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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.

Chapter Text

Christopher used to hate Digger Stiles. Digger Stiles was one of those smartass kids who always had something sharply observed and annoying to say about everything. Then again, Christopher used to think he’d grow up and get his shit together and marry (forever-marry, ‘til-death-do-us-part marry) Lorelai Gilmore. So maybe ‘used to’ doesn’t hold much weight when you’re well into middle age and dating around like a twenty year old.

The point is, there’s something about Digger Stiles’s company that Christopher finds relentlessly delightful.

For example, Digger knows how to hold his ground in a conversation. To Christopher, who grew up firmly believing that Lorelai Gilmore was the pinnacle of human greatness, being a witty conversationalist is basically the greatest virtue a person can have. He can count the number of witty conversationalists he’s had serious relationships with on one hand. One finger. The Lorelai finger.

Sherry wasn’t ever really one for the banter. Still, she seemed so much like the sort of woman you were supposed to fall in love with, the sort of woman you were supposed to get your act together for and settle into boring responsible adulthood with. So it made sense that she didn’t see the point of babbling ridiculously for the fun of it. Adults, Christopher had reasoned, didn’t base their choice of partner around who could play the longest match of verbal ping pong with you.

Now, he’s starting to think that maybe becoming an adult means not stopping to worry about whether you’re being an adult.

 

+

 

Another thing that makes Christopher Hayden a truly baffling human entity: the man is obsessed with video games.

“Come on, man,” Christopher says when Jason points out how bizarre this is. “It’s 2016. It’s okay to come out of the video game closet.”

“I’ve never spent any time in that particular closet. Apparently because I was in the other one. Now hurry up, the reservation’s for eight—”

“Nuh uh. I’ve got to finish this raid now; I’m not finding a new group.”

Jason stops in the middle of tying his tie.

“What?” Christopher asks, glancing away from the TV screen.

“Oh my god,” Jason says with dull wonder. “You’re a nerd. You, the hot jock who made my summer camp life a living hell – you’re nerdy.”

“Video games are not nerdy.”

“Oh, they really are. What, are you going to tell me your Game of Thrones theories next? Is Jon Snow really no longer among us?”

“You know, you kind of have a Jon Snow thing going on,” Christopher muses, eyes sparkling devilishly. “Like, if Jon Snow was an accountant.”

“Wow, okay. You really think you can ply me with cheap flattery?”

Christopher watches him.

“Obviously you can,” Jason says, capitulating in the face of handsomeness and heading for the sofa, “but I feel like those few seconds were important for my dignity.”

“Very important,” Christopher agrees, tugging on Jason’s tie to draw him closer. Their mouths brush for a second, and then: “By the way. ‘Hot jock’?”

“Yeah, I think I might have had a latent crush on you at summer camp.”

“Playing the long game, huh?”

“It’s how I do,” Jason says solemnly.

“Respect,” says Christopher, laughing as he kisses him.

 

+

 

Christopher has a daughter named Gigi. She’s thirteen and terrifying. Jason always figured it was kind of cool to have a dog that just sort of stared obediently and didn’t do anything.

But when it’s a human tween? (That’s the term, right? Tween?) Well, then it’s just no good.

Christopher seems to think that Jason and Gigi have the potential to get along someday, which is both hilarious and very, very sad. The worst part is that Christopher keeps trying to manufacture these not-quite-stepfather/daughter bonding moments by leaving them together. Like, he’ll say, “Hey, I forgot to get milk!” and run out the front door, leaving Jason in a cesspool of searing awkwardness.

These encounters always go exactly the same way:

Jason stares at Gigi.

Gigi stares at Jason. Then she looks down and starts texting with the speed of some kind of texting mutant.

Jason then becomes overwhelmed with the irrational fear that she’s saying mean things about him on the internet.

 

+

 

During one such unfortunate situation, on a Tuesday morning in the kitchen, Jason manages enough social grace to look up from his coffee and say, “Taylor Swift, right?" 

