Summary: Tristan and Rory deal with the aftermath of the kiss and begin to find some common ground.
Disclaimer: The characters from "Gilmore Girls" are owned by the WB, Amy Sherman-Palladino, and Dorothy Parker Drank Here Productions.
After the Fact
"What are you doing?"
The sound startled Rory so that she jumped up from her seat on the floor and nearly tripped over the straps of her backpack. It wasn't so much the words that had unnerved her; it was the speaker.
"Um... you mean, with my life?" Rory answered Tristan vaguely, stuffing her copy of Slaughterhouse Five into her bag.
He looked at her strangely and laughed a little. "Um. No. What are you doing right now?" Before she could think to stop him, he grabbed the book from her mid-air and studied the cover. "Surprising."
"What?" Rory asked cautiously, tucking a strand of hair behind her ear self-consciously.
"I would've thought you'd read this already," Tristan explained, leaning against the locker next to hers.
"Oh." Rory was silent for a moment. She couldn't seem to think of anything to say at all. Think, she willed her mind. Something in her head fell into place, and a sentence came to her. A coherent sentence, actually. "It was one of those books I always wanted to read and never got around to."
Tristan nodded. An awkward moment of silence passed between them. "So," Tristan began.
"What?" Rory said quickly, looking over her shoulder to see if anyone was watching them. Tristan followed her gaze, then gently took her elbow and led her into the library, which was nearly empty so early in the morning.
"I tried to call you," Tristan said in a low voice, in case anyone was lurking around.
"Oh. Why?" Rory kept her face carefully blank. She wasn't sure she was ready to deal with this. She hadn't even been able to tell Lorelai the truth about the reason she'd finally given in to wallowing, hadn't been able to mention Tristan's name at all.
He shook his head in wonder. She was not going to make this easy. "About--what--the party?" he finally managed to say.
"Ohhh," Rory said slowly in understanding.
Tristan waited a few moments, but she had nothing to add to that. "Rory?" he prompted.
Rory was avoiding his eyes. He stooped slightly so that he was level with her, forcing her to look directly at him. "Um," she started, then stopped.
"Yeah?" Tristan said expectantly.
"You're usually taller," she observed.
Tristan slowly straightened up. "Better?" he asked, reaching the point of exasperation.
"Much," Rory agreed. Then she turned to go.
"Rory," Tristan growled, frustrated. He touched her shoulder lightly.
Rory turned back with a guilty expression and closed her eyes briefly. "Ok, look--" She stopped herself, noting a curious face watching from a nearby table, and motioned for Tristan to follow her into the stacks. "Ok," she said again, taking a deep breath. "This is really hard for me to say--"
Tristan felt a about a pound of dissappointment tugging on his facial expression. He fought it valiently. He held up a hand, cutting Rory off. "So don't." he said simply. "Whatever."
Rory's face fell. She didn't want to go through this again. But Tristan's 'whatever' hadn't been like Dean's--it had been sad, not angry. Defeated. Confused. "It's not that I didn't really appreciate..." she hesitated. "...your company. Friday. It's just--" She stopped and sighed.
Tristan was watching her intently now. "What?"
"It's too soon," Rory shook her head. "It was too soon. It wasn't-- I mean, I had just broken up with Dean, you had just broken up with Summer, it was like this--this, rebound thing, you know, and I-I---I mean, after talking to you for a while, I just...think you deserve...more." She stopped babbling long enough to sneak a look at Tristan, who was staring at her fixedly. He shook his head a little. After a minute, he opened his mouth. Rory held her breath, not knowing what his reaction would be. Hoping that it wouldn't prompt some ego-saving response like in the movie where the guy went around school telling everyone-- "Yeah," Tristan answered. "Thanks," he added.
Rory breathed a sigh of relief and sank back against the nearest shelf. "So, things are...okay, then?"
"Yeah, no, yeah," Tristan ran a hand through his hair and shook his head. "I mean, you're right. It was...too soon." He tried to keep his tone light.
Rory braved a tiny smile. "Okay."
