Rating: PG-13 (Just generally, not for all chapters.)
Spoilers: I'd better say "Season One" to be on the save side.
Pairing: R/T
Starring: Rory, Tristan
Guest Starring: Lorelai, and Coffee
Special Appearances By: Luke, Lane, Paris, Emily
Summary: Rory needs an extracurricular activity. Will it be more of a pain than it´s worth? Or will she discover something unexpected with someone who tests every mental power she has?
Disclaimer: Me? Steal someone else´s ideas? I think.... no..... OK... I did it. I´m sorry, but my lack of character ideas causes me to turn to these wonderful beings who fill my life with light and coffee.... mmm.... I need some.... What? Oh no... I will return. Yes. I promise. (crosses fingers) And I always keep my promises. TRISTAN! Get back in your room... I´ll deal with you later. Good day officer. They will be feed and watered as scheduled.
Warning: Random Trivia.... means lots of trivia. I will take the questions and answers from various game shows that I do not own. So yes I am plagiarizing and your reading this and not telling the authorities may result in being arrested as an accomplice, but that´s highly unlikely, so read away.
Feedback: Love it, love it, love it. And I´ll love you if you send it.



Random Trivia

by Meghan

Rory tapped her foot impatiently as she surveyed the room that she was in. She sat in a
dark brown leather chair that was becoming extremely uncomfortable. Rory´s eyes darted
nervously across the various paintings and degrees hanging on the dark wood walls. The
thumps of her footfalls were muffled by the thick maroon carpet. Rory´s hands gripped
and ungripped the arm rests of the chair nervously. Rory´s eyes moved to the desk on
which a file was laid. She leaned forward and spotted that her name was on the label.

*What am I doing here? My grades are fine. I haven´t done anything wrong... that I know
of. I don´t think that Paris would hate me so much to go as far as lying to get me in
trouble... well maybe she would... but no. So why am I here... sitting in a guidance
counselor´s office whose guidance I do not need?*

Rory watched the minutes tick by on her watch. She had already been sitting in the room
alone for fifteen minutes. If they were trying to intimidate her... it was working. Rory
gripped the armrest again when she saw her hand shaking. Rory turned her head around
when she heard the door click open behind her. The artificial light of the hallway flooded
into the dark room, giving it an eerie glow. A stiff figure stood silhouetted in the doorway.

“Good afternoon Miss Gilmore.” A female voiced spoke from the doorway. It was stern
and held a cold aloofness in its tone. The figure moved from the door to the desk. Rory
acknowledged the greeting with a simple nod of her head. She was too terrified to speak.
“I am Mrs. Tate and I´m your guidance counselor.” She took her seat behind the large oak
desk and looked Rory over appreciatively. She had heard a lot about this student, almost
all of it good. “I´m sorry to have kept you waiting.”

Rory´s mouth was dry, but she was able to form words to answer the question. “That´s all
right.” Rory´s eyes shied nervously away from Mrs. Tate´s stare. That action made the
older woman smile. She was use to students coming into her office acting like they were
the figure of authority and not her. She smiled at Rory not because she had instilled a fear
in her, but because the look gave away Rory´s childlike innocence and respect from adults.
Mrs. Tate surpressed a giggle by biting her bottom lip. She saw the terrified look in Rory´s
eyes and in her nervous actions. She decided to break the ice.

“Do you have any idea why you´re here?” Rory´s head lifted up when she heard the voice.
Gone was the coldness and the domination. The tone was now amused and playful.

“No ma´am.” Rory´s voice was shaky, but she was more confused now then terrified. The
woman in front of her had just pulled an emotional 180.

“You don´t have to worry Rory. You´re not in trouble.” Rory let out a sigh at the new
information. “However dear, I do have to talk to you about something.”

“I kind of guessed that.” Rory but her bottom lip when she realized the attitude at which
her last comment came out with. Mrs. Tate just laughed it off as she picked up Rory´s file
and leaned back in her chair.

“I like you Rory. I´m sorry I scared you when I first came in. Monday´s are not good for
me, especially when a testing board decides that Chilton and all it´s students no longer
exist. But that´s not important right now. What is important in you. So let´s get to
business.” Rory nodded in understanding. Mrs.´ Tate´s eyes scanned over Rory´s file.
“Your grades are great as are your teacher recommendations. And I see that you have
participated in every required Chilton activity.” Rory saw how the word required was
stressed and she was almost able to guess what this meeting was about. Her suspicion was
correct when Mrs. Tate spoke again. “However.... you are lacking extra-curricular
activities.”

“I just haven´t found anything that suits me yet.” Rory´s foot stopped tapping as she
rubbed it against her other ankle.

“That is why I´m here dear. Together I´m sure that we can find something that you´ll like.
So what do you enjoy?”

Rory rubbed her forehead with her hand before pushing back her hair. “Well I love books
and I´m so in love with coffee that I should have it on an IV”

“So if we had a cappuccino club or a Fiction Fanclub we´d be ok. However, we don´t/
So.... we´ll just have to think.”

Mrs. Tate stood up from her chair and walked to a file cabinet. She opened a drawer and
pulled out a very thick file before sitting down again.

“What´s that?” Rory asked.

“This is a listing of all the clubs that you, as a junior, can join.”

“Oh.” Rory leaned back in her chair stunned. “That is a rather thick file.”

“That it is.” Mrs. Tate held the folder about a foot above her desk´s surface before letting
it drop with a loud thud. “I normally judge my work load by the loudness of the bang.
Let´s se... first group I randomly turn to....” Mrs. Tate opened the file to a random spot.”
Glee club... you interested?”

Rory shook her head with disgust. “I couldn´t carry a tune if I placed it in a bucket. Is
there a reason that you just randomly pick a spot?”

“Yeah. That way the beginning alphabet groups don´t get more participants than another.”
She flipped to another random page. “Photography club?”

“No. I don´t I have the patience to play with things in the dark.”

“Ok then.... I know that you might want a career in journalism so why not help out at the
school paper?”

Rory sighed in dismay. “As much as I would love to, the editor and I don´t get along and
I´d rather not put myself through hell. But I have spoken to the advisor, and he says that I
can submit a couple of freelance pieces if I want.”

“That´s good... but you still need more.” Rory´s shoulder´s slumped when she noticed that
she wasn´t off the hook yet. “How about science club?”

“Chemicals scare me. The only liquids I mess around with are beverages and bath oils.”

Ten minutes later Rory had found an excuse for every groups that was thrown at her. With
each rejection Mrs. Tate became more and more frustrated.

“Drama... website..... technology..... art... yearbook?” Rory turned down each suggestion
with a firm no. “Ok Rory. I´ll make a deal with you, Since you need a group I´m going to
close my eyes and pick a page. You either join that club or the newspaper full time. You
got that?”

“Yes.”

“Good.... here it goes.” Mrs. Tate closed her eyes and picked a page. She smiled when she
opened her eyes and read the words before her. “Quiz team.”

Rory´s face held a perplexed expression. “What´s that?”

“Think jeopardy. Except you don´t pick a category and there´s no money involved.” Rory
nodded her head as she thought her choices over.

*Hmmmm.... something new and scary. Or pissy looks from Paris all year. That´s not to
hard of a decision.*

“Where do I sign up?” Mrs. Tate cleared her throat nervously when she heard Rory´s
inquiry.

“You have to try out.” Rory´s eyes opened wide.

“Oh.”

“Don´t worry. With your knowledge I´m sure you´ll do fine. Try-outs are tomorrow after
school.”

“Ok... can I go now?” Rory picked up her bag.

“Sure thing. But if by some very odd reason you do not make the team... we´re cracking
open my massive file-o-stuff and doing this again.” Rory thanked her and headed out the
door. Mrs. Tate smiled when it clicked shut. She was going to enjoy watching things with
Rory pan out.

***

Rory dropped her backpack as she took a seat in the empty classroom. Set up on the desk
in the front of the room were ten lights that were connected to buzzers. All the individual
buzzers were connected to a large box that controlled everything. Rory stared at the
system for a few minutes before curiosity overcame her. She pulled herself up from the
chair and slowly made her way to the front of the room. Her hand grazed over a light
before gripping a buzzer that was connected to it.

Rory closed her eyes and found herself floating into a daydream,. Her thumb rubbed
against the red button on the top of the buzzer, but she did not press it. Rory dreamed that
she was standing behind a Jeopardy podium zipping out the right answers to any question
that Alex Trebec threw at her.

*European History... no problem. Biology...piece of cake. British Monarchy... haha.. I
laugh in the face of the easiness.*

Rory saw herself wearing the classic Harvard sweatshirt with a commanding lead over her
two opponents. The crowd was cheering for her and she was soaking it all in.

Rory was so deep in her daydream that she didn´t notice Tristan as he leaned against the
doorway, staring at her profile. Tristan´s hands were shoved in his pockets as his
trademark sliding across his lips. He saw Rory smile in her vision as he casually walked up
behind her, careful to be quiet, so as not to make his presence known.

It worked, because Tristan was able to lean his chin over Rory´s shoulder and place his
lips right against her ear. She still didn´t move. Tristan was having a hard time keeping his
hands from wrapping around her waist and nibbling on her ear. But he had to. After the
way he treated her last year he was surprised that she has said hello to him yesterday. He
noticed her thumb rubbing against the button and decided to make his presence known,
for her sanity, but mainly for his own.

“It makes a noise when you press it you know,” Tristan´s voice was hushed because of his
lips close proximity to Rory´s ear, but to Rory his words were as loud as a marching band.
She dropped the buzzer as she jumped back with a yelp, right into Tristan´s arms. He was
caught her by her waist to steady them both.

Rory turned her head to see who had surprised her. Instead of scowling when she saw
Tristan´s face, her eyes went wide and her chin dropped. Sure she had thought that was a
fluke, but now she was tingling at his touch.

*You´re tingly Rory. Why are you tingly? This is Tristan you aren´t suppose to feel
tingly. Tingly sensations are bad, especially when the tingles come from the evil one. I
command myself to stop tingling. Stop it, stop it, stop it. I mean it. Stop tingling!*

Rory looked over Tristan´s handsome face, before her gaze landed on his eyes. His blue
stare shot a fiery warmth into her that she was not expecting.

*First you´re tingly, and now you feel all warm and fuzzy. Sure, even my own body
doesn´t listen to me. I give up. Go ahead and feel like this. It´s only my arch nemesis that
is causing me this problem.*

Tristan was too stunned to move, or even speak for that matter. He had expected Rory to
pull away from him the minute she realized who´s arms she was in. But she didn´t move.
Her blue eyes just stared into his and he was mesmerized by the twinkle in them. His hands
which were once tightly clinging to her waist loosened their grip and began to play with
the soft fabric on her shirt. But that was as far as it went. The only sounds in the room
were the gentle inhales and exhales of their breathing.

The relative silence was broken but he sound of someone clearing their throat. Both Rory
and Tristan´s heads jerked to the doorway. The pain quickly pulled away from each other
when they saw Paris´ look of death staring them in the face

“I hope I´m not disturbing anything.” Paris sauntered into the room, arms crossed against
her chest. Her eyes never leaving the flustered pair.

“No not all.” Tristan said, him being the first to recover from the shock of everything that
had just happened. “I startled Rory and she just kind of ran into me.”

“Ok.” Paris rook a seat. “I wasn´t looking for an explanation.” Her voice was stern and
full of jealously towards Rory.

“Don´t tell me you´re trying out.” Rory slowly made her way back to her seat, being
careful to avoid any contact with Tristan. She could still feel the way his fingertips made
slow circles around her shirt.

“I am. Being the smartest girl in our class, I´m naturally going to try out for quiz team.”
Paris folded her arms on top of her desk and sat up as straight as humanly possible. Rory
slumped into her chair with a groan of displeasure. “You´re not are you?” Paris said. Her
voice etched with worry.

“I am.” Rory buried her head on her hands. Tristan watched the whole display from the
front of the room with a smile upon his lips.

“And I am too.” He jumped up and sat on the desk with he buzzers. Paris beamed a smile
at the new information while Rory groaned once again. “I wonder if anyone else is?”
Tristan´s question was answered a few minutes later when a total of five other students
trickled into the room, followed a short while later by a short, pudgy, balding teacher, who
reminded Rory of a penguin. He ‘waddled´ over to his desk and flashed Tristan a look of
warning. Tristan hopped down form the desk and took a seat next to a scowling Rory.

“Hello students. For those of you who don´t know me, I am Mr. Good. and I´m the quiz
team coach, as well as a beloved chemistry professor.” His voice was deep and gravely.
Rory watched as he tried to clasp his hands in front of him, but he was a bit too round in
the middle, and his arms were a bit too short to allow him to do so. Rory giggled slightly
when she saw him give up and just put his hands in his pockets. Tristan looked over at her
with amusement, Mr. Good went on to explain how try-outs would operate.

“Three rounds; war-up; bonus; and stump the experts. Each correct answer is worth 10
points, each incorrect, minus five. Questions will get harder as we progress obviously. I´ll
post the results tomorrow and the team will consist of the two top scoring males, and the
two top scoring females. Ok everyone grab a buzzer and lets begin.”

Rory was surprised by her performance. After getting over the initial shock that she
answered the very first question correctly, she felt right at home. She buzzed in when no
one else had the answer, and she only had a guess. Sure she got some wrong that way, but
she got even more right. The glares that Paris threw her everytime she got one right, only
made her try harder.

It was difficult to keep up with who was leading because everyone was pretty evenly
matched. It was Tristan who surprised Rory the most. He buzzed in as often as everyone
else, but she only remembered him giving two wrong answers.

“Ok, last question.” Mr. Good stood in the back of the classroom looking rather small.
Rory looked over at Tristan. He was holding up his hand in a thumbs up position, and he
had one eye closed. Rory though the gesture was rather odd, and made a mental note to
ask him about it later. “What were the names of the three branches of military service
during the Nazi reign in Germany?”

Rory surprised herself by being the first one to buzz in once again. “The luftwaffe, the
wermacht, and the kriegsmarine.”

“Correct once again Miss Gilmore.” Mr. Good jotted down her points before looking up
at the students. “Thank you all. The scores from what I can tell are very close. The results
will be posted tomorrow. Have a wonderful evening.”

Rory grabbed her stuff and made a bee-line for the bus stop. IF she rushed she could make
the 5pm bus and not have to wait around for the 6pm. She literally ran out of the room,
missing Tristan´s voice when he called out for her.

***

The bell rang signaling the end of academic classes before the lunch break. The ringing
also reminded Rory that the quiz team results were being posted. She closed her books
and made her way to the hallway. Her movements much slower than normal. At the door
Tristan slid up behind her.

“Are you nervous Mary?” His voices was smooth and deep as it slid into Rory´s ear. She
clutched her books even closer to her when her entire body rattled with shockwaves.
Rory´s face turned a delightful shade of pink as she blushed. Still not understanding why
she was feeling this way.

“No.” Rory walked down the hall her back to Tristan. Moving quickly as she tried to get
away form him.

“That shake in your voice tells me the opposite.” Tristan picked up his pace a bit so that
he was able to walk beside Rory. He transferred his books from one hand to the other. He
raised his free hand and placed it onto Rory´s shoulder. Tristan could feel the tenseness of
her shoulders, but he also felt the sensation of warmth that coursed through his body when
he touched her. His hand massaged her shoulder as he spoke to her. “Don´t be so tense.
You know you made the team.”

Rory rolled her head back and forth in an attempt to relieve the stiffness in her neck.
Tristan´s hand traveled from her shoulder to the base of her neck. Where his fingers began
to work magic on her skin. The little circular movements causing butterflies in her
stomach.

*I´m not tense because of the try-outs at the moment.*

Rory stopped suddenly when she saw a large crowd around the bulletin board where the
results were suppose to be posted. “Who are all these people? They didn´t try-out for the
team.” Rory´s question was directed at Tristan, but her eyes remained focused on the mass
of students in front of her. Tristan laughed at her inquiry.

“You don´t know?” Rory finally drug her eyes away from the group and faced Tristan
instead.

“Know what?” Rory was calmed down for some reason when she saw the startling blue of
Tristan´s eyes.

“Well its a big thing in Chilton to see who makes the quiz team.” Tristan crossed his arms
as best he could with his books. He rocked back and forth on his heels as he stare Rory
down.

“Obviously. But why?” She tipped her head to one side as she looked at him.

“Because for the past seven years the Chilton Team has competed in the national quiz
bowl that is held in New Orleans.”

“Oh.” Rory was shocked at the news. If the team had that good of a reputation, she was
afraid that if she did make it, she may let them down. A frown crossed her face. Tristan
saw her look and grabbed her hand, pulling her towards the result sheet.

“Come on, You made it, there´s not way that you didn´t.” Rory was still in shock by
Tristan´s bold moved to grab her hand, but she was even more shocked that she was
actually letting him.

*Didn´t you tell him that you hated him at the end of last year?*

“See, I was right. You did make the team.” Tristan pointed to her name on the list, a
beaming smile on his face as he looked down at her. Rory leaned forward and inspected
the list more closely. She looked down the list and saw that her name was listed second,
with the highest girl´s score next to it.

“Wow! I guess I did.” Her eyes looked at the name below hers. Paris Gellar. Rory had
beaten her by five points, one question. She cringed when she thought about the harsh
treatment Paris would send her way. She shrugged it off for the moment and looked at the
name above hers. Tristan DuGray. Her eyes traveled back to his smiling face, which was
more of a smirk at the moment. “And I guess you did too... and with the highest score. I
never know that you were so smart.” Rory´s lips curved into a playful smile.

“I never know that you could look more beautiful every time I see you.” Rory´s chin
dropped in shock at his flirtatious comment. She quickly stumbled through her brain to
find a come-back.

“I rescind my original statement. If you were smart, you wouldn´t have said that.”

“And you...” Tristan didn´t get a chance to finish his comment because he was interrupted
by Paris.

“Congratulations Tristan.” She smiled at his name, but scowled at the next. “Rory.”

“You to Paris.” Both Tristan and Rory spoke at the same time. They looked at each other
and then back at Paris, waiting for her to say something.

“I see that you two will get along nicely.” Rory couldn´t quite understand the expression
on Paris´ face.

