Disclaimer: I don't own Gilmore Girls, though I wish to. But I do own the idea of The Log House Restaurant because I made it up for this chapter!

Never Say Goodbye Again

Sometimes life throws you these moments where everything is perfect.

And if you had it in your power, you would freeze time, just so you could relive that moment, forever.

But time can't be frozen and so that singular moment passes you by, like dust in wind, and you're left wondering if you merely imagined the whole thing.

But Rory knew she couldn't be imaging this. Because it was too perfect, too amazing, too real.

Real in the way the breeze caught her hair in its gentle fingers. Real in the way the sun kissed her skin ever so softly.

She wanted to memorize everything about this moment. So that she could be sure she'd never forget it, just in case she was never granted another moment like this one.

But if the man sitting across from her had any say it that, Rory was sure this feeling would become oddly familiar.

It was just the kind of man she'd discovered he was. A man of detail and passion. A man that held open the door for her and kept it open so the elderly couple behind them could shuffle in to.

A man that turned off his cell phone the minute they'd sat down at their table, claiming there was nothing in the world that couldn't wait an hour or two.

His actions brought an unsinkable smile to her face. And she quickly found herself wishing that hour or two window could be expanded into four hours, then twelve hours, then a week.

If only time would stop moving forward.

If only she could freeze this moment.

"So you do like the restaurant, right?" he asked again, laying his forearms on the table before him and leaning in towards her.

Rory smiled and nodded. "I honestly never would have thought you'd bring me here."

He grinned. "Mission accomplished."

Her eyebrow rose in question. "And what mission would that be exactly?"

"My mission to keep you on your toes."

"Well you're definitely succeeding in that," she agreed, letting her gaze drift over the restaurant, still feeling her bewilderment at his choice of dining.

She'd laughed at first when she saw the restaurant. The word rustic came quickly to her tongue, and yet she meant it in the most positive way. The Log House Restaurant was just as it seems, a huge, two storey log cabin refurbished into a restaurant. It was pretty from the front, made of dark wood beams and surrounded by tall, leafy trees. But it was the inside that had took her breath away.

The entire first floor was one open space, except for the further most corner that she assumed was the kitchen. The strong scent of wood hung in the air and Rory found herself breathing it in deeply as their waiter had brought them further into the restaurant. The tables were large, easily seating four or more people, and yet they were comfortable, with forest green table cloths and porcelain dinnerware. The second storey was held up on huge wooden columns, vines growing up their sides and twisting all the way to the top.

"This place is amazing," she'd whispered to him as they walked towards the stairs that led up to the second storey.

"Just wait, Mary," he'd whispered back and she'd been left confused as to what he meant.

Her confusion didn't last long. As they reached the top of the stairs Rory was met with the awe inspiring sight of huge fir trees, flocks of birds, glistening waters, and a blue sky that stretched on for what seemed like forever. The entire outer wall of the second storey was a huge floor to ceiling window, looking out over a sparkling lake and its natural surroundings.

"Oh wow..." She'd been utterly speechless, lost in the magnificent sight of forest and nature.

"My grandfather showed me this place," Tristan revealed, bringing Rory out of her memories and back to the present.

"Really?" she asked, curiosity shining bright in her eyes.

Tristan nodded, a wistful expression donning on his face, making him look much older than he was.

"He used to spend his summers fishing. Whenever he found the time he would load up the car, bring the boat, and just disappear for the weekend." His eyes shined with laughter and affection, only a small note of sadness registered in their blue depths. "He'd come back early the next week, maybe one or two fish in a basket. Tiny ones to, I don't think he caught anything bigger than my hand. But he loved it you know, he'd spend forever just sitting out on the lake, a fishing line in his hand."

"It sounds nice," Rory commented, though her nose was turned up a bit. "The solitude, not the catching the fish part."

Tristan laughed. "I'll have to take you out one weekend!"

Her eyes widened. "Remind me to be busy that weekend..." she teased, threading her fingers through her hair.

His grin intensified. "Aww, come on Mary," he coaxed.

She smiled, shaking her head. "You were telling me about your grandfather," she reminded him, rolling her eyes.

"Yeah, yeah," he conceded, "but this discussion isn't over!" He laid his hands down on the table, his head turned to gaze down at the lake right outside the restaurant. "He found that lake one summer and loved it. Said it was the most peaceful place he'd ever been. The bugs were few, the fish were biting, and he'd found his...I don't know what to call it exactly..."

Rory laughed. "His happy place?" she offered, blushing when he stared at her intently.

Tristan smirked and extended his arm, grabbing onto her hand and threading their fingers.

"Anyway," he continued, that small spark of sadness growing larger. "He got sick the end of that summer, he couldn't get out here anymore, couldn't get anywhere really. It wasn't until the next summer that he was able to get up and take the drive down here..." Tristan paused and Rory squeezed her hand around his, feeling the emotions running through him. "And it was this restaurant he found."

She tilted her head to the side and was about to say something when the waitress came by, brandishing their drinks and entrée's Tristan had ordered early.

"Thanks," Tristan told her, smiling and the women nodded.

"Are you two ready to order?" she asked.

Rory blushed, moving to pick up the menu she hadn't even looked at yet. She'd been so completely caught up in Tristan.

He smiled at her, squeezing her hand that was still grasped in his. "We're gonna need a few minutes," he said politely.

The waitress nodded and smiled before walking off to a table a few down from theirs.

Rory worried her bottom lip, glancing up at him from behind her menu. "So? What's good here?" she asked.

Tristan smirked, opening his own menu and shrugging. "The fish?"

Rory laughed, a wide smile breaking across her face. "Fish it is then..." she decided and they held gazes for a minute longer then need be.

