SUMMARY - The bumpy road to a Rory and Tristan relationship.
RATING - PG
CONTENT - There may be a swear word or two
PAIRING - Rory/Tristan
DISCLAIMER - Gilmore Girls and its characters belong to Dorothy Parker Drank Here Productions and Hofflund/Polone in association with Warner Bros. Television.
AUTHOR'S NOTE - The following story was written primarily during an insomnia-induced fugue. Enjoy.

"Momma Had a Baby and Her Head Popped Off"
by Carrie


CHILTON - MRS. CASSIDY'S CLASSROOM

Students filed into the room and sat in their seats. Rory pulled out her notebook ready for another lecture while Tristan sat chewing on his pen a few rows behind her. Mrs. Cassidy entered the room carrying a box full of egg cartons. She set them on her desk and turned to her students.

"Good morning, class. I had a long discussion with one of our counselors recently and then stayed up quite late last night to get an assignment prepared for you before the weekend. This is something I haven't done before but it is used in many schools with success. It teaches students not only about budgeting and problem-solving but it will also give you a chance to start thinking about your futures and the responsibilities that go along with adulthood."

The class looked confused.

"To be specific, you will become parents. Some of you will be assigned a spouse. Some of you will be single parents. I have already made that determination randomly so that we wouldn't take up class time."

As comprehension settled over the class, Rory silently prayed that she would be in the single parent group. Mrs. Cassidy took a piece of paper off her desk and read from it.

"You have also been assigned careers. These are most likely not your careers of choice but they will force you to budget for your family based on your incomes. You have one week to fill out a parental report I will be providing. It consists of questions having to do with paying bills, buying groceries, how you plan to discipline your children, where you'll send them to school, etc. The more detail you give, the better your grade. Any questions so far?"

None of the students looked too thrilled, least of all Rory. Her every fiber cringed at the possibility that she would be paired with that last man on the planet the she ever saw herself married to.

"Good. I'll read off each of your names and whether or not you'll be assigned to someone. Once I'm finished you should find your partner and begin the assignment. This will be the only day this is allowed. The rest must be done outside of class. Okay, John Batcher and Elena McRidge. Robert Walker and Amanda Versluis. George Montgomery, you will be a single father. Tristan Dugray, you will be with Rory Gilmore."

The teacher kept talking but Rory didn't hear a word. She couldn't believe what just happened. Was fate really that cruel? She could feel his eyes on the back of her head and imagined that he was already coming up with new ways to torture her. She didn't have to wait long to find out. As soon as the teacher finished reading off the list, Tristan slid his desk right up next to hers. As she braced herself, he smiled smugly and put his arm around the back of her chair.

"Hello, Mrs. Dugray," he whispered close to her ear.

Rory's arm shot up in the air.

"I'm sorry, Miss Gilmore. You have a week until you can get divorced. This is an opportunity for you all to develop some skills in interpersonal relationships. I hope you take advantage of it. Now what else am I forgetting?"

Rory lowered her arm.

"The kids?" asked a random student.

"Ah yes. Your children, of course, will be eggs because of their fragile nature. At no time are you to leave them unattended. If you break an egg, you will be given another but you go down a full grade. Each egg is usually signed by the teacher so that it is known whether or not the egg is actually the egg assigned or a replacement. Because I'm not here to test you on your skills at forgery, each egg has instead been individualized with a bar code. I will come around with your eggs and career assignments. You can start thinking up names for your children."

Tristan still had his arm around the back of Rory's chair.

"Could you please remove your arm?" she said through gritted teeth.

He dropped his arm but not the smile.

"See, I can be nice."

"If by nice you mean a big pain in the neck then, yes, you're the nicest guy in the universe."

"Is that any way to talk to your husband?"

"You are NOT my husband."

"For a week I am so you better get used to it, babe. I don't plan on messing up my g.p.a. because you have problems with interpersonal relationships."

Before Rory could offer a retort, Mrs. Cassidy stood before them with a packet of papers that she dropped on Rory's desk. She handed a single sheet to Rory.

"Here are your assignments. Rory you were attending community college when you got pregnant. You stay at home during the day and work part-time at night as a waitress."

Rory didn't feel like her day could possibly get worse. Mrs. Cassidy then handed Tristan his sheet of paper.

"Tristan, you work with the department of sanitation."

"I beg your pardon."

The smile disappeared from his face.

"You're a garbage man," she clarified.

It was Rory's turn to smile at his devastated look.

"And last but not least, here are your kids."

She held out two eggs.

"Kids? Plural?"

"Congratulations. You had twins. A boy and a girl. They are six months old."

Rory took one egg while Tristan took the other.

"How do we tell them apart?" he asked.

"That's for you to determine. Any other questions?"

They continued to stare at the eggs.

"Good," stated Mrs. Cassidy. She moved on to the next couple.

Realizing that there was no way around the situation, Rory immediately resigned herself to focussing on the assignment. After a long sigh, she turned to Tristan.

"Well, mister nice garbage man. Our first assignment is to come up with some names. Why don't we do this the easy way. You name one and I'll name the other."

"Okay. This is Tristan, Jr."

"How very original. But since you're going that route, I think I'll continue in my mom's tradition and name her Lorelai too."

"Lorelai two?"

"Lorelai also. But, we'll call her Lori so she doesn't get confused."

"Yeah, we wouldn't want that. I guess I'll have to come up with nickname so people don't confuse junior and I."

His smile was back.

"How about egghead?" Rory offered. "No, that would be just as confusing."

His smile didn't fade.

"I can see that this is going to be fun," he said.

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * *


RORY'S HOUSE

Rory walked in the front door holding her backpack.

"Mom!"

"In here," Lorelai called from the kitchen where Rory found her putting groceries away.

"Hey."

"Hiya, kiddo. What's up?"

"Mom, I need to tell you something."

"You're dropping out of school to become a daytrader?"

"Mom, this is serious."

Lorelai turned around and noticed Rory's flat expression.

"Uh oh," she said, setting down a box of cereal. "What is it?"

"You might want to sit down."

"This is sit down serious? Okay, Rory, now you're freaking me out. Is this sit down with a shot of Bacardi serious or…?"

"You're a grandmother," Rory interrupted.

Lorelai dropped onto a chair in shock.

"I… You did not just say that," stammered Lorelai.

Rory looked at her with a straight face.

"Okay, let's back up. You…you said I'm going to be a grandmother?"

"No, I said you are a grandmother."

Lorelai shook her head in confusion while Rory brought her backpack over to the table and opened it.

"Um, okay, wait. How does that work exactly? Did you adopt a baby? Buy a baby on the black market?"

"It's an assignment." Rory pulled the two eggs out. "I'm the mother of twin baby eggs."

Lorelai brought her hands to her head and sighed in relief.

"Oh my God, Rory. I can't believe you just did that to me!"

Rory looked at her with her patented innocent smile.

"You know," Lorelai continued. "There are some very lovely convents in Europe that we can send you to. I know. I've watched 'The Sound of Music'."

"Sorry," chuckled Rory. "Nothing works with you on April Fool's Day anymore so I have to take these opportunities when I can get them."

Lorelai is still taking deep breaths to calm herself down.

"So, I'm a grandma to twin eggs?"

Lorelai picked up one of the eggs to examine it.

"Yep, you're holding little Lorelai."

Lorelai's expression immediately went soft.

"Oh my gosh, are you serious? Like I named you?"

"Yeah, I figure we could call her Lori."

"That's so sweet."

She looked at the egg adoringly.

"Oh, she even has a birth mark."

"That's actually a bar code so that the teacher can tell if we broke an egg or not."

Lorelai's face scrunched up at the thought.

"Huh. Well, if Mulder hadn't been abducted last season, I might have taken it up with him. Nevertheless, she is still the sweetest little egg grandbaby I have ever seen."

Rory handed her the other egg.

"And this is Tristan, Jr."

"Don't tell me. Tristan is your husband?"

"The one and only."

"I'm so sorry, sweetie."