“What?” Paris answered Rory´s inquiry with a simple tip of her head. Rory´s eyes moved
in the direction that Paris´ head went. She looked down and noticed that she and Tristan
were still holding hands. Tristan noticed as well. They both pulled away from each other
and tried to act as if it had never happened. Rory was blushing. This was the second time
that Paris had seem them in an ‘intimate´ position.

“I thought so.” Was all that Paris said before she walked away, not allowing the still
stunned Rory or Tristan to say anything. The air was thick with an uneasy tension. Rory
was the first to speak.

“So.... who´s the other guy?” Tristan looked like he had been awaken from a deep trance.

“Oh... what?”

“Who. Is. The. Other. Male. On. The. Team?” Rory carefully enunciated each word,
speaking to Tristan in a tone that made it seem like she was talking to a kindergartner.

“Oh! Steve Black. He´s a buddy of mine. He´s really smart and extremely funny. You two
should get along really well.”

“Why´s that?” Rory shifted her weight nervously from one foot to the other. Tristan´s
closeness to her was making her jumpy.

“Because he´s a coffee maniac.... among other things.” Tristan grinned when he saw the
smile that formed on Rory´s lips.

“I like him already.”

“What about me?” Tristan pouted. Rory´s knees almost gave out when she saw the puppy
dog eyes that he was giving her.

“I´m.... I´m still deciding?”

*Better than ‘I hate you.´ DuGray. You just got another shot.*

***

Lorelai was at the counter at Luke´s her stool spun around to face the door. She was
bouncing up and down slightly in her seat. Luke just stared at her from the other side of
the counter.

“Burning calories by being fidgety won´t get Rory here any sooner you know.”

“I do?” Lorelai continued on in her bouncing.

“Well if you didn´t before you do now... so stop bouncing.” He reached out and placed
both hands on her shoulders pressing her down into the seat. Luke released his grip when
he saw Lorelai take a deep breath. She was still for a few minutes before she resumed her
bouncing.

“What if her bus broke down?” Lorelai turned to face the window and Luke stared at her
over his notepad.

“Lorelai.” Luke´s voice was full of annoyance.

“Maybe the bus got hit by a deer.”

“Lorelai.”

“Or maybe the bus took a wrong turn and they´re now in Rwanda.”

“Lorelai.”

“Perhaps when they were in Rwanda Rory decided to join up with a nomadic tribe of
sheep herders.. without me.”

“Lorelai.” Luke practically screamed out. She jerked around to face him. There was
silence between the pair for a few moments.

“Maybe....”

“Lorelai.” Luke moved around to the front of the counter when he saw some customers
enter the diner.

“She could be dressed as a sheik parading around Africa, seeing all these cute zebras and
lemmings, and I´m here complaining to...” The bell above the door jingled.

“Hey mom.” Rory dumped her bag on the ground before being swept into a giant bear hug
by Luke.

“Thank you so much.” Rory looked at her mother over Luke´s shoulder. “Now the coffee
czar behind me will leave me alone and stop bouncing like a Mickey sing along.” Luke
released Rory, who was still in shock. He ran around to the other side of the counter and
poured Rory a steaming cup of coffee. Luke then ran back around the counter to his other
customers. Rory watched him run around the diner with wide eyes and a confused look on
her face. She finally turned her gaze to her mother.

“What´s up with Luke?”

“I have no idea.” Lorelai shrugged and sipped her coffee, hiding her small smile. There
was a brief moment of silence before Lorelai spoke again. “So...”

“So... what?” Lorelai put her coffee on the counter and stared Rory down.

“Don´t try and be cute with me today. Sookie´s squid special caused me many problems
today.”

“Squid special?” Rory raised one eyebrow at her mother.

“Yeah... well Sookie was trying to do something new with seafood.... and let´s just say
that the little buggers were still alive.” Lorelai played with the napkin that was lying in
front of her.

“Ewww.”

“Yeah... but that´s not important now.... So?”

“So what?” Rory hid a smirk.

“Is it just me or is our conversation more elliptical than usual today?”

“It´s you.” Rory sipped her coffee.

“Why does my daughter have to be so much like me?” Lorelai was talking into her coffee
cup. “Anyways, don´t toy with me.”

“You remind me of a big yellow Tonka truck.” Rory motioned to Luke for more coffee as
she spoke.

“Shut up.... I´ll just ask.... did you make the team?” Luke filled both of the Gilmore cups
and stayed to watch the conversation play out.

“Maybe.” Rory smelled her ambrosia before taking a sip.

“That was cruel.” Lorelai leaned towards her daughter and narrowed her eyebrows at her.

“I know.”

“Talk girl before I am forced to beat you with the twizzlers in my purse.”

“I don´t want to know.”

“Rory.” Lorelai´s voice held the same tone of annoyance that Luke´s had held earlier.
Luke smiled at the pair, but they didn´t notice.

“Being bludgeoned to death with a piece of red licorice doesn´t sound like the way I want
to meet my demise.” Rory bit on her finger as she tried to contain her laughter.

“Rory.” Lorelai´s fingers began to drum on the counter.

“That´s almost as scary as being pummeled with wet noodles... yum that sounds good
right now.” Rory smacked her lips.

“Rory.”

“I like fruit cups. Maybe you could try to scare me some more by pouring them over my
head.”

“Rory.”

“Yes.”

“You made it?”

“Yes.” There was a brief second of silence before Lorelai sprang from her chair screaming,
wrapping her arms around Rory. She pulled away from the embrace, looked at Rory, and
then hugged her even tighter. She pulled away once more and resumed her seat.

“You don´t looked too thrilled.”

“Oh, I´m very please that I made the team... I´m just not as thrilled with my team mates.”
Rory´s thumb drew imaginary circles on the counter top.

“Who are they?” Lorelai finished off her coffee in one gulp and focused her full attention
on Rory.

:This one guy named Steve whom I do not know... but Tristan says I´ll get along with.”

“The evil one isn´t...”

“He is.” Rory rubbed the back of her neck with one hand to relieve the tension. But she
remembered the way that Tristan´s skilled hands had relieved her stressed muscles earlier.
Just recalling his strong yet gentle touch made her tingle from head to toe.

“And the demi-evil...”

“Yep. Paris too.”

“Oh honey.” Lorelai grabbed Rory´s hand in an attempt to comfort her.

“It´s ok. I´m sure things will get better.”

“They will. Or the duo of deception will learn all the various ways that I can harm them
with brand name licorice.”

***

Rory dragged herself into Mr. Good´s room after a long Thursday at Chilton. She was
struggling to keep her eyes open. The short distance between herself and the chair she was
eyeing seemed to grow with each step. After what felt like an eternity Rory found herself
standing in front of the chair. She leaned her back against the table that was near the chair.
She was staring at the seat like it was a heavenly oasis.

But Rory was to tired to move the final inches. Her heavy backpack dropped of her
shoulders and onto the table before it fell onto the floor. Rory finally gave into the
exhaustion and collapsed backwards onto the table. She let out a sigh of comfort and
closed her eyes to the world.

Rory was so tired that she failed to see Tristan seated at the other end of the table. She
looked so beautiful, even with the bags under her eyes, that he didn´t want to disturb her
actions. She probably wouldn´t have noticed him, even if he had let her know that he was
there.

Tristan had been reading when he heard her feet shuffle to the doorway. He put his book
down to say hello to whoever was entering the room. His lips were forming the greeting
but they froze when he say Rory´s figure silhouetted in the doorway. The light from the
hallway surrounding her perfect form in a halo. Any speech capabilities he had were
rendered useless.

He just watched her lying there, half stretched out across the table. Her long dark hair
splayed out across the surface, teasing his fingers with its silken glow. Rory´s breathing
had slowed to a deep rhythm and Tristan thought she had fallen asleep. He just sat there
watching Rory, arms crossed to keep himself from reaching out to touch her.

Rory teased him like any other girl he knew. But unlike any other girl, she didn´t know
that she did it. Her mouth and all the witty sayings that came from it entranced him. Their
sparring matches a highlight of his day. The way her hair fell across her face, and the way
she pushed it back behind her ear begged for his attention. The way she chewed on the tip
of her pencil when she was paying attention. The way her eyes shined. The way her
forehead furrowed. Even the smile movement of her fingers drumming on a table. Every
moved she made screamed at him to look at her. She drove him insane, and he liked it like
that.

Tristan´s already delicate state almost came crashing down on him when she sighed. Her
lips formed a contented smile. Tristan recalled the night that they kissed. The night when
all logic left him. The night that he realized that Rory Gilmore far beyond what he had
ever dreamed that she was. When their lips had meet he could think of nothing else.
Nothing but how the earth stopped spinning, and the only thing that was important in the
universe was her. Her soft lips moving against his. The smell of her shampoo intoxicating
his mind. The warmth that radiated from her body.

Never had a kiss moved him to feel what he had felt that night. His heart wanted to burst
with joy. The girl he had been chasing, he was finally kissing. Rory Gilmore, the girl who
had taunted him since the day she had entered his life. With her innocence and her
intelligence. With her beauty and her stubbornness. Tristan kissed her and he felt like he
could fly. But then she cried.

If anyone was in the room looking at Tristan at that moment, they would have seen him
frown. Her she was, Rory, the girl of his dreams, and he couldn´t go beyond friendship
with her, and even friendship might be a stretch. He had toyed with her and he had
insulted her, because he couldn´t have her. Nothing had ever been out of his reach before.
He could buy it, or use his so-called-charm to get what he wanted. But it didn´t work with
her. She was a challenge, and it made him want her even more. So her she was sitting
within arms reach, and yet she was so far away.

Tristan was jolted from his thoughts when Steve and Paris entered the room. Their eyes
drifted from a relaxed Rory to Tristan, and the dreamy stare that was directed towards
her. Steve smiled at the sight, but Paris scowled. Rory had stolen so much from her in the
past year. She was an unknown, from a small town, with no money, but she gained more
in one year at Chilton than Paris had since she had entered the school. Rory took her
grades and her friends, and now she was taking Tristan. But worst of all, Rory was scared
of her, and that ticked her off to no end. This was Paris´ school, she ran it with an iron fist,
and then this nothing had to come in and take it from her. And she was even nice about it
too. Paris threatened her, and taunted her, and yet Rory still tried to be nice to her on
occasion.

“Hey man.” Steve smiled at Tristan and took a seat beside him. Steve had seen the angry
glare on Paris´ face and decided to clear the air. Tristan shook his head a few times before
returning the greeting.

“Hey Steve.” Rory´s eyes popped open the minute she heard his voice.

*Tristan! He was here... with me.... for how long? And why the hell didn´t he say
anything?*

Rory´s head rolled to the side so that she could look at him. He was making small talk
with Steve, and all she could do was stare at him. Tristan´s image was blurry from the
sleep in her eyes. She reached her hands up and rubbed her eyes. Tristan saw her move
and he turned to look at her once again. He tilted his head so that he could stare at her a
bit more.

“Morning sleeping beauty.” Tristan smiled. Rory let out a disgruntled groan in return.
“Have a nice nap Rory?”

“No.” Rory stuck out her bottom lip in a pout. “This table is definitely not a bed, and mine
spine definitely does not like to be in this position.”

“Awww... poor baby.” Tristan´s face smirked at his own comment. Rory rolled her eyes
in disgust. She tried to sit up but her back protested and she ended up collapsing on the
table again. “Need help?” Tristan´s smirk was still there.

“From you?”

“Yes.”

“No thank you.” Steve who was attempting to hold in his laughter finally spoke at Rory´s
comment.

“Tristan man, I think you have just been rejected. Rory girl, I like ya´ already.” He smiled
at her and Rory smiled in return. “Here, let me help you.” Steve got out of his seat and
moved to Rory. He took both of her hands in his and gentle pulled her up off the table.
Steve was aware of the angry glare that Tristan was sending his way, but he shook it off.

“Thank you Steve.” Steve pulled away from her and sat down again. Rory arched her back
a bit and stretched to the side to try and rid her back of the kinks that were in it. Rory
circled her head a few times before her eyes landed on Paris. “Hello Paris.”

“Rory.” Paris said without a smile or emotion. She crossed her arms and took a seat at the
table. Rory did the same. No one made a move to speak and the room was beginning to
feel rather uncomfortable. Luckily Mr. Good had chosen that moment to walk in.

“Good afternoon my minions. How are we all today?” Various answers were heard but
they were mumbled. “Excellent.... let´s get things started. I´m Mr. Good, but you knew
that already. For all intents and purposes until the end of this school year you´ve basically
sold your souls to me. So when I ask you to come to practice, you do so without asking
why? If I tell you to watch Jeopardy for practice you do it. If I ask you to memorize 50
pages in the Guinness book of world records, you memorize 51 to please me. If I want
you to set something on fire, you´ll do that too.” His voice held a commanding presence
and were it not for his last sentence Rory was afraid that he really was the devil incarnate.
Plus it was very hard to take a teacher who was much shorter than her seriously.

“So here´s how it works boys and girls.” Mr. Good took a seat at the end of the table and
leaned forward to stare each one of them down. “This is quiz team, we have a great
reputation that we WILL keep up. Matches are held once a week at various schools, and
once a week online. There are three rounds. Warm-up; which are a bunch of toss-up 5 or
10 point questions. Bonus; in this round there is a 10 point toss-up, if you get that right
you get a chance at three bonus questions that increase from 5 points, to 10 points, to 15
points, get one wrong and your down with that bonus. The last round is Stump The
Experts; these are toss-ups worth 15 to 20 points. Highest score wins. Pretty easy.... but
the questions sometimes are not, and that is why we practice. So grab a buzzer and let´s
get cracking.”

Everyone took a seat at the table where the buzzers were set up. Tristan was very
unhappy when Rory sat on the end and Steve sat next to her. It made him angry when she
noticed the smile on her face that was not directed towards him. Steve knew that Tristan
had a thing for Rory, and Tristan knew that Steve wasn´t trying to make a move on her,
but it still hurt none the less. Tristan took the seat next to Steve to keep an eye on him...
just in case.

“Ok folks lets get grinding.” Mr. Good said as he picked up a book of practice questions
and turned to a page. “Who did the voice over for the character of Yzma in the.....”

***

“Millard Filmore.” Rory had answered yet another question right. The practice had gone
extraordinarily well for her. The nap she had must have helped. But no matter how many
she got right she couldn´t but help notice Tristan, and how he didn´t seem into the game.
During try-outs he had seemed so energetic and outgoing. Now he reminded Rory of a
lazy kid who only worked when there was no way around it.

The other thing that kept freaking her out was the way that he kept looking over at her.
Every now and then he would shoot a look at Steve. It could almost be described at
jealousy. Why he would be jealous of Steve, she had no idea. She began to worry about
what was bothering him. Rory made it her mission to find out.

*Wait a minute. Why am I worried about him? What has he ever done for you? This is
Tristan we´re talking about. He´s a jackass. Jackasses don´t deserve to be worried over.
Why do I have to be so caring? Damn me for being the person I am. And damn him for
making me worry, and making me feel all tingly.*

Rory was able to clear her mind of the Tristan thoughts long enough to finish the practice.
When Mr. Good called it a day she leaned back in her chair and let out a sigh of relief. She
saw Tristan looking at her again. Eager to get away from his stare she made her way to
her back pack.

“Great practice Rory.” Steve patted her on the back before running out of the room.
Possibly chasing after one of the girls who had just finished swim practice. Rory chuckled
when she heard him call out to someone followed by the sound of something being
slammed to the ground. She grabbed her book off the table and walked out of the room.
She flipped open to the page where she had left off, reading as she walked down the hall.

“Rory.” She lifted her head from the book and turned around to see who had called after
her. Tristan.

“Yeah.” He jogged down the hall to catch up to her and ended up skidding to a stop,
nearly colliding with her.

“You are amazing.” Tristan rushed out in one breath. Rory did a double take at his words.
Her face contorted into an expression of confusion.

*What the heck is he saying? Amazing...at what? I certainly haven´t done anything with
him that would be considered amazing. At least not in the way he is use to. Maybe I
should try and impress him in that way, because he is looking mighty fine right now....
WOAH! Where the hell did that come from?*

“Not to sound stupid or anything but... huh?” Rory raised one eyebrow at him. Tristan
caught on to what she was thinking. He hid his smirk.

“During practice. You are amazing at trivia.”

“Oh....” *Stupid me I thought he meant something else.* “Thanks I guess.” Rory looked
at him, still kicking herself mentally for thinking about Tristan in a non-platonic fashion.
The stood in tense silence for a few minutes. Rory stared at Tristan as he rocked back and
forth on his heels. He began staring at the floor. Neither knew what to say, and neither
wanted to move.

“So....” Tristan hands started digging around in his pockets.

“So...” Rory responded, her fingers played with the pages of her book.

“Do you ummm... want to go for coffee or something?” Rory lifted her head to meet
Tristan´s eyes. They held a gentleness and kindness that she had never seen out of him
before. It scared her. Here he stood, being nice to her, when he never had been before.
Rory was skeptical about his feelings. He had to be up to something.

“I don´t think....”

“Please.” His face softened even more as he pleaded with her. Lower lip reaching forward
in a slight pout.

“Tristan I....”

“Pwease....” He gave her puppy dog eyes and that did her in.

“Fine.” Rory looked down at her feet, anything to get away from Tristan´s eyes that were
making her feel all gooey inside.

“Great. Starbucks here we come.” He took off down the hall and Rory followed, silently
cursing herself to giving into the puppy eyes.

*And the coffee... why did he have to pick the coffee?*

The car ride to Starbucks was very quiet.... and even more tense. Tristan tried to start a
conversation every now and then, but he always stopped before the words left his mouth.
He had absolutely no idea of what possessed him to ask her to coffee.

*Actually you did. You didn´t want her to go. You wanted her all to yourself for a little
while you selfish bastard....*

As Tristan berated himself for being such a jerk Rory just stared out the window.
Concentrating on anything except the warm body in the driver´s seat. It was a very
difficult task. She could hear his steady breathing in the silent car. The gentle drumming of
his fingers on the steering wheel. The passing scenery outside wasn´t nearly enough to
keep her occupied. It was just so tempting to look over at him.

