Title: The Space Between

Rating: R

Disclaimer: I own nothing. The characters and situations of this fic belong to their respective copyright owners. (Amy Sherman Palladino is my Goddess!) The song lyrics used at the beginning of every chapter are also copyright of its respective owners, sung by Dave Mathews Band.

Summary: Even when we run away, our past always remains connected to us, no matter how much space separates us.

Written in response to the following fic request:

Rating of fic: R

Things to include:

1. Tristan jealousy and angst

2. some kind of fight

3. banter

4. heat of the moment sex/heat of some sort

Things not to include:

Luke/Lorelai crap, too much stupidity on Rory's part

Author's Note: There are many people I'd like to thank, most prominently Priya and Julie.  Thanks for the encouragement you guys. I would also like to thank the wonderful creators of this exchange. If it weren't for all of you, I would never have successfully finished a multi-chapter fic for the first time! (I know…I'm terrible with finishing what I've started.) And a final thanks to superscar for requesting this fic idea.  It was a joy to write, though fairly rushed at times. So I hope I was able to meet up to your expectations. Oh and try to excuse the very unoriginal title…=|

Happy reading!

* * * * * *
The Space Between

Chapter 1
Written by give me back me

You cannot quit me so quickly

Is no hope in you for me

No corner you could squeeze me

But I got all the time for you, love

The Space Between

The tears we cry

Is the laughter keeps us coming back for more

The Space between

The wicked lies we tell

And hope to keep us safe from the pain

The thought of returning to this place has both haunted him and excited him. To the place that showers him with endless possibilities for gratification and success. To the place that has ironically given him no kind of fulfillment, rendering him alone in a mass of malicious self-interested people. To the place that decides one's future based on social standing more than academics. To the place where he once stood as the idolized King. And he was their king; the king with no true queen except for the dark-haired blue-eyed one that resided in his heart.

Now the moment of return has come and he can't decide whether he is terrified or delighted. The mass of churning emotions has overpowered his senses to the point of near-numbness. His mind has been racing for hours, and at long last, the thoughts have seemingly frozen--all has become disturbingly calm for Tristan DuGrey as he drives towards Chilton Prep, the high school he had left a year and a half before.

Having previously decided to arrive at school early (because he doesn't particularly want to spend his entire lunch period answering the mobs of questions he is sure to receive), his black Mercedes Benz whips into the same spot it resided in before. The current occupant of the spot is simply going to have to adjust; likewise, the entire school will have to adjust to the return of its infamous, most desired bad-boy of the century.

Including me, Tristan thinks to himself as he exits his car and walks up the entrance steps. Pausing to check his hair in his reflection of the window, he takes in a deep wavering breath to maintain his cool. Satisfied with his hair, his lips mold into the infamous smirk--known for it's unavoidable tendency of both charming and infuriating. Mostly charming, though. And with this confident thought in mind, the butterflies in his stomach recede a little as he steps through the doorway.

The hallway is nearly empty. Taking his first steps inside Chilton, he looks more closely at his surroundings. Its checkered floors and locker-covered walls are the same, but the artwork and posters are different. New stickers have been placed on numerous lockers as well. Refusing to let the changes unsettle him, he strolls through the halls to the Headmaster's office.

After knocking lightly on the door, the Headmaster's secretary leads Tristan to the office. Now face-to-face with a once-adversary, the realization of his return sinks into him. Back to the same headmaster, the same teachers, the same students. As he seats himself from across the Headmaster, his thoughts are suddenly jumbled with uncertainties.

"Thank you, Margaret," says the Headmaster to his secretary. She quickly exits, shutting the door behind her and leaving Tristan and his "old friend" at each others discourses. The two gaze at each other a moment before the Headmaster clears his throat.

"Well, Tristan. It's good to see you," says the elder with a faint smile. Remaining silent, Tristan nods his blonde head in agreement.

