CHAPTER 14

A/N: For all those that are Rory/Logan shippers, Chapter 13, your ending, had been posted. Enjoy it as it is. This chapter is for the reader that is open-minded to alternate endings. Please proceed as warned. Flamers are not welcome.

To those who waited this long, thanks. I wouldn't have done this without y'all harping me to get it done.

Camilla, hope you liked it.

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"Is that it?" Finn asked as he looked down at his watch before waltzing back in to Rory's empty dorm room.

Rory looked at the bare walls and the solitary box she cradled against her bosom. "I think so."

"Shall we then?" he inquired as he ushered her out the door.

There was a sense of void that overwhelmed her. Walking out of her room, she shuddered as the late cool breeze brushed against her skin. Another school year at Yale was over.

She gave Butler Hall one last look. Next year, she wouldn't even be residing in the building. No more late night yelling. No more sharing of bathrooms.

It should've elated her to be rid of such distractions, but she knew she was going to miss it.

Like everything else, it was only in the end she realized its worth.

"Here, let me get that," the Aussie volunteered.

"Not that I'm ungrateful, but you know you don't have to do this," Rory persisted. "I could've moved things by myself."

"Has my charm worn off so that you'd prefer your mother's diner man's over my company?" he acted like she just insulted him. "Besides, I do owe you several favors due to my last imbecilic moment."

"Don't remind me," she remarked as she quivered.

It was no secret that she kept her friendship with Finn despite the change of her circle of friends. The one night that Rory had gone to pick up her take out with Paris, Finn, who was hanging out with the LDB, apparently noticed her and tried to prevent a Logan sighting. He pushed his best friend into the backseat of the SUV and tried his best James Bond maneuver backing out of the parking lot not realizing Rory's car was parked closely to his beast. Instead of making a clean break, Finn ended up giving Rory's Prius a love tap that sent the blue car to Gypsy's garage for a little TLC.

Rory didn't want any help from Finn, but he insisted.

"Finn," she started whining.

"No more arguing, Gilmore," he scolded as he tossed the box into the crammed back seat.

She smiled at Finn's chivalrous act. She was still a little unsure about how Finn could act like nothing had happened between her and his best friend. Colin still avoided her like the plague. Stephanie would mumble a word or two before taking off. Logan would smile at her painfully before resorting to some lame excuse to be elsewhere. Everyone abandoned her but Finn.

Finn, to her at that low point in her life, was a godsend. His companionship allowed her to occasionally ditch Paris and her sometimes third-wheel presence when Doyle was around. Even Marty didn't come around after the break-up, which made her lonely and disappointed.

"So, how was your final?" Rory inquired, securing her belt around her midsection.

He laughed bitterly, almost maniacally, at her inquiry. She looked into his eyes before he responded.

"Disastrous. All I did with the blue book was doodle away page after page of 'I don't know' and 'You tell me' statements. I shall require years of therapy just to get over it," he replied succinctly. "And you?"

"It went…." Rory hadn't finished her statement. She was distracted with a vision of Logan packing his belongings from The Yale Daily News into the back of an Xterra.

Finn's eyes quickly darted at the figure that gave them a cursory glance. Logan waved. Finn tapped the horn in recognition. Uncomfortable silence filled the cavernous interior of the Escalade.

"Hey, you alright?" Finn asked. His hand rested on top of hers.

Rory looked up and took a deep breath. "Yeah."

More silence came between them.

"You know, he's not taking it well, either."

His confession made her feel guilty for no apparent reason.

Rory's heart dipped as she remembered how things went awry.

It had been six weeks, and still she felt raw. She masked all her pain with fake smiles. She didn't think it would take this long to bounce back from such a travesty.

At first, she blamed Tristin for jinxing her relationship, but she knew better. All he wanted was for her to be happy with her decision to be with Logan. What happened after that was up to her.

And as usual, she was proven wrong.

The girl that left for Spain came home a woman. Despite saying goodbye to Tristin at the airport, she felt that her heart actually left with him. Even when she leaned up against Logan's arm at the airport, she knew that the relationship between them was over.

"You have more to lose," Tristin warned as they parted.

Did he have a premonition and wanted her to realize it?

She did everything to salvage her damaged relationship with Logan. It was a challenge to Tristin's statement and a vow she made to herself. She was not giving up that easily. She begged off several Friday night dinners when Logan wanted to take her to New York or Boston. She pleaded with him to have nights dedicated to just them-- no guys, no TV, no alcohol. Surprisingly, Logan complied and accommodated Rory and her mother whenever possible despite Lorelai's weariness of the blonde.