She could hear him run his hand through his hair. He shifted in his seat and to close her
eyes and sing the Barney song in her head to keep herself from turning to look at him.

*Why is he so addicting? God Rory you´re not even looking at him. How can you be
attracted to him if you´re not looking at him? Wait.... I´m attracted to him.... I hate my
brain. This is wrong. He treated you like crap. Treated though.... past tense. He´s been...
normal this year.*

Rory finally couldn´t stand the silence any more and something had been bothering her. So
being the daring soul that she was, she decided to speak.

“Tristan, I´ve got a question for you.” She turned away from the window to face him. She
saw the startled look on his face when she spoke.

“Ok.” Rory noticed that Tristan´s breathing was a little off-pace as he gave her the one
word answer.

“It was something I noticed during quiz team try-outs.”

“Ok.” His breathing was a bit more regulated this time.

“You were holding up your hand, with your thumb up, and one eye closed.” Rory
mimicked the motion with her hand.

“Ok.” Now Rory wasn´t sure whether he was talking to her, or himself.

“Why?”

Tristan finally turned to face Rory a smile upon his lips. “Because he´s the thumb.”

“What?” Rory was more than a bit confused.

“Mr. Good... my friends and I have many endearing nickname´s for him, and one his the
thumb.”

“Ok.... why?” Rory still didn´t follow Tristan´s train of thought.

“Because if you hold up your thumb and close one eye while looking at him, your thumb
blocks him entirely. Hence, we call him.... The Thumb.” Tristan chuckled as he thought
about their rather petite professor.

“Ahhhh.... I see.” Rory began to giggle and then let out a full fledged laugh as she thought
about what Tristan had said.

“That´s what I thought too.” Tristan felt more at ease when she laughed. The simple
brilliance of her voice calmed his raw nerves. “Were here.” Tristan pulled into a spot. Both
of them were still laughing as the entire the restaurant.

Much more than simple jokes were passed that afternoon. Tristan and Rory came to a
silent understanding over cups of mochachinos. They could be friends. It would take some
work, and a lot more trust, but it would happen.

***

Tristan slumped into a seat on the bus. He closed his eyes and leaned his head against the
back of the seat. The past week had been hell for him. There had been practice everyday,
and each day was worse than the ones before it. Why? Because Rory was there, she was
so close, and yet still so far away. Her beauty and wit torturing every ounce of his soul.

To make matters worse there was Steve and Paris. For some reason Paris had been
beginning to cling to him. She would immediately latch onto him when he walked into the
room, and wouldn´t let go until he left. It was starting to annoy him to say the least. But
that wasn´t the worst of it. Rory and Steve seemed to be getting along very nicely, too
nicely if you asked him.

They´d come to practice together laughing as the entered. They would joke and have
private conversations. Each word they said making Tristan grow angrier and angrier. He
had spoken to Steve about the relationship he had with Rory, he would deny and romantic
entanglements and say that they were just friends. Steve also said that he had no intention
of going after Rory. Those words comforted Tristan, but his blood still boiled when ever
he saw them together.

Better the week had its nice moments. There was the practice where both he and Rory
were early and got a chance to talk about random topics. He still remembered the way that
she had almost fallen out of her chair when she tried to recreate the position in which her
mother had fallen asleep the night before. There were the times when he met her at her
locker in the morning, sharing cups of coffee as the walked to first period.

But none of that could make up for the pain in his heart. That pain that sent a sharp hurt
shooting through his body evertime he thought about the fact that she didn´t love him the
way that he loved her. The fact that the lingering looks of adoration he sent her way were
never returned. The fact that whenever she was in the room he went weak like never
before.

Tristan rubbed his tired eyes looking for any sort of relief. He looked out the window only
to be meet with a cruel act of fate. Rory was the first thing he saw. Her beautiful figure
making its way to the bus. Tristan closed his eyes and turned his head to face the inside of
the bus. Her simple greeting to Mr. Good almost sent him into a plunging spiral of nerves.
Her clear voice making its way to his ear. He turned back towards the window, not
wanting to torture himself anymore.

But it didn´t work. He could hear her footsteps and the rustle of her bag. Then came the
kick in the stomach. He heard her take off her backpack and sit down.... in the seat next to
him. There was a long pause in her actions, but after a bit she settled into the seat. He
heard the tell-tale signs of her bag being unzipped and then pushed down onto the floor of
the bus. Then came the turning of pages, a sound that he had come to associate with her
and only her.

Minutes passed as the rest of the time arrived and they began to move. Every now and
then Tristan would hear a page turn and it would stab at his heart. Begging him to open
his eyes so that he could see her. But he couldn´t, because seeing her face would only
cause more pain. To alleviate that he did the only thing he could, he forced himself into a
fitful sleep.

An hour later Rory looked up from her book for what had to be the hundredth time. Her
eyes didn´t look out the window, they didn´t scan the bus, they went immediately to
Tristan. Rory was some what surprised when he didn´t say hello to her earlier when she
got on the bus. She sat next to him so that she could talk to him, but he appeared to be
asleep. She took out her book to read, but her attention was elsewhere. It was on him.
Tristan.

He was huddled into the corner of the seat. He had tucked himself so close to the window
that Rory thought he might try to climb out. His arms were crossed against his chest as if
he were blocking someone to get to him. Rory´s eyes moved from Tristan´s arms up to his
face. The carefree look he normal had was no where to be seen. His lips were curled into a
tight frown and his forehead was furrowed with frustration.

Rory was tempted to just get up and give him a hug, because at the moment it looked like
he needed to be comforted. Rory marked her page and put her book back in her bag. She
looked at Tristan´s face a bit more closely. She had never noticed before how truly
handsome her was. And after this past week where he treated her like a human being she
almost admitted to herself that he was a nice guy.

Rory´s eyes landed on his closed ones. No matter how far away he was she could always
see his eyes. Their deep blue depths staring into her, making her knees go weak. Tristan
had accused her in the past week of never looking at him when they were talking. She
rarely did, only because one look into his eyes would make her melt. He may not have
known it, but if he asked her anything of her at those moments, she would have given in
unconditionally.

Her stare drifted from his eyes to his lips. His full red lips that she often found herself
longing to touch with hers again. Her tongue darted out to moisten her own lips as she
remembered their kiss. It was gentle and unforceful. Tristan´s lips were soft and she could
taste a faint trace of peppermint. Rory sighed when she remembered why that kiss hadn´t
been longer. She kicked herself now for running out on him.

Things had gotten weird between them after that. And they got even worse when she told
him she hated him. She regretted those words more than anything in the world. She
wanted to rebuild their friendship and they were on their way. It was a slow tedious
project, but they would accomplish it.

The bus slowed to a stop and Rory looked out the window. They were at the competition
site. Everyone exited the bus leaving her and Tristan alone. He made no move to get up
and Rory knew he was still asleep. She grabbed her bag and leaned over to Tristan´s seat.
She placed her hand on his shoulder and shook him gently. His eyes slowed opened and
Rory made the mistake of looking into them. Any verbal control she had was gone.

“Are we here?” Tristan asked, his voice creased with sleep. All Rory could do was nod in
reply. “Well then what are we waiting for? Let´s go kick some butt.” Tristan grabbed his
bag and stood up. He followed Rory down the aisle as she slowly exited the bus. She
bounded down the steps and followed the rest of the team inside.

Tristan paused at the base of the curb and smiled. He always had been a light sleeper. He
adjusted his bag and strode confidently into the school. She was breaking down, and he
liked the possibilities that came along with that.

***

“Ok team this is it. First match so don´t mess up.” Mr. Good stared each one of them in
the eye making sure to drive his point home that losing was not an option. Rory´s stomach
was in knots as he gave them their ‘pep talk.´ His words did nothing to calm her jumpy
nerves.

Rory´s fingers intertwined and twisted with each other as she looked about the room. Her
eyes landed on the opposing team. They were dressed in uniforms not much unlike the
Chilton kind. Rory noticed how not a single member seemed nervous and that made her
even more nervous. She brushed back a loose strand of hair and began to pace in the small
space that she had.

Tristan was sitting not two feet from Rory and found himself rather entertained by her
actions. Her steps were small but quick as she walked back and forth. Her hands were not
still as she clenched and unclenched her fists at her side. She licked her lips every now and
then. Tristan knew she was giving herself a pep talk but her pacing was becoming rather
annoying.

He watched her for a few more minutes before he decided to do something about it. He
got up out of his chair and placed himself in the direct path of her pacing. Rory didn´t see
him until she bumped into his strong chest. Her head jerked and she met his eyes. She
didn´t miss the smirk on his face though.

“Sorry.” She dropped her head again and stared at her shoes.

“No problem. You are rather entertaining.” Tristan crossed his arms in front of his chest as
he stared at her down turned head. It lifted slowly, sending cascades of silky brown hair
over her shoulders.

“What are you talking about?” Rory crossed her arms to match his stance.

“Your pacing is rather entertaining. But it´s too much like a tennis match... gave me neck
cramps.” To further emphasize his point he began to rub the back of his neck. Rory´s heart
seemed to pause for a second as she watched his sculpted hand massaged his tan skin.
Rory wondered what it would feel like to touch the sensitive skin at the base of his neck.
To feel his sturdy muscles beneath her soft fingertips.

Tristan saw Rory´s eyes go into a dreamy haze. His hand slowly pulled away from his
neck and rested at his side. Rory didn´t move. Tristan tipped his head to the side to look at
her eyes more closely. He was drawn in by their deep blue color that seemed to mystify
him. He felt like he was drowning, but he didn´t care.

The two of them just stood there, staring into each others eyes. Rory knew that she was
getting lost in him, but she didn´t realize that she was openly staring at him. All rational
thoughts and feelings had left her the minute she looked into his eyes. The whirlpools of
blue dragging her down.

“What are you two doing? We have to go win this thing.” Rory and Tristan both jerked
out of their trances when they heard Steve speak. They had been so lost in each other that
they had forgotten where they were.

“Right. Let´s go kick some butt.” Tristan bounded after Steve. Rory slowly followed,
dragging her feet as she walked.

*Ok Miss Rory... what the heck was that? You totally lost it there. Come on, his eyes
aren´t really THAT hypnotizing. Focus on the game.*

Rory took her seat which, because of her bad luck, happened to be right next Tristan. She
squirmed around a bit as she tried to get comfortable. She arranged the scrape paper on
her podium before grabbing her buzzer.

“Aren´t you forgetting something?” Tristan brushed Rory´s hand with his, neither one of
them missing the tingles.

“W-W-What?” Rory looked at their hands, trying to avoid his eyes.

“Here, let me help you.” He grabbed a small black thing that was clipped to her podium.

“What´s that?”

“A microphone.” His gentle hand brushed the sensitive skin of her neck as he clipped it to
her collar.

“Why would we need these?” Tristan´s eyes drifted from her neck and landed on the
cameras that were focused on them.

“You missed those?” Rory lifted her head and her eyes widened in shock as she saw the
large machines.

“I didn´t know that they taped these.” Her voice was right in his ear and it´s soft tone sent
tremors through her body.

“Well they do.” Tristan cleared his throat and settled back into his seat.

“Welcome to Quiz Bowl everyone....” Rory and the rest of the team turned their attention
to the announcer as he explained the rules. “Question number one....”

Rory heard him speak but his words sounded foreign to her ears. She heard a buzzer
sound and an answer given. More questions flew, and more answers were given. Rory
knew that she knew the answers, but she was frozen. She saw Mr. Good glaring at her
from his seat in the audience. She knew what she was suppose to do, but she couldn´t
move. Tristan saw her frozen state as well. He nudged her with his elbow, but she was still
as stiff as a rod.

Rory heard Paris speak, and Steve speak, and Tristan speak. But not a single word
escaped her lips. She had a death grip on her buzzer, and her thumb was ready to strike at
any moment, but nothing happened.

The host called for a ten-minute break half-way through the game. Rory immediately got
up out of her chair and dashed out of the room. Steve and Tristan followed her. Steve
made it to Rory before Tristan and he cornered her in the hallway.

“Rory what happened, you´ve never frozen like that?”

“I don´t know.” Rory let out a frustrated sigh and began to pace.

“Was it the cameras?” Steve racked his brain from reasons as to why she wasn´t answers
questions.

“I don´t know. I don´t know. I don´t know.” Rory´s hands dug into her hair with
frustration.

“Steve.” Tristan called out. “Let me talk to her.” He walked up to him. “Alone.” The last
word only Steve could here. He took the hint and left. Tristan watch Rory pace for a beat.
He felt her pain.

“Rory stop. Take a deep breath, and calm down. This pacing isn´t helping you.” Tristan
walked up to her and took a hold of her shaking hands. The gesture meaning more to both
of them they wanted to admit at that moment. Tristan brought his hands to his, pulling
Rory closer to him. “Close your eyes and focus on breathing nothing else.”

Rory did as she was told. Her short ragged breaths slowly became deeper and more
regulated. The trembling subsided in her hands and she gripped Tristan´s fingers even
tighter, trying to find a deeper sense of comfort. “I don´t know what happened in there.”

Her voice was soft and Tristan strained to hear it. But the message came across loud and
clear. A single tear rolled down her cheek, Tristan brushed it away with his thumb. “Don´t
cry, it´s ok. You just siked yourself out back there. You can do this. You know you can.”

“Maybe I can´t.” Rory pulled away from Tristan and resumed her pacing, but it wasn´t as
fast as before. “Maybe I´m not smart enough to be here. I don´t want to let the team
down. Maybe I can´t do this.”

“Listen to yourself Rory. Do you know how pitiful you sound right now.” Rory stopped
dead in her tracks and stared at him. “You can do this. I know you can, Steve knows you
can. Paris and Mr. Good know that you can. But more importantly you know you can.”

Rory leaned her back against the wall and closed her eyes. She didn´t believe his words,
and she didn´t believe in herself. Tears escaped her eyes and rolled down her cheeks.
Leaving trails of moisture behind. “No I can´t.” She shook her head back and forth as she
held back whimpers.

“Yes you can.” Tristan was beside her in an instant. He grabbed one of her hands and
massaged the palm with his thumb, while his other hand brushed away the rebel tears.
“You are so smart Rory. You know so much more than anyone else in that room. Did the
cameras freak you out.”

“No.”

“Was it the other team. Do you feel weird to be competing.”

“A little.” She sniffle and blinked her eyes a few times.

“What are you scared of?” Tristan caressed her soft cheek with the back of his hand in an
attempt to comfort her.

“I´m scared of looking stupid in front of everybody.”

“Rory you are so far from stupid that it´s not even funny. The word stupid has never been
and will never be used to describe you. Like I said before, you know more than anyone
else in that room... combined. You´re the smartest person I know.” Rory sniffled once
more as Tristan brushed her hair over her shoulder. His hand returned to her face and
lifted up her chin so that she was looking right into him. “Where is that confident Rory
whom I love to banter with.”

“Hiding.”

“Well it´s time for her to come out. I am smart. Say it Rory.”

“I am smart.” Her voice was quiet and weak.

“Oh yeah I believe that. That wouldn´t instill fear into my bunny slippers.”

“You have bunny slippers?” Rory hid her giggle.

“Don´t change the subject. Say Rory, and mean it this time.” He gripped her hand tighter.

“I AM SMART.” Rory practically screamed the declaration and it felt good.

“There you go girl. Now let´s go kick some bootay!” Rory let out a full fledged laugh.

“Thank you Tristan.”

“Don´t mention it. It was my pleasure. Got anything else to say.”

“The game is mine.” And with that Rory strode confidently back into the game room.
Tristan followed closely behind heard, hiding a tell-tale smirk.

***

“All bow to thee, the lovely Rory!” Steve got up out of his seat and started mock bow at
Rory as she climbed onto the bus. Tristan followed suit. Rory blushed at the attention.
After his little pep-talk she had gotten right back in the game. Her buzzer finger was on
fire. Her sudden capabilities to speak scared the other team who had liked her previously
silent ways.

“Oh stop guys. I wasn´t that good.” Rory blushed even more as she took her seat.
Tristan´s blue eyes following her every move. A snort came from the back seat. All eyes
turned to face Paris.

“You sure weren´t.” Paris´ voice was hushed and the words came out mumbled, but the
tone in her voice made Tristan angry none-the-less.

“What did you say?” His voice was controlled but anyone could see the anger in his eyes.
Paris looked up at him and immediately turned away when she saw the expression on his
face.

“What Tristan? I was merely agreeing with what Rory said. She didn´t do anything special.
In fact she missed the entire first round where we could have earned valuable points.”
Paris´ voice was strong a steady as she made her point.

Rory lowered her head when she realized that the hateful words coming out of Paris´
mouth were indeed true. She coiled herself into a ball in the corner of her seat, wishing
that Paris´ degrading comments would just go away. She had been on cloud nine, and
Paris just crushed her.

Rory could hear Tristan and Paris arguing, but the words just slipped in one ear and out
the other. There full content never being heard. Rory looked out the window as the bus
started moving. She hummed a soft tune trying to think of anything but Paris´ harsh
words.

She felt the seat dip next to her, and the sudden warmth of someone sitting next to washed
over her body. Their arm brushed against hers and the now familiar, yet still incredibly
unnerving shocks, came over her. She knew in an instant who it was. No one else could
make her feel that way. She turned and stared into his deep blue eyes.

“Ignore anything that comes out of her mouth.” Tristan grabbed Rory´s hand and
squeezed it gently.

“I normally do, but this time... this time...” Her words were becoming shaky as she neared
tears.

“You´re afraid that they were true?”

“Yeah.”

“There not. So what if you blanked for a round. We´re all going to do that sometime this
season. Just you wait and see, Paris is going to blank once too. And I for one won´t let her
forget it.” A smirk crossed his lips and Rory let out a small laugh at the thought of a
helpless Paris.

“Thank you again. I really don´t know how I would have survived this day without you.”
Tristan smiled in return. A few wordless moments passed between the two. The only thing
they felt was the touch of each other´s hands and the warmth that seemed to radiate over
their entire bodies because of it. Suddenly Rory started giggling. It was small at first, but
soon her laughter came to the point of uncontrollable.

“What?” Tristan stared at her, a perplexed look on his face.

