Author Note:Okay, so it's been a while, eh? I want to apologise, because I've actually had about 75% of this chapter written since I posted the last one, I just could not get the rest to flow. I've spent the last week or two reading Gilmore Girls fic again and trying to get myself back into the genre. I had so much more I wanted to write into the end of this chapter, but it would've taken up about twice as much space and taken even longer to get posted, so I just decided to post this – it ended in a good place and I can pick up easily enough from another point of view in the next chapter.
I want to thank you all so very much for your reviews; I know I haven't responded to most of you and I'm sorry for that. I appreciate so much that you've taken the time to review and encourage me to write more. I'm hoping to keep this going now that I've started, because I've so much more to get in before this fic reaches its conclusion and I am determined to finish it.
I hope you enjoy.
* * *
Part Fourteen: Part of Your World
* * *
Tristan took a deep breath and tried to ignore the boy glaring at him. Which was, understandably, hard to do, given that they were standing almost nose to nose – or, well, nose to neck – and Dean really was a tall freak of nature.
"I'm not going to fight with you," Tristan said, resisting the urge to smirk. This time he was the one who had Rory and, yeah, he'd been biding his time before making his move, but as far as he was concerned he was the winner in this scenario and he wasn't giving up his moral high ground either. Also, he had a feeling that Rory would kick his ass.
"Funny. That's funny. Do they pay you to do that as well as the accounts at your fancy school?"
"You mean the same fancy school Rory goes to."
"Rory's better than the rest of you."
"Wow," Tristan said, finally letting the smirk show. "And you think I'm bigoted."
"If the tie fits."
The both jerked at the sound of Rory's faux cheerful voice. She glanced at Tristan pointedly and he rolled his eyes and headed back to the table. He sat down, leaning back in his chair, as Madeline and Lane watched the scene that was unfolding, glancing at him every few seconds to see his reaction. He could tell that Rory and Dean were attempting to be quiet and doubted he could hear them. It was a strain, but he wasn't about to miss out on this. He had to know if Rory was really over Dean, or if he was just fooling himself.
"Are you...with him?" Dean asked and Tristan's shoulders stiffened.
Tristan was pretty sure that he looked as shocked as Madeline and Lane and, not really caring what it looked like, he turned around to watch.
"I...what?" Rory stuttered.
Dean sighed and ran a hand through his hair. "Look, I pretty much hate the guy, but I don't hate you. I tried that and, well, you're a very hard person to hate, did you know that?"
"It's a special quality I have."
"Well, it's very annoying."
Dean laughed softly and Tristan wanted to hit the guy, because it sure sounded like they were flirting to him.
"Look, I don't hate you and...yeah, I'd like us to be friends. Not best friends or anything, because that would be..."
"Yeah, definitely weird. But friends."
"I'd like that."
"Good. And...well, as a friend," Dean's voice was getting quieter and, although Tristan couldn't see Rory because of the giant in his way, he could tell he was definitely not meant to hear this. So he leaned closer. "-can't believe I'm about to say this. As a friend, don't not date him because of me...okay? You like him. I can see that you like him and you stepping around the issue every time I'm near you is actually worse, because you're making it more obvious that I'm the reason you're not happy."
"Dean, no! I never meant-"
"I know, Rory, I'm not saying you're doing it on purpose and, God, if I see you actually kissing him I might hit something, but...just..." He let out a frustrated breath. "Just be happy, Rory."
"Is it still too soon to be friends?" she asked, and Tristan realised how hard it must be for Dean to talk to her. He certainly couldn't do it.
He turned around in his chair, a frown on his face. He wasn't sure what he was meant to do with this information. He didn't want to respect Dean any more than he wanted to like him.
He heard Dean sigh again. "No. I want to be friends. Can we just...not talk about him."
"Him who?" There was a pause and Tristan tried not to feel hurt at the flippant way she'd just dismissed him. "Okay, well...eh, Lane, Madline and...the invisible man are waiting for me. I should go."
