Pairing: Established relationships for L/L and P/J; R/T eventually

Spoilers:  May reference any and all episodes from seasons 1 & 2, up to and including Lost and Found.

Rating: PG

Summary:  Future fic.  Seven years after graduating from Chilton, Rory and Paris are business partners.  What happens when they strike up a joint venture with Tristan DuGrey?

Unholy Alliance

by Grace

Part One: Of all the gin joints…

                Rory Gilmore needed a drink.  Even after all these years, there were still times when Paris could drive her to distraction.  Fortunately, the good times far outnumbered the bad, saving Rory from a life of alcoholism.

                It had been a surprising partnership, to say the least.  When both of Paris' parents had been killed in a car accident during her senior year at Harvard, she had become a very wealthy young woman.  She had approached Rory with an offer to start up an independent magazine following their impending college graduation.  Rory was hesitant at first, but the offer proved too tempting.

                Freshly capped and gowned, the newly formed G & G Publishing leased office space in downtown Hartford during the summer of 2007, and began working on the first issue of the Harbinger.  The focus of the magazine was to be cutting edge, whether it was dealing with politics or pop culture.  Paris would be listed as the Editor-in-Chief, while Rory would write and edit under the pen name L.L. Hayden.  Going in, Rory knew that it would be a struggle making compromises with Paris, but she believed their experience on The Franklin would help.

                After three grueling months, the inaugural issue was ready to go to press.  Paris used her family's connections to stage an extravagant launch party, and the magazine was well received.

                Three years later, they were still going strong.  They catered to a younger target readership than many magazines, and received several critical accolades for, as one reporter phrased it, "placing a finger on the sophisticated, intelligent pulse of today's young adults."  In fact, things were going so well that Paris was looking to branch out, which brought about the most recent disagreement with Rory.

                Although www.Hartford-Harbinger.com had been up and running practically since day one, Paris wanted to spin off an all-new, all-online edition of the magazine.  It would have the same type of content as the print edition, but with different writers and articles.  The way she saw it, a free online edition would entice new readers into finding out more about the publication, and hopefully subscribing to the print format.  Rory, on the other hand, was firm in her protest that it was too big of an undertaking.  Not only would they need to expand their writing staff, a web design department would need to be added.  An outside contractor maintained their current site, and the cost would be prohibitive for continuing that on the scope Paris was interested in.

                After a two-hour debate that culminated in some much-needed yelling, Paris had announced that she was taking a late lunch, and huffed out of the office.  Which was how Rory ended up contemplating whether she wanted an amaretto stone sour or a strawberry daiquiri when she got home from work.

                Her ruminations were interrupted by the beep of the intercom.

                "Yes, Tracy?"

                "Ms. Hayden, there's a gentleman here to see Ms. Gellar.  Since she isn't in, he's requested a meeting with you."

                Rory bit back a sigh.  "Send him in."

                Her head was bent over an upcoming column when the knock came at the door.  Without looking up, she called out, "Come on in.  I'll be right with you."

                Wanting to finish one more paragraph, she returned to her reading, only to be interrupted by a male voice uttering "Mary."

                Startled, she looked up, straight into the piercing blue eyes of none other than Tristan DuGrey.

                "Tristan?  What are you doing here?"

                "Nice to see you too, Rory.  What's it been, ten years?"

                "Nine," she responded automatically.

                She regretted it immediately when he began to smirk.  "Been keeping track? Aw, I never knew you cared."

                Even after all this time, Rory couldn't stop the rosy flush from creeping up her neck and cheeks.  "Some things never change, do they?" she commented dryly.

                "Come on, you know you missed me."

                "Honestly?  I never gave it much thought, although my life did become strangely peaceful after your departure."

                "You wound me, Mary." For a split second, she thought she saw an expression of genuine hurt flicker across his face.  "So, who's the lucky guy?"

                Puzzled by the abrupt change in subject, she could only reply, "Excuse me?"

                "Your secretary called you Ms. Hayden…"

                She laughed suddenly at the absurdity of his misconception.  "Hayden is my father's last name.  I write under the pseudonym L.L. Hayden."

                His eyebrows went up suggestively.  "So you're not married?"

                "Only to my work."

                "That's so sad.  Here I thought you'd be happily settled with Grocery Man, raising 2.4 kids and a dog."

                "As much as I'm enjoying this analysis of my personal life, you still haven't told me why you're here."

                "Paris told me to drop by if I was ever in the neighborhood, so here I am."

                "I didn't realize the two of you had kept in touch."

                "If it makes you feel any better, she never mentioned that the two of you worked together.  So I take it you're the other G in G & G Publishing?"

                Rory nodded.  "So what are you doing with yourself these days?"

                "Apparently, Chilton instilled an entrepreneurial spirit in all of us, because I started my own consulting firm.  We mainly do web design, but I'm looking for a new challenge."