“This.”

“What?” Rory was able to hold down her laugh for a few seconds.

“This... us.... sitting here. And I for the first time in my life do not have the urge to tar and
feather you before making do the macarena in a very public place.” Rory´s eyes lit up at
that thought and she burst out laughing again.

“Oh... I see how it is. Have fun at Tristan´s expense.”

“Of course, because what better fun is there?” Rory placed her free hand over her mouth
and tried to muffle her laughter. It was hard for Tristan to keep a straight face. Her natural
beauty was only strengthened by her smile.

“I can think of something.” He pouted.

“Oh yeah? What?” Rory bit her bottom lip keeping any new sounds from escaping her lips.

“Oh... I don´t know... maybe like this!” And with that Tristan launched at her. Locking her
in between the seat and his body as he tickled her sides. The laughter was renewed and his
joined hers. She swatted at him, and screamed for him to stop, but that only made him
tickle her more. Her happy smile, and the twinkle in her eye causing him to want her even
more.

This is what Tristan wanted with Rory. A carefree relationship where she was candid with
him and there were no hard feelings. Sure he could hope for more. But maybe that would
come in time. But right now things were good, he would have to live those fantasies in his
dreams.

Meanwhile Mr. Good had taken a seat by Steve, who was staring amusedly at the pair. He
tried to contain his own laughter so as not to disturb them. Mr. Good took a look at
Tristan and Rory, and then back at Steve.

“Are they going out?” He cocked his head in their direction.

“No.” Steve almost let out a shriek when he saw Rory swat Tristan in the nose. Mr. Good
looked back at the pair before going back to his seat.

“They aren´t fooling anyone.” The teacher smirked to himself and sat down to enjoy the
ride. Steve leaned back thoughtfully in his seat.

*No one but themselves.*

***

“Rory!” She spun around on her heel when she heard Tristan call her name. He was
jogging down the hallway after her. They had just finished another practice. It had been a
week since their first match, and Mr. Good insisted on being evil and cramming even more
random bits of knowledge into their already jammed packed brain cells. “Hey. Where you
headed?”

“To the bus stop and then to Luke´s for some glorious coffee.” Rory´s eyes closed and her
voice became very breathy as she thought of her ambrosia. Tristan laughed at her lustful
state.

“I never will understand your obsession with that beverage.”

“What´s too understand? Coffee is the best substance ever created and I am merely paying
it the homage that it deserves. Now I will continue on my way to the bus stop so that I
may dive into my evening worship of the sacred beverage.”

“Well I could give you a ride home and you could convert me to coffee Catholicism.”
Tristan´s voice was strong and steady, but on the inside his stomach was fluttering with a
million butterflies and his heart beat loudly in his chest. Rory stared at him like he had two
heads. Sure they had done the coffee thing before, but this time the offer felt, well,
different.

“Sure.” A smile spread across Rory´s face. She had no idea where this would take them,
but at least the journey there would be fun.

“Really?!?” Tristan´s jaw dropped. He was not expecting an acceptance.

“Sure. Lead the way oh great one with a car.” Rory bowed and Tristan laughed. He
started down the hall and Rory followed after him. In a moment of mental abstraction she
grabbed onto his shoulders and had him half drag her down the hallway.

“What are you doing?” Tristan looked over his shoulder at her and saw her smiling coyly
back. “I am not a sled dog in the Iditarod.”

“Mush mush mush!” Rory giggled. Tristan grabbed Rory´s wrist and swung her around so
that she was in front of him.

“Who´s in charge now.. huh... Rory?” He kept his hand on her wrist, and place his other at
the base of her neck. He could hear her growl in displeasure. Rory peeked over her
shoulder at Tristan as they walked down the hall. She was determined to win this little
game.

She spun around quickly hoping to get out of Tristan´s grasp, but he anticipated her move
and held her tightly. She ended up facing Tristan, both of her wrists clasped in his strong
hands. She struggled to get away from him as the moved down the hall way, both of them
laughing at their own antics.

Neither of them was watching where they were going and Rory suddenly found herself
backed up against the lockers struggling to free herself from Tristan. He had a huge smile
on his face. His happiness was genuine and the look in his eyes made her melt. Rory found
herself getting lost in his eyes.

Tristan noticed that Rory was struggling much less, and then she stopped completely. She
was staring into his eyes with a look on her face that he had never seen before. He
couldn´t explain what it was, but he liked it, and he liked the fact that it was directed at
him even more.

Rory´s breathing slowed as she stared into him. Her heart beat faster as she realized how
close he was. Tristan slowly let go of her wrists and her arms dropped to her sides. She
didn´t know what was happening at that moment, but all she knew was that she wanted to
be nearer to him.

He must have read her mind because in the next instant he was leaning in closer to her.
One hand was braced against a locker next to her head, and the other was slowly caressing
her arm. Rory was trapped between him and the cold metal against her back, but she
didn´t care.

Tristan´s eyes were darting between her deep blue eyes and her slightly parted red lips. His
heart pounded loudly in his chest and he was sure that Rory could ever beat. He was
begging for a sign of any type that Rory wanted to feel his lips on hers as badly as he
wanted.

Tristan brought his hand up the her cheek, his thumb caressing the silky soft skin of her
face. Her breaths quickened and her eyes closed, enjoying the feeling of his light touch.
When she opened her eyes again his face was right in front of hers. She could feel his
warm breath upon his lips and as awkward as this moment felt, she wouldn´t have it any
other way. She closed her eyes in anticipation of his lips covering hers, time passed very
slowly, then all too quickly the moment was over.

“What are you two still doing here?” Mr. Good was staring at them, hands shoved in his
pockets. “I thought kids hated school. Get out of her go home, and study some inane facts
that no one but I care that you know.” Tristan let out a laugh of disappointment as he
shoed them out the door.

The walk to Tristan´s car was silent. He unlocked the doors to his SUV and they climbed
in. The radio came on when he started the engine and the melodic notes of a violin quartet
singer cut through the tense silence. Rory gave him an odd look, one eyebrow raised.

“Ooops... how did that channel get on there?” Tristan blushed as he fumbled for the radio.
His shoulders were tense as he leaned back into his seat.

“What´s wrong with classical?” Rory hid her smirk by biting her bottom lip. Tristan
glanced at her to see if she was being sarcastic.

“You like classical music?”

“Sure. I´m more inclined to soundtrack scores, but I like Vivalidi just as much.” Tristan´s
body visibly relaxed at Rory´s statement and he let out a sight of relief when he realized
that she was not going to tease him for liking classical music.

“I´ve always been a fan of Hans Zimmer myself.”

“Gladiator would have to be his best.....”

The pair slipped into a comfortable level of conversation as they made their way to Stars
Hollow. The trip down the highway went fast as the conversation changed from music to
movies, then to Rory´s all time favorite subject, books. Tristan noticed the passion in her
voice when she spoke about all the marvelous pieces of literature that she had taken in.
Before they knew it they had arrived at Stars Hollow, Tristan pulling into a spot in front of
Luke´s.

“I´m sorry, but Robin Cook is so much better at the medical thriller.” Rory climbed out of
the car and slammed the door. Tristan who was already out was waiting for her on the
sidewalk.

“That is where you are wrong Rory, Micheal Crichton is the best in that area.” He trailed a
bit behind Rory as she led the way into Luke´s. Tristan looked up and saw the hardware
sign. “You never told me that a hardware store was a place that had the best coffee.”

“That´s because this is not a hardware store.” She opened the door and Tristan followed
her in, taken back a bit by the fact that there were no hammers or nails in site. “Luke! Two
cups please.”

Luke raised his head and smiled when he saw Rory sitting at the counter. His smile slipped
a bit when he saw Tristan sit next to her. He brought out the cups and set one in front of
each of them, pouring the steaming liquid as he eyed Tristan.

“Good afternoon Rory.” Rory smiled in response as she took a big gulp from her mug. His
eyes shifted to Tristan “And you are...”

“Tristan DuGray.”

“Ah.... OH!” The name dawned on him and he quickly shifted his attention back to Rory.
“Is he....”

“He´s fine.” Rory nodded in understanding, but Tristan just looked back and forth
between the two, completely lost.

“Just checking.” The bell above the door rang, and Lorelai flounced into the diner,
plopping herself down on the other side of Tristan. He was now sandwiched in between
the two Gilmore girls.

“Afternoon Luke. Should I whine today or will you be nice and just fork the beautiful
beverage?” She was answered by a mug being placed in front of her. “Awww... you made
it way to easy. Rory how are you?... and who is this cute little darling.”

“I´m fine.” Rory smiled over her cup. “And this is Tristan.”

“You mean....” Her eyebrows furrowed in concentration.

“Yes....” Rory nodded. Tristan found himself lost once again.

“Is he housebroken yet?” She eyed him up and down suspiciously.

“He is completely trained.”

“Good.” Lorelai grinned. “Nice to meet you Tristan.”

“Same to you Mrs. Gilm...”

“Stop. It´s Lorelai now and forever.”

“Alright. Nice to meet you Lorelai.” His voice was a little shaky because he still was not
quite sure what this woman thought of him. But he was happy with the small smile on her
face, because it was not of the homicidal type.

“So....” She eyed Tristan once again. “You´ve been good lately.”

“Ummm.... I´m not sure that I understand what you mean.”

“You´ve been kind to my daughter, and haven´t called her Mary recently.”

Tristan cleared his throat. “That would be correct.” Rory was not to happy with the way
this conversation between her mother and Tristan was going.

“Good.” Lorelai perked up. “Now I can tell you some cute and embarrassing stories about
my daughter and you won´t manipulate them to hurt her. So when she was three....”
Tristan became engrossed in Lorelai´s speech that he missed the amused and mortified
look on Rory´s face. He also missed the smile that played upon her lips when she realized
that her mother liked Tristan.

***

“...Then one day she decided to entertain the neighborhood by running around in a pink
tutu with a pair of underwear on her head and a rolling pin in her hand.” Lorelai and
Tristan were clutching their sides because they were laughing so hard and Rory was just
staring into her coffee mug with a miserable look on her face. “But get this... she was
nine! She was old enough to think about how dumb she was making herself out to be and
yet she went around like the rolling pin fairy knocking on everyone´s doors and blessing
their baked goods.” Tristan started laughing so loudly that he felt off of his stool and onto
the floor. He stopped for a brief second when he heard Rory mumble something under her
breath.

“Serves you right.” At that Tristan burst out laughing again. He was clutching his sides
and rolling around on the floor. Rory was very tempted to kick him to make him shut up.
An evil smirk played upon her lips. She was raising her foot to strike, but Luke´s
authoritarian voice stopped her.

“Don´t even think about Rory.” Tristan was still laughing. Luke looked down upon his
shaking figure with disdain. “You! Off my clean floor, I don´t know where you´ve been!”
Tristan´s giggles slowed and he looked up at Luke´s face. He immediately quieted and had
that ‘deer in the headlights´ look about him. Tristan stood up quickly and brushed off his
pants. Rory sent an evil glare Tristan´s way. He regained his seat and suppressed his
giggles.

There was a moment of silence as Luke made his way around the counter. He saw Lorelai
smirking as she was drinking her coffee. He grabbed the cup out of her hand just as she
was about to take another sip.

“Hey!” She protested.

“Don´t ‘Hey!´ me. I know you´re the one behind this giggle fest and I think it´s this evil
beverage made you do it. No coffee for you.”

“Lukey.” Lorelai pouted and Luke turned away to keep himself from giving in to her.

“So Rory.... or should I say Baked Goods Goddess?” Tristan turned to face her, biting his
lip to keep from laughing out loud again.

“You call me that and I´ll castrate you with this here spoon.” She lifted the spoon that was
by her and swirled it around in front of his face. Tristan swallowed nervously.

“Umm... I´ll shut up now.”

“That would be a pretty smart idea.” She started tapping the spoon on the counter and
that sound was the only thing making it to Tristan´s ears. Rory just stared at him, a blank
expression on her face. Tristan could see a fire in her eyes though. After a few minutes her
stare began to get on his nerves, and it scared him when she smiled.... evilly.

“What?” Rory just shrugged her shoulders. “Oh there´s something.... and I want to know
what it is.”

“Do you really?”

“Yes.”

“You´re not gonna like it.” Rory said in a sing songy voice, while twisting the spoon
between her fingers.

“I don´t care if I don´t like it. Not knowing is driving me crazy.” Tristan´s voice was full
of agitation as he bounced around in his seat.

“Ok.... I was thinking about all the delightfully grotesque ways I could kill you if you
repeat even a breath of what my mother has told you today.” Tristan swallowed nervously
once again.

“I´ll keep that in mind.” He glanced at the wall and noticed that it was already 8 at night.
“And on that note, I must be going. See you tomorrow.” He got out of his seat and made
his way to the door.

“Ta ta.... and remember....” Rory waved the spoon at him.

“Goodnight.” The bell above the door jingled as he left. Rory, Lorelai, and Luke all
watched him as he climbed into his car and drove off.

“I like him.” Lorelai said turning her attention to Luke who was nodding in agreement.

“I do too.” He said. Rory turned and stared at him like he had two heads. She had
expected her mother to like him, but Luke... well he was a totally different story. He had
never liked any of the guys she fraternized with.

“What did you say? Because if it´s what I thought you said then I think hell just froze
over.” Rory continued to stare at him in disbelievement.

“I said ‘I do too.´”

“The devil is now encased in ice.” Rory shook her head and stood up and began to wander
out the door.

“Where you going Rory?” Lorelai turned to face her daughter as she spoke.

“Home.”

“Why?”

“Because things just got all too weird in here.”

“Ok honey... see you later.” Rory walked out the door shaking her head in confusion.
Lorelai turned to face Luke once again. They both smiled knowingly.

***

“You like Tristan. You like Tristan......” Lorelai bounced around following Rory as she
tried to get as far away from her mother as possible.

“For the four hundredth time... I do not. You´ve been saying that for over an hour, can
you just stop.”

“No.... You like Tristan. You like Tristan.” Rory plopped down onto to the sofa and
buried her head in her hands. Lorelai ignored her obvious displeasure and plopped right
down next to her.

“Ok mother, I give. Why are you saying I like Tristan?” Lorelai grinned widely when she
noticed that she had won this battle.

“Because.”

“Oh, that´s a real good reason.” Rory stated, sarcasm dripping from her voice.

“I thought so.” Lorelai bit her lip as she answered.

“Mother.”

“Fine.”

“Why?” Rory began tapping her foot impatiently.

“Because of the way he looked at you, and the way that you didn´t totally kick his ass
after he called you the Baked Goods Goddess.” Lorelai hugged a pillow close to her just
in case Rory decided to pounce on her.

“The way he looks at me?” Rory was slightly confused to say the least.

“Yeah. Like he wants to eat you up.” Lorelai licked her lips to further her point along.

“What?!?”

“He gets all gooey eyed.” Lorelai batted her eyelashes at her daughter.

“You´re insane.”

“Do you deny that he looks at you differently than he does every other girl he looks at.”
Rory opened her mouth to say something, but then she really began to think over her
mother´s words. Tristan did look at her differently. He never even looked at Summer the
way he had been looking at her. And then he had been much nicer lately. And then there
was that incident in the hallway. “See... I was right.”

“Ok. You were right about one thing. That still doesn´t mean that I like him.” Rory dipped
her head as her words got softer.

“Then why are you blushing?” Lorelai inquired. Rory responded by lifting her hands to
cover her cheeks. She could feel the warmth radiating from them even before she actually
touched her face. “I´m off to bed. Goodnight sweetheart.” Lorelai kissed Rory on the
forehead before heading up the stairs, leaving a thinking Rory behind.

She leaned back into the sofa cushions, hands still covering her cheeks. Slowly her hands
moved from her burning cheeks to the back of the neck. She slowly rubbed her fingers
into her tense muscle.

*If only Tristan were here to do this.*

“Oh my God!” Rory stopped all her movement. “I did not just say think that.”

*You did. I can´t believe it. You did. You actually did.*

Rory dropped her hands and collapsed sideways on the couch. She buried her head into a
rather large sized pillow and groaned loudly. She slowly began to bang her head against
the pillow. Anything to rid herself of these thoughts of Tristan. Slowly though she drifted
off to sleep, curled up to guard herself from the outside world.

***
Rory slammed her locker closed on Monday with a loud, an oddly refreshing, bang. She
turned to walk to class but ended up bumping into Tristan. She bounced off him and
looked up to catch his eyes. He smiled down at her before shoving a cup of coffee in front
of her face.

“I come bearing coffee.... please don´t hurt me.” Tristan grinned sheepishly. Rory took the
cup from him and sniffed it suspiciously. “It´s safe, I didn´t do anything to it.”

“Good to know.” Rory took a big gulp and smiled. “I missed you.”

“You did?” Tristan was a bit taken back by her statement.

“Not you dufus.... the coffee. It´s been an hour since I´ve last consumed it.”

“Well we wouldn´t you to become addicted to it or anything like that.” Rory was not
please with the sarcasm in his voice.

“I have one word for you Tristan.”

“And what´s that?” He smirked at her as he leaned against the lockers.

“Spoon.” The smirk on his face disappeared, and he looked as if he wanted to climb into
the locker next to him. Rory smiled in satisfaction.

“So?” He cleared his throat. “I umm... like your shoes.”

“Uh-huh... whatever. Not like they´re different from everyone else´s.” She started to walk
down the hallway. Tristan stayed where he was, afraid that she didn´t want him to follow.
But only a few feet away she stopped and turned around. “Are you coming or not?”

Tristan practically ran to catch up to her. An offer like this came once in a blue moon, and
he wasn´t about to pass it over. Rory smiled to herself at his actions. She had done alot of
thinking about their “relationship” over the weekend, and decided that she wanted to
spend more time with him. He wasn´t nearly as bad as she had first thought, but then again
he had changed over the summer.

“Tristan, what are you doing after practice?” Tristan looked at her profile, making sure he
had heard her right.

“I was going home. Why?”

“Well... do you want to see a movie or something?” Rory looked up at him expectantly.
Not believing her words herself. They stopped by the entrance to their first period class.

“Sure.” Rory smiled broadly and walked into the classroom. Tristan just stared at her as
she walked away. Monday´s had always been word, but this had to top all of them.