Tristan glanced back, watching as Rory gave Dean an uncomfortable wave, before turning away, well aware that a few weeks ago she would have been kissing him goodbye.
"And, Rory?" Dean said, glancing briefly at Tristan.
"It was good to talk to you again."
"Yeah." She smiled. "It was good talking to you, too, Dean. I've missed you."
"Yeah, me too."
She was grinning when she turned and walked towards them and it looked like her heart was a lot lighter than it had been that morning. As she approached, however, Tristan felt his jaw lock, knowing he must look decidedly angry. Which was good, because he was.
Madeline, however, seemed oblivious. "You're talking again?" she asked, smiling.
"Yeah." Rory grinned, and Tristan could tell she was trying to keep the same look on her face when she glanced at him. "He's accepted that I don't want anything more and we're going to try to be friends."
"Friends?" he asked sceptically.
"It is possible, you know," she said, trying to keep her voice light.
"He still wants to date you."
Rory nodded. "I think he still thinks he does, but I think if he thought about it then he'd realise that he didn't really think that."
"That's a lot of thinking," Madeline said with a smile.
"More than I'd give him credit for."
"Tristan," Rory said, frowning and he sighed. He'd heard it all and, deep down, he knew that Rory wasn't trying to ignore him, or make out that he meant nothing to her. She dealt with things differently; couldn't stand to have people she cared about angry at her. He guessed he could cut her some slack for the time being. He had a plan after all.
"Do I have to be nice to him?"
He rolled his eyes. "Fine. I can handle that if he can. And you..." he looked right at her, pausing, just staring at her until she took a deep breath. "You're definitely not getting back together?" he asked softly.
"Definitely not," she replied quietly, her lips quirking briefly into a smile.
Tristan nodded, a small grin on his face. "Okay, then."
"Okay, so I am confused about one thing; did I miss something?" Madeline asked, frowning. "Because I thought you two were dating."
There was an awkward silence and finally Tristan smirked. "Hear that, Mary, everyone knows you want me."
"Ah, back to delusions of grandeur, I see."
"I think you're just denying yourself what you really want."
"Yes," Rory said, rolling her eyes. "That's exactly it, Tristan. I want you, I need you, oh, baby, baby."
"Oh!" Madeline grinned. "I love that movie."
"Me, too. I don't know why," Rory said with a smile. "I just do."
"Yeah," Lane agreed.
She began to grin wickedly at the confusion on Tristan's face, she turned to the others and Tristan saw that they were all clearly thinking the same thing. And he began to fear for his life.
* * *
"Oh, my God, I want those two hours of my life back," Tristan said with a groan. "Next time we want to watch someone murder a Shakespeare classic, can we at least watch the Romeo and Juliet with all the acid trips?"
"You like that film," Rory said, swiping at his head. She was curled up on the couch behind him, next to Madeline, whilst Tristan and Lane were sprawled on the cushions on the floor.
"So the point of this evening was to torture me with films I wouldn't enjoy?" he asked. "Just so we're clear."
"Nope," Lane said with a grin. "That was just an added bonus."
"Heath Ledger is so dreamy," Madeline said with a sigh.
"He is." Rory nodded her agreement and Lane smiled hers. "Besides, you enjoyed that."
"Did not," Tristan said, despite having actually (sort of) liked the film – although he would never admit it. He leaned his head back on the couch by Rory's legs and looked up at her with a grin. He heard her breath catch a little and his smile widened. He was continually impressed with his ability to not act on any of the signs he'd been receiving recently.
Oh, yes, Rory Gilmore wanted him. It was just a matter of waiting for the opportune moment.
"So, can we watch something manly now so I can reclaim my manhood?" he asked and Rory rolled her eyes.
"You know, you seem very preoccupied with reasserting your manhood, Tristan," Rory said, leaning over him, and he had to resist the urge to just clamp his hand behind her neck and close the gap between them. "Is there something you want to tell us?"
