* When you hold me, in your arms so tightÖ You let me know, everythingís all rightÖ I-I-I-I-Iím hooked on a feeliní. Iím high on believiní, that youíre in love with meÖ *
Of course she would get * that * song in her head. No, it couldnít be a song on the Bangles CD that she listened to on her headphones all evening to block out the music vibrating from her upstairs neighbor. Obviously the one that was on constant replay in her mind was the very one that was played eight times by Alice the perky Gov major that was on a cleaning streak. And when she was on a cleaning streak, she had the annoying habit of playing BJ Thomas or Bob Marley.
She was still trying to make sense of the girlís random taste in music.
In lieu of suffering any longer, Rory decided on the twenty-minute trek to the library for some inspiration. There had to be something there that would help her write her Lit paper.
Bobst was decidedly empty as she walked through the atrium and started up the steps to the fourth floor. Of course, the semester was just beginning. She could hardly expect anyone to have reason to be here already on a Thursday night. Heck, even she didnít anticipate her professor to assign a paper in the first week of February.
But there she was, unbuttoning her gray pea coat and untying the holey scarf that was also twice wrapped around her neck. Rory fingered the knots and gaps in the yarn creation affectionately, recalling the fall of her senior year at Chilton, when Lorelai signed up for the knitting and crocheting class at the community center in Hartford. She had done it because her recyclable art class had been filled, and she refused to leave without signing up for something.
The woman was atrocious with a pair of knitting needles, or any ball of yarn in general, but she braved blisters and flesh wounds to make Rory a seven-foot long scarf in varying shades of blue, depending on her yarn supply, naturally. Lorelai had faired considerably better with the matching hat, even the suspect tassel on top was charming.
Rory smiled absently, letting her mind wonder what her mother was doing for a fleeting moment before seeking out the shelf of Bís. She bobbed absently to the tune still in her head as she slipped into the stacks.
* Lips as sweet as candyÖItís taste is on my mind. Girl youíve got me thirstiní for another cup of wineÖ*
Her eyes led her downwards, making her kneel down as her index finger wandered over the spines.
* B750Ö800Ö810Ö11Ö15! AÖBÖCÖDÖAh-hah! *
She snatched the slender book from the shelf, settling back on her heels to skim through the contents. It was on deconstruction and emotions. Just the thing she needed, she thought, smiling as she began to read the preface.
When she saw scuffed up sneakers in her periphery walking towards hers, she fell back against the shelf behind her and brought her legs up against her chest. There was no sense in taking up the whole aisle and getting sneered at by getting in someone elseís way.
But the shoes didnít cross her path; they stayed three feet away. Rory thought nothing of it until the ventured a look at the shoes, and noticed them pointing in her direction. Was it someone who was waiting for her to look up? Her friend Nate had that annoying habit, always staring at her until she caught his "telepathic signals" and made eye contact.
She prepared to roll her eyes as she looked up, but she didnít expect to meet the eyes of a stranger, albeit beautiful eyes. They were an unusual color, a blue so bright that it reminded her of pictures sheíd seen of the tropical waters of the Caribbean. An expression that bordered between a smirk and a frown quirked on his lips as he blatantly stared back at her. The intensity of his gaze would have bowled her over had she not already been sitting down.
Where had she seen that look before? The kind of scrutiny that made her cheeks flush with color and made her feel uncomfortable in her own skin. The kind of observation that made her feel like he knew that she was wearing mismatched floral underwear beneath all her layers of wool and cotton.
This wasnít the look of a stranger.
"Well, this is unexpected," he said, his soft husky voice stirring up old memories that she still couldnít place.
But then he removed his own hat that had been covering dirty blonde locks, and he ran his fingers through the spiky strands. He then jammed one hand into his pocket and affixed a naturally cocky smile on his lips as he leaned the other against the shelf she was sitting against.
It was the familiar stance that sent the rest of her senses into full alert. "Tristan DuGrey."
"Rory Gilmore," he said almost reverently.
