Spoilers: Season Finale
Rating: PG-13
Content: Swear Words Ahead
Pairing: Rory/Tristan
Disclaimer: Gilmore Girls and its characters belong to Dorothy Parker Drank Here Productions and Hofflund/Polone in association with Warner Bros. Television.
AUTHOR’S NOTE: I apparently can’t write a short story for the life of me. I’m just so verbose. Anyhow, this story is for all those people who gave me feedback (particularly the Trifectaly). I appreciate all of you. You are the reason I wrote this story. I decided to do this because like others I was upset about the finale, so I’m picking up where it left off. So, now that this is my second story, don’t let the feedback trail end here! Feedback is still greatly appreciated, and gives me ideas for future stories. How’s that for bait, huh? Enjoy folks!


Night Breezes

by Kay
***



Rory perused the newspaper, reading about the world’s latest crises and dramas. A story on page 13 made her pause.

"Mom?"

"Yeah?"

"Crisis in Columbia again. Be prepared for a coffee price increase."

"What?! At this rate Luke will be able to afford a mansion by the time this latest economic crisis is over."

"That assumes he would buy a mansion."

"You have a point. Maybe he’ll just buy more expensive flannel."

"Mom." Rory threw a chiding look in her mother’s direction.

"What?" Lorelai looked innocently at her daughter. "I wasn’t properly thanked for my shopping spree you know. It was like I bought him a powder blue suit from the 70’s as opposed to that beautiful suit that was 175% off."

"I’m sure he appreciated it." Rory continued to flip through pages, turning them quietly in the morning sunlit room.

"Yeah well, a little thanks wouldn’t have killed him." Lorelai pouted and played with her coffee cup.

After a small pause, Rory said "Mom, do you think I should get a job for the summer?" Rory pursed her lips as she looked at the employment section. She turned to look at her mom over the breakfast table and discovered that her mother’s face had a disbelieving expression on it.

"What?" Rory asked.

"You are the only child I know who seriously considers getting a job for the summer for the reason I’m sure you’re thinking about. I mean, you don’t need extra spending money for clothes, right?"

"Not really."

"And you don’t have a crush on your co-worker who works at the Ice Cream Depot, right?"

Rory smiled. "You know Mom, I have this boyfriend named Dean…"

Lorelai continued to stare at her daughter like she’d grown three heads. Then she sighed. "So, why are you doing it?"

"I’m bored." Rory shrugged as she refolded the newspaper. "Summer’s fun, but Lane is busy doing the stuff her mother has assigned her, and Dean has his job at Doose’s, so I want to entertain myself during the day."

"Has Mrs. Kim once again signed up Lane for The Interpretive Bible?"

"Yup, six years running."

"Ugh." Lorelai shuddered. Then she tilted her head and smiled at Rory. "You know, I should still call Nurse Martin to see if she can go back and check your records. I swear that there had to be some sort of switcheroo at birth. What if you’re really the daughter of a CEO somewhere? Ooo, or maybe some long lost princess who should be immersed in learning and academia. Ooo, or maybe you’re an alien baby!"

"Mom?"

"Yeah?"

"You’re weird."

"But you love me anyway." Lorelai looked triumphantly at her daughter.

"I’m perverse that way." Rory leaned back in her chair. "But really, before I left school there was an add in the Chilton paper that a law office in Chilton was looking for a student to help them file and do some administrative stuff. They pay more than minimum wage, and it may be an opportunity to see what Law is really like. I would only have to go in 3 days a week."

"Sounds like a dream job." Lorelai suddenly looked sharply at Rory. "Does this mean you won’t work at the Inn anymore?"

"No, not at all. I’ll just juggle my schedule around a bit now. The stuff you need me for are the big events that are easy to plan around anyway." Rory crossed her arms and looked thoughtfully outside as she ran the idea around in her mind. "I think I want to try this. I could catch the bus, just like for school, and I’ll be back home before dark. I really think this could work."

Lorelai looked proudly at her daughter; Rory was obviously trying to plan her future clearly and thoughtfully. "Honey, that sounds like a good idea. And if it doesn’t work out, remember they don’t have you chained to your desk, although I have heard kinky things about those lawyery types. Sookie told me that she once met one that she swore was doing ritualistic killings in his office. So if you see anything that looks like ceremonial daggers, flee! Flee and return home young duckling!" Lorelai raised her cup in emphasis.

 

"You’re weird."

"You already said that."

"I know. I’m just hoping repeating it will get it across." Rory smiled lovingly at her mom. "Thanks for the words of confidence though. I wrote the phone number down in my notebook, I’m going to give them a call."

****

Two weeks later Rory started her employment at Chilton Law Offices. On her very first day she took care with her appearance, making sure to wear something that was professional, yet not oppressive. She wore a black skirt, and burgundy blouse with her Mary Jane heels that she had worn at her birthday party. She put her hair back in her clips, and put a slight bit of lipgloss on. As she looked in the mirror, she thought she passed.

She didn’t need a jacket due to the heat, so she just grabbed her bag as she stepped out of her room. She took a step into the hallway and was promptly blinded by a flash.

"Argh!" Rory flung her hands up in front of her face and hit herself in the head with her bag.

"Sorry sweetie! I wanted to catch a candid photo of you going off on your first day of work." Lorelai dangled the camera from her fingers, and walked over, smoothing down Rory’s hair.

"Well, now that I’m blind in both eyes, the attorneys will be glad to have me do nothing but stand around all day!" Rory rubbed her face, trying to get her eyesight to return.

"Sorry." Lorelai winced. "Come on, I’ll lead you to the bus stop. Here, this is for you." Lorelai handed Rory a gaily wrapped package.

Rory looked at it suspiciously as she took it into her hands. "What is it?"

"Well, smart woman, you won’t find out until you open it."

Rory slowly unwrapped the package on the way to the front door. Inside the box was a lovely simple black leather dayplanner, with a shiny new pen. "Mom, it’s beautiful, thank you!"

Lorelai smiled. "You’re welcome. I figured now that you’re a busy working-woman you’re going to need to keep track of these things. I was going to get you the one with the Powder Puff girls on the cover, but I thought nah, that may be a little too festive for Chilton Law."

"You think?"

"Me thinks."

***

Rory’s first day was actually very interesting, as she roamed around the office, getting used to the setup and systems of the office. The office was relatively small, only about 15 attorneys, and several paralegals and administrative assistants. She liked it that way, because it ensured that she could get a ground’s eye view of what the attorneys were doing, and could ask them about their jobs and cases easily.

The first two weeks flew by in a whirlwind as she worked, went out with Dean and Lane, and essentially enjoyed life.

It was in her third week of work, 1 month into her summer vacation, that she met a very entertaining character.

***

Rory was sitting cross-legged in front of the filing bookshelves reading through a civil lawsuit case. She was immersed in the vocabulary, but couldn’t quite make her way through the legal jargon. She was trying to figure out exactly what all the grievances were when a shadow fell across the papers she held in her hand. She looked up to see an elderly gentleman in a very dapper designer suit looking shrewdly down at her. He still had a good head of white hair, and looked pretty good for his age, which she placed to be above 70. He leaned slightly forward on an elegant black cane, but he didn’t look too stooped over, or anywhere near senile.

"Sir, can I help you?" She said from the floor. "Am I blocking any files?"

An awkward pause fell after her statement as the gentleman continued to look at her with narrowed eyes. Rory decided to repeat her question, thinking that he possibly had a hearing problem.

"Sir, can I help you?"

The man tapped his cane on the floor lightly. "I heard you the first time. You’re Rory Gilmore, aren’t you?"

"Yes sir, I just started three weeks ago as a file clerk. Would you like anything from here, or anything typed? Some research maybe?" Rory tried not to look hopeful as she closed the file she had been reading, and stood up, smoothing down the front of her slacks in the process.

"No, I’m fine." He continued to stare at Rory as the seconds ticked by.

Rory fidgeted as she tried to place why this man was staring at her. Was she not dressed appropriately? She surreptitiously snuck a glance at her outfit, but nothing seemed out of place. Black slacks plus a nice shirt and belt, not exactly scandalous attire. Was there something wrong with her hair, nose, mouth???? She resisted the need to run for the mirror in her bag to check.

"I’m sorry sir, but is there something wrong?" Rory tried asking the obvious question.

"No, nothing’s wrong." The man continued to lean on his cane and stare.

"Then, why exactly are you staring at me?" Rory winced and wished she could take back the impulsive words right after she said them. "Not that that’s a bad thing. Staring I mean. Cats do it all the time. And, I once read this book about a man who…uh…stared. A lot. And he uh…managed to get into a staring contest, and uh…" She sighed. "You could save me here. Anytime now." She smiled. So much for remaining professional. Although, somehow she didn’t think this man minded. He had a somewhat…playful look about him.

The man finally smiled widely, then nodded quickly. "Hmmph. Now I see it. And I approve."

He then proceeded to walk away. Rory stared after him perplexed. What had just happened?

***

"I met a strange man today." Rory placed a plate on the dining room table in preparation for dinner.

"Uh-oh, that’s never a great way to start off a conversation." Lorelai handed Rory some cups, but paused after handing them over. "Do you think the McDonalds cups would give Grandma a heart attack if I used them?"

"You mean the Tickle Me Elmo ones?"

"Yup."