"You're beautiful," he said, still smiling. He knew exactly what he was doing; heard Madeline's gasp and Lane's small squeal, but it was Rory's wide eyes and the flush racing up her neck and across her face that held his attention. "It's a shame I'm in love with your mother," he finished.
It took a moment, but suddenly he was being hit by pillows from all directions. He laughed as they all trounced him into the carpet with their weapons of choice – he was pretty sure that various appendages were being straddled in the attempt – and he knew he was done for when all he really cared about was the smile he could see on Rory's face in the brief moment before the pillow she was brandishing smacked him in the face.
"Okay, that's it!" he cried. "Retribution."
There were various squeals as he reared up. He managed to catch Madeline's head before it hit the edge of the couch and moments later he was straddled over Rory tickling her as Lane jumped on his back. Madeline was leaning against the chair clutching at her sides, because she was laughing at them so hard.
"Okay, now I know Tristan found the way to heaven!"
Looking up at the doorway when Derek's voice, Tristan lost his concentration and suddenly found himself on his back again, being smothered by pillows.
"Uncle!" he gasped out on a laugh. "Uncle!"
"Dost thou yield?" Rory asked.
"For the moment?" Tristan said unsurely and he heard them discussing letting him loose. In that moment, he sat up suddenly – dislodging Lane from her perch on his chest – and threw Rory over his right shoulder. He ignored her squeals and the pounding on his back as he approached his friend.
"Glad you could join me," he said, smiling at the bemused look on his best friend's face. "But you didn't make it in time to save me from chick flick hell."
"Looks like you were in chick heaven to me," Derek said with a smirk. He winked at Madeline and Lane. "Nice to see you, ladies." Ducking to look around Tristan's waist, he smiled at an upside-down-Rory, who was still cursing at his friend. "Hey, Rore, how you doin'?"
"Will you make him put me down," she demanded, more than asked.
Chuckling, he stood up, shaking his head at Tristan. "You gonna put the lady down so I can say hello properly?"
Tristan frowned. "Only if you promise it doesn't involve tongue."
He grinned at the indignation coming from behind him. "What? You've been staring at my ass for the last few minutes; doesn't that deserve a little loyalty?"
"I have not been staring at your ass!"
There was a chuckle from the doorway. "I'm glad to hear it."
Tristan grinned. "Hey Max. Don't mind us, just taking care of a few things."
"Perhaps you could take it outside, or at least ensure the flying limbs steer clear of the breakables?"
Tristan glanced to his right to see Rory's flailing legs coming precariously close to a lamp he suspected belonged to his English teacher. He nodded and went to put Rory down, stopping only when Derek began to gesticulate wildly.
"Dude, wait until I'm out of range before you set her loose on you!" He scurried over to join Madeline and Lane on the couch, perching between them and leaning over the back to watch the show.
Tristan noted that Max was still standing in the entrance to the living room, leaning against the entryway. He grinned and prepared to set loose Hurricane Rory.
The moment her feet hit the ground and her limbs were no longer trapped, she began hitting him. He was still bent over and trying very hard not to fall down laughing. Instead he, somehow, managed to catch her wrists and stand up straight, pinning her arms to his chest between them.
"You fight mean," she said, glaring at him, but he could tell she was trying not to smile. He could also tell that she was trying hard not to notice how close they were standing.
"You don't fight fair, I've got to even the odds somehow."
"I fight fair!"
Rory grinned. "Hah? Hah is your only comeback?"
"What can I say, Gilmore, you wear me out."
Rather than resorting to her usual method of backing away from him, she surprised him by pressing right up against him and smiling.
"Wouldn't you like to know if I could?" she said so softly that he doubted anyone else could hear. Which, he supposed, was entirely her plan.
A grin spread across his face and he released her hands, stepping away. He could see that she was suddenly reminded of their audience by the way she flushed and looked away from him.
