disclaimer in part 1

Examination
by Rebecca Carefoot
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Part 5


Rory sat on her bed and stared with determination at her history notes. She was almost done with the unit. She gave the notebook an angry glare and continued to read. Thoughts tried to crowd her mind, thoughts of Dean, thoughts of Tristan, but she pushed them away. Council of Vienna, she reminded herself. She was going to study, darn it. And she wasn't going to think about either of them.

The phone rang, and she marked her spot before grabbing it.

"Rory," Dean said.

"I'm not talking to you," she answered.

"Look, I'm sorry," he said. "I'm just calling to tell you that."

"Fine. Bye."

"Rory," he pleaded.

"What?" she snapped.

"I'm sorry I upset you," he said. "And I shouldn't have acted like you needed my protection. I know you can take care of yourself."

"Is that it? I'm kind of busy."

"And I guess I shouldn't have fought with Tristan."

"He was my guest. And he's my friend."

"Well, I'm sorry," Dean said. "But I'm not sorry that I don't like him."

"I didn't ask you to like him. There's a big difference between not liking him and physically attacking him."

"Hey, what about him attacking me?"

"Don't even start," she said. "I'm hanging up now."

"Wait," he said. "How long are you going to stay mad at me?"

"I'll let you know when I'm talking to you again." She hung up, then picked up the phone and shook it, throttling it with her hands. She slammed it down again, and looked over at her notes. Study, she reminded herself.

The phone rang. She tried to ignore it. It rang again, loud and insistent.

"Can you get that?" Lorelai called. "My hands are full."

Rory sighed, then reluctantly picked up the receiver.

"Hello?" Tristan said.

"I'm not talking to you," she snapped.

"I figured," he answered.

"And don't bother apologizing," she continued. "Because I don't want to hear it. I'm sitting here *trying* to get ready for finals, and I don't need to waste my time listening to excuses and rehashing the whole thing. So just don't."

"Actually, that's not why I called."

"Oh." Rory paused in surprise. "What?"

"I think I got some of your notes mixed in with mine. I have a couple pages of French and a big chunk of pre-calculus."

"Keep it." Rory said.

"But, your math final is Monday."

She sighed softly, and tried to calm down. "Is it stuff we've gone over?" she asked.

"I don't know. Some of it." He paused. "You must be really upset."

"What was your first clue?" Rory said sarcastically.

"You almost blew off a major school thing."

"So?" Rory said. "School isn't the only thing I do."

"I know that, but-"

"You don't even know me," she said. "How would you-"

"I do know you," Tristan interrupted, almost tripping over the words as he spoke them soft and quick. "Maybe not as well as I want to. But I know you. I know what bands you listen to, and what books you read. I know you want to travel. I know how you talk," the words came even faster now, "I know the way your face heats up when you get mad, I know that intense look you get when you're concentrating, like nothing outside you exists. I know your walk, and your smiles, and your frowns. I know your lips and your eyes and your fingers and your ears. I know you, Rory Gilmore. You can't tell me I don't."

Rory stared blankly at her dresser, her heart racing. Her face felt hot, flushed, and her hands were trembling. She had no idea what to say, what he was trying to say... "Tristan..." she started, her voice softer now, her anger gone.

"Forget it," he said, and hung up. She stared at the receiver, listening to the dial tone with her head cocked in puzzlement. Rory flopped down backward onto her bed and stared at the ceiling of her room, then flung her arm over her eyes. Behind closed lids she could see him sitting in the driver's seat of his car the night of the concert. Soaked to the skin. His hair was dark gold, half of it sticking up in wet spikes, half falling against his forehead. His jeans clung to his legs, tight with water. His eyes flashed bright blue as they passed under a streetlight. And he was telling her why he kept asking her out. "I like you, that's all." She shook her head against the crook of her arm. What had he meant by all of that on the phone? What did he expect her to do? What was she *going* to do? There's no point in studying now, she admitted to herself. I'll never be able to concentrate.

She thought of Dean. Their first kiss. A total surprise, sudden electrifying contact of lips on lips in Aisle Three. And she thought of her first, her only, kiss with Tristan. She'd seen it coming, seen him move toward her, and she hadn't pulled away. He had touched his lips to hers gently, pulling her lower lip into his mouth, snug against his teeth. But it had been a mistake. A stupid mistake. A burst into tears and run away kind of mistake. Because she didn't feel anything for him. So why was her breath caught in her throat at the memory? Why did she wish suddenly that she'd reached out that night at the concert and run her hands through the wet spikes of his hair? Why was she remembering the flash of his smile in the dark, and wanting...

"Rory!" Lorelai called. "Want to go to Luke's? I'm hungry."

She jerked upright, sitting on her bed, and turned her head toward the door. "Uh...yeah," she said. "Just a second." She ran for the bathroom and splashed her face with cold water, then stared at herself in the mirror, water streaming down her cheeks. What kind of person was she, that she would think about kissing another guy? She had a boyfriend. A boyfriend she cared about. A boyfriend she'd thought was lost. She turned away from the mirror and dried her face. Temporary insanity, she decided. It's the finals stress. I've been spending all this time with Tristan. That's got to be it.

"Let's ask Luke for extra grease on the burgers," she said, keeping her voice cheerful as she left the bathroom. "Just to make him mad."

"I like the way you think," Lorelai said with a grin. She grabbed her coat and the two of them headed out the door.

*

Rory went to bed early, after trying to study long enough to realize nothing was sticking. She lay in the dark and waited for sleep to rescue her from racing thoughts and the confused muddle inside her head. When she finally drifted off she dreamt of soft smiles and a tender hand against her back, drawing her close, a head tilted down to catch her lips with a kiss. She dreamt of her head cradled against a strong, muscular shoulder. She dreamt of being held and of laughter and of long fingers entwined with her own. She dreamt of safety and joy and a guy she was sharing it all with. And when she woke she couldn't remember who it was.

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