Spoilers: Season Finale, but you should have seen it already, if you haven’t, where have you been?
Rating: PG-13
Content: Swear Words Ahead
Pairing: Rory/Tristin with some Dean
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: This is my first fanfic, so I would HIGHLY appreciate feedback. It’s cheesy, but I loved writing it, and I hope y’all enjoy reading it.

What is Fair in Love and War?

by Kay

Sometimes life was fair.

Tristin sat on his bed, despondently staring at the crumpled tickets on his desk. He clenched his fists in frustration as he remembered how happy he had been to find out about the concert. One day in class he had noticed the PJ Harvey sticker on the back of Rory’s notebook. Only two short weeks later he had heard on the radio that PJ Harvey was in town. He had vacillated for two days before deciding on a whim to go downtown and buy the tickets. As he had been standing in line he had felt his hopes lift. This was something that she was sure to go to because it was so special – he was positive.

And then he showed up. No, that wasn’t fair. She didn’t want to go with Tristin to the concert to begin with. He winced as he remembered the words that were yelled back and forth between the two in front of him. Rory hated him? When had that happened? He thought…he thought that things were becoming right. Especially after he had confided in her.

God, had he been wrong. In a fit of fury he picked up the tickets and tore them in two, then crumpled them again in his fists.

When he saw Dean standing there, his stomach had sunk. It was a bad omen. Then when Rory strode forward, Tristin knew. Who the hell was he kidding?

He had been a jerk from the start. Taunting her, teasing her, trying to get under her skin like she had under his. The more she resisted, the more desperate he became. He couldn’t go days without saying something, anything, because the days in which he didn’t talk to her seemed somehow more…boring.

And so life was fair. Because the jerk never got the woman.

The smell of roses filled the room. He focused on the two bouquets that he had bought that morning in the hopes of giving them to Rory and her mother that night. Next to the roses was a brown box with a cream ribbon. A box that he had had for months, but couldn’t quite get himself to toss because hope sprang eternal. The box was sitting in the same exact spot it had been since that fateful night in December when he bought the gift.

He didn’t know why he did it to himself. Bought things for her ahead of time. Maybe it was to lift his hopes – something tangible that Rory couldn’t refuse. Clearly it was a waste of money as all of the stuff he had bought was still here…reminding him of his failure.

He was angry with her. Angry with her for not listening. Angry with her for not returning his feelings, feelings that made him feel helpless. He wouldn’t go so far as to say he was in love with her, but he knew he was…involved.

Why was it that when he finally found someone that finally made him feel worthwhile he couldn’t make the connection? His grandfather had hinted when he had told him about Rory that women needed to be wooed, but he hadn’t listened. So, he had rightfully lost the person he knew would have warmed the piece of him that so desperately needed it.

He looked around his room. He hated it here sometimes. Hated the coldness, hated his parents, hated Tristin Dugrey. But he knew that he was stuck with what life had decided to give him. He knew he should be happy for his wealth, his stature, his opportunities.

But why did he feel so fucking cold? So fucking cold…

In a fit of anger and pique he lifted his blazer clad arm and struck out at the objects on the desk. Sweeping them off the end of the desk and onto the hardwood floor along with pencils, books, and cups. After their loud crash he heard his own harsh breathing raggedly in the quiet room.

And then Tristin Dugrey did something that he never thought he would do over a woman.

He cried.

*

For the following months Tristin avoided Rory, knowing that she would not miss his presence. As time passed, she took up less and less of his thoughts, though at times, he would catch himself staring at her in class. He dated less than before, recognizing now what was missing in his previous relationships. Chilton girls were very…shallow.

He didn’t fall in love throughout his remaining two years at Chilton.

The cold feeling never lifted.

*

As graduation neared Tristin finally ventured to say something to Rory in the halls of school.

"Hey."

"Hey yourself." She looked up at him with a perplexed smile.

"So…graduation huh?"

"Yup, parents acting like idiots as they watch a three hour long ceremony to bad music and the same boring speeches. I just hope my mom doesn’t bring the bullhorn like she did to my middle school graduation. She accidentally pressed the horn during my principal’s opening speech that year, and he jumped so hard the podium fell over and all the speech papers went everywhere. I think my mom is forever banned from that auditorium." She rolled her eyes as she put books back into her locker.

"So…did you meet your eternal goal?"

"Huh? Give me a minute, I think my locker is experiencing pangs at losing me in a few short days and is refusing to…give…me…my…history book!" She finally wrenched the book from her locker, managing to pull back and smack her elbow on the locker door. "Ow! Hey I didn’t deserve that!" She blinked back tears as she cradled her elbow awkwardly with her opposite hand.

"Hey, are you ok?" Tristin reached forward and palmed her elbow with his left hand, covering Rory’s left hand with his own.

"Yeah, fine. Just trying to get over Vindicator the Locker giving me a parting love tap." She shook her head and pulled her elbow and hand from his light grip uncomfortably. She looked up at him confusedly, her eyebrows furrowing as she tried to figure out why exactly he had chosen to come talk to her at this particular moment in time.

As Tristin felt her move her arm, and saw tears blinked away, he flashed back to another time when she had cried in front of him. His gaze dropped to her lips as he remembered the kiss that they had shared. The kiss that had kept him awake for hours, as he thought it had been something he had done to make her cry. The memories were not as painful as they once had been.

He smiled. "Well, Vindicator the Locker will have to deal with you leaving because you’re going to Harvard right?"

"Ah, that eternal goal. For a minute I thought you were talking about my goal to own all of the great books in history, which clearly is not attainable, though intriguing because the house needed to own all of those books would be rather large, and wouldn’t be able to hold all of them, so I suppose I would need several houses, and now I’m heading into scary babbling territory, aren’t I? Well, um, yes, I did get into Harvard, I’m starting this fall." She shyly tucked an errant strand of hair behind her ear as she clutched her history book in excitement.

"Well, well. I’ll see you there."

"You got in too?"

"Well, the Dugrey’s have several plaques in existence in several buildings on campus there, so naturally, yes." Tristin paused. "And somehow that came out sounding a lot more cocky than I wanted it to sound. So, let me rewind. Yes, Rory, I got in there too. Do you know what you’re going to major in?"

"Nope, I have a vague idea about pre-med, but me and Biology aren’t really friends, and that’s a problem. Then I have this vague idea about English, but what would I really do with that type of degree? Then I get other vague ideas, and they multiply and breed, and I’m back at square one." Rory waved her hands in the air as she spoke, illustrating her frustration with her career dilemmas.

Tristin smiled at her verbal antics, and unfolded himself from his perpetual slouch against the locker. "I think I’m going to major in business." He staggered and put his hand to his heart. "Big surprise there."

"Um…I’d love to stay and chat, but I’ve got to go catch my bus… So…" Rory uncomfortably shifted from foot to foot as she looked up at Tristin.