Instead of saying anything further to Tristan, she walked over to the couch and leaned over the back, pulling Derek into a welcoming hug.
"Now I know I'm in heaven," his friend said, smirking at Tristan over Rory's shoulder. "Gilmore, will you marry me?"
"Will you buy me something shiny?" she asked, not expecting it when Tristan swept her up from behind and pulled her off the floor and back against his chest.
"You'll have to fight me for her," he said, placing her aside and forcing himself, once again, to ignore her reaction to him.
As he and Derek got themselves into a faux duel, he noted Max laughing and shaking his head as he headed into the kitchen. Madeline and Lane had gathered some junk food and started heckling them in equal measures, but Rory… Rory was watching him with the tiniest of smiles on her face, one he bet she didn't even know was there.
Oh, yeah, she totally wanted him.
* * *
Tristan fought the urge to groan and close his eyes. Instead he pasted a kind-of-welcoming smile on his face and turned to face the two boys trying to catch up to him.
"Duncan. Bowman." He nodded to them, but didn't offer up any further conversation.
His father had taken him aside at the start of the summer and 'urged' him to befriend the two buffoons, because he would be doing business with their fathers. Tristan had no particular desire to be in their presence, let alone be their friends, and had thus far been able to avoid.
"Busy this weekend?" Bowman asked, glaring at the girl who had the gall to try and squeeze past him to get to class.
Duncan frowned. "Busy how?"
"Busy in a way that doesn't involve taking other people along," he said, hoping they'd take it as innuendo to him having a date. In truth, he, Rory and Madeline were planning to work on their piece for next week and then Lane, Derek, Henry, and the guys were joining them all for a film festival under the stars, Gilmore Style. He was determined that this weekend would be special and, even if no one else knew or cared, the important thing was that he did.
And he had no intention of inviting Dumb and Dumber to join in on the festivities.
"Oh, right, gotcha," Bowman said with a snicker worthy of a six year old. Duncan looked a little confused, but played along.
"Tristan, you're going to be late for class."
"Paris! Hi, yes, I know, I'm sorry. Here let me take your books. Gotta go, guys." Ignoring the girl's confusion, he grabbed her French books and ushered her along the hallway. "Thank you," he said, relieved, when they were out of earshot.
"I take it your meeting with the town idiots wasn't planned."
"More at my father's urging."
"And you've run out of ways to avoid them," Paris concluded. They'd known each other long enough for her to know how his father worked.
"Exactly. As I said, thank you."
"Great, well, as pleasant as this little interlude has been, we need to get to French class."
"That we do, lead the way, Miss Geller."
Paris gave him a little smile that had his heart plummeting, as he handed her books back. He really didn't need for her to get her hopes up again, but it had been nice to talk with her. Sighing, he followed her into the classroom and hoped to God things weren't about to get even more complicated.
* * *
"Oh my God," Anna said, sliding in next to him and stealing a piece of his chocolate. "Tell me your girlfriend isn't this anal about all her schoolwork."
Tristan grinned, threw an arm around the girl and shook his head. "Rory Gilmore will always be anal about school work." He squeezed her shoulders. "And you're perfectly aware that she's not my girlfriend."
"Yet," Anna said with a shrewd grin.
Rather than saying anything, Tristan merely shrugged and smirked at her. A moment later Rory dropped into the bench opposite them and placed her lunch tray down, leaning over to steal a piece of his chocolate. Tristan had a second bar in his bag – he'd learned the hard way.
"So, how's the Physics project going?" he asked her, glancing at Anna, who was her lab partner, knowing that the girl's rant had been in relation to said project.
"Really well," Rory said, beaming at him. "I think we're almost done organising things."
"Thank God!" Anna cried and, when Tristan laughed, Rory frowned at them.
"I get the distinct impression that I've missed something."
