy people do. You should know. You're a busy people too."
Luke gaped at her. "You are making even less sense than usual today. Maybe I should have given you decaf."
"What?" Lorelai's eyes widened in horror as she pulled her mug closer and held her hands protectively in front of it. "Don't you dare!"
Luke rolled his eyes. "One of these days I'll do it, and you won't even notice."
"Oh, I'll notice." Lorelai took another sip and she eyed him suspiciously.
"So what has you so busy today?" Luke inquired, "I thought you had some time off from the inn so that you could celebrate the holidays."
"Oh, I do. Today I went to Hartford to do some last minute Christmas shopping for Rory." Lorelai pointed to the bags on the floor. "She's outgrown a lot of her clothing lately so I decided to spruce up her wardrobe a bit. Look at this."
Lorelai rifled through the bags and showed off several of the items to Luke.
Luke feigned interest for a moment before grumbling, "So many clothes."
Lorelai shoved them back into the bags. "I know. Who knew a thirteen year old could outgrow her clothing so quickly?"
"Kids grow, it's what they do. My sister's kid, Jess, seems to grow like a weed between visits. When I see him tomorrow, he'll probably a head taller."
"You have a sister?" Lorelai set down her mug and looked at the man before her in surprise.
"Yeah. Liz. Pain in the butt," Luke muttered.
"Is she older?" He was a bit of an enigma to her, and she was fascinated by even the smallest personal details that he let slip.
Luke shook his head. "Nope. She's my baby sister."
"Do you see her often?"
"Not really. Usually she just shows up unannounced needing a place to crash. But this year we decided to do the civilized thing and get together for the holidays. I'm meeting her in New York and we're going to celebrate. It'll be the first time we were together at Christmas since we were teenagers." Luke's eyes lit up with excitement at the prospect.
"Wow. Luke, that's huge."
"I know. I'm actually looking forward to visiting with her without all the drama. She's single right now, so that helps."
"Oh yeah. My sister is a magnet for losers and lowlifes. But this year it'll just be us and Jess. It'll be nice."
Luke heard his cook call up the next orders, so he excused himself from the conversation to deliver the meals. Lorelai watched him out of the corner of her eye as she pondered what life would have been like with a sibling. It certainly would have been nice to have someone to commiserate with when her parents were particularly overbearing. Perhaps it would have made her childhood in the Gilmore Mansion less burdensome.
The ringing of the diner phone awakened her from her reverie. She downed the last of her coffee as Luke hurried to answer it.
"Luke's" she heard him answer. He listened to the voice on the other end of the phone for a moment.
"Liz?" Luke frowned. "Whoa, hey, slow down. I can't hear a word you're saying."
Lorelai observed Luke carefully as he listened to whatever his sister was saying. He kept nodding and with each passing monosyllabic response his face seemed to fall more, and more.
"Yes, Liz, I do understand. Don't worry about me, I'll be fine." Luke sighed, his eyes downcast as his sister continued to drone on apologetically.
"Sure, the new year, that could work." Lorelai detected a hint of doubt in his voice as he spoke.
"Merry Christmas to you, too. Give Jess a hug for me. Good bye, Liz." Luke slammed the phone onto its cradle and took a deep breath. He grabbed the coffee pot and refilled Lorelai's mug. "That was my sister, she cancelled our plans."
Lorelai's chest tightened when she saw the pain in his eyes. She immediately wanted to do anything within her power to make it go away. "I'm so sorry, Luke," she said genuinely. "I know you were really looking forward to your trip."
Luke shrugged. "Yeah, well, it's my own fault. I should have known better than to get my hopes up where Liz is concerned. She's always been like this. It's not like it's a surprise. She met some guy and is going to spend Christmas with him instead. He's probably another psycho, just like the last one."
Lorelai reached out and touched his hand lightly. "It's okay to be upset, Luke, but it's not your fault."
Her touch calmed him, its effects lasting even after she removed her hand. "Thanks, Lorelai. Sorry to dump on you like this."
"Don't mention it." She was silent for a moment, as she tried to think of something that would cheer him up. An idea flashed through her brain, and before she could reconsider she offered, "Hey, come have Christmas with us instead."
Luke looked at her, his mouth gaping in surprise. "You want me to join you and Rory for Christmas?"
