Title: Slipping Under The Surface

Chapter: 19—If You Need Her, You Should Be There

Rating: M

Disclaimer: I don't own anything buy my laptop, and trust me, you don't want this laptop…

Description: Sequel to Untouched… Another Trory… It starts out M because Untouched was M…

Final AN: So, yeah. Sorry, to all who have been waiting a long time for this. I had it half written for many months now, but the finishing got interrupted by the having a baby and all the exhaustion that follows. This is, at long last, the final chapter. Thanks for all the reviews and support, you guys were awesome. Oh, and the chapter title is from one of my favorite BNL songs, off of Maroon called 'Go Home'.

She'd left her mark.

He wasn't the kind of guy that sat around, pining for a girl that was hell bent on denying him or his affections. The moment Rory called it off, Tristan should have moved on to the next available body. She should have dropped off his radar completely. It's how it had always been in the past; a break-up was a complete break. Something in his mind just shut off, making his need for that particular girl non-existent.

The only problem with expecting it to be the same was the fact that nothing about his relationship with Rory had been the same as any other relationship he'd ever had. She didn't exist for him only in his mind; his desire for her wasn't something that was limited to the images he could conjure up in his mind's eye. She'd seeped in deeper, infiltrating every last fiber of his body. He found that his arms ached because he couldn't hold her, his eyes burned because he couldn't see her, and even simple actions taken on his part felt hollow because none of them were taking him closer to her.

Still, unless directly confronted with her, he did his best not to dwell on the fact that the one woman he'd ever loved—potentially the only woman he might ever love—didn't think that love was enough to keep them together. The last time he'd seen her, he'd gone overboard. Even in the name of trying to get her to see reason, he couldn't rationalize his actions as anything other than pathetic.

He'd only gone on campus to see his guidance counselor. It was a routine trip, to have a conversation about his potential, his college plans (though he was pretty sure YALE was stamped in ink across any papers involving his college career) and which classes he needed to take to help him realize all of this.

He was in the process of sliding the No. 2 pencil his guidance counselor had offered him to mark the courses that would fill his junior year schedule—nothing cohesive enough to find this so-called path Mr. Embry kept badgering him about, but the finished result seemed to please him. Whether or not she would take any of the same courses entered his mind, but he couldn't decide if seeing her under their current circumstances was something he was ready to endure.

He just wanted to get to the bookstore to get his required reading and get out. He had one more week of solitude at home before his parents' return, and the same length of time before he was plagued by meaningless and uncomfortable run-ins with her in the halls. This was his last chance to walk around this place without her, but he hadn't counted on meeting ghosts roaming around that would affect him as much as a real-life encounter with his ex.

The interception caught him like a deer in headlights. Halfway to the Chilton bookstore, his literature instructor stepped out of an empty classroom. The look on his face was a mix of stricken panic and immediate understanding. Tristan instantly knew there was no longer a wedding to ask about out of pleasantry or to show his good manners. Max Medina had the same affliction he was suffering from; he'd been blindsided by a Gilmore.

There was nothing he could say, but the longer they stood there staring at one another, the more it was inevitable that someone had to say something.

"Tristan," Max found his voice first. It was full of hope that what wasn't to be would be sidestepped all together.

"Mr. Medina."

It seemed wrong, to be so formal with a brother in arms. But they were on school grounds and shared no connection that the world outside of Stars Hollow would recognize, besides the fact that they were a teacher and his pupil. Tristan couldn't even remember a time when his life was so simple.

He cleared his throat. "I'm just headed to the bookstore."

Max shifted to one side, grateful that the chance meeting showed no signs of becoming prolonged. They'd both been through enough.

"Right. Don't let me stop you. I'll see you in class."

He sounded normal enough, but that look in his eyes… it was haunting. Tristan wanted to tell him that he understood, or that he empathized in a way that no one else could, but he opted for nodding and letting each man go about mourning their losses privately.

His solace, he knew, wasn't to be found at the Chilton bookstore, pretending that nothing had changed and life was going on as planned. He abandoned the prudent plan and found himself behind the wheel of his car, crossing county lines as he dialed her number on his cell phone and hoping against hope that he'd learned something about these women in the time he'd spent as someone important in her life. And if not, then he figured at least a road trip probably couldn't hurt.

XXXX

He hadn't bothered to tell anyone that he wouldn't be home that night. Even if his parents had been home, it was more likely that one of the staff would notice the discrepancy at the dinner table before them. There was only one person that he cared about being able to locate him, and with any luck she'd find him the next day.

