CHAPTER 12

Lorelai huffed as she realized that it was six o'clock. She had gone through six outfit changes and still has not settled on an outfit for her date with Luke.

"It's only Luke," she said to her reflection as she fidgeted with the ruffled collar on her shirt.

She was nervous. She was not sure how she was supposed to handle this relationship with Luke. He had seen her in her best and worst times: hospital visits, birthdays, graduations. Even Christopher had not witnessed the Gilmore's life events like Luke had. For the first time, Lorelai felt naked despite the layers of clothing she wore.

Frustration seeped in. Lorelai stepped out of her skirt and decided to slip into a pair of sweat bottoms and a sweatshirt. She rationalized that with the dinner crowd hitting the diner, Luke would not be available for another hour or so.

As she was tying her hair up into a ponytail, the doorbell rang. Sookie!

"I'll be there in a second!" she called out from her second floor bedroom.

Lorelai bounced down the steps to greet her friend. She was welcomed by a different kind of surprise.

"Luke," she said breathlessly.

"Someone called for dinner?" he asked.

Luke looked great. He was wearing a green sweater and a pair of gray slacks. The light scent of his aftershave lingered in the air. He made her feel like a bum.

"Wow," Lorelai said as she tried to string a coherent thought. "You look very dapper!"

"Well you look great yourself," Luke said politely as he handed her a bouquet of flowers.

"Oh, you didn't have to. Thank you!" she said as she opened the door for Luke to walk in. "You know, I wasn't supposed to come down like this."

"It's your house. You should be comfortable while you're in it. It's only dinner and a video," Luke said as he started unpacking the paper sack he brought in.

"Yeah, but I don't want you to think that I'm taking you for granted," Lorelai said, carefully choosing her words.

Luke and Lorelai stood really close together as they put the food in plates. They tried to avoid making eye contact.

Lorelai quickly gazed at Luke to see if he was as nervous as she was. She was comforted by the thought that he was nervous, too. The pulse on the base of his throat was beating rapidly and tiny beads of sweat formed on his tanned face.

"This is awkward," Lorelai said to break the ice.

"No kidding. Maybe we should do this another time," Luke replied as he was trying to back out from the uncomfortable situation.

"No, no!" Lorelai quickly responded.

"Who are we kidding, Lorelai? It's bad enough that I don't know how to do this dating thing and knowing you intimately…," he trailed off.

"Oh you haven't really gotten there yet, buddy," Lorelai quipped the nervous response. "Until the Victoria Secrets are replaced with granny undies, intimacy is something you have to warm up to."

"See? This is what I mean. We can't have a serious conversation. It is either a cutesy quip or downright bicker. We bicker and argue until you tune me out with a cup of coffee or until you walk out of the diner. I then go to the back room and scream my head off until I get my sanity back," Luke pointed out.

"Well, to some people, that 'bickering' thing you talk about is called a marriage," Lorelai argued.

"You mean it gets worse?" Luke teased.

Lorelai punched him lightly on the arm before she gave him a quick kiss on the lips.

"Thanks for coming by tonight. I needed the company," Lorelai said.

Still basking in Lorelai's kiss, Luke muttered, "You're welcome."

Lorelai tugged on his sleeve as they walked out to the living room with the plates on their hands.

"So what are we watching tonight?" Luke asked.

"Well," Lorelai started to say. "I thought you were going to be coming straight form work so I got this movie with this guy that gets his fashion tips from you."

Luke smirked.

"Well, I thought a comedy will work well tonight. It's a Kevin Smith film so it should be good," Lorelai said defending her decision. "I also got Tombstone just in case Chasing Amy doesn't work out."

"Hmm," Luke responded.

Luke sat on the worn couch while Lorelai snuggled up next to him. She smiled at him as she started the movie with the remote in her hand. The music started playing and both of them got lost in the movie.

Half way through the flick, Lorelai set her plate on the coffee table and made herself more comfortable by laying her head on Luke's lap. It felt natural to Luke that Lorelai trusted him enough to be intimate with during their short courtship. He absentmindedly played with her hair as she got settled.

It was hard for Luke to concentrate on the movie. All he could think about was how scared he was walking into this relationship. Will Lorelai compare herself to Nicole or Rachel? Will she find it strange waking up next to the person who feeds her caffeine addictions? Would her family dislike him because he is not made of money?

He was talking himself out of the relationship before it even began. What was he thinking trying to date a friend? He broke out of his reverie when he heard the doorjamb rattle.