"IÖI didnít expectÖYouíveÖYouíreÖ" she trailed off, closing her eyes briefly as a fresh blush infused her features. She hadnít stumbled over her words this badly since the first time she went to a professorís office hours.
Rory cleared her throat, trying not to sound too stupid in her next attempt at normal speech. "How are you doing?" she asked awkwardly.
Tristan chuckled, shaking his head. "Fine, how are you?" he asked back, mocking the insincere exchange.
His flippant reply set her at ease. She remembered this. He was the same frustrating boy that tormented her for a year before slipping away from her life altogether, leaving a gnawing absent feeling she never wanted to analyze.
She could do this.
"Hey, donít make fun. I have seen you in over three years, Iím a little at a loss down here," she said, gesturing to the carpeted floor.
Her honest retort made him laugh again as he shifted the messenger bag strap on his left shoulder. "Oh, I donít know about that. Maybe you can consider back pay for all the times I didnít irritate you in high school."
"That makes absolutely no sense. You werenít even there," she countered.
"That is the exactly the point. I wasnít there to call you obnoxious nicknames and make you want to pummel me with whatever textbook you had handy. Iíd say one of my well-timed smart-ass remarks are definitely due," he replied, then lifted a brow. "Donít you?"
"I donít think so. It would only count if you were still at Chilton and were able to tease me, but suppressed the urge out of a generous spirit. You, however, were tucked away in a military school in North Carolina while I had to keep the wolves at bay."
"Tucked away? Military school was no cakewalk, thank you very much. I think I deserve the wolves metaphor more than you," said Tristan, his smile a warm fixture.
Rory opened her mouth to speak, but frowned instead. He drew his brows together curiously. "What?"
She sighed. "If weíre going to continue talking, would you mind sitting down? My neckís starting to hurt. And I wonít hesitate to send you the chiropractor bills."
He held back a sigh of relief, glad that she was inviting him to stay instead of leave. Seeing her again wasnít something heíd ever dreamed would happen in this lifetime. Well, perhaps heíd dreamt it, but it was never meant to come true.
Tristan almost thought he was hallucinating when he removed the red book from the shelf and saw her through the gap. But after rubbing his eyes and blinking several times, she was still there; Rory Gilmore, the one girl he could never have. Against his better judgment, he was unable to let her go, just drop the book and run the hell away. Instead he affected a calm demeanor and rounded the corner, wanting to talk to her, needing to hear her voice again.
And it was better than he hoped. Rory was startled at first, and he could have sworn that she didnít recognize him for a full minute. But she didnít hate him. She didnít avoid talking to him.
"She makes the invitation as though I donít have some better place to be," he groused, even as he dropped down next to her, his shoulder nearly touching hers.
"Hey, donít let me keep you from your evening liaisons. Far be it for me to deny one of your tarts a booty call," said Rory, the words sounding wrong and completely right all at once coming from her lips.
"I canít believe I just heard you used Ďbooty callí in a sentence."
"Please, I use it all the time," she assured him. "Itís one of my favorite phrases now. Uh-huh, especially since Iíve taken to making them myself."
"You make a booty call?" he asked, the very idea making him smile.
"Absolutely," she nodded. "I have a veritable harem at my beck and call."
"Ready and willing to come to your den of seduction bearing gifts of gourmet, roasted bean delights?"
"And donít forget the danishes," she added.
"Unbelievable. I leave you to your own devices for three years and you change from an unassuming bookworm to a dominatrix," Tristan admonished lightly.
"Hey, every girl has her hobbies," Rory shrugged.
She really did seem different. Even the old Rory he knew, who couldnít help but banter, wasnít this comfortable talking to him. It was definitely a change that worked to his benefit, but his stupid mind wanted to question her anyway.
"Sorry if this is a stupid question, but whatís up?"
"What do you mean? Youíre gonna have to give me more than that."
"Even you with the infinitely generous spirit wouldnít normally grace me with your words for this long, seeing as how you despise me and all. So to what do I owe the pleasure of this conversation?"
"I never despised you," she whispered, not answering his question.
"I donít like to mention the occasion, because it truly was a heinous one, but thatís not what you said sophomore year on that fateful day of the PJ Harvey slash Dean incident."