                At his words, Rory felt a sinking feeling in the pit of her stomach.  She knew Paris would think Tristan was the perfect candidate for her expansion plans, and the thought of working side-by-side with him, every single day…  Keeping her tone casual, she said, "I always figured you more as the high-powered attorney or CEO type."

                "What, and go along with my father's life plan for me?" he scoffed.  "This was independent enough to shove in his face, and lucrative enough to make me happy."

                "The best of both worlds, huh?"

                "Something like that."  He glanced quickly at his watch.  "Look, I have someplace that I need to be.  Could you tell Paris that I stopped by?"

                "Sure.  I know she'll be sorry she missed you."

                Tristan stood slowly and extended his hand.  "It was good to see you again, Rory."

                She took the proffered hand, and ignored the warm tingles from the contact.  "You too."

                He started to leave, then stopped abruptly and turned around.  "I'm going to be in town for a few days.  Do you think it would be okay if I gave you a call, maybe we could go for coffee?"

                "Sure."

                He left without another word, and she leaned back in her leather desk chair, murmuring, "Of all the gin joints in all the towns in all the world, he walks into mine."

*              *                *

                Another hour went by before Paris returned to the office.  Rory was doing some research online when there was a tentative knock at her door.  Looking up, she saw her partner, appearing about as contrite as Paris ever got.

                "Can I come in?"

                "Sure.  I was just checking some numbers for that article on voting practices."

                "Oh, good.  Look, Rory, I just wanted to say that I might have pushed a little too hard this morning.  I still think we should expand, but I'm hoping we can come up with a plan that we could both live with."    

                Rory smiled.  "I'd like that.  By the way, Tristan stopped by to see you."

                Paris paled slightly, but tried to keep her voice nonchalant.  "Really?  What a blast from the past."

                "Save it, Gellar.  I know that you've kept in touch with him.  What I don't understand is why you felt it was necessary to be so secretive."

                "I just didn't think you'd care, that's all.  It's not like you two were really friends."

                "I wasn't really friends with anyone at Chilton, but that doesn't stop you from updating me on the latest antics of Madeline and Louise.  What gives?"

                Paris sighed.  "Look, Tristan caused a lot of difficulties between the two of us.  I just didn't think it was a good idea to dredge up past problems when things have been going pretty well."

                Rory nodded.  "Okay, but that doesn't explain why you never mentioned to him that you and I are partners."

                "You're just not going to let this go, are you?  Fine.  You want the truth?  We were in college before Tristan finally stopped 'casually' asking about you in conversation.  Whether you realized it or not, he was pretty hung up on you.  I didn't want to start him thinking he could be a part of your life again."

                "Paris, that was years ago.  We're all adults now.  I'd like to think we're all mature enough to put the past behind us and be friends.  Unless…you're still pining for him."

                Paris snorted.  "Not likely.  You know that I love Jess.  Nothing is going to change that."

                "I still think it's weird that you ended up married to my step-cousin," Rory mumbled.

                "Yeah, well, I still think it's weird that I ended up married before you."

                "True.  I suppose I should tell you—Tristan and I are probably going to go out for coffee while he's in town."

                "Okay.  Just…don't break his heart."

                "I doubt I could even if I wanted to."

                "You'd be surprised, Gilmore."

*              *                *

                Returning to her office, Paris closed and locked the door, then sat at her desk and dialed a familiar number.

                After two rings, she heard, "DuGrey speaking."

                "Hey Tristan.  I heard you stopped by."

                "Yeah, sorry I missed you.  So, were you ever going to bother mentioning that you were business partners with Rory Gilmore?"

                Paris stifled a groan.  Her day was seriously beginning to resemble the Spanish Inquisition.  "I didn't think you'd want to know."

                "Paris…" his tone was warning.

                "Fine, I didn't think you needed to know.  Rory was a part of your past.  I thought it would be best if she stayed that way."

                "Don't you think I should get to make that decision for myself?" he asked quietly.

                "It sounds like you already have," she snapped acidly.  "I hear you offered to take her for coffee."

                "News travels fast.  It's no big deal, just two old schoolmates catching up.  No different than a high school reunion, really."

                "Right.  No different at all.  Don't break her heart, Tristan."

                At the other end of the connection, he smiled sadly.  "I doubt I could even if I wanted to."

                "Just be careful.  Now when are you coming to see me?"

                "I have meetings all morning tomorrow.  Why don't we get together for lunch?"

                "Sounds good.  I have a proposition I think you'd be interested in."

                "Ooh, does Jess know?  And if he does, I must say that sounds kinky."

                "A business proposition.  Mind out of the gutter, DuGrey."

                They arranged for a time and place to meet the following day, and then hung up.  Paris smiled grimly.  Life was about to get interesting.

To be continued…