Tristin nodded. "Don’t want to keep you. Uh, I guess I’ll see you Friday night then?"

"At the ceremony, yup." Rory started to backpeddle as she lifted her backpack to her shoulder. "Bye."

"Bye." Tristin lifted his hand in a halfhearted wave as she departed. Not a complete truce, but something. At least she wouldn’t leave this school thinking he was a total asshole. And that made his day just a little brighter. He smiled, and started to make his way to his car.

*

Rory sat and watched the buildings pass on the ride home.

What the heck had gotten into Tristin? She literally hadn’t heard from him in months, when suddenly today, conversation. And not only conversation, but non-confrontational conversation. Had something happened?

Rory shrugged. She had given up on figuring out Tristin months ago. She smiled as she thought about Harvard and all that it would bring. She was looking forward to the classes, the campus, the people, the knowledge, everything! The whole experience was going to be one of a kind, she knew it. The only thing she was sad about was her mom. She didn’t know what life was going to be like without her mom being there for breakfast and dinner and all the times in between. But she figured that now that her mom was creating a second life with Luke that she could keep herself entertained. She had caught the two of them in a clinch last night, and after Luke had knocked over the tool box from shock and surprise, stubbing his own toe in the process, she thought that they would never even hold hands in front of her. She laughed out loud – Luke, shy in front of her! She never thought that it could happen.

As the bus neared her destination Rory realized that there was one more sad blip on her radar screen. Dean. He had been accepted into Stanford, and although it was a wonderful opportunity for him, it was clear across the country. They hadn’t had a discussion about it yet, but things were tense as they both realized the other was avoiding speaking about it, procrastinating until the last possible minute. She sighed…she didn’t know if she wanted to have a long distance relationship. Wait. Yes she did. Ok, rephrase the question. She didn’t know if it was fair to have a long distance relationship at their age with all the trials that she knew were going to happen during college. Studying, new friends, balancing schoolwork with life. It was going to be tough, so keeping in touch with your girlfriend miles across the country was neigh impossible. But how was she going to get through the day without Dean making her laugh, stroking her hair or giving her one of those irresistible kisses?

As the bus shuddered to a stop she saw Dean’s visage through her window. She smiled and waved, and he returned her greeting. As she stepped off the bus she thought, we’ll work it out, we always do.

*

"Dean?" Rory lifted her head off his warm chest and looked him in the eyes.

"Mmm-hmm?"

"We need to talk."

"About what?" Rory felt his body tense beneath hers, and his eyes shied away from her own.

"You know what about. School." Rory reached up and sifted his wonderful brown hair through her fingers.

Dean sighed and slowly raised himself up to a sitting position, dragging Rory into his lap in the process. "Ok."

"Well, we’re going to be far apart physically." Rory said, and then squeaked in surprise as Dean’s arms suddenly tightened around her body.

"I know."

"I…I don’t want to break up you know? I love you, and you’re beautiful and so good for me, and I can’t think about days without you…but…" Rory looked at the grass and then back up at Dean, trying to show him her confusion in her eyes.

"But, it’ll be hard."

"Yeah."

"Yeah."

Rory sighed and tried to continue. "I just don’t know if it will be fair to the two of us, staying together, when we will have so much going on. Don’t get me wrong, I want to, I so want to. But I just don’t know – I would rather have this, than have everything go wrong in a few short months. Do you understand?" Mortified, she felt her eyes start to fill with tears.

Dean brushed her cheeks with his fingertips as he looked down at her. "How can you be so mature?" He said. "I do know what you mean. I’d rather have us part happy, then have our relationship fall apart and us not be able to speak to one another because we’re so far apart."

Rory blinked back tears as she looked up at the face that she had come to love dearly. "You are such a good boyfriend, you know that?"

"I know." He paused. "But promise me something, all right?"

"What?"

"In four years when we meet up again in the same city, ‘cause we all know that’s what’s going to happen, if we still have this…then we try again, pick up where we left off…" He trailed off hopefully.

"Dean." Rory sat up suddenly and poked her boyfriend roughly in the chest. "If you think you are going to get away with not talking to me for four years, or not seeing me over summer vacation, you have another thing coming. Got that?" The end of the tirade resulted in another finger poke, causing Dean to wince slightly.

"Got it!" He took her finger gently, pushing it to the side. "Are you sure you don’t want to apply to Westminster? I think they have great places for women who are bossy and wound their boyfriends." His sad smile at the end of the sentence gave the sentence a bit of levity that the two sorely needed.

"And Dean?"

"Yeah?"

"I won’t forget this, or you, so in four years, you bet your bippies that I will be knocking on your door."

"Rory?"

"Yeah?"

"What the heck is a bippie anyway?"

"A bippie. It’s a thing with bippieness. It comes from Bippie world along with all the other bippies, like yours."

"You’re odd, you know that?"

"Thanks."

"You’re welcome."

As Dean leaned over to kiss her Rory realized she had just replayed a conversation from long ago with another young man. As Dean proceeded to kiss her senseless, she fleetingly wondered if that was a sign for the future. But after a few seconds, she stopped wondering at all, giving her attention to the boy that had created a bubble of happiness for her over the last two years.

*

"Rory!"

"What?"

"Let’s go!" Lorelai swung her purse to her shoulder, nearly taking out Luke as he got up from tying the laces of his black shoes.

"I know, I’m just making sure my hair’s right!"

"Sweetie, your hair’s the same as when you checked it five minutes ago, then 1 minute ago, and now in the ten seconds that you’ve been staring at it in the mirror. Unless you think that it’s suddenly going to run off to Bora Bora without you, we need to get a move on so that I can actually witness your graduation as opposed to telling all the other happy moms lies because I missed it." Lorelai walked to the railing and pounded on it in emphasis.

"Lorelai, don’t terrorize the poor girl, she’ll be down when she’s ready." Emily Gilmore calmly sat waiting with camera prepared on the living room couch.

"Yes Lorelai, be patient." Richard Gilmore spoke behind a copy of the NY Times.

"Yeah, this coming from the grandparents who bought 10 rolls of film for today. 10 rolls?! What are you going to do – wallpaper one of your walls with pictures?" Lorelai exasperatedly flung her purse forward to make her point.

"Honey."

"Yes Luke."

"Now that you have nearly decapitated me twice with that death instrument, I recommend that you turn your attention to the stairs as your lovely daughter has decided to grace us with her presence."

All eyes turned towards the stairs as Rory walked down. As she proudly descended the final steps, all Gilmore’s reflected on life’s trials and tribulations that had brought them to today, and looked at the lovely young girl that had made those obstacles and spectacles worthwhile.

It was a wonderful day in the Gilmore household.

And every one of the 10 rolls was used.

*

Graduation was a bit of a boring day for Tristin. Standing in the reception line he greeted the people his parents had invited for his graduation party.