- - -

Her face was alight with excitement as they walked from the restaurant later that afternoon. She'd never asked what part of Connecticut they were in, although from the complete isolation of the restaurant she could assume somewhere in the country side.

The land was covered by a thick ring of fir trees surrounding it. Their tall trunks hidden by pointed, prickly pine needles covered in mounds of white snow. The snow was untouched in most areas, a stark difference to the grey sludge that lined the sidewalks out front of her apartment. But out here, in the middle of no where, the ground was hidden beneath a fluffy mountain of pure white flakes.

"You cold?" Tristan asked, his hand pressed firmly against the small of her back, the gesture warming her more than he would ever realize.

Rory shook her head, though her cheeks were stinging a tad and she knew they were probably bright red in colour. Nothing, not even the temperature, could distract her from the beauty around her.

He laughed and started to unbutton his woollen jacket. "Yeah right," he told her. "Here, take my coat."

Rory frowned, her hands immediately pushing his coat back up onto his shoulders. "No," she refused. "I'm not taking your coat so you can feel all chivalrous while you freeze to death."

He rolled his eyes, slipping the buttons back into place. "Fine, but the guy's suppose to offer his coat. I have it on good authority."

"Charm school?"

He grinned. "Only the best for a Dugrey."

Rory laughed softly, watching him out of the corner of her eye for a moment. He was taller than she remembered, his hair shorter, his eyes colder. He was different, older. She wanted to ask him about his life, wanted to know what he'd been through, wanted to know everything he'd ever been through.

"So…" She forced the word past her lips, rolling her eyes at his grimace.

"Oh joy," he exclaimed, sarcasm dripping from his voice. "The awkward conversation that always rears its ugly head on first dates."

She arched a brow at him, clearly unimpressed. "Not awkward," she promised and shyly, with one glance at his face, grabbed his hand with her own.

Tristan's eyes snapped down to their hands, his fingers flexing for a moment before he grasped hers in return. His lips lengthened in a slow smile and Rory felt a bubble of warmth explode in her chest.

"Just don't ask me what my major is, and I think we'll both survive," he told her, smiling ruggedly.

Rory shook her head. "I can't know you're major? I would think that's a rather important thing to know. I mean, it's something you're planning on basing your entire life on. What if you were majoring in accounting and I didn't know and I took my accounting needs to some other guy on campus!"

He looked at her, laughter shining in his blue eyes. "You know people who major in accounting?"

"No, but that's not saying I'll never meet anyone who is," she explained. "I wouldn't want you to feel left out or anything."

"Well how about I tell you now that you're free to take your accounting needs to any guy on campus," he told her, smiling. "Or better yet, you could call up a paid professional if you're feeling crazy enough!"

"You're making fun of me!"

His smirk was larger than ever, though his eyes tried to mask his laughter behind a veil of innocence. "Never.'

Rory pouted. "Mean."

"Japanese Business Management," he told her, his voice growing bitter as the words escaped his lips.

"What?" she asked, stilling as they finally came towards the car.

Tristan sighed and leaned back against the passenger door, running a hand through his hair. "My major, Japanese Business Management."

Rory furrowed her brows, confusion swimming endlessly through her mind. She opened her mouth to ask him why he would be majoring in that, when she actually let herself see him. The height he had on her earlier was all but gone, his shoulders hunched down as he jammed his hands into his coat pockets. His eyes were averted from hers, staring down at the ground and Rory swore she could feel the anger emanating from his eyes as if it was flames of fury licking over her feet.

But there was something else, something that had her biting her tongue and shuffling that much closer to him.

A sadness that seemed to dwell within him, a huge despair that threatened his soul as he stood before her.

Rory felt her heart clenching as she watched him. Her hands moved on their own accord, drifting to his coat and smoothing over the lapels.

"Tristan?" she asked quietly, her voice a gentle whisper.

He lifted his eyes to hers and she felt her knees almost give out under her weight. They were intense, his deep azure eyes, holding her frozen in place for an immeasurable amount of time. The emotions swirling through the icy depths of his eyes had her heart contracting in the need to comfort him.

And then they were empty.

And a different man was staring back at her, one cut off from everything around him, one cut so deeply that he let nothing show on his face.

Tristan nodded stiffly, swung the door open and motioned for her to sit. He kept his gaze locked on her as she carried out his request, her actions hesitant and confused. He tightened his grip on the door, cursing under his breath as he swung it closed and then walked silently to the other side.

"Tristan…I…" Rory trailed off as he leaned his head back against his seat and sighed.

"I'm sorry." His voice was coarse, like he was fighting a battle against himself of what explanation to give her. "I just…I wanted to tell you. But I…I can't talk about it…Yet…"

Rory watched him for another moment before she nodded, a gentle smile turning up her lips. And her heart leapt as he returned her smile.

She'd glimpse so many different sides to this man. His arrogance and his pride, his boyish charms, his passion and his dedication. But this was something different, something new. This was a glimpse at the man underneath all that, the man that he'd become in the years they'd been absent from each others lives.

A man who'd endured great suffering and great despair.

A man whose resentment was coiled so tightly inside him that he might never be free of it.

A man who couldn't bring himself to let her in…yet.

And it was that single word that had her smiling at him, that one syllable word that had her heart lit up with hope.

He wasn't ready to let her all the way in…yet.

- - -

A/N: Okay…so, I'm hoping everyone still remembers this story because it's been ages since I've updated it! Which I am sorry about, but exams and summative's got in the way. But school's finally over and now, other than working and shopping and stuff, I have two months free! So hopefully I'll get back into writing.

Thanks to everyone who reviewed the last chapter, and this story as a whole. You guys are just so amazing!

Hugs and Kisses,