"Come on, I didnít mean any of it. You justÖ" she trailed off, her brows furrowing as she searched for the right words. "You frustrated me. Exasperated me. Drove me mad. Made me what to tear my hair out by the roots. You were just so arrogant and presumptuous andÖ"
"All right, I get it, I get it. No need to expound further on my shortcomings," he joked.
"No, thatís not it. And you didnít let me finish," she said, a small smile tugging at her lips. "As I was saying, you pissed me off, but I never meant anything I said. I considered you my acquaintance, a friend even, albeit a trying one."
Tristan lowered his head then tilted it to look at her. "I think thatís the nicest thing youíve ever said to me."
"Saying that you pissed me off," she grinned.
"Admitting that you considered me a friend," he supplied unnecessarily.
"Well, I hope the feeling was mutual."
"Sure," he replied noncommittally.
"That sounds convincing," she deadpanned.
Tristan sighed, shaking his head. "I never considered you my friend, Rory."
Her heart plummeted with the careless shake of his head and the harsh words that cut her to the quick. Rory swallowed the dry lump in her throat, and betrayed her disappointment when she said, "Oh."
"I think that came out wrong."
Rory raised a hand, but didnít meet his eyes. "No, I think that came out just fine. Our fragile friendship was a one-sided thing, I get it," she said, trying to get up. "Well, it was nice seeing you again, Tristan. Iíll see you around."
His warm hand closing over hers halted Rory fast enough. Tristanís blue eyes pleaded with her, silently asking her to sit back down. And she did, if only to torture herself with what he was about to say.
"I never had an friends who were girls, Rory. Even now, Iíd have to say itís a rarity," he admitted sheepishly. "But you. Itís not that I didnít want to try to be friends with you, but it was impossible."
The question came out of her mouth before she could stop it. "Why?"
"Itís hard to befriend a girl when all you think about when you look at her is how good her lips would taste," Tristan confessed, his voice never wavering once.
The vast vocabulary she had amassed through rapacious reading and poring over her Oxfordís flew straight out the window. "Oh."
"And if I hadnít been so desperately lusting after you, I think youíd be have the first girl Iíd proudly call my friend."
"Oh," she repeated, suddenly feeling all warm and gooey inside. "ThatísÖWhy are you telling me this now?"
"Well, one, because you asked, and two, because I felt like saying it," he sighed.
"I see," she mumbled, before ducking her head so he wouldnít see how pleased she still was with his confession.
"Okay, why donít we talk about something else? Weíve got this awkward tension thing going on, and I like it better when it was just the sexual tension borne from the fact that you want me," he teased.
"Like I want the West Nile virus," she said glibly, regaining her composure.
"West Nileís not so bad. Itís not deadly, it just * ravishes * you with a fever," he whispered softly, making her insides tremble.
"Does it really?" she asked, her voice timid.
He shrugged, quirking his lip. "I donít know. I just wanted to use the word Ďravishí in context to you."
"Youíre terrible. Incorrigible, even."
"I try," Tristan grinned.
"Okay, Iím going to take the safe road and change the subject," she said, shaking her head.
"What is Tristan DuGrey, the boy who never studies, doing here in the library?"
"Ah, a question to put a damper on the roll I was on with my lewd insinuations. Trust you to be the one to accomplish such a feat."
"Aw, Iím sure I was just lucky. It had nothing to do with skill."
"Donít worry, Iíll work my way back," he promised with a wink.
"Iíd be disappointed if you didnít. My sparring skills havenít been tweaked in a while," she said with pseudo dismay.
Tristan laughed. "To answer you question, I am here on a paper writing mission."
"What kind of paper?"
"Philosophy. Belief, truth and knowledge as Professor Walden knows it," he said, resting his head against the books. "Iím supposed to write a paper comparing and contrasting two philosophers and how they relate to the theme of the class and each other. Standard five to seven pages with ample support for each statement, lest our argument be weak."
"That sounds like fun," she said pertly.
