Title- Blame It On the Eggnog
Characters/Pairings- all JJ, all the time
Summary- When she discovers Luke is suffering from the Christmas blues, Lorelai takes matters into her own hands to make sure nobody is alone for the holidays. L/L. Title has nothing to do with anything.
A/N- Originally this was just going to be a oneshot, but then it got to be the night before Christmas Eve and I was only about a quarter of the way done, so I decided to go ahead and post what I had ready in order to actually catch the holiday in some kind of reasonable time. Expect the rest of the chapters (of which I expect there to be either two or three more after this one) to be posted by the end of the holiday season. And on that note... happy holidays everyone, no matter which holiday you may celebrate!
December 24, 1999
The bells above the door rang out merrily as Lorelai entered Luke's Diner. She smiled reflexively at the sight of her friend, the titular proprietor himself, engaged in yet another shouting match with Taylor Doose. The lunch rush was in full swing (or as much of a lunch rush as Luke was likely to get on Christmas Eve, meaning Kirk, Mrs. Lanahan, and Andrew), but all were being ignored in favor of the ever-nagging Taylor.
The subject this afternoon was the same as it had been yesterday, and the day before that, and the day before that, and so on: the decorations in the diner... or rather, the lack thereof.
Taylor's face very nearly matched the color of his festive cardigan. "Luke, the Stars Hollow tree-lighting ceremony is in less than five hours! Every local establishment around the square is appropriately decorated, except for yours."
"Taylor, no," Luke said flatly.
"Young man, your establishment is right in front of the Stars Hollow community Christmas tree!" Taylor fussed. "How do you think it will look if one of this town's premiere entrepreneurs cannot even muster up enough Christmas spirit to hang just a few festive garlands?"
"For the last time, Taylor, I do not have to hang garlands around my diner! I do not have to hang twinkle lights along my eaves! I do not have to tape stupid snowflake cutouts the first graders made in my windows! I do not have to do anything I don't wanna do, and I don't want to hang any damn garlands!"
"Here here!" Lorelai called cheerfully.
Taylor glared at her. "You stay out of this, young lady!" he said with a vindictively-pointed finger. Lorelai raised her hands in mock-surrender.
"Get out," Luke growled at the festively-attired town selectman.
"Taylor, I am only gonna say this once more: get out of my diner!"
Grumbling, Taylor complied. Lorelai quickly occupied the stool he had been blocking. Luke was attacking the counter with his sadly put-upon rag as if it had personally affronted him, muttering irritably under his breath. She couldn't help her grin as she watched him. She also couldn't help noticing that his forearms, revealed by the rolled-up sleeves of his flannel, were very nice. And those long fingers... Lorelai snapped herself out of those thoughts quickly. It was not her place, as Luke's friend and most persistent customer, to be ogling him no matter how ogle-worthy he might or might not be.
Eventually, Luke seemed to remember her presence. "Coffee?" he asked tiredly.
"Hi, have you met me?" she shot back, grinning at him, hoping (futilely) to coax a smile out of him in return.
"Unfortunately for your stomach lining, some things do tend to stick." Still, he poured her a cup of her black gold.
Lorelai took a long sip of the coffee, closing her eyes and sighing in content. "Heavenly," she breathed happily.
"Sure, if you mean it's gonna send you there prematurely," Luke growled.
Lorelai eyed him over the rim of her mug. "So, correct me if I'm wrong, but the holiday season seems to have put you in an even worse mood than usual," she observed.
"Even you cannot possibly be that much of a Grinch!" When he didn't respond, she pressed on doggedly, "Come on, Luke, haven't you got any Christmas plans?"
"Nope. Diner's closed."
"So? No Christmas parties?"
"If you mean Miss Patty's thing tomorrow night, there's no chance in hell I'm going to that thing, now or ever."
"No hot date?"
"On Christmas day?"
"Right, that's stupid. No family coming into town?"
He turned away from her under the pretense of returning the coffee pot its place. "What family? Just my flaky sister and her screwed-up son, and seeing as I don't even know their latest address, I seriously doubt I'll be spending a holly jolly Christmas with them."
