STORY TITLE: 4am
TEASER: AU Trory. Based on idea that Rory and Tristan got together after Madeline's party, and were together two years, until graduation. Tristan never got shipped to military academy. Life intervened, and they are now roughly 27.
DISCLAIMER: I OWN NOTHING! Well, nothing pertaining to GG.
AN: This idea's been sitting around in my head, and I finally got myself around to working on putting it on paper. This will not be fluffy. If you need fluff, go check out my other Trories! I won't plead for reviews, but I will say that they make me very, very happy :)
"Coffee to go, please?" she smiled politely, even though she wasn't sure of her ability to smile at the moment. It surprised her, with what ease it came. She sat her large purse, which gaped open with its current contents, on the stool next to her. She allowed herself a moment's rest, the first time she'd really been given the opportunity for months.
"Here you go, Miss," the clerk smiled back at her, and exchanged the drink for her money.
"Keep the change," she replied automatically.
The clerk turned away from her then, and she sat the coffee down in front of her. She looked down at her new black pantsuit, and made a lame attempt to smooth out the wrinkles that had formed from all the sitting she'd done earlier this morning. She sighed, giving up the futile task after a few brisk tugs.
This morning. It hardly seemed real. It was like a surreal dream that she'd had the night before. Except she couldn't wake up from it.
It hadn't been a surprise, but it was shocking nonetheless. She looked now again at the urn that was shoved into her bag, and she smiled at the thought that she should probably pour some coffee into it.
Lorelai would've liked that. In fact, she was surprised it wasn't in the detailed list of demands her mother had drawn up in the last month. She claimed she wasn't going to waste all that time sitting about the hospital, moaning and feeling sorry for herself. She would be productive, and work on her will. Lorelai'd insisted on a binding contract, that way Rory had to follow her every last instruction, no matter how sad she was or how silly the request seemed to her. Her last wishes, as she'd deemed them, had been drawn up by a lawyer and everything. The lawyer had been just one of thousands of visitors she'd had, Luke and Rory having been the two constants in the revolving crowd.
And this is why the urn containing her mother's remains was currently in her purse. It's also why the only contents of the coffin, which was carried around the town square for one last walk (the idea that she'd stolen from Fran Weston's funeral so many years before) was the dressmaker dummy that she'd used so frequently. She said it wasn't something she'd leave to anyone anyway—certainly not Rory. Rory had Lorelai all these years, and no use of learning to sew. She figured now she'd have to find a good tailor.
But the dummy was their little secret. For one, it allowed the mourners to obtain closure at the funeral service, and let Rory have a private mother/daughter goodbye later. Secondly, Lorelai said she couldn't imagine being buried all cooped up with her relatives in the family plot in Hartford. The dummy was what her relatives deserved, she joked. 'Just imagine my mother showing up and finding not me, but that!' she'd howled with delight. She was going to be free.
Tears sprang to Rory's eyes for the millionth time that day. Knowing the end was coming had done nothing to provide solace. Her best friend in the world was gone, and she was alone. How can you ever really prepare for that?
"Miss, are you alright?"
The clerk leaned in, clearly concerned for her well-being. She hadn't touched her coffee, and her only visible actions so far since entering the shop were staring at the urn and tears falling down her cheeks.
"I'm okay, thanks," she said, turning her face away as she attempted to keep up with the flow of tears with just her hand.
"Can I get you some tissue?"
She nodded, not wanting to talk anymore. For the last few days, she'd been talking—about her mother, thanking people for the outpouring of support, flowers, well-wishes, casseroles, etc. She just wanted to sit and have a cup of coffee, with what she had left of her mother.
"Here, use this," a man moved beside her stool, and offered a handkerchief, like it was 1930 and a commonplace action still.
She looked up suddenly, her tears stopping from the shock of seeing him before her.
He smiled at her sadly, and at her inability to take the cloth from his hands, he gently began wiping the moisture from her face himself.
"What are you doing here?"
"I came for the funeral. I slid in the back, I wasn't sure. . . I didn't want to bother you."