"I agree with your father that your return to Chilton is for the best. He says you've come a long way in the past year and a half, and I'm looking forward to see what you can accomplish during your last year of high school," the Headmaster continues with a slight air of superiority. After momentarily adjusting his tie, the Headmaster places a manila folder on his desk and gently nudges it towards Tristan. Recognizing it immediately, Tristan swallows hard, knowing that if he is asked to speak, he wouldn't have the voice to do it.

"That is your permanent record," he continues. "For now, I am willing to forget this folders existence. I want to give you this second, and final, chance with a clean slate. Despite our past grievances, I have faith in you, Tristan. I've always felt you have great potential and I hope to see you progress this year. I will be keeping a close eye on you, though, checking in with you from time to time. I also would like to give you fair warning that your father has asked me to report to him if anything should go wrong. He has also promised to remove you from this school if any such event should occur."

By this point, Tristan has sunk so low into his seat he feels as if it may swallow him whole. With each word Tristan feels heavier as new weights stack upon his shoulders and pushes him further down. The day has yet to begin, and already the pressure has his knees buckling. His internal torment must have been evident upon his face because the Headmaster suddenly becomes concerned.

"Being stern with students is a formal policy I have always exercised. But, in some more unique cases, such as this, I make exceptions. So, I have decided to humor you and give you a couple of weeks to get settled in." Tristan's eyes snap to his teacher's in surprise. He shifts his weight, about to speak but the Headmaster cuts him short.

"To help you adjust I have assigned you a mentor, a fellow student with exemplary standings within this school, that will help you to catch up with the rest of your class. Be grateful that you will have assistance because no matter what this next month or so will be unavoidably difficult for you," finishes the Headmaster on a final tone. Searching for words, but finding none proper enough for the moment, Tristan merely nods and stands to his feet.

"Thank you, Headmaster," Tristan says politely as he clutches his bag.

"I wish you well, Tristan," replies the Headmaster. As Tristan reaches the door he suddenly hears an exasperated "Oh!" sound behind him.

"I forgot to tell you that your mentor will be meeting with you before your first period. She will be waiting in the library." And with that the Headmaster turns back to his papers.

After leaving the office and the secretary gives him his new locker assignment, Tristan wanders the halls in a daze. Ever since the Headmaster's "speech" his mind has been reeling with waves of anxiety; although, the thought of some assistance did lighten his thoughts a little. It will be nice to have someone helping him with an already difficult situation. Hopefully the person will know more about the academic circle than the social one, he thinks to himself.

Spinning the combination on his locker, he is suddenly plagued with the realization that everyone has even higher expectations for him than usual. He outwardly groans, catching the attention of group of girls just arriving. Recognizing a few, he flashes his well-patented smirk and the girls immediately begin to buzz with excited whispers.

"And so it starts," Tristan mutters to himself while closing his locker. Estimating exactly how long it will take for the entire school to realize he's back, he makes his way to the library at a slightly quicker pace than before, now set on disappearing before the crowds can envelope him whole.

He pushes his way through the library doors and abruptly stops. There, sitting on one of the library sofas reading a book, is Rory Gilmore. He gaze skittishly flickers around the library for another person, anyone but her. But there is none, and Tristan is struck with a sudden urge to turn around and run right back to military school.

How bittersweet his time away from her has been. It's easier to feel longing for someone because of distance, rather than long for that person while they sit two rows away in English class. Tristan's time at military school has proven to be an experience that has ultimately changed many parts of him, but not once has his affection for a certain innocent, blue-eyed small town girl ever wavered.

Being away from her and the constant heartache he seemed to find from her presence, Tristan had hoped he would finally find peace. Peace from the awkward thud of his heart in unison to the twisted pains of his stomach that he had always felt at the sight of her. At military school, not only had he trained his body, but also he had trained his mind to block thoughts of her and the other stresses of his life in Hartford, Connecticut. His rich upper-crust family, his "friends" that found entertainment in the undermining of others, his constant advantage over others. For once Tristan hadn't been a man's man, where everyone expected him to be a certain person in order to commit to his social status as the hierarchy of school of mindless lemurs.

