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Waltzing With Digger

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“I never waltz at all. It's embarrassing, and a little gay.”

-Jason, “The Hobbit, The Sofa, and Digger Stiles”

 

+

 

Christopher calls Lorelai one morning, which isn’t so rare that she thinks, Oh my God, someone’s dead!, but is rare enough that she does think, Oh my God, Gigi has type 1 diabetes.

Turns out, there are no health scares afoot. Apart from the heart attack that Lorelai almost has when Christopher tells her he’s bisexual.

“You’re ... what?”

“Oh, come on, Lor. You’re hip. You know about this stuff. I know you watch Crazy Ex-Girlfriend. Gigi showed me the song.”

“So you, like Darryl Whitefeather, are g-g-g-gettin’ bi? Please don’t tell me you have a moustache.”

“I’m bi, not insane.”

“Thank God,” Lorelai breathes out.

“I’ve been on a few dates with some guys, and I dunno, I just wanted to make sure I told you in person before you saw it pop up on social media somehow.”

“Right on,” Lorelai says, even though on principle she hates people who say Right on like it’s a legitimate conversational response.

“Did you just voluntarily say ‘right on’?”

“Shut up. This is news to me, okay?”

Christopher laughs. “It was news to me too. But, you know, we’re getting older—”

“Speak for yourself. Forever young, baby.”

“Fair enough,” Christopher says graciously. “I’m getting older, and I guess I’ve been doing some soul searching. I was just so hung up on the idea of you and me for so long that I really didn’t think about what else was out there for me. And it turns out that, hell, there’s a lot.”

“And you’re good?” Lorelai asks. The nervous hope that she’s always associated with Christopher bubbles up in her chest. It’s different from how it used to feel – it’s not all tangled up with her life anymore – but there’s a part of her that will always yearn for him to get his life together, and find the happiness he deserves.

“Yeah, I’m good.” It sounds like he means it.

“I’m happy for you, Chris,” she says sincerely.

She can hear his smile. “Thanks, Lor. Tell Rory I said hi.”

“Oh, sure. I will whenever I hear from her. I’m not sure why you made that request, when you can just tell her hi yourself—”

“Because you’re going to call her as soon as we hang up.”

“Am so not,” Lorelai scoffs. 

 

+

 

Naturally, she calls Rory right after she hangs up with Chris.

“Has your dad called with any, uh, news lately?” she demands.

“You mean about being bi? Yep! Awhile ago. He took me out to dinner with some guy he was seeing named Troy. Between you and me, I thought Troy was kind of a douche. Very James Franco-y. Is Dad’s taste in men kind of douchey?”

Lorelai gasps. Sure, Rory can’t see her, but she likes to think that these levels of theatricality can be sensed through phones. “What? He told you before me?”

“Mom. You know it’s always going to be hard for him to tell you stuff like this. And he asked me to wait so he could tell you in his own way.”

She’s a good egg, that Rory.

“I can’t believe you waited this long to tell me about your dad going out with a guy who looked like James Franco.”

“He didn’t really look like James Franco. It was more like he emitted his essence.”

“Yeesh.”

“Totally.”

“I wonder if your dad has kissed more guys than I have,” Lorelai ponders.

“Yes,” Rory says, “that is truly the pressing concern here.”

 

+

 

Stepping into the living room later, Luke announces, “Pizza’s gonna be done in two minutes—What’s up? You look weird.”

“Gee, thanks. You’re a real self esteem booster.”

“Beautiful,” Luke amends, leaning down to kiss her, “but weird.”

Lorelai hugs a throw pillow to her chest. “So, uh, Chris just called me.”

“Oh yeah? What’s he want?”

“The hot lovin’ of a foxy fellow, apparently. Man, does it suck for him that you’re taken.”

“What’s that supposed to mean?”

Lorelai puts on her grand pronouncement voice. “Christopher called to tell me that he is now dating men and women.”

“Oh,” says Luke.

“That’s all you got? ‘Oh’??”

“That’s cool, I guess. Good for him.”

And the way Luke says it, all simple and unbothered, makes Lorelai relax. It is good for him. Chris is figuring stuff out, and he’s going to be okay.

“I guess it is cool,” Lorelai agrees, starting to smile. She climbs off the couch and trails after him into the kitchen. “But not as cool as you making homemade pizza.”

“Twenty bucks says you’ll eat half a piece, decide you don’t like it, dig some two year old frozen pizza out of the freezer, and make me heat that up.”

“No way, mister. Sometimes I think you underestimate my extremely refined palate.”

“You spat out the last thing I made for dinner.”

“There was kale, Luke! Unannounced kale! I’m not just going to eat kale.”

“Twenty bucks.”

“Oh, ye of little faith! Wait. You didn’t put kale on the pizza, did you?”

“I’ll never tell.”

“Luke Danes, you monster,” Lorelai trills happily, and there’s a little spring in her step at the thought that somewhere out there, Chris is on his way to happy, too.