"I am too. I thought I'd celebrate by going over to see Dean."

"I think that's a good idea."

Rory started to leave the room.

"Why don't you invite him over for dinner," suggested Lorelai.

"Okay. Could you watch the kids?"

Rory started to leave the room.

"That came out a little too naturally," replied Lorelai.

"Oh, and since we call little Lorelai, Lori, I've come to call Tristan, Jr., Egghead."

"Egghead?"

"It started out as a way to annoy Tristan but it's kind of stuck."

"Egghead, huh? I guess it could be worse. He could have been named Luke's Breakfast Special. Anyway, you go have fun. I'll stay and watch the kids."

"You're sure you're going to be all right?"

"What? Of course. I am going to be such a good grandma. In fact, I think I'll celebrate by making a phone call."

"Okay, I'll see you later."

"Bye, sweetie," called Lorelai as she picked up the phone and dialed. "Hi, mom. I need to tell you something. You might want to sit down."

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * *


GROCERY STORE

Still wearing his apron, Dean sat with his arm around Rory on a bench outside the store.

"I'm not sure how I feel about dating a married woman," he joked.

"If it makes you feel any better, I'm very unhappily married and getting a divorce in a week. We're only staying together for the children. Well, and for the grade."

Dean smiled.

"That's kind of a weird assignment."

"Tell me about it. Although, I don't know what's weirder, having Tristan for a husband or pretending two jumbo-sized eggs are my children. Scratch that, the eggs are weirder. As for Tristan, I'd rather chew on tin foil."

Dean laughed and then turned suddenly contemplative.

"Do you ever think about that stuff?" he asked.

"What stuff?"

"Getting married and having kids."

"Sure, it just seems so far off in the distance. There are so many other things I want to do first, ya know, like pass my midterms."

She turned with a curious look on her face.

"Why do you ask?" she questioned.

"No reason. I was just curious," he replied, avoiding her gaze.

"Do you think about getting married and having kids?"

"Um, well, yeah. Sometimes."

"Oh," she said in surprise. "So… when you find yourself thinking about…. marriage and kids… am I included in those thoughts?"

"No, it's usually Katie Couric," he said.

She gave him a quick look of annoyance.

"I'm kidding. Of course it's you," he clarified.

She looked away again trying to process this new information. He noticed her obvious confusion.

"Rory, it doesn't mean anything. It's not like I'm planning our wedding or anything. They're just thoughts that go through my head. Nice thoughts. I didn't mean to upset you."

"No, it's just… You kind of took me by surprise is all. I just… I haven't had those thoughts."

Rory was obviously thrown for a loop by the conversation. They both sat quietly for a minute.

"Did I cause a problem between us?" asked Dean hesitantly.

"No," replied Rory, though she didn't sound all that sure herself. "I mean, it's good that we can talk about these things, right?"

"Yeah, that's how I feel."

"Good," she nodded.

Dean wasn't buying it.

"It is bothering you."

"Uh, well, a little bit," she confessed. "But that's all right. Just because I'm not thinking about… those things doesn't mean that you can't. Or, that you can't tell me that you are or…are not. And likewise, if I do or…do not."

"Huh?"

"I'm confused too."

"Maybe we should just save this for a later day."

"Later. That's good for me," said Rory.

They sat quietly again.

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * *


RORY'S HOUSE

The eggs now sat in a little decorative basket. One of the eggs, Lori, was dressed in a little pink outfit, along with a little pink hat that sat on top. Tristan, Jr. didn't yet have an outfit, but Lorelai was busy making one up.

Rory and Lane stared at the strange scene.

"So?" asked Lorelai. "What do you think?"

"Did you remember to burp them after their bottles?" asked Rory.

Lorelai gave her a look.

"It reminds me of that one commercial," added Lane. "You know, this is your brain. This is your brain on drugs."

Lorelai gave Lane a look.

"You're not Dean," said Lorelai.

"Dean couldn't make it," explained Rory. "They're doing inventory tonight. So, I decided to go see if I could pull the same joke on Lane that I did on you."

"Did you fall for it?" Lorelai asked Lane.

"No, but my mom did, literally."

"Mrs. Kim overheard and passed out," explained Rory.

"Oh my God, is she all right?"

"She's fine."

"After all that, she let you come over here?" asked Lorelai.

"She made me come over. After she came to and we explained, she decided she liked the egg baby idea. She wants me to copy Rory's assignment so that she can come up with a similar idea for me so that I understand the 'consequences of certain actions'."

"I'm really sorry," said Rory.

"Don't worry about it."

"I could make your egg baby some clothes too," offered Lorelai.

"Sure, why not?" said Lane. "Assuming she'll use an egg. I can see her giving me an old shoe or something."

"Egg or shoe, we'll fix you up," said Lorelai.

"Gee, mom, what's next? Egg-resistant cabinet locks?"

"I did go to the store to buy them some books."

"You did not," said Rory.

"Okay, it was actually the gas station. There wasn't much of a selection. In fact, there wasn't any selection so I bought Redbook. That will teach them about colors. I got Newsweek. That will keep them up on current events. And I got Entertainment Weekly. That will teach them…okay, it had Sean Connery on the cover."

"Mom, I think you're taking this a little too far."

"Does that mean I you don't want to see the stroller?" asked Lorelai. "It's got a horn."

"Don't you think you're playing the role of indulgent grandmother a little over the top?"

"There's nothing worse than spoiled eggs," added Lane.

They both look at Lane, not believing she actually said that.

"What?" replied Lane. "Someone had to say it?"

Rory turned back to her mom.

"They don't need clothes," said Rory.

"Just a small wardrobe."

"Mom."

"Why can't I be a grandma for a week? I'm not going to have any real grandchildren for like another ten years, right? RIGHT?"

"You're not getting an argument from me," said Rory.

"Good, then let me play dressup."

"Fine," Rory relented. "If it will make you happy."

Rory picked up Lori all dressed in pink and smiled at her.

"Actually, it might not be all that bad," she said. "Along with having the best-dressed egg babies in school, there might be another advantage. I can just imagine Tristan's reaction to them."

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * *



CHILTON HALLWAY - RORY'S LOCKER

"I like them," said Tristan.

"What?" responded Rory in disbelief. "You like them?"

"Yeah, it makes them unique. They'll show up all the other little egg babies."

"This isn't a competition."

"Sure it is, and everyone will know that my kids are the best."

"Our kids," emphasized Rory without thinking.

He smiled his usual smug grin.

"I'm glad we agree. And, hey." He leaned in, dropping his voice. "Whenever you want to start working on having another one, just let me know."

Rory closed her eyes and groaned.

"What we need to start working on is our assignment," she stated, trying to get things back on track. "When is a good time for you?"

"I'm free after school."

"Why don't we meet in the library."

"I'll look forward to it. In the meantime, hand over the munchkins. You had them all weekend. It's my turn to bond with the kids."

Rory hesitantly handed him the basket holding the eggs.

"Be careful with them."

"Don't worry. I'll treat them as if they were my own children."

He held up the eggs.

"Say goodbye to mommy, kids."

Rory glared at him.

"Bye, mommy," said Tristan and blew her a kiss. She rolled her eyes and turned back to her locker as he walked away. Having just witnessed their little exchange, Paris walked up to Rory while she pulled a book out of her locker.

"Playing house?" sneered Paris.

"I beg your pardon."

"You and Tristan. The sharing of responsibilities. Little outfits for the children. You're the perfect couple."

"Oh yes, what all successful marriages are based on, mutual contempt."

"I don't know why you treat him the way you do."

"I don't know why you care, except for the fact that you have a secret crush on him."

"What? I don't…" sputtered Paris

"Save it. You're not fooling anyone."

Paris tried to think of a response but couldn't.

"I don't get it. What do you see in him?" asked Rory. "He's arrogant, condescending, judgmental…"

"Judgmental? Look who's talking. You don't even know him."

"And you do?"

"No, but I might actually take the time to try to get to know him before I jump to conclusions."