"Okay," Tristan affirmed, returning his own, albeit forced, smile.
Another moment of silence passed, this one slightly more comfortable. "Hey, how about coffee?" Tristan offered, brightening a little. "I'll pay and everything."
Rory blinked, surprised. "Now?"
"We've got like 20 minutes before the first bell," he pointed out. "I know a place about five minutes from here."
Rory considered. "So, five minutes there, five back, five to wait in line--"
"Gives us a full five to actually drink the boiling hot coffee," Tristan finished.
Rory thought a moment, then smiled, nodding, and the two fell into step as they walked out of the library. "That's nothing. My mom and I once drank an entire pot in 2 minutes, 30 seconds flat."
"That's impossible," Tristan said doubtfully, a faint grin on his face. He took Rory's bookbag and hoisted it over his shoulder with his own.
"Oh. Thanks," Rory said cheerfully. The mere thought of coffee was making her mouth water and her body kick into caffeine-mode. "No kidding," she added, returning to their conversation.
"You mean, like, you shared a pot--" Tristan began.
Rory shook her head. "It was a race."
"A race?" he repeated, his eyes widening.
"It was to see who got the last of Luke's cinnamon muffins," Rory said gleefully.
"Must be some muffins," Tristan remarked, laughing.
"No. It's really good coffee, though," she explained.
As they exited the school, Tristan couldn't help a wide smile from passing over his face. He was having one of those moments, where everything seemed so perfect in its space and time, that you almost felt sad because of the knowlede that nothing could ever be that good again. Going to get some coffee with Rory Gilmore before class was like...a dream.
"So who's Luke?" he asked, wanting nothing more than to listen to her happy rambling. How different it was from her initial demeanor that morning, nervous and hesitant and weirded out.
"Oh, Luke runs the diner we eat at almost every night..." Rory started. Tristan was mesmerized by her voice. It was weird, the effects she had on him. Before he knew it, their coffee date was over and they were re-entering the school for a day just like any other day.
The minute she walked into the school, all the hairs on the back of Rory's neck stood up. Something was weird. It took her a moment to realize that everyone was staring at her and Tristan while they both stood frozen in the doorway, the knowing glances and hushed whispers of their classmates paralyzing them.
"What's going on?" Rory muttered, although an unsettling feeling in the pit of her stomache boasted that it already knew the answer.
"Uh, let's just go to class," Tristan said under his breath, slipping Rory's backpack into her hand. They each headed for their separate lockers.
Rory twirled the combination of her locker, glancing behind her awkwardly. She decided to ignore the stares. Whatever people thought they knew was way off base.
"Uh, hi, Paris," she greeted her locker neighbor, who glared silently at her before slamming her own locker closed. "Bad day?"
Paris turned on her, eyes on fire. "You can drop the act, Little Miss Sunshine. The whole school knows."
"Ok. Knows what?" Rory proceded cautiously.
"Hmm, let's see, oh that's right, YOU AND TRISTAN, what did you think I meant?" Paris finished with a shout.
Rory closed her eyes. "Look, Paris, I don't know what you think you heard, but--"
"I saw you," Paris interrupted, fuming. "Going on little before-school dates, kissing at Madeline's party--"
"What? Who told you?" Rory cried without thinking.
Paris' face fell. "So it's true."
Rory immediately realized her mistake. "No--Paris--I--we--"
Something caught Paris' eye over Rory's shoulder, and she simply shook her head in disgust. "Save it for your boyfriend." She gestured behind Rory and then stalked away, hair bouncing angrily behind her.
Rory looked after her in despair for a moment before turning to see what had captured Paris' attention. Her eyes widened at the spectacle of three or four of Tristan's friends laughing and slapping him on the back, every once in a while whistling knowingly in her direction. She grit her teeth and slammed her locker shut.
From his position as Stud of the Week, Tristan just looked at her helplessly and shook his head, making it clear that he wasn't encouraging the pack of monkeys dancing around him. Rory shrugged, signaling that it didn't matter, and adjusted the weight of the world on her shoulders. She trudged dejectedly to class, a mingling of dissappointment and sadness overcoming her. It had been the start of a pretty good day, too.