Tristan eyed her. "For a second there, I thought you were serious. My ears must be playing tricks on me."
"But I am serious. Philosophers are easy. You just have to regurgitate factoids about their schools of thought then offer some keen insights."
"Have you taken the class? Because I assure you, thereís nothing easy about philosophy."
"No, I avoid philosophy like the plague."
"And youíre telling me itís easy when you yourself havenít taken the class or any other philosophy course? Thatís an unsupported statement, woman, which would surely earn you a poor grade to mar your pretty little GPA."
"Well Iíve read philosophers, I just choose not to pit their arguments against one another. It would confuse me so much Iíd be lost in my own thoughts and not emerge for days. Itís not a pleasant picture, I assure you. Almost as ugly as watching the endless numbers of plot-less new shows come each television season. They just donít put those shows out of their misery soon enough nowadays."
"You completely lost me."
"See," she said, pointing a finger at him. "Do you know how many rambling tangents I indulge in every day? Just think how my brain would overload and explodeóoh, that rhymedó"
"As I was saying, my brain would malfunction, and then where would I be?"
"I see your point," he said, nodding thoughtfully.
"Whenís the paper due?"
"Monday. I thought Iíd be diligent for a change and find some people in advance."
"Who are the lucky philosophers?" she asked, eyeing the book in his hand. "* Fundamental principles of the metaphysics of ethics *?"
"Immanuel Kant. He was the safest looking guy on the list."
"Boring, you mean," Rory said, smiling slightly.
"Safe," he reiterated. "And one of the guys the professorís already talked about, so I have some background. I think heís got potential."
"The man spouts endlessly about the mind being a * tabula rasa *."
"You donít think itís intriguing how all our knowledge could be based solely on the structures of our mind? That there may not be such a thing as true knowledge? That objects donít exist apart from perception and even then they could just be our intersubjective fantasies?"
"Hey, stop throwing around the five-dollar words. Thereís no need for any of that here," she joked, amused by the excitement in his voice. "Of course thereís true knowledge."
"Sure. I mean think about the sky. Everyone knows itís blue."
"Images are just light bouncing, refracting, and reflecting off cones and rods. To a colorblind person, the sky is gray. How do you know what blue is anyway? Itís only what you see and what you believe."
"Regardless of that, there are just some things that you know that canít be argued or reasoned."
"Iím not going to say. I think youíre just using me as a guinea pig for material for your paper," she said, trying to keep a straight face.
"Damn it, you found me out," he sighed. "Help out a pitiful soul and answer the question anyway?"
She shook her head defiantly.
"What if I tell you an absolute truth of my own?" he asked.
Rory raised an eyebrow. "This ought to be entertaining. Go ahead."
Tristan cleared his throat before leaning in so close his lips nearly touched her ear. "I know," he began, his warm breath lavishing her sensitive skin, "beyond a shadow of a doubt, that I love it when I make you blush."
As much as she wished that she wouldnít react to his words, she couldnít help it. Roryís cheeks flamed bright pink, as though sheíd just come in from an unprotected brisk walk in the cold.
"Shut up," she blurted, unable to think of anything else.
"Thatís a scathing retort if ever I heard it," he remarked, taking in the sight of her reddened cheeks. Tristan really did love seeing her that way, and knowing he was the one to cause it.
"Itís my paperís entire fault that Iím not quick with the, you know, grr responses," Rory said, her hands gesturing as she said grr.
"Is that so? And here I thought you were just so arrested by my charm that you were rendered tongue-tied," he teased.
Rory snickered. "Yeah, thatís right. All the while weíve been discussing a crusty, dead philosopher, Iíve been mentally undressing you."
"Hey, if you wanted me naked, all you had to do was ask," he said with a suggestive leer.
She swatted himóhalf playful, half with intent to injuryóbut he grabbed the volume and wrenched it from her grasp.
"Give it back," Rory said, reaching across him as he held it out of her reach. When she couldnít get to it, she ceased her struggled and glared at him from her spot stretched across his knees.
