A/N: Here's the deal folks. If you comment on this chapter and tell me that you voted in the election today, I will post the next chapter, which is ready and waiting. But I need twenty voters first. And don't lie. That's just un-American. I don't care who you vote for, whether it's a mayor, senator, or president, although I hope it's all of the above. Go out and voice your opinion. Be a part of one of the most historic votes in history. You'll thank yourself later.

"Tristan, remind me again why are you such a manwhore?" Rory asked as she arrived at her locker to find him making out with another girl…again. Pushing the girl to the side, he shrugged. He dismissed the girl with a wave and she walked away without saying a word. Rory scoffed at the mindless obedience and shook her head.

"What?" He asked innocently.

"Nothing."

"Come here." He beckoned and she walked a little closer to him. Without removing his back from the locker he pulled her into his embrace and started kissing her. The bell for the next class started ringing. And ringing. And ringing.

"Rory! Turn off that damn alarm and get up already!" Lorelei cried. "You're going to be late for school."

OOOOO

"I want a ten page paper on a specific election of your choice. I want you to compare and contrast the politics of the past with the current politics in Washington." The bell rang and Rory instantly blushed, remembering her dream from the night before. Walking to her locker, she was confronted with the same sight she saw every day. Tristan was leaning against her locker, flirting shamelessly with a girl. He laughed at her face disgusted face.

"You're unbelievable. How are we still friends?" She asked him as the girl walked away.

"Well, that's simple." He said nonchalantly. She waited expectantly. "You can't resist my handsome face and witty charm."

"Don't bet on it." She said sarcastically. In truth, even she didn't know why they were friends, but she did enjoy sparring with him every day.

"Damn Mary, what's up with you today?" He asked, picking up on her bad mood.

"Nothing." She said as she slammed her locker and started walking toward the bus. He stepped in front of her and blocked the hallway. "I'm going to miss my bus." She said.

"I'll give you a ride." He said without blinking. She folded her arms. "I'm not letting you by until you tell me what's wrong." He said, this time more sympathetically. Rory suddenly found her shoes interesting. "You're going to tell me eventually, so just save us all the trouble and tell me now." With a heavy sigh, she finally met his eyes.

"I broke up with Dean last night." She muttered.

"I thought it was your anniversary?"

"It was." She said, still upset by the fact. "He told me he loved me." Tristan's stomach dropped at her words. "I didn't say it back."

"Uh-oh."

"Yeah." She sighed. "Look, it's over, I don't want to talk about it anymore." Her sad face made his heart hurt.

"You know, Dean didn't deserve you. You were always way out of his league."

"I don't know about that, but thanks anyway."

"I mean it." He smiled. "Do you want to hang out for a while?"

"I can't, I have a History paper to write."

"We could get some coffee, it will make you feel better." She smiled.

"No fair, I can't turn down coffee. It should be against the rules to ply me with my favorite drink. "

"I don't play by the rules Mary. I make them." He joked as he wrapped his arm around her shoulders and gave her a big squeeze. With a quick shrug, she pushed him off.

"For that, coffee's on you." She said as they walked out the doors.

OOOOO

"So are you going to Maddie's party tonight?" Tristan asked as he handed her the mug of coffee.

"I don't know. I was going to, but now…"

"Because you don't have a boyfriend, you're not going to go to a party? That doesn't sound like the fiercely independent girl I first met."

"I'm just not really in the mood, you know? I mean, just because I didn't love him didn't mean that I wasn't happy when I was with him." Tristan stared at her.

"You really liked him?" He asked, not believing her.

"Yeah." Rory said with a small smile. "You look surprised." She said behind her raised coffee mug.

"I never would have pictured you with someone like him."

"You picture me with guys a lot?" She asked.

"No, but you're so smart. You read more than anyone I've ever met and you know more about pop culture than I think is humanly necessary."

"You make him sound like a blathering idiot." Tristan raised his hands.

"Hey, your words, not mine."

"Stop it! He wasn't that bad!"

"What did you even talk about?" He asked as he took a sip of his coffee.

"Stuff." She said. "Whatever came up in conversation."

"Stuff." Tristan said, clearly proving his point. "You were bored out of your mind, admit it."

"Why do you care?" She asked him. "It's not like you are getting intellectually stimulated in front of my locker every day." Her words cut him like a knife, but he tried not to show it.

"No, that's a different kind of stimulation entirely." He said putting his classic smirk firmly in place. Rory saw the falter in his expression and noted it. She had touched a nerve.

"Why don't you ever date?" She questioned him. "You're smart, you could, and probably have, get any girl in school." Not every girl, he thought to himself.

"I'm not a serious relationship kind of guy." He said. "I don't have the emotional stamina."

"We've been friends for years." She pointed out. "What's the difference between friendship and a relationship." Tristan shrugged.

"It's easy with you." He said. Rory locked eyes with him, trying to figure out what he was saying. "Think about the party tonight, I think you'd feel better if you came." He said.

"I'll think about it." She said.

OOOOO

Rory entered the party with a lot of doubts. She hadn't wanted to come, but between her mother and Tristan, she was forced into it. It was for her own benefit apparently. Spying the drinks table, she figured that she would ease her doubts with a little punch.

"You came!" Tristan said over the pounding music. Rory just nodded. "I'm glad."

"How many of those have you had?" Rory asked.

"I can't be happy without being drunk?" He asked.

"The two usually end up together in the end." She said, knowing him. "So have you picked out the girl for the night?"