 

+

 

Christopher goes alone to Richard’s funeral; he’s not seeing anyone seriously enough to justify a funeral date, and he doesn’t feel like dragging Gigi to a super depressing party full of people she doesn’t know.

It’s hard. Lorelai looks exhausted, too pale in her sleek black dress. Christopher doubts Lorelai Gilmore will ever look old, but she definitely looks worn out, like the life has been sucked out of her. He can tell she’s trying to be there for Emily, hovering at her mother’s side and steering her around with an awkward guiding arm. Emily is all steely dignity like always, but there’s something missing on her face. A light that’s gone out.

Watching Lorelai and Rory in the front row with Emily, he feels weird sitting back here with the non-family guests. If things had gone right (not right, he reminds himself; differently), he would have been up there in that front pew with them. Instead, Luke sits at Lorelai’s other side, so close their shoulders touch. He looks awkward in a suit, but very sturdy. Very there. Christopher wonders if he’s holding Lorelai’s hand through the service.

Afterwards at the wake, Christopher watches Lorelai buzz around the Gilmore mansion, thanking guests and checking in with the caterers and unsuccessfully trying to get Emily to eat a little plate of appetizers. Luke and Rory trail after them, and Christopher wonders if anyone mistakes them for father and daughter. Christopher knows he shouldn’t be bitter over it. Luke was there for Rory from the time she was a little kid, and he wasn’t, and it’s as simple as that. It’s one of those things he has to live with.

And it’s not like Rory’s avoiding him. She comes over and says hello and they exchange hugs and sad words, and he marvels inside at how grown up and elegant she’s become while somehow not losing even a little bit of that sweetness she’s had since she was two feet tall. It’s a relief to be around someone who makes him feel like he belongs here, even if it’s just for a few minutes before she has to get back to the family.

Lorelai gives him a few tired smiles from across the room, but devotes most of her time to trying to reign in Emily, who’s decided to channel her feelings into snapping at whatever member of the wait staff crosses her path. Rory goes over and must tell her mom to take a break and eat something, because she links her arm through her grandmother’s and takes up Emily duty.

And there’s Luke with a little plate of canapés, swooping in to save Lorelai’s day like always. She leans against him, some of the strength going out of her; Luke mutters something in her ear and then presses a kiss to her temple. Lorelai gives him a teary, sad little smile, resting her hand on his chest in the kind of easy you-belong-to-me way that starts to happen when couples have been together forever. Christopher feels an old twinge of something dark, and pushes it away.

“Duke locked it down,” says a wry voice, startling him. “I so didn’t see that one coming.”

Christopher turns, and there’s—

“Digger Stiles,” he realizes aloud.

“No,” Digger Stiles says. “Not Digger Stiles. Jason, actually, since Digger’s not a name—”

“It’s good to see you, Digger,” Christopher interrupts with a friendly grin, and enjoys the way that Digger Stiles bristles at that one. “I haven’t seen you since—”

“Since the sweet, sweet days of Camp Chataguay. Heads were plunged into toilets. Fun was had by all.”

“Oh yeah!” Christopher chuckles nostalgically. “Good times.”

“The best,” Digger says flatly.

“It’s good to see you again. I wish it were under better circumstances.”

“It’s a sad day,” Digger says. “I don’t usually do funerals, as a rule, but I had to make this one.”

“He was a great man,” Christopher says with a pang of sadness.

“He really was. I figured the least I could do was pay him my respects. I only wish I’d gotten around to it sooner. We parted pretty badly—” He furrows his brow, calculating. “—it must have been, what?, twelve years ago.”

“That’s too bad.”

“It really was.”

Christopher decides to lighten the mood with a casual reference to one of the worst experiences of his life. “Yeah, well. If you want to talk about parting badly with a Gilmore, I’m the expert.” His eyes wander to Lorelai.

“Come to think of it,” says Digger, “I also parted badly with that particular Gilmore. And this may shock you, but Emily’s not my biggest fan, either.”

“That’s where we differ. Emily and me, we’ve always been pretty tight.”

“Show-off,” Digger grumbles.

They both watch as Emily is given a round of sympathy hugs from vaguely familiar-looking strangers.

“Hey,” Digger Stiles says, “I know it’s a long shot, but if anyone tries to hug me, will you wedge yourself in between me and them?”

“You’re asking me to be your human shield ... against hugs?”

“Essentially.”

“Sure,” Christopher says, shrugging.

When Emily comes over to them, Rory and Lorelai and Luke trailing behind her, Jason tenses. Emily looks at Jason for a long time. Her eyes brighten with tears. Jason looks like he’s about to spontaneously combust.

Christopher sweeps in, opening his arms. “Emily. I’m so sorry.”

As Emily melts into his arms, Jason sneaks a surreptitious thumbs up Christopher’s way. Luke notices and scowls in disgust.

Christopher knows—knows—that he shouldn’t be this petty. Still, he can’t quite suppress a wave of appreciation for ol’ Digger.

Things get a lot less funny when it’s Lorelai’s turn for a hug. It’s a quick, awkward embrace. Christopher wonders if they’ll ever have a normal hug again in their lives.