"Yes, Lorelai said, getting excited about the idea. Having Luke over could be fun, and Rory adored him so she knew she wouldn't mind. "Babette gave me a giant turkey the other day, apparently she and Morey had an extra, so I was going to make a nice Christmas Eve dinner. There's no way Rory and I can eat all of it alone, so you'll actually be doing us a favour by coming."
"I'd be doing you a favour?" Luke narrowed his eyes sceptically.
"You would. Because then there won't be as many leftovers that will end up living in our refrigerator until they grow legs and walk away. Rory hates it when we waste food. There are starving children in Africa you know?"
"You're sure?" Luke asked, "Rory won't mind?"
"I'm sure. And Rory loves to have company. She'll be excited that she can show you all her books." Lorelai beamed at him. She was thrilled to see that the pain from a few moments ago had all but dissipated from his eyes and was replaced by a sort of happy gleam,
Luke shrugged. "Okay, I'll come. Can I bring anything?"
"Nope, just yourself. Oh, and wear something festive."
"Festive?" Luke scowled.
"You know. Something Christmasy, like antlers."
"Antlers?" Luke looked like he was ready to change his mind.
Lorelai pouted playfully. "You're no fun. Okay, fine, no antlers. Something red or green will suffice."
"I'll see what I can do," Luke said dryly, "What time should I show up?"
Lorelai thought for a moment. "Come around 2, Rory and I usually decorate the tree on Christmas Eve and you can help. Then maybe this year it won't fall down."
"It fell down?"
"Just the one time." Lorelai chuckled at Luke's raised eyebrow. "Okay, twice… well, last year anyway."
"Jeez. You two require constant supervision." Luke puckered his brow. "Are you sure cooking is a good idea?"
Lorelai waved him off. "It'll be fine." She slid of her stool and tugged on her hat and gloves. "I should go. See you tomorrow. At two."
Lorelai shot Luke a quick glance before scooping up her shopping bags and fighting her way through the door. Soon she was walking down the snowy street to the jeep. She quickly loaded up and climbed in, a nervous flutter in the pit of her stomach. Oh god, I have no idea how to cook a turkey.
Lorelai's kitchen was a disaster. Every cupboard had been emptied in an effort to locate cooking items that she didn't own, and the aftermath was still spewed across the floor. Random food boxes and dirty dishes dotted ever available surface.
She'd finally found something to put the turkey on, but on her way to the oven it had failed her and bent. She'd managed to catch the bird before it hit the ground, but it was looking a bit worse for wear, with its leg sticking out at a funny angle and a gross looking grey thing poking out of its rear. She quickly shoved it onto the table, amid the plentiful debris, knocking several boxes on the floor in the process.
She grabbed the tinfoil and used it to create a sort of raft, several inches thick. Pleased with her handiwork, Lorelai dumped the turkey onto it and shoved the whole mess into the oven. Her attempt at peeling potatoes had convinced her that eating the skins would provide extra protein, so she had put them into the boiling water whole after her search for a knife had turned up crickets. She opened the oven to toss a few carrots around the turkey only to see a sticky mess forming on the oven bottom from all the turkey dripping. Deciding it was probably fine, she placed her carrots and slammed the oven closed.
Rory stood in her bedroom doorway and surveyed the chaos and destruction. She'd never seen her mother try to cook before and now she could see why they always ate other peoples' food. She had serious doubts that this dinner was going to be edible. "Uh, Mom? Should there be smoke coming out of the oven like that?" she asked in a slightly amused voice.
Lorelai swore and turned to investigate just as the doorbell rang. Rory cast another doubtful look at her mother as she went to answer the door.
"Hi, Luke." Rory moved to the side so Luke could enter the foyer.
"Hi, Rory. Merry Christmas." Luke removed his jacket just as Lorelai strode in from the kitchen, disaster apparently averted.
Lorelai stopped in her tracks and stared at him. He was wearing his usual jeans, a red flannel shirt and a green backwards baseball cap. "Wow, you actually dressed festive."
Luke glared at her, realizing that neither she nor Rory were wearing anything remotely Christmasy. "You told me to."
"Yes, but I didn't think you'd actually do it."
Before Luke could answer, they all jumped when they heard a loud popping sound coming from the kitchen. "Crap." Lorelai raced to see what new catastrophe was looming.
Rory and Luke stood in the foyer silently for a moment. Finally Luke said, "Are you sure it's safe for her to be in there alone?"