"Maybe a minor stroke. I don’t think tonight would be the time." Rory put classic wineglasses on the table instead. "So, about this guy."

"Does he have blue hair and 2 nose rings?"

Rory stopped midway in putting a salad bowl on the table. "What?"

"Does he have blue hair and 2 nose rings?" Lorelai repeated.

"Nooooooo. Why would he?"

Lorelai suddenly buried her face into the refrigerator and busied herself taking out the veggies for the salad. "Oh, no reason." Her muffled reply was almost lost in the bowels of the fridge.

"I’m not even going to go there Mom." Rory leaned against the table. "So, back to my story. There was this really dapper man that I spoke to today at the firm."

"I love that." Lorelai interrupted Rory. "I love the way you say ‘at the firm’". Lorelai adopted a fake British accent and a lofty posture.

"Well, that’s what it is… And he acted like he knew me somehow, but he never said his name, he just stared. He wasn’t creepy or anything, he was around 70, and dressed very nicely. My guess was that he wasn’t a client because he wouldn’t have been back in the files area, but he wouldn’t be a practicing attorney either – I’ve met all of them." Rory finished setting the table and pulled out a chair to sit in.

"Hmm…that’s odd. Did you just try asking him what he was doing there?"

"Yeah, but he never replied, he just left." Rory shrugged. "Oh well, let’s see if I see him again."

Lorelai pulled the steaming lasagna out of the oven and set it on the stovetop. "I think that’s a good plan. Now, come over here and help me grate carrots for the salad. They need to be punished."

***

Two days later Rory ran into the gentleman again. This time she was actually filing files in the back room opposed to just reading. She slipped a file into the cabinet, and then practically jumped out of her skin when she turned around and spotted the gentleman standing a little off to her right.

"Oh! You scared me. I’m sorry." Rory clutched a green folder to her side in surprise. She counted herself lucky that she hadn’t dropped the paperwork all over the floor.

"Did I now? Hmmph." The gentleman sniffed almost as if filing something away in his memory somewhere.

Rory blinked perplexedly. "Sir, I don’t mean to be impertinent, but do you need something from me?" She decided to get straight to the point.

He reached into the pocket of his blazer and lifted something out of it, cradling it in his hand. "In fact, young lady I do. I have a proposition for you."

Rory waited patiently for him to go on.

"I can see that you are a hard worker, and you’re not a normal teenager who indulges in raucous hair and clothing, and hopefully you don’t listen to that hideous sound they call music nowadays. Now, I could be wrong, you could be hiding a rebellious nature under there, but I don’t think so." The gentleman lifted his black cane and probed at Rory’s leg.

Rory looked incredulously at her leg and the cane tapping it. This man was definitely…unique.

"So, I’d like to make you an offer. From speaking to the office manager, it seems that you are only here three days out of the week. So, I would like you to help me the other two days of the week."

Rory felt her jaw drop. Lately it seemed like people were surprising her left and right. First Dean taking her back, then her grandmother agreeing to have dinner at their place, and finally this interesting proposal.

The man continued, "I do some pro bono work for non-profit organizations, and need a file clerk to help me catalog and do a minimal amount of research. You’re thinking, why a high school student? Well, you will work for an inexpensive rate, it’ll be a good experience for you, and I can’t employ anyone else during the week during the summer. Furthermore, all the nearby college students need jobs that are several days a week. I will pay you twelve dollars an hour, which is an excellent rate, and you may have any refreshments you choose while at my home. Based on your schedule here at the firm it appears that you will be coming to my home on Tuesdays and Thursdays, from 10-4. I expect you to be prompt, and come in the same attire that you do here. Lastly, note that this will look excellent on college application essays. I refuse to take no as an answer. Can you start this week?"

Rory stared stupidly at the man in front of her, her brain still processing through the details. After a few awkward seconds, she finally managed to ask: "What kind of pro bono work? Am I really going to be able to make a difference in what you are doing?"

"Yes, in fact. Every person that helps is a big help. I only take on one case at a time since I am supposed to be retired from this place, but it keeps me occupied during my dreary days. The current case I’m working on involves a local Boys and Girls Club finding asbestos in their walls, closing down their facility. The building manager has refused to pay for the repairs, stating that there is minimal risk. The Club would like the builders to take down the site and build them a new one. Asbestos cases are very prevalent in our society in recent years, and there is a considerable amount of research to be done, at no cost of course to the Club."

Rory cocked her head, listening to the man speak. What he was investigating did sound interesting, and she was intrigued to know that she could actually help in this case, doing community service in a sense.

"Ok…bu— " Rory wasn’t able to finish her sentence as the gentleman proceeded to cut her off.

"Wonderful, I knew you would agree! Here is my card with my home address and phone number. I will see you tomorrow at 10am then. Good day." After handing her the card, the gentleman glided away, spry and agile for his age.

"—but I’d like to know how long you will need my help." Rory finished unheard as he walked away. She sighed and focused on the tips of her black Mary Janes in frustration. What a character!

She slowly lifted her hand and flipped over the card that was in it. And then felt her stomach lurch as she read the name on the card.

Janlan Dugrey, Esq.

Attorney At Law

A quiet but nevertheless still audible groan echoed through the file room.

***

Rory stared at the home that she had just walked up to, amazed at the monstrosity of it. A white columned house, it looked like it was out of Gone with the Wind, but somehow even tackier. It just screamed ‘I’m rich’ for anyone to hear in the vicinity. That surprised her, the place didn’t seem to be inline with her image of Mr. Dugrey. The gardens were rather lovely though, bright green trees waving in the wind right next to the home, swaying slightly.

She slowly walked up the front steps, and as she raised her hand to knock on the large white door with the windows at the top, the door swung upon to expose an honest to God butler in a suit and tie in the entryway.

"Hello Miss. Mr. Dugrey is expecting you and is in the Salon." The butler opened the door wide to admit Rory.

"Umm…thank you. Unfortunately I don’t know the way there." Rory had a feeling that if she didn’t get directions she would get lost.

"That is not a problem Miss. I shall escort you." The butler slowly started making his way down the entryway.

Rory followed in his wake, taking time to look at the décor on the way. The inside of the house was more tasteful, decorated in muted rich colors. There was a Persian carpet in the entryway, and the wood tables on the left and right accented the carpet wonderfully. She wondered if the carpet was silk, and figured from the brightness of the carpet that it was. The lovely vases and other decorations that were placed on the tables were lovely and simple, only adding to the plushness of the décor, opposed to screaming opulence.

The butler turned into the very last door on the right and headed into what for all intent and purposes was a lovely living room. With high windows letting sun into the room, and lovely rich furniture, the room looked like a Lord could easily reside in it as his ‘day room’. Nice, but not excessive, just like the rest of the house that she had seen. How could the outside of this home be so ugly, and the inside be so nice?

As her gaze flitted about the room, it finally came to rest on Mr. Dugrey standing in the center of it, patiently waiting for her gaze to fall upon him.

"Unfortunate isn’t it?" He said. "The inside doesn’t match the outside. My wife somehow took a liking to the building. Thankfully she hired an interior decorator that knew what they were doing instead of a nimwit that would have matched the inside of the house to the outside. God knows I could have ended up with a home that looked like it had been carpeted left to right with brocade." He shuddered at the thought.

Rory looked at him dressed in well-pressed slacks and a lovely burgundy wool cardigan. He matched the hue and effect of the room to a T. There were papers strewn all over the coffee table and sofa, and several books were open on another table near the bookshelves. Pens and highlighters were also strewn here and there, and a tea set hovered precariously near the end of the table, with a bowl of fruit waiting prettily nearby. She couldn’t wait to tell her Mom about this. She would go nuts.

Rory suddenly had an insane moment and wanted to break out into song from Disney’s Beauty and the Beast. She felt like she was in that scene where the Beast takes Belle to the library with the incredible amount of books. Mr. Dugrey didn’t nearly have that amount of books, but he sure did have the room, even with the high ceilings.

"Are you going to just sit there in stupefaction girl, or are you going to greet me?" Mr. Dugrey tapped his cane in emphasis at the last few words.

"Oh, I’m sorry." Rory started. She walked over and shook his hand in greeting. "I just love to read, and you have an amazing amount of books here. Are they all law books?"

"Good morning Mr. Dugrey. How are you doing Mr. Dugrey? Did Emily Gilmore not teach you anything?"

"Oh, you know my grandmother?" Rory walked further into the room, noting that the Butler had already left.

"Yes, your grandfather and I have done business before. They are fine people." Mr. Dugrey beckoned Rory closer to the couches surrounding the coffee table. "As to your question about whether all of these books are about law, no they are not. This is one of my favorite rooms in the house, and I enjoy being here to read. I have several classics located on the shelves, and various latest thrillers that I shove into the far reaches of the bookshelves so that the effect of my library isn’t ruined. Couldn’t do for people to see me reading the latest James Patterson now would it?" Mr. Dugrey winked at Rory. She blinked, shocked that he could switch from reprimanding to nice in 0-60 seconds.

"Yes, it’s beautiful here."

"Well, then, let’s get to work, shall we? You’ll have the grand tour when we’re done today." Mr. Dugrey ushered Rory over to a sofa, and picked up a case file. "Here’s what you will need to look for and do…"

***

Tristan walked through the front door, trying not to make too much noise in the process. He knew his grandfather’s butler would have a heart attack if he followed his usual technique of simply letting the heavy door slam shut after he walked through. The thing weighed enough.