Everything seemed perfect. She was one that always waited for the other shoe to fall, and for a moment, she was convinced that it would not happen this time around.

And then the shoe actually fell.

It fell far and hard. It took a monumental event for Logan to actually introduce her to his family. When Honor asked Logan to play buffer while she announced to her family she was marrying Josh, Logan had no choice but to have Rory tag along.

If she was anything that day, it was overly cautious.

She didn't know why she was wary. She had mentally prepped herself for that day since she renewed her dedication to Logan in her own mind.

Usually, she thrived on moments like this. She believed that her Gilmore breeding would make her a shoo-in in the elite circle Logan's family was associated with socially. It was a major shocker to her when Shira, in more ways than one, let Rory know she was not the chosen one they saw with Logan.

Logan was upset. Rory was dumbfounded.

Their disapproval was a challenge Logan wouldn't back down from.

Logan pretended that what his parents said against Rory was ever mentioned. Rory pretended that she could change Shira, Mitchum, and Elias' perception of her.

They were both naïve to think they could shovel against the tide.

But not even love and avoidance could mend societal snobs. Logan schemed one last ditch effort to have his family accept his relationship with Rory. When Mitchum gave him the ultimatum between Rory and his trust fund, Rory swallowed her pride and bowed out gracefully.

"I don't care about the money, Rory," Logan bit out.

"That is magnanimous of you, Logan, but that doesn't change this one bit," Rory said in dismay. She sat next to Logan and held his hand. "We tried, Logan."

All they could hear around them was the soft splashing of the water fountain behind them. The heels of his patented shoes clicked on the cobblestone as he paced back and forth. "Are you giving up on us?"

With a heavy heart, Rory admitted, "I don't think we have a choice."

"Damn it!" Logan swore. He walked away from Rory and planted his fists at his sides. "I can't believe you're selling us down the river this quickly."

"There is a difference between being obstinate and being realistic," Rory replied heatedly. "Unless you get your head out of the clouds, this thing might as well be fiction."

"You don't know my parents. We can wear them down," he insisted.

"But I don't want to," Rory said firmly. "I am who I am, and your family will not think I'd be suitable for you unless I'd become docile. I cannot play the role of a socialite without ambition. Not even for you, Logan."

That was the only time she saw Logan vulnerable. He took her in his arms, and they both wept. They wept for what was something that they wished they could have.

"I guess this is it," he lamented sadly.

Rory wiped the tears in her eyes as Logan typed furiously on his blackberry.

"Come on. The Brigade is throwing us a break-up party. Hope you're dressed for it," he smiled at her as he remarked.

That was the last time her lips were against his. It was to be the first time she would actually mean goodbye instead of just good night.

It was a memorable night. There were headstones marking the dates they dated. Colin gave a eulogy and Finn played the priest-cum-bartender. The moment was bittersweet.

The few times they bumped into each other, the salutations were limited to a loopy smile or a nervous chuckle. At first, they'd accidentally bump into each other almost on a daily basis. Slowly, it dropped to every other day. The days turned into weeks. Now they even pretended they didn't see each other when they were the only two people in the room. It hurt, but she knew her decision was for the best.

When she finally told her mom about the break-up, Lorelai asked, "Was this what you wanted?"

A resounding yes resonated from her throat.

"So Paris said kissing you was the best thing that happened to her in her freshman year," Finn broke through her thoughts.

"What?" Rory blushed.

"I'm glad I haven't lost you," Finn said, his voice was unsteady. He felt like he was intruding.

Rory gazed at Finn, swallowing the lump welling in her throat. "No regrets, right?"

Finn looked her way and grinned. "Not on this side, Love."

As they reached the New Haven border, Finn's cell phone rang.

"He's not yet here!" the female voice on the other end wailed.

"The duck flies at midnight!" Finn responded, smirking at his mobile.

"Huh?" was all that came out on the other end. "Do you even know what you're talking about?"

"Well, you tell me. It wasn't me who called you, Sweetheart."

"Finn, it's Lorelai. He's. Still. Not. Here!" she emphasized each word.

"He's not... Oh he's not!" he finally said triumphantly. As quickly as the words registered, he said in panic, "He's not?"