He couldn’t wait to get out of this hellhole. College was a new starting place for him. A place to discover the real Tristin Dugrey. And he knew a place that would give him some difficulty because he wouldn’t be the most popular guy anymore.

He was actually looking forward to it. Away from the pressure, away from the cold. Maybe this time he would actually figure out what he wanted to do in life as opposed to doing what everyone else expected him to.

Dr. Johnson started as he was suddenly gifted with a stellar smile from the host of honor. He shook Tristin’s hand and moved on, wondering what caused the young man to smile so.

I’m getting away from the fucking cold…

*

The first few years of school were fantastic for both Rory and Tristin.

Rory came to the stunning realization that she did indeed want to become a doctor, regardless of her slight difficulty with Biology. She figured that she had time to master the subject, and as the years rolled by, she learned to love the intricacies it provided.

She was in her element. The other students here respected her, she studied well, and she was at the top of her class. Superficial students still existed, but she merely avoided them. After her first year she had found a group of friends that supported, loved, and enjoyed her.

She and Dean had kept in touch, and they were planning a visit during Christmas vacation. After their first year, both had started to date other people. Dean had a steady girlfriend named Miranda. Rory had dated, but found that she didn’t have the time, or the patience, for a serious relationship.

As her senior year began, life, though stressful, was progressing at a wonderful pace. Though she barely had any time to breathe, and a few times found herself sleeping at the breakfast table, she didn’t regret a second. She decided to indulge, and take one last fun class in her last year at Harvard.

Tristin had a similar experience. After the initial culture shock of going to such a large school, he started to simply meet people. And meet people. He enjoyed talking with them, hanging out with them, and doing whatever he wanted away from home. He started to open up, talk more about his own opinions, and learn about subjects that he never knew existed.

Heaven forbid, he was becoming well-rounded.

He even dated for one year, ironically, a girl named Mary. She was blond, blue-eyed, and one year older than him. After meeting her in his Economics class, she blew him away. Fun, energetic, rambunctious and wild, she loosened him up in ways that he couldn’t describe. One night she simply decided that the two of them were going on a treasure hunt within Boston. They had a test the next day, but Mary had decided that she was simply not in the mood to study. Tristin didn’t regret a single second of that night. It was something he would never forget, especially the very end of it, standing in Harvard Square as Mary kissed him, holding the flowers that he had bought her as part of the hunt. The look in her eyes that evening as she leaned back from him warmed him to his core.

But…one year later, Mary moved on. He knew it was bound to happen. She bored easily with long term things, and he was one of them. She needed something new, she was young, bright, and as her life moved on, so did she. They had never said I love you to one another, because both of them had provided the other with something they had needed. And though it might or might not have been love, it was something that neither student would forget.

Tristin headed into is senior year as an economics student looking forward to recruiting in the falls for jobs. Based on his internship, he knew he wanted to do public policy, and the competition was fierce. But he also wanted to have fun in his last semester. He decided to indulge, and take one last fun class in his last year.

*

Tristin walked into the Psychology 150 lecture hall with his backpack negligently thrown across his shoulder. Choosing a row in the middle, he sat down and lifted up the table for writing from the right side of his seat. As he leaned over to open his bag and take out his notebook, he saw the shoes of someone who was about to sit to his left.

He looked up, and met a pair of startled bright eyes.

*

Rory walked into the lecture hall, waving goodbye to her friends as they headed off to their next class. She knew that this class was going to be a challenge as she didn’t know anyone else in it, but hey, it couldn’t be that bad right? At least, that’s what her mother said after extolling about the virtues of being able to pick apart people minds in Star Hollows when she got back.

She rolled her eyes. She didn’t really want to know what Mrs. Patty was thinking. It probably would make her blush.

As she sat down she noticed that the guy to her right was taking something out of his backpack. Something about him struck her as familiar, but she couldn’t put her finger on what.

Then the blond hair hit her.

*

"Rory!"

"Tristin!"

Tristin felt his jaw open in shock as he stared at the girl in front of him. She looked…beautiful. Her hair pulled back into her quintessential ponytail, she quirked her head to the side and smiled as he realized that he was taking an inordinately long time to say something.

"Uh…"

"So, you’ve spent three years here, and upon our meeting you say ‘uh’? What have they been teaching you at this school?" Rory tapped her pen on her chin as she laughed at the perplexed young man.

"Well, I’m actually auditing this class. See, I dropped out two years ago to become a member of the CIA, and now I’ve decided to take this class to try to understand the true workings of the criminal mind."

Rory blinked. "You are kidding me right?"

Tristin laughed. "Yeah."

"Just checking."

"No, seriously, how have you been?" Rory leaned forward, searching the face of the boy who had since become a man somewhere in these past few years.

"Pretty good actually. I’m majoring in Econ, in the hopes of someday working in the White House." Tristin mocked a salute, and then leered playfully.

Rory laughed. "Well then, we need to make sure you’re properly greased up before you go work there. Have you managed to scam someone yet? You know, take their money, dupe them into fake pills, sleep with an intern, or more than one of the above?"

Tristin blew on his nails, and then nonchalantly said, "Even better. You know the gazebo out on the lawn by the dorms?"

"Yeah."

"I teepeed it last week with some buddies."

Rory dropped her forehead into her right hand. "The future of our country resides in capable hands."

Tristin playfully tapped her hand. "And don’t you forget it. What are you doing these days?"

"Pre-med."

"Seriously?" Rory nodded.

Tristin shook his head back and forth. "Whoa – you’ve got a death wish all right."

Rory grimaced. "Really, it’s not that bad. Only once this week did I wake up with Frosted Flakes stuck to my forehead because I feel asleep in my cereal. Usually it’s a two time a week occurrence. I also manage to get lovely book creases on my forehead and cheeks from falling asleep on my library books. It’s hard to explain to your friends without them laughing why exactly your face looks like a butt due to the deep crease running down the middle."

"And you chose this profession why?"

"Because I love it. I love helping people, and want to continue to do so."

"You know, I get what you’re saying." Tristin looked absently towards the front of the room. "The reason I want to do public policy is because I feel like I can contribute towards the nation, you know? Do something worthwhile with lasting value. Well, hopefully. I may end up the butt of all late night show jokes like some of our other politicians, but at least I’d like to try. And I’ve enjoyed watching my parents have strokes because I decided I didn’t want to go to law school. You know, I didn’t know people could turn so many shades of purple."

Rory laughed again, then looked at Tristin consideringly. "You’ve changed, you know that?"

Tristin looked at Rory, and felt a rush of electricity run through him. This. This bantering was something that he missed. "What? Come on Mary, you know better than that." He ended his statement with a wink.

Rory’s smile vanished, and for an instant, Tristin panicked. Maybe he had said the wrong thing, maybe he shouldn’t have made light of the conversation.