Rory shrugged. "She claims to know what she's doing. I've learned that it is best to leave her to her own devices."
Luke glanced toward the kitchen dubiously. "If you say so."
"I do." Rory grabbed his hand and dragged him toward the living room. "Come, let's start on the tree before mom gets back. She always puts it up crooked and then it falls over in the middle of the night and scares the neighbours."
Luke chuckled and examined his surroundings. He'd never visited their house before and he had been curious to see what it looked like. Various boxes, which he assumed contained Christmas ornaments, littered a large open room. A couch sat in the centre, facing a fireplace and television. Photographs and cutesy or bizarre knickknacks dotted all available surfaces. Luke smiled. It suited them.
Rory rummaged in a box, pulled out a metal tree stand and placed it on the floor between the fireplace and the staircase. "We always put the tree here," she explained.
Luke nodded, and picked up the tree, which had been leaning against the couch. He set it on the stand and held it straight while Rory adjusted the screws. When she finished, Luke let go, and together they stood back to examine their handiwork.
"Wow, not bad." Rory looked up at Luke, obviously surprised. "When mom does it, it's usually doing an impression of the tower of Pisa by this point."
Luke chuckled. "I'm still going to tie it, just in case."
"Good plan. Mom doesn't have the best track record when it comes to Christmas trees," Rory admitted, evoking another laugh from Luke.
He was just securing some twine to the top of the tree when Lorelai finally emerged from the kitchen, covered in white specks of something gooey, and looking frazzled.
"Whoa, Mom! What happened?" Rory said, trying to contain her laughter. "Is that potato shrapnel?"
Lorelai glared at Rory. "Are you insinuating that I blew up our dinner?"
Rory bit her lip, her shoulders shaking with unreleased mirth. "Yes," she managed to choke out before collapsing on the bottom stair in a fit of hysterical giggles.
Lorelai crossed her arms. "Rory, everything is perfectly fine. Dinner is perfectly fine. AND edible."
"Uh huh," Rory gasped out between giggles. "Sure."
"It is." Lorelai turned her attention to the tree. "It's completely vertical," she exclaimed in awe as Luke stepped out from behind the newly secured tree. "Thank you, Luke."
Luke shrugged. "Just call me Mr. Handyman."
"Uh oh." Rory had stopped laughing.
Luke looked down at her, puzzled. "What?"
"You may regret saying that," she warned.
Lorelai clapped her hands with glee and jumped up and down. "Hey, since you're so handy, you can fix the porch light… and the squeaky step... and the shower and the leaky toilet… Oh, and we need a new bottle for the water cooler…"
"Oh boy." Rory shot Luke an apologetic look. "I tried to warn you."
Luke shrugged. "I don't mind fixing things. Let me go get my tool box from the truck."
"Really?" Lorelai asked excitedly. "I'll make you a list!"
While Luke checked off the multitude of items on Lorelai's list, Rory and Lorelai decorated the tree.
"Chestnuuuuts, roasting on an open fiiiire," Lorelai belted off key, as she hung a candy cane reindeer from a low branch.
Rory hung a paper angel on an upper branch and joined in, "Jack Frost, nipping at your noooooose."
They both looked over at Luke, who was repairing the drawer on the phone desk. "What?"
"Sing the next line," Lorelai prompted.
"I don't sing," Luke grumbled, shoving the drawer into place and checking it off his list.
"Pleeeeeease?" Lorelai stuck out her bottom lip and batted her eyes at him.
"But Luke, it's part of the tradition." Rory looked at him, her eyes as bright as a doe's, and he knew he couldn't turn her down.
He sighed. "Hillside carols, being sung by a choir of angels."
Lorelai beamed at him as she wrapped a string of cranberries around the tree and sang the next line, "Folks dressed up like Sloppy Joes…"
Rory dropped her popcorn chain and gaped at her mother. "Sloppy Joes?"
"I thought I'd be politically correct." Lorelai hung another string of cranberries.
"By changing it to Sloppy Joes? They have nothing to do with Christmas." Rory picked up her popcorn chain and draped it on a branch.
"Besides, that sentence doesn't make sense," Luke added.
They were interrupted by a barrage of barnyard sounds coming from the kitchen. "Oh! That's the timer." Lorelai handed Luke the last cranberry string. "Be a dear and help Rory finish decorating."
"But what about the rest of the list?" Luke asked, staring after her as she pranced to the kitchen.