"Who's not what?" Rory asked, wanting to be part of the conversation.

Scolding playfully, Finn ordered, "Hush."

"Is that Paris? Hi Paris!" Rory yelled out from the passenger seat.

"Is my daughter drunk? Please tell me you guys haven't imbibed this early. No more packing punch!" Lorelai groaned. "Driving nonetheless!"

"No, we haven't imbibed, Mother, and no, I don't think Rory's drunk," he glanced at Rory. "You don't happen to be drunk, are you, Sweetheart?"

"Paris, get a life. You and Doyle should be desecrating each and every room of your new apartment!" Rory yelled in jest.

"Ew, I did not want to know that they're doing that!" Lorelai shuddered. "So, what are we going to do?" Lorelai asked.

"I don't know yet," Finn bit into his lower lip. "Any suggestions?"

"Want me to call the airport? The car company? His dad?"

"Anything but the dad. I'll take care of that," he said. "I'll call you if there are any changes."

"I sure hope you know what you're doing," Lorelai replied before hanging up.

Finn looked disconcerted at the news. He would be very upset if this would blow up in his face.

"So are you going to tell me what Paris wanted or do I have to tickle it out of you?" Rory threatened maliciously, knowing Finn hated the juvenile act.

Finn winked her way impishly and said, "Sweetheart, I am a few inches taller and you know I can tickle back. Don't threaten unless you mean it."

Tristin was beyond tired. After being told by his counselor that his dad wanted him around for some major real estate purchases and mergers, he had to pull all-nighters just to complete his requirements and study to for exams sooner than what he was prepared for. The breakneck speed of unadulterated cramming made him snap out of his stupor.

The flight delay and the layover didn't help. His iPod dying midway through the flight didn't make the situation any better.

Pressure, that's what it was. It wasn't like he became melancholic or moody. He just couldn't shake the funk he had pushed himself into after he pretended that Rory Gilmore did not matter. The sudden state of panic was a wake up call for him to realize the world did not pause just for him.

She didn't.

It's just….

He couldn't even admit his downfall.

Six weeks ago, he said to himself that he wasn't going to linger in the past. Rory had her own life to live, and she was doing splendid without his interruption in Spain.

He had to believe that.

He had to reassure himself that Rory was someone who needed a man who would be there for her and would be able to give her what she needed. Even a loser like Logan Huntzberger should be afforded that opportunity.

He shuffled through the manila envelope that contained all the documents required for the stake out. There were brochures of the B&B, a photo of the Inn and the stable attached to it, a map of Stars Hollow, and a calling card with an elegantly embossed dragonfly on it.

"Stars Hollow," he said the place out loud. God, everything led back to her. What next?

A smile broke on his face. Just maybe he'd walk around town and accidentally bump into Rory. He let a sigh escape his lips. Who was he fooling? She still belonged to Logan, and he's still playing second fiddle.

He flipped through the radio stations the moment he got into his rental BMW. It was half past four, and he knew his father was going ballistic at his tardiness. Although he would've loved to see his dad pissed, he wasn't in any mood to hear his father's diatribe about respect. He reached for his cell phone to make his apologies. After having a short argument with his father's secretary, he gave up and turned off his cell phone.

"Damn it!" Tristin cursed. Cole DuGrey was going to be in meetings until late in the afternoon and couldn't be bothered at the moment.

After three days of cramming, eight hours of flying, and a week of no less than four hours of sleep a day, nothing.

So much for father/son bonding.

-oooo0---0oooo-

"Uh, this isn't the Crap Shack," Rory pointed out as Finn parked the SUV in front of the Dragonfly Inn.

Finn turned a lovely shade of pink. "Deductive, aren't you? Oh, I forgot. Your mother, while you were packing your stuff, called."

"Your cell?" Rory inquired, raising a well-groomed eyebrow.

"Yours!" he grunted. "You can't leave your mobile unattended, you know?"

"I don't recall giving you permission to answer my phone, you know," Rory replied, a little miffed.

"I'm sorry! I was going to tell you," Finn grumbled, getting out of the Cadillac. He raced to Rory's door and opened it for her. "Besides, I thought it was important." He crossed his fingers behind his back hoping Rory wouldn't check her phone log that instant to catch him in his lie.

Rory was about to scold Finn when Lorelai burst through the front door of the Inn.

