disclaimer in part 1
When Snow Falls
_ _ _
Rory cleared her throat nervously as she watched Tristan make his way around the bench to stand in front of her. "Hi, Tristan."
"Donít sound so excited to see me," he teased. Tristan sat down beside of her and rubbed his palms on his khakis, before smiling at her briefly. "I wanted to talk to you earlier, but you kept running away."
"My mother was about to give new meaning to the song Frosty the Snowman."
When Tristan seemed confused, Rory laughed lightly. "Itís a long, sordid story." She nudged him with her shoulder. "So, what brings you to Stars Hollow on a day like this?
He swallowed, trying to refrain from saying you. "Well, Iíve heard people at Chilton talk about Beaverís Hill..."
Rory raised her eyebrows. "Wow. You must really like sledding since you came out here."
"Something like that."
Rory turned to look at Tristan, startled to find him studying her. She averted her eyes, concentrating on removing a loose thread hanging from her glove. As she tugged on the pesky thread, her shoulder brushed up against his.
"I probably should be heading up to the inn. I told my mom I wouldnít be out here long," Rory interrupted. She stood up briskly, her legs feeling like they were made of rubber. Tristan stood up as well, turning around to check the bench.
"Did you lose something?" Rory asked, puzzled.
"You didnít bring a book." It was more of a statement than a question.
When Tristan turned to face her, she saw a trace of the smirk that was so characteristic of him. "I thought you took every chance you could to catch up on your reading." Tristan cheered mentally, knowing exactly where this conversation would go if Rory took the bait. And she did.
Rory remembered that was exactly what she had told him the night of Madelineís party. "Well, this is...this is different. That was a party...it was boring....and...and there was nothing to do." As soon as the words were out of Roryís mouth, she regretted them. Frustrated at her lack of verbal capabilities, she could have kicked herself.
Tristan rocked back on his heels, the smirk still present. "Oh, it seemed like you were pretty well entertained that night."
As Rory caught the true meaning of his statement, a blush began to creep up her cheeks. She turned on her heel and headed toward the inn, hearing Tristanís footsteps crunching on the snow behind her. She quickened her pace, and suddenly her feet slid out from beneath her as she stepped on a piece of ice. One of Roryís hands shot out to brace for the impact when strong arms came from behind her to grip her around the waist. Tristan grasped Roryís shoulders lightly and turned her around to face him. Reaching out, he tucked a loose tendril of silky hair behind her ear. Tristan slowly trailed his finger down her jaw line to under her chin, and gently lifted it so she was looking into his eyes.
"Are you okay?" When Rory didnít answer, he reached down to grip her hand lightly, pulling back in concern when she winced. "Youíre hurt."
"I think I scraped my hand on the ice when I fell. Itís no big deal," Rory managed to stammer.
Tenderly, Tristan took Roryís hand in his larger one, pulling her glove off so he could examine her hand more closely. The scrape wasnít deep, but it was spread over the palm of her hand. As he ran his finger over the scrape lightly, he saw the grimace that Rory tried to hide. Bending his head, Tristan began to blow gently on her palm.
Rory stood in front of Tristan, frozen in place, feeling nothing but Tristanís warm breath on her hand. Her pulse had accelerated to a rapid pounding in her head, and she was sure he could hear it. What she didnít know, was that his heartbeat could easily have matched hers. Rory flexed her feet and took a few steps back, away from Tristan. "I... I really should be going in. My mom might be bored and weíve had that happen before. Sheíll start taking things apart and putting them back together. Not a pretty picture. She did that before with the toilet pump, and we had to go next door whenever we had to use the bathroom... Just please ignore the fact that I ever told you that." The babbling had begun.
Tristan stared at her for a moment, an unreadable expression on his features. "Yeah, letís get you warm."
When Rory turned to walk in the direction of the inn, she realized she was still grasping his hand. She jerked it away and shoved her hands in the pockets of her coat, the one Tristan had held still tingling from his touch.
When they entered the lobby, conversation stopped as faces turned to gawk at the two teenagers. Tristan leaned down to whisper in Roryís ear. "Suspicious group, arenít they?"
"They just want to know who you are. Welcome to Stars Hollow, Tristan," Rory whispered back, refusing to acknowledge the way his breath had tickled her ear. Giving herself a mental shake, she went over to her mom and Lane. Lorelai turned and greeted Rory, then gazed at Tristan curiously.
"Mom... this is Tristan."
"A pleasure to meet you." Tristan reached out to shake hands with Lorelai.