He was punctual as usual, walking down the entryway towards the den. He enjoyed these weekly meetings with his grandfather. It was a time for them to talk about life, and for him to help his grandfather out with whatever he needed.

He loved the old man. He was the one person that understood where Tristan was coming from. Why? Because they had been rather similar at this age. When his grandfather spoke to Tristan, he didn’t sound like Tristan’s father: put out because he had to talk to his son yet again, when he could be at the golf course, or at the latest board meeting. Needless to say, relations between Tristan’s father and grandfather were strained at best. Tristan’s father thought Tristan’s grandfather was shameless, and Tristan’s grandfather thought Tristan’s father was a stick in the mud.

As he turned the corner into the living room he stopped and almost gasped at the sight that awaited him. Rory Gilmore. He blinked in surprise.

All the emotions that he had tried to bury these past 4 weeks suddenly came screaming back to the surface. Why was she here? And why did she have to look so good? The sun lightly played on the top of her head, giving her a slight halo where she sat. The sunlight also touched her cheeks, illuminating her baby-like face and beauty. She was chewing on the tip of a pen, frowning at the document in front of her, with an army of highlighters facing her on the table in front of her. She made a very charming picture, perched on the sofa, obviously thinking hard.

Tristan swallowed. Just when he thought that he had kicked her out of his mind, here she was again. He didn’t know what he was going to do with her back in his life so soon. He had been looking forward to a summer without having to see her pretty face every day, so that maybe, just maybe, he could actually go one night without wishing that he was the one greeting her every day before she went home.



He flashed back to the conversation that he had had with his grandfather on the lovely day of the tickets. He had come back here to sulk after seeing Rory with her on-again boyfriend in the parking lot of school.

***

"She didn’t go for the tickets." Tristan said.

"What do you mean she didn’t go for the tickets? I thought you said that guy was one of Rory’s favorite musicians."

"She is. Rory said no, ok? End of discussion."

"How did you ask her?"

"What?"

"Don’t be daft. You heard me, how did you ask her?"

"I just asked."

Mr. Dugrey narrowed his eyes at Tristan. "I don’t think so."

"Ithreatenedherbytakingherbooksandnotgivingthemback." Tristan quickly rushed his words together in the hopes that his grandfather would drop the subject.

Mr. Dugrey looked at Tristan in disgust. "Let’s try that over again. This time without the mumbling into the chest."

"I threatened her by taking her books and not giving them back."

Mr. Dugrey sighed. "That is not the way to a woman’s heart, and you know it."

"I know, granddad, I know. She just…She just… Flusters me. Every time I talk to her I want her to know that I’m cool, you know? I don’t want to be desperate, I want to wow her with, well, me." Tristan walked over to the window and rested his elbows on the sill.

"And so you act like a jerk when you’re around her."

"Hey!"

"Well, it’s true isn’t it?"

"No!" Tristan sighed. "Yes. She’s just so different grandpa. So not Chilton."

"Is that why you like her?"

"At first. She wasn’t like everyone else. But now, I realize she’s more than that. She’s her own person. Which makes her that much more attractive. She’s unlike anyone I’ve ever met. She’s…radiant. Yeah, radiant is a good word." Tristan rubbed his forehead. "I sound like I’m a lovestruck idiot."

"Well, you sound like you like her. There’s no shame in that."

Tristan snorted. "Yeah, and I’ve gone absolutely nowhere. Did I mention she’s back with her old boyfriend? They made out right in front of me. Right in front of me!" He went back to facing outside, leaving his stony profile for his grandfather to see. Tristan’s hair looked rumpled, as if a hand had been running through it in frustration the entire afternoon.

Mr. Dugrey remained silent as he watched Tristan’s empty stare.

"She said she hated me. I…didn’t expect it to…hurt so bad..." Tristan embarrassedly trailed off the end of his sentence, and looked back at his grandfather. A blush crept over his cheeks as he realized how much he had just revealed. He would be upset with himself if it had been anyone but the one man before him.

"I’m sorry Tristan." Mr. Dugrey sat in compassionate silence with his grandson.

"Yeah, whatever." Tristan turned away from the window suddenly. "Come on granddad, let’s get out of here. I need some fresh air."

***

Tristan sighed…he was already back in territory he hadn’t wanted to cross. As his grandfather looked up to see him in the doorway, Tristan gave a slight strained smile, physically asking: "What are you doing?"

Mr. Dugrey merely smiled enigmatically in response.

Tristan inwardly groaned. This did not bode well. He took a deep breath and willed his rapidly beating heart to slow down. He eased his pose into his usual cool slouch, and slowly allowed his normal cocky smile to cross his face. When he felt his armor settle, he eased forward. Tristan Dugrey, all guns blazing.

World War Three was about to begin.

***

Mr. Dugrey watched as his grandson slowly strutted, and strutted was the right word, forward. He resisted the urge to yell across the room to his grandson to stop the game, and be the young man that he knew he had the potential to be. These two children were both so young. But Janlan knew Tristan was at a crossroads. He could continue to become the arrogant spoiled man his parents and so-called friends encouraged him to be, or he could take a risk and try a relationship, be it platonic or romantic, with this young woman.

Janlan let his gaze rest on Rory’s lowered head. She was the one. The one that could change his grandson, encouraging him to feel instead of act, be kind instead of selfish, and open him up to things beyond sports, women and money. In the first few minutes of meeting her, Janlan knew. She was refreshing, and very, very innocent. Her innocence and idealism would help change Tristan, and was what drew Tristan to her in the first place. She would heal a part of him that he didn’t know existed, at least consciously. Janlan’s own wife did the same, bless her soul, but he didn’t get to know her until he had made several unfortunate mistakes in his own life. He didn’t want Tristan to repeat his foibles. Janlan himself helped Tristan, but he knew that this young lady that Tristan wanted so badly would change him even faster than his grandfather ever could.

Janlan also knew that Rory was already in a relationship. Unfortunately, he also knew that his grandson needed her. And that was all that mattered to him. These two would have an interesting summer. He would make sure of it.

***

"Hey, Mary." Tristan’s voice echoed in the quiet room. He didn’t notice the grimace his grandfather gave following his words.

Rory’s head snapped up at the familiar words. "Oh no. I’m suddenly hoping I’m delusional and that I’m hallucinating…" Rory trailed off looking at Mr. Dugrey with a slightly embarrassed expression.

"Oh, don’t worry my dear. I know you’re quite professional, and besides, my grandson provoked you. I don’t blame you."

Tristan looked at his grandfather in surprise. What was this? The lack of support from his own family member suddenly threw him off his game. He posture tensed up a bit, and his expression turned slightly sour.

"You mean, you know your grandson was a holy terror to me in my first year at Chilton?" Rory asked Mr. Dugrey.

"Oh yes. He’s spoken about you a great deal." Janlan let that last remark hang in the air a bit. And he got the desired effect he wanted. Rory looked perplexedly at Tristan, who just barely managed to erase an embarrassed look from his face before she looked over.

"Oh yeah, he knows about my undying love for you. You still owe me a birthday kiss as I recall." Tristan smugly crossed his arms in front of him.

Rory unconsciously copied his movements, also crossing her arms in front of her chest. The two teenagers faced one another, with identical stubborn expressions on their faces. Janlan leaned back in his chair, with his hands on his knees, smiling at the angry chemistry these two flung at one another. It was hidden under all of that anger, but it was there. He just hoped his grandson wouldn’t fling it away.



"Okay. Ground rules. You need to understand that your grandfather has given me a cool job this summer, and I’m not going to ruin it. I have the opportunity to really try something I may want to do, and I don’t want you leaning over my shoulder watching me do it. Understood?" Rory’s jaw jutted out further with each word.

Tristan replied, "Sure. I wouldn’t want to spend my summer being a brainiac like you. I’m working on my own thing with my grandfather, and I’m sure you don’t need to interfere."

"Why does everything need to be a battle with you?" Rory swung her hands away from where they were close to her chest. "Why do you feel the need to pick on me? Can we just be civil for just once?"

"I…" Tristan leaned back from her outburst, surprise at the depth of feeling she was flinging at him heatedly. "I thought…"

"You thought what Yoda?"

"I thought you understood."

"Understood what?!" Rory flung her hands into the air in frustration.

"After our talk, I thought you knew I’m just teasing." Tristan looked at Rory, honestly confused.

"And after our talk I thought you understood that I hate it when you call me Mary, and when you tease me in the halls. Life is difficult enough at Chilton without you making it more miserable for me." Rory sighed, lifting her braid from behind her back and exasperatingly dropping it down again against her shoulder.

Tristan was shocked into silence for a few moments. "But I thought you liked our verbal spars."

"Verbal spars yes, you calling me names and teasing me in front of the school population, no."

Tristan looked at Rory in dismay. He forgot that she wasn’t as experienced as him in high school relationships, and that she had a naiveté that precluded her from understanding why he acted like a five year old around her.

"Well, I think we can now move on, and I’m majorly embarrassed that I had this discussion with you in front of your grandfather." Rory finally realized that the older gentleman had quietly been watching their argument from the armchair.