"Thank God both of you are here," Lorelai said hurriedly as she laid a kiss on her daughter's forehead. "Finn, thank you for bringing Rory over."

"My pleasure," Finn replied, winking at her.

"Rory, be a sweetie. Would you be able to help Sookie for a moment?" Lorelai ordered her.

"Okay," Rory replied without question and bound the steps quickly.

That left Lorelai and Finn to conference.

"Any luck?" Lorelai asked.

"No," he said. He flipped his mobile open and tired to access the flight information he needed. "The plane landed about forty minutes ago."

"Do you think he figured us out?" Lorelai asked.

"I'm hoping he won't," he grumbled. "I just hope Rory will appreciate this dog and pony show."

Lorelai looked at him with an amused stare. "You really want this to happen, don't you?"

Finn squinted at Lorelai. "Just to get her off my backside, mind you, Love."

Lorelai laughed and threw her arm around his shoulder, "Come on. I'll get you some coffee."

In the kitchen, Rory was more than ready to leave. Although she loved Sookie's cooking and her stories about her children, she was ready for some alone time. Reading a book would've suited her well. Watching a rerun of Supernatural would've been a welcome thought. The site of Jared and Jensen would keep her mind off of exes. But somehow, she felt like she was being held hostage at her mother's place of business.

"Sookie, what is going on?" Rory asked as she chomped into a chocolate-covered pretzel.

"What do you mean, Sweetie?" Sookie inquired, looking up from the pan of glaze she was stirring.

"Is there a reason why I am helping you here when you've got a staff that is more than fully capable of helping you out?" she asked.

"Is it too much of a hassle to keep me company?" Sookie asked with a feeling of sadness. "You used to like it."

"It's not that," Rory guiltily assuaged her. "It's just that… I feel like Mom is keeping me a prisoner here, and I think Finn is helping her out."

"Honey, can you pass me the cinnamon, please?" Sookie pretended that she didn't hear the question.

"Sookie," Rory said her name in a playful tone. "I can play this game, too, you know."

"Alright, alright!" she gave in, talking excessively fast. Rory knew Sookie could never keep secrets. "Lorelai wanted to have me keep you occupied to keep your mind off boyfriends, or exes, or something to that extent. She didn't want a repeat of last summer. Apparently, I've failed." Sookie looked up and pouted at the brunette. "I'm sorry, Rory."

"I knew it! Something is up," Rory harrumphed in triumph. "I'm getting to the bottom of this."

Rory got off the spindle stool she sat on and tucked it back under the counter top. She was afraid that her mother and Finn were brewing something wicked, and it somehow involved her. Eventually finding them in the dining area, she was greeted with a commotion that was going to change the course of her summer forever.

It didn't take long of Tristin to find the Dragonfly Inn.

"Quaint," he smirked as he sat in the parking lot, eyeing the man and the woman walking into the rustic house.

He never understood why his father's business was hot into buying B&Bs when they were seasonal profit areas. Maybe he'd be able to see the wisdom behind these mergers and buyouts when he witnessed the dealings behind closed doors.

He got out of the car and policed his envelope and his overnight duffel. At least he could get some sleep.

Bounding up the stairs in twos, he got to the receptionist desk and asked for his room.

"Hi, my name is Tristin DuGrey. I believe I have a reservation for the weekend?" he asked as politely as he could.

Michel Gerard eyed the tired man like a hawk, sneering as he glanced upon his rumpled appearance.

"I am sorry, but we don't have anyone with that name in our book," Michel replied haughtily.

"Are you sure? You didn't even look!" Tristin's short temper was getting the best of him.

Michel rolled his eyes, clicked a couple of sheets on the computer screen and tsked. "No, I do not have any reservations for a DuGrey today or any other day. Perhaps you mistook us for the youth hostel a couple of rinky-dink towns from here."

"Are you trying to tell me that I flew and drove this far for nothing?" Tristin's anger was starting to boil over. "I want to speak to your manager."

"She won't tell you anything different from what I already told you," Michel answered back haughtily.

"Unbelievable!" Tristin exploded. "God, the things I can do to this place once we buy it. And you know what? You might just be the first person I am going to fire."

Michel blanched. "Buy? What are you talking about? The Dragonfly Inn is not for sale!" his clipped English got heavily accented with his French tongue.

"Just watch me," Tristin snapped. His eyes were intense and cold as he slammed his palm on the countertop before exiting the Inn.