He spent the night with his phone on the nightstand, next to the tray of room service he barely picked over. His anxiety left him when he finally got a response from her in the form of a text message. She didn't give him any information at all, certainly not giving away her whereabouts, but he was still sure that he was correct in his guesstimate. If Lorelai had run away, she would have but one resource at her disposal to distract the one person she couldn't run from, no matter where she went. A trip meant they were finally going to discover what lie ahead for Rory at Harvard, which was as much of a dream of Lorelai's as it was for Rory.

He did wonder if the school would now offer her enough to make losing him worth it. Not just the pain she'd inflicted on him, but the agony he'd seen in her eyes, felt built up in her muscles, and released in their last kiss.

He would never be sorry he'd taken that particular liberty.

XXXX

He ordered a cup of coffee and prepared for a long wait. The waitress was clearly a student, only a few years older than he was. The pretty blonde coed tilted her hips to one side as she paused at his table, asking if he needed anything else. He assured her it was only the coffee he was looking for, at least from her.

Tristan took a sip, letting the strong brew overwhelming him for a moment. Before they had come to this coffee shop together, Rory had done an on-the-street reporter search for the best coffee on campus, because, as she'd so bluntly informed him, she couldn't go four years with bad coffee.

He knew it would be a stop for the women on their tour, though he had no idea how to go about getting Rory alone once that happened. If pressed, he was fully willing to present his feelings right in front of Lorelai. At this point, he couldn't hide anything anyhow.

His main aim now was to make sure Rory was okay.

She didn't see him at first. Satisfying her craving was at the forefront of her mind, as if she'd gone days on end without the only thing that could fill the void created in her. And it had nothing to do with him.

Rory walked right past his table upon entering the shop, but he knew it was her before she came past his back and into view. She was moving quickly—something she only did to get coffee, if she were running late for class, or, once upon a time, when she was coming toward him in greeting—and he caught the scent of her freesia shampoo. He watched, sitting back in his chair, as she stepped impatiently to the counter and ordered two large cups to go.

He could never be sure with her if that particular order was just for her or if she was being forced to share with someone else, meaning she wasn't as alone as she appeared to be. He was as patient as he'd ever been as he waited for her to turn and recognize her audience.

It wasn't total disbelief in her eyes as they focused on his. He could tell that while she hadn't let herself expect him to be there, her imagination had still given the idea more than a passing thought of what it would be like if he was. Instantly he just wanted to know if those thoughts were spurred by need or want, because he sure as hell didn't want any of this.

He'd come all this way, but he wasn't willing to take the extra three steps necessary at this point. She had to need him, too.

And she did.

"What are you doing here?" she asked as she approached his table. She didn't run into his arms, by any means. Her steps were cautious, as though he might have come for the attention of the college waitresses.

"I told you. I saw Medina."

Her eyes checked the door. Clearly Lorelai was looming and not up to joining such a discussion.

"How is he?"

Tristan shrugged. "As good as could be expected."

She nodded, not wanting to expound upon it.

"How are you?"

She crossed her arms as she stood against the side of his table. "Mom's not really saying much. I thought she'd talk to me, but so far she just drags me around in the Jeep, no destination in sight," she began to ramble.

"Rory," he reached up and touched her arm to get her attention to focus. "How are you?"

She sat down in the chair next to his, her leg brushing up against his. He didn't let go of her arm, and she made no sign of trying to break free.

"I'm … disappointed, I guess? I don't understand," she bit her lip and searched for the words. "Max is this great guy, who loves her, and I thought she loved him," she looked up into his eyes. "How do you not know if you love someone?"

He couldn't look away from her. "I don't know."

She looked down at the table, or maybe at where their legs were nestled together, he couldn't tell.

"Tristan?"

His heart stopped, as if instructed by the tone of her voice. "Yeah?"

"I've been doing a lot of thinking."

He nodded slightly, almost afraid to interrupt her. "About?"

"I think I want to go to Yale."

He wasn't about to read more into her words than what she was willing, or able, to tell him. They'd been through too much. Just because he loved her didn't mean that he could make her be ready to be in this relationship. He'd learned that much.

"Why is that?"

She took in a breath. "Academically, they're on an even keel. I'd get a great education either place. But there are things I'd have to give up if I came to Harvard that I'm not willing to let go of."

He cocked an eyebrow. "Like what?"

She smiled as she put her hand over his. "Well, at Yale, I'd be close to home, close to Mom and my grandparents. And then there's you."