"Like you did for me?"

Paris could only stare back, caught by her double standard.

"He's cuter than you," she remarked before walking away.

Rory just shook her head and continued gathering her books.

* * * * * * * * * * *


CHILTON - LIBRARY

Rory was sitting at a table in the library looking through their assignment. She couldn't believe there were fifteen pages. She wanted to spend as little time as possible with Tristan but it didn't look like that was going to happen if they were going to get it all done by Friday.

Tristan walked up behind her with his book bag and the basket with the kids in it. He leaned over her shoulder to whisper in her ear.

"Hi, honey."

She winced.

"Could you please not do that?"

He set the basket on the table and took the seat across from her.

"You're too tense. We should go away this weekend."

"Thankfully we'll be divorced by this weekend," she responded.

"I'm hurt."

"Your grade is gonna be hurt if we don't get going on this assignment. Did you take a look at it?"

"No. You had it."

"Well, it's fifteen pages."

She handed it over to him. He flipped through the pages.

"This looks pretty simple. We have to come up with a grocery list."

"We can't start on the grocery list."

"Why?"

"There are other bills we have to pay first."

"Like what?"

"Electricity, gas, water, rent…"

"We rent? Why don't we have a house?"

"We can't afford a house."

"We can't afford a house because we're throwing our money away on rent."

"We don't exactly have a choice here."

His brow furrowed, he continued looking through the pages.

"What's all this based on?"

"Whatever we make in a month is listed in our checking account."

"And how much is in our savings account?" He turns the page. "A hundred bucks? That's ridiculous!"

"Some people live on less than that."

"So, what, if we don't have money for groceries, we don't eat?"

"That's the point of budgeting. We have to figure out the finances as if we are living as this couple. And we can't just write things down either. We have to justify everything, which means to do a grocery list we have to figure out what we need and find out what it actually costs."

"I suppose we'll have to cut out coupons too."

"When's the last time you went grocery shopping?"

"I don't remember."

"Do you have any idea how much diapers cost?"

"No," he practically snarled.

"Do you have any idea how many diapers one baby goes through in a day?" she snarled back.

"A lot?"

"Now multiply 'a lot' by two and you'll get a small idea of what I'm trying to get across to you."

"Okay, I get it. We'll figure out a grocery list later. Let's move on to something else."

He stopped on one page.

"There's no way we can pay for all this stuff. What's this? A tuition bill? You're not even in school anymore."

"That doesn't mean you get to stop paying."

"Well, I don't see how we're going to come up with all this money."

"Here," she said in exasperation, grabbing the pages from him. "What we need to do is go through and figure out if there's anything that we're paying for that we don't need, like this, cable television. That will save us thirty bucks a month."

"Are you serious?"

"You need cable?"

"What else am I supposed to do with my spare time?"

"I don't know. Spend some time with your children. Read a book. There's also this other new thing that you might not have heard of. It's called network television and it doesn't cost a dime."

"Well, I wouldn't want to waste our money on all that electricity. In fact, maybe we should just invest in some candles and turn off all the lights."

They glared at each other for a second.

"If you can come up with a better idea, I'd love to hear it," said Rory.

"Fine. We've got two cars. We'll sell one of them."

"Okay, we'll sell your car."

"No, you don't need a car. I need to get to work. You can use it once I get home."

"You can't just make decisions like that. We're supposed to discuss this. That's what this whole assignment is about. I'm home with two infants. What if something happens to one of them?"

"Call an ambulance."

"And what about just taking them to their regular doctor's appointments?"

"We can make arrangements and you know it. You just can't stand the thought of being stuck at home and dependent on someone else, while the world goes on without you."

She couldn't believe his audacity.

"That's interesting coming from you," she said, raising her voice. "Because you can't stand the fact that someone has the gall to stand up to you, God forbid it actually be your wife!"

"We're selling your car," he growled.

Rory leaned closer to him and lowered her voice.

"No. We're. Not."

* * * * * * * * * * * *


LUKE'S DINER

Rory sat up at the counter with her head in her hands.

"You got thrown out of the library?" asked Luke.

"Yes," she mumbled through her hands.

"Have you told your mom?"

"No."

"You need some herbal tea."

She dropped her hands and looked up at him.

"Okay. Do you have the kind that tastes like coffee?"

He set a mug in front of her.

"Here, try this. It will relax you."

She took a sip.

"Mmm. Minty."

"So, what happened?"

"I was arguing with my husband," said Rory.

"I beg your pardon."

"We have this assignment where we're paired up with someone and we have to make all these decisions and fill out all this paperwork as if we were married and have kids. And lucky me, I get paired up with the biggest jerk in school. He's rich and he's spoiled and he's never even heard of a bonus savings card."

"Sounds like a horrible kid."

"He is! This assignment is just a huge waste of time and energy."

"I don't know about that. It sounds like you two could learn a few things from each other."

"You're not going to go all 'Afterschool Special' on me, are you?"

"I'm just saying that, given the right attitude, you might be surprised what you could learn from each other."

"I'm sure you're right, my guru, but it seems that every time one of us opens our mouth…"

"It's like throwing water on a grease fire?"

"It's like throwing grease on a grease fire."

"Maybe one of you has to be the bigger person."

"Who are you? Mike Brady?"

"Hey, don't bag on the Brady Bunch. The reason a show like that is so timeless is because of the messages it supplies, messages that apply to everyday life and how we deal with it. You can make an effort or you can sit back and be miserable."

"And if it doesn't work?"

"It always worked for the Bradys."

"That's not much of an endorsement."

"Hey, I haven't got it all worked out. You do what you can, right?"

He walked away, leaving Rory to ponder.


* * * * * * * * * * * *


CHILTON - LOUNGE



Mike Brady be damned. Rory and Tristan took up an entire table and they were already going at each other. The rest of the room was empty, having already been cleared out by their bickering.

"What difference does that make?" asked Tristan.

"It makes a huge difference. They're twins. You can't split them up," said Rory.

"What if one had special needs and the other didn't?"

"What? That's not in the assignment."

"I'm speaking hypothetically to prove my point."

"How are we ever going to get this done?"

"Admit that I'm right and we'll move on."

"But you're not right. You're just being argumentative."

"I'm being argumentative? Look who's talking."

"God, we are just going around in circles. Do you enjoy this?"

"I don't exactly enjoy my opinion being discounted simply because it's my opinion."

Rory dropped her head into her hands and sighed heavily. Tristan suddenly noticed Dean standing in the doorway.

"What's your boyfriend doing here?"

She turned around happy to see Dean.

"He's here to pick me up."

"We're not done."

Before she could respond, Dean was standing at her side.

"Hi," he said with a bright smile.

"Hi," said Rory, returning his smile.

Dean glanced at Tristan.

"Tristan," said Dean in an effort to be civil.

"Dean," replied Tristan, making it sound as if he just called him a bad word.

"So, are you ready to go?" he asked Rory.

"Yeah, we're about done. We just wanted to get this one section finished."

"I could go wait out in the car."

"You could take a walk around. I don't think anyone would care," said Rory.

"I don't know if that's such a good idea," interjected Tristan. "They kind of frown upon just letting anyone waltz around the grounds unaccompanied."

Rory glared at Tristan.

"Dean's not 'just anyone'."

"Well, he's not a student here, is he?"

"That's okay, Rory. I'll just wait in the car."

"Okay, I'll be out in a little bit."

He turned to leave and then suddenly turned back.

"Oh, I forgot. I brought this for you."

He pulled a piece of tin foil out of his pocket and handed it to Rory who smiled as she remembered one of their previous conversations.

"I thought you might find this refreshing after your day today," said Dean.

"Thanks. That's sweet of you," she said and gave him a kiss.

Tristan looked on in disgust as Dean turned and walked out of the room.

"A piece of foil," said Tristan. "How romantic. What did he get you for your birthday? Paper towel?"

"Shut up, Tristan."

"What is so special about that guy, huh?"

