disclaimer in part 1
When Snow Falls
_ _ _
"Oh no." Rory stood up, immediately striking her knee on the corner of the coffee table. She stumbled over to the wall, her scrambling fingers searching for the cool metal of the light switch. Her desperate hunt was stilled when her hands came in contact with a warm, firm body.
"Any excuse to put your hands on me, right Rory?"
She glanced up, barely able to make out Tristanís features. Yet, she knew that self-confident smirk had taken hold of his mouth. "Tristan, Iím not in the mood for this right now."
"Hey, whenever you are in the mood, Iím ready."
"You could help me find the light switch, you know." Rory slid her hands along the edge of the wall, finally locating it. She frantically flipped the switch up and down to no avail. Panic swam through her, threatening to take her strength with it. "What happened?" she asked meekly, although she already knew the answer.
"Well, Ms. Genius, the power appears to have gone out." Tristan didnít have to see her face to know that her glare could burn a hole right through his Abercrombie and Fitch sweater. "I guess the wind knocked down a line somewhere," he said, softening his tone. He peered out the window, unable to see much of anything through the snow. "From what I can tell, it looks like the whole streetís out."
Rory tugged at her hair, thoughts flying through her mind at warp speed. "We need candles, flashlights..." She squeezed the side of her watch, illuminating its face. "Itís getting late too. Before long itíll be completely dark outside." When Tristan moved over to the door and turned the knob, Rory felt the panic form a lump in her already tight throat. "Where are you going? You canít drive in this."
Tristanís heart swelled at the concern in her eyes. "I was just going to get the flashlight out of my car. I always keep one in the glove compartment." He caressed Roryís pale cheek with the back of his hand. Unknowingly, she leaned into the comfort of his touch. "I wonít leave you, Rory."
Nodding, she watched him jog into the blowing snow. Rory was disturbed by her inability to stay in control, when she usually was so capable of taking care of everything. She closed her eyes tightly, breathing in deeply to calm her frazzled nerves. When the door flew open again, she shivered from the freezing air that blew into the hallway, rubbing the newly formed goose bumps on her arms. Tristan, now in possession of the flashlight, shined it on Rory where she was standing, arms wrapped tightly around her torso. "Maybe we should start a fire. Itís definitely not going to get warm in here anytime soon without one."
A few minutes later, a tiny fire was roaring in the hearth, slowly filling the living room with warmth. They had both moved to sit on the floor so as to quickly benefit from the flickering flames. Tristan rubbed his hands together, watching Rory from the corner of his eye. The color had returned to her cheeks, her eyes were closed, and a pleasant smile was playing across her lips. "Care to let me in on what has put that peaceful expression on your face?"
She smiled, her eyes remaining closed. "Iím visualizing myself on a beach in the Bahamas. The water is such a crystal blue that you can see straight to the bottom. The waves are hitting the beach, showering me with their cool spray. The breeze is blowing the palm fronds, and the warm sun is beaming down on me as I lie in the sand."
Her voice was soothing to Tristanís ears. The melodic tone washed around him, filling his senses. He could listen to her talk forever about anything that fascinated her. Aching to get some sort of reaction, he replied, "Are you wearing a bikini? Because if you are, I am so there."
Rory opened one eye, gazing at him with a fiery expression. "Pig. I had the beginning of a great fantasy going on."
"So, now Iím a pig?"
Rory eyed him carefully. "Well, you would probably hate the dirt and rolling in the mud part."
"No thanks. I would rather be on the beach instead of in a mud hole, eating who knows what." Tristan shuddered at the thought. "Speaking of beaches, why daydream about a fantasy when you could have the real thing right here?"
She jerked her head in his direction, trying to gauge what he meant. It was impossible to tell, because his face was bathed in shadows from the glowing firelight. Only his eyes were trained on her, and they were an even more intense cobalt blue than usual. There was something flickering in their depths, but what, Rory was not sure. "Yeah, Iíll just get a bucket of sand and sprinkle it on the floor," she retorted. She stared at the fire, listening to the wind blow through the trees outside. "Now I know why Iíve never been fond of winter."
"Whatís your favorite season, Rory?" Tristan asked.
"Oh, definitely spring," she answered without hesitation. "Itís such a beautiful time of the year. Everythingís new - the flowers, butterflies, baby birds learning how to fly. Thereís always something wonderful to discover."
"You know, that choice fits you, since I seem to learn something new about you every day. From now on when I think of spring, Iíll just have to associate it with you," Tristan said, his voice tinged with laughter.
Rory raised her eyebrows. "I donít know whether to be flattered or frightened."
"Oh, be afraid. Be very afraid." He reached over, tickling her side gently. She flinched away from him, crossing her arms in front of her chest. "Youíre ticklish, arenít you?"
