Author's Note: Well, I hope you all enjoy this part. It's still shorter than the parts that I normally write, but I hope what happens makes up for it. As always, please kindly click on the review button and let me know what you think. ;)

She stood in the kitchen, gazing out of the window into the dark, inky blackness of the night. Removing the plastic wrap from a plate of Sookie's sugar cookies, she bit into one, the sugar granules immediately melting sweetly on her tongue. The sudden, hollow sound of a knock on the front door startled her at first, as she dropped the half-eaten cookie back on the plate. Wiping her hands on the material of her pants, she hurried to the door, hesitating with her hand wrapped around the cool metal of the knob. When the hair at the back of her neck prickled, and her stomach flipped, somehow she knew whose form was concealed on the other side of the door. She slid the lock back, tugging the door open and her heart inexplicably skipped a beat at the sight of him.

The sky was awash with clouds behind him, blocking the luminescent glow from the moon, but the cobalt blue of his eyes still managed to flicker invitingly, enhanced by the navy sweater that he wore over a pair of crisp khakis. And he suddenly found it impossible to take his eyes off her, almost as if they were glued to her frame. She had changed into pajamas, a simple long-sleeved T-shirt and flannel bottoms, but he had never seen anyone more beautiful. And, for a moment, he forgot how to breathe. Her hair was hanging loosely over her face, and she reached up to brush a strand out of her eyes causing her shirt to raise up ever so slightly, baring a slim expanse of her stomach. Swallowing deeply, his gaze was instinctively drawn downward to that creamy patch of skin. Mentally shaking himself, his head jerked back up to meet her stare as she, in turn, quickly glanced away, pulling at the hem of her shirt with fisted fingers. She hadn't missed the heat that had flared in his blue depths when they had skimmed up her body, and to know that he found her attractive in that way had her cheeks turning a tinge of pink in embarrassed pleasure.

He couldn't help the involuntary smirk that spread across his features at the knowledge of the affect that only he had on her. His piercing gaze never leaving hers, he chuckled in amusement as she did nothing but stand in the door way, making no attempt to move and let him in. Noticing his expectant expression, she blinked, quickly moving back to allow him access to her house. But with that one simple movement, it felt like she was allowing him access to so much more than that. He stepped inside, rubbing his hands together to relieve them from the numbness that had spread through them. Nervously, she fiddled with her fingers, locking her hands in front of her before finally crossing her arms in front of her chest. The way he was looking at her, a look that was a cross between practically devouring her and then something else she couldn't quite define, had her coherence taking a flying leap out the window. Not quite sure what to say, she managed to stammer, "I… I'm sorry that I wasn't there tonight. I had to…" Her voice trailed off, her throat drier than sandpaper.

"I know." He cleared his throat, nodding in understanding.

She frowned when he didn't respond with a typical smart-ass remark. "Oh," she said quietly. He took a step closer to her, and in his nearness, the babbling ensued. "I was just in the kitchen eating… Sookie brought over some cookies earlier. They're sugar… and homemade… and really good. Do you want one?" She felt like slapping herself over the head.

"No." His answer was simple, tinged with a irrefutable layer of huskiness as his eyes drank her in, not leaving much to the imagination of exactly what he wanted. A small smile quirked on his lips as he reluctantly broke the electric eye contact between them. "I missed you tonight."

She laughed then in complete disbelief. "You? Missed me?"

"Yeah, I didn't have anyone to torment." He rocked back on his heels as he casually delved into their well-played game. A game he now reserved only for her.

"I'm sure by the end of the night my grandparents were at their height of frustration where you are concerned."

"Actually, they loved me. I'd go as far to say that they're probably in the midst of planning our wedding right now. But, of course, the honeymoon details will be left up to me." Grinning lasciviously, his hand reached up to caress lightly down her arm, feeling her warmth beneath the cotton material of her shirt.

"I'm surprised my mother didn't kill you."

"Don't kid yourself, Rory. Your mom was quite taken with me, and all in all, it was a productive evening. But… I would much rather have been here, flirting with you." With that last sentence, his hand found her much smaller one as he pulled her in his direction.

"You're not flirting." She uttered it stubbornly, attempting to remove her hand from his but failing miserably. And in the back of her mind, she tried not to acknowledge the fact that their two hands were clasped together like they belonged there.