“Thank you for being here,” Lorelai says.

“Always,” Christopher says, squeezing her arm.

Lorelai kisses his cheek, and then she’s off, out of his orbit again.

Christopher watches the family that was almost his walk away. Then he turns to Digger. Who is, he decides, kind of handsome in a stuffy high school principal way. “You want a drink?”

“God, yes,” says Digger.

 

+

 

And that—well, that plus many, many, many drinks and some pesky residual Lorelai-related emotional confusion—is how Christopher winds up going out to drinks with Digger Stiles. And then taking a cab home with Digger Stiles.

“You want to come upstairs?” Digger asks when the cab stops at his place. “There’s more alcohol upstairs.”

“Is this, like, a Netflix and chill situation?” Christopher asks.

“I don’t have Netflix,” Digger says, completely lost, and something about the way he says it makes Christopher decide that, yep, he’s going up. This guy is priceless, and merits some further investigation.

Digger’s apartment is weird, like a very spartan The Jetsons situation. It’s nice, while simultaneously giving off the vibe that no other human being has ever set foot inside of it.

“Are you a serial killer?” Christopher asks. It seems like a good thing to ask.

“Nah. Too lazy; too afraid of prison.”

“Cool. And is that a ... sculpture?” Christopher asks, catching sight of something dog-shaped and very still in the corner.

“He’s a real dog. Cyrus II. Trained by the fancy monks.”

“I’ve never seen a dog who didn’t come up to meet people when they came in,” Christopher marvels. “Even Lorelai’s dog could usually manage that much, and I tell you, that dog was weird.”

“Lorelai got a dog?”

“Yep. His name’s Paul Anka.”

“Of course it is,” Digger says, rolling his eyes. “Cyrus II! Turn around. Say hi.”

Christopher frowns. “Why is his name Cyrus II?”

“Well, his predecessor was named Cyrus,” Digger says, like it’s obvious, “and I’m a busy man. I’m not gonna spend all my time coming up with dog names when I already have a perfectly good one.”

“You’re a weird freaking dude,” Christopher declares.

“Lorelai named her dog Paul Anka,” Digger stresses. “I feel like I don’t deserve more judgment than she does in this situation.”

“Let’s not talk about Lorelai,” Christopher says, which maybe isn't the best line ever, and leans forward to kiss him.

Their mouths are inches from touching when—

“Whoa whoa whoa,” Digger says, darting away like a gay-panicked deer.

“Sorry,” Christopher says, holding back a groan. “Misread the situation. So we’re just ... a couple of guys having drinks and going home together for more drinks. Got it. Cool.”

Digger frowns. “You say that like it’s not a thing guys do.”

“Do they?” Christopher asks.

“Honestly, I don’t know. I still feel a little hung up on the whole your-mouth-in-proximity-to-my-mouth thing.”

“Listen, I’m gonna go.” Christopher starts for the door.

Digger catches his arm. Christopher turns back around, and discovers that Digger is looking at him in a way that says if there’s no Netflix in this equation, well, there’s got to be at least a little chill.

“I am very drunk,” Digger says. “Let the record state that I’m very drunk.”

“Then I should definitely go—” Christopher says, in the name of decency.

“No,” Digger says, “the opposite of that,” and kisses him with the kind of forceful swagger that Christopher never would have thought summer camp dork Digger Stiles capable of. 

 

+

 

Jason wakes up in the morning with Christopher asleep on his shoulder, and is immediately punched in the brain by blurry memories of making out enthusiastically, being too drunk and tired to take it much further, and laughing about stupid camp memories until they both fell asleep. Which is somehow much gayer than just having sex would have been.

He realizes with a start that he slept in the same bed with someone else. All night. Voluntarily.

Well now, that’s just not right.

And yet he doesn’t feel terrible.

He looks skeptically down at Christopher. The guy looks so peaceful. Like he could just sleep there all day.

Which would just be ...  horrible.

Jason tentatively pokes Christopher’s cheek. Perfectly normal human alarm clock behavior.

“Oh yeah,” Christopher says as he awakens, taking in the sight of the room. “This happened.”

“Yep.” Jason absolutely doesn’t miss the weight of the guy’s head on his shoulder. “Now let us begin the long, arduous, embarrassing process of forgetting and shame.”

“I don’t do shame before caffeine,” Christopher retorts easily. “Bathroom?”

“Oh, come on. I have some sense of self preservation. This head is staying out of the toilet.”

“You’re never gonna let me live that down, are you?”

“The good people of Camp Chataguay weren’t too concerned with hygiene. There was some gnarly stuff in that toilet bowl. It’s amazing I’m still alive.”

“Well, I’ll just have to make it up to you. You want to grab some coffee?”

“Okay,” Jason says, more out of surprise than anything else.

Christopher gives him a sleepy smile as he walks by. He has the casual glow of a sleep-rumpled Greek god. Jason’s heart skips a beat.

He hopes that it might just be heart failure setting in. He waits for the telltale signs. Nothing.

What the hell is happening,” Jason mutters down to his hands.