Spoilers: Season 1. Season 2, up to and including "Presenting Lorelai Gilmore"
Disclaimer: The characters aren't mine, and unfortunately I can't even claim the story. Answer to a challenge by Jennifer.
Author's Note: For my purposes, Season 1 ended the same, minus Dean showing up at Chilton. I think it'll be pretty clear after you read it. Sorry the first two chapters are so long and boring. I'm trying to set the stage for the rest of the fic. It'll get more interesting, I promise. My first attempt at writing a fan fiction, so I hope you like it.
1 Chapter 1
Rory smiled as she turned the corner to see Tristin's familiar figure lounging against the locker adjacent to hers. Sometimes it was hard to believe they were together. After the whole PJ Harvey debacle, she hadn't expected to forgive him. She hadn't wanted to. But he had shown up later that night, her pilfered books in hand, and apologized. She could still remember the look in his eyes, that almost vulnerable look that had taken her breath away, when he had asked if she would please go the concert with him. She wasn't sure who was more surprised when she said yes.
And if saying yes to PJ Harvey had surprised her, even more shocking was the fact that she enjoyed it. The concert of course, but the company as well. Tristin could be sweet, he could be funny, and he had a wit to match her own, something she rarely found. Her brain kept telling her that she couldn't possibly be enjoying herself. But she was. So much so that after a great deal cajoling from both Lorelai and Lane, she had given in when Tristin had called 3 days later and asked her out again. And again 3 days after that. Over the summer, they had managed to build a relationship that was somehow both exciting and comfortable at the same time. But now they were back at Chilton, and Rory was less than confident about how it would affect their relationship.
Tristin didn't have to look up to know Rory was near. He could feel her presence. He knew it sounded ridiculous, had always laughed when some cheesy character on TV or a movie had made that same claim. But he could feel her, tell when she was within 100 metres of him. He was still having trouble understanding why she would choose to be within that 100 metres after what he had put her through last year, but had promised himself he would do everything in his power to make it up to her.
Looking up to make sure his sixth sense hadn't failed him, Tristin tossed a grin in Rory's direction and turned to spin the combination on her locker, swinging it open just before she reached him. "Morning Rory." She mumbled a greeting in return, and offered him what he knew was supposed to pass as a smile. Something was wrong.
Rory saw the question in his eyes, and answered before he bothered to ask. "I'm fine, " she muttered, turning to her locker and beginning to place a variety of notebooks and other school supplies inside.
Tristin looked at her, worried. She wasn't fine, and he knew it. And she knew that he knew. "Come on Rory, I think I know you better than that. What's wrong?" He put a hand on each of her shoulders, and turned her around to face him.
Rory sighed when she felt Tristin's hands go to her shoulders. She knew he wouldn't leave it alone, but she didn't want to get into it. She offered him a half-truth. "I just don't want to be here."
"You don't want to be here? Rory, you like school more than anyone I know. You wanted to come to Chilton for the good of your academic career." Tristin searched her eyes, knowing there was more to this funk of hers than a dislike of school.
She gave in to his eyes. They were so blue. And there was a hint of something she wasn't used to seeing in them. Worry. Over her. "It's just. This was easily the best summer of my life and I know you won't understand that because you spent last summer in France with your grandparents and the summer before that with your brother in the keys and the summer before that. I don't know where exactly, but I'm sure it was somewhere exotic and interesting but my summers are pretty much spent in Stars Hollow and having you there made this one special and I just didn't want it to end, but I know it has to, and."
Tristin decided to interrupt her before she passed out from lack of oxygen. "Whoa, Rory, take a breath." He squeezed her shoulders lightly before sliding his hands down her arms to hold both of hers. "This summer was amazing for me too. See, I had the opportunity to spend it with this amazing girl. She's smart, beautiful, and without a doubt the most compassionate, caring person I've ever met. And I can't for the life of me figure out why she's standing in front of me babbling on about endings when, as far as I can see, this is just the beginning of the things we're going to experience together."
Rory wasn't sure how she was still standing. Tristin's eyes were locked to hers, and as the meaning behind the words he was saying sunk in, her knees went weak. Her heart started pounding. She could feel the emotion balling up in her gut, and before she even realized she was crying, Tristin was wiping a tear away with his thumb. "Thank you," she whispered, slightly embarrassed.
"Mhmmm," he responded, offering her a smile. Tristin could tell Rory was embarrassed as she turned back to her locker. He was still having trouble believing that all those things had come out of his mouth. Not that they weren't true. He had known he was in love with Rory months ago. He'd been obsessed with her last year, and it had only taken a few dates for him to figure out that it wasn't some fleeting attraction. But he also knew that she was unsure and cautious when it came to their relationship. And after she had told him what had happened with Dean, he knew that he had to be a little more cautious himself. But that whole speech about beginnings, well it was far . He turned to her when she shut her locker, offering his arm. "Walk you to class?"