Michel was beside himself. Still clutching his throat, he ran to the only place he knew he could find Lorelai.

"Please tell me it isn't true! This horrible man…." Michel ran up to Lorelai as dignified as he could. "He said he is to fire me the moment he bought this place. You are not selling the Inn, are you?"

"What do you mean?" The words trailed from Lorelai's lips as she looked at Finn.

"Tristin!" they said in hushed unison. Lorelai made a mad dash for the door with Michel trailing her like a little dog. Finn on the other hand held Rory's gaze as she entered the dining room.

"Finn, I think you have some explaining to do," Rory instructed as she tried to swallow the news herself.

"I don't know what you mean, Cupcake," Finn asked as he tried to undo Rory's defensive posture by tugging on her arm.

"What is going on?" Rory inquired. Her voice was shaky and close to tears. "Is my mother in trouble?"

"Rory, calm down," he hushed her. "It's nothing like that."

"Nothing like that? Tell me, what is it? I am sick and tired of everyone pretending like I shouldn't know what's going on! I am not that fragile, you know, Finn."

"I know you're not, Sweetheart," Finn said with steel eyes. "Let's go for a walk."

"Damn it, Finn," Rory replied heatedly, feeling agitated by the second. "I don't have time for this."

They left through the side door. Rory spun around and looked at him, waiting for his explanation.

"Fine. I was trying to surprise you," he mumbled.

"With what? My mom's announcement that she's selling the Inn?"

"No. Forget about the Inn," Finn was starting to get upset, too. "Damn it, Rory. I just want you to be happy."

Rory's heart skipped. "What are you saying?"

"You know that I love you, right?" Finn asked with a seriousness Rory wasn't comfortable with. He grabbed her by the shoulders and stared her down.

Rory chuckled nervously and walked away from him. "Finn, what do you know about love? You've never been in love."

Finn just burned a hole through her.

"You're a serial dater. You party to find girlfriends. From the Switzerland Diaries, the only thing you haven't done was take home your own ski bunny, milkmaid, and Russian bride," she replied.

"You know what I mean," Finn reassured her softly. "I want to rectify a wrong."

"I'm not following," Rory said.

"I promised you that you would be able to depend on me," he said, closing the space between them, enveloping her hands in his.

"I know," Rory said as she lowered her gaze. "But Finn, I can handle myself despite what my mom or anyone else says about me."

"Even if I said I'm setting you up with someone you should've been with since the moment I saw you with him?"

"Finn, please tell me that you haven't changed your name to Yente. I don't need you to play matchmaker."

"Rory, listen to me," he grumbled. "I'm not intending to be your matchmaker."

"Then what are you doing?" she responded.

"That whole fiasco about the Inn being sold was staged for you," Finn replied. "I was trying to get Tristin here."

Rory's heart stopped beating for a second.

"Tristin!" Rory was incredulous. She pulled her hands away from his grasp. "What has gotten into you?"

"Rory, he flew here on the premise that his father's company was looking into franchising the Dragonfly Inn," he confessed.

"And Mom allowed you to do this?" she was downright upset. "Why?"

Finn couldn't answer that question for her.

Rory tapped her foot on the gravel and waited for a response. An apology would've sufficed. "I can't believe the two of you… Give me the keys."

"What? I am not giving you my keys!" he said, arguing. "And leave Lorelai out of it. If there's anyone to blame, it's me."

"Stop playing martyr, Finn. It's not becoming of you," Rory grumbled as she snatched the keys from his outstretched arm. As she walked away, she threatened, "I will take your car, drive my things to my house, and drop them off. By the time I come back, I would like you and my mother to tell me everything. No one is going to be scheming behind my back, understood?"

Finn just kept mum, brushing his fingers through his hair in frustration.

"Oh, and one more thing. You cannot schedule falling in love, Finn. It just happens."

The tears in her eyes just made Finn upset in ways he never knew possible.

"Mister DuGrey! Excuse me!" Lorelai called out, sprint-walking across the Dragonfly walkway.

Tristin glanced at her from his shoulder and then continued to walk away.

"Hey, I said, 'excuse me'. Can you stop?" Lorelai replied, irritated, as she caught up to him.

Tristin stopped the moment Lorelai reached him. "I am so sorry."

"For what?" Tristin asked. "For hiring that rude French receptionist of yours?"

"For not making things clearer for him," Lorelai replied. "Can I ask you to come back in?"