*Shouldn´t I be the one asking her?*

***

*What is going on? What happened to her this weekend? She would never have asked me
to do something like this. And why the hell am I complaining?*

Tristan shook is head back and forth as he paced outside the front entrance of the school.
He had agreed to meet Rory here before they drove to the cinema. It was a beautifully
sunny afternoon, but Tristan didn´t notice. He was still pondering why Rory would even
think, let alone ask him to see a movie with her. The thought was almost beyond
comprehension.

Footsteps echoed down the empty hallway and made there way to his ears. He looked up
and saw Rory walking towards him. She was staring into her backpack, looking for
something, or what not. Her dark strands of hair blew about her face as she walked and
she brushed them back angrily with her hand. She completed her task with her backpack
and slung it over her shoulder.

She looked up and when she saw Tristan a wide smile spread across her face. Her eyes lit
up and she picked up her pace. Tristan smiled in return and stopped his pacing. He crossed
his arms as he waited for her to reach him... an amused smirk playing upon his lips. When
she reached him he stared down at her and tapped the face of his watch.

“You´re late?”

“You can deal.” Rory deadpanned.

“Touchy touchy.....Did you have a run in with Paris or is it that time of the month?”

“Funny Tristan... I got way laid in the hallway by some Freshman who had no idea how to
get to the library.”

“And you had to be the kind student a show him there, instead of being a mean old
upperclassman and just pointing.”

“Exactly. So.... are you ready to see that movie now, or would you rather stand here and
spar with each other?”

“As much fun as this is... I´m getting a craving for snow caps... and you can only have
those with a movie.”

The got into Tristan´s car and drove over to the cinema. The conversation on the way
there consisted of random trivia facts passed between the two, each one trying to out
smart the other, only to be beat down again.

“You are so wrong.” Tristan cried in indignation as he and Rory walked the entrance of
the movie theatre.

“No.. it is you who are wrong pretty boy.... Shakespeare in Love won best picture, not
Saving Private Ryan, though even I will admit Saving Private Ryan was the better movie.”
Rory crossed her arms and raised her eyebrows at him.

“There is no way that a wussy movie like that won.” Tristan countered her verbal assault.

“Fine. I´ll make a deal with you. We ask one of the movie guys who won. Winner picks
the movie... and loser pays for the snacks.” Rory stuck out her hand, waiting for Tristan to
shake it. He glanced at her hand, and then back up at her amused face. His nose crinkled a
bit as he thought. “This is offer is limited so act now.”

“Fine. I agree... because I´ll win.” He took her hand and shook it firmly.

“You just keep on telling yourself that.”

***

Rory munched on her extra large bucket of popcorn rather contentedly in her seat. She
looked over at the slouched figure of Tristan next to her. He had his head buried in his
hands. He seemed to be mumbling something to himself. Rory smiled to herself.

“Something wrong Tristan?” Rory giggled. She only received an agitated groan as and
answer. “What was that Tristan? I couldn´t hear you.”

“I can´t believe I lost, and now I have to sit through this movie.” Rory saw his head shake
back and forth.

“It´s ok Tristan. I´m sure there´ll be other bets... I´ll win then too... so get use to it. And as
for the movie... I was told Pearl Harbor was decent...so deal.”

“I hate you right now.” Tristan glared at her from over his fingertips.

“Sure you do.”

“I do.” He mumbled into his hands.

“Uh-huh... when worms have ears.”

“What?” Tristan sat straight up in his seat and looked down at her smiling face.

“Nothing.”

“There was something.” The light in the room faded out as the screen crackled to life.

“Shhh... the movie is starting.” Rory hushed him by putting her finger to his lips. She had
forgotten how soft they were. The sparks that passed between them were not static
electricity. Rory had to remind herself to pull away her hand. She placed her focus on the
changing screen in front of her and not on the warm body next to her. Her eyes becoming
transfixed on the images, but her thoughts never straying to far from Tristan.

She tried to follow the plot of the movie, but it was much to difficult. She lost all of her
senses when she felt Tristan´s arm snake around her shoulders. The move was a bold one.
Sure she had asked him to see a movie with her, but she blamed that move on a moment
of insanity. Tristan´s move had to have been calculated. Rory turned her head slowly to
see if a smirk of any type was on her face.

She was surprised at what she saw. His gaze was focused completely on the screen. It was
like throwing his arm around her had been an unconscious move. Rory could feel his
fingers playing with her hair absently mindedly. The shock of his touch overwhelmed her
senses, and yet she felt an almost overbearing sense of comfort. Rory leaned into this
comfort, and before she knew it her focus was back on the movie, but her head was on his
shoulder.

Tristan resisted the urge to jump when he felt Rory lean on him. He looked over at her and
was about to ask her what she was doing, but was caught by surprise when he found that
his arm was around her. He didn´t exactly know how it got there, but at the moment he
didn´t care. He rubbed her shoulder a bit. Rory sighed happily in response.

Tristan smiled to himself before leaning his cheek on Rory´s head. His fingers further
intertwined themselves gently into Rory´s hair. He pulled her a bit closer to him, and
settled in to watch the rest of the movie.

***

The movie credits were rolling by on the screen and the theatre lights were coming up, but
neither Tristan nor Rory made any effort to move. There was only one other person left in
the theatre, and he was all the way up in the front row. Tristan lifted his cheek off of
Rory´s head.

Rory immediately frowned, missing the warmth of feeling him close to her, but was still
enjoying his fingers running through her hair. Tristan nudged Rory´s chin up off his
shoulder gently with his hand. Her eyes caught his. Starling blue meeting startling blue.
She smiled at him, and he beamed one back at her.

“Want to go for coffee?” His voice was soft and tender, and his breath tickled her face.
Rory´s smile grew even wider.

“Do you even have to ask?”

“No.” Tristan said with a laugh. He stood up and reached his hand out to her. She grabbed
it, and he helped her stand up. Rory grabbed her coat off the back of the seat and walked
out into the aisle as she tried to put it on.

She felt Tristan place his hand on her shoulder and she stopped moving. He grabbed the
coat from her. He opened it wide and helped her slip it on one arm and then the other. He
leaned closer to her back as he pulled her hair out from inside her collar. The silky strands
ran through his fingers, and the aroma of her fruity shampoo intoxicated his senses.

Rory´s breathing became erratic as she felt the warmth of his fingers on her neck. Working
in slow sensual circles on her skin, releasing any tension she had felt. Tristan´s hand trailed
slowly from her neck down to the small of her back where it came to rest. He put a gentle
pressure on her back. She took his hint and they began to walk out of the theatre, but not
before a voice stopped them.

“I see that you´ve moved on.”

Dean! “Dean!” Rory practically screamed as she turned around see him. She was met with
a face void of an expression.

“Rory.... Tristan I believe.” Dean cocked his head to the side and studied the man who
was with his ex-girlfriend. An ex that he still had feelings for. Tristan saw the adoration
Dean had towards Rory and he had to fight himself from just punching him right there.
Jealously was not a feeling Tristan was use to, and it wasn´t a feeling that he liked.

“Bagboy... I mean Dean. Nice to meet you again.” Tristan was clenching his teeth as the
sickeningly sweet tone came out of his mouth.

“The pleasure is all mine.” Dean returned the same tone to Tristan. Rory just stood there
watching the two men as they stared each other down. Daring the other to make a move
that could be countered with a victory. Tristan was the first to break eye contact. He
turned to Rory and saw the hurt expression on her face. It was then that he forgot Dean
even existed and he focused solely on helping Rory.

“You ok?” He grabbed her hand a squeezed it gently. Rory nodded a yes to him. “Let´s go
get that coffee.” He tugged on her hand gently as they walked to the door. Dean refused
to lose again.

“Rory he´s only going to hurt you. Get out now before it´s to late. I still love you, I think I
always will.” He called after the pair. Rory paused for a second to hear his words. She
wanted to turn to talk to him, but she saw the pleading look in Tristan´s eyes and just
walked away.

***

Tristan closed Rory´s door behind her and walked around to his side of the car. He let out
a deep sigh before he climbed in himself. He looked over at Rory for a moment as he
slipped the key into the ignition. She was staring out the window. The light from a
lamppost dancing off her dark hair, and the single tear that rolled down her cheek.

“Do you want to skip the coffee and just go home?” Rory turned to face Tristan and saw
the understanding written in his eyes.

“Do you mind?”

“No.” His face moved from serious to a small smile, “As long as we do it some time
later.”

“Sure.” Rory smiled a bit before looking out the window. Tristan started the car and drove
out of the parking lot and onto the highway leading to Stars Hollow. He tapped his fingers
gently on the steering wheel. He wanted to know what happened between Dean and Rory,
but he wasn´t sure if it was right to ask, so he skirted around the issue.

“Rory?”

“Hmmm.” She was still watching the scenery pass by.

“If you want to talk... I´m great at listening.” No answer. “Just thought I´d let you know.”
There were more moments of silence. They weren´t as awkward as before, Tristan had
placed his invitation out in the open and it was up to her whether or not she wanted to
accept it.

The road was practically empty and Tristan was finding it difficult to concentrate on
driving. It was driving him insane to not know what had happened. But he couldn´t ask, it
wasn´t his place, even though that place was where he wanted to be.

“I broke up with him.” The surprise of Rory speaking almost made Tristan drive off the
road. He didn´t answer because she spoke again before he could get a word in. “You
know how we got back to together near the end of school last year?”

*How could I not? You broke my heart for the umpteenth time that day when you two
started making out in the courtyard. Hell yeah I remember it!*

“Yes.” Tristan´s voice was calm, which was quite the opposite of what he was.

“This summer it seemed to me like we were mending the holes that had appeared in our
relationship. But I was feeling differently than I had in the courtyard. I thought I loved
him, but I didn´t. I don´t know why, he really is a great guy and all, but something was
missing. I still don´t know what.” She paused for a second and Tristan braced himself for
what might be next. “So I decided to end it before I got in any deeper than I already was. I
broke up with him. I thought it would be so hard. I was scared that he would lash out, or
refuse to accept it. But he just stood there staring at me, like he wasn´t comprehending the
words that were coming out of my mouth. I didn´t want to hurt him, that´s why I ended it
when I did. He just turned around, and I didn´t here from him for a week. Then he called
me. He thanked me. I still don´t know why. I don´t know if it was for not hurting him, or
not leading him on, or what. That was a week before school started. I still see him around
town, and things are really awkward. I don´t where to go from here.”

Tristan pulled into her driveway. He stopped the car and turned to face her. She was
staring numbly ahead. The tears had stopped, she appeared to be in a deep thought.

“Rory?” Nothing. “It was better to get out before you got hurt again.”

“I know.”

“Then what´s wrong?”

“I thought that seeing him again might make me fall for him again, or make me hate him.
But I was wrong. I just want to be his friend.” Rory turned to face Tristan, he was leaning
his elbow against the steering wheel, holding his chin in his hand. “Is that normal. Or am I
being stupid for even thinking about that option?”

“I don´t know what´s normal or not, because normal has never existed.” That comment
made Rory let out a small laugh. “But what I can tell you is that if he turns down your
friendship than he is a complete and utter moron. Come on, I walk you to your door.”

They got out of the door and slowly made their way up Rory´s front steps. The porch light
was on, and Lorelai was with out a doubt spying on them in some fashion. Rory couldn´t
make herself go inside yet, things were still unresolved between her and Tristan.

“Thank you.” Rory´s voice was gentle as she looked into his eyes.

“No problem. You would have done the same for me.” Tristan smiled and Rory returned
the gesture.

“Goodnight Tristan.”

“Goodnight.” Rory opened the door a crack but stopped. She turned around a placed a
gentle kiss on Tristan´s cheek. She smiled and walked inside.

***

Tristan walked to his car and opened his door. He leaned against the door frame for
support. Rory had just kissed him. Granted it wasn´t exactly what he wanted but still.
Rory had kissed him. Rory Gilmore, the girl who once hated him, had kissed him. He
almost couldn´t comprehend that idea.

He slowly settled himself into the car, closing the door behind him. Tristan placed the key
in the ignition and started the car. He placed his hands on the steering wheel, but one
withdrew up to his cheek. He set it gentle on the place where Rory´s lips had met his skin.
The spot still tingled with warmth. Tristan smiled to himself as he pulled out of the
driveway.

Rory leaned against the door for support as her legs gave out from underneath her. It had
only been a kiss on the cheek, but it still made her weak all over. Why she had kissed
Tristan... Rory had no idea. It just felt right, and the feelings that she was having right now
felt right.

Rory slid down the door as she placed her fingers gently on her lips. The shock that had
passed through her made her want to kiss him again, and again. This was so new to her.
She never got this sort of feeling from Dean.

*Dean!*

Rory´s hand dropped from her lips as she remembered the look on his face in the theatre.
It hurt her to think that she had caused that pain. It would have been worse if she dragged
it out though. Rory brought her knees to he chest and dipped her head as she thought.
This was how Lorelai found her a few minutes later.

“Rory honey? You ok?” Lorelai hunched down to inspect her daughter.

“I´m fine.” Came the muffled reply.

“Then why are you sitting like that?” Lorelai sat down. Rory´s eyes appeared over the
tops of her knees.

“I have no idea, but it is rather comfortable.” Lorelai raised one eyebrow at her daughter.

“Ooookkkk.... did I just see Tristan leave?” Rory nodded a yes. “Care to fill me in?”

“Can I give you the cliff notes version?” Rory peered over at her mother who was now
mimicking her position.

“Sure. Oh you´re right, this is comfy.”

“Tristan me movie. Fun. Coffee offer. Dean. Bad. Cheek kiss. Tingles.”

“Wow. That was almost poetic.”

“Eliotish?”

“Mmmm... more Dickinson. So wow, that was... wow.” Lorelai threw her arm around
Rory´s shoulders and pulled her closer.

“Yeah.”

“Do you like him?” She began combing her fingers through Rory´s hair.

“Which one?”

“The one that gave you tingles.”

“I don´t know.” Rory let out a sigh at her indecision.

“Tingles usually mean something.”

“I know.”

“So... do you?”

“I really have no clue... but I´m sure I´ll get one soon.”

***

“So yesterday was fun.” Tristan slid up behind Rory as she got her books out of her locker
for first period. Rory jumped back a bit when she was startled by his voice.

“I can agree with you on that.”

“So does this mean we´ve hit the friends stage?” Rory turned to face Tristan as he
questioned her.

“I think so.” Rory´s voice was shivering at Tristan´s close proximity to her. Tristan
enjoyed the effect he was having on her. He rested his hands on the lockers, one on either
side of her head, trapping her in.

“Do you think we could ever move beyond the friends stage?”

“I´m... I´m not sure.” Rory´s heart almost beat out of her chest as Tristan leaned his lips
into her ear.

“Think it over.” Then he pulled away and sauntered down the hall. Leaving Rory in a
confused haze of emotion.

***

It had been three weeks since Tristan had cornered her with his offer, but he hadn´t
mentioned it since then. The were in an odd stage of their friendship, Rory wasn´t even
sure if she could still call it that. They went out to the movies or to get coffee so often that
some people thought they were dating. Rory wasn´t sure if she was ready to take that step
yet.

Tristan hadn´t forced her into anything. He hadn´t made a move, flirting was minimal. In
fact he was being almost like a gentleman. He had treated like human being, she hadn´t
been called Mary in so long that she almost forgot about it.

Rory often found herself thinking about him when he wasn´t around, and when he was
around he was all she thought about. She often pushed those thoughts aside so that she
could concentrate on school and quiz team.

Quiz team. Those words made her smile everytime she thought of them. So many
wonderful memories were associated with her trivia crazed friends. She could even call
Paris a friend now. Rory still saw the jealous glow in her eyes whenever Tristan was near,
but no homicidal looks were thrown her way.

Steve was the moderator and jokester of the team. Whenever things got tough he would
calm everyone down. Rory laughed to herself when she remembered that Steve had
decided to cheer them all up by eating an entire large pizza and 50 buffalo wings all by
himself. That boy was as skinny as a beanpole but he claimed to still be hungry even after
all that.

It was through their collective trivia loving minds that Rory found herself where she was
now. It was six in the morning and Rory had been up since four. She was trying to keep
her drooping eyes open as she looked at a calm and collected Tristan reading the New
York Times. They were sitting in the Hartford Airport waiting for their flight to Baltimore
to arrive. They were headed off to the National Quiz Bowl tournament in New Orleans.

“Tired?” Tristan´s voice came from behind the newspaper. She could hear the smirk in his
voice.

“Yes. And damn you to hell for being so chipper.” Rory crossed her arms and pouted.

“I´m glad to see that you aren´t cranky in the morning.” Tristan pulled the paper down so
that he could see Rory.

“Bite me.”

“I´d love to doll, but this is neither the time nor place.” He raised the paper back up and
continued to read.

“Has anyone ever told you that you were evil?”

“Many a time my dear, many a time.” Rory was about to come back with an attack of her
own, but the boarding announcement was made for their flight. “Grab your stuff and let´s
go. You can take a nap on the plane how does that sound?”

“Like heaven.” Rory bent down to get her backpack yawning loudly as she did so. She
stood up and began to walk towards the boarding terminal. Each step seemed harder, and
she grew even more tired. Tristan noticed her head droop and rushed by her side. He
threw his arm around her waist to steady her. He knew this move would only torture
himself, but she was irresistible to him.

Rory made it even worse for Tristan when she buried her tired eyes into his shoulder.
Tristan almost let out a groan at the intimate contact. He took Rory´s ticket from her hand
and, along with his, handed them over to the flight attendant. She smiled at the pair and
motioned for them to board the plane.

Tristan looked at the boarding passes and found their seat numbers. He couldn´t decide
whether or not he was lucky to be the one sitting next to Rory. He found their seats on the
small propeller plane.

“Lucky duck. You get the window seat.” Tristan whispered into Rory´s ear. Her head shot
up off his shoulder and her eyes met his. Rory was looking at him in disbelief.

“Did you say window seat?”

“Yes.” Rory groaned and dipped her head in response.

“What´s the matter?” Tristan lifted her chin up with his hand. He had to bite his lip to keep
from kissing her.