"Hey lady, I came to-," Sookie said as she twirled around the room. "Whoops!"

"No, no. It's not what you think," Luke said as he tried to move Lorelai. She was asleep.

"I guess she got you pretty caught up on the way to a date, huh?" Sookie replied.

"Uhm, something like that, you can say," Luke remarked ambiguously.

Sookie came around the couch to check up on Lorelai.

"Awww, she must really be exhausted," Sookie said as she took the afghan and draped it on Lorelai. "Can you just let her know that I made her a casserole and I'm leaving it in the refrigerator? Heating instructions are on it just in case."

"I will when she wakes up," Luke promised.

"Oh, how insensitive of me! Would you want me to help you get Lorelai to her bed?" Sookie offered.

"Nah, I'll manage. I won't be going anywhere any time soon," Luke politely declined.

"Well then, I'll leave you be as soon as I put the stuff away in the refrigerator. I then, will catch you on the down low," Sookie said as she traipsed to the kitchen.

"Bye, Sookie. Thanks. I know Lorelai would appreciate it," Luke said.

Sookie lingered for a few moments before she saw herself out. Lorelai slept through the whole commotion. Luke just smiled to himself and sighed. Despite the air of non-date/sleep time, Luke could have not had more fun. He played with Lorelai's hair a little more until he decided that he needed to call it a night and have Lorelai have a date with the Sandman.

"Hey, Lorelai," he whispered in her ear.

"Is it time to go yet?" she muttered back.

"Sweetie, you need to get to bed," Luke whispered back to her, chuckling.

Lorelai started to come around from her sleep. Her eyes met Luke's. Immediately, a look of regret flashed in her eyes.

"Oh no! I conked out on our date!" she wailed.

"You were tired. You were going to be giving in sooner or later," Luke declared.

"Yes, but it's unfair to you. You were nicely dressed and you smell good and you brought food to me. I," she continued on. "…look like a bum, despite going through wardrobe changes that rivaled Cher's Final concert tour and came down with this!" she said as she pointed to her pink outfit.

"Oh, and what a catch I am," she continued on her diatribe. "I pick a movie for us to enjoy and I sleep through it. I mean, I missed the part when Silent Bob shows up in the movie and I was supposed to make some crude remark how you guys wear your baseball caps similarly!"

"Well, if you paid attention to the movie, you'd know that we, the quiet type really have a lot to say when given the opportunity," Luke stated. "His whole 'Chasing Amy' theory was interesting."

"Agh!" she groaned out.

"Look, Lorelai you've had a long day and you needed some sleep. Why don't you go to bed?" Luke suggested.

Lorelai looked at him with sad puppy dog eyes. "I'm sorry."

"Don't worry about it," Luke said as he kissed her on the forehead. He took her by the hand and walked her up to her room. He tucked Lorelai in her bed.

"I could honestly say that you are probably the first girl I've dated that I literally walked to her bed," Luke said.

"I wasn't planning to be any first for you," Lorelai said with a hint of regret.

"I plan to make a couple of firsts for the both of us. Right now, you just need some rest. We'll do something when you're better rested," Luke mumbled.

"Promise?" Lorelai asked.

"I promise," he answered.

Luke tucked her in. When he got back to the living room, he turned off the TV and cleaned up after them. He turned off the hallway lights. Stepping out into the foyer, he sighed and closed the door behind him.

"I am soaking wet," Rory said as she took off her shoes.

"You want to jump into the shower first?" Tristin asked.

"May I?" she inquired.

"By all means. You know, we can conserve water if we showered together," he suggested maliciously.

"You're so crude," Rory retorted.

"And you're a prude," Tristin shot back.

Rory could not take her eyes off Tristin as he took off his shirt. The damp cloth left a light film of water on his skin. She could not fathom why she was getting turned on by this callous man.

"Uhm, before I jump into the shower," Rory said. "I was wondering if you've got a shirt I could borrow. I, uh, apparently wasn't smart enough to grab proper attire for a sleep over."

"Sure," Tristin said. He saw a flash of disappointment on her face.

"Well, I don't have any girl clothes in the house, if that's what you're looking for. I've got shirts and shorts if you don't have any objections to that. I don't think there are any of mom's clothes around here," he remarked.

"That's fine. I'm going in now," she stated the obvious.

Rory ran the shower warm. She stepped in as soon as she left her damp clothes on the marbled floor. She was thinking about the unfinished conversation she and Tristin had before being interrupted by the rain.