"I don’t mind. The two of you clearly had things to work out. It’s better that we get them out of the way now than to have them surface in the middle of working. Let me make something clear to the both of you – there is work to be done here." Janlan emphasized the last bit of his sentence. For all his matchmaking, there was still a case he was defending, and he still needed intelligent help.

Rory looked at Mr. Dugrey agape. "Wait, is Tristan helping us?"

Tristan also looked at his grandfather with dawning understanding. "Granddad, you didn’t…" A slight blush started to work up over his cheekbones as he realized what his grandfather had done.

"Yes. I need both of you this summer. So, if the two of you could stop behaving like young children, I would appreciate it if you started working." He picked up a nearby deposition and started flipping through the pages.

"Yes, sir." Tristan unfolded himself out of his slouch and walked over to the couches, sitting on the one apart from both Rory and his grandfather. Meanwhile Rory picked up her highlighter and went back to work.

Janlan looked up and studied the two bent heads. In order to work together they had to talk, and that’s what he was counting on. If they didn’t…well, he had a few things up his sleeve. He smiled devilishly at the portrait of his wife hanging over the fireplace across the room. Whoever thought that he would be playing matchmaker at his age?

***

"I’m going to go get some lunch started for us." Janlan unraveled himself from the couch, picked up his cane and started walking out of the Salon.

Tristan and Rory looked up, watching him go.

"I like your grandfather." Rory said smiling.

" I like him too. He’s a great guy. You know, he used to take me on these treasure hunts in the garden. We would pretend we were archeologists or something of the equivalent." Tristan reminisced.

"Wow, that’s so cool. My Mom and I would do that sometimes too. Not the garden thing, but the pretend thing. We would go out, and actually still do from time to time, to the costume store and get dressed up for no reason whatsoever except to have fun. Our favorite costumes thus far have been Lucy and Desi, although there was a bit of an argument over who got to be Lucy. Then my Mom reminded me of how many stunts she’s pulled, and the argument was over. She was probably a tempestuous redhead in a past life anyway." Rory chewed on her highlighter and smiled as she thought back to that hilarious night.

Tristan watched Rory wistfully, feeling a pang at the cute expression that was on her face. She was so lovely and untouched by the world and its cynicism. His fingers ached to reach over and touch the tip of her nose, and laugh with her at her memories. He actually felt his hand twitch at his side as his feelings coursed through him. He glued his hand to his leg, mentally willing it to remain unmoving.

"Lu – cy." Tristan whipped out an amazing imitation of the famous Desi Arnaz.

Rory looked at him in amazement. "Oh My God. The great Tristan Dugrey does impersonations! Do another, do another!" Rory dropped her highlighter and turned on the sofa to fully face Tristin.

"What will you pay me? I think I’m owed ten cents per impersonation."

"You come cheap."

"I’m easily bribable."

"Clearly." Rory reached over and picked up her messenger bag, digging to the bottom of the bag in search of change. She finally found fifty cents in nickels and dimes. One of the dimes had some sort of goo on it. Both Tristan and Rory looked at it dubiously.

"I don’t think I want that dime." Tristin arched an eyebrow as he stared at it.

"Oh come on, it can’t be too lethal right? Nothing’s growing at the bottom of my backpack."

"You didn’t leave it in there long enough. It looks like it was trying to make friends with the other coins." Tristin pointed to one of the nickels that looked like it had similar clear goo on it.

"Hmm…I wonder what that is." Rory twisted the coin around in her fingers. "The goo is solid, and doesn’t feel squishy or anything."

"Yuck." Tristan wrinkled his nose at the coins that Rory was reaching across the coffee table to give him. He suddenly sniffed. "Does it smell like raspberry to you?"

Rory blinked. "Oh! I know what the substance is! It’s my raspberry lipgloss! So that’s where it went, I was looking all over for it last week. The stick must have rubbed against the coins while in my bag, and then congealed. Luckily the tube didn’t explode, or it would have been goo on everything. So, now that you know it’s a safe goo, take the money. I want to hear more voices."

Tristin gingerly took the coins and pocketed them. He cleared his throat self-consciously. "So, little lady, seen any cowpokes lately?"

"John Wayne!"

"Bond. James Bond." Tristin imitated Sean Connery with an arrogant air.

Rory rolled her eyes. "Figures."

Tristan squinted. "Go ahead, make my day."

"Clint Eastwood." Rory leaned forward, her eyes burning in excitement, work forgotten.

Tristan’s train of thought vanished as he caught the animated look on her face. He racked his brain for more impersonations.

"Hello Huckleberry." Tristan fake smoked a cigarette and tossed it aside as he impersonated Val Kilmer from Tombstone.

Rory shrieked. "I loved him in that movie!"

"Where’s the kaboom?" Tristan finished his impersonations in a maniacal tone of voice.

"Marvin the Martian! I loved him when I was little. I would go around saying that all the time." Rory excitedly gestured using her hands.

"Really? Me too!" Tristan leaned forward as well.

As their gazes caught the two teenagers suddenly realized at the same moment that the two of them were actually getting along. An awkward silence ensued.

Tristan ventured forward. "Rory…let’s call a truce. Let’s start over. From the beginning." He rested his elbows on his knees.

"What does this truce entail?"

"Us being civil, and maybe even nice to one another."

"Will you uphold this truce?"

"Yes."

"Then we’re agreed." Rory stretched, opening the cricks in her back from sitting slumped over paperwork for a couple of hours. "But if I see any reneging on this truce, then be prepared for dire consequences."

Tristan smiled. It was a start. "And what would those be?"

"Well, don’t forget, I know where the rest of the clear goo lives."

***

Two more weeks passed, heading the summer into August. The legal team continued to be hard at work reviewing paperwork from both The Club, and the building company.

Rory and Tristan actually had started a groove. As they were doing the same thing – looking through tons and tons of paperwork for mentions of any building damage that could be related to asbestos, or health related problems – they often had to compare notes and paperwork to make sure they were not duplicating efforts, and to log what they had found. Janlan was very pleased with their work thus far. The two stellar students were clearly very detail oriented and had no problems looking for the proverbial needle in a haystack. Their log provided him the background needed for developing his case. He would periodically look through specific documents they identified for further backup or leads.

On one afternoon Janlan sent Tristan and Rory to the law library to pick up several books that he needed for more research. Tristan had the wheels, and Rory the knowledge of where the books were via her work at Chilton Law Offices.

After successfully picking up the books Tristan and Rory headed back to Janlan’s home. At a stoplight Rory looked over at Tristan and was startled at the slow friendship they had started to build. Rory had discovered that Tristan was funny, kind, and wonderfully gallant. He was slowly showing her a side of himself that she didn’t know existed. It was like he uncurling himself carefully with each passing day, showing her more and more of his true self. And she liked his true self. For once she didn’t cringe about the thought of spending time with him, and looked forward to their stimulating conversations, instead of thinking of ways to avoid him.

Tristan’s thoughts were following a similar path as he felt her gaze on him. These past two weeks had only come to solidify why he liked Rory Gilmore. Their conversations weren’t filled by what new expensive thing their parents had bought, or what their parents wanted them to do, or gossip about school and everyone in it. He knew that he would smell her in his car for the coming days on end. That thought partially freaked him out as it reinforced how hard he had fallen for her. He just knew that she had the power to hurt him, and that scared him.

He started as he suddenly heard her voice.

"Pull over." Rory excitedly wriggled in her seat.

"What?"

"Pull over. I’m sure your grandfather wouldn’t mind if we were 10 minutes late."

Tristan slowly eased his car over to the curb and parked in front of what looked like a children’s park, complete with swings, seesaw, slide and sand. There were about 10 children ranging from the ages of 5 to 12 playing in the sand and on the various playthings. "What, did you forget something?"

"Nope." Rory quickly opened the door and hopped out of the car. She stuck her head back through the door and said, "Are you coming slowpoke?"

Tristan looked blankly at her. "I would be coming if I had any idea what you were doing. I have a feeling that you aren’t telling me where we’re going because whatever we will be doing will scare me."

"You are brilliant kemo-sabe, and you need to get out of the car now."

Tristan made one last effort. "Granddad wanted these books soon."

"And he would get them soon if you would get out of the car." Rory leaned over and undid Tristan’s seat belt. At the brush of her fingers on his thigh Tristan’s breath caught and he got out of the car so quickly he knocked into the metal portion of the seatbelt, then tripped over his own feet, and into the car door, nearly taking himself down like a wrestler in the process.

"Very suave." Rory closed the door on her side, grinning at Tristan’s lack of dexterity.

"Thanks, I try." Tristan looked at the ground, embarrassed as he shut the car door and locked the doors with the remote. "Ok, so now that I’ve managed to demonstrate why the Russian Ballet would never accept my application, what are we up to?" He came around the side of the car to stand next to Rory, who then started to walk.

"You wanted to be a ballerina? Wait, do they call men in ballet ballerinas? Somehow it sounds so feminine." Rory reached the lip of the park, and stopped.

"I was being facetious, and I have no idea what they call male ballerinas. Do you need some help there?" Tristan watched as Rory hopped around on one leg, trying to take off her sandals one at a time. "You look like an awkward stork."

"Thanks." Rory leaned a hand on Tristan to support herself as she used her other hand to take off her sandals.