And now he has returned to it all; the heartache that he has been so intent to erase has once again invaded all his barriers. Sitting before him, and as always entirely oblivious to his presence, Tristan is once again stuck between the aggravated anger and the undeniable desire that accompanies all that is Rory Gilmore. Stuck between wanting to forget her and wanting to spend the rest of his days remembering her. Stuck between denying any feeling and feeling everything at once.

With these thoughts racing through his mind, Tristan unintentionally groans audibly, catching the attention of the object of his thoughts. Her soft blue eyes, slightly startled, meet with his striking blues, and within an instant her expression shifts from recognition, to shock, and unexpectedly, transforms into a glorious smile. Instantly, a warm feeling fills him and without thought he returns her infectious smile. Having seemingly forgotten his motor skills, she decidedly leaves her perch and approaches him, her smile having yet to fade.

With each step she takes, the space between them shrinks smaller and when she stops a mere two feet from him, the room seems nonexistent. All of a sudden the surrounding air filling his lungs feels hot and the palms of his hands begin to moisten. Every molecule of his body hums like electricity with every violent pound of his heart. Oh hell the things she does to him.

"Tristan," she breathes, her voice the sweetest melody to his ears. Reveling in the sensations he has fought back for so long, Tristan continues to gaze intently into her eyes.

"Rory," he replies, somehow finding his voice. Also finding his limbs to be at last functional, he moves towards the sofa containing her belongings. The two seat themselves, Rory sitting noticeably closer to him than he remembers her ever doing so before. Trying not to focus on his swirling emotions he turns to her with a brilliant smirk. Yes, bad-boy is more comfortable than the nervous-palm-sweating-teenage-boy.

"So, expecting me, Mary?" he quips slyly, trying not to sound too obnoxious but enough to possibly get a rise out of her. He loves to make her respond to him, in whatever way possible. Surprisingly, she simply laughs--something he can't remember ever making her do; and the feeling of knowing that he is the one who makes her laugh rather than the one who makes her angry is suddenly much more exciting than he ever thought possible.

"I most definitely was not," Rory replies with a grin. "But I'm glad to see you here. I've been wondering how military school's been treating you. I can see it didn't kill you, so that's good." Unable to help himself, his grin stretches from ear to ear. His already quivering insides suddenly burst with a newfound delight of butterflies and erratic heartbeats. Her grin instantly widens in reaction to his. Recovering from his daze, Tristan molds his joyous grin into its usual smirk.

"Well, since I kind of already know everything about Chilton, considering I did go here for a while, let's skip the school tour and hit one of my favorite places…" he pauses before he continues, "the janitors closet." He finishes with a suggestive wiggle of his eyebrows and he makes a motion to stand. Her grin slightly falters at his words and as if on cue her eyes roll dramatically.

"And it's good to know you haven't changed at all, Tristan Dugrey," she announces shortly. Rory reaches into her bag and pulls out a plain folder stuffed with papers. He eyes her curiously, readjusting himself on the sofa so he can face her.

"Enough with the pleasantries, we have a lot to discuss in the next ten minutes before that bell rings and you're thrown back into the school from hell," she explains all in one breath. Giving her a queer look his smirk grows.

"So ready to get rid of me, I see. But Mary we haven't really exchanged pleasantries yet," he remarks, leaning into her personal space to further prove his point. Rory shakes herself slightly, ignores his previous comment, and begins pulling papers from the folder.

"I won't be getting rid of you any time soon, Tristan. According to your schedule…" she pauses as she hands him a piece of paper, "you have first hour with me. As well as fourth and seventh." She watches him as he looks over the schedule. As his eyes travel down the list, his smirk disappears into a frown.

"Is something wrong?" she asks with some concern.

"It looks as though my father picked out all of my classes," he replies, keeping his eyes on the paper in front of him.