Rory took his arm gratefully. She was glad he wasn't going to say anything about her outburst. She was being ridiculous. They had sat up on her porch swing last night, talking about how going back to Chilton would affect their relationship, and how they had to not let it. And what did she do within the first 5 minutes back at school? Let Chilton get to her. She wasn't being fair to Tristin, and she knew it. But even after the 3 months they had spent together she had trouble reconciling the arrogant boy he'd been within these walls, and the sweet, vulnerable young man he had been this summer. And even more, she had trouble figuring out why he had picked her, when he could have any girl in Hartford, probably in all of Massachusetts, with a simple snap of his fingers. And while she knew her insecurities weren't his problem, Tristin would see them as a failure on his part, a lack of trust. "I'm sorry."
"For?" Tristin wasn't surprised that she was apologizing, and he while he knew what her apology was for, he knew she needed to say it.
"For letting being back here get to me. We weren't supposed to do that. So I'm sorry."
"You don't have to apologize," he said seriously, meeting her gaze. "Besides," he said lewdly, wagging his eyebrows in an attempt the lighten the mood, "I can think of ways for you to make it up to me." He braced himself for the inevitable jab to the ribs. It never came. When he turned to look at her, she met his gaze despite the blush creeping up her cheeks.
"How?" Rory whispered, sounding breathless and nervous, rather than cool and collected like she meant to. She couldn't believe she said it, wanted to take it back immediately. She could feel her blush deepen, and Tristin's eyes widened with shock. "Never mind, I didn't mean that!"
Tristin had to consciously keep his jaw from dropping. While their relationship was far from platonic, Rory had been hurt by Dean, and they were taking things slowly. Really slowly. He was thrilled that she felt comfortable enough to respond to him like that, even if she did take it back. He grinned. "Let me drive you home tonight." He'd tried to convince her to let him pick her up this morning, but she'd refused.
Rory laughed. "Only you could consider driving me a half hour out of your way a reward."
"Yup, only me. Sweet, smart, gorgeous, devoted." Tristin ticked his traits off on the fingers of one hand as he listed them.
"I was going for insane, but I'm adding delusional and arrogant to the list," Rory shot back, laughter in her eyes. Tristin stuck his tongue out at her. "Stay for dinner?"
"Wouldn't miss it. I have to get to class." He dropped a kiss on her forehead just as the bell rang. "Have fun. Mary." He sent of his trademark smirks her way before turning and jogging down the hall in the direction of the locker room.
2 Chapter 2
Rory sighed as she dropped her notebook into her locker, leaning her head against the cool metal and taking a deep breath. Her first day back at Chilton was dragging on forever, and she'd only been to two classes. She jumped slightly when she felt two hands rest on her shoulders, but the familiar tingling told her they belonged to Tristin, and she leaned into him as he gently massaged away some of her tension.
"Tough morning?" he whispered, close enough that she could feel his lips brush her ear.
"It's been all over the Hartford gossip vine all summer. I didn't think I'd be getting the third degree about you all morning."
"You too, huh?" He felt bad for her. He was used to being talked about, had learned to either use it to his advantage or ignore it, but Rory wasn't like that. She cared too much about what other people thought, wanted everyone to like her. "I'm sorry. They can be ruthless, I know."
"It's OK. I just wasn't expecting it. I'll be a little more prepared from now on." She turned and smiled at him, amazed yet again by how much his mere presence could improve her mood. "I'm glad we have the same Lit class. I don't know how I'd get through it without you," she commented, shutting her locker and turning with him towards Mr. Medina's classroom.
Tristin draped an arm around her shoulders and pulled her close to his side. He too was glad they had this class together. If the exhaustion he'd read on her face when he'd been watching her at her locker was any indication, she wasn't up for a confrontation with . Medina. Not that either of them were really expecting one. It would just be awkward, and Tristin didn't want things to be any harder than they already were. It seemed weird sometimes, the constant concern he felt for her. He knew that she didn't need him; she was one of the strongest people he knew. The fact the she had even survived Chilton last year was proof enough of that. But to worry about her seemed natural. He constantly found himself wondering where she was, what she was doing. And wondering if she was thinking about him too.
They walked into the classroom and sat down, Tristin choosing the desk immediately behind the one Rory sat in. She turned to look at him, surprised.
"This way I can't get in trouble for staring at you for the entire hour."
She laughed, and he smiled. He could sit here like this all day, just watching her. The way her blue eyes sparkled when she laughed, the way she absently tucked her hair behind her ears. Knowing that he had brought the smile to her face only increased his pleasure. Wanting to keep her mind off the fact that she had to spend the next hour with a man whose heart her mother had broken, he distracted her with conversation. "What do you think we'll be reading this year?"
