I realize it has been a while and I hope there is still someone out there who remembers this story. It has been hard to find the right words to finish it, but it does need to be finished. So thank you for sticking by and thank you for all your input. Special thanks to bdevils76, your reviews were inspiring and motivating.
"Who is it?" she asked walking towards the door, her movements careful, purposefully calm.
The room was quiet and warm from the sun shining brightly through the windows, even as she could feel the slight movement of the air from the air conditioning, making her skin rise in goose bumps.
"It's me" she heard his voice and she froze, the chill on her skin becoming more apparent as her mind reeled with the fact that he was standing there, on the other side of the door.
"Tristan" she scolded, inhaling as the fluttering in her stomach intensified "you are not supposed to be here" she said, her voice dropping to a whisper.
"Open up" he said.
She listened to his voice. It was not pleading, not playful, but strong and determined.
"No" she furrowed her brows, taking another deep breath as she watched the door.
"Just an inch, come on" came his voice from the other side, insistent.
She sighed exasperated and opened the door slightly.
She felt the small current of air rush past her, the quiet of the room disappearing as she heard the noises from outside. She placed her hands against the door, willing herself to want to keep it from opening, as if her hands could persuade him.
She listened, holding her breath.
"You can't come in" she said, but he cut her off.
"I know" he sighed, drawing out the words and she felt a slight pressure on the door as she heard him scoot down onto the floor, his weight coming to rest against the door.
She took a deep breath, furrowing her brow slightly as she mirrored his movements and sat on the floor carefully, her head leaning back against the door.
She felt the forces balance out, her back resting comfortably against the smooth wood of the door.
"You freaking out yet?" he asked, his tone warm and playful, but there was something else she could hear there, something he undoubtedly tried hard to mask.
"For your information, I am not" she said, raising an eyebrow.
She waited for a moment then continued more quietly.
"I think I used up all my freak out passes."
He chuckled and took a deep breath. There was silence and she waited patiently, knowing he had reasons.
"I am freaked out a bit" he said, quietly but in one breath and she turned slightly as if trying to see through the door separating them.
"Why?" she asked worriedly as she held her breath once again.
"It's all those people there" he said "what if I mess up?" he asked, his voice bordering on laughter and she could tell he was trying to mask his nervousness.
"There is still time to back out" she joked calmly.
"I don't want to" he replied without missing a beat, his voice serious now. He sighed again and she worried her lower lip trying to identify whatever was bothering him.
"Tristan?" she asked.
"Hmmm?" he hummed and his tone made her think of Sundays spent in bed, when he would fall asleep next to her as she went on and on about something. She suddenly wished they were there instead of here.
"What's bothering you?" she asked quietly.
He sighed again.
"I just... I am afraid something's gonna go wrong, everything is going too well, something is bound to..."
"Are you worried I'll change my mind?" she cut him off.
There was a moment of silence, a cruel, telling, understandable moment of hesitation and she felt the old familiar waves of guilt rattle her gently.
She could picture him on the other side of the door, forehead scrunched slightly as he attempted to answer her, but he sighed again instead, as if not wanting to hurt her with his answer.
"I am sure" she said, her voice calm and quiet "never been more sure."
She felt her whole body tense with determination, her breathing becoming fast and shallow as she battled the urge to rise and open the door wide, to prove him with touch, with smell, with noise that she was and will forever be sure.
She calmed herself, waiting for his reaction instead, knowing that patience went further with him than noisy exclamations.
There was a beat of silence.
"Okay" he whispered finally, his tone warm, reassuring.
There was another silence, but it felt right, her body relaxing against the door once again.
"Tris?" she asked, her hand creeping through the crack between the door and the frame.
"Yeah?" he said as his hand touched hers, their fingers intertwining.
"You wanna hear how I remember it?" she asked, a small smile creeping on her face.
"What?" he asked, his voice slightly confused and she smiled, imagining him furrowing his brows in concentration.
"61st and Madison" she replied and heard his chuckle of recognition.
"Yeah" he replied and she blushed slightly.
She felt her cheeks warm and she closed her eyes, her fingers clutching his more tightly.
"I saw you step off the sidewalk, hailing down a cab and I recognized you instantly" she whispered, as if she were telling a secret.