"You wouldn't understand."

"You're right. I don't. I don't understand how you could fall for someone like him."

"Dean is a great guy!"

"He brought you a piece of foil!"

"I know this may be hard for you to comprehend, Tristan, but to me the value of a gift isn't determined by how much it cost. It's in the meaning behind the gift. This piece of foil means more to me than the largest diamond because Dean cared enough to do something for me that I would appreciate, and I did."

She started to gather her things up quickly.

"What are you doing?" he asked.

"I'm leaving. I think we're done for today."

Tristan was upset by her comments but couldn't seem to figure out what to say. Rory had all her stuff together and was about to leave when Tristan reached across the table and grabbed her wrist.

"Rory," he said, his voice full of emotion. "I could give you everything you could ever want."

She was stunned.

"No, you couldn't," she replied. "Because what I want is love and affection and respect and friendship and… I've yet to see that you're capable of offering any of that."

She jerked her wrist out of his grasp and left the room. Crestfallen, Tristan slowly sank back into his chair.


* * * * * * * * * * * *


RORY'S HOUSE

Rory sat slouched on the couch, looking none too happy when Lorelai walked in the door.

"Hey, Rory."

"Hey, mom."

"Hmm, call me a Jamaican psychic but I'm guessing that today didn't go any better with Tristan."

"It was actually worse."

"Worse, huh? What happened today?"

"Dean got dragged into it."

"You dragged Dean into it?"

"Well, not Dean literally. We argued about him. He wasn't in the room. Tristan was badmouthing him. God, he is driving me crazy."

Lorelai sat down next to Rory and put her arm around her, but didn't say anything. Rory looked at her.

"This is where you usually insert a humorous overview of my situation causing me to laugh and ultimately feel better," said Rory.

"Well, I'm not so sure you want my overview on the situation."

"Why?"

Lorelai scrunched up her face.

"I get the impression that Tristan likes you."

"What?! You've got to be kidding?"

"I knew you wouldn't like it. Now I might as well pick up the spare."

"What do you mean?"

"I hate to say this but lately you've been talking more about Tristan than you have about Dean."

Rory was in shock.

"The key word there being 'lately'. Because we were thrown together for this assignment. You can't possibly think that I have feelings for him. You should see us together. There's nothing that we agree on."

"Okay, well, maybe I'm wrong."

"I'd have to assert that you are wrong."

"Assert away," said Lorelai and sighed. "So then why do you let him get to you? That's not really like you."

"I don't know."

"Maybe, and feel free to assert your disagreement should you have one, but maybe you get so upset because you wish he could be someone you could talk to and maybe even call a friend."

When Rory didn't respond, Lorelai looked over at her. Rory looked back briefly then laid her head on her mom's shoulder. Lorelai pulled her closer.


* * * * * * * * * * * *


CHILTON - RORY'S LOCKER

Rory had just gotten to school and opened her locker. Before she even had her backpack off, Tristan was standing at her side. She shut her eyes and her shoulders slumped.

"I can't do this today, Tristan," she sighed heavily and then opened her eyes. "I am so tired of arguing. Just seeing you exhausts me."

Tristan seemed out of sorts, even more so after her comments.

"We can finish the assignment tomorrow at lunch," he said, barely looking at her. "Why don't you let me take the kids."

Not even caring about the fact that he wasn't putting up a fight, Rory took the kids out of her backpack and handed them to him. He looked up at her briefly as if to say something then turned and quickly walked away. Rory sighed again and then began putting her books in her locker.

* * * * * * * * * * * *


CHILTON CAFETERIA


That same day, Tristan stood in the lunch line. He dragged his tray along the metal counter as he checked out the food being offered. On top of his tray sat the kids in their basket. A lineup started to form behind him as he contemplated his selection.

"Come on, Dugray," said an impatient classmate, Wilton Chambers. "We haven't got all day."

Tristan didn't even turn to acknowledge him.

"If you're looking for something nutritious for the kids, I suggest the salad bar."

Again, no reaction. Wilton leaned over to pat the eggs.

"So, how is Lori and Little Egghead doing?"

Tristan met his eyes with a glare.

"His name is Tristan, Jr."

"Dude, it's just an egg."

Tristan felt an inexplicable pain shoot through him.

"He's my son."

"He's a grand slam breakfast at Denny's," Wilton laughed.

Tristan's fist slammed into Wilton's jaw and Wilton hit the floor soon after. But before Tristan could release more of his fury, he was grabbed from behind by a teacher and restrained.


* * * * * * * * * * *


HEADMASTER CHARLESTON'S OFFICE


Tristan sat on a couch to the side of the room, impassive. His head was propped up on his right arm. Headmaster Charleston sat quietly working at his desk. The kids sat happily in their basket on the corner of the desk.

The door opened and Mrs. Cassidy entered the room with Rory trailing behind her. The headmaster got up from his desk.

"Ah, Miss Gilmore. The reason you were brought here was because it was felt that, due to your recent assignment in Mrs. Cassidy's class, a lesson could be made out of today's unfortunate incident."

Tristan didn't move as the headmaster continued.

"Your 'husband' was involved in an altercation. Outside of Chilton, he would be incarcerated and bail would be set at approximately five hundred dollars."

"As part of your assignment now," said Mrs. Cassidy. "That money must be accounted for in the budget that you turn in to me. I won't force you to consider further court dates and possible civil action that could be brought against him, as long as you both realize the very serious nature of these circumstances."

"Can't I just leave him in jail?" asked Rory, who had yet to even glance at Tristan.

"You could," replied Mrs. Cassidy. "But I wouldn't suggest it. He would miss work and so would you. Life would get exponentially more complicated as would your assignment. However, if that is what you wish, I can certainly accommodate you."

Rory contemplated for a moment and then sighed.

"I'll pay the bail."

"Good. I expect a clear explanation in your report as to how this expense will reflect in your budget."

"You may take you children and leave, Miss Gilmore," said the headmaster. "Tristan will remain."

Rory walked over to the desk to pick up the basket.

"Is there anything you would like to say to your husband?" asked the headmaster.

Rory finally looked over at Tristan. He tilted his head up to meet her eyes. Nothing could be read in either of their looks. Rory simply turned and left the room. Mrs. Cassidy followed her. Tristan dropped his head back into its previous position as the headmaster sat back down at his desk.

"Your parents should be here shortly, Mr. Dugray."


* * * * * * * * * * * *


STARS HOLLOW - MAIN STREET


Rory and Lane walked down the street.

"You had to bail Tristan out of jail?" asked Lane.

"Metaphorically. They thought it would be a good lesson. I just don't understand why I needed the lesson. I didn't punch someone in the face."

"He's your husband."

"I wish everyone would stop saying that."

"So, what does Dean think about all this?"

"We didn't talk about it."

"You mean you didn't tell him?"

"When I'm with him, I'd rather be talking about things other than my hus…"

Lane's eyebrows raised.

"Tristan's criminal record," she corrected. "It didn't help that when this whole assignment thing started, he admitted to me that he thinks about marriage and having kids…with me."

"So?"

"So? What? Do you think about that sort of thing?"

"Yeah, sure. Of course, my thoughts consist mostly of a world where Harrison Ford and I are the same age and I've convinced my mom that he's Korean. You honestly don't think about getting married and settling down?"

"For crying out loud, Lane, we're in high school," said Rory. "I think about things like college and backpacking through Europe and what new releases are coming out at the video store. I don't know. Am I the weird one?"

"Yes."

"Thanks."

"No problem," replied Lane.

"This whole egg business is what started everything," said Rory. "Thankfully there's only a few more days left, then it will all be just a fond nightmare."


* * * * * * * * * * * *


CHILTON - CAFETERIA


Rory took her tray of food and walked across the room to where Tristan sat. The food on his tray was barely touched and pushed to the side. He was focussed on some papers in front of him. The basket with the kids in it sat to the other side of him.

"Is this where the felons eat?"