"I liked Lorelai. I think I even cracked her boyfriend-hating shell one upon a time," he smiled, but in a far off way, as if thinking of a distant memory. Distant indeed.
"Rory, I know you're tired of hearing this, but I'm so sorry."
"Thanks," she whispered, not looking directly at the man next to her now. It was too much to think about, and she had a big job to do. She had to let go, and say goodbye for the final time.
He waved his hand at the clerk, who was now asking him if he needed anything, and then he looked at her untouched coffee cup. He hated knowing how much pain she must be in, and he followed her gaze to the urn sitting next to her, sticking out of her purse.
"So, what's with the urn?"
"Oh, I'm not supposed to tell anyone."
She nodded. He knew. She hadn't thought that he would have retained the knowledge he once had so well, but then again she had, so why shouldn't he?
"What was buried then?"
"Ah, of course."
"It was sweet of you to come."
"What are you doing now?" He felt suddenly brave, not wanting her to flee. She seemed to have ordered her coffee as more of a comfort measure than a drink. It was like her security blanket, warm and fragrant.
"Oh, I have to go back to the Inn."
"How did you. . .?"
He shrugged, as her blue eyes widened with surprise at him. She obviously hadn't expected him to know such developments.
"No, the grounds of the old Independence Inn."
"Do you want some company?"
"I don't think that's such a good idea."
"Rory," he said softly. "Please?"
"Tristan," she bit her lip, not quite sure how to go on. "Why are you here now?"
He knew what she meant. It'd been nine years after all. The last time he'd seen her, the EMT's were loading her onto an ambulance, him calling out to her that he'd see her in a few minutes at the hospital.
"Is someone meeting you in Stars Hollow?"
"There are some things you should know."
"I don't want to get into all that. It's in the past."
"Fine, but there are some things that I want to know."
"Then you should have been there at the time," she said angrily, not wanting to get into their disastrous past now of all times. She was feeling fragile enough, having to say goodbye to her mother, she couldn't relive the horror of losing him, too.
"You're right, I should have."
She looked at him, confused by his tone. He didn't sound guilty, but he did sound apologetic. She had tried and tried to imagine what could have kept him away from her, never coming up with an excuse good enough other than sudden death. But here he was, in the flesh, looking at her, asking to come with her.
"Okay. You can come with me."
He nodded, but didn't move. She looked from him to her coffee mug.
"He. . . He couldn't come today. He said his goodbyes at the hospital."
"Is he back at the house?"
Rory shook her head. "He took off for a while, he said he couldn't be in the house. He said she was just everywhere, all over the town."
Tristan nodded. He knew the feeling. It was what led him to join the military two weeks after the accident. Going to Yale as planned, being in Connecticut at all—Rory seemed to permeate every inch of the state to him. He just couldn't do it.
"Thank you," she said softly.
"Coming. Lorelai would have liked that you came."
"He's not doing so well, either."
"How are you?"
She looked up at him again, tears brimming her bottom eyelid yet again. "It's weird. I expect her to come barging in here and put her arm around me, to comfort me."
He put his own arm around her, feeling he had nothing to lose at this point. The worst that could happen was that she'd shrug him away, and he might go another nine years without seeing her. But she didn't. She let him pull her frame towards him, and the tears fall. She wondered how much time would pass before she didn't feel like crying at least once every ten minutes. She couldn't imagine the pain lessening, though she knew that it had with losing Tristan. Eventually, she got used to the hurt, the emptiness. She moved on, and began to live her life. And now she'd do it again.
"I need to not think."
He nodded. "Probably not going to happen anytime soon," he smiled.
"Yeah. Can we get out of here?"
He nodded, and waved over the clerk. "Can we get this to go?" he asked, pointing to her untouched coffee cup. The clerk smiled at them sympathetically, and handed Tristan the cup. He stood, and watched as she lifted the purse into her arms, like she was carrying a baby. He put his hand in the small of her back and led her towards the door of the shop, and out towards his car.