Tristin deliberated before responding to Lorelai's invite. "The crew, they don't know that you're selling?"

"We're not selling," Lorelai muttered.

"Is that why my father's not here and no one bothered to tell me?" he hissed, getting very frustrated.

"It's not like that," Lorelai replied. "I can explain."

"What is there to explain?" Tristin asked. "Right now, I feel like Moby Dick, and I have just run out of Moby juice."

Out of nowhere, Lorelai quipped. "Rory's not with Logan anymore."

Tristin thought he'd just had an aneurysm. He should've recognized the woman standing before him was none other than Lorelai Gilmore herself.

The silence was deafening.

"You could've let me know via telegram, you know," he said in discomfort.

"Finn thought…."

"Finn? I should've known," he sighed loudly. "Look, I don't know what Rory told you…."

"She didn't," Lorelai implored. "Please…."

"Have a good day, Ms. Gilmore," he replied as he picked up his bag, swung it around his shoulder, and continued walking backwards. "Tell Rory congratulations for dropping the dead weight."

Lorelai turned her back and walked toward the inn in defeat.

She wished she could just jump out of her skin. She wiped the tears of frustration that cascaded down her cheek. She didn't know whether she was upset that Finn and her mother conspired against her or that she actually hoped that Tristin would show up.

Rory blushed at the whimsical thought. He might think that she was desperate. She didn't need any more reminders of her blunders in relationships. She wanted to lick her wounds in private. And what if he didn't show up? Talk about insult to injury.

The afternoon breeze started to pick up. A sealed envelope blew up against her foot. Retrieving it, she bellowed to the figure walking a few paces ahead of her.

"I think you dropped this," she called out absentmindedly.

Tristin spun around and looked at the general vicinity the voice emerged from. An elegant hand held an envelope toward him. He choked at the sight of a teary Rory.

"Rory?" he asked, still unsure of the image in front of him. A smile emerged from his tired face.

"Hi," she said, almost taken aback at the sight of him as much as Tristin was of her.

She walked over to where he was rooted. Somehow the awkwardness made her feel like she was sixteen again.

He took the envelope from her fingers and closed the gap between them. "You've been crying!"

"Don't worry about it," she choked back the tears, wiping them quickly with the back of her hand. "So, how have you been?"

Her voice sent delightful shivers down his spine. "Been better."

"Me too," she said. "So, what brought you to my neck of the woods?"

"A mad goose chase, more than anything," he chuckled in response. A blush crept from his neck up to his ears.

"I hope the goose chase was worth it?" Rory bashfully chuckled at his misfortune. Like two teenagers on their first date, both stared at the pebbles beneath their feet.

"Well it definitely wasn't what I was expecting," he quipped.

"Know that feeling," she agreed.

They stood there like statues, frozen. Except for the rustling of trees, the silence filled in as conversation for words left unspoken.

"So I guess, this is it?" Rory asked.

"Guess so," Tristin replied, still tongue-tied.

Rory finally looked up with her tear-stained eyes and met his gaze. "Have a great summer."

"You too," he muttered back. "Nice seeing you again."

Nice seeing you again? That's what you tell random acquaintances, you jerk.

He watched her pivot away from him and on to a signature Escalade parked several slots from his rental Beamer.

He unlocked the doors to his car and tossed his bag in. Flashes or conversation popped into his head like Fourth of July fireworks telling him that if he left around now, he might just miss out.

"That night, when I asked you to sleep with me…." she trailed. "I… I wanted you… I wanted you to kiss me like you did those girls when we were in school. I want to feel that passion you have every time you defended me from Logan."

"Tristin, do you love me?"

"Give me more credit than that, Tristin," Rory grumbled heatedly. "I… cannot forget you."

"Damn it!" he cursed, banging his fist against the roof of the car. "Rory!"

She looked back at him like she expected him to call her out. She held her breath in anticipation.

"Rory!" he yelled again, this time with conviction. He ran up to her, stopping short or knocking her from the spot she stood.

"Tristin!" Rory called his name out almost too softly. He stole her breath as he crushed her toward him.

Without hesitation, he lowered his head and swooped down to claim her parted lips. His tongue swirled against hers, dueling, fighting for control. His hand spanned her narrow waist, warming her back with his splayed fingers. He slowly guided her toward the Cadillac and pressed her against the door. He leaned against her, making sure she knew how much he wanted her. He wanted to let her know that she was his addiction. Restraint was one thing he was fighting for and she wasn't making it any easier for him to find it.