By the time her third class had rolled around, Rory had been teased, gossiped about, and pressed for details about her shocking new relationship with Tristan. What had gone from one kiss and a cup of coffee had escalated into a scandalous affair that ended in the two of them discovered necking in the broom closet during 2nd period that very morning. Even the teachers were looking at her differently. Mr. Medina had thrown her a sympathetic glance when she'd walked into English, and then Rory had known things were really bad.
After ten minutes of math, Rory, unable to take it any longer, raised her hand and asked for a bathroom pass. She ignored the leer of a random male student and Louise's smirk of approval at what she thought she knew. She pushed the door open, the stale air of the Chilton hallway seemingly as refreshing as a spring breeze in the park.
She was about to enter the girls' lavatory when who but Tristan exited the guys'. They exchanged a look. Rory sighed.
"Fun school," Tristan said unenthusiastically.
"Yeah, it's right on my Top Five list between Ice Cream Mountain and Fairyland," Rory retorted flatly.
"C'mon," Tristan said suddenly, grabbing her arm.
"What?" Rory raised her eyebrows, confused.
"Shh," he commanded.
"What are you doing?" she hissed as he led her to the side entrance. After another quick glance around, he opened the door.
"No!" Rory protested, realizing his plans. "This isn't exactly going to help the situation!"
Tristan stopped and looked at her. "You really wanna go back in there?"
Rory was considering when the clackety footsteps at the far end of the hallway startled them both into running outside.
"I cannot believe I'm doing this," Rory said once they were both safely inside Tristan's car. "I can't believe I'm doing this."
"You said that already," Tristan said good-naturedly. He backed out of his parking space.
"With good reason," Rory said, looking at him. "I'm-- we're --cutting school here, you know."
"Well, that's a little obvious," Tristan teased. "Aren't you supposed to be smart?"
"I'm doubting my intelligence in this decision," Rory answered. She sat back in her seat, noting the plush interior and expensive radio. After a second she sighed. "My mother--"
"Will understand," Tristan finished for her. "You know she will. Look," he continued, exhaling. "I didn't say anything. To anybody. About...Saturday. You know?" He snuck a glance over at his companion.
"I know," Rory nodded. She believed him, for whatever reason. She shrugged, resigned. It wasn't going to do her any good to fret over the consequences of her actions. She couldn't change it now. Whatever the punishment, it would come tomorrow. Today... Today... Rory looked at Tristan. Today was just happening.
"So, where to?" Tristan said lightly.
"I can't believe I'm doing this," Rory said distractedly, looking down at her hands.
"They're not gonna kick you out," Tristan said, mildly amused. "They all like you too much."
Rory couldn't help but let out a laugh. "The teachers think I'm some sort of slut now, and that you and I--" She shook her head.
"That's true," Tristan agreed. "Sorry, guess what I meant was, I like you too much."
"As a friend, you mean," Rory said firmly, ignoring the heavy implications of his statement.
Tristan hesitated before answering. "Of course." He cleared his throat. "So Paris was kind of..."
"Plotting 65 different ways to our miserable, unspeakably painful obliteration?" Rory guessed. "Yup. Pretty much."
"Great," Tristan muttered.
Rory looked at him, befuddled. "I don't get this," she declared.
"Well, you obviously care about Paris. And you know she likes you," Rory accused.
"Yeah, and?" It was clear that Tristan didn't really want to talk about this.
"And?" Rory repeated. "You're practically torturing her. Medievally. With racks and Iron Maidens."
Tristan was silent a moment. "Look, Rory, I don't want to hurt Paris any more than you do. But I can't help that everyone's talking about us."
"Today," Rory emphasized. "Everyone's talking about us today. What's the excuse for the other eleven months, 29 days of the year?"
"Why are you getting so angry?" Tristan asked, exasperated. The car stopped at a red light, and he turned to face her.
"Well...because," Rory said lamely.