Tristan looked up but, much to Rory's surprise, didn't respond to her dig. She set her tray across from him and sat down.

"I've been working on our assignment," he stated flatly and handed her the papers he'd been writing on. "It's pretty much done. You can look at it and see if you agree with what I've added. If not, make whatever changes you want. That's fine with me."

Rory was surprised by the time he must have put into the work.

"You didn't have to do all that. We could have worked on it together."

"I just thought I'd save us both the headache," he responded.

They stared at each other briefly, Rory trying to comprehend the empty expression on his face, but he quickly looked away. She glanced through the papers.

"What about the money for bail? How did you budget that in?"

"I sold my car. I'll just take the bus to work."

Rory couldn't believe his new attitude. She looked at him in disbelief.

"What?" he asked.

"I'm just surprised. You put up such a fight before about, well, about everything but most specifically about how you need your car and…"

Tristan didn't want to be reminded of their previous argument.

"It's the world of make-believe, Rory. I could take the trolley through Mr. Rogers' Neighborhood if that's what it took to get my grade."

Ah, there he was. There was the Tristan she knew, back in full force.

"Of course," she said in disappointment. "For a minute I thought…"

"Thought what?" he prompted.

"Nothing." She stood up quickly, tossing the papers back at him. "Whatever you put is fine. I don't care. I'm taking the kids."

She didn't wait for him to respond. She put the kids on her tray and walked away. Tristan stared painfully at the papers until finally closing his eyes in frustration.

* * * * * * * * * * * *


RORY'S HOUSE

It was Friday evening. Rory was sitting at the kitchen table staring at the eggs in front of her. Lorelai walked in.

"What are you doing?" inquired Lorelai.

"Breastfeeding."

"Okay, I didn't need that visual. I thought you had to turn the kids in with your assignment today."

"We turned in the assignment but Mrs. Cassidy was sick and our substitute didn't know what to do with all the eggs so we get to keep them until Monday."

"So, what are you really doing?"

"I don't know. I guess I thought after lugging them around for the past week I might start feeling like they were actual little people. But now when I look at them, I still just see eggs."

"That's because for the last week you've treated them like eggs. I, on the other hand, see two adorable little grandchildren. Little Lori is a tomboy, gets her first kiss in the treehouse, hits the side of the house backing out the car, graduates with honors from MIT, marries her college sweetheart and becomes a physicist. Little Tristan, Jr. is ritalin-boy, breaks his collar bone falling off the swingset, leads the conference in homeruns, goes to the University of Michigan on a scholarship, marries his college sweetheart and becomes a high school math teacher."

"You've got quite an imagination."

"It's a curse."

"Is it bad that I just see eggs?"

"No, it's not bad. It's unfortunate but it's not bad. Maybe someday you'll see something else."

Rory goes back to staring at the eggs.

"Hey, it's Friday night," said Lorelai. "Why don't you run along with Dean or Lane or whomever. I'll watch the kids."

Rory got up from the table.

"Do you need anything while I'm out?"

"Nope. You just go have fun."

Lorelai watched as Rory left the house and then turned to the kids.

"Oh, I'm so glad you guys are still here. I made some more clothes for you. They're very stylish. Wait right there."

She walked out of the room. The eggs sit quietly in their basket.


* * * * * * * * * * * *


RORY'S HOUSE (A LITTLE LATER)

The doorbell rang and Lorelai went to answer it. She opened the door to find a boy she didn't recognize.

"Is Rory here?" he asked.

"No, I'm afraid she's out and probably won't be back for a while. I could tell her you stopped by if you give me your name."

"I'm Tristan."

"You're Tristan? Well, slap my butt and call me Judy."

Needless to say, he was a little taken back by her.

"Where are my manners? I'm Lorelai, your mother-in-law. I've heard lots about you."

"I'm sure."

"Yeah, it's hasn't been real flattering."

He just stood there unable to think of a thing to say.

"Would you like to come in?" she asked.

"Um, no, thank you. I just wondered if you could give something to Rory."

"I could do that."

He pulled a small wrapped box out of his jacket pocket and handed it to her.

"I'll make sure she gets it."

"Thank you," said Tristan, then turned and left.


* * * * * * * * * * * *


RORY'S HOUSE (EVEN LATER)

Rory and Lane walked in the front door giggling. Lorelai sat on the couch reading a magazine.

"Hi, mom."

"So, how was your evening?"

"Good. How were the kids?"

"Absolute angels. We built a fort and watched 'The Real World' marathon."

"What city?" asked Lane.

"Seattle."

"That was a good one."

"Yeah, so what did you guys do?"

"We stopped in to see Dean," said Rory. "He had to work again. Then we grabbed dinner at Luke's, watched some paint dry, and then knocked over a liquor store."

"Well, as long as you girls had fun," said Lorelai as she got up from the couch. "Oh hey, guess what happened to me tonight."

"What?"

"I got to meet your husband. He stopped by while you were out."

"Tristan?"

"Please don't tell me you have other husbands."

"Tristan came here?"

"That's not fair. I want to meet your husband," said Lane.

"No, you don't."

"Well, I've heard enough about him. It would be nice to put a face with his ego."

"You forgot to mention that he's cute," said Lorelai.

"That's because he's not."

"Tristan is cute?" asked Lane.

Rory rolled her eyes.

"Cute in a boy band sort of way," Lorelai explained.

"He's boy band cute? You never told me this."

"He's not cute. He's evil."

"He brought you a gift," said Lorelai.

"He what?"

Lorelai handed the small, wrapped box to Rory who eyed it suspiciously.

"An evil gift?" asked Lane.

"It certainly has an evil vibe to it. Notice the floral pattern to the gift wrapping. No real flower looks like that. Dark forces are definitely involved in some sort of decorative cross-pollination."

Rory set the box on the table.

"I don't want to open it. It's just some joke he's playing."

"Could be," said Lorelai

"I'll take it," offered Lane.

Both Rory and Lorelai give her a look. She just shrugged. They then turned their attention back to the box.

"I'll just give it back to him on Monday."

"Good idea," said Lane.

"You go, girl," said Lorelai.

Rory started to walk away and then abruptly turned back.

"No, wait. This is dumb. There's nothing in that box that can hurt me if I don't let it hurt me and this will be a good opportunity for you guys to see first hand what I've had to deal with on a daily basis. I'm going to open it."

"Good idea."

"You go, girl."

With determination, Rory grabbed the small card that was attached to the top of the gift. She tore it open and her eyes went wide upon reading what was inside. Lorelai and Lane peeked over her shoulder to see.

"Happy Anniversary. Love, Tristan," read Lorelai.

"That doesn't really strike me as evil," said Lane.

Rory was speechless.

"What does he mean?" asked Lane.

"Today is their one week anniversary," explained Lorelai.

"It's just a joke. That's how he works," Rory said.

She tore off the wrapping paper to the box.

"The only thing he loves more than himself is to torture me."

She opened the box to reveal a locket.

"Ooo, an evil locket. It's pretty."

"I will bet you any amount of money that inside of this locket is a picture of mister boy band himself."

She popped the locket open and was once again shocked by the contents.

"Hey, it's a picture of your kids, Lori and little Egghead," Lane exclaimed.

"Oh, and they're wearing their little outfits," added Lorelai. "That's so sweet."

They stared at the picture adoringly until they suddenly recalled who the gift was from. Confused looks replaced the smiles on their faces. Rory was the most dumbfounded of them all.

"Are you sure you don't have another husband?" queried Lorelai.


* * * * * * * * * * * *


RORY'S BEDROOM

The lights were off. Rory was curled up in bed but wide awake. She stared at the locket that sat on the nightstand next to her bed. What could it possibly mean? Was this a trick or was this really some sort of peace offering? The better question was, what did she want it to be? So much was going through her mind. She just felt confused. There was only one thing to do. She had to talk to Tristan.

* * * * * * * * * * *



CHILTON - TRISTAN'S LOCKER

Monday morning, Rory was standing near Tristan's locker but he was nowhere to be seen. She finally walked over to a guy whose locker was a few doors down.