"Tristin," she groaned.

He melted as she whispered his name. He pulled back and started kissing her bruised lips. He was surprised when she exercised a teasing of her own. She nipped on his lower lip, alternating the soft bites with a fluttering lathing with the tip of her tongue. It drove him to the edge.

"I hope to God your mother is right," he groaned in between breaths, doing some nipping of his own.

"She's not selling," she whispered.

A raspy sigh escaped from his lips. His fingers traced lazy lines up and down her sides. Her hands found themselves untucking the fabric of hi s shirt at the waistline. She grazed his midsection with her fingernail, circling around until her hands nestled at his belt buckle.

"What?" Tristin looked up.

"The Inn. She's not selling it," she said.

He started chuckling. "I wasn't referring to that."

She stared at him quizzically.

"Your mom told me about you and Logan."

"She what?"

"Please tell me it's true."

Blue met blue.

"And if I don't?" she teased.

He looked at her seriously. "At the count of five, I am going to kiss you. Screw it if you're still Logan's. Five…" his head started descending.

"Four…" he tucked her hair behind her ear.

"Three…" he licked his lips in anticipation.

"Two…" he took a deep breath.

"It's true. We've been separated since… since…" she responded.

She didn't get to finish her thought. Tristin hollered like he just won the lottery. He grabbed her by the waist and swirled her around in a big circle.

"That's the best news I've heard in a long time," he said, breathless.

He let her slide down his warm, hard torso. He left his hands by her waist. Her arms circled around his neck, playing with the baby-fine hair at his nape. She pulled him down to meet her waiting lips.

They were both so nervous with anticipation that their lips almost missed.

Their ragged breathing was so strong they dared not to talk.

"I tried to forget you," he finally said. "I tried, and I failed."

Rory blushed at the sentiment. She didn't want to admit she felt the same way too. "I'm glad that you didn't succeed."

"I think you stole my heart without my permission," he grumbled, nibbling her earlobe.

"Well you flew away with mine," she said matter-of-factly.

Tristin chuckled and loosened his grip on her. "So which of the gods are conspiring against us this time?"

"Maybe our time had come," Rory asked, wiping the trace of lipstick that stained Tristin's lips. "Maybe…"

"Maybe you should just shut up and let me kiss you," he interrupted her thoughts.

His impatience got the best of him. He slammed his lips against her so hard their teeth collided. His fingers undid the ponytail she had on and ran his fingers through her liberated locks. She sucked on his probing tongue, his lips. She caressed his palate with the tip of her tongue, teasing him to no end. Her fingers worked its way underneath his cotton shirt, playing with the wisp of hair that peppered his well-sculpted chest.

She tried so hard to restrain herself. Her nipples hardened as she came in contact with his chest. Goosebumps ran up and down her arms. The mere pressure he applied on her bruised lips made him delirious.

He moaned, pressing his groin against her. His arousal was pretty evident to her. And she was elated at this revelation. She encouraged his approach by cupping his bottom and pulling him against her. He bit her lip, drawing some blood from her bruised lower lip.

"We have to stop," he whispered between kisses.

She hummed. "Do we have to?" She pulled away and kissed him on his fast-beating heart. "There's so much I have to tell you."

He pressed a finger against her lips. "We've got time. I'm not going anywhere."

She smiled at the words.

"So, Miss Gilmore, how would like to blow this popsicle stand?" Tristin asked.

"Thought you'd never ask," she mumbled, snuggling up against him. "Coffee. My treat?"

He smiled and pulled her up against his side as they walked back to his car.

The forgotten envelope was stuffed in Tristin's back pocket. Inside was Finn's explanation of things that eventually turned out for the better.

---------

There was a sudden tightening in his chest as he witnessed Rory's fingers lace with Tristin's. So much hope, so much faith.

He wished he could tear his eyes away from them but for some crazy reason, he stood there, bearing witness to something so personal.

It wasn't like he thought he had a chance. He wished, but he knew that if ever he stood a chance, it was beyond a long shot. To her, she's nothing but the sidekick, the comedian.

He felt like a Peeping Tom watching Tristin brush the stands of hair that fell on her cheek. If only...

"That was a nice thing you did there," Lorelai whispered to him softly. Her heels clicked softly as she approached him.

He didn't even know that he was being watched.