"I'm not?" His eyes twinkled with amusement and an unexpressed desire that he had had to hold back for far too long as his other hand slowly raised to point out the tiny bundle of mistletoe that hung in the doorway right over their heads.

Rory inwardly cursed Lorelai's decorating habits while rolling her eyes disdainfully at Tristan. "In your dreams," she muttered, frustrated, but still not making any move to separate herself from him.

"How did you know?" He faked an aura of shock.

"It's typical Tristan behavior."

"Well, Rory, it is a Christmas tradition, and I'm not one to go against that."

"Maybe you're not, but I am." She suddenly became very interested in their feet, her gaze fixedly trained on them. She knew that if she met his penetrating stare, she would lose herself in him, tossing away all hope of being rescued.

"Shame, Rory. You're going to anger the people who created this tradition, but I'm sure just a hug would suffice." He smiled triumphantly when she groaned in defeat.

Ever so slowly, she stepped closer to him, hesitating before placing her arms around his neck as her fingers grazed the soft, golden tendrils of his hair. Immediately, his arms moved to encircle her waist, his hands spanning the bare skin on her lower back as he gently pressed her body to his. He felt a shiver travel down her spine at his touch as his hand unknowingly slipped a little further underneath the back of her shirt. Quickly removing it, he ran his fingers through her hair, playing with several of the silky strands. "Relax, Rory." His request was barely a whisper of air against her ear as she felt her body melding to his, burying her face in his shoulder. The pressure of his lips to the top of her head and the soothing circles his hand was tracing on her back would have had her melting into a helpless puddle if it were not for the strength of his strong arms holding her up. It was almost as if he were holding a delicate china doll in his arms, a treasure meant to be cherished. He cleared his throat awkwardly, uneasily breaking the silence between them. "Rory, why did you let me kiss you that night at Madeline's party?"

She jerked her head from its resting place on his shoulder as she gazed wide-eyed up at him. She reflexively tried to take a step back, but he still held her tightly in his arms. His own eyes were filled with questions that only she had the ability to answer, but she was at a loss for words. She had no intentions of telling him the truth. That she had finally realized, after all this time, that a part of her had wanted him to kiss her that night. She was glad that he did. If he hadn't she wouldn't have known how a true kiss was supposed to make her feel - like she had been on the edge of a cliff only to tumble down at the sheer touch of his lips. As difficult as it was for her to admit, his kiss had left her wanting more of that feeling. Wanting more of him. But she could never, ever tell him that only to have him laugh mercilessly in her face. So, she responded in the only way she knew how. "I didn't let you."

With a tilt of his head combined with a small smirk, he brought up the point she knew he would. "You kissed me back."

She attempted a dry laugh, but it came out resembling something more like a squeak. "You caught me off guard."

"Well, if you kiss like that when you're caught off guard, I can't imagine what it be like when you know exactly what my intentions are." He dipped his head closer to hers, their lips mere centimeters apart, enabling her to smell the minty fragrance of his breath. "Like right now." His voice was rich with huskiness and almost unbearable need as his face moved nearer to hers. Intuitively, her eyelids fluttered closed as she moistened her lips in anticipation of his kiss. But it never came. His lips grazed her cheek, trailing a path to nuzzle the corner of her mouth before he pulled away. One glance at his impish smirk, and she knew that had been an intentional move on his part.

A slow smile formed on one side of his mouth at the rosy blush their encounter had left on her cheeks. Oh, there was no doubt he had wanted to kiss her. The need for that was nothing less than overbearing, but he had reeled himself in with an extremely thin string of restraint. Taking it slow had always been crucial with her, but it was becoming increasingly difficult when his own undeniable need for her fought him every step of the way. "I better get going." He vaguely heard himself mutter those words, wanting to kick himself for backing off, for giving into doubts. Something that he was not entirely comfortable doing. When she just shuffled her feet, her eyes flitting from him to the door, he grudgingly turned his back on her as he took a step towards the door. Her soft, slightly pleading voice stopped him in his tracks.

"Tristan."