"Have you seen Tristan Dugray today?"

"No, I'm not sure if he's here. He's been pretty down lately. I think his grandfather is ill again. I've got to get to class but I'll let you know if I see him."

"Thanks," said Rory as he walked away.

She was about to give up and leave when he turned the corner and walked towards her. He noticed her before he got there and looked surprised to see her.

"Hi," said Rory.

"Hi."

"How's your grandfather?"

"My grandfather?" he asked in confusion.

"Oh, someone mentioned that he might be sick or something."

He turned to open his locker.

"He's fine."

"I'm glad. Um, I just wanted….uh, ya know, the locket."

"You got it?"

"Yeah, I'm not sure I understand…"

"I just thought you might like it."

"Oh, yeah. It's nice."

He stopped what he was doing for a minute and seemed to be trying to say something.

"I'm sorry I was such a lousy husband."

"You are?"

Still turned away from her, he took a few deep breaths but didn't respond.

"Why?" she asked.

"Let's just say I'm working on my skills in interpersonal relationships."

He quickly grabbed his books and shut his locker.

"I've gotta go," he said and took off. Befuddled, Rory just watched him walk away.


* * * * * * * * * * *


RORY'S HOUSE

Time went by and things had, for the most part, returned to their normal state. Rory was still confused by Tristan's actions but had given up trying to interpret them. Tristan himself seemed to have given up altogether. They didn't speak to each other. Since the semester ended and new classes began, they rarely even saw each other.

Chilton had an annual alumni mixer. It was a stodgy occasion, like most Chilton events, but students and their parents were encouraged to attend. Lorelai and Rory were getting ready to go.

"Why are we going to this again?" asked Lorelai, putting on her earrings.

"Because Grandma pays my tuition and you feel guilty."

"That's right. I forgot," she said, faking cheerfulness.

Rory checked herself in the mirror.

"Of course, it wouldn't hurt to strike up a conversation with a fellow alumnus who happens to have gone to Harvard," added Rory.

"Oh, my baby's going to network. I'm so proud."

"How do I look?" asked Rory as she did a twirl in her dress.

"Stunning," replied Lorelai. "Absolutely Harvard-worthy."

She gave Rory a hug and a kiss on the forehead.

"Dean's not going with us?" asked Lorelai, taking her turn at the mirror.

"I told him he didn't have to."

"Lucky boy."

"He's going to come by later. I figured we'd probably be back by nine."

"God, I hope it doesn't go that late. Grandma just paid your tuition. I didn't kill anybody."

"It could be fun," suggested Rory, shrugging.

Lorelai looked over at her in surprise.

"Tell me you're just warming up."

Rory smiled.

"I'm practicing my sincerity."

"Wow, you're good. You could sell shampoo," stated Lorelai. "Okay, you ready to go?"

"I'm ready."

"Let's go."


* * * * * * * * * * *


CHILTON

A large hall was filled with parents, students and alumni. Lorelai noticed Rory talking to a very distinguished-looking gentleman. They seemed to be in quite a lively discussion, laughing and everything. He wrote something on a piece of paper and handed it to her. She thanked him and walked over to Lorelai looking ecstatic.

"Let me guess," said Lorelai. "He's a professor at Harvard."

"No, but his wife is. She's in the English department and he gave me her phone number and e-mail. He said I should go for a visit and she could show me around."

"Rory, that is so great. I'm so proud of you."

"I know. I can't believe it. I'm on such an adrenaline rush."

"How many cookies did you have?"

"Three."

"The mocha fudge?"

"Yep."

"Were there any left?"

"Tons."

"I'll be right back," said Lorelai. "Maybe you should sit down."

"I don't think I can."

"Well, then maybe you should go outside and get some air before you pass out. You look a little flushed."

"Okay."

Lorelai walked away and Rory headed for a side door. She opened the door and stepped out onto a large balcony. It was a bit chilly out but seemed to be just the thing for her. She stared up at the night sky full of stars and smiled. She hadn't felt this good in a long time.

As she dropped her eyes back down, she noticed that there was someone else standing at the end of the balcony. There wasn't enough light to see who it was. She moved closer to try and make out who the dark figure was. As the moon moved out from behind a cloud she could make out the face. It was Tristan. He apparently wasn't aware of her presence. She stopped. Should could probably make it back inside without him seeing her. She didn't really need to spoil such a wonderful night. But the look on his face and his body language sent a definite message that something was wrong. Her compassionate side won out and she approached him.

"Hi," she said.

If he was startled by her appearance, he didn't show it.

"Hi," he replied.

They stood quietly as the moon slid behind another cloud.

"What are you doing out here?" he asked.

"I just needed some air."

"You're going to get cold," he stated and immediately took his jacket off and put it around her shoulders.

She was too stunned to protest.

"Thank you," she said.

They looked into each other's eyes, their faces shrouded in darkness.

"What are you doing out here?" she asked.

"I'm not feeling too well."

"I'm sorry."

"Don't worry. I think you're pretty safe from getting what I've got."

She didn't know why she did it, maybe it was the excitement from the evening, or maybe it was just because in the darkness she forgot herself, but she reached up and touched her palm to his cheek.

"You feel a little warm," she said.

Her touch set off something inside of Tristan. He tried to blink away the darkness so he could see her face.

"What are your other symptoms?" she continued.

Tristan's mouth went dry.

"I've lost my appetite," he said hoarsely.

"My arms are aching."

He took a step closer.

"My heart is pounding a mile a minute."

Rory froze in anticipation. Suddenly she wasn't so sure that his affliction wasn't contagious.

"And I'm feeling a little light-headed."

Slowly, ever so slowly, he lowered his mouth to hers and lightly kissed her lips. She closed her eyes and found herself kissing him back. But as he reached out to pull her closer, Rory pushed herself away from him. Both out of breath, they stood looking at each other, but the darkness hid the pained expressions on both of their faces. Rory turned and ran back inside, his jacket falling from her shoulders to the balcony floor.


* * * * * * * * * * *


RORY'S HOUSE

Dressed in more comfortable clothes, Lorelai and Rory were in the kitchen. Lorelai sat at the kitchen table while Rory paced the room, obviously very upset.

"What am I going to do?" asked Rory. "Dean's going to be here any minute."

"Are you going to tell him?"

"Yeah, I mean, I have to. Don't I?"

"That depends. What did that kiss mean to you?"

"Nothing. It was a mistake. I didn't know what I was doing."

"Then that's what you tell him."

Rory stopped and ran her hands through her hair.

"I can't believe this is happening. I was having such a good night. Why did I have to go out on that balcony?"

She sat down next to her mom.

"This is just crazy. I'm not the kind of person who cheats on her boyfriend."

"Cheats?" questioned Lorelai. "Do you feel like you cheated on Dean?"

"What? No. God, I don't know."

Rory dropped her head onto the table with a thud.

"Oh, ouch, sweetie," winced Lorelai, rubbing the top of Rory's head.

Just then the doorbell rang and Rory's head shot up from the table with a look of panic across her face.

"Mom?"

"Rory, I'm gonna be upstairs, okay?"

Rory nodded and they both walked to the front door. Lorelai turned and went upstairs. Rory hesitated at the door, took a deep breath, then opened it to find Dean smiling at her. She tried to smile back but wasn't sure if it was working.

"Hey, I thought maybe you fell asleep or something," he said.

"Nope, just thought I'd make you wait."

He walked in the door.

"I'd wait all night for you," said Dean, taking her in his arms and planting a kiss on her. She, of course, didn't respond like she usually would.

"What's wrong?" asked Dean, pulling back. "You're shaking."

"I'm just cold."

"Well, here. Let me warm you up."

He hugged her tightly but she was again less than responsive. He looked at her again.

"Rory, something's wrong. What is it?"

"Uh, well, it's been a weird night. Why don't we sit down and I'll tell you about it."