"Yes." Seeing the evil gleam in his eyes, Rory corrected herself hastily. "No."
"Well, I think weíre going to have to help you make up your mind about that." He lunged at her, tickling both of her sides. Tristan didnít let up as she giggled and swatted at him playfully. When she shifted quickly, Tristan lost his balance, causing Rory to fall back on the floor. He braced himself above her with one arm, the other cradling her head.
Rory looked up at him, unable to move. The firelight was playing with his eyes, making them seem even more intriguing. Realizing the awkward position they were in, she finally scooted out from under him. "I need to find the candles, so the flashlight batteries wonít run out. Iíll look for them in the kitchen if you can look for the others in here. They should be in one of the side tables." She left the room, leaving Tristan staring after her.
Stupid, Tristan reprimanded himself . He knew not to push her, but it was becoming increasingly harder for him to be in the same room with Rory and not be able to kiss her. He wasnít used to questioning his actions around girls. They had always been at his beck and call whenever he wanted them. He didnít have to tell himself that things were completely different now, and those girls no longer mattered. Rory was the only one he could see, and he would wait for her, even though he had a feeling he was fighting a losing battle. Rubbing his neck, he started pulling open drawers looking for the candles. He rummaged through papers and cards, finding two long candles wrapped in newspaper. Laying them on the coffee table, Tristan sat back down on the couch, rubbing his tired eyes.
He shone the flashlight beam around the room, landing on things obviously special to Rory and Lorelai. Framed pictures scattered the walls and tables. Some were single pictures, others were professionally taken photographs of the two women. In each one, genuine smiles lit up their faces, and their eyes were dancing with pure happiness. Tristanís thoughts drifted to his own cold home, hesitant to even refer to it in the possessive form. He often felt like a prisoner behind the iron gates. Inside, the walls of the Dugray mansion didnít hold light-hearted photographs of its inhabitants or cherished momentos. Instead, the large foyer housed portraits of the entire generation of Dugrays, their faces permanently frozen into frowns. When Tristan had been a young child, he had likened those portraits to the ones with roving eyes often found in haunted houses. He had now outgrown that fear, but those pictures still served to remind him of the childhood he had lost.
"The phone lines are dead too."
Roryís worried voice brought Tristan out of his thoughts. "You didnít really expect them to work, did you?"
"No. I was just trying to reach my mom. I hope everythingís okay."
Tristan crossed the floor quickly, guiding Roryís shaking body over to the couch. "Sheís safe at the inn, and she has a lot of people there with her." Rory sighed deeply, her body relaxing against him. "And Iím here with you. Everything will be okay."
"Promise." He ran a hand through her hair, watching as she snuggled into the couch, her eyes closed. "Youíre so lucky, Rory, to have so many people who care about you. I have a feeling your mom and this whole town would do anything for you."
He continued, not knowing how much his soft, deep voice was calming her. "I wish I meant as much to my parents as you do to your mother." Tristan snapped his mouth closed, almost biting his tongue at the sudden slip.
Rory opened her eyes at that remark. "What do you mean, Tristan? You know your parents care about you. They would do anything in the world for you."
"Give me anything in the world is more like it. But whatís money without love? Regardless of what you might think Rory, money really doesnít mean anything to me."
"Of course they love you."
Tristan snorted. "Well, then they sure have a strange way of showing it. How many birthday parties have you had Rory?"
"Well... one every year."
"Exactly. Iíve had none." The bitterness was obvious in his voice.
Rory gazed at him, sadness in her eyes. "Tristan..."
He looked away, his pride once again rearing its ugly head. "Between my fatherís business meetings and my motherís daily shopping sprees, they donít have time for me. The most my father offers is a pat on the back for a Ďjob well done,í and that is only when my name is mentioned in some publication for accomplishments at Chilton. Anything to further the family name. I doubt if they even know where I am right now or if they even care."
Rory sat in silence, knowing how upset he was, and she also knew it wasnít the best time to discuss his family situation when he was obviously hurting so much. She searched desperately for a way to get his mind off all the pain. Her eyes latched onto the silver band he wore on the middle finger of his left hand. Rory reached over and ran her finger over the smooth metal. "Was this a gift?"
When Tristan saw what had caught her attention, he squeezed his eyes shut briefly. "It was my great grandfatherís. My grandmother gave it to me." A fresh wave of grief washed over Tristan. Yes, his grandmother had died six years ago, but the pain he felt was still as strong as ever. He had never been able to talk to anyone about her, and he kept everything hidden inside, never to let anyone see.
"Oh. Do you get to see her often?" Rory asked, thinking about their own Friday night dinners with her grandmother.
"She passed away when I was ten years old."
"Tristan, Iím so sorry."