Rory recognized his diversionary tactics for what they were, but was grateful nonetheless. "I dunno. Something good, I hope. Tender is the Night or Grapes of Wrath or.." Rory trailed off as their teacher walked in and turned around to face the front of the room, leaving Tristan staring concernedly at her back.
Rory forced herself to focus on his words, rather than actually look at him. The content of his lecture wasn't important, mostly just a discussion of expectations, assignments and marking procedures, but paying attention to the words kept her mind off of other things. Like that last time she saw him, at the wedding shower held in the centre of Stars Hollow. Or the time before that, when she and Tristan had joined Lorelai and Max on what her mom had dubbed the "Gilmore Double Date". Or the look on her mom's face when she had told Rory there wasn't going to be a wedding. OK Rory, focus. 6 assigned books, plus one of your choice. 2 term papers, 1 group project. She scribbled notes in the margin of her syllabus, jotting down ideas for her term paper and perusing the assigned reading list. Lost in her own thoughts, she didn't notice that the class had come to an end until she heard the students around her packing up. She slammed her notebook shut and was just about to stand when Mr. Medina spoke to her.
"Miss Gilmore, can I speak to you a moment?"
Although he doubted it would be noticeable to anyone else in the room, Tristin saw Rory visibly tense up at the teacher's request. He dropped a hand on her shoulder and gave it a light squeeze as he walked by her desk, whispering in her ear as he passed. "Don't worry. It'll be fine, and I'll be waiting just outside." He offered a reassuring smile, which she tried - but failed - to return, and he slipped out the door, leaning up against the wall just outside the classroom, and flipping to the first page of his novel. The Great Gatsby. Rory would be happy; it wasn't Tender was the Night, but it was still Fitzgerald.
"So the high and mighty Gilmore finally decided you were good enough for her?"
Paris. Half of Tristin wanted to lay into her for making Rory's life so hard last year, and warn her of how difficult he could make her life if she tried it again. The other half would prefer to ignore her. Knowing neither option was great, he settled for forced civility. "Yup, and while you and I both know that I'm not, and never will be, I'm eternally grateful that Rory disagrees."
Paris looked at Tristin through narrowed eyes as he turned back to his book, effectively dismissing her. She had hardly believed it when word of the couple had reached her via the Hartford gossip vine. Last she had heard, Rory hated Tristin. Which had worked out rather well for Paris in the past. But now..now she was hurting, so she lashed out. "She won't sleep with you, you know."
His eyes took on a steely quality, and every muscle in his body tensed. Uh oh, wrong thing to say. Paris met his gaze. "That's all you're looking for right, another conquest?" She watched nervously as he pushed himself off the wall and advanced on her, causing her to back away.
"Paris, I'm sorry I can't give you what you want. I'm sorry that it hurts you so much to see me with Rory that you would say something like that. Because we both know you are better than that."
His eyes softened slightly, but Paris thought she saw pity in them. And Gellers didn't accept pity, not from anyone. She turned and walked away without giving him another glance. Darting into the nearest ladies room, she locked herself in a stall and sank down to sit on the closed toilet. Tears were welling up in her eyes, and she blinked them back, refusing to let them fall. Gellers didn't cry either. Tristin was right, she was better than that little display in the hall made her seem. And she was going to prove it. Armed with a newfound determination, she left the bathroom and headed back the way she had come. Tristin was still leaning up against the wall in the otherwise deserted Chilton hallway.
"You're right, I am better than that."
Tristin looked up, surprised. He hadn't expected Paris to come back, and he didn't feel up to dealing with her right now. He was worried about Rory, wondering what could possibly be taking so long. "Paris, I don't want to do this right now."
"That's OK. That's all I had to say anyways. That you were right, and that I'm going to fix this." With that she turned, leaving Tristin to watch her retreating back for the second time in less than 10 minutes.
"What's the penalty for skipping your first day of a new year at Chilton?"
Rory's voice startled him out of his thoughts, and he turned to her. She looked tired but happy, and since she'd looked tired all morning, he decided to focus on the happy instead. "Com'on, I'll take you to lunch," he said, slinging an arm around her shoulder and heading down the hall towards the exit.
"Max. Mr. Medina. He apologized for, and I quote, putting us - I assumed you were included in the 'us', because you spent most of your summer with us and I can't think of who else this might affect - in such an awkward position. And he told me that he hoped it wouldn't affect our student- teacher relationship. Then he said that if I wanted to be transferred to another class, he would support my decision."
"And.," Tristin prompted, opening the door for her, and following her across the parking lot to his car.
"And I don't. I mean, it might be a little weird at first, but it's nothing I can't handle. And he is the best Lit teacher here. And did you look at the reading list? Fitzgerald, Woolf.."
Tristin smiled as Rory chattered on about the books, glad she was happy. Because, really, that's all that it took to make him happy too.