Dean took off his jacket and sat down next to her on the couch. Rory stared down at her hands in her lap. Noticing her discomfort, he took one of her hands in his own and squeezed it gently, smiling.

"What's wrong?" he prodded.

Rory took a deep breath and stared at their entwined hands.

"Well, you know that alumni thing we went to tonight?"

"Yeah, did you have fun?"

"Yeah, I even met a guy whose wife is a professor at Harvard. He said I should contact her and go for a visit."

"That's great, Rory."

"Yeah."

She became quiet again, unable to look into his understanding eyes.

"I'm guessing there's something else that happened that you obviously don't really want to tell me about."

He tried to keep the understanding look on his face but he was getting more and more uncomfortable.

"I ran into Tristan," she said quietly.

His grip on her hand immediately loosened and the look in his eyes hardened.

"And?" he prodded.

"We talked."

"And?"

"He kissed me."

He stared at her painfully, knowing why she couldn't meet his eyes, knowing what her next answer would be.

"And?"

But she did bring her eyes up to meet his and her voice broke.

"I kissed him back."

He let go of her hand.

"It was only for a second and then I pushed him away," she explained quickly.

It was his turn to look away.

"You still kissed him."

Tears sprang to her eyes.

"I'm so sorry. I didn't mean for it to happen. It was a mistake. It didn't mean anything."

Despite her tears, or rather because of them, Dean was angry.

"If it didn't mean anything, then why are you so upset?" he asked.

"Because I knew I would hurt you."

"It hurts because it obviously did mean something to you."

"No…"

"You like him."

"What? No. I can't stand him."

"Do you usually kiss people you can't stand?"

Dean stood up from the couch and grabbed his coat.

"Dean, please."

Rory was shaking even harder as tears streamed down her face.

"Please don't leave," she begged.

Dean looked down at her.

"Rory, I love you," he began, "But we can't be together."

With that, he turned and left. Rory fell back against the couch and sobbed. Before too long, she was cradled next to her mom until she cried herself into exhaustion.


* * * * * * * * * * *


CHILTON LIBRARY

Time passed, but Rory had yet to come out of her funk. She went about her day almost mechanically, not wanting to think about, well, what she didn't want to think about. Tristan sought her out on several occasions but she managed to avoid him. She hoped he would get the hint and leave her alone. She made several efforts to contact Dean, but to no avail.

She got up from the computer in the library and walked into the stacks to find a book. While she was focussed on finding the book, she didn't notice Tristan enter. He didn't notice her either until he happened to walk past the row that she stood in. He wasn't an idiot. He had gotten her hints, so it took him a minute before he decided to approach her. She had a book open and didn't notice him standing there.

"Hey," he said, startling her.

"Oh, hi."

She turned back to her book, but he was not so easily thwarted.

"Got a new book you're reading?"

She realized he wasn't just going to go away.

"It's a book on France."

"You have to write a report?"

"No, it's just a place I'd like to visit."

"France is a beautiful country."

She sighed.

"You've been there, of course," she said.

"A couple years ago, we had a house in Nice for the summer."

To her surprise, he walked over and took the book from her. He paged through it until he found a map and then pointed to a city on the coast.

"Nice is here on the Mediterranean, not far from the Italian border. And also Cannes where they have the big film festival."

He handed her the book back.

"Was there a place in France you wanted to go specifically?" he asked.

"No."

"You should go to Nice. Although, anywhere you go would probably be just as interesting."

"Are the French really as rude as they're stereotyped?"

"Some are. But if you at least attempt to speak to them in their own language, most are pretty nice about it."

"I guess my years of French may actually pay off."

"It's always good to know the basics, like 'where's the bathroom', 'how much does this cost', or 'could you please tell me what I'm eating'."

Rory chuckled despite herself. Tristan smiled back. It wasn't the smile she knew, the old smug grin. It was genuine and it made him look like a totally different person.

"The food there is incredible," he continued. "And the atmosphere, I can't describe it. Narrow cobbled streets. Open air markets. The best is when you just go for a walk and stumble upon some historical landmark. You feel like you just stepped out of the pages of National Geographic."

"Wow, I wish I could leave right now."

Suddenly the school bell rang.

"Speaking of leaving. I'm going to be late," said Tristan. "But hey, if you ever want to talk more about France, just let me know. I've got pictures too."

"Okay," said Rory.

He smiled again and then turned and left. Rory stood there watching him, trying to process their conversation. It certainly was a contrast to previous conversations that they've had. Maybe his interpersonal skills were getting better. She decided not to ponder it further. She closed the book and went to check it out.


* * * * * * * * * * *


STARS HOLLOW - MAIN STREET

Friday night, Rory and Lane walked down the street towards the bookstore. A local writer, Barton Brice, was going to read from his new book and they decided to go see him.

"I can't remember," said Lane. "What does this guy write about?"

"I let you borrow his book," said Rory.

"That doesn't mean I read it."

"You could always give it back."

"I'd probably have to find it first."

"Don't worry about it. Are you hungry?"

Lane grabbed Rory's arm.

"Hey, check out the hottie," said Lane.

"Where?"

"Getting out of the SUV."

Rory saw the guy that Lane was referring to. It was Tristan. He saw Rory and started walking over.

"Oh no," said Rory.

"He's coming this way."

Rory wasn't in the mood to talk to him, but there he was, suddenly standing before them.

"Hey, Rory."

"Hey, Tristan," she replied with a lack of enthusiasm.

"You're Tristan?" asked Lane.

"I'm Tristan."

"You could be in a boy band. Do you sing?"

"This," interrupted Rory, "is Lane."

"I'm Rory's best friend."

"Nice to meet you."

"What are you doing here?" asked Rory.

"There's an author who's reading at the bookstore," explained Tristan. "I wanted to hear him."

"You're kidding?" said Lane.

"Why? Is that where you guys are heading?"

"No," said Rory just as Lane said yes.

Lane looked questioningly at Rory.

"I'm not going," said Rory.

"I'm going," said Lane "I love his books."

Rory couldn't believe Lane.

"Would you like to join me so I don't have to sit by myself?" asked Tristan.

"I'd love to," said Lane.

"Well, we better get inside and grab a seat," said Tristan. "Are you sure you don't want to come, Rory?"

Irritated, Rory looked at Lane who smiled sweetly back.

"I'm sure," she replied.

"We'll see you later then," said Lane and turned to hurry them into the bookstore.

"Bye," said Tristan as he was being lead away.

Even more irritated, Rory watched them disappear into the bookstore.

Rory walked around town for the better part of an hour, her irritation stewing. She was upset first of all that Tristan was even there to ruin yet another thing that she would probably have enjoyed. She was more upset with Lane who basically ditched her, for him of all people. After everything she'd told Lane about him and she just swooned at his feet. Rory was disgusted.

She didn't know how many times she had circled town. She finally sat down on a bench and relaxed for a minute. She was across the street from Luke's. She noticed a couple sitting at a table inside the diner. If she didn't know any better, she could have sworn it looked like Tristan and Lane. The two people then turned their heads as they laughed at something. It was Tristan and Lane! Rory was no longer upset, she was pissed. She jumped up off her seat and headed for Luke's. She walked in the door and stormed over to their table.

"What the hell are you doing?" she asked, her eyes blazing.

"We were hungry," said Lane defensively.

"Do you remember who this is?" said Rory, raising her voice. "Do you remember me talking about this guy? Complaining about this guy, every single day? This is Tristan! The arrogant little rich boy!"

The words stung Tristan and she saw it in his eyes. She turned her attention to him.

"And you. I don't know what you think you're doing, trying to put your moves on my friend, my best friend. Why did you have to show up in my town? Isn't it enough that I have to put up with you at school?"

Lane was shocked by Rory's outburst, along with the rest of the diners. Nobody said anything as Rory caught her breath. Luke walked up behind her.

"Rory, are you okay?" he asked.

She didn't reply. She just turned and walked out the door. A second later, Tristan came running out after her. He grabbed her arm and turned her around to look at him.

"What does it take with you?" he demanded.