"You know, with the amount of times you have called me that, maybe I should seriously consider changing my name. I should also get a nativity scene for my front porch, so that whenever I’m confused about my identity, I can look in the manger and realize all that I have created." She then laughed hit him on the shoulder. "You nimrod!"

Tristin felt his worry bleed away as he watched her laugh.

"Ok, nimrod? Who says that anymore? What decade are you from?"

"My mom says it!"

"Ok, now there’s an authority on everything hip and happening – she bought stuff off of QVC!"

"Hey, I’ll have you know that there are many items on late night television that are wonderful consumer goods."

"Name one."

"Uh…a toilet paper dispenser?"

*

As the semester wore on, to the surprise of each of them, Tristin and Rory slowly became friends. They studied for class together, and sometimes just went out after or before study sessions. They bowled, played miniature golf (Rory beating Tristin so bad he pleaded for mercy), and had dinner. After two months, they started to talk about themselves, life and future plans. The topic of relationships, past or present, hadn’t quite come up yet.

"So, what kind of doctor do you want to be?" Tristin spoke from the futon, psyc book straddled across his belly as he tossed a stress ball towards the ceiling.

"Guess." Rory said from the floor. "You have three guesses. If you don’t make it in those chances, you’ll have to write the entire ten pages of our report by yourself."

"Ooo-hoo, someone’s laying down a challenge." Tristin tossed the ball at Rory, watching as it harmlessly bounced off the side of her head and rolled a few feet away.

"Hey! I’m trying to study Freud here!"

"Sorrrrryyyy. Far be it from me to take you away from your precious study of egomania." Tristin leaned over and looked at the page Rory was highlighting. "Ok, why don’t you highlight the parts that you don’t need?"

Rory looked up at Tristin questioningly.

Tristin laughed. "Look at the pages. They’re practically wet from the amount of highlighting you do."

Rory looked back at her book sheepishly. "I’m just prepared, you know, in case they ask me about page 187 line 17." She picked up the ball and threw it back in his direction.

"Fine, you want to fight do you???" Tristin picked up the couch pillow and loomed menacingly over Rory’s body.

Rory just gave him a sardonic look. "Yeah. I don’t believe you’re really going to do it."

That made Tristin pause. "Why?"

"Because you don’t have a death wish." Rory calmly flipped over another page and rested her chin on her upturned hand.

-Thwak!-

The pillow came down with force, and the next thing both students knew, they were looking at a Psyc 150 textbook with a nice fat blue highlight running diagonally across the page.

Tristin groaned. "I’m so sorry. I know you like to be neat-"

Rory giggled.

Tristin stopped. "What?"

"Oh, you goober." Rory picked up the other couch pillow and advanced menacingly on Tristin.

In the next few minutes pillows flew, and the raucous sounds of laughter were heard.

As Tristin flipped his pillow around for another wailing, he caught sight of laughing eyes. A surge of electricity went through him, and he came to a halt. Rory’s pillow caught him square on the upswing, and his head snapped back as the pillow caught him full in the face.

"Had enough?" Rory peeked from behind the pillow, shielding her torso with the large deformed lump.

"I…think so." Tristin slowly tossed the pillow back onto the couch.

"You ok?" Rory looked quizzically at him as she placed her pillow beneath her stomach, and proceeded to lie back down on the floor.

"Yeah, fine, really." Tristin smiled reassuringly at Rory, then turned back to the book. "Just plotting my revenge over here in this corner."

"Uh-huh. When you come up with something that doesn’t include torture devices, let me know." Rory went back to reading her textbook, brow furrowing as she started to concentrate once again.

Tristin studied her face as she read. She was truly beautiful. That baby face had elongated slightly with the end of puberty, and the eyes remained bright in that face. She had matured into an elegant woman that had no need for makeup or glamour. With a sinking feeling he identified the electric surge that had traveled through him earlier.

He shook his head with chagrin.

He was falling for Rory Gilmore. Again.

*

The semester ended, and with it, Psyc 150. Both students did pretty well. Rory pulling an A-, and Tristin doing even better with an A.

"How did you get a better grade than me?"

"Natural ability I think."

"Yeah right, I think you’re demented."

"Me, come on, I’m a regular genius."

"Oh really? Name one thing you’re invented."

"Uh, the Tristin Dugrey cereal toss."

"Oh really, I’ve got to see this."

"See, you throw a cereal flake in the air, and then you catch it on your forehead." Tristin proceeded to demonstrate.

Rory fake fluttered a fan in front of her face. "Be still my beating heart. How can I resist such intelligence, such genius, such magnificence?" She spoke the last words as she fake swooned.

Tristin wanted to catch her in his arms and pull her close to demonstrate exactly what he thought about her statement, but fear held him back.

So instead, he just laughed and continued to fuss with his breakfast.

"You want to see the new movie opening this weekend?" Tristin asked.

"Sure, just let me know when."

*

Tristin waited for Rory in her living room. And only a few short seconds later she walked out of her bedroom. Tristin felt his heart flutter and skip a beat as he looked at her. She was wearing a simply cut black dress with a small diamond pendant necklace. Her hair was swept back, and her heels gave her just the right amount of added height. She looked like the Rory Gilmore he knew. Simple, elegant, and downright beautiful. God, he wanted to stay in her apartment and just stare at her all evening. A flash of desire traveled down his spine as he picked up her hand to draw her closer.

He cleared his throat. "You look great." He said quietly.

Meanwhile, Rory took in Tristin’s appearance. He was wearing black slacks, and a cream sweater. His eyes were set off nicely against the sweater, and as she looked at him he returned her gaze intently, almost…asking for something. She locked eyes with him in part wonder as she felt a shiver run through her body. He was…very handsome tonight. Very handsome indeed. And then Rory smiled as she couldn’t believe where her thoughts were heading. If she had told her 16 year old self that she would be standing here today, holding hands with Tristin Dugrey, her 16 year old self would have laughed in her face and asked if she had been sniffing her mom’s markers again.

"Someone hit you with a handsome stick, as my mom would say." She smiled up at Tristin.

"Thank you." Again Rory felt surprise as Tristin’s gaze didn’t leave her own. In his eyes she thought she saw something close to…desperation, and something more intent, something she couldn’t quite place her finger on.

As she slowly dragged her fingers out of his hand, she realized that she felt attracted to the young man. He was different than he was six years ago. Less cocky, and more sweet, romantic, smart and funny. A guy like that deserved a wonderful woman.

She picked up her purse and gestured with it towards the door. "Shall we go?"

Tristin finally tore his gaze from Rory and smiled. "Do you think we’re overdressed for Mike’s party?"

Rory looked at Tristin in disbelief. "Tristin, this is Harvard, not Podunk University. You know people love every excuse to dress up. Besides, Mike himself isn’t exactly a "casual" dresser, if you know what I mean."