“Do you want the window seat?”

“Only if you don´t.”

“Please take it!”

“Ok.” He scooted into the seat and tucked his bag under the seat in front of him. Rory
took the seat next to him, and hastily buckled herself tightly in. When she was done she
gripped the armrests tightly, but Tristan could still see her hands trembling. “Are you
afraid of flying?”

“No... not exactly. I just don´t get how you get 200 ton hollow metal tube with wings up
in the sky. And then there are the parts about planes plunging to the ground that don´t
make me happy.” Rory pulled the strap on her seatbelt even tighter. Tristan looked down
at her hands as the worked at her waist.

“Well if the plane does crash it´s going to be of great service to you to be strapped to the
wreckage.” Rory´s face paled at his comment. She went to undo the belt but her hands
were shaking so much that she couldn´t hold on to anything. Tristan grabbed her hands
and brought them to his chest. “Calm down Rory. I´m sorry about that comment. I didn´t
know flying bothered you that much.”

Rory´s shaking hands were contained by Tristan´s strong grip. The warmth they provided
began to ease her tension. The trembling subsided but her fear did not. She slowly pulled
away from Tristan and leaned back into her seat. Her hands immediately clinging to the
arm rests, gripping them so tightly that her knuckles turned white.

Tristan placed his hand over hers and slowly massaged the back of it with his thumb. Her
grip slackened a bit but immediately tensed up again when the plane began to taxi towards
the runway. Tristan leaned his lips towards her ear.

“It´s going to be fine. Just close your eyes and breath.” Tristan used his free hand to brush
back a strand of dark hair, his fingers making the slightest contact with the delicate skin of
her neck. Shivers shot down Rory´s spine as her grip on the arm rest became even
stronger. Tristan felt her reaction. “Didn´t I tell you to calm down.”

“No.”

“Well then... calm down.”

“As soon as we get this bird in the air I´ll be fine.”

“Liar.”

“What? I mean it. As soon as we are airborne I´m ok.”

“Then why do you still have a death grip on the seat?”

“Huh?” Rory was totally confused. Her eyes were sealed shut and she didn´t want to look
at anything.

“We´ve been in the air for a little bit now.” One of Rory´s eyes slowly opened followed by
the other. She glanced out the window briefly and noticed clouds not trees.

“Oh.”

“Yeah.”

“Thanks for....”

“Don´t mention it.” Tristan smiled at her, giving her hand one last final rub. He pulled
away and grabbed a book from his page. Rory released her death grip and did the same. It
wasn´t long before the flight attendant came by.

“Can I get you anything miss?” The lady smiled politely.

“The largest and strongest coffee you have please.” Tristan looked over at Rory and
smiled. She never changed.

***

The landing was almost as bad as the takeoff, but Rory was not as scared because she
gripped Tristan´s hand like a vice until the wheels hit the ground. The moment the plane
came to a complete stop Rory let out a loud sigh of relief.

“One down, three to go.”

“Three? Rory we´re only getting on one more plane today.” Tristan looked at her
questioningly as he unbuckled his seatbelt. Rory watched his sculpted hands set the belt
aside and wondered what it would feel like to have them touching her.

“W... w...what?” She shook her head to clear her mind of thoughts that she should really
not be having.

“We are only getting on one more plane today, where do they other two come in?”

“The return trip.”

“Oh.” Tristan was kicking himself for forgetting the fact that they would have to return to
Chilton and Rory, once again, would not be within touching distance twenty-four seven.

They grabbed their bags and walked out into the terminal. Rory practically kissed the
ground. Her relief made Tristan laugh. It took them twenty minutes to find the terminal for
the next flight. Rory dropped her bag and collapsed on the floor getting ready to nap
during their three hour lay-over. She rested her head on her bag and threw her jacket over
herself like a blanket. Rory let out a loud yawn as she curled up against the wall that was
behind her.

“What are you doing?” Rory opened one eye and then the other, focusing on the pair of
shoes that were in front of her.

“I was about to fall asleep until you interrupted me Tristan.”

“I see.” Tristan said as he strode over to a chair that was three feet across from Rory. He
sat down and tipped his head to the side as he looked at Rory. Her dishelved hair cascaded
over her bag and her shoulders, with one strand falling in front of her face. Her body was
barely covered by her coat and Tristan saw her curl up in more in an attempt to get warm.
“You look like a bum.”

“Better than being one.” Rory covered her smirk with her hand. Tristan pouted in return
as he stood up again and walked towards her. “That wasn´t very nice.” Tristan slid his
back down along the wall and came to a rest near Rory´s head.

“Well you haven´t always been nice to me, just think of it as retribution.” Rory yawned

“You pain me.” Tristan looked down at Rory´s face. Her eyelids were beginning to droop.

“Good.” Rory almost jumped when she felt Tristan´s warm hand on her cheek. His fingers
caressing her soft skin. The touch of his skin trailed from her cheeks into her hair. Rory let
out a quite yawn that didn´t go unnoticed by Tristan.

“Get some sleep.”

“Yes sir.”

Tristan continued to run his fingers through Rory´s hair as she drifted off to sleep. He let
out a loud sigh and leaned his head back against the wall when he finally heard her
breathing deepen. This was going to be a long week. A good week, but a long week
none-the-less. Tristan had noticed signals coming from Rory. She knew that he had
changed.

Tristan looked down at her peaceful face. The sun that was streaming through the
windows bounced off her face in a halo of dreamy light. A smile played upon his lips as he
plotted just the right moves he was going to make. There would be no second chance this
time.

***

The humidity of the south hit Rory in the face like a wet towel. She almost choked on the
thickness of the air. Their flight from Washington D.C. had only landed fifteen minutes
prior. After picking up their baggage the team made their way to where the airport shuttle
would pick them up. Tristan came up behind Rory and took a deep breath.

“Ahhh... I love the smell of car fumes in the afternoon.” Rory turned and gave him a weird
look. “What?”

“You are so weird.”

“I´ll take that as a compliment.”

“Right.” Rory bent down and grabbed the handle of her suitcase. She rolled the luggage
over to where their van had just pulled up to the curb. Tristan trailed after her. Rory bent
down to lift her bag into the back of the van, but Tristan stopped her before she could. He
placed his hand over hers as she reached for the handle. Rory´s heart stopped for an
instant. The warmth of his hand on hers sent tingles quaking through her body.

“Let me get that for you.” Tristan´s voice was barely a whisper, but it echoed through her
ear. She could only manage a nod in reply having lost all speech capabilities. Rory closed
her eyes and willed herself to think of something other than the effects Tristan was having
on her. Rory pulled herself away from the site of Tristan and jumped into the van.

Paris came up behind Tristan as he loaded his and Rory´s bags into the van. She stared at
him silently for a moment, a scowl on her face. But the scowl disappeared when Tristan
turned to face her, replaced with a broad grin.

“Could you be any more obvious?” Tristan faced her, a perplexed look upon his brow.

“Run that by me again.”

“You.” Paris pointed to Tristan sharply. “Are being so obvious that I´m surprised she,”
Paris pointed to Rory through the van window. “Has not noticed.”

“What on earth are you talking about?” Tristan knew exactly what Paris was referring to,
he just wished now that he hadn´t been as obvious.

“Are you a moron?” Paris struck a defiant pose, hands placed sternly on her hips.

“Depends on who you ask.”

“I give up. You are so freaking obvious that if something doesn´t happen on this trip
between you two, I´ll make something happen when we get back to Connecticut.” Paris
threw her hands in the air as she stalked off to the van door, but a smile dance upon her
lips.

It was a few more moments before Tristan made his appearance. He climbed into the van
and looked for a place to sit. The only open spot was next to Rory. Tristan threw a glare
in Paris´ direction, not because he had to sit next to Rory, but because Paris had found the
only weakness he had. Rory.

Paris caught Tristan´s glare, but merely smirked in return. If she couldn´t have him, she
might as well let him be happy with someone else. Despite her tough exterior Paris was a
hopeless romantic. Seeing Tristan happy would make her happy, and he was never happier
than when he was around Rory. She gave Tristan a wink as he sat down next to Rory
before she returned her attention back to Steve.

Rory looked at Tristan as he sat down next to her. She watched his sculpted hands as he
fastened his seatbelt. Her eyes drifted up his toned arm, over his broad chest, and came to
rest on his deep blue eyes. Tristan´s gaze drifted from his belt and into Rory´s eyes. Rory
gasped when she realized that she had been caught. She quickly turned her head away
from Tristan and looked out the window.

Tristan smiled at Rory´s reaction. He leaned forward, his body brushing against hers ever
so slightly.

“I saw that.” His breath tickled her ear.

“Saw what?” Rory rolled her head away from Tristan´s lips, but she couldn´t get the feel
of him away from her. Tristan continued his pursuit to make her nervous. Her leaned in
close again, this time placing a hand gently on her shoulder and brushing her hair back as
he spoke.

“I saw what you didn´t want me to see. I saw that nervous glint in your eyes.” Tristan
paused as he felt her shiver underneath his touch. “I saw your interest.”

Tristan pulled away from Rory and turned his attention to the world that was passing
outside his window. Rory let out a breath that she didn´t know she had been holding. For
the second time that day Rory´s heart had stopped. This trip was going to be hell on her
emotions.

She didn´t want to fall for his charm, or his wit, or his.....she didn´t want to fall for him.
She was afraid that she already had. Rory felt it in her, something was going to happen.
But she couldn´t tell if it was for the best or for the worst.

***

Rory flopped down on her bed and sighed in her complete relaxation. The team had just
been given a tour of the Loyola Campus, which was where they were staying and
competing. Rory felt like she had just run a marathon between the heat and her
uncomfortable shoes. Mr. Good hadn´t been lying when he said that sneakers were your
best friend.

Rory heard the click of the dorm room door open, but she was too exhausted to even lift
her head to see who it was. At this point Rory could have cared less who it was. The feet
of the unknown being shuffled across the floor and stopped. The next sound was of a body
collapsing onto a bed followed by a load groan.

“I feel your pain Paris.” Rory stated. Paris´ reply was a simple groan of exhaustion. Rory
lifted her head just slightly to read the time on her watch. She whimpered as she dropped
her head back down onto the bed. “We have dinner in five minutes.”

“I know.”

“We should go.”

“Yeah.”

“The guys will wonder what happened to us.” Neither figure moved.

“Yep.”

Rory heard the second hand on her watch tick by. Minutes seemed to pass.

“Are you getting up?” Rory asked Paris.

“No.”

“Me neither.”

“Do you think they´d notice if we skipped out?” Paris´ tired tone hung in the air.

“I don´t know.” Rory answered. There was silence once again in the room. That is until a
knock on the door floated through the room. “Who wants to get it?”

“Not me, I think my legs have fallen off.”

“Maybe they´ll go away if we ignore them.” There was a loud pounding on the door.” Or
not.”

“Give it a few minutes.”

“I know your in there girls.” Steve´s voice penetrated through the door.

“Come back later when were not dead.” Rory shouted out to as she burrowed her head
into her pillow.

“To bad.” Steve shouted through the door. “Get moving. We´re hungry, and I don´t want
to hear you complaining about missing dinner.” Steve pounded on the door again. “Come
on girls.” He was about to pound on the door again when it swung open.

“Ok slave driver, we´re on our way.” Paris was staring angrily into Steve´s eyes. Paris
slammed the door in his face. Steve turned around to face Tristan, he his hands up in the
air.

“Don´t look at me. You were the one that wanted to wake them up.” Tristan leaned back
against the hallway wall and crossed his arms. Steve took up the same position next to his
friend. Both of them had their eyes trained on the door. Steve tapped his foot anxiously.

“What´s taking them so long?”

“You know women they have to look perfect.” The door to the girl´s room opened and
out stepped a bed raggled Paris followed by and equally grubby Rory. “Well there goes
that theory.”

“You don´t look too bad yourself Tristan.” Paris spat at Tristan as she stalked off to the
stairs. Tristan´s eyes drifted from the unhappy Paris to Rory. She had managed to sneak
her way up next to him. Her eye lids drooping.

“What is it with you and being tired whenever you´re around me?” Tristan asked coyly. “I
didn´t know I tired you out that much.”

“You didn´t.” It took a second for Rory to compute the verbal barb. “It was Steve.” She
smirked at Tristan who looked at her in shock. He jerked his head toward Steve who was
still leaning against the wall. Steve blew on his nails then rubbed them across his shirt.

“What can I say... I got mad talent.” Steve smiled to himself.

“I didn´t say that.” Rory winked at him and followed the route Paris had taken. When she
had disappeared around the corner Tristan threw a glare at Steve.

“Jealous much?” Steve shot at Tristan as he followed the girls. Tristan just stared at his
figure as he followed the girls.

“I think I missed something.” He said to himself as he jogged to meet the trio.

***

Steve leaned back in his chair and rubbed his stomach. On the table before him sat three
empty plates along with three empty glasses. Rory and Paris, who were sitting across from
him, just stared at his empty place setting wide eyed.

“You gonna eat that?” Steve motioned to the bowl of pasta salad in front of Rory.

“Go ahead.” Steve smiled at her as he took the bowl from her tray.

“How can you eat so much.... and still manage to be the size of a bean pole?” Rory
questioned her companion.

“Fast metabolism?” Steve shrugged.

“I am amazed.” Rory covered her mouth with her hand. Just watching Steve was making
her full.

“That´s nothing.” Tristan added to the conversation. “You should have been there the time
he ate fifty twinkies and three two-liter bottles of coke. That was amazing.”

“Ewwww.” Rory and Paris spit out at the same time.

“So girls what do you want to do?” Tristan asked.

“I saw this playground just off campus. The swings are calling me.” Rory said as she stood
up taking her tray with her. The other three followed suit. The group began to walk to
where they needed to drop off their trays.

“I saw that too.” Paris chimed in. “Let me change my shoes and I´ll go with you.” Rory
followed Paris to the entrance of the dorm chatting amicably with her along the way.
Tristan and Steve followed a few feet back having their own discussion. At the door
Tristan pulled Rory aside while Steve followed Paris up to the rooms.

“Rory, do you mind if Steve and I tag along, or is this just a girl thing?” Tristan stared at
his feet as he asked the question.

“I thought that you guys had already planned on coming.” Tristan raised his head to meet
Rory´s eyes. “Of course you guys can come.”

“Besides....” Paris said as she walked up to the pair. “You can´t play a decent game of tag
with only two people. YOUR IT!” Paris slapped Tristan on his shoulder and took off
running towards the playground.

Tristan just watched Paris sprint down the sidewalk. Steve shrugged before chasing after
her. Tristan turned his attention to Rory. She was till watching Paris runaway, when she
turned towards Tristan she saw a devilish look in his eyes. Rory´s eyes became wide and
she slowly backed away from Tristan. A smiled tugged at the corner´s of his mouth as he
tipped his head to the side.

“It occurs to me that I´ve never seen you run.” Tristan became taking small, calculated
strides towards a frightened Rory.

“You haven´t?” Rory´s small steps became larger.

“No I haven´t.” Tristan broke into a full-fledge grin. “But I think I´m about to.” With that
he leapt towards her. Rory let out a shriek as she spun on her heel and ran in the opposite
direction from Tristan.

Rory was out of breath by the time they reached the swingset. Her legs were beginning to
slow and she could hear Tristan catch up to her. She finally stopped next to a large
weeping willow and fell back against its massive trunk. Rory breathed heavily, eyes closed
to the world, as her lungs tried to gain a sense of normalcy. Rory closed her eyes and
waited for Tristan to make an appearance.

A few minutes passed and Tristan still had not caught up with her. Rory had found that
odd because last she knew he was right on her heels. She opened her eyes and slowly
pushed herself away from the tree.

“Tristan?” She asked as she became to walk around to see what was on the other side of
the large trunk. “Tristan can you hear me? Tristan?”

“Yeah babe.” Rory screamed and jumped back against the tree, taking a startled Tristan
with her. Her back crashed against the trunk, but she didn´t feel the pain. Tristan´s hand
had gone instinctively behind her head to protect her.

“You ok?” His eyes scanned her face for any sort of mark, or sense of pain.

“I´m... I´m fine.” Tristan´s eyes drifted from his perusal to her eyes. The worried look that
they beheld scared Rory. She had seen almost every look out of him, but this one was
new.

“You sure?” Tristan fingers began to play with her hair.

“Yeah. I´m fine. Completely healthy.” Rory´s hands were shaking, and Tristan found that
out when he grasped them.

“Then why are you trembling?”

“Nerves I guess. Tristan I´m fine.” In all reality Rory´s legs had gone numb the minute he
had touched her. The only thing that kept her from falling to the ground was sure will and
the tree she was leaning against.

“You aren´t lying to me?”

“No Tristan. I´m fine... truthfully.”

“Ok, I was just check....” Tristan´s voice drifted off as he became lost in the beautiful
vision that was Rory. Her face glowed in the soft evening light. She looked like an angel
that had managed to escape from heaven. Tristan´s arms wrapped around her waist and
for the first time in his life he felt complete. His eyes drifted to Rory´s slightly parted lips
and then up to her eyes. He was waiting for Rory to give him permission. This waiting
game was driving him crazy.

“Oh look... swings.” Tristan closed his eyes and winced in emotional pain as Rory darted
from his arms. She had won again.

***

Rory flew herself into the seat of the swing and immediately propelled herself into the air.
The wind she generated pushed her hair past her face and sent it flying behind her, only to
be rushed once again into her eyes as she changed direction. Being on a swing gave Rory a
sense of freedom that she had only felt when she was a child; the feeling of flight, the
sense of power. Rory closed her eyes to savor the sensation of flying through the air.

Suddenly she felt two warm hands push on her back. Rory´s breath caught in her chest as
the familiar shocks coursed through her. The swing carried her forward and away from the
warmth. Rory felt the cold air against her and it felt oddly comforting because she knew
that as soon as she moved backwards she would feel the warmth again.

Her momentum carried back again and into the hands that were awaiting her. They pushed
on her back again, but this time they seemed to cling to her a bit longer. Tristan and Rory
continued this cycle for almost half an hour.