Gigi stares at him for a long time. Long enough that Jason starts to wonder if Taylor Swift has been a figment of his imagination this whole time.

Then she says, “Is it true that you used to date my dad’s ex-wife?”

Which is in no way about Taylor Swift, for the record. Kids today.

“Sure,” Jason says, real casual. “We saw each other for a little while.”

“And you and my dad have had sex.”

“I don’t know,” Jason says, less casual. It’s possible there’s a really manly vocal squeak in there somewhere. “Have we?”

“I know you have by now. My dad is kind of a ho.”

“Okay then,” Jason says, staring down into his coffee with infinite despair.

“And you and Lorelai had sex. And my dad and Lorelai had sex.”

“Actually,” Jason says, “Lorelai and I mostly just sat around and did puzzles together. Big ones. Those one thousand piece bad boys.”

“Because you were gay all along,” Gigi discerns.

“We had sex,” Jason says. “All the sex, actually.”

“See? I knew it. That’s weird. You’re like skanky TV characters, but old.” A diabolical light dawns in Gigi’s eyes. “Which one of you do you think she thought was better at sex?”

Definitely Christopher is obviously the answer, but he tries for a reply that won’t send the entire universe swirling into a dark abyss. “I feel like this isn’t the conversation we should be having. Somewhere, that Dateline guy’s ears are tingling.”

Gigi shrugs and turns her attention back to her phone, returning to texting-fast-and-furiously mode. The odds that she isn’t typing something along the lines of ‘my dad and his new bf both had sex with the same lady lol!!!!!1111’ seem depressingly low.

Jason resolves, here and now, never to interact with Gigi Hayden again.

 

+

 

“And so that,” Jason says, concluding a pretty epic recap of his first significant interaction with Gigi when he and Christopher are out to dinner that night, “is how I came to have it on good authority that you’re kind of a ho.”

“I can’t believe my own daughter slut-shamed me,” Christopher says mock-woefully. Well. Mostly mock. Maybe it stings a little.

“Well, maybe if you weren’t such a ho ...” Jason says innocently, and flips through his menu.

“Ehh. My hoin’ days are over for now. She’ll catch on to that eventually.”

“Oh yeah?” Jason glances up briefly. Even in the dim cozy light, Christopher can tell that he’s more interested than he wants to let on.

“I’ve hit the jackpot already. Where else am I going to find somebody with Jon Snow hair and snarkiness that don’t quit?"

"Good point. It really is a rare and brilliant combination of traits."

"Not to mention someone who actually tries to make an effort with my kid.”

“It was really a terrible try. Nations have fallen less awkwardly.”

“Still. Thank you.”

“Yeah,” Jason says, looking surprised at his seriousness.

Christopher reaches for his hand across the table. Jason takes it, and for a second they’re just a couple of people holding hands in a restaurant with impractically dim romantic lighting. It’s nice. All of this keeps being way nicer than he knows how to handle. He’s starting to forget to worry about how it might all go wrong.

“You’re rich, right?” Jason says. “I entered this relationship with the specific intention of doing a whole lot of gold digging.”

“Oh,” Christopher says, “super rich.”

“Thank God,” says Jason. “I haven’t been wasting all this time for nothing.”

“You old romantic, you,” says Christopher, smiling.

 

+

 

And so Jason tries again. God help him.

“The Hunger Games,” he says one day when he comes across Gigi in the living room.

She stares at him.

“Yikes, huh?” he elaborates.

Thus concludes everything he knows about The Hunger Games.

Fortunately, Gigi seems to be in the mood for a change in topic.

“I have a half sister who knows you,” she says.

“Oh yeah,” Jason says. “Rory.”

“She says I should call you Digger.”

“She’s mistaken.”

“She went to Yale.”

“Even idiots go to Yale.”

Gigi tilts her head thoughtfully. She’s quiet for at least ten seconds. Ten agonizing seconds. Then she says, “You and Dad’s celebrity couple name could be Digstopher.”

“Well, okay,” says Jason.

Gigi smirks, taps a few keys on her phone, and goes up to her bedroom.