"Ok." Tristin opened the door, and the two walked out. As Rory walked by she brushed Tristin’s arm, and it was all he could do not to blurt out that he wanted to stay here this evening and just kiss her silly. Inwardly, he sighed. He couldn’t believe he was infatuated with this young woman again. She had his ticket, punched it, and had come back a second time. What was it about Rory Gilmore that he found so fascinating? He gave her a sidelong glance as they started walking towards their friend’s home.

*

The party was fun. A multitude of medical students, Tristin was there through his affiliation with Rory. He had become friends with several of her friends through mutual parties and the like. So, even though it was slightly awkward because of his different major, it wasn’t a completely strange evening.

As he held his beer and spoke with a fellow student about recruiting, Tristin glanced at the dance floor. All conversation on his part ceased.

Rory was dancing. With another guy. With a handsome another guy. With a guy that clearly wanted to make some moves on her. Tristin’s hand clamped on his beer bottle as he watched the two dance tightly around one another to the latest dance mix. He wanted to take the guy’s slimly little mitts and force-feed them through his nose.

"Tristin. Earth to Tristin!" Mike stared at his friend, wondering why his expression had suddenly tightened. As a muscle in Tristin’s jaw started to tick, he followed the blond man’s gaze. Ah. Looked like the green-eyed monster had reared its ugly head, and then some. He decided to test the waters.

"So, they look cute together don’t they?"

"What?" Tristin’s gaze flew back to Mike’s and his eyes narrowed at his friend. "Give me a break. That guy’s trying to get her into bed and that’s it." He took a swig of his beer, and turned his gaze back to the dance floor.

"So, I take it you and Gilmore have some history together then?" Mike took another foray into dangerous territory.

Tristin gave a humorless chuckle. "You can say that there’s history on my part, but not on hers. I wanted her bad in high school. Real bad." Another swig.

Mike raised his eyebrows. "You speak in past tense man, but if your grip gets any tighter on that bottle, you’ll be sporting quite a few bandaids tomorrow."

Tristin looked at his hand with the white knuckles. "This can’t be happening to me. I should know better."

Mike sighed. "Man, if you want her, say something."

Tristin gave a tight smile. "I already have Mike. Trust me. I already have." He thought back to that fateful sophomore year of high school and his futile efforts to make Rory notice him.

Mike shrugged. "It’s your loss."

"I know."

*

Rory looked around the room for Tristin, and then went outside to the balcony. She found him staring out over the grass, in a melancholy mood.

"Ok, so who went and killed your gusto." Rory walked over to stand next to him.

"What?"

"You’re standing over here looking like someone backed up over your pet cat, and then rolled over it again for good measure. What’s wrong?"

Tristin turned towards Rory’s concerned face. In the moonlight her eyes shone, and the slight light gave her face almost an ethereal quality. She looked like an angel. Tristin felt his heart thump painfully in his chest. He wanted her, and wanted her bad. He wanted to feel her body against his in bed. He wanted to wake up and kiss her in the morning. He wanted to talk to her about his day and touch her face. He wanted to feel her kisses along his back. He wanted to taste her, touch her, love her.

Rory watched Tristin’s face as expressions crossed it. He was standing in a slight shadow, so she couldn’t read his face entirely, but she knew something was bothering him.

Tristin let the silence carry on as he watched Rory. He was in trouble. No, he was beyond trouble. What he had felt in high school was infatuation. What he felt now… He was in love with Rory Gilmore. Mindblowingly, heartbreakingly in love with Rory Gilmore.

He raised his fingertips and brushed her cheek with them. "Just thinking about what life will bring after college."

Rory smiled. "You know, it looks like we’re going to end up in the same place."

Tristin quizzically tilted his head. "What do you mean?"

"You applied for the graduate program here, right?" Rory leaned forward and played with Tristin’s sweater collar. "Well, guess what, I did too. Knowing our backgrounds, I think we won’t have problems getting in."

Tristin tried to quell the need to wrap his arms around Rory, then threw caution to the wind. As soon as he did it he felt like his entire body sighed in relief. She felt so good.

Rory was surprised when Tristin suddenly gathered her close, but went with the flow. Leaning against him she came to the stunning realization that she liked it there. She felt warm and loved… She snuggled her face against Tristin’s chest.

"Rory."

Rory looked up at Tristin, surprised to hear the hoarseness in his voice. As her eyes caught his, her own widened. His expression… He looked…haunted. But then his expression slightly changed as she continued to stare. Warmth filled his eyes, and one of his hands came around to roughly cup the back of her head. As he tilted her head back, her mouth opened slightly.

Then suddenly, convulsively, Tristin drew her against him. Molding her body against his. And then he kissed her. Roughly, passionately. Stunned, Rory could only sit motionless for the first few seconds. Then, she responded. Her hands came up and twined in his hair, and Tristin took this as further encouragement. Bending her back over his arm, he opened her mouth even further.

She tasted so good. Tristin thought. So damn good. He slowly withdrew from the kiss, lips clinging with hers as he pulled back. His breathing and hers grated the night air. This time, when he came back for more, the kiss was gentle, slow.

"I surprised you." Tristin leaned his forehead against Rory’s.

"You did. Luckily I didn’t feel the need to practice any Kung Fu moves on you." Rory leaned back and planted a kiss on Tristin’s nose.

She abruptly laughed. "I can’t believe this is happening."

Tristin tensed. "Why?"

"Because, in high school you were the bane of my existence. You have to admit that you were a holy terror." Rory lightly touched Tristin’s face to show him that she was teasing.

Tristin’s tenseness didn’t ease. "Let’s not talk about that, ok? I don’t like to remember it."

Rory frowned. "Oh my God. I hurt you badly, didn’t I?" Her mind flew back to high school and the times spent with Tristin during sophomore year. "I’m sorry."

Tristin felt a burden lift off of him as he watched Rory squirm with unease. She truly felt bad for him. She truly cared. And he suddenly felt warmth seeping into places that he didn’t think existed.

The cold was finally lifting…

He laughed. A full-fledged honest to God bone ratting laugh. "Rory. That’s the past, and I have you here right now." He brushed his nose against hers. "We go back home for Christmas vacation tomorrow. How about we get together while we’re back home. It’s not like we live far apart." He held his breath as he waited for her answer.

"Mr. Dugrey, you have yourself a deal. Now, can we head back inside? Though you are wonderfully warm, you can’t cover my entire backside, and my butt is sending me signals that unless I would like to go through life without it, we need to get back in so it can thaw."

Tristin took off his jacket and put it around Rory’s shoulders. "You know, I could do something about that." He took her hand as they walked back inside.

"As much as I want you to, I don’t think putting on a show for the partygoers is on my list of Top 10 things to do while at Harvard."