Tristan looked at the hand she had braced on his arm, wishing that she would use him for support more often. Then it suddenly occurred to him that Rory had her shoes off.

"We’re going to the park."

"Stating the obvious. Yes, we’re going to the park. You have been to a park before right?" Rory started off towards the swings, stopping to sift warm sand through her toes.

Tristan looked at his dress shoe clad feet and black slacks and grimaced. He noted that Rory’s long skirt was trailing through the sand, and had already picked up several granules that looked like they were going to remain there for the remainder of the afternoon.

"Aren’t you hot?" Tristan unbuttoned one of the top buttons of his dress shirt as he trailed after Rory and gestured to the long skirt and solid tank top.

"Nope, the skirt is pretty flowy." She glanced at his still shoe clad feet and laughed. "You realize it’s going to take only a few seconds to have -"

"Sand in my shoes." Tristan grimaced again. "I was trying to ignore it before, but now, the shoes are coming off." He looked around for something to brace against and was rewarded when Rory stepped up and gave him her arm to lean against.

"Returning the favor." She smiled up at him, and for an instant his breath caught.

The sand felt good as he took off the shoes and socks. He also couldn’t resist sifting sand through his toes to bury himself a bit deeper.

"Come on. We don’t want to have to beat up five year olds in the attempt to get to the swings. There are two free." Rory swept off towards the swing set, Tristan running up behind her.

They sat side by side in the swings, and Rory instantly took a running start in order to get her swing moving. Tristan emulated her movements trying to remember when he last did what he was doing now.

"Do I know I haven’t done this in years?" Tristan moved his legs backwards and forwards trying to get the height that Rory already had managed.

"Apparently so, as I have you beat in the race department. Come on! Chug those legs harder!" Rory laughed as she flew further up into the sky. "This is so wonderfully cathartic, my Mom and I love coming here and just swinging for awhile – it makes your problems so carefree, you know?"

"You’re really close to your Mom aren’t you?"

"She’s my best friend." Rory flung the words out as she passed Tristan between swings.

Tristan finally managed to get up to speed with Rory after a few more seconds of leg pumping and leaning. As he looked below and saw the delighted faces of the small kids looking up at him, and watched the sand, grass, and trees flash by he surprised himself by letting out a loud carefree laugh. This felt so right, doing this here at this time. He turned to look at Rory, smiling, and the world suddenly slowed.

Her face turned towards him, her loose brown hair flowing in the wind in his direction, tendrils and locks waving silently in the breeze. She was laughing gustily as her eyes met his, and he was struck by their vibrant color. Her skirt flew in the wind, fluttering around her toes and legs, a flash of blues and purples against the sandy ground. His heart lurched at he watched her, and he realized how happy she made him. It was at that moment he realized that Rory Gilmore wasn’t going to be someone he easily got over. This wasn’t a game. He didn’t know what being in love felt like, but whatever this was, it had a strong hold on him.

The moment broke as she leaned back to pump herself higher, and he forgot to make any leg motion whatsoever, causing him to fall behind.

Rory flew higher in the air, wondering about the shadow that had just passed over Tristan’s face. She didn’t want to read into the expression that she had vaguely seen. She didn’t want to complicate her life. As she hit the highest point she could without fearing tip-over, she started to slow her swings, regretting having to land. She looked over at Tristan and smiled. He looked the most carefree she had ever seen him.

"You realize that I need a Polaroid camera right now?" Rory gestured at him on the swing.

"Why? Because I have sand stuck between my toes, my slacks are hideously folded up so they won’t get sand in them, and my shirt is so beyond wrinkled in the heat that it’s not going to be saved?"

"And because somehow you’ve managed to get swing grease on your nose from leaning on the swing chains."

"You’re kidding."

"Nope. Right down the side in a nice yellowy black mark."

Tristan groaned as his swing came to a stop. "How am I the one that managed to get dirty?"

"Probably has something to do with your graceful exit from the car." Rory giggled as her swing came to a stop.

She got up out of the swing and came towards Tristan, stopping in front of him. She licked her thumb and used it to rub at the smudge on his nose. "There. It’s less conspicuous now." She looked at his poleaxed expression. "What? Friends do this to for one another. They tell one another when they have stuff stuck in their teeth, or a zipper open somewhere, or skirts stuck in pantyhose." Rory started back towards the car, picking up her discarded shoes on the way.

Tristan looked after her, skin still tingling from her touch. "The next time I wear pantyhose I’ll let you check me out."

"You’re just looking for an excuse to show off your butt."

"Damn. You noticed."

Tristan picked up his shoes and jogged to catch up with Rory. "Hey, no really, thanks for this." He used his shoes to point back towards the park. "It felt good."

"See, told you it would be painless." Rory tossed her shoes into the backseat of Tristan’s car as he unlocked and opened the doors.

Tristan got into the driver’s side of the car and turned the key in the ignition. "Back to the daily grind."

"But we love the grind."

"That we do."

***

Janlan Dugrey issued the necessary paperwork to try to get the case to settle at the end of the summer. Unfortunately, the company did not take him up on the offer. They were willing to settle, but not at the cost that Janlan and The Boys and Girls Club wanted. The Club did not want to go to court because that would require more funding than they had. Therefore, more work needed to be done to come up with a different settlement that appealed to both sides. Janlan asked Rory and Tristan to continue working with him, albeit only once per week now that school had started up again. They were to come over one afternoon per week after school to help further with paperwork and typing up necessary documents.

Janlan also saw the blossoming relationship between the two students, and was extraordinarily pleased. Tristan had lost the brittle edge he had previously, and he and Rory had discovered a friendship by the end of the summer, easily chatting and teasing one another. He hoped that his grandson would carry this friendship into the school year, and not regress once he was in the Chilton atmosphere and back with his old friends in the same environment as Rory.

***

As the school year started Tristan and Rory would greet one another in the hallways of school. Not only that, but they even occasionally had lunch with one another. They tolerated stares from Paris and her friends until Paris decided to say something one month into school.

"Consorting with the enemy?" Paris cornered Rory one day between classes.

"What are you talking about?" Rory took the necessary books out of her locker and slammed it shut.

"You and Tristan."

"Do you think about anything beyond that Paris?"

Paris blinked. "I…"

"Why don’t you try to spend your time thinking about more beneficial things?" Rory started to walk towards her next class.

"You’ve changed him you know. For the better."

At that Rory turned around and looked at Paris. "What do you mean?"

"He’s not on his annual find a girlfriend jaunt. Every year at this time he’s usually looking for a new victim. But not this year. I wonder why."

"I don’t know, why don’t you ask him?"

"I mean he’s still his usual self – he’s a guy – but he seems to treat women with a bit more respect." Paris nodded. "Yeah, that’s it."

Rory smiled. "I think he’s learned a few things this summer."

"Well, I like the change." Paris emphatically nodded at the end of her statement. She looked consideringly at Rory. "Hey do you want to be in our Bio study group?"

Rory stared at Paris. "Did you just ask me what I think you did?"

"Don’t make me repeat it. You won’t get the offer twice."

Rory considered for a brief moment, then said, "Ok. I think I could handle that. Thanks."

"See you in Bio."

"See you in Bio."

Will wonders never cease.

***

"Hey Mom? Are you around?" Rory walked in the door at about 5pm after hanging out for a few hours with Lane.

"Rory, we have a problem."

"Did you try cooking the tiramisu again? Cause you know I don’t think the stove has quite recovered from that yet."

"No. Our car, the car that should be breakdown proof, has gasp, broken down. It won’t start. I would call Luke or Sookie to come help me take the car to a mechanic, but both of them are working, and I want to drop off the car tonight. I’m also afraid of an I told you so from Luke the dungeon master."

"I would call Dean but he’s working tonight." Rory thought a bit. "Wait, I’ll call Tristan."

Lorelai paused. "The Tristan?"

"The evil one himself."

"Do I get to ask what Hell is like?" Lorelai trailed after Rory on the way to the phone.

"No."

"Come on. What about being evil, can I ask about that?"

"No."

"What about if he has a pitchfork somewhere?"

"No."

"You’re mean."

***

Tristan finished hooking up the Gilmore car to his car, amazed that he was even here in the first place. The fact that Rory at any point had considered calling him was monumental.

He smiled as he spotted the Gilmore women standing on the back porch giggling at one another. Upon greeting Lorelai Gilmore he had realized where Rory’s beauty came from – her mother had it as well. Lorelai was just as brilliant and radiant as her daughter. He imagined that Rory would be similar to her mother when she became an adult, but with her very own unique twists.

"Alright, we’re ready to get moving. Come on into the Dugrey mobile."

"Um…Tristan?" Lorelai twisted her fingers around one another. Rory suddenly looked at her mother. Tristan braced himself.

"Mom…" Rory said warily.

"What’s evil like?"

"Mom!"

***

In mid-October the students were putting the finishing touches on the final supporting documents for their case.

"I think we’re ready to go with this. And I think they will accept. We’re looking good kiddos." Janlen placed the final letters into a manila envelope.

"This is so exciting!" Rory bounced on the sofa in happiness, exuding excitement.

"Yup, it is." Tristan watched Rory and smiled.

Janlan watched the interchange, and brought up the idea that he had had yesterday afternoon. "Tristan, why don’t you take Rory out to the stables?"

Tristan looked at his grandfather. "Hey, actually, that’s a great idea."