"Good reason," Tristan nodded. Rory narrowed her eyes briefly at him.
"I wasn't finished," she said primly. "Because...uh, because..." Rory searched her brain--the parts of it that were still functioning, anyway--and came up with...nothing. "Because," she tried aloud one last time. She sighed. "Because I feel incredibly guilty and you're the only one in my near vicinity that I can take it out on."
"Paris is like my sister," Tristan explained simply.
"Well...you could tell her that," Rory suggested.
"I already have," he said pointedly.
"Oh," Rory frowned.
Suddenly the ringing of the telephone cut through the car.
"Ohh," Rory groaned, then pulled her cell phone out of her blazer. She placed the phone resignedly next to her ear. "Hi Mom."
There was a pause on the other end. "Guess again, Rory."
Rory gaped at her phone. "Grandma?"
-----20 Minutes Later-------
"Should I wait in the car, maybe?" Tristan said hopefully.
Rory shook her head firmly. "She already knows you're here. If she sees you running away she'll set the dogs on you. Metaphorical dogs, but still. Oh, and don't seem nervous. She can sense fear."
Rory took a deep breath and raised her finger to the doorbell of her Grandparents' home.
"I'm sorry I got you into this," Tristan said regretfully.
Rory was cut off as the front door was thrust open. Emily Gilmore's eyes could've frozen the sea.
"Hi Grandma," Rory said nervously, not knowing what to say or do. Lorelai was the one who was usually in this position; Rory had never been there. And she wasn't really enjoying the experience.
"Mrs. Gilmore," Tristan said with a tight smile, holding out a hand. "How are you doing?"
Emily stared at Tristan coolly, ignoring his hand. She turned her back on both of them. "Come into the house."
Rory bit her lip and did as she was told. Tristan closed the door behind them. Nobody spoke.
"Listen, Grandma, I--"
"Into the parlor," Emily interrupted. Rory chewed on the inside of her cheek. With any luck, this would be the time when a bunch of present-wielding rich people would jump from their hiding places and yell, "Surprise!"
"Grandpa?" Rory blurted as they reached the doorway, gaping at the sight of her grandfather seated before them.
"Hello Rory," Richard said gravely.
"Surprise," Rory whispered meekly to herself.
"I'd like to know just what you two thought you were doing," Emily said sharply, looking at them at last. "Sit." She motioned to the sofa. Both of them quickly started to obey. "Not you," she stopped Tristan. He looked at her questioningly. "Over there." Emily pointed to the other seat across the room where Richard sat.
"I have to say, Rory, I am extremely dissappointed in you," Emily said after a moment.
"Wait a second, Emily, I think I'd like to do this," Richard interrupted, standing up. Rory gulped as her grandmother generously waited for Richard to speak his mind. She felt as though she might cry.
"I have to say, Rory, I am extremely dissappointed in you," Richard said, shaking his head. "What could have possessed you to skip school? To jeopardize your future for some joyride with this delinquent?"
"Oh, Grandpa, no, it wasn't--" Rory started to explain.
"And you," Richard turned on Tristan. "Just who in God's name do you think you are? Practically kidnapping my granddaughter? I should press charges."
"Sir, I assure you--" Tristan swallowed.
A door slammed in the house just then, and they all turned to witness a very perplexed Lorelai hurry into the room.
"Lorelai," Emily said dryly. "How nice of you to show up."
"Yeah, well, they just got a hold of me after I had to take Sookie to the hospital and told me my daughter had cut school with Tristan?" She directed the last part of her sentence to Rory, eyebrows raised, then stopped to take in some air, having spoken her prior sentence in one long breath.
"Sookie's in the hospital?" Rory repeated, face scrunched with worry.
"She made ham," Lorelai said, as if that explained everything. "What in the world were you thinking?" Lorelai returned to the matter at hand.
"We were just asking her the same thing," Emily said importantly.
Lorelai sighed and ran her hand over her face. "Ok. You two," she pointed at Rory and Tristan. "In the car. *My* car," she emphasized. Rory and Tristan jumped up, grateful to be leaving.