"No? Well, I’ll just have to work hard to make sure that it gets up there then."

*

As Rory packed her things that night she remembered the kiss at the door. Tristin had dropped her off, and instead of pressing matters, merely kissed her lightly, then walked away. She smiled and lightly touched her lips. It was perfect. She didn’t want to rush this, because it felt…special. She hadn’t felt this giddy since…Dean.

Oh my God. Dean. Halfway into putting a sweater into her suitcase Rory came to a halt. He was going to be visiting. Over Christmas vacation. Crap. There was no way in hell the two men in her life were going to like the other being in it. Rory sat on her bed. She didn’t know how she felt about it either. Although Dean and her had broken it off upon going to college, he would always have a place in her heart. And now Tristin…she knew she was falling for him. But the question was, how much?

She listlessly stared at her bedroom wall.

She needed her mother.

*

"Hi Mom."

"Hi sweetie. So, have you figured out the mysteries of the human body yet? ‘Cause Luke has this weird callous thingy on the bottom of his foot that we haven’t quite figured out yet, and we’re wondering if it’s going to grow and spawn and branch out into other areas."

"Have you been eating peanut butter and pickles again?"

Lorelai sighed. "If this baby doesn’t pop out soon I swear to God I’m going to take out Doose’s Market. That would serve Taylor right. You know, I went there last week, and the man didn’t have Ben & Jerry’s ice cream. Said he had run out. Hah! I know he has it stashed in the back where I can’t find it. He’s hoping to save some for the other townspeople, but Lorelai Gilmore will win out! I must have Chunky Monkey dammit, and no one is telling me anything else! What kind of statement is that? ‘I’ve run out.’" A snort was heard over the line.

"Anyhow, I’ll talk to you soon honey."

"Mom!" Rory stared disbelievingly at the phone as the dial tone registered in her ear.

After about 5 seconds the phone rang again.

"Hello?"

"It just occurred to me that I never did let you get a word in edgewise." Lorelai’s chagrined voice made Rory feel better.

"You’re going through coffee withdrawal, aren’t you Mom?" Rory laughed at the sound of desperation that was in her Mom’s exasperated cry on the other end of the line.

"Don’t you dare utter that word to me! Heresy!"

"I have an issue Mom."

"Shoot."

"Well, things are…interesting here." Rory played with a strand of her hair as she spoke. "You know how I told you a few weeks ago that Tristin and I are now good friends?"

"Uh-huh. And then I told you that the world would officially come to an end next Friday."

"Well, the apocalypse may still be coming."

Silence. Then, "Rory, what happened?"

"Well, he kissed me."

"Oh my God that little bugger! He can’t let bygones be bygones can he? He just keeps right on ticking. Is he related to the Energizer bunny? Cause this boy’s got a bad case of –"

"And I kissed him back."

Silence.

More silence.

"Mom?"

"Yeah, I’m here. I’m just pondering whether I should write my will before next Friday."

Rory laughed. "It felt so good Mom. This time, it’s right. He’s changed, really he has."

"If you say so. I’ve got to see it for myself. He is going to come meet me right?"

"Yup, over Christmas vacation since we’ll be in town together. But that’s where my problems arise." Rory started to pace in her living room, walking back and forth in front of her TV.

"How so? He doesn’t expect to sleep with you in the same room does he? ‘Cause I still think I can fit Grandma’s coat rack into your bed to keep you two separated." Lorelai’s vehement voice caused Rory to smile.

"Nooooo… See the problem is Mom," Rory rubbed her forehead in frustration. "The problem is…is that Dean is going to be back in town at the same time."

Lorelai gasped. "Oh. My. God. Two lovers and no place to go. Honey, this is like the movies. I think I’m just going to sit out in the living room, get some popcorn, and watch all of you go. Do you mind if I set out some folding chairs? ‘Cause I know Sookie will want to be there, and Lane, and Luke of course-"

"Mom!"

"Sorry, sorry. Hon’, do you know what you want?"

"I think so. I think I want to try it out with Tristin, see where it leads me. But I’m afraid that I’ll take a look at Dean, and things will change. And that will break Tristin, I know it. He and I don’t have the best history when it comes to these matters." Rory flashed back to high school and the fateful night of the prom.

"Well then, that’s what we’ll do. Invite him over for dinner on the night after you guys get back. Honey, you don’t have to make any decision until you see Dean again. You realize that right? I know it’s hard, I know it’s tough, but this is your heart we’re talking about, not some game show. I know the boys will be hurt, but in love, sometimes hurt happens. Sometimes you have to take a chance for things to work out." In Lorelai’s voice was a wistfulness that Rory could place. Taking a chance summarized her mother’s relationship with Luke. That fateful night of confessions had been…interesting.

Rory sighed. "Ok. In preparation for the boys meeting on the off chance, can you have Luke build some war bunkers in our house?"

"No problem. He just needs an excuse. Me and my coffee deprived pregnant self haven’t been the best to hang out with if you know what I mean."

"Mom, one last thing. Should I tell them? You know, about one another?"

Lorelai blew a blast of air through her teeth. "I don’t know Rory. You know them better than I."

"Thanks Mom."

"You’re welcome. As it’s late, I should be going to bed or Major Luke will be after me."

"I’ll see you tomorrow. Tristin’s giving me a ride home."

*

On the way home Rory tried to muster up the courage to tell Tristin about Dean’s visit, but she just couldn’t do it. The whole way home they chatted about life and school, and had a pleasant conversation. When he dropped her off in front of her house, she realized that she had never seen him look so happy. So she couldn’t tell him. She just couldn’t burst that bubble. After bestowing a light kiss on her lips he waited until she was in the door, then drove away.

*

Tristin felt good the entire way home. Glancing at Rory periodically, he realized that he was actually looking forward to this visit. Not for his family, but for spending quality time with Rory Gilmore. He couldn’t wait until dinner tomorrow.

As he dropped her off, he realized he was virtually glowing.

He didn’t feel cold anymore.

*

After dropping his bags in his room, Tristin stared at the items crammed into his closet. He was such a packrat. Opening the closet door, he started rummaging through the items that had piled up over time. Way in the back, in a cardboard box stuffed under his skis, he found a brown box with a cream colored bow.

His smile faded as he stared at it. It had been so long… He couldn’t believe he had kept it. He weighed the box in his hand, and then got to his feet. This gift was long overdue, but maybe it was time for it to be given. He reached for a piece of paper, and smiled as he began to write.

*

The next day brought snow and more cold weather to the town of Stars Hollow. Rory was woken up by the jarring feeling of someone jumping onto her bed.

"What…" Rory burrowed her head into her pillow, hoping the monstrous being that had decided to wake her would go away and leave her in peace.

"Just like old times, huh?" Lorelai giggled as she lay down next to her daughter.

"Mom?"

"Yeah."

"I’m a college student."