"Well, why do you say that?" she says, giving him a curious look. He finally glances away from the paper, meeting her eyes briefly before locking them back on the paper.

"Because they're all very challenging. He's put me in the honors classes rather than the regular ones that I had been flunking out of the last time I was here," he explains looking slightly petrified. His expression soon turned to that of anger and he grumbles, "Figures that that's why I have so many classes with you." Rory hesitates a second before taking the schedule from his hands and glancing over it.

"It's alright. The fact that we have classes together is a good thing. I can help you if you feel like you're falling behind," she suggests looking optimistic. His eyes snap up and he gazes intensely at her. Looking startled, Rory breaks their eye contact and busies herself with more papers from the folder.

"I went ahead and asked the teachers for the assignments you have missed so far. Since it's still the beginning of the year you haven't missed that many," she says handing him his schedule back along with the folder. She continues, "I think most of it is self-explanatory, but if you aren't sure about something just ask me and I'll see what I can do." She begins to gather her belongings he follows suit.


"So what's first hour?" he asks as they enter the crowded hallway. Tristan decides that it's better to focus his attention on her rather than the many pairs of eyes now following his every move.

"English," she replies, pushing through the last bit of crowd into the classroom. At her voice he stops short, standing just inside the classroom. He glances around, noticing her taking her seat towards the middle. The teacher suddenly notices him and motions for him to join her.

"Well hello, you must be Tristan DuGrey." Her comment, meant as a statement and not a question, suddenly reminds Tristan of the "all knowing" egotistical teachers of this school. Immediately he feels a new weight loading itself on his shoulders.

"Now if you could take your seat in the empty one next to the window," she continues with a quick gesture of impatience. Taking his seat he feels both unlucky and lucky to be seated next to the window. Lucky that he has the best view for distraction, but unlucky during the winter months when he will be sure to freeze. Tristan glances around, observing the people near him. Suddenly, a new wave of unlucky irony plows into him with full force. Rory is seated only two rows to his right and as he studies her he is suddenly filled with a powerful longing once again. As Tristan prepares for the start of class he realizes that the space between he and Rory Gilmore has made a full circle, back to where he started a year and a half ago; and he is still unsure of whether that space holds promise or heartache.

***

Two weeks has passed, and though his life has settled down significantly, Tristan still finds his thoughts and emotions in a confused state of maddening desire and fear. In the days following his fateful return, to this very moment in his seventh period class, Tristan has buried himself in his schoolwork as a way to occupy his thoughts that otherwise would be consumed by her. He has found this to be to his advantage, as his work is actually getting done and he is maintaining a high average in all of his classes.

"Tristan," the teacher calls motioning for him to join her at the front of the room. Snapping from his reverie he realizes the entire class is staring at him. Blinking away any embarrassment he follows the request. She begins to hand him an office pass but she suddenly snatches it back.

"Oh, and Rory. They want you as well," the teacher states. Handing him the slip of paper once again, he and Rory exit the classroom. Just outside of the door Tristan pauses to inspect the pass.

"What's it say?" Rory asks. Having chosen to ignore her voice, and her presence entirely, as much as possible for the past two and a half weeks Tristan is more than startled to hear it ringing so closely to his ear. She notices him jump and gives him a peculiar look.

"It just says Tristan Dugrey and Rory Gilmore to the Headmaster's office," Tristan explains with a shrug. Rory also shrugs and the two silently make their way to the office. The secretary lets them in and with a strange sense of de ja vu, Tristan enters the office to find the headmaster seated behind his desk.

"Ah, Ms. Gilmore and Mr. DuGrey. Please be seated," the headmaster says, waving the secretary away. From Tristan's left, Rory gives him a nervous side-glance and he momentarily catches her gaze. At that very moment two stomachs flutter and two minds deliberately ignore the flutters as they take their seats.

"Is anything the matter?" Rory suddenly asks the headmaster, clearing her throat.