"And Mom--" Lorelai continued.
"Oh, what now, Lorelai?" Emily said bitterly. "Oh wait, I know--stop meddling in your daughter's personal affairs; *you're* her mother and will reprimand her accordingly. Don't be a grandmother, don't be a mother, don't even breathe if you can help it!"
"Ok, you got a little overdramatic with the breathing thing," Lorelai frowned. Before Emily could reply, Lorelai closed the distance between them and enveloped her mother in a hug. When she let go, she proceded to do the same to Richard. Both of the elder Gilmores looked as though they'd been punched in the stomach.
"Thank you," Lorelai said sincerely to them both. "For calling Rory. For getting her here. For taking care of her when I wasn't around. It almost even makes up for those ten ballet lessons you made me take." She smiled once at them before leaving the room.
Emily and Richard exchanged identical baffled looks. "Well," Emily cleared her throat, for once at a loss. Then she furrowed her eyebrows at her husband. "I thought I was going to be the bad cop."
Richard sighed. "Something came over me."
When Lorelai got into the car, Rory opened her mouth to begin the defense. But one sharp look from her mother silenced her.
When they'd driven almost half the distance home, however, Rory felt compelled to speak. "Um, Mom, Tristan lives in Hartford."
"Yeah, well, today he's coming home with us," Lorelai said briskly.
Rory looked apologetically at Tristan, who shrugged.
The rest of the drive was silent.
Once everyone was safely inside the Gilmore house in Stars Hollow, Lorelai spoke. "Ok," she said very calmly. "Ok. I used the past thirty minutes to think of what exactly I could say to my 16-year-old daughter who is cutting class to hang out with a guy she once claimed to detest."
Rory winced, but Lorelai went on. "Here's what I've come up with."
Tristan started to say something, but Lorelai cut him off with a sharp laugh. "Oh, no, no, no, Speedracer, you do not get to speak yet. This is Rory," she declared to him, putting her hand on her daughter's arm. "She is my only child, and I love her more than anything in this world. I don't care what you think you doing; know this: had you hurt my daughter, in any way at all today, there's a list in my room entitled The Fifty Nifty Ways to Decapitation." Lorelai smiled sweetly. "And if your little Ferris Bueller stunt today hurts Rory's career at Chilton, I am fully prepared to exercise that list regardless of the consequences. Is that understood?"
Tristan nodded. "Yeah," he said lowly.
Lorelai exhaled loudly. "Ok then. Now that we understand each other, we're all going to go into the kitchen." Rory shot her mom a look of complete bewilderment. "I'm going to make some coffee," Lorelai explained. "And the two of you can tell me what the hell this was all about, and why I shouldn't ground you both for a month."
"I don't live here," Tristan ventured.
"Oh, I have my ways."
They headed into the kitchen. Rory's shoulders sagged with relief, knowing the worst was over.
-------One month later--------
"This makes absolutely no sense to me," Rory murmured into her Trigonometry text.
"Let me see," Tristan offered, taking the book from her. "Which one, the second one?"
"All the ones with numbers in front of them," Rory answered glumly.
Tristan grinned. "Uh, let's see..." His eyes ran down the margin of numbers. "This might be a clerical error."
"What do you mean?" Rory questioned wearily, rubbing her eyes.
"The book people typed the wrong answer in," Tristan clarified.
"Ah," Rory nodded.
"Hey, who wanted hot chocolate?" Lorelai suddenly bounded into the kitchen, a bag from the grocery on her arm.
"I'll take some," Rory said eagerly.
"Tristan?" Lorelai asked, filling a kettled with water.
"Sure," he accepted. "Ok, so now, the third, I think, should really be number thirteen's answer," Tristan said to Rory.
"And the thirteenth should be the third's?" Rory finished.
"Yeah," Tristan confirmed.
"Wow, smart teachers you got there," Lorelai said, sitting down with them. "They make you find the answers and then really find the answers."
"How was Sookie?" Rory asked, smiling.
