Summary: Trory. Set Season One Post-TBP2 and Pre-LDAT. The Kiss at Madeline's Party never happened for the purposes of this fic.
Disclaimer: I own no rights to anything that is mentioned in my stories, including the main characters that I've borrowed for my plot manipulations.
Story Title: Untouched
Chapter Title: Part Fourteen
AN: Thanks to all of you for waiting so patiently. This has been mapped out in my head for a couple of weeks, at least. But, as some of you may know, I hate writing the last chapter to stories that I love. And I've loved writing this one. And sadly, this is the last chapter. So enjoy, and thank you all for being such amazing reviewers. I'm glad you've enjoyed it as much as I have.
She never really felt like she belonged.
To anything or anyone; save for her mother, who straddled the same line of two worlds that she did. Had she been a different kind of person, a jaded girl who saw the world through the filter of her circumstances, she might have blamed her mother for her inability to be in her surroundings, nestled among her peers, and feel at ease.
In the small town to which her mother fled in both of their youths—to protect them both from the judgment of those who looked down their noses at the way in which she was brought into the world—they were cared for, but pitied all the same. "Poor girl," she'd hear in loud whispers after turning the corner away from people that had looked out for her all her life. To her face only her praises were sung, but she could always see the cognizance of her "situation" in their eyes.
She even saw a glimmer of it rising up through the layers in her own mother's gaze when she wasn't careful to keep it buried.
That was the difference she saw in him. Despite all her internal warning systems, all the bells and whistles that had been installed in her to keep from stumbling on the same trip wire that her mother had, she was drawn back to him each time. Each time finding a greater pull, a heightened need. When she looked into his steely blue eyes she saw not even a suggestion of pity. In his eyes instead she saw warmth, so real that it raced through her body. If he had been made aware of her upbringing past what little she let him in on (and who hadn't) she noticed only that his references to slight her were in due part that she preferred some other boy from her other life to comfort her.
He'd had every right to push her on that fact. In Tristan's arms had been the only place in which she had ever found true solace.
He was where she fit, in more ways than one.
She realized she was lost in her thoughts as a knock came to the frame of her bedroom door. She sat up quickly at the odd sight, but immediately stood and moved into Tristan's arms.
"How'd you get in?" her question was muffled as her face buried into his blue blazer.
"The door was unlocked," he let go of her and shrugged. "So, this is what it looks like in the light of day."
She blushed, realizing how normal the setting was. She was ready for school, in her room with her folded laundry stacked on the edge of her bed. Her book bag sitting on her desk chair. Somehow it all looked foreign with him standing before her, in the midst of everything she used to find so familiar. All she could think of was his body, under hers, the heat that radiated between them, drawing her closer. . . .
"You ready to go? We don't wanna be late today of all days," he ran his thumb down her cheek, to bring her out of her daydream. Yet again.
"Right, let's go," she nodded purposefully. She had to focus today. Their presentation counted for a large portion of their respective grades, and she knew he was prepared. She couldn't have spouted off at him for so long in the early stages of their preparations to be the one to flub up because she was picturing him naked on her bed from nights prior. Utter and total irony.
She smiled at him and nodded again. "Yeah, you're right. Let's get out of here, before anyone sees your car," she didn't quite meet his eyes as she grabbed her bag and headed out of her room ahead of him, trying to put the events of last weekend behind her for the next seven hours.
He'd been very understanding. She knew their relationship had shifted two nights prior, but she couldn't put words to it. They hadn't spoken of what had happened, throughout their last review session yesterday or the car ride to school this morning, but she felt guilty for going about their normal routine of ignoring one another after barely having been two separate people throughout those midnight hours in her bedroom. She knew she had to be cordial and competent once she got to her American Lit. class, but that didn't make all their other sightings any less breath-catching. The one time she had dared to meet his eyes in History, she felt the weight of the build up of the past three weeks on her shoulders. Surely too much had happened for it to be okay for them to pretend nothing was different about their dealings.