Lorelai took his hand firmly. "Ah, so this is the guy who wonít call my daughter by her real name. Itís Rory. Say it with me, Tristan. Ro-ry. Just like Hooked on Phonics."
Tristan glanced away, embarrassed. Lorelai grinned. "Aw. Little boys will be little boys, right?"
Rory figured it would be a good time to speak up. "Um, and this is my best friend, Lane." Rory looked over at Lane, who was standing wide-eyed gazing at Tristan.
"Lane, would you like a cup to catch the drool?" Lorelai teased innocently.
Lane blinked several times before extending her hand. "Lane Kim," she introduced herself cheerfully.
"So, are we ready to leave yet?" Rory asked her mom, hoping she would say yes.
Lorelai was distracted from answering her when Michel strolled over. "You must come upstairs now. I am growing impatient standing next to that man while he insists on throwing soap suds everywhere."
When Tristan stifled a chuckle, Michel turned to face the young man before him. "Who is this?" he asked, while eyeing Tristan suspiciously.
"Tristan Dugray, sir." Tristan offered his hand to the impeccably dressed Frenchman.
Michel frowned in disdain. "Triscuit? You are named after a cracker?"
"Itís Tristan," Lorelai asserted.
"How nice." Fluttering his hands, Michel turned to her. "Now if you are through socializing, you are needed upstairs before that imbecile ruins something," he said while brushing imaginary particles off his suit.
"Iím on my way." Lorelai put her hand on Roryís shoulder. "Thereís been a slight problem. Well, actually it could turn into a major problem. Anyway, this snow has caused some of our main water pipes to freeze up, cutting off the water supply. One of the guests was in the middle of taking a shower when the water flow stopped. He is now standing in the hall, saying words not meant for young ears." She paused to take a breath. "He makes Christina Aguilera in the middle of a temper tantrum look nice."
"Oh, scary thought." Rory nodded knowingly.
"Complete with neon eye shadow," Lane added.
"And hair extensions."
"Heís not really wearing that stuff..." Tristanís eyes widened. "Is he?"
Lorelai laughed. "Tristan, our town is not that strange. Eccentric at times, but not demented. We donít auction people off to be stoned, like in that one story....uh, I forget what itís called."
"The Lottery," Rory supplied.
"Yeah, thatís it!"
Tristan smiled. "Thatís good to know."
Lorelai turned back to her daughter. "So, Iím going to have to stay here for a while and get all this settled. There could be a riot with blocks of ice everywhere."
"I would stay here, but Lane is supposed to be home soon." Rory gestured to her friend.
Lorelai thought for a second. "Mrs. Kim will go into cardiac arrest if Laneís not there on time. I could let you take the jeep, but that means I would have to walk home, and Iím not looking forward to turning into an icicle." She rubbed her forehead. "Bad memories of Titanic."
"I can take them." Three pairs of eyes turned to stare at Tristan.
"You can?" Lorelai questioned.
"Yeah. My carís in the parking lot." Tristan tilted his head to gaze at Rory as she slumped down in a chair. Rory glanced up, then quickly feigned interest in the carpet pattern.
Lorelai watched Tristan and Rory, a million thoughts playing havoc with her mind. She certainly didnít miss the adoring looks the guy had been sending her daughter since they had come inside. However, Rory seemed immune to them or she had at least been trying her best to ignore them. "You did say car, right? Nothing requiring helmets or you having to put your feet down when you stop?"
Tristan laughed inwardly at Lorelaiís antics. Like mother, like daughter. "I seem to have left my moped at home. It tends to ruin my image around Chilton."
Seeing his mischievous grin, Lorelai moved over to him, making sure Rory was safely engaged in a conversation with Lane. "I think Iím going to change my initial opinion of you."
Lorelai patted his arm lightly. "You donít want to know. But if for some reason Rory doesnít get home safely, your head mounted on the wall of my living room would go quite well with the decor. It would fit right in with the monkey lamp. They like company. The local taxidermist would have fun with you, since she doesnít get out much."
Tristanís eyes widened, but he regained his composure quickly. "Iíll even bring the plaque engraved with my name."
Lorelai smiled at him. "Iím glad we see eye to eye." As she watched Rory and Lane slowly follow Tristan out to the parking lot, she turned to Sookie who had come up to catch the end of the conversation. "I like him."
"Whoís that?" Sookie rubbed her eyes with her Band-Aid covered fingers.
"A friend of Roryís?"
Lorelai winked at Sookie. "I have a feeling weíre going to be seeing a lot more of him around here."
Miss Patty spoke up from her position on one of the couches. "I sure hope so."
"Two words, Miss Patty. Jail bait."