Later that night, while they’re getting ready for bed, Jason recounts that delightful little interaction. “What was that? Was that good?”

“I think that was good,” Christopher says. “Yesterday she said, and I quote, ‘That Jason guy isn’t totally lame.’”

“If I start to weep, don’t judge me,” Jason says. “It’s just so beautiful.”

 

+

 

Since the “Digstopher” thing was apparently a good sign (God help them all), Jason decides he might as well keep trying.

The opportunity presents itself when he shows up at the Hayden house only to find that Christopher ran out for groceries.

Gigi lets him in, and then their good friend Searing Awkwardness makes its return.

“Is Justin Bieber still a thing,” he asks, “or is that nightmare over for the young?”

Gigi doesn’t say anything. She’s staring at her phone screen, and Jason thinks she might look a little sadder than usual. He wonders if someone chose the frowny face icon for one of her Facebook posts instead of liking it or something.

“You sound like my mom,” she declares then.

Jason hadn’t expected that one. “Oh yeah?”

“She never knows what to say to me either.”

“Really? You got ‘didn’t know what to say’ out of that? I thought that Bieber remark was pretty on point.”

Gigi just looks at him. A look that says I’m done with your old people tomfoolery.

Fair enough.

“So, what’s your mom like?” He’s somewhat intrigued by the woman who left Christopher for Paris. Jason’s been to Paris. It’s not all that.

“I don’t really know. When I was little, she was never around. Like, she’d send me nice presents for my birthday and Christmas, and postcards and stuff. And I guess when I was two or three she had me come stay with her in Paris for awhile, but I don’t really remember it. Her work got busy again, so I came back home. That was the only time I went. Which is stupid, because I wasn’t even, like, old enough to remember what it was like. She's come here a few times, but it's always weird.” Gigi stares down at her phone again. “Lately she’s been trying to talk more. She texts me every couple days.”

“That’s nice,” Jason says weakly.

“She keeps wanting to do this whole honesty thing where we figure out our past together. Like we even have one. She said that she didn’t really know what to do with a kid, because she’s not the kind of person who wanted to have babies, even though society tries to pressure all women into being moms and so she felt like she had to. She says that what she was really meant to do was have a career, but she didn’t figure that out until it was too late, and she’s all sorry or whatever. But now that I’m a young woman, we’re going to start having things in common. So we should get to know each other.”

Jason, who knows well the agony of having a parent who completely fucking sucks, can only think of one thing to say. “That’s some bullshit.”

Gigi looks surprised. For a terrifying moment, Jason thinks she might start crying.

Then, instead, her face goes steely.

“Total bullshit,” she agrees, with a sort of violent satisfaction.

They sit in silence.

“You won’t tell my dad I said that word, will you?” Gigi says. “He’ll be mad that I swore.”

“Nah. Your secret’s safe with me.”

“You’re better than the last guy my dad dated. He was way cuter, but you’re, like, capable of talking about something besides your own abs.”

“Well, that’s because I don’t have any.”

Gigi giggles a little. Jason feels like he just performed a miracle.

“But thanks anyway,” Jason says.

Gigi nods. After a moment, she asks, “You want a soda? There’s Coke in the fridge.”

Jason doesn’t like soda because he’s not twelve, but boy is he into peace offerings right now.

“Sure,” he says gladly.

They’re both sipping Cokes and looking at their respective phones in an okay silence when Christopher gets home.

“Dad is back, and he’s got quinoa,” he announces from the front door.

“Gee,” Jason says as Christopher comes into the kitchen, “I’m so glad you made it back from getting that thing that nobody wants to eat.”

“Quinoa is a super food.”

“Super gross food,” Gigi mutters, and Jason snickers.

“Oh, so this is happening now?” Christopher says, setting the grocery bags down on the counter. Underneath the exasperation, Jason can tell he’s happy. “You’re teaming up against me?”

“You buy quinoa, you lose,” Jason says.

“Exactly,” says Gigi.

“Remember the good old days when you used to text me begging me to come back because you were afraid to be in the same room with her?” Christopher says, because he is a monster.