"Better. She should be able to walk in another day or two."
"What, did she break a leg or something?" Tristan asked, scratching the back of his neck.
"No," Lorelai said vaguely. "She made ham."
"But--" Tristan began.
"Leave it at that," Rory interrupted, shaking her head. "Trust me."
"Okay," Tristan said.
Just then the phone rang. Rory picked it up from the center of the table.
"That's amazing," Lorelai said, impressed. "You actually recovered the phone from where it was hiding, plotting world domination, and put it in a place where it could be found, if needed, at a later time?"
"Yup," Rory said proudly. "And I even found this thing that the phone's supposed to hook up to, and I put it in for an hour, and now the phone works again."
Lorelai's jaw dropped. "Pure genius."
"Thanks," Rory said in mock smugness. She clicked the phone on. "Hello?"
"Lane?" Rory smiled. "Hi!"
"Is he there?"
Rory rolled her eyes a little. "Yes," she said reluctantly.
"I knew it," Lane said triumphantly.
Rory sighed. "We're studying. That's all." This caught the attention of Tristan. Rory shook her head at him. " 'Bye," she said into the phone, hanging up.
"I should do some laundry," Lorelai said suddenly, getting up. "My pink sleeveless shirt is decomposing in a pile under my bed as we speak."
"The one with the little beads?" Rory remembered.
"That's the one."
"Let it rot," Rory said. "You'd be doing the thing a favor."
"Blasphemy!" Lorelai said in shock, mouth agape. "I gave birth to you in that shirt."
"So don't you think it's been through enough?" Rory pointed out.
"Do not cross the shirt," Lorelai warned, narrowing her eyes. "For it's power is great and it's fury even greater."
"That's what you said about the Jordache jeans with the patches," Rory grinned.
"I told you never to mention those," Lorelai said in a hushed voice. She scurried out of the room.
Tristan raised his eyebrows at Rory. "What happened to the jeans?"
" Those all-powerful articles are now all-powerful dishrags. Though their car-washing abilities are daunting, I'll admit it," Rory confided. She smiled cheerfully and tapped her pencil against her book. "So number four is correct then," she said in satisfaction. "Right?" There was no answer. She looked up to find Tristan looking at her, a faint smile etched across his face. "What?" she asked defensively.
Tristan shook is head. "Nothing. I'm just...really glad we're friends, that's all."
The ends of Rory's mouth turned up. "You know, so am I."
They held each other's gaze for a moment; then, Rory looked back down at her books. "So number 15..."
"78.934," Tristan read aloud.
"Yay," Rory said quietly, erasing the 'X' she'd previously marked number 15 with. She stole a glance at Tristan, then grabbed a highlighter from the center of the table. Tristan's fingers brushed hers; she looked up again, startled.
"Sorry," he said, holding up a pen next to the highlighter by way of explanation.
"It's okay," Rory said with a tight smile, pulling her hand back.
"Uh, did you want...?" Tristan tossed the highlighter to her.
"Right. Thanks," Rory accepted. She hoped her face wasn't as flushed as it felt.
Tristan snuck another look at Rory. She was concentrating hard on whatever she was working on. He was supposed to know what that was, but the truth was, he had no idea what the hell he'd been saying for the past hour. It was like his brain was on autopilot, generously allowing him to observe all of Rory's isms without detection.
His favorite was definitely the impatient way she brushed her hair from her forehead. Although he wasn't sure why, if it was the hand or the hair.
Tristan shook his head in disgust. You are so pathetic, he said to himself.
"What?" Rory asked.
Tristan froze. Had he said that out loud? He mentally breathed a sigh of relief when Lorelai came skipping back into the kitchen. "I said, is the hot chocolate ready?" Lorelai repeated.
"Oh! I forgot to turn the water on," Rory realized, starting to jump up from her seat.
"I'll do it," Tristan offered.
"Ooh, I like him," Lorelai cooed, relaxing in her chair.
"Yeah, he's not so bad," Rory agreed.
From his position at the stove, Tristan smiled.