He was surprised to feel Roryís tiny hand curl tightly around his own. Gazing at her, he saw the concern radiating from her eyes, and he gathered strength from it. "My grandmother had been living with us for several years before she died. I would wake up to the sound of my parents arguing in the middle of the night and run to her room where she would hold me until I fell asleep. She would take care of me when no one else would." Tristan sighed, his chest feeling as if it weighed a ton. "I can still remember the perfume she wore... she always smelled like lilacs." When Rory remained silent, he glanced over at her again. "You must think Iím such a baby."
"I could never think that. I can tell how much she meant to you."
"My grandmother was the only one who understood how I felt...the only one who ever tried to."
Rory squeezed his hand, clasping her fingers through his. "I understand you now."
"I know." Tristan gazed at her, wondering how she could possibly fail to see that he had feelings for her. He had never felt closer to anyone than he did to Rory at that moment.
"You have those memories of your grandmother, Tristan, and those are more precious than anything. Hold on to them."
"How did you get so wise?" he inquired, chuckling.
"Well, when you live with a coffee addicted mother, you learn fast," Rory said, her laughter melding with his.
"Thank you, Rory." Tristan turned to face her, suddenly serious.
"For listening to me. Iíve never told anyone else about my grandmother."
She smiled at him sincerely. "Well, then I should thank you for sharing this part of yourself with me."
Tristan brushed a silky strand of hair away from her face. "Iím glad I took the time to get to know you, Rory Gilmore. To think I almost missed knowing what a truly amazing person you are..." Tristan shook his head, annoyed at how immaturely he had acted toward her only just several months ago. "I was a jerk."
"Yes, you were," Rory admitted, trying to keep a grin from spreading across her face.
"You didnít have to agree with me about that."
"Tell me this. When you have a daughter, are you going to name her Mary? You seem to like that name a lot."
"Nah. That name is reserved for beautiful girls who get under my skin."
Laughing nervously, Rory started to stand up, but stopped when she saw the way Tristan was looking at her. Tristan took both of her hands in his, tugging on them so she was once again sitting on the couch. He ran his fingers over the apple of her creamy cheek, stopping when he felt Rory stiffen. "There was a stray eyelash," he explained quietly.
"Oh..." Rory trailed off, her throat dry.
Tristan groaned inwardly. What is wrong with me? Itís not like Iíve never been close to a girl before. But this is Rory. In the palm of her hand, she held the power to make his knees weak. After what happened at the party, he didnít want to risk messing things up again.
Roryís nerves were on end as she saw Tristanís eyes move from her own, to linger tantalizingly over her lips, and then back again. As she stared deeply into Tristanís eyes, that was when she saw it. There was a heat burning in their blue depths, and she bit her lip when she realized that she had seen it before...almost as if he were longing for something. For me? Rory shook her head imperceptibly at how utterly ridiculous that notion was. From their conversation earlier, it was obvious he wasnít over Summer. Plus, Tristan and I are just friends, right? The chills playing hopscotch on her spine initiated by his penetrating gaze did nothing to justify her question. Nothing made sense anymore. "Tristan, I think..."
"Shhh...," he whispered huskily, placing his finger lightly on her mouth. He then replaced the finger with his thumb, grazing it over her bottom lip. "Rory..."
Her name had never sounded so...so sensual to her before. It rolled effortlessly off his tongue, each syllable accentuated smoothly. Roryís hands tingled at the thought of the way Tristan was making her feel. It was terrifying and euphoric all at the same time. When Tristanís face moved closer to hers, Rory tilted her head instinctively in anticipation of feeling his lips on hers.
The loud pounding that abruptly sounded from the door, resulted in them moving quickly away from each other. Rory sat stunned, still being held captive under Tristanís gaze. After a moment, he looked away, falling back against the couch. Finally, the knocking broke through the cobwebs that had formed in Roryís head. "Who..." Without finishing her sentence, she stood up, reaching out a hand to the side table to steady her shaking legs.
Rory grabbed the flashlight from the table and headed for the door. She couldnít help but acknowledge the fact that Tristan would have kissed her if they hadnít been interrupted. Her stomach flip-flopped at the strange knowledge that she had wanted him to. She yanked on the door, struggling to hold it open against the wind threatening to slam it shut. Babette waddled in, stomping clumps of snow off her boots.
"Babette, itís not safe to be out in this weather." Rory said, concerned. It was a miracle the short woman hadnít been buried in a snowdrift.
"Hey, sugar. The snow is as easy as pie to handle when you have these." Babette waved the snow shoes in her hand. "I saw that your momma wasnít home, so I wanted to make sure everything was okay."
"Thank you." Rory hugged her, touched at the womanís motherly ways. "I think weíre okay."
"Weíre? Who else is here with you, sugar?"
"I am." The voice spoke up seemingly out of nowhere.
Rory turned to see Tristan in the entrance to the hallway, in his typical stance of leaning against the wall. "Babette, this is Tristan."