Gigi starts smirking wildly.

“I hate you,” Jason tells Christopher.

Christopher grins.

 

+

 

Jason’s after-work routine has gotten a major overhaul now that he’s not single. Whereas before it was sitting in front of his laptop working from home until the wee hours, now it usually involves eating dinner with Christopher and Gigi and then settling down in front of the TV.

Once, they watch Zootopia. Jason never in a million years thought he would ever watch Zootopia.

(Damn it, why is Zootopia so good?)

A few weeks into this routine, Jason decides to bear his heart and soul to the Haydens. To share something truly important.

To watch Star Trek: The Original Series with them on Netflix.

“This is the stupidest thing I’ve ever seen,” Gigi says. She’s sitting on the floor, surrounded by a ton of blankets and throw pillows, with Cyrus II in her lap. As soon as she found out that Jason had a dog, Cyrus II’s peaceful days chilling alone in Jason’s apartment were done for. “This was actually good when you were a kid??”

Jason’s head doesn’t immediately explode from sheer offense. That seems worth noting.

“And is that supposed to be Chris Pine? He’s way puffier. And I think he’s wearing eyeliner.”

Jason gapes, wordless, at Christopher.

“Go easy on him, hon,” Christopher says, laughing. “We all love some questionable stuff when we’re young.”

“What’s questionable is the blatant disrespect you’re both showing the S.S. Enterprise right now,” Jason says.

“Two words: Bratz dolls.”

“Oh my god, Dad, shut up.”

“I think we all need to take a minute to face the facts,” Jason says. “Which is that this show laid the foundation for modern genre television—”

"Dozens and dozens of Bratz dolls ..."

"They were cool when I was young!"

"Well, Star Trek was cool when he was young!"

"Star Trek is cool forever," Jason mutters desolately.

“What dumb stuff did you love when you were young, then?” Gigi asks, turning to look at her dad.

For just a second, Christopher looks stricken by the question.

Jason knows that there’s a deep, dark, forever Lorelai-induced sadness at the center of Christopher’s entire being. Jason kind of gets it, but only kind of. At the time that Lorelai had broken up with him, he’d hated the idea of letting her go. He’d even been willing to fight for her (which, okay, he did by sitting in a cushy chair in the lobby of a quaint little inn for hours until he saw a screaming naked man run by and took that as a sign to get the hell out of Stars freaking Hollow, but still). But once she was really out of his life, it was easy to cut his losses and move on.

Jason still doesn’t know much about the details of Christopher’s failed marriage, but he knows that the guy fought the big fight for Lorelai and lost.

Fortunately, Jason is allergic to human emotion, which means he doesn’t have to worry about the fact that the best person he’s ever dated will always be hung up on somebody else. As long as Christopher is still up for hanging out and having great sex and making fun of the people who shop at Trader Joe’s in low voices (despite the fact that they’re also shopping at Trader Joe’s while doing it), who cares if Christopher’s heart will forever tragically belong to Lorelai?

Not Jason.

That’s for sure.

Not even a little bit. Because he’s an adult, not a hapless delusional moron.

This stance doesn’t really account for how a weird nausea takes over his whole body after what Gigi says.

But then Christopher looks at Jason, and there’s a something in his eyes that catches Jason totally off guard. Something thankful and loving and calm.

“You know,” Christopher says to Gigi, his eyes still on Jason, “I don’t remember.”

He reaches for Jason’s hand across the couch. Jason feels a troubling flash of I want to spend the rest of my increasingly numbered decades with you.

God, he hopes that doesn’t count as a feeling.

“I bet you liked ABBA,” Gigi declares savagely meanwhile.

“How old do you think I am?” Christopher demands.

Old,” Gigi says.

“ABBA rules, by the way,” Christopher says. “Is there anyone who thinks ABBA doesn’t rule?”

“Not me,” Jason says. “Super Trouper is my jam.”

“Oh my god,” Gigi says in gleeful horror, and buries her face in a throw pillow.