"Whatever gives you that idea, Lorelai?" Anna asked sweetly and Rory rolled her eyes. Anna had taken to using Rory's full name for reasons that no one could really explain. Tristan didn't think Rory minded, in fact, he thought she quite liked it. "But seriously, if I have to give up another lunch hour, I will kill you in your sleep."
"I'm so glad." Sighing, Anna reached out to steal some of Tristan's chocolate and he glared at her. "What? You don't say anything to Lor, but I can't even have one piece?" She didn't give Tristan time to answer and instead turned to the girl Tristan hadn't even noticed approaching. "Vienna, I'd say it's nice to see you, but it never is. What do you want?"
"My name is Paris."
"Oh, Vienna, how you like to joke."
"My name is Paris."
"What do you want, Paris?" Rory interrupted before the girls could get into their usual argument. Tristan knew that she sometimes thought Anna was too mean to Paris and he didn't exactly disagree, but he knew that Paris always gave as good as she got.
"There's a meeting for the Franklin after school. Don't be late."
"What? Why didn't you tell me?"
"I'm telling you now. Don't be late," she reiterated and, after throwing Tristan a cautious smile, stalked away.
"Oh, Tristan, what did you do?" Anna asked, smacking him in the chest.
"Ouch! I didn't do anything."
"That was not nothing," Rory said, shaking her head. "She gave you Ariel-eyes."
"Yes, you know, big, innocent, 'I'm in love with you, when will you love me, too' eyes. She thinks you're her Eric."
"You are really weird, Lorelai Gilmore," Anna said, looking at Rory like she was a little crazy.
"Thank you!" Tristan cried.
"Oh, she's also completely right."
He groaned and dropped his head onto the desk. "I didn't do it on purpose." He took a deep breath, freezing when he felt fingers running through his hair. Somehow, he didn't think it was Anna.
"Tris, what did you do?" Rory asked and he relaxed as she continued to trail her fingers through his hair
"I just spoke to her," he mumbled.
"Tristan!" Anna hit him again.
"Ouch, okay! This is not my fault!" He sat up, instantly wishing he hadn't when Rory's hand withdrew.
"What's not your fault?" Derek asked as he and Madeline joined the table, followed a few moments later, by everyone else.
"Paris gave him Ariel Eyes," Rory said and Derek groaned.
"Wait, you get that reference?" Anna enquired as she leaned against Dave, who had sat next to her.
"I don't need to get the reference," Derek clarified. "Paris has two settings with Tristan; hate and infatuation. That didn't sound like hate. Seriously, man, what d'you do?"
"I just talked to her, I didn't-"
"Eh," Dave said, shaking his head, as Graeme made the noise of a buzzer sounding.
"Wrong answer," Colin confirmed.
"See, that was your first mistake, Dugrey," Brian said, leaning back in his chair and throwing one arm around Rory and the other around Madeline. "Take me for example; I know how to pick the right girls. How you doin'?" he asked Rory and Madeline in turn. Both girls laughed and shoved at him playfully and, whilst Tristan knew he was glaring at his friend, he wondered if Derek realised he was doing the same thing. It was an interesting thought for later.
"Fine, oh wise one," Tristan said, mockingly. "Tell me: how do I get Paris Gellar to take a hint without going psycho?"
"Without going psycho?" Colin asked, snorting.
Brian smirked. "Dude, I never said you could, just pointed out that I would never get myself into such a situation."
"I hate you."
"Back at you, man."
"Aw, look," Rory said, placing her hand on her heart. "Guy bonding."
"I prefer guy bondage," Madeline said with a grin, causing the guys to stop the protests Rory's comment had started. "What?" she asked innocently.
Brian grinned at her. "Will you marry me?"
While Madeline laughed, Tristan took a moment to glance at Derek and couldn't help but laugh a little himself. Definitely an interesting thought for later.