It was just too encompassing. She had to talk to him, to tell him that nothing could ever change what had happened between them. He had to know that, even though she was afraid that standing too close to him would alert the entire world to the newfound heights they had revealed together.
She really needed to talk to him.
But her day seemed to be speeding toward their presentation, this pinnacle—her first few classes were just a blur, her nerves frazzling more the calmer she tried to remain. Perhaps her classmates and instructor would see her disjointed visage as only a fear of public speaking—but he'd know. He'd see her eyes unable to focus on her note cards as they scanned randomly over the thick paper and hear her voice quivering as she wavered over the wrong word to get to the correct one. All because it was a lie, to pretend that she wasn't affected by him.
"Hey, Mary," he called out to her as she had nearly stepped one foot over the threshold into their classroom. She spun on one heel, never so glad to hear his flirtatious tone in her life. She couldn't even manage to look annoyed as she approached him, stopping not nearly as close as she would have liked. The distance was palpable.
"What is it?"
"I wanted to talk to you, about the presentation?"
"Okay," she nodded, looking around to see her fellow classmates walk around them and stream into the room. All noticed the pair, but none seemed to think twice about the sight. After all, they were partners—it wasn't like he had her backed up into the lockers. She closed her eyes briefly at the thought.
"Are you okay?" he asked, his voice nearly inaudible. She leaned in closer and hissed back her answer.
"I'm fine," she dismissed.
"You've been like a zombie today," he pointed out. "If this is about this weekend," he began.
"It's not what you're thinking," she admonished, hating the fact that he had spent the entire day thinking she regretted anything about that night. Though she had—just not what he believed her remorse to be. Now just wasn't the time, and she wondered if she even had the words to tell him how she longed to feel the completion of his body connecting with hers, as they'd been so close to achieving such a short time ago.
"And you know what I'm thinking?" he asked, the edge added to his voice nearly slicing through her skin.
"Are you two joining us, or is being fashionably late part of your presentation?" came the disdainful voice of their grade-bearer. Rory shot him one more distress-filled look and turned her back to him, obediently following her instructor into the classroom. She was in her seat by the time he walked through the door, seeming to trigger the final bell.
"How nice that everyone could join us today. Let's get started, shall we?"
He sat down behind her as the first pair got up, spouting off information she had known for years about books she'd read back in grammar school, when most of those who surrounded her were graduating into chapter books for the first time. She'd been on a first name basis with the librarians around town before she knew the name of the guy that worked at the toy store. There had never been much money for toys back then—but library books were free. A notion that had plagued her six-year-old mind, yet still the difference probably had never occurred to any of the people around her who drove their choice of new model sports car.
Why it suddenly bothered her that she was different in such basic ways than the other young men and women that filled these halls alongside her wasn't clear. She'd been going to this school long enough; shouldn't she be immune to such frivolous thoughts? She tapped her pencil against her desk repeatedly, staring blankly toward the front of the room as her mind raced.
She felt his hand on her shoulder, and all movement halted. He handed her a folder over her shoulder, seemingly for their upcoming speech. She looked down to see he'd written on the front cover.
For all she knew, he was pissed off at her. She would have been pissed off at him if the situation were reversed. She was acting distracted and distant after they'd been more intimate than she'd ever been with anyone else in her life. She knew it was torture to be able to still feel his body pressed into her and not even so much as shake his hand in public now. She'd had the chance to clarify what was bothering her but walked away instead.
'We're prepared for this.'
He was reassuring her. She took a deep breath and rose when the teacher called out their names in short succession. DuGrey and Gilmore. He was straightening his tie, standing next to her, and watching her intently as he waited for her to begin. She gave a small nod to him and took her place at the podium. She saw the teacher start the ever-present stopwatch that monitored their allotted time (just another thing to be graded on to make the indiscernible fractions of a point difference in each of their grade point averages) and began to lay out their introduction.