On one swing back Rory didn´t feel the warm hands. She looked to the side and saw
Tristan looking up at her from another swing. She dropped her feet to the ground and
slowly dragged herself to a stop. When the dust about her feet had settled she focused her
eyes on Tristan.

He had dropped his head and was staring at the designs his shoe was making in the dirt.
His sculpted hands gripped the chains of the swing tightly, and he appeared to be very
stressed.

“Tristan? Are you Ok?” Rory´s voice was soft.

“Can I ask you a question?” Tristan still stared at the ground as he spoke. His voice was
almost a whisper and Rory strained to hear it.

“Sure.”

“What do you think of me?” He paused. “Truthfully... not what you think I want to hear.”

“I can´t answer that.” Rory tipped her head to the side as Tristan´s head came up to look
straight ahead

“I understand.”

“I don´t think you do.” Rory stated.

“I do. You can´t answer that question, I´m not going to force you.” Tristan was about to
stand up when Rory stopped him.

“Stay... please.” Tristan readjusted himself in his seat.

“Why?”

“I can´t answer that question because I don´t know the answer.”

“It may be the lack of sleep talking, but I don´t quite follow you.” Tristan leaned back
against the chain as he looked at Rory´s soft features.

“I can´t answer the question because I still haven´t figured out what I think of you.” Rory
took a deep breath as she prepared to dive into her answer. “Some days you treat me like
I´m a queen and that you would do anything to see me happy. Other days you treat me
like a bug that you want to squash. Then there are the days that you are indifferent to me.
But the days that drive me crazy are when you are a complete mystery. Just when I think I
understand you, you do something that completely throws me off. I have to rethink my
opinions of you. I don´t think you´re the spoiled rich kid that you make yourself out to be.
I think that inside your a scared little boy that just wants to be loved but you have no idea
how to find it and so you change your facade to fit your mood. I also think that you hate
Chilton and the only reason that your put up with it is to please your parents. I´ve never
met them, but they seem to be the type of people that associate love with money. So
Tristan... in essence you´re an enigma to me. I can´t answer the question because I´m still
cracking your code.”

 Tristan´s deep blue eyes penetrated into her as she spoke. She felt like at any moment he
could set her on fire. There was a long pause after her speech before Tristan spoke, and
when he did speak it was not what she expected.

“You just did crack my code.”

“I did?” Rory´s eyes narrowed as she tried to understand him once again. Tristan stood up
and reached his hand towards Rory. She accepted it and stood up.

“Come on I´ll walk you back, it´s getting late.”

“This is one of those mystery days.” Rory laughed and Tristan just chuckled along with
her.

***

Rory yawned widely as the southern morning sun filtered into the dorm room. She rubbed
the sleep from her eyes and glanced over at the clock. 8:00 am. She didn't have to be
awake for another half hour but she couldn't sleep. She looked over towards Paris' bed
and found that her roommate was not there. Rory vaguely remembered Paris mentioning
something about going for a swim in the morning. Rory assumed she was at the pool.

Rory pulled the covers up around her chin. If she wasn't getting up she might as well stay
warm. Rory's eyes followed the dust that danced in the sunlight. Rory never really was a
morning person, but she couldn't help but feel calm and loved in the morning. Everyday
was a new slate, and every morning was a wonderful beginning. Rory wondered what
chapter of her life would unfold today.

Last night she had fallen into a deep sleep. She dreamed, but now she couldn't remember
what it was about. Rory recalled feeling safe and secure like she never had before.

Rory snuggled deeper into the covers, this time only her eyes stuck out. Her hair was
splayed across the pillow and she knew it would be a pain to brush when she finally
climbed out of bed. Rory´s eyes drifted lazily to the door when she heard the lock turn.

“You awake yet sleeping beauty?” Rory craned her neck to see Steve poking his head
through the door much to the annoyance of Paris. When he was finally able to push his
way past Paris he jetted towards Rory and made a flying leap for the bed landing with a
thud near Rory´s feet.

“Don´t go harassing my roommate Steve, that´s my job.” Paris dropped her gym back on
her bed before heading over to the mirror to brush her hair. Steve turned his attention
back to Rory.

“So darling are you ready to start this brand new day?” All Steve got in return was a
muffled groan from Rory who had buried her head into her pillow and feigned sleep. “I
know your awake... get up.” Steve grabbed Rory´s arms and pulled her to a sitting
position. Her hair flopped in front of her face and Rory blew out to move it away from her
mouth.

“I hate you and everything you stand for.” Rory dead panned.

“That´s the spirit now get dressed... Tristan has been pacing like crazy this morning, and I
think you´re the only thing that can calm him down.” And with that Steve was out the
door.... Rory was still analyzing his comments.

“Tristan.... pacing... me... what the?”

“Yes Rory. That´s what he said. Now get dressed so you can stress about it over coffee.”

“Coffee.”

“It´s down in the dining hall.” Before Paris could finish her statement Rory had flung
herself out of bed and into the shower. Once Paris had heard the water start she stopped
brushing her hair and went out into the hallway. She found Steve leaning against the wall
intently awaiting her arrival.

“So.... did my little plan work or not?”

“You´re right... it did confuse... but I had to resort to the coffee trick to get her out of
bed.”

“But it worked.... now... to work on Tristan.” Steve rubbed his hands together evilly as he
stalked off towards his and Tristan´s room which was right across the hall. On his way to
Tristan´s bed Steve picked up a wet washcloth grinning madly to himself. He stood over
Tristan´s bed and took aim before bring the soaked cloth down on a slumbering Tristan.
Once the wetness hit him, Tristan jerked awake and swung his arm wildly in the air,
knocking over Steve who was laughing so hard he was gasping for breath.

“What in the hell? Steve?”

“You should see yourself man... dear lord.” Steve grabbed his stomach and rolled over
onto the floor in a fit of giggles.

“I´m going to go shower now, and let you hang about with your evilness.” Tristan tossed
one last look at his friend and got into the shower. When he emerged five minutes later he
was surprised to see Paris and Steve conversing on his bed. He self-consciously grabbed
the towel around his waist. The only shred of cloth that covered his dignity. Paris glanced
his way and said good morning before turning back to Steve.

Tristan was stunned to say the least, any other time Paris would have blushed furiously
and immediately left the room. Tristan like the change. It meant she was finally becoming
the real woman that was hidden inside of her. He grabbed his clothes and ducked back into
the bathroom to change.

When he reemerged Paris and Steve were gone. He turned off the lights and locked the
door behind him. Turning around he caught Rory doing the same thing.

“Beautiful morning isn´t Tristan?” She smiled at him as she looked out the hallway
window at a wonderfully blue sky.

“It certainly is Rory, it certainly is.” Tristan said, however his eyes were on Rory and not
looking out the window.

***

After having replenished herself with coffee Rory felt even better than she had already.
The gang had decided that since they didn´t have a match until the afternoon that they
would visit the aquarium. Rory watched the cars go by as the waited for the trolley to pick
them up. Tristan stood closely behind her, saying nothing, just enjoying being in her
presence.

“Tristan I know your there, you´re not exactly the quietest guy around.” Rory turned to
face him a smirk on her face.

“Damn.... foiled again. I´ll get you my pretty and your little dog too.” Rory raised one
eyebrow at Tristan´s odd statement.

“Ok then... someone got a lot of sleep.”

“Actually I didn´t. But that´s beside the point.”

“Why didn´t you get any sleep?” Rory tipped her head inquisitively.

“No reason.” Tristan was nervous at her question, but didn´t show it. He could tell Rory
was about to ask again, but luckily the trolley pulled to a stop in front of them. The
climbed on and Rory went to the back with Tristan hot on her heels. The ended up sharing
the seat in the far back. Tristan made sure to give Rory her space, it was not yet time for
him to make his move.

They sat in silence as the trolley traveled to its downtown destination. The quaint houses
and large mansions passed by. Mardi Gras beads were still hanging in the trees. Tristan
itched to just hold Rory´s hand. Then a miracle.

“This is insane. 95 degrees out and my hands feel like blocks of ice.” Rory began to
furiously rub her fingers together. Tristan silently thanked whatever being just created this
moment.

“Here, allow me.” He grabbed her small hands in his, and began to massage the warmth of
his into them. His eyes stared into hers. The fire she saw in them made her look down at
her hands. They were still encompassed in his, and were finally getting warm. “Is that
better?”

“Yes.” Rory´s voice was hushed. She was still unaccustomed to the sparks that Tristan
gave her. Rory lifted her gaze hesitantly towards Tristan´s eyes. Their visions locked and
Rory felt like he had her in a trance. The deep blue depths of his eyes swirled about in her
mind. His hands on hers kept her forever warm.

“Excuse me you two, but we´re here.” Mr. Good announced his presence to the pair, an
evil smile upon his lips. Tristan and Rory both smiled up at him before slowly letting each
other´s hands go.

The group of high school students and their gnome of a leader walked down the crowded
streets of downtown New Orleans. Paris had managed to snag Rory away from Tristan in
the short time it took them to depart the trolley. Rory was now stuck in an intellectual
conversation wen she would rather be with Tristan in silence. Rory found that sentiment
rather odd, when had she ever wanted to be with Tristan?

Tristan meanwhile just watched the girls talk. He paid particular attention to the way
Rory´s facial expressions changed during the course of the conversation. Every time he
looked at her he couldn´t help but be mesmerized with her beauty. The way the sun glinted
off her hair in a brilliant halo of light. Her soft lips speaking soft, but strong words. She
was a goddess in his eyes.

“And we´re here.” Mr. Good announced as he went off to buy the tickets. The grouped
wait for a mere few seconds before her came back and handed out the tickets. “We have a
match at 4pm, so we have to meet back here in front of the gift shop at 2pm. If you´re
late, your dead, or I make you clean off my desk.” The kids groaned, for everyone knew
that any kid who was forced to clean his mess of a desk got buried under the debris and
was never heard from again.

“Well then in that case we had better get going.” Paris said as she grabbed Steve´s wrist
and pulled him down a hall. Mr. Good left Rory and Tristan alone when he decided to
follow Steve and Paris.

“So Rory, where to first?”

“Only my favorite place in every aquarium....”

“And that would be?”

“It´s a secret.... come on.” Rory took of down the hall and Tristan followed. Minutes later
he found himself standing in front of a grinning Rory.

“Tada!” She exclaimed while sweeping her hand to the side Vana White style. Tristan
looked at her oddly, one eyebrow raised as he slowly made his way to the enclosure in
front of him. He let out a small laugh as he saw what the tank contained.

“It figures that you would like penguins.” He turned towards her, a smile upon his lips.

“And what, pray tell, is wrong with penguins?”

“Nothing. I just never penned you for a penguin fan.”

“They happen to be one of the cutest animals I have ever seen.”

“I concur with that agreement.”

“You do?” Rory was surprised at this agreement.

“Of course. They get to have waddle around in tuxedos all day looking quite adorable.”

“Wow.” There was a shock in Rory´s voice.

“What?” Tristan looked around as is he was covered in something.

“That was just.... so not you.”

“What do you mean by that?” He leaned towards her awaiting her answer.

“You used the word adorable. You never call anything adorable.”

“Goes to show you don´t know everything about me.”

“I guess I don´t.” Rory went back to watching the penguins and Tristan joined her,
glancing back at her every now and then.

Later on he was finally able to pry her away from the penguins. They took their time
exploring the rest of the aquarium. Stopping for a moment at every tank to admire the
beauties of the water. Rory had to admit to herself that she was having fun. Tristan
seemed to know the oddest facts about the animals, and she was able to counter with
information of her own. It was about fifteen minutes before the had to leave when the
found themselves in front of the sea otter enclosure.

“These have always been one of my favorite animals.” Tristan said as he leaned on the
railing that went around the tank. Rory squeezed in through the people to be beside him.

“Really?” She asked.

“Ever since I was a little boy I begged my parents for a sea otter to keep me company.
They asked me where I was going to keep it. I always told them in my bathtub. I even
went as far to put in kelp and clam shells thinking that one day my dad would come home
with an otter for me. That day never came.” Tristan had a melancholy in his voice as he
spoke. Rory listened intently as he spoke. “I remember that one birthday all I asked for
was a sea otter. I waited by my bathtub all day, just waiting for my dad to come home
with my new pet. I got a pet.”

“They really gave you an otter?”

“Nope.”

“What then?”

“They got me a ferret. A ferret, they said it was the dry land otter. I was unhappy for a bit,
but then the little bugger came over and sat in my lap. I was hooked. So now Otty, that´s
what I named him, and I have been best friends. You´d be surprised how much he helps
me out on a bad day.” Tristan turned towards Rory and smiled. “Well, we had better go.”

“Yeah, I guess we should.” Rory watched Tristan as he pushed away from the bar and
began to make his way towards the meeting place. She shook her head, she would never
understand him.

***

“Excellent.” Mr. Good exclaimed while rocking back and forth on his heels. The team had
just won their first match. All four of its members beamed up at Mr. Good from their
seats. “Now do it three more times and we´ll make it into finals.” Mr. Good was pulled
away from the group by another team advisor. The group knew that he would be in the
conversation for quite some time.

“So.... what are the plans for tonight?” Steve asked.

“I don´t know.” Came the chorus of the other three.

“Well lets make some.” Steve suggested. The groups began to discuss where to go as they
walked towards the cafeteria for dinner. Any of the plans that had been thought up thus
far were turned down for one reason or another.

“How about we find a place that plays live jazz? Isn´t this city known for it´s jazz?”
Tristan suggested. The others looking around at each other, before turning their attention
to a grinning Mr. Good. The evil smirk turned into a grin of knowledge.

An hour later the group found themselves on the trolley´s to the French quarter once
again. Mr. Good still hadn´t told them where they were headed, he just chuckled to
himself every time one of them asked. The team was beginning to become quite scared in
all truth... though it really was hard to be scared of a man who was the size of a garden
gnome.

Once the group had departed the trolley the stepped into the humid night air. The followed
Mr. Good as he lead them down Bourbon Street, causing the guys on the team to grin,
and the girls to groan in disgust. Their journey took them down some main avenues and
then into a little alley. Rory found herself nudging instinctively closer to Tristan.

“Scared Rory?” Tristan asked in a whisper, his lips brushing against Rory´s ears sending
trembles through her body.

“No.” She answered, but Tristan noticed the undeniable quake in her voice.

“Don´t worry... I´ll protect you.” Tristan slowly slid his arm around Rory´s waist and
pulled her closer. She didn´t pull away like he expected her to, instead she leaned into his
touch. There had be a genuine sound in Tristan´s voice that made her feel safe.

“Here we are.” Mr. Good stopped suddenly. Tristan and Rory jumped apart, as if they had
been caught in an illegal act. He gave the two an eyebrow lift, but ignored their actions.

“Exactly where are we?” Steve asked, to him they appeared to just be in an alley.

“At Independence Hall.... only the best live jazz in New Orleans.” Suddenly the door next
to Mr. Good opened, and the sounds of a crowd floated out to meet their ears. Mr.Good
smiled in triumph, the students stayed rooted to their spots. “Well come on, the band isn´t
going to come out here.” He went inside the others looked at each other and slowly
followed. Each person paid their minimal entrance fee, and they were ushered inside.

The heat of the room hit them in the face like a brick. The band was playing loudly, and
the crowed cheered and clapped with the music. The room was dark and Rory was having
trouble seeing a few inches in front of her. The only faces she could make out were those
of the band members that were in the only lighted area.

Somehow Rory got pulled away from the rest of the group in the immense crowd. She
found herself in the middle of a pack of male college students. For the second time that
night she felt scared, and wished Tristan was near to keep her safe. One of the men
noticed her and plastered a smile across his face.

“Well hello there.” He leered. “And who might you be?” His question caught the attention
of his friends who began to look Rory over appreciatively.

“Do you go to school here?” Another asked.

“I´d love to show you my dorm room.”

“What´s cookin good lookin?”

“Can I buy you a drink?”

“What´s up sweet stuff?”

The questions just kept on coming. Rory felt her head spin with fear. The room seemed to
be twirling, and Rory felt like she would pass out. The heat was overcoming her and the
guys were pressing in. The loud music overwhelming her senses even more. Suddenly she
felt someone grab her arm. She tried to jerk away, but the had held her fast. Rory was
afraid for her physical safety. She was scared and was about to scream for help, when she
heard his voice.

“There you are Rory. I´ve been looking for you.” Tristan. He looked so strong as he
pushed aside the men who had swarmed her. A jealous rage in his eyes. His visible sized
up each man, as if to say ‘lay off... she´s taken... don´t mess with me.´

Rory almost ran into his arms when she found that it was he who at grabbed onto her arm.
He slowly pulled her away from the menacing glares of the men surrounding her. As soon
as he had pulled her into an empty corner he dropped his macho act. “Are you ok?”
Tristan clasped Rory´s hands in hers as he spoke. They were shaking violently.

“I.... I....” Rory couldn´t speak. Tears were welling up in her eyes.

“It´s ok. I´m here now, they won´t bother you anymore.”

“They were everywhere.” Rory´s voice was small and meek, and so unlike her.

“Shhhhh.” Tristan stroked her hair back. “Calm down. It´ll be ok.” Tristan pulled her into
a hug. His arms wrapping around her. Even in this moment of fright they still felt the
shock of their close physical proximity.

“I was so scared.” Rory whimpered softly into Tristan´s chest. He placed a hand on the
back of her head and began to slowly rub her back with his other. Tristan felt Rory´s tears
as the wetness of them seeped into his shirt. It made him so angry to think that a group of
men had broken her down like this. Had Tristan been willing to let her go he would have
marched over and broken every bone in their bodies.

They didn´t know how long they stood there, but it was quite a while. Rory´s tears had
ceased, but she refused to pull away from Tristan. He wasn´t ready to let go either. Tristan
wanted Rory in his arms at all times so that he knew she was safe. The music still floated
through the air calming their raw senses. Tristan felt a tap on his shoulder. He turned his
head to see who it was. Steve.

“We´re leaving now.” He whispered to Tristan, noticing the unstable state of Rory.