"You didn't want to make this decision based on me," he reminded her. He knew there was more, and it was all he had to hear to believe her, but he still had to hear it first. He couldn't take vague promises of maybe.

"I know. That's why I've done so much thinking lately, especially since Mom called off the wedding. It just seems to me that in some cases, you'll get more than one opportunity to accomplish certain goals or experience things," she paused and took in another breath. One of bracing courage. "I understand if you don't agree, after everything I've done, but I'm not sure that people get a second chance at finding what you and I had. I don't want to have to call off a wedding to a guy that I want to love in fifteen years. I just want to be with the man I love, regardless of everything else."

He squeezed her hand and nodded. In the movie version of their lives, music should have swelled in the background and he would have taken her into his arms and set a new record for longest on-screen kiss. But while it was what he wanted to hear, she was right—she'd put him through a lot. She'd doubted everything they'd been through together. He'd never understood how she could think what he felt for her couldn't be enough. Nothing had seemed insurmountable to him, even going to different schools in the near future. Maybe she would have protested at his using his wealth in such a way, but even if it entailed weekly cross-country plane trips and nightly long-distance calls, he would have footed those bills gladly.

"I need you to be sure. Maybe Medina was fooling himself, but I saw… he loved your mom. It was more than canceling the wedding. She changed the course of his entire life. I've been thinking a lot too, realizing that I couldn't make you change your mind," he shook his head.

"I've got two large coffees to go!" came the voice from the counter. He could see she was in no state to get up from the table, lest she shatter into pieces on the way to the counter. He stood up, leaving her alone at the table, and walked to the counter.

"Put these on my tab," he said in a low voice.

The flirtatious waitress looked nonplussed as she took his cash. He stuffed the change into the tip jar and walked back over to where Rory was still seated. She hadn't moved an inch. He reached his arms around her shoulders and set the coffees on the table in front of her. He took the opportunity to lean in close, his mouth to her ear.

"Is Lorelai waiting for you?"

She nodded.

"I'm hoping that's the reason you're not telling me that giving this another shot will be worth it; that you won't freak out on me again."

She turned slightly back to look at him. Her eyes glittered with unshed tears. "I didn't think…."

He sighed. "I came to Boston. Did you really think I have any other choice but to still want you?"

"I really don't deserve," she broke off before the tears came and closed her eyes, leaning in close enough to rest her forehead against his cheek.

"I could tell you that it's too late, all the same shit I've been telling myself about moving on and getting past us. But I'm here."

In the next moment she was wrapped around his torso, warm and clinging, her lips seeking his for the first time in too long. He let her melt against him, his stronger arms encasing hers, lifting her closer to him and not noticing the fact that everyone in the shop was staring at them.

This, they soon realized, included a rather surprised, caffeine-deprived brunette in the doorway. In fact, if not for the fact that she cleared her throat so obviously, he wasn't sure how long they might have stood there in the middle of the shop sealed to one another as if they had all the privacy in the world.

"How long was I out there?" she asked, somewhat rhetorically.

"He followed me here. Can we keep him?" Rory asked playfully.

Lorelai raised an eyebrow at the pair that was still dangerously close to each other, in that way they had that made a mother more nervous than any classified phobia ever could. "You realize the coffee's on you now that you've invited yourself along," was all she said in response.

Tristan smiled. "Already done."

Lorelai nodded. "All right, then. Shall we go?"

Rory looked back at him. "You don't have to, we've already," she began, making sure of his intentions.

"Do you want me to come along?"

She nodded. "But only if you really want to."

"Okay, enough. You've making me sick already," her mother groaned. "I realized you're due for the obligatory smushy get back together haze of gooey goodness, where you're oblivious to everyone else around you, but could you at least wait until I'm out of sight for a good five minutes? Or at least under the effects of a really good sedative?"

Her daughter handed her the second coffee in response. Lorelai snorted. "Oh, it's going to take way more than one cup of coffee to deal with a newly reunited two of you for the next day. Oooh," she said as the caffeine kicked into her system. "I think I've found an avenue for my revenge!"

Tristan and Rory exchanged a knowing and worried glance and started to book it for the door just as the singing began.

"Reunited and it feels so go-oood… Reunited 'cause we understo-oood…."

XXXX

Four months later

"You're late."