Lorelai felt a twinge in her heart as she picked up on the sadness her friend was valiantly trying to conceal behind a mask of Grinchy bitterness. An idea occurred to her, and she said, "Well, why don't you spend tomorrow with us?"
Luke turned to look at her in surprise. "Won't you be with your family, though?"
"Nah." She waved a gloved hand dismissively. "My parents always celebrate the holidays two weeks early so they can be somewhere sunny and sandy and snow-free on the actual day of. Which, frankly, is just fine by me. It's always just me and Rory on Christmas Day. We get up really early to open presents, and we drink cocoa, and if it ever snows we have a snowball fight, and then we heat up the dinner Sookie makes for us the day before- because God knows no one in their right minds wants me left alone in the kitchen, especially on Christmas- and then we watch all the Christmas classics... it's a blast!"
That gave him pause, and Lorelai was sure he was tempted by her offer. "I don't want to intrude," he said hesitantly.
She shook her head. "No way! Rory would love to have you there, I know. You have to come."
Luke tapped his fingers nervously on the countertop between them. It was obvious that he still wasn't sure of accepting her invitation.
"Oh come on, Luke!" she said frustratedly. "We've been friends for, what? More than three years now? You aren't doing anything, I want you to come spend Christmas with Rory and me, what more do you need, a handwritten invitation?"
He looked up at her abruptly, meeting her sky blue eyes with his own darker blue gaze, and an unexpected smile bloomed on his face. "Alright," he said. "It, uh, it sounds like fun."
"Great!" She found herself unexpectedly captivated by Luke's smile. In all the time she had known him, she had never really seen him smile... not like this, anyway. She had seen him smirk. Once or twice she had seen him shoot her that lopsided half-smile he gave her when he was trying to let her know he was really more amused by her than he wanted the world in general to know. But he had never smiled like this, genuine and happy. She found it impossible to resist answering with a grin of her own.
For a moment that was maybe a little bit too long, they just smiled at each other. Then Lorelai shook herself back to the present and said, "Alright, we start with the present opening at seven o'clock precisely. Insanely early, I know, but it's only one day a year and-"
"I run a diner, Lorelai," Luke said. "I can handle seven a.m."
"Right, of course."
"I'm assuming presents are mandatory?"
Lorelai responded with a quirked eyebrow and a pointed look.
"Right. Forgot who I was talking to. Can my present be of the edible variety?"
"That's the best kind!" Lorelai said delightedly.
"Then tell Sookie to forget cooking for the pair of you this year. I'm making Christmas dinner."
Lorelai raised her eyebrows dubiously. "You expect two such connoisseurs as ourselves to pass up Sookie's gourmet selection?"
Luke rolled his eyes, and she was sure he was working to restrain commentary about applying the word "connoisseur" to someone who consumed large amounts of chili fries on a regular basis. "I do know how to make food other than burgers, you know," he said.
"Alright, fine, you're making Christmas dinner. But it better be good, Mister, because I'm never going to hear the end of it from Sookie."
"Prepare to be amazed," Luke said, a confident (and not at all sexy, Lorelai reminded herself) smirk crossing his features. She wasn't sure, but she could swear Luke was actually kind of excited about the prospect of sharing Christmas with her and her daughter.
She finished the last gulp of her coffee, then said, "Alright, I've got to run. You would not believe how many people decide a picturesque Connecticut inn is precisely the place to spend Christmas." She reached for her purse to pay for the coffee, but Luke waved her off.
"Don't worry about it," he said. "Consider it an early present."
She grinned cheekily at him. "Thanks. Anyway, I'll see you bright and early tomorrow morning! And you better be on time, because I am not patient when it comes to opening presents!"
"Why am I not surprised?"
She waved a hand at him, then slid off her stool and headed for the door.
"Lorelai?" She glanced over her shoulder at the sound of his voice, and found him looking at her with a smile that existed in his eyes rather than around his mouth. "Thanks," he said simply.
"What are friends for?" she asked rhetorically, feeling comfortably warmed by his simple expression of gratitude.
And then she was gone out the door.