"What?! Call the cops, I had no idea. Blasphemer!"

"I wake up at the butt crack of dawn on some days in order to study, or go to a torturous 8am class."

"Mmm…hmmm."

"So, when I’m on vacation, I would appreciate it if you would… Let. Me. Sleep!" Rory pulled her pillow from underneath her and smashed it down over her head in the effort to keep awakeness at bay.

"Rory?"

"What!"

"It’s 11am."

"Oh."

*

The sound of the doorbell pulled Rory from her reading on the sofa. She looked at Lorelai and after seeing that her Mom was safely ensconced reading her own book, she ran to the door yelling "I’ll get it!" for Luke’s benefit.

As she opened the door she realized it could be one of two people: 1) the pizza guy, or 2) Tristin, about half an hour early.

She was wrong on both counts.

"Dean!"

*

As Tristin drove to Rory’s he couldn’t fight the fierce sense of pride that was washing through his chest. Rory Gilmore. His own. He started singing along with the radio, basking in the need to have everyone in town hear his joy.

Only 15 minutes till he could hold her in his arms.

*

Lorelai looked up as the doorbell rang for the third time in half an hour. She looked up from the couch at her husband who was calmly massaging her feet.

Luke sighed and got up for the door. "Women shouldn’t complain about pregnancy to men, you know that? We have to do just as much work."

Lorelai pouted. "Yeah, and the first second you experienced a labor pain you’d understand, and then try to figure out some way to have babies without having to give birth."

Luke strode to the door. "This must be Lothario #2."

He opened the door to see a young blond man standing on the front porch.

"Hi, you must be Luke. I’m Tristin Dugrey." Tristin thrust his hand forward for a handshake.

His hand stayed in midair for a few seconds too long, and Tristin seriously considered withdrawing it when it was suddenly grasped in a firm grip. "Come on in." Luke ushered the younger man in, and took his coat and scarf.

"Where’s Rory?" Tristin tried to keep the anticipation out of his voice, but knew he failed when Luke smiled at him.

"She’ll be here in a minute, she’s just saying good-bye to a friend outside. Come on, you can help me put out the pizza. No steak and fine wine tonight I’m afraid."

"And that’s perfectly fine with me." Tristin struck up a conversation with Luke as they walked into the living room to gather Lorelai for dinner.

*

As Lorelai got up from the couch, she shot a worried look over her shoulder towards the back porch. Rory was taking too long out there saying good-bye to Dean, and Tristin was 15 minutes early.

This was not good. She needed to run interference.

*

Rory looked at Dean as they both leaned on the back porch railing.

"I can’t believe we’re here again." Rory tapped her hands lightly on the white banister.

"Me neither." Dean turned and smiled at her.

"It’s been three years you realize."

"I know." Dean ran his hand through his hair. "I had the internship last year and couldn’t make it back. The year before that you had the internship and couldn’t make it back. Emails are fun…but they lack a certain quality if you know what I mean."

Rory smiled in agreement. "I know." She looked quizzically at him. "Didn’t you say you had dinner with your family today?"

"I did, I just wanted to stop by and say hello." Dean suddenly noticed that Rory was a bit tense. "Is something wrong?"

Rory started. "No! Nothing’s wrong. Just…uh…thinking about your sister."

Dean blinked. "What?"

"Well, today I saw some Girl Scouts, and they got me thinking about that time that I said I was a girl scout and lied to your sister. And I made her cry! God, how I am going to be a good doctor if I make children cry. See…I don’t want to develop a history of that, because I want to be someone who hands out lollipops and candy, cavities be damned, and be loved by my patients, just like cheesy doctors on TV." Rory took a breath and was about to continue her tirade when Dean interrupted.

"You haven’t changed a bit, have you?"

"I haven’t?"

"No, you haven’t." Dean took a step forward, and tugged on a strand of Rory’s hair.

Rory suddenly went still like an animal caught in headlights as she stared up at Dean’s face. Was he…? Then his left hand came up to cradle her cheek, and off balance she clutched at the front of his jacket in surprise, fisting a bunch of cloth in her left hand. He took this as a sign of encouragement, and bent his head forward.

And his lips met hers.

*

Tristin sat on a stool in the kitchen and watched the married couple interact.

This was what marriage was all about. Two people, totally comfortable with one another. Loving, warm. He watched Luke playfully dance around Lorelai’s belly as he got glasses down from the cupboards. She would occasionally lightly hit him and her laughter chimed in the cozy kitchen. The two were totally absorbed in one another, most likely a result of having their first child together.

He wondered if this was what the future held for him. On that thought, his gaze traveled to the other room as he wondered what was taking Rory so long. He slipped off the stool, and started walking towards the back porch.

*

Lorelai stopped laughing at Luke’s antics and turned to include Tristin in the conversation. The boy had surprised her, holding his own in a conversation, without being pretentious. From what Rory told her, he had indeed changed. And he was head over heels in love with her daughter, that much was readily apparent from the amount of times a giddy grin would cross his face. He had the glow of newfound love in him.

"Tristin, do you think…" Lorelai petered to a halt as she looked at the empty stool.

"Oh no. Luke, he’s gone."

"What?" Luke turned towards Lorelai, glasses in hand.

"There’s no Tristin, but a Tristin shaped spot."

Their gazes locked as they came to a realization at the same time.

"Back porch." Lorelai pointed.

"Let’s go."

*

Tristin opened the back door and shuddered at the blast of cold air that hit him as he stepped outside.

But the weather was not what had him coming to a screeching halt just outside the door.

No.

This. Could. Not. Be. Happening.


He felt the cold of his teenage years come rushing back to engulf him as he stared unblinkingly at the image in front of him. He was suddenly just outside Chilton’s gate, staring at a green truck with two kissing teenagers in front of it. He could suddenly feel the weight of books in his hands as he watched the two teenagers passionately kiss. And he could feel the same anger, rage, jealousy and despair eat away at him as he turned and ran away.

He would never escape the cold.

*

Lorelai stopped as she saw Tristin step back through the back porch door.

"Hey, we missed ya…" She trailed off as the boy strode past her and Luke, with an expression of torture and hurt riding in his eyes. Only a few short seconds later she heard the front door slam.

"Oh God."

*

Rory slowly eased her lips away from Dean’s.

"I’m sorry. I should have told you sooner."

"What?"

"I’m seeing someone." Rory stepped away from Dean and wrapped her arms around her torso.

"I figured." Dean mimicked her pose, leaning back against the banister.

"Tristin Dugrey."

Dean started, propelling himself off the banister. "What?"

"Tristin, he and I-"

On that note, Rory heard a car start in the driveway, and Lorelai poked her head out from the back porch door.

"Honey? I think you may have a problem." Lorelai winced as she heard the car drive away.

"Oh no. No, no, no."

"Yes."