"The list can wait," she called.
Luke hung the cranberries on the tree, shaking his head and muttering, "Crazy, she's absolutely crazy."
Rory chortled as she hung the final popcorn chain. "That's my mom for you. Crazy, yet oddly loveable." She stepped back to admire the tree. "Just one thing left." Rory dug through a box and handed an item to Luke. "Will you do the honours?"
Luke looked down to see a crumpled angel made out of a toilet paper roll and a ping pong ball. She had 3 eyes and a lopsided smile and curls that stuck out in all directions. Her wings were folded wrapping paper scraps and a yellow pipe-cleaner had been formed into a circle and glued atop the matted curls. "You made this?" he asked.
Rory nodded. "When I was 3. We couldn't afford decorations so mom and I made them. It became a tradition. This is the first one I made on my own."
Luke felt himself blinking back tears as he imagined 3 year old Rory proudly presenting her homemade angel to her mother. "I'd be honoured," he whispered.
Lorelai leaned against the stairs as she silently watched Luke place the angel on the topmost tip of the tree. She wiped at her eyes as memories of their first few Christmases at the inn flooded her mind.
Rory gave Luke a quick hug. "Thanks, Luke. I'm glad you're here."
Luke hugged her back awkwardly, touched by her sudden show of affection for him.
Lorelai cleared her throat and they both turned to stare at her.
"Dinner is ready," she announced proudly.
"About time, Mom, I'm starving." Rory was almost in the kitchen when she paused and added, "I just hope it's edible."
"I'm sure it will be delicious." Luke smiled at Lorelai encouragingly before following Rory into the kitchen.
"Uh, thanks, Luke." Lorelai chewed her lip nervously as she trailed after him.
The kitchen table had been set and three plates of food had been served and placed at each setting. They all took their places, with Lorelai seated between Luke and Rory.
Lorelai looked at her plate and gulped, seriously doubting the edibility of her own cooking.
Rory stared sceptically at the lumpy potatoes, burnt stuffing, whole carrot and shredded turkey that lay on her plate. She cast a glance toward Luke and saw him taking a tentative bite of the turkey. Rory followed suit with a spoonful of potato.
Luke chewed slowly, wincing slightly when the turkey squeaked against his teeth.
"How is it?" Lorelai asked.
"Good," Luke and Rory responded simultaneously. As soon as Lorelai looked away, Rory spat the hard, uncooked potato into a napkin and started to rearrange the food on her plate so that it looked like she was eating.
Oblivious, Lorelai breathed a sight of relief before jumping up abruptly. "Oh! I almost forgot." She ran to the fridge, pulled something out and returned to the table. "I got you something." She handed Luke the items.
Luke blinked and stared down at the head of iceberg lettuce and the tomato that had appeared in his hands. "What is this?"
"Salad!" she decreed proudly.
"Salad? This is not salad, Lorelai. These are selections from the Doose's produce department that are sometimes used to make salad." Luke set the vegetables down on the table. "I do appreciate the gesture."
Lorealai watched with amusement as he tried a bite of the stuffing and swallowed deeply. He quickly washed it down with another bite of squeaky turkey.
She glanced at her own, completely unappetizing plate and started to giggle. "It's awful, isn't it?"
"No, it's not," Luke argued as he shovelled a mountain of potato into his mouth and promptly began to gag as he tried desperately to swallow it.
"You don't need to be polite, Luke. Who am I kidding? A cook I am not. Not unless cooking involves dialling, ordering and paying." Rory breathed a sigh of relief as Lorelai took her plate away and scraped it into the garbage. She returned for Luke's plate in time to see all the colour drain from his face. "Luke, are you okay?"
Luke shook his head and gasped, "Bathroom?"
Lorelai's eyes narrowed in concern. "Up the stairs and to the right."
Luke dashed out of the room and Lorelai and Rory exchanged a worried look when they heard retching.
Rory's eyes widened. "You poisoned Luke."
"I did not poi--" They heard more wretching and Lorelai plunked herself onto Luke's abandoned chair and pressed her forehead to the cool tabletop. "Oh my god, I've poisoned Luke. I'm never going to try cooking again."
"Good plan, better to stick to what you know best," Rory agreed waving a pizza menu.
Luke re-entered the kitchen, his cheeks flushed.
"Oh my god, Luke. I'm so sorry. I practically killed you. Can you ever forgive me? Rory and I have already agreed that I am never going to cook again."