"Did you ever consider that you're early?" Lorelai baited Taylor as she and Rory settled into the two seats that Tristan had saved for them. He wrapped an arm around his girlfriend's shoulders, still damp from the walk from the Jeep in the rain. Both women were dressed up from their weekly dinner at her grandparents' house. He kissed her temple in greeting and she slipped a hand on his knee as they listened to the bickering.

"This isn't a parked car, you two. No one appreciates public displays of teenaged hormones running unabated."

"I always thought it was called affection," Lorelai mused.

"And I definitely appreciate it," Tristan piped up.

"What kind of example are you setting? They're your responsibility," Taylor chastised Lorelai.

She raised her hands. "Whoa, he's not mine. I tolerate him, but I don't claim him on any kind of governmental form. And she's very responsible."

"Aw, come on, Mom," Tristan teased.

She shot him a lethal look, making him actually think twice about the teasing that came so naturally.

"Not even a little?" he checked.

"Unless you find blinding, fatal-wound-inducing pain humorous," she offered.

"Taylor, isn't this an emergency meeting?" This time it was his girlfriend, the general voice of reason, to speak up.

"You'd know that if you weren't late," Taylor huffed.

"But we sent a seat-saver, I mean, a representative," Rory reasoned.

"He's not a representative if you won't claim him."

Rory pointed to her mother. "That was her!"

"So, you claim him?"

"Just get on with this, Taylor," Luke grumbled from across the room. "Some of us were on time and don't have all night."

"You are going to be open later, right? I need pie," Lorelai spoke across the room, completely ignoring Taylor.

"No one needs pie," Luke sighed.

"Then why do you serve it?" she challenged.

"Didn't you just come from dinner?"

"So?"

"People! I called an emergency meeting. All this pie talk isn't helping! There are serious, more pressing issues at hand!" Taylor yelped as he banged his gavel on his hand in his vigor.

"You should put some ice on that," Ms. Patty mused from her seat at his side.

Taylor looked beyond exasperated. Tristan smirked and pulled the bag of popcorn he'd purchased across the street before coming into the dance studio from under his chair. The movie at the Black, White, and Read that he and Rory were going to was on hold until after the meeting, but the concession stand had already opened. His warm hand met hers in the tub of buttered and popped kernels.

"I'm trying to talk about elephant ears!"

"That's it. I'm gonna kill him," Luke announced as he stood up.

"I'm completely serious! The winter carnival is three weeks away, and we are in serious danger of being without elephant ears! What is the winter carnival without elephant ears?"

"The eternal question, yet again," Lorelai reached for the popcorn.

Rory smacked her hand away. "You're getting pie."

Lorelai turned to Tristan and gave him the same face that usually resulted in him giving into whatever the demand was when Rory used it. Luckily, he was only susceptible to the charms of one woman. He shook his head.

"Guess claiming me now doesn't sound so bad, does it?"

The meeting continued on with a rush of unsuitable suggestions for replacing the regular elephant ear vendor, who apparently wasn't likely to make bail before the carnival. .Lorelai suggested a pie booth, run by Luke, who in turn threatened not to stay open after the meeting, whether or not people had blood sugar issues.

By the time they emerged, hand-in-hand, Tristan wasn't sure he could sit still for another two hours.

"Let's take a walk," she suggested, as if reading his mind.

"You want pie?" he asked knowingly.

She smiled and laughed into the night air. "No. I just feel like I've already had dinner and a show."

"How are Richard and Emily?" he asked, referring to the prior events of her evening.

She shook her head in resigned frustration. "Less subtle than some."

"I said I'd come," he responded supportively with a tinge of I-told-you-so.

She gave him a look. "Mom said you were too eager."

"It's just a dinner."

Rory sighed. "That's what I said. But Mom's sure that they'll invite half of Hartford or try to fit me for another cotillion dress."

"Your mother has trust issues."

"Just be glad she trusts me," she poked him in the chest.

He looked around as she continued to take the lead on their walk. "Where are we going?"

She looked up at him. "Now who has trust issues?"

"I trust you. I was just hoping for somewhere secluded."

"You always want to be somewhere secluded. Maybe we should see about getting you a nice padded room for some solitary confinement."

He wrapped an arm more securely around her waist. "As long as you're in there with me."

She rolled her eyes at him; after all this time, he still couldn't resist such comments. If he really thought she minded, perhaps he'd try to put a cap on it, but the way she leaned into him in the silence accompanying her disgruntled facial expressions led him to believe she enjoyed the pubescent version of flirting.

"You know I always have reasons for wanting to be alone with you."