There was an underlying edge of tenderness present in the way she spoke his name, something that had almost always been absent before. He glanced over his shoulder at her, reveling in the small, welcoming smile that played daintily on her lips. Clenching his hands into fists at his sides, he seemed to be contemplating the consequences of exploring a path that was still only a minute possibility in his every waking moment. She bit her lip thoughtfully, a gesture she had done a million times before, but this time it had his blood roaring triple time through his veins. In two steps, his long stride narrowed the distance between them as he cupped the back of her neck with his hand, feeling her tremble beneath his commanding touch. "Now you know that what's about to happen has nothing to do with tradition." The words came out in a deep, hushed growl as his lips claimed hers. Her eyes remained open in astonishment before they slowly closed as she responded to his glorious assault of her mouth. The embrace was feverish as his hand buried in the mass of her chocolate brown hair, his other hand fisting in the material at the back of her shirt. She bent her head back, allowing him easier access as his tongue explored the recesses of her mouth. After several minutes that only seemed like seconds, he broke the bond that had formed between them, his forehead moving to rest against hers. With each breath he took, it seemed to catch in his throat.

He lifted his fingers to graze gently across her swollen, aching lips, both of them trying to console their labored breathing. As if it were almost innate, his mouth sought out hers again in the darkened room, one solitary finger tilting her chin up to meet his. He leisurely, tantalizingly caressed her mouth with his this time, savoring the taste of her and the way her limbs were turning to Jell-O against him. With each sensation coursing through her body, Rory could feel herself becoming one with him. Nothing else existed. It was akin to a deliberate, unhurried seduction as her fingers curled around the beads of his puka shell choker, bringing him closer to her, if that were even possible.

He had fallen, and she was dancing on the precipice.

With a strength beyond will, he tore himself from her, taking a few measured steps away from her. Tucking his hands into his pockets, preventing himself from doing something that they both weren't ready for, his fingers brushed the package that he had hidden there earlier. Almost has an afterthought, he slid the gift from his pocket as he glanced back up at her, taking in the glazed look in her eyes. He grinned, amused when her gaze jerked up to his. He tossed the wrapped box to her, and she snapped out of her daze long enough to catch it with both hands, curiously turning it over to peer at the name on the tag. A slow, satisfied smile spread on his lips as he took in her puzzled, yet pleased expression when she noticed that the name was hers. "Merry Christmas, Rory." With a wink and a heart-stopping grin, he walked out the door, closing it softly behind him.

Her fingers tucked carefully around the precious gift, she took a deep breath, the scent of his cologne lingering on her shirt and hair. Her lips were still puffy, reminiscent of his kisses. "Merry Christmas, Tristan." Her only answer was her voice echoing in the silence of the room.

*****

He had walked down half of the slippery, ice-covered path before the dim light from the Gilmore's living room beckoned to him like a lighthouse beacon would to a stranded ship. His eyes followed her slender figure as she walked into the room and took a seat on the couch, the lights from the Christmas tree making it appear that fairy dust had been dabbled across her skin. She was still holding his gift unopened in her hands, seemingly deep in a range of whirling thoughts. As if sensing his presence, she glanced towards the window and saw nothing but her reflection staring back at her.

Outside, the skies had burst open, and flurries of snow were now swirling around him as he hunkered down against the icy breeze that pierced its fingers right through his heavy sweater. He recognized the familiar dread at having to return to that cold mansion, empty of any real feeling. The bitter, void mood threatened to consume him yet again, smothering him under its vast emotions of anger and helplessness.

But then his thoughts turned to Rory and her obvious acceptance of him. Her willingness and eagerness to return his kiss. And, for the first time in a long while, he felt warmth. With one last longing look in her direction, a wistful smile on his lips, he turned and disappeared into the night.

*****

After turning the package over and over in her hands several times, almost as if she were still a little girl prolonging the excitement on Christmas morning, she slid her finger underneath the thin layers of tape, freeing the box from the deep green paper. Gingerly removing the satin bow, she lifted away the delicate layers of tissue paper, revealing the contents of the box. And her gasp was clearly audible in the quiet room, only muffled by the slight crack of embers from the fireplace. With a shaking hand, she lifted the angel out of the box, blonde hair forming a golden halo that crested down her back, hand reaching out for her perfect match, her other half. The one already hanging from the highest bough on the Gilmore Christmas tree.