Babette admired the young man before her. "Oh, look at those broad, strong shoulders. Yes, he can definitely take care of our girl." She put her hand on Roryís arm. "Iím sure youíll be fine now, but youíre welcome to come over to our house anytime. Maury and I are having a sing along around the fire." After Rory reassured her that they would consider her offer, Babette strapped her snowshoes to her boots, and set out across the snow. As she walked toward her house, she giggled in amusement at the looks she had seen thrown between Rory and her young male friend. Oh yes. There was definitely something going on there. Miss Patty was never wrong when it came to gossip.
After Rory closed the door, she leaned back against the cold wood, her hands sweaty. Tristan still stood in the hallway, his sleepy bedroom eyes boring into hers. She stared back, matching his seemingly never-ending gaze. It was almost as if it were a challenge to see who would lose by looking away first. Tristan won when Rory jerked her eyes down to her feet.
"Your neighbor has terrible timing."
"I wouldnít say that," Rory responded indignantly.
"I would." A small smirk curled at Tristanís lips.
When Rory saw his expression, she heaved a sigh. "Youíre impossible." She brushed past him to enter the living room.
Tristan immediately followed her, taking a seat on the upholstered chair beside the couch. "Impossible to what? For you to stop thinking about me?"
Rory sank down on the couch, irritated. "Yes...no!" He knew exactly which buttons to push to get her going. She grabbed a blanket from the stack on the table and covered up with it in a huff.
"You seem to have trouble making up your mind when Iím around. Thatís not like you at all." Tristan grinned at her seductively. "Do I cause you to lose your train of thought, Rory?" He jumped when he felt a pillow bop him in the head. He turned to Rory, a shocked expression on his face. She was glaring at him, arms crossed in front of her. One look at his wide eyes, and her mouth began to curve up in a smile, a giggle bubbling in her throat. A second later, she was clutching her stomach as laughter wracked her body.
Tristan threw the pillow back at her, watching as she caught it easily. "That was supposed to hit you," he pouted. Rory tossed the pillow into the air triumphantly, and Tristan had to laugh at that. She laid back against the couch, covering a yawn with her hand.
"Hey back," Rory answered, her voice heavy with sleep.
"Why donít you try to get some sleep?" Tristan checked his watch. "Itís getting late."
"Sleep is good."
"Iíll just stay over here in this chair."
Tristan studied Rory in the dim candlelight. She had curled up into a ball to rest her head on one of the couch pillows. They had both decided to sleep in the living room instead of the bedrooms. That way they would have the heat from the fire to keep them warm. He walked over to the couch, looking down on her relaxed figure. "Rory?" The steady rise and fall of her chest told him that she was indeed already asleep. He tucked the blanket closer around her body, then moved back to his own Ďbedí for the night. The chair was not the most comfortable place for a person to sleep, but he would have to make do. Tristan glanced back over at Rory again, admiring the way the flames from the fire shined in her hair. He knew something had changed between them tonight, and that Rory was starting to see him in a different light. When he had almost kissed her earlier, for a split second she had looked at him the way he had hoped she would someday...almost tenderly. Yes, things were definitely changing. As Tristanís mind succumbed to sleep, he had a feeling that after tonight, things would never be the same again.
Rory awoke to the sound of the wind howling through the eaves of the house, rattling the tree branches against the window. Sounds like a blizzard out there. The fire in the hearth had died to just a few glowing embers, and as a result the temperature in the room had dropped significantly. The candles on the coffee table had reduced in size considerably, puddles of hardened wax at their bases. Rory sat up groggily, squinting at her watch in the faint light. 2:00 in the morning. She glanced over at Tristan, who was sound asleep in the chair. Rory untangled the blanket from her legs and quietly went to place another log on the fire, sending the flames dancing once again with the strike of a match. She sighed at the immediate warmth, hoping the heat would spread out through the room soon. She tiptoed over to Tristan, intending to cover him up with one of the blankets.
Rory stopped in her tracks when her breath caught in her throat. God, heís beautiful. His head was resting against the back of the chair, and one arm was carelessly thrown over the side, while the other laid across his chest. The candlelight made his lightly sun-kissed skin glow. Her eyes trailed down from his tousled hair, to the thick eyelashes that curled against his face. Rory ran her fingers gently through Tristanís blond locks, marveling at their feathery softness. She took a step back hastily when he stirred. Rory started to turn away, but not before her eyes came to rest on his lips, slightly parted in sleep. She felt herself inexplicably being drawn to him, and there was an almost ethereal feel in the air. Something had changed in her tonight, and all she knew was that just a simple look or touch from Tristan sent shock waves through her system. Bending her head close to his, she had to know now if this was real...if it was true. Slowly, Rory closed her eyes, and pressed her lips ever so tenderly to his.