"Stables, you have stables?" Rory felt suddenly aware of the class difference between her and the two men in the room.

"Yes, he does. And I think you’ll enjoy them. How about you try riding a horse?" Tristan stood and pointed towards the exit.

"Really? I’ve always wanted to try and do that. At one point when I was little I went through a horsey phase, but my Mom’s deathly afraid of them, thinks they’ll bite off pieces of her or something of that sort."

"We’re done here, so off you go." Janlan leaned over and helped Rory up.

Tristan escorted Rory outside and the two walked towards the stables hidden in the back of the manor. When they arrived Rory saw a stablehand dressing down a horse, and two additional horses behind gates.

"Horse-riding is fun, though takes a bit to get used to. So, just as a warning, be prepared for a sore butt and bruised thighs tomorrow." Tristan walked over and led one of the horses out. It was a beautiful brown, and looked like a sweet animal. "Peony is good-tempered, and shouldn’t give you any problems whatsoever."

As Rory looked up at Peony she suddenly had a flash of trepidation. "I’ve never done this before, can you help me out?"

"Of course." Tristan retrieved a saddle and started to prep the horse for riding. "Here let me show you first how to get the horse ready for riding."

Over the next hour Tristan showed Rory how to saddle the horse, and how to mount. She proved to have natural grace, which didn’t surprise Tristan, but she also wasn’t a born jockey either. By the end of the hour she could mount and sit comfortably, and could walk the horse gingerly.

"Not bad." Tristan looked up at Rory on the horse and smiled approvingly.

Rory returned the smile. "I have to tell my Mom that this really isn’t as bad as it seems."

"Do you think she would come out here and ride?"

"Well, I can ask. Of course, I think it will take a lot to get her over the fear of gnashing teeth. Plus, she was never a big fan of My Little Pony."

"Ugh, who was?" Tristan grimaced. "Come on, anything that depicts horses as blue and purple with the same colored hair is just plain wrong."

"What about the Care Bears?"

"They frightened me."

"They frightened you? How so?"

"Rory, they had stuff shooting out of their stomachs, didn’t that seem a bit too much like Aliens to you?"

"You had nightmares about the Care Bears didn’t you?"

"I know you had to have found something frightening about them."

"Nope, it’s just you." Rory paused. "I’ll have to remember to give you something Care Bearish for your birthday."

Tristan looked up at Rory. "Would you like to try trotting?"

"Do you think I’m ready?" Rory looked dubiously at Peony’s mane.

"I can help you." Tristan gnawed nervously at his lip. "Uh…I can mount and we can ride together."

Rory didn’t seem to notice his nervousness. "Okay."

Tristan proceeded to mount up, sitting behind Rory. As he sat on the back of the horse, she leaned forward giving him room. Peony calmly remained in the same spot, obviously used to such behavior. As Rory leaned back, Tristan stifled a sigh. He could smell her shampoo and slight perfume. He slowly reached around her to take hold of the reins, and felt his entire body groan when he discovered that she fit perfectly into his arms. Her hair teased his arms, and his chin nearly brushed the top of her head. He prayed that she couldn’t hear his rapidly beating heart.

And then he took a big risk. He took the reins in his hands, and then proceeded to rest his hands on top of hers.

"Here take the reins, and I’ll help guide."

Rory, unaffected by the same emotions that were running through Tristan, calmly took the reins from him. Tristan then once again covered her hands with his to be able to help her guide. He slightly kicked the horse, and felt Peony start to walk.

"Whoohoo!" Rory yelled in exhilaration as she felt the horse start to move.

Tristan smiled, trying to control his rapid heartbeat. This was so perfect. Sitting here in the cooling afternoon sun with Rory at his grandfather’s. If nothing else ever happened between them he would at least have this memory. He kicked the horse into a trot and felt her exuberant cry, and tightened his hold. She fit even more firmly against him as he leaned them forward into the slight breeze. He hair whipped against him, and at one point she even turned her head slightly sideways to look at him. He himself was smiling brilliantly, and trying valiantly not to crush her in his arms.

Tristan brought the horse to a halt after a few minutes. Peony came to a bit of an abrupt stop, causing something inadvertent to happen. As Peony stopped a little too fast, Tristan ended up leaning a bit too far forward, which also pushed Rory forward. As Tristan’s head dipped, his lips touched intimately against the back of Rory’s exposed neck.

And both teenagers froze.

***

Tristan’s pulse skyrocketed, causing him to vaguely wonder if he was going to pass out. He waited for Rory to say something, anything, and was brought back to the night of the kiss when he had also wanted to die of embarrassment. But now, just this simple fleeting touch of lips to skin had Tristan wanting more. He could still taste her.

He waited for her to speak.

***

Rory sat ramrod straight, unable to believe what had just happened. Not the slight brush of lips, that hadn’t been Tristan’s fault. But the flash of electricity that had flowed through her after the intimate kiss. She could hear her pulse thudding in her ears. She could feel in excruciating detail his hands pressed against hers, holding her tight. She became suddenly aware of the fact that she wanted him to kiss her again, and that left her speechless. She had a boyfriend, what the hell was she doing?!

She shivered.

***

Tristin saw her shudder in front of him, and wondered what she was thinking. After a full minute passed without either of them saying anything, and her not running away, he decided to press his luck. Nothing ventured, nothing gained.

This time, there was no mistaking his actions. He dropped one of his hands from hers, and used it to lift her hair up and over one shoulder. He felt her go still like a rabbit on a lawn. But she didn’t pull away. She was wearing a boat neck top, one that exposed her neck and an expanse of shoulder.

He closed his eyes as he leaned over and pressed his lips to her exposed skin at the right of her neck. He gave her a softly caressing kiss. And felt his heart lift in anticipation.

***

Rory’s breathing quickened as she felt his lips touch her shoulder again. Lethargically her head fell to the left, giving him more room. His arms tightened on her sides to give her more support, encouraging her to lean into him further. So she did. Her body fell against his, as she felt her muscles give out.

The kiss deepened.

Rory was brought back to her senses with a start when she heard the horse loudly whinny.

She leapt away from Tristan, and hurriedly tried to dismount.

***

Tristan vaguely heard the horse whinny, but then felt it when Rory pulled away. As she flung a leg over the horse, he was forced to help her down to make sure she didn’t hurt herself while dismounting. He saw her panicked face as her feet hit the ground.

"Rory, wait. Please wait. Let me explain." Tristan started to get off the horse as quickly as possible.

"There’s nothing to explain. This was a mistake, just like our last kiss." Rory laughed abruptly. "How about that huh? Things happen on accident."

Tristan finally fully dismounted. "That wasn’t a mistake and you know it." Anger slowly started to build. "You responded. I felt it."

"I’m not dead yet." Rory nervously tried to pull her collar over the spot he had kissed.

"Please, let’s talk about this. I think we can work things out." Tristan reached a hand out pleadingly to Rory.

"Why don’t you ever understand that there is no ‘we’?" Rory started to backpeddle. "I have a boyfriend. I do. And he’s a nice boyfriend. And he kisses me. And I like his kisses. And you shouldn’t be kissing me. Especially not in a garden, where it’s romantic, and bubbly, and, and…pretty. Argh!" Rory clutched her hands together in frustration.

"Maybe you need a new boyfriend." Tristan tried to ignore the furious rips of jealousy that threatened to turn this conversation into a full blown fight. He didn’t want to think about Dean kissing Rory. She was attainable damn it. She had to be. He knew she liked the kiss.

"No. No. I’m just confused, it was just the excitement of the day. You’re Chilton’s Tristan Dugrey, how could I fall for you?"

Tristan rocked back on his heels, hurt coursing through his face. "You’re panicked. You feel guilty. That’s why you’re saying these things."

Rory felt her heart skip a beat as his last words beat through her mind. They almost had a ring of truth to them…which made her even more panicked and confused.

"Rory, please. Just think. Just think about it for one minute. We’ve been doing this for months now. Flirting, getting to know one another. Can this really be that impossible?"

"But…" Rory whimpered. "I’m so confused...I’m happy with Dean."

Tristan clenched his hand into a fist in frustration. "Maybe you could be even happier with me."

"I have to think about this. Let me think, okay?" Rory swept back her hair from her face.

Tristan felt disappointment sweep through him. If she couldn’t decide now with the flavor of their magical moment still hanging in the air, then he had lost her. His stomach dived, and he felt bile rise up in his throat.

He said the word that he didn’t want to say. "Okay."

"Thank you." Rory looked relieved. "Tristan, I don’t want us to not speak okay? I don’t want to lose this friendship."

Friendship. The nausea surfaced again. "Sure." He forced a smile to his face. "Maybe it was the moment, huh?" Something, anything to save face.

Rory sighed. "Maybe. Come on, let’s go inside." She looked at him and lightly touched his arm. "Are you okay?"

"I’m fine." He shook himself, and forced himself to grow a backbone. "We’ll talk about this when you’re ready okay? No pressure."

"Thanks." Rory smiled tentatively. "So, let’s go inside and try those scones your grandfather was raving about shall we? I want to see him grimace and start ranting again every single time I call a currant a raisin."

"He can’t help it, he was raised in a British household."

"He turns red."

"A beautiful shade of it too."

As they started walking back to the stables with the horse Tristan tried not to look at Rory’s shoulder. It was just too painful.