She was nearly finished with her first portion of their research into their books when a knock came to the door. The stopwatch was paused as all attention turned to the door. A student came through with a note from the headmaster's office, which was handed dutifully to the teacher. She read over it quickly and looked to the pair in front of the room.
"Tristan, you need to head to the office and take your books," she said as briskly as she walked, handing him the note. His face paled as he scanned over the sheet from a monogrammed notepad. He didn't look at Rory, but in his stilled shock, she was able to read what had spooked him from over his shoulder.
'Janlan DuGrey admitted to Hartford Memorial Hospital. Have Tristan head there straightaway.'
Rory gathered her books as well as his and came back to stand beside him. She knew his whole world was crashing down around him right now. His parents had gone off to Asia the night before, he was alone—even more so with Janlan in the hospital.
"Let's go," she touched his cheek to bring his focus on her. He looked at her quizzically, at the pile of superfluous books in her arms.
"Ms. Gilmore, you're not excused from class," came the voice of authority that expected her to push on and finish the presentation on her own. She knew this and yet she felt no draw stronger than to leave the premises right now with him. He needed her more than she needed a good grade.
It hit her suddenly. They were linked, no matter the fact that no one else knew it before now. Having people able to gossip about them didn't validate them, just as it couldn't harm them. She was going with him because that was where she needed to be.
"I can't let him go alone," she said simply and turned back to him as a buzz of scandal and disbelief roared out of her classmates' mouths in the form of harsh whispers. "You ready?"
He nodded and left the classroom mutely with her at his side. She took his keys and hesitantly got behind the wheel of his car, eyeing him with concern as she drove to the nearest hospital.
"Everyone knows," he said finally, not having said an actual word since before their class started.
"Yeah, I guess so," she agreed.
"I don't understand," he said slowly.
"Yes, you do. You would have done the same thing," she took her eyes off the road for just a second to look him square in the eyes. It was freeing now, after having been avoiding the very act all morning.
"I wanted you to meet him," he croaked. She had never heard him sound like this—small, in a way. His voice had cracked, signaling that this was the part of him that, despite his ability to bring out the fire of passion in her, was still a boy.
"I'm going to, today," she assured him. She reached out her hand to rest it on his knee as she continued to drive.
She'd been waiting in the ICU waiting room for the last few hours. She focused her attention on the door now, waiting for Tristan to get back from talking to the doctor. They'd been waiting in silence for most of the time to hear definitive news on his situation. She'd offered to do everything in her power, whatever he had wanted, and all he had wanted was for her to be there, he'd said. It didn't feel like enough somehow, but still she remained rooted in place.
He came back into the sterile room and lay down on the couch, his head resting completely lax into her thigh. She ran her fingertips through his soft hair and dug them back in, over and over, until he closed his eyes.
"They don't know anything. He had a stroke, but they're not sure how bad it was, until they can run some tests," his voice trembled.
"Oh, Tristan," she sighed, not ceasing in her motions. "I don't even know what to say."
She couldn't imagine going through this with her own grandfather. Especially now, after just starting to really get to know her grandparents. She thought of that awful night last winter, when they rushed him to the hospital with angina. It had seemed so frightening at the time, but it was nothing in comparison. Her heart literally ached for him.
"You came, that's more than enough," he looked up into her eyes from his place in her lap. She offered a small smile.
"I had to."
He just nodded and closed his eyes again. She watched him, wondering if he was sleeping. She lost all track of time, knowing it was just the two of them, waiting for better news. So much had changed for her so fast, but it didn't even occur to her that her presence might be missed elsewhere as she watched over him.
Until her cell phone rang.
She dug in her bag fruitlessly for a moment, hoping not to disturb him. He sat up as she continued to rifle through the contents and extracted the source of the disruption. She saw the name flash over the ID, and she cringed.
"Where are you?"
"Mom, I'm sorry, I forgot to call you," she began, realizing there was no good way to explain her actions from today. She was going to have to tell her mother the whole story now. It wasn't like the whole school didn't know at this point, though the rumors were surely flying about just how close she and Tristan had become. Telling her mother was inevitable. "I'm at the hospital with Tristan."