"You think?" Finn responded, biting the tip of thumb. He felt guilty for taking credit for something that he truly had selfish reasons for.

As he watched Tristin leaning over to give her butterfly kisses, he averted his gaze. He knew he should've left them in privacy.

"They're marring the paint job!" he said. The metallic taste of blood in his mouth spread. Biting his cheek was the most unpleasant feeling but something he had to do.

Lorelai laughed softly in sympathy. Watching Finn fidget was painful. "So why didn't you tell her?"

"What?" he responded, being pulled out from his reverie.

"Why didn't you tell Rory you liked her?" she probed.

"I don't like her," he scoffed. It was a lie but he would be damned if he told Lorelai the truth.

"Don't kid a kidder, kiddo," she replied as she nudged him with her shoulder.

He didn't have the nerve to tell Lorelai that he did, only to have his confession thrown back at him. He felt guilty enough that his thoughts wrapped around a non-existent relationship he fantasized often enough. He couldn't remember a time when someone had affected him this much.

He stifled a groan as he closed his eyes. He mentally chastised himself for acting like a horny fourteen year old.

He still could remember the first time he laid eyes on her. She was with the bartender from Logan's party that summer. From that moment, he knew she didn't like the Brigade. There was a streak of protectiveness that was downright sensual.

He had to pretend he wasn't interested. He was, after all, supposed to play up to his image of a cad. Was it fate that led him to her room that eventful afternoon? Would she have laid eyes on him if he weren't too psyched meeting up with some redhead he had already forgotten? He dared not date himself that far back if he was making his list of regrets.

He thought, surely, that Logan would've pulled him aside when he anointed Rory as Smitty's replacement without Logan's authorization. His heart pounded when Rory shot him a look of distain and despair.

His palms all of a sudden got sweaty as his thoughts wandered to when he and Rory danced on the floor: how beautiful and bored she was. She had this stare that always sent shocks through his spine. She'd glare at him and he knew that she was apathetic toward him. He just played along.

He didn't care at what capacity she used him. It ripped his heart out when Rory asked him to take her to see Tristin that one night in Barcelona but he didn't care. He was with her. At that moment, she needed him. Not even Logan gave her that kind of closure during that road trip that night.

Countless were the times he caught himself romanticizing situations about her; his best friend's girlfriend.

"You know, you could've come clean with her," Lorelai pursued the conversation.

"I have pride, Lorelai. A mockery of my affections is not a sport I enjoy participating in," he scoffed. "No, thank you."

He could feel Lorelai smile at him. "Well if you quit playing jester..."

Finn looked at Lorelai and raised an eyebrow at her.

"Come on," Lorelai said, tugging at his arm. "Let's leave them alone."

Finn willed himself to leave them alone. He didn't exist in her world. He walked away slowly, following Lorelai back to the inn.

"So, what are you going to do now?" Lorelai asked.

Finn picked on the imaginary lint off his sweater. "Maybe go home. Be in Australia for a while."

Lorelai smiled at him sympathetically. "Have the time to spare a drink with an old hag?"

Finn smiled and lifted Lorelai's hand to his lips. "You will never be an old hag. I'll be honored to share a drink or four with you. Do you have anywhere in particular, Cupcake? And don't tell me the 'Queen Victoria'."

Lorelai laughed as she remembered where Rory sent him for a drink over a year ago. "Nope. I was thinking of Captain Jack's."

"You buying the first drink?" he fished for information.

"I'll buy you a lap dance," she responded impishly.

Finn raised his eyebrows. "Even better. You've piqued my interest."

"Met this girl named Goldie that dances there. I think she's more your type, if not speed," she teased as she sashayed ahead of him.

"Very Sin City. Now that's something I can look forward to," he joked. "Is she as endowed as Jamie King?"

"She's got big…" Lorelai stated, stopping short just to tease him. "You can check out the goods yourself. If you're nice, she might even give you a taste of her pasty," she added. "Just don't choke on it. I don't want my best hair stylist to skip town because you can't keep your trapper shut."

He chuckled at her quip. If only she knew.

"Oh, and if you decide that your friends are tagging along, they're paying for the entertainment," she warned playfully.

He made light of Lorelai's comments. With a heavy heart, Finn closed the door behind them. Taking one last look at Rory and Tristin through the crack of the door, he followed Lorelai back into the building.

Maybe, just maybe, the next time would be his.

END