* * *
Tristan sighed as he closed his locker. It was the end of the day and he was very much looking forward to going home. Well, that wasn't exactly true, he was looking forward to getting away from home for yet another weekend, but in order for that to happen, he had to spend the evening in the company of his family and the morning with his little sister. He didn't mind the latter, but he could do without the evening's flagellation.
He sometimes wondered if Rory realised just how lucky she was to have Lorelai as her mother. He thought she did, to a certain extent, and he knew that she appreciated having Max in her life as a father figure, but he didn't think she got just how much her mother had saved her when she'd taken her out of society and built a life with her, made a home for her.
He shook his head to clear his thoughts and reminded himself that he only had to get through one dinner. His parents were back for only a short period of time before they were planning to head off again on business and he was at least looking forward to seeing his grandfather, if nothing else. And there was always Ellie to brighten up the mandatory dinner; she had the power to make even their father smile.
"Well, hello sailor."
He turned around, slightly startled to find himself face to face with Summer. He took a step back and found himself backed up against his locker; it was probably the first time in his life he'd found himself in that situation and not been happy about it.
"Summer," he said, edging slightly to his left in a vain attempt to put some distance between them.
"Long time, no see," she said sweetly and he frowned.
"Well, you dumped me."
"In the middle of a party," he continued.
"I don't remember."
"In front of the entire school."
"Little details, Tristan. I mean, every couple has their ups and downs, right?" she asked coyly and he wondered that he had really ever found her attractive. Sure, her dumping him had bruised his ego, but he was pretty sure that was about it.
"We're not a couple, Summer," he clarified and removed the hands that were snaking around his neck. "We haven't been for quite some time and we never will be again."
"Because of her?"
"No, because of you. And because I'm just really not interested." He leaned closer to her, looking for all intents and purposes as if he might kiss her and probably making her think he didn't mean what he was saying. "At all." He pushed her away and leaned down to pick up his bag.
He was feeling pretty smug with himself when he turned around and almost fell over Rory. His eyes widened and he opened his mouth to explain when she just smiled and shook her head.
"You couldn't just tell her to get lost like a normal guy?"
"Mary," he said, relief flooding through him and making him grin at her. "I'm anything but a normal guy."
"Oh, that I know," she said, not shrugging off the arm he threw around her as he steered them away from the scene he'd caused.
"I'm an extraordinary guy."
"Oh, boy, there goes that ego again."
"It's not an ego, it's-"
"A life form all on it's own?"
As they rounded the corner, they all but walked right into Paris, Louise and Madeline. Paris looked to be in a hell of a mood and Tristan noted the way her eyes hardened even further when she spotted his arm around Rory. Well, hopefully that was one problem solved.
"Nice one, Gilmore. Do tell your mother thanks a lot, won't you?"
Rory frowned. "Did you take your medication this morning, Paris?"
"Oh, yes, please joke about the fact that your mother's life choices are ruining our education."
"Paris! What are you talking about?"
"Like you don't know," she sneered.
Rory glanced at Madeline and frowned, clearly taking a moment to make out that her friend was mouthing the words 'Mr. Medina' at her. Tristan winced and glanced at Rory, who was clearly resisting the urge to groan.
"You mean Mr. Medina changing classes?"
"Gee, whatever gave you that idea, Gilmore.
Tristan's eyes widened when Rory all but growled. "Look, Paris, it's not like I want this, either. And neither does he. Maybe if other people's parents hadn't interfered he never would've had to change in the first place. So instead of blaming me, or my mum, or my dad, maybe you could think about placing the blame where it belongs. I'll see you at the meeting. Come on, Tristan."
Tristan didn't even bother to glance at the people who had stopped to watch the scene unfold and followed. Whilst Gilmore girls might have a rule about not running, Rory was moving pretty damn fast and he had to jog to catch up to her.
"God, where does she get off?" she cried, making her way outside. "I mean, it's not like it was his choice!"
"I know that."
Rory took a deep breath and turned to look up at him. "Is it really our fault? Mine and Mum's?"
"Of course it's not and you know that."