Almost masochistically, he prepared to draw from the past again. "Iíll give it back to you whenÖ" But he didnít finish his thought. Instead he let his eyes meet hers, and he was trapped. All he wanted to do was lean forward that last two point five inches to touch her lips to his.
How could one girl have such a hold on him? It baffled him then, and it still baffled him now.
Tristan cleared his throat and forced a smile, breaking whatever trance her cornflower eyes had innocently lured him into.
He scrambled for an angle, a thought, anything to complete the sentence. "Iíll give it back to you whenÖyou agree to have coffee with me."
Coffee? How cliché was that? It was an obvious pick-up line. He was a moron. A dolt. An idiot. A dumbass.
But then a grin blossomed across her features. "I know I shouldnít respond to your bully tactics, but IÖI assume your word is honorable?"
"Of course. A DuGrey is nothing if not honorable."
"Okay, then Iíll agree to your bargain," she said resolutely as she pushed away from his knees, holding out her hand expectantly.
Tristan handed the book over with a wide grin. He was a genius. An innovator. A bloody brilliant person. MENSA would be knocking down his door any day now.
Once she had her fingers curled around the book, Rory shook her head.
"Leave it to you to make me an offer I couldnít refuse. It was a dirty trick playing the coffee card, but I respect your memory."
He wanted to smack the heel of his palm against his forehead. Of course. Coffee was her magic elixir. Everything that was good in life. He even alluded to it earlier. She would never say no to coffee.
So maybe he wasnít so bright. Just lucky. Heíd take lucky.
"Hey, Iím not above using your weakness to my own ends," he said, waggling his brows.
Rory laughed at his expression. "I expect no less."
Then he caught the title of the book that was responsible for securing him a coffee date with Rory Gilmore.
* Passions *.
"Excuse me?" she asked, her expression plainly showing her confusion.
She looked down at the white letters and jerked imperceptibly. "Oh. Yeah. WhatÖabout it?"
* Resist. Goading. Stop. Now. * Tristan tried to keep his thoughts at bay, but dear lord, she was leaving herself wide open!
"If you needed pointers, you could have just come to me," he said, his expression utterly serious. "Iíd be happy to provideÖpointers."
"Youíre so insufferable. I donít even know how to respond to that!" she sputtered. Rory glowered at him, serving only to make the boy chuckle. "The book isnít even remotely about that."
"Please. I bet its just some turn of the century chick letting out all her sexual frustrations in the form of not so subtle references and anecdotes," he grinned. "Admit it, Rory Gilmore, deep down youíre just as sordid and dirty as the rest of us. And that pre-Harlequin text is proof of it."
"Because Iím a benevolent being, Iím going to stop you before you make an even bigger fool out of yourself," she huffed. "This is a book about deconstruction. Derrida. Mid-twentieth century dude with a beard. Postmodernism ring any bells?"
Tristan folded his bottom lip inwards and pretended to think as he bit down. "Not even a jingle."
"It questions the dichotomies we live by? Fact or fiction? Observation or imagination? Rational or irrational?"
Tristan feigned a yawn.
"Now I know youíre messing with me. You know what deconstructing a text is. We did it all the time in Mr. Medinaís class!"
Of course he knew, but it was more fun playing the simpleton.
"Whatever. I need to help me write my paper. Thatís all. Itís not even remotely as subversive as Freud."
"The force of your intellect frightens me. Makes me wonder why youíre not at Harvard like you planned," he said off-hand.
Rory grimaced. "Yeah. Been there. Done that. It didnít work out as well as I thought it would."
"No good coffee shops?" he asked wryly.
She rolled her eyes. "You must not think much of me if you think that the lack of good coffee would cause me to transfer schools."
"It didnít matter at all?"
Her brows drew together as she averted her eyes. She held up her fingers, an inch apart. "Maybe a little."
Tristan laughed. "Thatís what I thought," he said, daring to nudge her shoulder with his own.
"Well, coffeeís important! I canít function without it. Without the ability to function properly, what good would a Harvard education have done me?" she asked, her eyes alight with a mysterious sparkle.
"Not a thing."
"Exactly. Besides, the atmosphere was doing nothing for me," she said softly.