"Oh, believe me. I know how old he is, but there was never any harm in looking," Miss Patty responded innocently.
Lorelai whirled around when she felt someone tap her shoulder firmly. Michel was standing there, flecks of soap bubbles covering his hair, face, and suit.
She covered her mouth with a hand to disguise her laughter. "Why donít I go take care of that water situation now?"
Rory and Lane stepped carefully over the ice covered pavement as Tristan led the way to his car. Lane pulled on Roryís coat so that they were walking a little bit behind him. "I think I need to take Lorelai up on her offer for the drool cup now," Lane whispered, admiring Tristanís tall, lean physique. Not to mention the eyes, lips, and hair.
When Laneís comments didnít elicit a response from Rory, she sighed deeply. "Rory, you have to agree with me. The guy could melt snow."
"Then maybe you should stick him on your driveway, and then you wouldnít have to shovel anymore," Rory quipped.
"Oh my god. Is that his car?" Lane actually squealed. Tristan was standing beside a black Porsche, holding the passenger door open.
"Ladies, your chariot awaits," Tristan said, his grin brimming with the usual confidence. Lane gave him a shy smile before crawling into the back seat. When Rory hesitated, Tristan stepped away from her, holding his hands up. "Hey, if you wanna walk..."
"No," Rory shot back, breaking into a laugh. She slid into the front seat, and Tristan shut the door behind her. Rory ran her hand over the smooth leather of the seat, taking in the interior of the car. It was remarkably neat. She had expected to find Tristanís belongings laying around or at least a tube of lipstick from one of his many conquests. Just one more piece to add to the already seemingly unsolvable puzzle that was Tristan Dugray.
Once Tristan had pulled out of the parking lot, Lane began to chatter on about Stars Hollow. What she was saying was interesting, but Tristan found it hard to concentrate on anything but the girl beside of him. Rory had been extremely quiet since they had left the inn, and now she seemed to be completely focused on the scene through the window. Glancing down, he noticed that Roryís left arm was resting on the console. Tristan was tempted to move his own arm down to rest lightly against hers. He just craved any contact with her. Shaking his head, he berated himself for being so foolish.
After they had dropped Lane off, Rory remained silent except to give Tristan directions to her house. Wearily, Rory watched the windshield wipers move back and forth, scraping off the light snow that had once again begun to fall. When Tristan cleared his throat, Rory jerked her eyes over to his figure. His right hand was gripping the steering wheel, while the other arm was propped up on the door. His jaw was clenched lightly as he focused on maneuvering the car over the slick roads. Rory had the sudden urge to reach out and touch that chiseled jaw. Quickly clasping her hands together in her lap, she was thankful when he pulled up to her house.
"Well, here we go." Tristan put the car into park, and turned to smile at her.
"Thank you for driving me home. Lane too."
Rory had her hand on the door handle when something stopped her. "Tristan, do you want to come inside for a little while?" Why did I just ask him that? Bad move, Rory. "I mean, itís cold out here, and you should probably get warm."
To say Tristan was surprised at her offer was an understatement. "Inviting me in already? I guess I havenít lost my charm."
Rory rolled her eyes at him, playfully. "Donít push it. I know Miss Patty would just love to have you over."
"Iíll be quiet," Tristan replied quickly.
"As a mouse?"
"Well, I donít know about that."
"Did you know she once danced in a cage?"
"Okay, I get the point," Tristan surrendered.
They began walking up to Roryís house, side by side. "Be careful, itís slick," Tristan warned. Rory was startled when she felt him place his hand on the small of her back, and he kept it there until they reached the door. "We wouldnít want you to fall again." Tristan winked at her, stepping back so she could turn the key in the lock.
Rory felt the heat spread up to her cheeks once again, turning her head so Tristan wouldnít see her blush. She had never thought Tristan was the protective type, but here he was, watching over her. She hated to admit it, but it felt nice. Rory pushed the door open, removing her coat as she walked into the hall. "I can make some hot chocolate..."
"That would be great. Do you want some help?"
"No, I can get it." After pointing him to the living room, she hurried into the kitchen, grateful to be out from under his piercing gaze. Rory busied herself by filling a saucepan with milk then putting it on the stove to heat. She opened a canister of cocoa mix and prepared to add it to the steaming liquid.
"Youíre nice to look at."
Rory whirled around, nearly dropping the entire canister of cocoa. Tristan was leaning against the entrance to the kitchen, hands casually in the pockets of his khakis. He had taken off his coat, revealing a navy sweater that accentuated the blue in his eyes. "Very nice," Tristan said, those blue eyes never leaving Roryís. The mischievous sparkle was back, and it was intoxicating. Everything else seemed to fade away as she lost herself in the true essence of Tristan. For almost the first time in her life, Rory was speechless.