She kept her eyes closed, recalling the memories that were somehow more colorful, and in slow motion, like dreams that you revisit again and again, painting them endearingly with every reminiscence.
"You looked taller, stronger, more grown up, but your eyes were the same as back in Chilton" she whispered, feeling as a little child confessing a crush.
"How so?" he asked as she paused for a second, his voice urging her to go on.
"I don't know, full of mischief" she chuckled, shrugging lightly.
There was silence on the other side of the door, as if he were holding his breath.
"I must have stared at you for a good minute" she admitted, chuckling again as she felt her cheeks flame.
"It's hard to catch a cab in the afternoon" he offered amused.
"And then you looked at me" she said, remembering that afternoon, almost four years ago with clear vividness "and it was so weird, because I remember it being a shitty day on a shitty week and a shitty year even, but... when I looked into your eyes, I suddenly felt young and full of life again."
"So you smiled" he said, his voice barely a whisper.
"So I smiled, because everything felt a little lighter for a moment" she said. He squeezed her hand warmly, his warm skin heating hers as she tried to make that warmness her own, strengthening her from the inside against the soft trembles of her body.
"So as long as you can make me feel like that with just one look..." she inhaled, feeling strong and determined "we'll be fine" she finished her confession.
She felt him squeeze her hand again affectionately and she closed her eyes smiling.
"What are you doing here?" she heard her mother's shrieking voice from across the door, shaking her from her reverie as she heard Tristan shuffling to get to his feet.
"Nothing" he mumbled from the other side and she chuckled, imagining her mother's scolding look.
"You are not supposed to see the bride before the ceremony! Geez, you two just can't be trusted. You get out there" she heard Lorelai start giving the orders as Rory got up from the floor, straightening out the layers of her huge white wedding gown.
"And you" her mother continued as she walked through the door, closing it firmly behind her "finish getting ready. Those socialites are gonna get trigger happy if they don't see a perfectly executed wedding in five minutes!"
She laughed, rolling her eyes at her mother who shook her head in disdain, and Rory couldn't help but smile. One of those brilliant smiles that lit up her face.
He chuckled as he left the small room behind, hearing Lorelai scolding Rory inside.
He felt lighter, almost weightless, having managed to just talk to her, sense her after the past two days of having to go without her nearness, those two hectic days of organizing, rehearsing and being separated 'for traditions sake'. Last night was the first for months that he had to spend alone in his bed, without her and he barely slept, his head and heart filled with anxiety.
But now, he felt reassured, relaxed, as if he weren't about to walk into a room full of about 400 guests.
It all suddenly felt like a last, measly obstacle before the finish line, before forever after, before her being his forever and always.
He froze in his track, instantly recognizing the voice coming from behind him, from the adjoining hallway he just passed.
He turned slowly, the finish line in his mind suddenly obscured.
He narrowed his eyes, studying the form standing in the shaded hallway.
Even with the barest hint of light, he could see the weary lines on his face and it sparked a familiar feeling of hollowness inside his stomach.
"Jess, I thought you wouldn't make it" he said, pleased with the way his voice remained calm.
The man's mouth turned up in a crooked smirk before he turned around taking a couple of steps down the darkened corridor.
Tristan swallowed, taking a deep breath before he followed Jess.
He watched as he came to stand by the wall.
He studied his form, his shirt slightly battered under his suit jacket, his hair careless and longer than he'd last seen it, his face tired and thin.
He waited for him to speak, his whole body tensing slightly as he concentrated.
"I'm not staying" Jess said quietly and Tristan felt a sudden rush of relief, even as he willed his body to stay motionless.
"She would be happy to know you're here" he stated calmly, knowing it was the truth.
There was a glint of that smirk again before Jess took a deep breath.
"I wanted to..." he started, trailing off as if the words were futile.
There was a pause and Tristan's heartbeat seemed to slow, his every cell becoming still in order to listen, to understand.
"I don't know what the fuck I wanted" he heard him murmur.
There was silence again and Tristan felt the heat of the afternoon, streaming in through the walls despite the controlled atmosphere.
"You wanted to see her" he said, offering.
"I don't think I can" Jess said, his voice suddenly broken.
He nodded, patiently, his fingers flexing only slightly by his side.
"And I wanted to talk to you" Jess said and the words all but startled him.
He looked up, seeing the brown eyes transfixed on his, intense and restless.