"That surprises me. I thought you of all people would fit in perfectly."
"No, Paris Geller fit in perfectly. I donít think Iíd ever seen a person happier to be among peers matched in brilliance and trust funds," Rory said with a small shrug of her shoulders.
"How is Paris? You still keep in touch with her?"
Rory looked at him as though he were crazy. "How many high school friends do you keep in touch with?"
"Point taken," he smiled. "But what about that friend of yours. UhÖyou know, the one who was dating Henry."
"Yeah, her. I thought you were close."
"Oh, we are."
"But you just saidÖhigh school friendsÖ"
Rory shook her head. "Lane isnít a high school friend. Sheís my best friend. My compadre. My partner in crime. She owns a William Shatner CD. How could I possibly not be friends with her for life?"
Tristan scratched his head. "Iím sure I donít know."
"Yeah well, we are still friends. Thereís a reason we got cell phones with free night and weekend minutes as well as extensive anytime minutes."
He glanced at his watch then. "Speaking of minutes, we only have ten before the circulation desk closes down for the night."
Rory looked down at her own wristwatch, unbelieving. "Oh my god, youíre right. We should get down there."
As they walked out of the library, Rory couldnít help but frown. She didnít want their conversation, accidental run-in, interactionówhatever it wasóto end. It was much too nice.
"So, I guess we go our separate ways now?" he asked.
Rory stood uncertain for a moment, unsure of what to say next. "We could get that coffee that we spoke of."
"IÖcanít. Iím supposed to meet someone to study for an exam I have tomorrow," he admitted reluctantly. "Unless you need me to walk you home. It being late and all."
"No, thatís okay. I live right on 8th."
She winced belatedly. How could she say that? Of course she should have told him she needed an escort, although it would have been a blatant lie.
"Oh. Okay," Tristan said, never taking his eyes off of her. "Raincheck then?"
Rory smiled brightly. "Absolutely."
"Iíll see you later then," he said, already moving away.
No you wonít. Not unlessÖ She had to be bold.
"Tristan!" she exclaimed to his back. He turned, and waited for her.
Rory strode up to him and pulled a pen from her backpack. She grabbed the palm of his hand and wrote her number in big, bold green letters. She looked up only after she had capped the pen. "Use it."
"Good," she said firmly before releasing him.
This time she walked away first, with a wide smile plastered on her face. Then a thought struck her. When she turned around, he was still rooted to the same spot, his upturned palm still held out.
It was her turn to play a card from the past.
"I think Iím going to collect now," she said softly, moving forward.
"What do youÖ"
"You owe me."
He looked confused. "IÖowe you?"
Rory nodded as she stopped just inches from him. "All that practicing and enduring Parisís tortureÖyou never got to be in the last act. You still owe me a kiss."
Before he could finish his sentence, before she could think rationally, Rory stepped up and pressed her lips to his. And she kissed him slowly, wanting to remember every brush of his lips, every nip and stroke. Roryís small hands cupped his jaw as Tristan put his hands on her hips and tugged her forward.
When she finally pulled away, she giggled in triumph at seeing the dazed look on his face. It was time to be even bolder. "That was a good first payment."
He quirked his brow. "Excuse me?"
Rory twisted out of his grasp. "Itís been three years, Tristan. And youíve got a ton of interest to work off."
"Youíre a bloodthirsty one, Miss Gilmore."
She tilted her head to the side. "Is that a complaint?"
"Good," she said, sighing loudly.
Tristan laughed, shaking his head. "Iíve missed you Rory Gilmore."
Without another word, he turned on his heels and walked away, waving backwards with the hand tattooed with her phone number.
"Iíve missed you too," she whispered once he was out of earshot.
Once he disappeared down the street she swung around and started walking home, more than a little satisfied with her little trip to the library. Who was she kidding? She was ecstatic. For once in her life, she leapt instead of looking. Jumped in feet first. She gave Tristan DuGrey her phone number then kissed him silly.
It was a wonderful feeling. So wonderful she didnít even notice the extra bounce in her step as she strolled through Washington Park.