"Oh no, dear. Quite the contrary, actually. I've asked you both here to have a short chat about Tristan's progress these past weeks," he explains. They both nod and the headmaster takes it as a sign to continue. He turns slightly towards Tristan. "Tristan, I am pleased to say you have been doing quite well. Your grades are, at this point, among the highest in your class, not much below Ms. Gilmore here." From the corner of his eye Tristan can see Rory beaming at him proudly and he suddenly feels his face grow very warm.

"I always knew there was something about you, Tristan," the headmaster continues. "And I'm delighted to see you have proven me correct. Although I wasn't originally going to let you attend the senior class trip this year, I've decided that, given the circumstances, you have given me no reason not to let you go. Keep up the good work for the next five days, and in a week from today you'll be on that bus to Washington D.C. with the rest of your class," finishes the headmaster with an affirming nod.

The flood of information has ridden Tristan almost to the point of numbness. Having not realized that the senior class would indeed be taking its annual trip, a glimmer of excitement suddenly bursts within him. Every teenager's dream, he thinks to himself. An out of state trip with all of our closest friends and with minimal chaperoning. At his thoughts his smirk unintentionally appears.

"And Rory," begins the headmaster, breaking through Tristan's thoughts, "I wanted to have a word with you in private also." Taking the hint, Tristan politely stands to his feet.

"Thank you, headmaster," he says as he exits the room. He pauses just outside the door, intending to wait for Rory, but noticing the secretary eyeing him suspiciously he changes his mind. Instead, he leaves the offices, makes a sharp right, and settles himself on a nearby bench. After only a few minutes, a flash of long brown hair catches his eye just as she turns down the opposite hall. He silently scurries after her.

"Hello, Mary," he whispers seductively into her ear. She jumps in surprise, grabbing her chest. Nearly stumbling over her own feet, he reaches out and catches her wrist, steadying her. Instantaneously, an electric-like sensation courses through him at the connection of his hand with her arm. Caught in a swarm of sensations, he stares into her eyes intensely. To his surprise, she stares back, her eyes looking startled and her skin flushed. Feeling his motor skills begin to work, Tristan suavely removes his hand from hers and runs it through his blonde hair.

"Damn Gilmore, you always this jumpy?" he asks with an air of arrogance in his tone. She seems to instantly recover at the sound of his voice because her eyes immediately narrow at him.

"You are such a jerk sometimes, DuGrey," she snaps in annoyance. She hastily turns on her heel and continues on her way down the hall. Unable to help himself, Tristan hurries after her.

"You know, Mary, I'm amazed you lasted this long before insulting me. That has to be a personal record for you," he quips, his smirk growing. She seems to consider ignoring him for a moment before a smirk of her own appears.

"I'd be careful what you say to me for the next week if I were you," she comments with a glowering expression that he finds oddly distasteful and equally arousing all in one. He decides to step up his antics. Just as she begins to make a left he abruptly swings in front of her, reaching his hand across her front and leaning against the adjacent wall. She nearly trips to avoid running into him.

"And why would I do a thing like that, Mary?" he says in a near growl, his voice deepening as his flirtations increase. Per usual, she doesn't bat an eye.

"Well, if you really want to go on this senior trip I suggest you treat me a little nicer considering I have been given the power to omit you from it," she explains with a smirk of superiority. Trying his best to keep his cool and hide his surprise he narrows his eyes at her suspiciously.

"What do you mean you can 'omit' me from the trip?" With each word her smirk seemingly grows.

"Exactly what I said. The headmaster has given me the 'privilege' of keeping an eye on you for the next week and also during the trip. I'm not sure if I am supposed to be telling you this or not, but seeing that I can use it to my advantage I don't see why not. So I seriously recommend you be on your best behavior during the trip, Dugrey." Looking satisfied with herself, Rory steps around his tall form and walks the remaining distance alone, leaving a bewildered bad-boy behind.