***

Rory stared at herself in the mirror. What had changed? What had happened in the past few weeks that she suddenly felt this thing for Tristan? She didn’t want to put a name to it because it just scared her silly. She liked Dean, she did. But somehow, when she now thought of him she didn’t get as many of those warm juicy feelings that she did before. How had this happened?

She brushed her hair over her shoulder and pulled her pajama top aside so she could look at her shoulder and neck. There it was, that lovely red mark.

"That’s a hickey!" Rory started violently as her mother’s voice startled her.

"Sorry to scare you." Lorelai walked up behind Rory and pulled back her collar even further. "That’s a pretty accomplished hickey if I ever saw one. Tell me Rory, how exactly did you get a hickey in this particular spot?"

"Would you believe a raccoon jumped out of a tree and bit me?" Rory locked gazes with her mother in the mirror.

"As raccoons normally don’t give you love bites, mmm…no. Unless you have something horrible to tell me about you and your love of animals." Lorelai paused. "Ugh. Somehow that didn’t come out right. See, there’s this hickey on my daughter. And mom kind of wants to know how hickey ended up there in order to stop panicking."

Rory sighed and turned around to face her mother fully. "You don’t need to worry Mom. It was innocent. Tristan gave it to me."

"Well narcolepsy boy better…" Rory’s words finally registered with Lorelai. "Tristan? Tristan gave it to you? The evil one? I’m sorry. I feel like you’re in the fast lane, and I’m in a granny car with a granny who has to use a telephone book to see over the top of the steering wheel and three inch thick glasses. And you’re waving bye-bye to me in the fast lane as you pass me by, and I’m still stuck in the granny car cursing the I day I decided to go out with Granny to get a beaded bag."

Rory sighed. "I know, I know. I’m confusing myself with this whole thing."

Lorelai sat on the bed and patted the area next to her. "Come on over and talk to Dr. Mom, not to be confused with the vengeful Dr. Laura."

Rory walked over and sat in the spot her mother had indicated, and then with a sigh leaned over and put her head in her mother’s lap. Lorelai started to gently brush her daughter’s hair in an attempt to slowly relax her.

"Well, Tristan’s been really nice lately. Don’t get me wrong, he’s still arrogant, and slightly conceited, that’s built in. But he’s also been trying to be better. We even eat lunch together sometimes…"

"So how did he progress from having lunch with you to planting a hickey on you?"

"We’ve been getting closer as fall has passed."

"Oh – working on your law case together right?"

"Yeah – we see a lot of each other at Mr. Dugrey’s, and we get along really well. Then today, he just decided to kiss me while we were riding Peony, and everything went downhill from there!" Rory vehemently uttered the last few words.

There was a slight pause. "What’s Peony?"

"You don’t want to know Mom."

"I knew it! I knew it! I knew I smelled horse on you when you came home today. And I saw how you rushed for the shower. Don’t you know those things are dangerous! With their yellow teeth and frightening mouths and ability to run you over in a single bound." Lorelai shuddered. "Did I mention the teeth?"

"How can you like hippos and not like horses?" Rory asked.

"Because hippos are cute. They have pokey little eyes and fat little bodies and they look like they could be moms of the hippo world. Horses look possessed and mean."

"Well Peony was very gentle and not a problem whatsoever until she decided to stop too fast."

"See! She made an attempt to harm you. Next time, remember, gnashing teeth." Lorelai grimaced and made several faces.

"You look like a chipmunk."

"Back to the hickey story."

"Well, when the horse stopped Tristan fell forward and…his lips brushed my shoulder." Rory felt a twinge of pleasure roll through her stomach as she thought back to the incident. She then mentally berated herself for the twinge and tried not to think about it.

"Unless he has vacuum lips of power that still doesn’t explain the hickey."

"I froze, he froze. And then he did it again. Deliberately. And I let him." Rory paused, then said, "But Dean. There’s a Dean!"

Lorelai frowned. "You have a point there. We can’t get too excited about the Tristan when there’s a Dean." Her face turned serious. "Rory, what do you feel? I know it’s hard to identify your true feelings in all the stuff that’s going on in there right now, but you won’t be able to like yourself if you can’t face either boy."

Rory dug her face into the pillow. "I just don’t know what to do Mom. I already have a Dean, and I don’t know if I want a Tristan."

"Rory, get up." Lorelai helped Rory return to a sitting position and turned her to face her. "If you want Tristan you have to be willing to take a risk. And if you want Dean, you unfortunately will have to let one boy down. Honey, you are a wonderful girl, and you want everyone to win in situations like these, but sometimes people get hurt. But sometimes that’s necessary. I don’t see how you’re going to avoid one of those scenarios here. Unless of course you want to lead both men on, but somehow I don’t think that’s your style." Lorelai reached over and tucked an errant piece of hair behind Rory’s ear. "Take a risk honey. I only want you to be happy."

Rory looked off into space, trying to sort through her feelings of confusion, guilt and fear. "I can’t believe this is happening to me. When did I turn into such a mush?"

"Right about the time you turned fourteen I believe. I think that was when you discovered that boys were not objects of ickiness and torture, but more like objects of drool and torture. You noticed that torture part didn’t change right?"

"How can you joke at a time like this?" Rory fell back onto the bed in dismay.

"Because I think you know what you want, but you’re afraid to do it." Lorelai reached over and touched the red mark on Rory’s shoulder. "Did you swoon?"

"I swooned."

"Well then Princess Leia, I think it’s time you told Han Solo that you care."

"That doesn’t happen until the second movie. And I don’t want Tristan to be locked in cryogenic fluid."

"I’m sure Tristan won’t face the same torturous fate as Han Solo."

"But Han doesn’t tell Leia that he loves her until the third movie. What if I’m too late?"

Lorelai blinked. "I think I just OD’ed on Star Wars."

"You can’t OD on Star Wars. You’re only watched it one million times."

"I thought we were never again going to discuss my crush on Luke Skywalker." Lorelai blinked. "I’m sorry, where were we? I got lost in the Ewok Village."

"Leia trying out Han Solo."

"Ah, that’s right. You won’t know until you try honey."

"I swooned." Rory suddenly tried to blink away tears. "I’m breaking up with Dean mom." Her face dissolved into tears as she clutched at her mother.

"I know honey. I’m so sorry." Lorelai wrapped her arms around Rory and hugged her fiercely. She held Rory until Rory couldn’t cry anymore.

***

Tristan didn’t see Rory until the weekend was over, when they were both at school on Monday. He didn’t know if he wanted to see Rory yet. He didn’t feel ready. He didn’t know how to act, he didn’t know what to do.

So, in his fear, he did the one thing he shouldn’t have. Ignored it completely.

***

"Hey Rory." Tristan walked up behind her and leaned against the locker next to hers. "Learn anything exciting and new from the ten books you read this weekend?"

"I didn’t read anything this weekend." Rory closed the locker door and turned to face Tristan.

"What? How is that possible?" Tristan finally registered her face. "Hey, are you okay? You look tired." A frown crossed his face as he took in the tiredness around Rory’s eyes and the not quite upright position in which she carried herself today.

"I just had a bad weekend. Can we start walking to class? I don’t want to be late."

"Sure." A taut silence followed his remark as they started to walk towards their respective classes. "Anything I can do to help?"

Rory stopped and considered for a few moments. "Tristan…"

Tristan panicked. "Look Rory, let’s not talk about it okay? I just want to get on with our friendship. It’s a good one, I don’t want to jeopardize that. I’ll see you at lunch today right?"

"Umm…right." Rory watched Tristan stride away, feeling bereft. What had just happened? Had he changed his mind? She tried valiantly not to feel betrayed.

She already felt lonely.

***

Over the next two months Rory and Tristan didn’t talk about the kiss, and slowly went back to what their relationship had been right before the incident. Although there was a slight level of strain that was palpable to the trained observer (mainly Lorelai and Janlan), the two decided to ignore it. And being as both teenagers were quite stubborn, they managed.

Tristan didn’t know Rory had broken up with Dean until three weeks after their conversation, when the Chilton rumor mill finally got wind of it. Shocked, he hadn’t mentioned anything to Rory.

A flicker of hope sprang up in him on that day. But he was too scared of yet another rejection to try something.

Until a fateful day near Christmas in December…

***

"Look at the two of them." Rory said in disgust.

"They are disgusting aren’t they?" Tristan replied.

"Why do they keep looking over at us?"

"I don’t know, but whatever it is, it can’t be good."

Rory and Tristan were watching Lorelai and Janlan converse in a corner of the large living room. There was a low hum of conversations reverberating around the room from the people gathered for Janlan’s annual Christmas party. Rory and Tristan were huddled together as two of the very few young people in the entire room.

"Does it surprise you that they hit it off?" Tristan asked Rory.

"No, it just surprises me that they are already plotting something. It should have at least taken two hours. I’m clocking them right now at 37 minutes."

***

Lorelai looked at Rory and Tristan conversing in the opposite corner of the room.

"What do you think they’re talking about?" She asked Janlan.

"Us."

"Why do you think that?"

"Because they’re looking at us the same way we’re looking at them."

"You’d think they would have gotten a clue by now."

"They’re both scared. My grandson from additional rejection, and your daughter from believing that my grandson has changed his mind."

"You’re a regular psychic, you know that?"