"Hey," Tristin called behind the glass doors. "The shirt by the sink's for you."

"Thanks," Rory replied feeling a little violated that he walked into the room without announcing himself.

As quietly as he walked in, he walked away.

Tristin was hoping that he would catch a glimpse of Rory before stepping into the shower. However, he was relieved that she did not give him that opportunity. He sighed. He knew that this fantasy had to end eventually. He was thinking of ways to have her stay or at least give her a reason for them to see each other while they are on their summer break when she got out of the shower.

"What do you think?" she asked as she toweled her hair dry.

She wore a New England Patriots jersey. The hem of the shirt hung down to her mid-thigh and the sleeves of the shirt covered most of her arm. The V-neckline plunged lower than Tristin wanted to imagine but he kept mum about it.

"Great! You look good wearing my clothes," he said almost inaudibly.

Rory blushed. "I don't want to make you feel uncomfortable."

"I think you're too late in that department, Mary," he sighed.

Rory knitted her eyebrows. She headed to the bathroom to hang he towel up when she bumped into Tristin who was trying to head into the shower.

"We need to stop meeting like this," he whispered.

Rory said nothing. She let him through and hung up her towel. She closed the door when he started pulling his clothes off.

Tristin hated cold showers. They were painful and not comfortable. He should've just given her a normal shirt. He knew though that if he gave her a potato sack, she would look great in it. He would be glad when she finally leaves. He would like to have his peace and quiet back, if not a hot shower.

He sashayed back into the room with a towel slung loosely around his waist. Rory could not help but stare.

"Hello, girl in the room!" Rory called out.

"It's my room. And I'll do whatever I want," he responded. "Besides, I forgot to grab clothes before going in for my shower."

Rory rolled her eyes and tried to concentrate on the book she was reading.

Tristin was tempted to just do a full Monty in front of her but thought twice about it. He moved to the side of the room that is hidden from her periphery before donning on his boxer briefs.

"So," he called behind the wall. "Wanna grab some dinner?"

"What are you thinking of?" Rory asked.

"Pizza?" he asked.

"I think I can do pizza," Rory agreed.

"Good. Bring your appetite with you," he said as he put on a pair of shorts and a muscle shirt.

Rory followed Tristin out of the door like a dog. They headed down to the kitchen where Tristin started raiding the refrigerator and the pantry.

"What are you doing?" she asked.

"Making pizza," he stated.

"I thought we were ordering out," she replied.

"Why should we when we can make the ultimate pizza?" he concluded.

"This I got to see," Rory said with skepticism.

She was amazed. He made the crust by hand and tossed it in the air like a pro. Something was amiss with Rory. She just had to know.

"You've done this before, haven't you?" she asked.

He laughed. "You got me. I worked at a pizza shop in Princeton to keep me out of trouble. It paid badly but I got to meet a lot of girls."

"Nice," Rory muttered. She never found time to find a job while she was in her freshman year. Maybe she should find a trade to work in while going to school.

He fumbled around the pantry finding things to put on the pizza. Forty five minutes later, a thin crust pepperoni, olives and bell pepper pizza came out of the oven.

"Voila!" he said putting the fragrant food in front of her.

"What have you done with Tristin? I want the old Tristin back!" Rory said.

"Why?" he asked with a quizzical look.

"Well, I don't think I can take any more of the new Tristin. The old one was predictable and easy to hate and annoying…" she said.

"Wow, you know, the old Tristin is still here," he said slightly offended by her remark.

"Well, it's just, you never were really that nice to me in Chilton…" she trailed off.

"Chilton? Why does it always have to go back to that place?" he asked.

"Because it's where we met. It's where you tormented me day after day by making out with your flavor of the week. By my locker, no less. It's where I dealt with Paris' wrath since you made me your toy and you her object of affection. And now," she stopped to consider her words. "… I don't know why you're so nice to me. I know I wasn't the nicest person to you."

Unbelievable! What was Rory tying to pull?

"Rory, I've grown up. I knew I was a rat-bastard when we were in high school. I knew Paris had a crush on me. I know that I could date any girl in Chilton. Twice on Saturdays and thrice on Sundays. But you did not run in my circle and that piqued my curiosity. When you put Paris in her place after you confessed to ruining her project, I knew that you were different. You became a--," he stopped trying to search for words.

"I became a convenient distraction. I didn't ask for it," Rory said tears welling up in her eyes.