Luke grimaced. "I'm fine. I should probably go home though."
"No way. You are not going home to that empty apartment with food poisoning. You're going to stay here on our couch so I can make sure you don't die. Also, that way you don't have to spend Christmas morning alone." Lorelai spun him around with her hands and pushed him toward the living room.
Feeling too ill to argue, Luke complied and collapsed on the couch. Lorelai handed him a blanket while Rory brought him a glass of water and a bucket.
"We're ordering pizza, you want some?" Lorelai asked him as Rory handed her the phone.
Luke groaned and clutched his stomach.
"I'm thinking no," Rory said, patting Luke's shoulder and handing him a blanket.
Lorelai shrugged and dialled. While she ordered, Rory slid One Magic Christmas into the VCR and settled herself onto the floor in front of the couch. She fast forwarded through the previews and paused at the beginning of the film just as Lorelai hung up and settled at Luke's feet.
"I'm really sorry about all this." She patted his feet gently.
"It's okay, you were trying to do something nice. Besides, I enjoy spending time with you and Rory."
Rory pressed play. "Hush, you two, the movie is about to begin."
"Yes, Ma'am," Lorelai giggled and settled against the back of the couch as the three of them watched the classic movie in companionable silence.
Luke was awakened the next morning by a loud, high-pitched squeal. He cracked his eyes open to see Rory blur past and run up the stairs.
Luke had managed to sit up when she came back down a few minutes later, dragging a bleary eyed and sleep mussed Lorelai behind her. She muttered something about coffee as she shuffled her way to the kitchen.
Rory stood in front of the stairs, hopping from one foot to the other impatiently. "Mom, hurry up."
"Rory, it's 6 am on a holiday, I need my coffee." Lorelai emerged, and plopped onto the couch beside Luke, a mug of steaming coffee in her hand.
"Hey," she greeted him. "You feeling better?"
Luke nodded. "Much. Thank you for letting me stay."
"No problem. It's kind of nice having someone else here to share the misery of an early morning wake up call on a holiday."
"Actually, I'm usually up before 5 am."
Lorelai shuddered. "Why on earth would you do that?"
Rory was now practically hopping in circles around the couch. "Mooooom."
Lorelai took a sip of coffee. "Okay, bring me my stocking and then you can start opening yours."
Rory squeaked, "About time." She set a stocking onto Lorelai's lap then raced back to get hers.
Lorelai put the stocking between Luke and herself and said, "Luke can share with me."
Two hours later, they were surrounded by torn wrapping paper, towers of books and clothing, and an army of unicorns that Luke had given Rory. Rory had feigned interest in the unicorns and had convinced Luke to wear the bow from the package on his head, much to Lorelai's glee.
Rory was happily pouring over her brand new set of Encyclopaedias while Luke entertained Lorelai with a tale of a memorable Christmas with Liz. Lorelai settled back as she listened, amazed at how comfortable she had become around Luke. It was really nice having him there for the holiday, even if the circumstances behind it had been the fault of her cooking failure. It was nice to have someone other than Rory to share this day with. I could get used to this.
She found herself pondering what life would be like if she, Rory and Luke were a family. She was shocked to find that she liked the idea and she quickly pushed the thoughts away.
Luke finished his story and dug into his pocket, "I almost forgot to give you your present. Merry Christmas, Lorelai Gilmore." He handed her a small box.
Lorelai opened it carefully and gasped. Inside was the most beautiful ring she'd ever seen. She looked at him questioningly.
"It was my mother's," he explained softly. "Before she died, she told me to give it to the woman I intend to marry. That would be you."
Lorelai gaped at him, completely baffled. "What?"
"I'm in love with you, I have been for a while now, and I think it's time you knew."
Again she stared at him, mouth open, eyes wide in disbelief.
"So what do you think?" He looked at her hopefully.
"I… uh… I…" Her breathing quickened as her mind raced to process the information.
"Mom?" Rory's voice was faint and seemed far away. Lorelai felt a hand on her shoulder shaking her gently. "Mom? Mom, wake up! It's Christmas and there are a zillion presents under the tree. Come on, Mom, wake up!"
Lorelai sat up, her mind still in a fog. She followed Rory downstairs in a daze. She paused momentarily, as she spotted Luke still asleep on the couch and felt a strange tug of disappointment as she realized that it had only been a dream.