"When you’re seventy you have to find something to fill the empty days of retirement."

"Rory loved the project."

"I loved having Rory on the project."

"It’s wonderful what you do."

"Careful. You don’t want to inflate any more of the Dugrey ego."

Lorelai snorted. "I thought it couldn’t be inflated any further. Your family’s ego is like fake boobs, there’s only so far you can go before you get top heavy."

Janlan looked at Lorelai and laughed. "I’ll have to remember to tell that to my son. It’s not often our name gets attached to chest enhancement."

"So, how are we going to get them to talk? Princess Leia can’t go without Han Solo." Lorelai leaned closer to Janlan.

Janlan looked quizzically at Lorelai.

"Long story involving crying, weeping, and cryogenic chambers. You don’t want to go there." Lorelai crossed her arms over her chest. "No, really, how should we do it?"

"You don’t want them to work this out on their own?"

"Do you want them to get together in the next millennium?"

"You have a point."

"I’m always right."

"Maybe we should talk about the Gilmore ego."

"We’re modest people, there’s no need for discussion."

"Mmm-hmm." Janlan thoughtfully cast a glance in Tristan’s direction. "The backyard is looking quite lovely tonight. Do you think if we got them out there things would happen?"

"Is it beyond romantic out there?"

"It is indeed. Christmas lights, candles and a slight breeze."

"I’ll work on Rory, you work on Tristan."

"Deal. Say, fifteen minutes."

Janlan simply walked away.

"Hmm…a man of no goodbyes. I like that."

***

"Ror-ry." Lorelai cornered Rory at the drink table where she was picking up another bottled water.

"Yes Mom."

"I want to see the horse."

Rory looked disbelievingly at her mother. "Right now?"

"Right now."

"You’re deathly afraid of them."

"Well, well, my horsey courage is feeling good right now, and if I don’t do it right this minute, the horsey courage will vanish, and then where will I be?? I mean, you don’t want me to be horrified when you choose a carriage ride as your wedding vehicle of choice, and then I won’t be able to ride in it, right?" Lorelai looked pleadingly at her daughter.

Rory rolled her eyes. "All right, let me go get my cloak."

"That is a very lovely cloak isn’t it?"

"I know, I need to send Mr. Dugrey a thank you card for it. I wasn’t expecting a Christmas gift at all."

***

"Tristan."

"Yes sir."

"I need to talk to you outside for a bit."

"Outside?"

"Outside."

"Couldn’t we talk upstairs?"

"I want to talk outside."

Tristan looked quizzically at his grandfather. "O – kay…"

***

The two couples met outside, greeting one another as they ran into one another on the way out.

"Well, look who’s here. Mr. Dugrey." Lorelai rocked back on her heels.

"Why Ms. Gilmore, it’s good to see you again."

"You just spoke to her five minutes ago." Tristan raised his eyebrows at his grandfather.

"It’s always polite to greet someone, I thought I taught you that." Janlan looked chidingly at his grandson.

"Mr. Dugrey, I have…a law question for you. Yes, that’s it, a question about law." Lorelai leaned towards the door back of the house.

"Oh, well, I’m always at your service."

"You guys are pathetic." Rory just shook her head in disgust.

"Tell me about it." Tristan crossed his arms.

"What?" Janlan and Lorelai simultaneously asked, then dissolved into slightly nervous laughter.

"I think we’re going inside, right?" Lorelai pointed towards the door.

"We may as well." Janlan took Lorelai’s arm and started back towards the manor. "I don’t ever want you lying on my behalf. You’re horrible at it."

"Me?!"

"You lied when you said you liked the ham rolls."

"But I did like the rolls."

"Uh-huh."

"They were very…hammy. Hamlike. Essence of ham."

***

Tristan and Rory watched the two of them go, turning towards one another when their family members finally disappeared into the house.

"They really are transparent, aren’t they?" Rory started to walk deeper into the gardens.

As she turned around, she gasped. The back yard was beautiful. Absolutely beautiful. Standing wrought iron candle holders in all shades had been placed down the main path, casting flickering lights on the rocks. Shadowy hues of red, green, purple and blue danced on the ground. The candles were scented with jasmine, floating a light fragrance into the night air. The trees were strung with traditional Christmas lights, causing the edges of the garden to glow slightly. And a slight breeze caused the trees and hedges to stir and whisper. The backyard looked like it was transplanted from a castle in Europe. It looked like something out of the books that Rory loved to read.

"It’s beautiful isn’t it?" Tristan quietly walked up to Rory’s side.

"Yes."

"Let’s walk down the path so you can enjoy it."

Rory fell into step with Tristan as he started to walk.

After a few moments of silence Tristan saw Rory look up at him from the corner of his eye, then heard her mumble something to the effect of: "No cryogenic chambers here."

"What?"

"Nothing."

"Here, let’s sit here for a bit." Tristan led Rory to a stone bench on the pathway, waiting for her to sit down, then sitting himself.

Maybe it was the atmosphere. Maybe it was the bench. Maybe it was the lights flickering against the night and the smell of jasmine in the air. Whatever it was, Rory ventured forth.

"Tristan?"

"Yeah?"

"Do you care?"

"About what?"

"About me."

Tristan looked at Rory suddenly, fearing that he had been caught. That she had figured out that he still had feelings for her. Speechless, he didn’t say anything.

"I thought so." Rory vaulted off of the bench and strode down the path.

Tristan watched the woman of his dreams get up and start to walk away.

"Rory, wait!"

She stopped several steps down the path.

"Of course I care."

She turned around.

"Stop being so cryptic."

"You were cryptic first."

"I’m entitled."

"And I’m not?"

"No, because I asked you first."

"Who went and made you Queen Mother?"

Rory just cocked her head and looked at him.

He looked back. Tristan almost closed his eyes at the picture Rory presented. A gustier breeze whipped around her, flapping the ends of her cloak and flinging back her hood. Her hair blew in the breeze, and one of her barrettes snapped open, causing her air to tangle even more in the wind. One of her hands flew up to her hair to try uselessly to keep it in place. She was like a figure out of a fantasy movie, elegantly beautiful, surrounded by candlelight and the light from the moon.

"Rory…" Tristan groaned. "How could you ever think that I don’t care?" He started to take deliberate steps forward. "Have you seen the way I look at you? Have you felt it when I’ve lightly touched you? Don’t you remember our kiss here in the garden?" Step. Step.

"But do you still care? That was one and a half months ago. At school you told me you didn’t want to talk about it. What was I supposed to think?"

"That I’m an idiot. An absolute idiot that cannot believe what you’re trying to tell me in your own special way." Tristan’s heart started to speed up. Step. Step.

"And what’s that?" Rory breathlessly looked up at Tristan as he finally came to a halt directly in front of her.

"This." Tristan suddenly reached out and grabbed her arms, pulling her forward. She stumbled and fell into him, placing her arms on his chest to stop her fall. Her cloak opened with her fall then closed again around them both when she came to a rest against Tristan’s chest. He let go of her arms and thrust his hands into her loose hair, pulling her head back in the process.

"You can’t just tell me Rory?" He leaned his face even closer to hers. She licked her lips, and her gaze dropped to his lips. She leaned slightly forward, but was prevented from going further by his hands in her hair.

"Tell you what?" She finally uttered.

"What do you want?" Tristan needed to hear it.

"What do I want?"

"Mmmhmm. What do you want?"

"I can’t form coherent sentences right now." Rory looked dazedly into Tristan’s eyes.

"You just did." Tristan suddenly smiled, teeth white against the night. "I love this affect I’m having on you. It’s very gratifying."

"Tristan…"

"Yes Rory?"

"I…" She trailed off.

"Yes? No cookie until you give me my answer. What do you want?" He looked into her eyes, and suddenly realized she was going to say it. He felt his senses sharpen as her mouth formed the word that made his heart go haywire.

"You."

His lips descended on hers, locking with hers. Their first kiss was long, deep and breathless. No bodies frantically moving, no groping. Just two people trying as hard as possible to communicate to the other person how much they moved them. After the first, they indulged in a second, and after the second, a third. Then their kisses gentled, and they slowly drew apart. Rory wrapped her arms around Tristan, fully surrounding them with her long cloak, and keeping them bathed in their warmth.

"I was hoping you would say that." Tristan ran a finger along Rory’s jawline.

"What would have happened if I had said a partridge in a pear tree?"

"I would have got you one."

"Really?"

"Really."

Tristan wrapped his arms around Rory. "I want to try and make you happy."

"Well, you can’t do that."

"What?" Tristan stiffened and leaned back slightly.

Rory laughed. "You moron. It’s because you’ve already made me happy."

"Oh. Well then." Tristan adopted a cocky stance. "My work here is done."

"I sure hope not. You’d leave behind a very devastated Princess Leia."

Tristan’s brow furrowed. "What’s with this Star Wars obsession?"

"Long story involving crying, weeping, and cryogenic chambers. You don’t want to know."

"I think you’ve got that right."

Tristan leaned down and kissed Rory gently. They drew slowly away from one another, hating to stop something so wonderful and new.

"I think I just got the best Christmas present ever." Tristan looked down at Rory. He couldn’t believe this was happening. But here he was, and here she was. This was something not to screw up, and he was going to try his hardest to keep it right.

"What?"

"You."

end

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