She turned her head to see how he was holding up, now that her attention seemed to be diverted. He reached out and took her hand in his. Her mother's mind was running at top speed, but all Rory felt was a distinct saturation of tranquility. Gone were worries as to how this might look, or what it might mean for her future, or what she would have to say to assuage all the concerns her mother would have: the baggage from his life that would carry over into hers, his expectations of a more physical kind of relationship, her ruining her chances at achieving her goals by being careless. Lorelai was already rambling about having noticed when he came to town a few weeks prior that he wasn't her sort of guy. That from everything she'd seen and heard, he had his eye on her and wanted different things than she did. He wanted something other than what she was.
None of what she said mattered. She simply didn't know anything of the matter.
"Mom, I'm not going to ask your permission. I want to be here—no, I need to be here. I'll be home at some point, but for now, this is where I am. I'm sorry I didn't call you, and I realize that skipping out on classes isn't normal behavior for me. It's not something I plan on making a habit of—this was a dire situation."
"This is a lot of new info, kid."
"I know. I didn't tell you before, but I didn't really realize, until today, that I," she bit her lip as she spoke to her mother, but looked directly at Tristan. Both were listening intently. "I'm with him."
Her mom told her to call if she needed a ride home, and she slipped her phone back into her bag after turning it off. He never took his eyes off of her.
"Did you mean that?"
She smiled. "Was I being presumptuous? Because if you have a date this weekend," she teased softly.
"Nothing I can't reschedule," he drew his finger over his jaw, as if deep in thought.
"I don't know if you think girls find that charming or not, but let me be the first to tell you, it's not," she glared at him.
"Noted. You're not afraid I'm gonna corrupt you?" he moved closer, putting his arm around her shoulders.
"I think there are enough people currently forming a prayer chain over the very thought, I don't need to get in on the action. Besides, I'm fully aware of your effects on me."
He smirked. "I'm definitely a fan," he nuzzled his nose into the crook of her neck.
"Though there is one thing I'd like to request, before this becomes official," she put on her sternest face, searching his eyes with hers.
His face grew as solemn as hers, and she could tell he was bracing himself for some hard question, the holy grail of impossible requests.
"I think it's time to put the Mary thing to rest. It's hardly apropos with you hanging around all the time."
A slow, relived grin broke out over his face. "I thought you were going to make me sign in blood that there would be no other girls."
"Giving me ideas is dangerous," she shook her head and picked up his hand to examine his fingers. "Any of these bleed better than the others?"
He pulled his hand gently out of her grip and felt out the skin that covered the gentle slope of her cheekbone. "I only want you, Mary."
Her attempts at swallowing the lump in her throat were futile. She wrapped her arms around him and burrowed into his chest, much as she had this morning, but this time he held her tightly against him like he might never release his hold on her.
"Me too," she whispered as she pressed her cheek into his at long last. His lips brushed against hers innocuously, like a match being brushed against a strike. Air only fanned the flames as she drank in his fear and he her lingering reservations. There was no room for anything between them other than the electricity that sought to fuse them together.
She made just one more phone call before dusk turned to dawn, to let her mother know she wouldn't need a ride that evening. Leaving him now, alone to make a resting place out of the hard couches in the waiting room without the comfort of her skin to sink into, to wake up alone and frightened, it wasn't an option. She would stay and be the last thing he was cognizant of that night, her soft humming as she rubbed soft circles into his scalp. She would be the first thing he saw in the morning, with her head bent back over the top of the couch—having slept contorted in a seated position so as not to disturb him.
And in the meantime she would study his skin, every mark and mar—perfection graced with imperfections—and come to find what she had been looking for all this time. The syncopation of their heartbeats. The way his arm wrapped around her whole thigh as he buried his face into her stomach. It'd all seemed so difficult up until now, but she realized that it'd been as simple as letting go and reaching out for him.
She belonged to the world he wanted to create with her.