"The milk is boiling over."
Rory blinked. "Oh!" She swiftly lifted the saucepan off the stove. Taking a deep breath, she gripped the handle of the oven, trying to steady herself. When she glanced up at the entry way, Tristan was no longer standing there. Why, in that one moment, had he affected her so much? Rory chuckled, reminding herself it was just Tristan. Her imagination had been working overtime lately. Pushing her thoughts aside, Rory filled two mugs with hot chocolate, added a few marshmallows, and carried them into the living room. Tristan was sitting on one end of the couch, his legs stretched out in front of him. She handed him a mug and then sat down on the opposite end.
"Thanks." Tristan took a sip, shifting uneasily when an uncomfortable silence filled the room. It was completely unlike Rory to be this quiet, and he wished that he could just know what she was thinking. He hadnít missed the fact that Rory had sat down as far away from him as she possibly could. If she moved over anymore, she would be sitting on the arm of the couch. "So, are you ready for the big project Mr. Medina has planned for next week?"
Rory looked up, an eager expression on her face. "Yeah. Iím interested in seeing what he is going to have us do. He seemed really excited about it."
Tristan nodded in agreement. "Me too. I wonder if this is going to be a partner or solo thing." No sooner had the words left his mouth, when Roryís features marred into frown. "Whatís wrong?"
Rory sighed, exasperated. "Thereís always a chance Iíll get paired up with Paris. Mr. Medina has a knack for making people who donít get along work together. I believe her new goal, besides having the highest grade point average in the history of Chilton, is to make my life miserable. Not that she didnít try before, but now she has no intentions of holding back."
"Well, if it makes you feel any better, Iím not her favorite person now either. When Paris walked by me at lunch yesterday, she gave me the infamous death glare. Iím surprised it didnít burn the Chilton seal off my uniform. To make it even worse, she was carrying a salad, and I just knew it was going to end up all over me."
Rory couldnít contain her laughter. "Iím just picturing you covered in lettuce and tomatoes. Tristan Dugray, the human salad bar. That is the picture for the yearbook cover."
"Iím sorry, Rory," Tristan said suddenly.
Roryís brow furrowed. "Sorry? For what?"
Tristan ran a hand through his hair and massaged the tight muscles at the base of his neck, trying to relieve some of the tension. "Sorry for telling Paris that you were the one who suggested we should go out. I know that before I said it was no big deal, but I should have realized Paris would be upset. I just never thought she liked me as much as she did."
"Itís not your fault," Rory told him reassuringly. "Besides, itís better that you were honest about it."
Tristan swallowed hard and decided to take the chance. "The only thing Iím sure about is that I couldnít keep dating Paris when I have these strong feelings for someone else." He studied Rory carefully, waiting for her reaction.
Rory hastily looked down at her mug. She swirled the hot chocolate around, watching as the marshmallows melted into a gooey mess. Strong feelings? I thought he just liked someone else. And why do I even care? "Well..."
Donít say it, Rory. Please, donít say it.
"... have you tried talking to Summer?" For some reason, the name tasted bitter on Roryís tongue.
Damn. The hot chocolate Tristan had been drinking seemed to sour in his stomach. "No," he managed to choke out.
"Well, Summerís a lucky girl to have you care for her so much," Rory replied with forced cheer.
Thereís your answer, Dugray. Rory will never like you. Tristan tightened his hands around the mug.
"So..." Rory was interrupted when Tristan stood up abruptly. "Is something wrong?"
"Nothingís wrong. I probably should be leaving." Tristan handed Rory his mug, shrugging on his coat. As he walked toward the door, he glanced at her one last time. She was still sitting at the same spot on the couch, staring at him in confusion. "See you, Rory."
"Goodbye, Tristan," she murmured softly. She leaned her head back against the couch when she heard the door shut quietly behind him. Rory had the feeling that something had just gone very wrong with their conversation. But what? Groaning, she rubbed her throbbing temples. She was surprised when she heard the door open again. "Did you forget something?" she called out.
"Rory, I think we have a really big problem here."
Rory glanced up and saw Tristan standing in the hall, his coat and hair covered with snow. "I guess itís still snowing, huh?"
Tristan shook his head. "Weíre not talking flurries. Itís coming down so hard, I canít even see my car on the street."
"Well, things canít get much worse than this, can they?" Rory ran a hand through her hair, suddenly feeling exhausted.
Before Tristan could reply, they were plunged into darkness.
"You just got your answer."