"I want to be the bigger person here, Tristan" he went on "I want to see her get married to you and not be bitter. I want to remind myself that she is happy with you" Jess said, his eyes slowly finding his.
"And I want to not hate your guts, because you are good for her, and you... didn't screw up" he went on, the last part more quiet, like a broken confession.
There was a moment of silence and Tristan waited patiently, knowing there was more.
"But there is always ways to screw up" Jess spoke, his words barely audible.
The words spurred no surprise in Tristan, no fear or hate. He breathed calmly as he waited for Jess to finish his monologue.
"I don't know what I want to tell you..." he went on, his voice slightly whimsical.
"...that I hope to god you don't mess up, or that I will be here if you do" he said, the emotion breaking through.
"Jess" he called out his name, his voice soft, as if he were trying to give him a chance to control himself.
It made Jess tense, his eyes squeezing shut as he took a deep breath.
"Can you not tell her I was here?" he asked, swallowing.
"Yeah" Tristan murmured.
"Thanks" he replied, walking past him, his steps hurried.
"Jess" he called out as he turned after him, seeing him stop in his track.
There was a lot to say. But words were not his forte. And there really weren't right words to express what he felt about this man. About the eternal rival, about the conquered, about the unease that he could still spark inside him.
But sometimes silence was enough.
The words were simple, void of emotion, void of purpose.
Jess waited a moment, then walked away without looking back.
Tristan stared after him.
He sighed, letting all tenseness leave his body with the expired breath. He closed his eyes, listening inward, trying to find the peace he knew he needed.
"Tristan?" he heard Lorelai's voice from behind him and he opened his eyes without turning.
"Yeah?" he replied still staring into the empty hallway.
"We are ready" came her voice.
"Okay" he said, turning around.
He felt his face calm, his body come alive with concentration.
"Hey" Lorelai said, catching his attention and he looked at her.
He watched as she hesitated, her blue eyes uncharacteristically uncertain. She approached him as he watched, slightly perplexed. There was a moment of silence between them and her arms suddenly jutted out as she hugged him impulsively, squeezing him close.
"You are frightening me" he murmured, but his hands moved to hug her back.
"Shut the hell up" she replied without missing a beat and he chuckled.
He stared down the aisle as he heard the march begin to play, his heart skipping a beat as he saw her turn the corner, her father walking her out into the sunlit garden. The sunlight sparkled on her hair flowing over her shoulders in loose curls, her eyes as brilliant as ever, and her simple yet beautiful wedding gown creating an heir of perfection. She looked simply breathtaking and he let out a quiet "wow" as his best man patted his back in appreciation.
Their eyes met and he saw her smile, the very same smile that seemed to have started all of this and suddenly all his nervousness, his worries and fears were gone, remembering her words from a couple of minutes ago.
He took a deep breath watching as she walked on, between the rows of murmuring guests, the bright flowers lining the isle. He held her gaze, the dozens of curious eyes around them becoming a blur as he focused on her beauty, her warm smile and shining eyes.
He watched as they reached the altar, her father kissing her on her forehead and leading her up to face him, before taking a seat in the first row next to Luke and Lorelai.
He took her hand and she smiled again as the music finished.
"Forget the black dress" he whispered "this one is much better at giving me a boner."
She choked and gave him a scolding look as the priest raised an eyebrow.
Tristan looked up at him, realizing he heard.
"Sorry father. I'll make sure to do three Hail Mary's tonight to make up for that" he said, his voice full of mischief and Rory gasped, turning a deep red as she caught the innuendo.
"We are gathered here today..." the priest started and she gave him a look.
"You are in trouble" she mouthed and he chuckled, not being able to hold back anymore. He took a step towards her, his hand circling her petite waist and his lips met her protesting ones in a bruising kiss.
He heard the crowd gasp in shock and the priest stop mid sentence as he kissed her thoroughly, feeling her protest slowly wavering.
He stopped and looked at Rory, who was trying to steady her breathing with eyes closed and he couldn't help but smile.
"Big trouble" she repeated as she opened her eyes, but she was already smiling.
"Sorry, couldn't resist" he said with a smirk as he took her hand into his and turned back to the priest.
"Five Hail Mary's" he said bargaining and the priest smiled at them continuing the ceremony.