She didn't understand what he was talking about.

"Haven't I been good?" he asked. "The other day in the library. The locket. And now here I am having a nice time with your best friend and….and it just doesn't mean a thing to you."

"It means you should go out for drama club," said Rory.

His shoulders slumped in defeat.

"I don't know why I even try."

"Why do you try?" she asked, still very upset.

"Because I'm in love with you, Rory!" he said in exasperation. "I've been in love with you. And I've tried so hard to be the person you could love back but everything I do just makes you hate me more. So, I give up. You win. Okay? Excuse me while I crawl back into my hole."

He walked past her down the street. She stood frozen to the spot, unable to believe what he had just said. She felt numb. Lane and Luke walked slowly towards her but she didn't really see them. She was suddenly very tired.

"Rory, honey," said Luke. "Why don't you come inside and I'll fix you something special."

She followed them into the diner but didn't utter a word for the rest of the night.


* * * * * * * * * * *


THE INDEPENDENCE INN

The next day, Lorelai talked Rory into going to work with her so that she wouldn't mope around the house. Rory hadn't told her what had happened. Lorelai had gotten most of the story out of Lane and Luke but there were a few sections missing.

Lorelai stood next to Michel as he read the newspaper at the registration counter. Rory sat slouched on a couch nearby. Lorelai walked over to her.

"Hey," she said to Rory. "If you keep that expression on your face, you'll scare away all our guests. That's Michel's job."

"I heard that," said Michel without looking up from his paper.

"There's got to be some way to cheer you up," said Lorelai.

She looked over at Michel. He noticed and raised the paper higher so that he couldn't see her.

"Hey, French boy, maybe you can help me out. You're not doing anything."

He lowered his paper and looked at her with his usual disinterest.

"I'm reading the paper," he stated.

"Come on, be a sport. It's not like I'm going to ask you to mime or anything. Although, that might do the trick."

"Mimes are the lowest form of society," said Michel with distaste.

"I'll be sure to remember you said that if they ever decide to hold a convention here. Wouldn't that be a quiet weekend? Now come on, is there anything in the paper that might put a smile back on little Rory's face."

She squeezed Rory's cheeks, which didn't elicit any response.

"There was an earthquake in Chile," read Michel.

"Next."

"Scientists speculate about another ice age."

"Next."

"They've developed a cure for happiness."

"Don't make me come over there."

"Fine," said Michel. "I will read one of the comic strips. Here is one entitled 'Garfield'. It is a cat with stripes and he is talking to a man named John who I can only assume is his owner. John says to the cat, 'Garfield, what happened to the lasagna that I made?' 'I ate it,' replies the cat. Garfield. Yes, the cat is Garfield. Then the man makes some sort of strange jumping motion signified by squiggly lines and says, 'I had a date coming over for dinner.' The rather overweight and insensitive cat remarks, "At least now you'll have an excuse for why she decides not to stay.' That wasn't funny. How can they call these things comics?"

"Okay, that's enough of that. Thank you for playing 'Who wants to be clinically depressed?'"

With a huff, he turned to a different section of the newspaper.

"What are you doing now?" she asked.

"I'm checking the obituaries."

"Why?"

"If my name is in here, I'm going home."

"If your name is in there, I'm calling Della Reese."

"Hmm."

"Not there?"

"There is only one person who passed away yesterday."

"Anyone we know?"

"A Tristan Dugray."

Rory and Lorelai both froze.

"What?" said Rory, the color drained from her face.

"Are you sure?" asked Lorelai.

"Of course, I am sure."

"How?" said Rory.

"It doesn't say that."

Lorelai was alarmed by Rory's reaction and pulled her into her arms. Michel also noticed her reaction.

"I'm sorry. Did you know this man?" he asked.

"He went to school with Rory."

He shook his head.

"You must be mistaken."

"What do you mean?"

"The man was eighty-four years old."

"What?"

Rory broke away from Lorelai and grabbed the paper from Michel.

"Tristan Lawrence Dugray," read Rory quickly. "Founder of Dugray Enterprises, passed away at the age of eighty-four."

While Rory tried to catch her breath, Lorelai continued. "Okay, skip down, skip down. 'He is survived by his son blah, blah, blah and his grandson, Tristan!' Rory, it must have been his grandfather who passed away, not Tristan, the Tristan you know."

Rory collapsed back into her mother's arms as she began sobbing uncontrollably. All that Lorelai could do was hold her and offer words of comfort. Michel looked on helplessly.


* * * * * * * * * * *


FUNERAL HOME

Lorelai and Rory both showed up for the visitation the following night. They walked into a room full of well-dressed people all caught up in some form of conversation. Lorelai took Rory's hand and lead her through the crowd until they found who they were looking for. Tristan stood near an entranceway, talking to an older gentleman. Lorelai squeezed Rory's hand.

"I'm going to pay my respects and then I'll wait for you in the back," said Lorelai.

Rory nodded and Lorelai disappeared into the crowd. Rory stood and watched him for a minute before moving. He looked nice in the dark suit that he wore. The older gentleman patted Tristan on the shoulder and then walked away. She began walking towards him. He didn't notice her until she stood at his side. His surprise was evident.

"Hi," managed Rory.

"Hi," said Tristan.

"I'm sorry about your grandfather."

"Thank you for coming. I didn't really expect you to be here."

"Yeah, um, could we maybe go somewhere else and talk for a minute?"

"Yeah, sure," he replied and lead her out of the room. They found a side door and walked out onto a small patio. The sky was perfectly clear. A gentle breeze rustled the leaves of the nearby foliage.

"What did you want to talk about?"

Rory was having a hard time trying to come up with what to say to him. She closed her eyes for a second to gather her thoughts.

"Um, I… I didn't know your grandfather's name was Tristan."

"Oh, yeah, I was named after him. They didn't put 'junior' after my name because my dad wasn't a Tristan. I don't know how that works really…"

"No," she interrupted. "I mean, when I heard that Tristan Dugray had died, I didn't know it was your grandfather. I…" She took a breath. "I thought it was you."

Tristan was taken aback by her statement.

"You thought I had died?"

"Yeah, I thought it was you," she said and took another breath. "And while I sat there thinking it was you, some interesting things happened. I stopped breathing. I think my heart pretty much stopped too. And I started thinking… about how you weren't going to be able to tell me where to find the best coffee in France. And I thought how much I was going to miss arguing with you. And I'd miss seeing your smile, not the smug one that makes me want to slap you. The smile that I saw in the library." Her voice broke and tears sprang to her eyes..

Tristan was in shock.

"You're crying for me?"

"Yes, I…"

Before she could finish her sentence, Tristan took her in his arms and brought his lips to hers, kissing her hungrily. She responded with equal passion as they clung to each other in desperation. It felt like a dream to both of them that they would be standing there like this with each other.

Tristan moved his kisses from her lips to each cheek as he tried to kiss away the tears that lay upon them.

"Tristan…"

He pulled back to look in her eyes.

"Rory," he whispered hoarsely. "You're so beautiful. Do you have any idea how long I've wanted just to hold you?"

She shook her head and her tears renewed their flow.

"Please don't cry."

"I can't help it."

She stared up into his eyes as he brushed a tear off her cheek with his thumb.

"I thought you hated me."

"I thought I did too," she said and smiled weakly. "It just hit me like a train. I thought I had lost you."

He leaned down and kissed her again, much more gently this time, lingering and soulful.

"I feel like I'm dreaming," he said between kisses. "Although, my dreams never felt this good."

"If it is a dream," said Rory, "I hope it doesn't end."

He pulled back again so that he could see her face.

"I love you, Rory. God, I love you so much."

"I never thought I'd say this but I love you too."

"That's because I gave you every reason not to," said Tristan. "Rory, I'm so sorry…"

"Shh, no," she interrupted. "There's nothing left to apologize for. Just… please, don't let go of me."

"I won't."

He pulled her tighter to him.

"I don't ever want to let go of you."


THE END

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