"I know that, I do know that, I just…I wish he could keep teaching us. He's my favourite teacher and I know he's one of yours, too, and I just wish…"
"I know," he said, watching her shoulders slump. "Come here." Without thinking about it, he pulled her into his arms, a smile tugging at his lips when she walked into his embrace without resisting and wrapped her arms around his waist. "Look," he said into her hair. "It's not your fault and it's not Lorelai's fault and it is not Max's fault. You knew this was going to happen when everyone found out."
"I don't have to like it."
"No, you don't, but you do have to live with it. And, hey, that was one hell of a good way to live with it. Did I ever tell you how sexy you look when you get mad?"
"Tristan!" She pulled away, laughing and hitting him, but he didn't let her step out of his embrace.
"You know you want me," he said and he couldn't help but notice her reaction to his not-quite teasing tone. She swayed slightly towards him and he smiled. "Don't you have a meeting to get to?" he asked abruptly, stepping away.
"A meeting? You know, the Franklin? Because if you think Paris is mad now, just try being late to her precious meeting."
"Right. Of course. Stupid me. That meeting. Right." She nodded. "Gotta go."
Tristan prided himself on the fact that he was able to wait until she was out of earshot before he started to laugh. He had her exactly where he wanted her. Now it was her turn to chase him.
* * *
Tristan pulled into the Gilmore driveway and cut the engine before just letting his head drop onto the steering wheel. He'd survived dinner the previous evening thanks to his grandfather and Ellie and he'd spend a good few hours with his sister early that morning, but he had known it was too good to be true that his parents had managed to be civil during the meal and his brother had been noticeably absent for the first time. He really should have been expecting the double team right before he left the house.
'Your grades just aren't good enough, son.'
'Whatever happened to that nice girl you were seeing, dear?'
'My partners tell me you haven't been speaking to their sons, Tristan, I thought we had an agreement.'
'You really do need to think about finding a suitable girlfriend, dear, you know you'll have to start making the rounds at parties this year and it really does not reflect well on us.
'At this rate, you'll never be good enough to uphold the family name. You have responsibilities, son. You disappoint me.'
"Nothing new there, dad," he muttered to himself. It hadn't been the worst conversation he'd had with his parents, but he wondered if that was because he was so used to it that he tuned most of it out now. Sometimes, he wondered if he'd ever be good enough.
He jumped suddenly as someone tapped on the window and blinked at the worried face he could see through the glass. He briefly wondered if he'd ever seen that kind of concern on his own parents' faces and brushed the thought away instantly, already knowing the answer.
He unlocked his seatbelt and got out of the car, trying to put a smile on his face.
"That's rather a pitiful attempt at looking fine," Max said, almost apologetically. "I take it your dinner was as pleasant as you were expecting."
"Dinner was actually okay," he said, no longer even finding it remotely strange to be on such good terms with his English teacher. "This morning's rendition of 'Tristan, the disappointment' wasn't too great."
Max winced. "I'm sorry."
"Not your fault." Tristan shook his head and turned to him, frowning. "What are you doing out here?"
"Ah, I have been ordered to take you for coffee and not let you into the house for another hour."
"Hey, don't look at me, I just follow the orders."
Tristan chuckled. "Yeah, it's hard not to."
"Those Gilmore girls are a breed until themselves."
"Wouldn't have it any other way," Tristan said, more to himself than to Max. "So, coffee?"
"You're not even going to ask?"
He looked back at the house, tried to think about what they might be doing, and then shook his head. "No. I think I'll let them have their surprise."
He wasn't sure what they were up to, but something told him he might just get that special weekend after all and, even if he was getting his hopes up over nothing, he knew that there were at least three people in this town who actually gave a damn about him.
For the first time in his life, he knew that was enough.
* * *
End of Part Fourteen: Part of Your World
* * *
Hopefully, it won't take another two and a half years to update next time! I'm aiming more for a few weeks max!