“Thanks.” Tristan said to Steve before dipping his head closer to Rory´s. “We´re leaving.
You ready to go.” He felt her nod a yes against him. “Come on.” They slowly pulled away
from each other, but Tristan kept one arm around her waist. They had to walk right past
the men who had caused the problem to begin with. Tristan made sure Rory was on the
side away from them. Her head was buried in his shoulder. As the pair made their way
past them, Tristan set a lingering glare in each man´s eyes.

Never again would he let anyone let Rory like they had. If only he had listened to that
piece of advice when he had first met Rory.

***

The third morning of their stay they had a match right after breakfast. Mr. Good had been
worried that the early morning hour would affect their speed and intelligence. However he
had been proven wrong when they easily beat the competition. They had in fact swept one
entire round of questioning. Rory almost felt bad for the other team, they key word being
almost.

After the match the group hung around in the college library, each person doing his or her
own thing. Rory had the sneaking suspicion that someone was watching her, but every
time she looked up so one was paying any bit of attention to her.

What she didn´t notice that Tristan had been “reading a book” in a seat not far from her.
He couldn´t concentrate on the text in front of him. After every bit of punctuation he
found himself looking up towards Rory. Her back was turned to him, silky brown hair
cascading down her shoulders like a waterfall. Every few minutes or so she would look
around the room. Tristan would bury his head in his book hiding his face from her gaze,
only to return his head to staring at her as soon as she turned back around.

Tristan didn´t know what had happened to him. Never before had a girl had such an effect
on him. Rory had changed him more than anyone else in his entire life. Not even his
beloved grandfather had the effect on him like Rory did. All the girls he had dated before
he met Rory were conquests. They were mere trophies to show of to his friends. Then
Rory entered into his life. It was like a switch in his brain had clicked. Every girl after he
met Rory he used to show that he could give her what he wanted. But every night he
would go home and verbally shoot himself down for being such a jerk to her.

The day she had told him that she hated him he wanted to die. He went home that night
and cried. He had never before cried over anyone, let alone a girl. Those three words were
ingrained in his memory forever. The look of sheer disappoint of him in her eyes. The way
she ran happily over to Dean. Tristan scowled as he thought of that pair. What he
wouldn´t give to be the one she was running to.

Out of the corner of his eye he saw Rory stand up and walk out the door. Tristan waited a
few seconds before casually set his book down and strolled out the door. He saw Rory
walking across the quad to the cafeteria. Tristan glanced down at his watch and realized
that it was lunch time. His eyes did not linger on his watch long and returned to Rory. She
turned a corner and Tristan hurried across the lawn to catch up to her.

What he saw when he turned the corner made his heart stop. As Rory strode across the
lawn she failed to notice a group of men closing in on her. They were the same men that
had caused so much trouble at the jazz club. Acting on instinct alone Tristan quickly ran
across the lawn. Rory was still unaware of the men who were preying upon her. They
were closing in and Tristan picked up his pace. Tristan´s arm, acting on its own account,
slid around her waist. She felt his lips nuzzle against her ear.

“Just keep on moving and don´t look around.” Tristan´s eyes slid over to the guys who
had stopped, scowling, a few feet behind them. He stared them down as if daring them to
make a move.

“What is it Tristan?” Rory was still looking ahead as Tristan told her to do, but a small red
blush was creeping up her face. The way Tristan´s breath tickled her ear made her knees
weak. This feeling was becoming more and more common.

“Last night was just about to repeat itself.” Tristan´s deep calm voice slid into her ear once
again.

“What?” Rory looked at Tristan in confusion before attempting to turn her head around to
see what was behind her. Tristan´s hand on her cheek stopped her, not just her head, but
her entire body. The shockwaves that were careening down her body made her breathing
become shallow and quick.

Tristan´s deep blue eyes gazed into hers. His stare unwavering and unblinking. Rory licked
her lips, her mouth suddenly dry. The sun streaming through the swaying trees above sent
shadows dancing across their faces. The light making each one of them become even more
lost in the moment.

As Tristan´s left hand cupped Rory´s cheek, his right hand slowly found it´s way up her
arm and into her hair. His fingers entwined with the silky strands. His eyes finally darted
from her eyes and down to her deep red lips, and then back up at her eyes. Rory had a
feeling that she knew what he was silently asking for, but she couldn´t move.

Rory´s breath caught in her throat as she saw Tristan beginning to lean in. All logically
thoughts left her head as the aroma of his perfume crept into her senses, intoxicating her
to the core. His warm breath played upon her lips. Rory closed her eyes. The only sound
she heard was Tristan´s erratic breathing.

“Hey! You two coming to lunch?” Tristan was the first to snap out of the trance. He
swore under his breath before turning his attention to the person he wanted to kill with his
bare hands. Tristan plastered a fake smile on his face as he nodded a yes towards MR.
Good. “Well come on.” Tristan saw their coach turn on his heel and trot away.

Rory gave Tristan a small smile before breaking away from him and following after Mr.
Good. Tristan shook his head in disgrace. He seemed to be mumbling the words ‘evil little
man´ under his breath.

***

The next two days seemed to fly by. When they were not participating in a match, the
group went gallivanting through the city of sin. Rory plopped on her bed after their last
day in New Orleans. All in all the group did well, winning all but one match in the
preliminary rounds. They moved onto the final round of matches, but got knocked out
before they made it to the championships. At first the group was rather depressed, but
after a fun time that afternoon in the French quarter, all of their depression seemed to have
slipped away.

Rory sighed as she threw on her pajamas. Things between Tristan had herself these past
few days had been weird to say the least. When she wasn´t near him she longed to be with
him, and when she was with him she wasn´t close enough. The feelings were
overwhelming her, almost to the point where she didn´t want to be with him. All of the
emotions hitting her at once drove into a deep confusion as to what she really wanted.

Rory flopped down on her bed once again, only this time she had a book in hand. She
planned on loosing herself in the latest book of the Harry Potter saga to keep her mind off
things. She settled against the pillows and opened the novel to the first page.

A few hours later, somewhere around chapter ten Paris came into the room. Rory looked
up only once to see her room mate climb underneath the covers and fall asleep the instant
her head hit the pillow. Rory giggled to herself when she heard Steve humming as he went
into his room. Her eyes returned to her book and she was lost in the story once again.

***

Rory sat under the soft light of the lamp over her bed, the glow of the light illuminating
the entrancing words in her book. She was lost in the story and almost missed the soft
knock that sounded at the door. She lifted her head and listened more closely. Another
knock. She marked the page and closed her book, setting it gently on her pillow. She
slipped into her slippers and slowly padded her way to the door, careful not to wake Paris
who was asleep in the next bed. Rory unlocked the door and swung it open, revealing
Tristan casually leaning against the door frame. His head was downcast, but he lifted it
when he heard the door open. Nothing could have hid his beaming smile.

“Tristan. What are you doing here?” Rory was startled, not only because he was standing
at her door, but because he looked so attractive right then. He wore a pair of tan pants
that were held loosely on his hips by a simple black belt. His dress shirt was the same
startling blue color as his eyes. The long sleeves were rolled up past his elbows, and the
top two buttons were undone revealing a small patch of tanned skin.
"Couldn't sleep, decided that I needed to see you." He stood up straight and took the sight
of her in. She was wearing a simple black tank top and flannel pajama pants that were a bit
to big for her. Her hair was in a messy bun at the top of her head. Simple black slippers
covered her tiny feet. In Tristan's opinion she had never looked more beautiful.
"It's 11 at night."

"I know."

"Then why are you here?"

"Have you ever seen the French Quarter at night?" His smile became even wider as he saw
her eyes light up. There was a mischievous twinkle in them that he had never seen before.
Rory slowly closed the door, grinning as she did so. A few moments later Rory emerged
from the room, Tristan had trouble keeping his jaw off the floor.

Rory had slipped into a simple blue dress. It seemed as if she was trying to find something
that matched his shirt. The this straps of the dress showed off the delicate, newly
darkened, skin of her collar bone. Tristan could just picture himself placing soft kisses
along her neck. The image overwhelmed his senses, he had to shake his head slightly to
bring himself back to the real world.

“Shall we go?” Tristan offered Rory his arm.

“We shall.” She smiled up at him as she looped her arm through his.

Somehow the pair managed to sneak out into the night with not so much as a firefly
noticing their flight. The night air was thick with moisture from the humid air. The mist
seemed to bathe the duo in a dreamy glow. The stood in silence as the waited for the
trolley downtown. The moment was not awkward, they silence was time for them to
reflect on what had occurred over the past few weeks.

Rory turned to face Tristan. The street lamp behind him sent his profile in a halo. His skin
looked so warm and comforting, Rory was having trouble keeping her hand off his face.
His lips looked soft and smooth, just waiting to be kissed. Rory´s heart ached at that
thought.

Tristan must have seen Rory staring at him because he turned and his eyes caught hers. He
smiled at her. Not his usual all-knowing smirk, but a genuine smile. Rory smiled back, a
strange feeling tugged at her heart. Tristan looked down, and Rory, confused, looked
down to see what had caught his attention. His eyes were staring directly at her slightly
shaking hand. She looked back up at his eyes that were now fixed, once again on hers. He
was asking permission. She offered him her hand. He took it just as the streetcar pulled up
to them.

The driver smiled at the pair as the both paid, and then made there way to the very back of
the deserted car. Rory sat down first and Tristan scooted in next to her. The spent the ride
pointing at the mansions lining the streets, and the Mardi Gras beads hanging from the
trees. Rory was doubled over in giggles more than once as Tristan narrated their journey,
and her knees went weak everytime he sent a smile her way.

At the end of the trip they joined hands once again and began to casually stroll the streets
of the French Quarter. The crowds around them hustled about, some people in a drunk
stupor. The music in the atmosphere changed each time they passed a different restaurant
and club.

Soon Rory found herself being steered, by Tristan, towards a club. The sign read ‘18 and
Up Admittance.´

“Tristan?”

“Yeah”

“Neither of us are 18.”

“They don´t know that.” He smirked down at her playfully.

“They will when the read our ids.”

“You think so?” They conversation ended there for they had reached the entrance. Tristan
flashed his id at the bouncer and they were waved inside. Rory went along with it, but was
still rather perplexed. Once they were inside Rory stopped Tristan.

“Gimme that thing.” She stuck her hand in his back pocket and pulled out his wallet.
Tristan froze at her move, it was so unlike Rory. He watched as she removed the id from
his wallet. “This says you were born in 1980. Tristan there is no way you look 21.” She
put the id back, and put the wallet back in his pocket.

“It worked didn´t it?”

“Well yes... but...”

“But nothing. We´re in now let´s have fun.” Tristan grabbed her hand and led her to the
dance floor. The crowd was already moving to the fast paced beat of the music. Steam
machines sent cascades of smoke drifting across the black floor. Light beams danced
through the crowds, illuminating groups of people and then plunging them back into
darkness. Tristan twirled Rory around so that she was facing him. He began to dance to
the beat and Rory followed suit.

***

The room was beginning to become hot, but whether it was from the temperature or the
sparks flying between the two of them they didn´t know. Tristan had undone two more
buttons on his shirt, a great expanse of tan flesh now meet Rory´s eyes everytime she
looked down.

Somewhere along the line Tristan had pulled Rory closer to him, his hand resting on the
small of her back. Her arms were thrown about his neck. Rory was sure her mother would
kill her if she saw how close she a Tristan were. Rory could hear his unsteady breathing as
his lips dipped towards her ear.

“Let´s get out of here.” Rory nodded in response for her voice had failed her. Tristan
grabbed her hand and she followed him out the door. The streets were still crowded with
people. Rory had now idea where they were going, but she didn´t ask. Tristan seemed to
know where he was going. The streets they turned onto slowly became less and less
crowded, until they were the only two left.

Tristan turned one last corner and then stopped. Rory saw that they were standing in a
deserted Jackson square. The street lamps were the only light. The light radiated off the
damp cobblestones.

Rory felt a drop on her nose, Tristan felt one on his cheek. Soon the were both covered in
the rainy mist that had come out of no where. Tristan was ready to run for cover, but Rory
had grabbed him before he had a chance to pull her away.

“What are you doing Rory?” Tristan laughed.

“I´m singing in the rain.” Rory chirped out to him as she twirled around a lamp post.
Tristan laughed again, and joined her. Rory couldn´t ever remembering having so much
fun. She and Tristan danced in and out of the puddles, and skipped along the street like
carefree children. They´re laughter mingled with the drizzling rain.

“I´ve got an idea!” Tristan exclaimed. He grabbed Rory´s hand and pulled her along the
street.

“Where are you headed?”

“You´ll see.” Tristan smiled down at her.

***

“You are a god.” Rory´s mouth hung open as she saw the large Cafe le Monde in front of
them. This place was world renowned for its coffee and pastries.

“I know I know.” Tristan rubbed his nails on his now damp, and clingy, shirt.

“And so modest to.” Rory laughed. Tristan started into the cafe, Rory happily followed.
As the waited in line Rory happened to glance at her watch.

“Oh no!”

“What?” Tristan looked around to see if Rory was in any danger.

“This night has been the best of my life, but can we get the food to go?”

“Why?”

“Because it´s 5am.”

“No.”

“Yes.”

“Yeah, to go would be a good idea.” Tristan stepped up to the window and ordered.

***

"It's really tasty Tristan." Rory licked her lips ridding them of the excess powdered sugar.
She waved the beignet in front of his eyes. "You know you want some." She took another
bit and let out a satisfied moan. Closing her eyes savoring the sugary goodness.

"Are you going to let me have a bite?" Tristan leaned in and tried to nip at the pastry.
Rory jerked it away from his teeth.

"Ummm... I think no." Rory took another bite. Tristan slouched back into the seat
defeatedly.

"Please... I mean who's idea was it to go to that cafe?"

"Yours..... but you still can't have any." Rory licked her lips and Tristan's eyes slowly
drifted to them. There had been so many times when he wanted to kiss her since the
beginning of the school year. That one short kiss at Madelyn's party was not enough to
satisfy his hunger for her. Things had changed between them now. And now was the time
to make his move.

"Please Rory." Tristan voice was full of want but not for the piece of fried dough that was
in her hand. He leaned forward towards her. Rory saw his mouth and leaned back trying to
get away from him, because she thought he was after her dessert.

"I don't think so." Rory pulled her arm back. It slowly moved over her head putting the
pastry out of his reach.

"But I want." He was beginning to whine now, but the lust was still in his voice. He placed
one hand on the back of the bench, and his other on the other side of her hip. Trapping her
between him and the wall of the streetcar.

"But you can't have." Rory's breathing quickened at his nearness. The heat of his body
searing into her. She could smell the damp rain that clung to him and mingled with his
cologne. The aroma intoxicating her senses. His eyes pleaded with her, asking for
permission.

"Says who?" His voice was hushed and deep.

"Says me." Rory popped the last bit of the beignet in her mouth and chewed slowly before
swallowing. Tristan's bottom lips moved out in a pout as he leaned in even closer. The
hand that was by her hip moved up to rest of her thigh. "All gone."

"Not quite." The hand that was on the back of the bench moved slowly to her mouth. It
brushed away the excess powdered sugar that was resting on her soft lips. He licked his
thumb, the sugar mixing with the tantalizing taste of Rory. Suddenly the urge to taste the
remnants of the powder on her lips became over whelming. He leaned in ever closer to
her. The lips mere centimeters from each other.

Their shallow breaths mingling with each other. Tristan lifted her chin with his hand. The
feeling of him touching her sending shockwaves rolling through both of them. It felt only
natural to kiss her... so he did.

Rory wasn´t prepared for the feeling that exploded from her when his soft lips captured
hers.

***

Rory's lips pulled at his, urging him closer. She met no resistance as he leaned more of his
weight on her. One of her hands moved up his shirt and managed to find its way to his
bare chest. They both gasped at the sensation of warmth that grew at that moment.
Tristan's hand slowly massaged her thigh in slow circles while the other was entwined in
her hair.

Rory felt like she was in a dream. The sensations going through her were like nothing she
had ever felt before. The warmth of Tristan´s body as it pressed against her, the urgent
need to feel him even closer, his lips, his hands, they were all she could think about.
Suddenly a new player came onto the scene. Tristan was slowly running his tongue along
her bottom lip, begging to bring up the passion level of the kiss.

Rory tilted her head up and opened her lips giving him complete access. She moaned
softly into his mouth as their tongues made their first contact. The electricity of the
moment was enough to fuel New York City during a heat wave.

Rory´s hand slowly made its way around Tristan´s chest and onto his back. His strong
muscles quivered at the feeling of Rory´s exploration. She slowly massaged her fingertips
into his back. Tristan struggled to keep his sanity. His hand moved from Rory´s thigh up
to her waist, slowly pulling her closer to him.

The ride back to the dorm seem to fly by as their lips met in tender sweet caresses, and
deep passionate kisses. Each time one of them pulled away to catch their breath, it was
only an instant before they returned to each other. It seemed as if they were trying to make
up all the missed opportunities in one night.

Tristan was the first to finally pull away. His eyes searched Rory´s for any sense of regret,
or maybe he was making sure that this moment was really happening.

“What?” She looked at him questioningly, blue eyes shimmering.

“Is this really happening? Am I dreaming? Are you a mirage?” He took her hand and
squeezed it lovingly.

“I was going to ask the same thing.” Tristan smiled when he saw the happiness on her
face.

“Do you know how hard it was for me to be around you without thinking about what this
might feel like?”

“I do. The mental anguish... the heartache. If I had known... I guess we danced around it
long enough.”

“Too long.” Tristan kissed her one more time before pulling her out of her seat at their
stop. The walk back to the dorms occurred, once again, in silence. Tristan simply slipped
his arm around Rory´s waist, pulling her close. She leaned her head against his shoulder
revealing in the feeling off all that had occurred.

They slipped into the dorm, and sneaked their way back to their rooms. Neither wanted
the night to end. Rory leaned back against the wall near her door. Her eyes looked longing
up at Tristan´s handsome face.

“This seems like a fairy tale.” Rory said as Tristan leaned over her, one hand of his in each
of hers. His body brushed against hers ever so slightly, shocks shooting between both of
them.

“Yes it does, but unlike fairy tales the story doesn´t end when the book does. Each day is
a new chapter.” Tristan leaned in a captured Rory´s lips again in a sweet and tender kiss
goodnight.

END

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