"This is why my mother is only half kidding when she talks about letting Emily pay for having a chastity belt custom made."

"Who's chaste?" he asked in a deeper tone, making her blush. "Seriously, there was something I wanted to discuss with you."

"You want to talk?" she asked nervously. While they had been together without much unnecessary drama for the last few months, the last round of tests had left him with fewer nights with her as she'd barricaded herself off in study mode.

"Relax. I realize you think that they only way you, who has the highest G.P.A. in our class and couldn't fail a test unless you weren't allowed to take it," he smirked at her, reminding her of the one and only test she missed at Chilton their sophomore year, "is to quarantine yourself off. But I think that all this hard work, and patience on my part, should be rewarded."

Her anxiety faded into suspicion. After all, she couldn't throw him very far. "What kind of reward?"

"I'm thinking of spring break."

"Spring break?" she repeated.

"Yes, you know that week they give us off for good behavior? Even the school thinks we deserve to enjoy ourselves some time."

"I know what spring break is, thank you."

"Good. This is kind of the time to be planning for that trip."

"Trip?" she blinked.

"A journey to somewhere that isn't here."

"You're going somewhere?"

"Ah, see, I was hoping that we would go somewhere."

"I'm not going to Florida," she shook her head. He figured she'd want no part in the teenaged wasteland that was the annual mecca for every single girl gone wild and boy wishing to witness said girls.

"But I already bought you a thong," he deadpanned.

She smacked him, hard, in the arm and gave him her most disgusted look. "I refuse to wear butt floss."

"It's not like you'd be wearing it very long," he reasoned.

"Tristan," she warned.

"Relax. I'm not talking about Florida. But we can discuss thongs, since you seem to have dismissed them altogether too easily."

She waved a hand. "Then what are you talking about?"

He stopped and turned to face her. She stopped in confusion and looked up into his eyes. He had been thinking about broaching this subject for a while, and even though they were happy and relatively stable—they couldn't give up fighting completely, after all—this still gave him pause.

"I was hoping we could go back to my family's beach house."

Her eyes widened, and she pulled her bottom lip between her teeth, instantly beginning to worry it. "Tristan," she said gently. She wanted to let him down easily; her tone was saturated with the sound of gentle dismissal. Even if she wanted to go, in her mind it wasn't an option.

"Hear me out, okay?" he said quickly, willing to have her hear his thoughts before her own could cement the negation in her mind.

She nodded, a good sign that underneath all the why nots, there was a desire to go.

"First of all, we'll go to Lorelai together and ask her if it's okay with her," he said perhaps the most important bit of the plan outright, if nothing else to show her that their time together had taught him something, and he was putting her first.

He saw the hope flash over her face before she lowered her eyes. "She's not going to go for it."

"She might. First of all, sadly, we're not going to be alone."

"We're not?"

He sighed. "My parents will be there. They were supposed to be going to Spain for the week, but my aunt called Mom and suggested we all meet there for the week."

"So—we're going to be hanging out with your family?" she asked slowly. It was a new concept, after all.

"I think Emily's been making some calls," he smirked. "All of a sudden, Mom's been asking me all these questions about you and us," he sighed. "Not that I want to spend a vacation sharing you with my parents, but not only will having you there be a nice distraction for me, but it will shut her up a bit if she gets to know you a little."

"Wait a minute. You have to go."

He really had hoped she wouldn't have caught onto that fact so readily. "Yes."

She suddenly smiled with great triumph. "Huh."

"Rory," he shook his head.

"You really want me to come, don't you?"

He sighed. "So much that my back up for Lorelai saying no is asking her to join in on the fun."

Her eyes widened in glee. "Ohmygod. Tristan Dugrey, I don't believe it."

"Do you want to go, or not?" he narrowed his eyes, not enjoying being teased.

"That depends. How much do you want me to go?" she walked backward, leading him on.

"You're going to drag this out and torture me, aren't you?"

"May-be," she drawled.

He sighed. "I don't have to take this kind of abuse," he lied.

"Sure you do," she batted her eyelashes.

"Fine. Let's talk logistics. What's it going to take?"

"I'm not sure you can afford this hefty of a price tag," she shrugged her shoulders as they walked under the grove of trees, out of sight from traffic and pedestrians roaming around town. They walked along into the dark, seeking out solitude together and continuing to wager, back and forth in a struggle of wills, fighting it out for different means to the same end.

Because in the end, it wasn't a scar, but proof of what their love could withstand, that she'd etched into his soul.