"How did we get to this point? Huh? A second ago we were just laughing and talking and now…," he responded getting annoyed really quickly.

"Tristin, just answer me this. Did you ever like me in high school?" she asked.

Tristin walked toward Rory and dropped his arms on her sides, pinning her between him and the island top.

"Rory, you were an itch I can't scratch. There was one thing I knew for sure when I left Chilton. I was disappointed that I never got to kiss my Juliet in Act V. I know that if there is one thing I could go back in time to do all over again, I would've been nicer to you from the very start. But I was conceited and I knew I could never have you," he confessed.

"You can't just own someone," Rory said trying to hold back the tears.

"But I did want you and you were oblivious. I thought I could buy you by getting those PJ Harvey tickets," he affirmed. "But I knew that you and the bag boy were getting friendly… I was not part of your world and that hurt me."

Tristin looked into her eyes and kissed her. Very gently. Tears spilled out of Rory's eyes. Rory pulled away slowly and said, "We can't do this to us."

"There's an 'us'? Look, I've kissed you three times and only once did you not cry. And I think the two other times you've shed tears was for the same guy. Rory, I don't want to compete with a ghost," Tristin said.

Rory pushed him away and walked out of the kitchen. Tristin went after her.

"You really know what happened by the falls? You let your guard down and you want to believe that just for a moment, you could see us together. And the thought scares you. Rory, you can't stand the thought that the guy you hated can be someone you can ultimately fall in love with, if not for a demented moment," he said.

The tears started falling faster than ever. Rory ran up the stairs and closed the door behind her. She curled up on the floor and bawled like a baby.

Tristin was frustrated with himself. He cleaned up the kitchen and deliberated whether to throw out the uneaten pizza. However, he knew that he might need to come down for a snack if he ever got his appetite back.

He hated seeing her cry. He hated the fact that he made her cry. He went up to the guest bedroom and shut the door behind him.

Rory fell asleep on the bed when she calmed herself down. She found her situation quite ironic that her recent sleep patterns have entailed tears and men from her past. She has to let this cycle go!

She rolled on her side to look at the clock. It was three in the morning. She searched for her gym bag and tossed her damp clothes in it. She took a pair of her shorts and a torn T-shirt from her bag and got dressed. She folded up the shirt Tristin lent her and placed it on the corner of the bed. Sighing, she grabbed the doorknob and opened it.

The room across from her had light spilling from the door left ajar. She pushed the door in and saw Tristin half reclined on the bed asleep from reading Atlas Shrugged. Rory took the marker that was sitting on the night stand and marked the page that was left open. She set the book aside.

"Tristin, Thanks for everything," she whispered as she kissed him on the forehead.

Then she walked out.

Rory walked through the dim halls and out through the front door. While fishing for her car keys from her pocketbook, she found her cell phone light blinking. Rory got into the car and started retrieving the messages from her cell phone. She wished seconds later that she didn't.

"Rory, it's Dean. I tried looking for you at your home but you weren't around. We have to talk. Call me? Bye," the message rang through.

Rory folded her phone shut. She slowly slipped the key into the ignition and drove away.

Tristin watched her walk to her car from his bedroom window. He cannot believe how easily it was for her to slip out of his life as quickly as she slipped in: sublimely. He wanted to run down the stairs and tell her how he really feels about her. Bu he knew that whatever happens between them would not be easy. He watched the red lights from her car disappear from the corner of the driveway.

Tristin dropped his head and walked towards his bed. He saw the shirt she wore. He picked it up and held it to his nose and lips. Out of the corner of his eye, he saw a book on the floor. He retrieved it. It was Rory's copy of Great Expectations. With half sleepy eyes, he walked to his desk and pulled a drawer. In it, he tossed in her book. Keeping it company was a pair of unused PJ Harvey tickets, a Chilton paper that announced her as the Valedictorian and a picture of her from Madeline's party.

He jumped into the bed that was still warm from Rory's body. Moments later, Tristin resumed his dreamless sleep.

Rory sat in the driveway of her home for a long time. Her mother left the porch lights on for her. She got out of the car and slowly trudged up the steps.

The hallway was dim. She knew that her mother had probably been asleep for a while. Not wanting to enter her bedroom, she left her bags on the floor and headed up the steps. As she predicted, her mother was sound asleep. Rory stepped out of her shoes and jumped into bed with her mom.

"Rory?" Lorelai asked.

Rory snuggled up against her and said, "Go back to sleep, mom."

TBC

The Trouble With In-Breds