"I’m sorry Dean, but I have to go find him." Rory strode halfway to the back door then stopped. "I’m sorry."

Dean looked at Rory in surprise. "I don’t like him Rory, but if you do, then that’s your decision, not mine. I never expected you to be lonely while you were away. I just didn’t expect it to be with Him." Dean spat out the last word in disgust.

"He’s changed Dean. And I…care for him a great deal. And I care for you, but…" Rory wanted to make sure he understood.

"Not that way. Go." Dean put his hands in his pockets and nodded his head forward. "And tell him what a lucky bastard he is."

Rory leapt forward and wrapped her arms around him. "Thank you." She whispered.

"I didn’t mean I’d completely let you go, so if you don’t want me to convince you to stay, go now." Dean pushed her slightly away.

As Rory ran through the back door she heard Lorelai yell after her – "Are you sure I can’t set up popcorn and chairs? I won’t need to tape my soap operas around you!"

The slamming of the front door and the starting of a car was her answer.

*

Rory drove to Tristin’s house, driving too haphazardly for her own taste, but she needed to find him before he wrote her off for good. In her haste, she had forgotten her cell phone, so she couldn’t call ahead to find out if he was there.

One hour later, the butler at Dugrey Manor told her that Tristin was not there.

*

Rory tried not to panic. Where could he be??? She clutched at the steering wheel in frustration, and then banged on it, as she racked her brain.

"Ow!"

As she rubbed her smarting hand, she suddenly had an idea.

*

Rory drove up to Chilton’s front gates, hoping against hope that she would spot his car. Then, finally, at the far end of the parking lot, she saw it.

She hurriedly parked the car, noticing as she got out that she had parked in two spaces. Not taking the time to lock the doors, she ran towards the front courtyard.

*

Tristin sat in on the stone steps of the front courtyard staring aimlessly forward. The gift that he had brought with him sat next to him on the stairs, the box becoming soggier by the minute due to the snow.

He suddenly realized someone was calling his name.

*

"Tristin!"

Rory slowed down as she neared. He looked…devastated. Her eyes became watery as she realized how badly he must have hurt when he came upon her and Dean.

She paused as he finally registered her presence, and then looked up at her with naked eyes. As she looked into them, she saw pain, and love.

She sucked in the cold night air as she felt her heart pound in response. She was in love with him. How could she not have seen it? Over the past 5 months, somewhere along the way, she had fallen for him. Just looking at him now, she wanted to take her hands and brush away the pain, cradle him in her arms, and feel his body against her own.

She saw a flash of anger in those eyes, and he suddenly surged to his feet.

So she took those last few steps, grabbed his head, and kissed him.

*

Tristin looked up at Rory, noting in his hazy state that she was beautiful against the starlit sky. Why had she come? How had she known?

She stopped and stared at him, and Tristin suddenly wondered if she was here to tell him that their romantic interlude had been a mistake, that she was taking everything back.

With a rush of anger, Tristin surged to his feet. Then nearly feel to his knees when Rory walked forward, reached up, grabbed the nape of his neck, forced his head down, and kissed him.

*

The kiss was magical. Mouths and bodies moved hard against one another, striving to get as close as possible.

Rory groaned as she felt her mouth part and Tristin’s tongue invade her mouth. He was being rough. Possessive. Her heart thundered as her body responded to his touch.

Tristin clutched at Rory, trying to get her closer, somehow, someway. He opened her mouth with her tongue and swept it, trying to get her to see how much she belonged to him, belonged with him.

As one of his hands grasped the back of her jacket, Tristin suddenly felt cool skin under the other hand where he had thrust it up her back. He drew back from the kiss as he realized the dangerous territory into which they were heading. Rory herself gasped as she felt the winter air touch her back.

Both looked at one another with their breath misting in between them in the cold air.

"I’m sorry." Rory reached up and touched the blond hair, then trailed her fingers down the side of Tristin’s face. "He kissed me, yes. But I realized while he was kissing me, that things had changed."

Tristin tensed as he listed to Rory speak. "Things?"

"Yeah, you and me things."

Tristin’s posture finally started to ease. "Meaning?"

"I want you. Only you. Exclusively you. You with me. You near me. You holding me. The list could go on and on, but yet again, my pestery butt is telling me that standing out here in the cold is just not a good plan."

Tristin’s eyes closed as he absorbed that information. He opened them, and Rory stopped breathing as she took a look at the expression in them. She decided to go for broke as Tristin’s hands bunched at her back.

"I love you."

She didn’t regret it. Tristin’s mouth once again descended upon hers, and she spent the next few minutes thinking about nothing at all except how to package his kisses so that she could have them at anytime of the day, anywhere.

*

He was wrong when he said she tasted good. She tasted heavenly. Everything about her was heavenly, and felt so right.

As he finally lifted his lips from her, he said the four small words that had been waiting for this moment for so damn long.

"I love you too."

*

"You know, I never did give this you." Tristin lethargically raised the gift in one hand while cradling Rory in the other.

She looked up at him from where she was reclining on his lap and smiled. "For me?"

"Open it." Tristin put the package on her belly, then wrapped his other arm around her where it belonged.

Rory opened the card first.


I meant to give this to you years ago on that day when I found out that PJ Harvey was, oh my God, a woman. But I didn’t deserve you then, and I’m not sure I do now. But I want to make you happy, and I’ll be damned if I don’t give it a shot.

Try not to read it all in one setting. I’d actually like to see you tonight.

TD


Rory laughed. "I take it it’s a book."

"Your powers of deduction astonish and amaze me." Tristin nuzzled Rory’s hair with his nose.

She slowly opened the package, taking care to remove the wet part slowly from the book.

She gasped. "You got me an early edition of Emma by Jane Austen! This is wonderful!" In her excitement, Rory sat up, and promptly clonked Tristin right in the chin with her head.

"Ow!"

"Oh, I’m sorry!"

Tristin rubbed his chin and chuckled. "Hopefully you won’t hurt me every time I give you a gift."

Rory leaned forward and lightly kissed his chin. "No promises from this end."

"I wouldn’t expect any less."

Rory smiled. "Much as I hate to ruin this lovefest, and I would love to sit here all day, I think my mother is going to call out the National Guard if I don’t get back soon."

Tristin slowly helped Rory to her feet.

"So, you think we can do this from time to time? Sit on the steps of Chilton and make out?" Tristin took Rory’s hand in his.

"As long as no one else is around, I don’t see why not." Rory snuggled close to Tristin as they walked back to their respective cars.

"Good." Tristin waited for Rory to open her car door and sit in the driver’s seat.

"I expect to make you a very happy woman Miss Gilmore."

"I wouldn’t expect any less Mr. Dugrey."

As Tristin got back in his own car and turned the key in the ignition a thought came to him from out of the blue. He smiled.



Sometimes life was fair.

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