"Not yet." He said. "I was thinking of hanging out with you for a bit."

"You don't have to babysit me. I'll be just fine."

"Rory! You made it! So sorry about Dean, that really sucks." Louise said as she grabbed a soda from the table behind them. "Let's dance." Before she could answer, she was being pulled toward the makeshift dance floor.

OOOOO

It had been a while since Tristan had last seen Rory. He was keeping pretty close tabs on her tonight, although he didn't know why. He figured he was just protecting her, wanting her to be okay after the whole breakup, but the truth was, he was starting to fall for her. He didn't know when it had happened; there was no revelation or moment when things changed for him, but change they did. It was starting to get to the point where it was affecting their friendship, which was the last thing he wanted. He would rather have her as a friend than not at all. Wandering throughout the house, he finally found her in a spare bedroom.

"Hey," He said as he leaned against the doorframe. Rory looked up at him. She loved the way he leaned all the time, against her locker, against the wall, against his car. It was a piece of him that was consistent, that he couldn't hide from her. The dark room and the light from the hallway contrasted to silhouette him. "No lights?" he asked. "I'm surprised you're not reading."

"What are you doing here?"

"Looking for you." He said as he slowly walked towards her. "What are you doing in here all alone?"

"Thinking." She said.

"Ah." He said as he sat down on the bed next to her. "You want to talk about it?" She shook her head. "Okay." He said, not knowing what to say. They sat there for a minute before she finally got the courage to speak her mind.

"I compared him to you." She said quietly.

"What?" He said, not following.

"Dean. I compared him to you…in my head." She pointed to her temple. "He would do something, or say something and the first thing I would do would compare him to you." Tristan exhaled sharply.

"I don't know what to say."

"You don't have to say anything." She said.

"Yeah, I do." He said as he turned to look at her. "It's the same reason I don't date." Rory was surprised by his answer. "I would rather spend my time with you." He admitted.

"Really?" He nodded.

"Ror," He said as he stared at her. "look at me." She looked into his eyes and got lost. Without even realizing it, her lips were against his. The kiss was light, but quickly deepened as Tristan finally got a taste of his best friend. His tongue explored her mouth and he felt her sigh. This was better than anything he could have ever predicted. She tasted so sweet to him. He was hooked. Rory abruptly pulled away from the kiss once her senses kicked back in. Her breathing was heavy as she stared into his eyes.

"What was that?" She asked as she touched her fingertips to her lips.

"I don't know, but I want to do it again." He said as he leaned back in and continued the kissing. Rory was completely surprised by the feelings that Tristan was evoking within her. She knew that this was going to change their friendship forever and it scared her. Pulling away again, she put her hands on his shoulders.

"I'm serious Tristan. This is big. We have to talk about this."

"Rory, you're my best friend, but can't we just appreciate this for what it is?"

"What is it?" She asked. "Do you know? Because I certainly don't. I'm not a girl who just randomly makes out with people, Tristan."

"I know you aren't."

"So are we friends who are suddenly kissing, or are we kissing and just happen to be friends?" Tristan sighed. He knew that the rational part of Rory's brain needed to sort out everything. They were exact opposites that way, which ended up working out pretty well for each of them.

"I don't know. What do you think?"

"I don't know." She shrugged. "I've never thought about…us," she paused as if the phrase totally freaked her out, "in more than a friendship capacity." Okay, that wasn't true, but the dream was just a freak one-time occurrence, right? He didn't have to know about that.

"What's the difference between our friendship and a relationship?" Tristan asked, pointing out her previous words.

"What happened to being emotionally stunted?" She threw his words right back at him.

"It's always been different with you." He said. "And I think that it's different for a reason." He looked into her eyes. "I like you Mare." She physically leaned back and examined his seriousness. "I didn't want to tell you, because I didn't want to ruin what we have."

"For how long?" She asked curiously.

"I don't know, a month maybe? When you told me today that Dean told you he loved you, I got a little jealous." He said.

"Wow." She muttered. She had no idea that Tristan had ever thought of her in that way.

"I think we should try this." Tristan said, putting it out there for her to hear, and probably dismiss.

"And what if it doesn't work out?" She echoed the thoughts that were nagging at the back of his mind.

"We'll have to cross that bridge if we come to it." He shrugged. "I can't see the future."

"Try." She said, a little upset at how casual he was being. "Because right now, I'm seeing you and me a few weeks down the road when you are bored and every girl in the school is throwing themselves at you saying things like 'She doesn't have to know. It will be our little secret.' I really don't see you saying no. Although I do hope to God that you are smart enough to not do it in front of my locker." She tried to joke to ease the tension.

"You honestly think that I have no self-control don't you?" Rory's eyes shot up at the sound of his hurt voice. "I mean, we've been friends for years and yet, you still see me like everyone else does."

"That's not true." Rory said, defending herself.

"I can't believe this." He ran his hand through his hair and stood up. "I thought that you were different."

"I just think that it's going to be hard."

"Relationships are supposed to be hard!" He shouted at her. "That's why I'm never in them. Easy relationships lead you to guys like Dean." He spit out the name like it tasted bad.

"Like you're one to talk." She said bitterly.

"You know what, forget it. I don't want this." He said as he walked out the door.

"Tristan, stop!" Her panicked voice followed him down the hall. "Tristan!"

"Leaving so soon?" Maddie asked. Tristan just slammed the door behind him.