Title: Unholy Alliance
Author: Angel Grace
Pairing: Established relationships for L/L and P/J; R/T…eventually
Spoilers: May reference anything from seasons 1 & 2
Disclaimer: The characters depicted here were created by Amy Sherman-Palladino, and are the property of Hofflund-Pollone and Dorothy Parker Drank Here Productions. They are used without permission. No copyright infringement is intended, and no profit is being made from their use.
Summary: Seven years after graduating Chilton, Rory and Paris are business partners. What happens when they strike up a joint venture with Tristan DuGrey?
Author's Note: Well, now, this is just getting ridiculous. Two updates in two days? Obviously, this is what happens when I don't have enough to do at work. We're getting closer to the finish line, but it's not over yet, folks. Finally, this chapter's title quote is from A Few Good Men, which I watch every time it is on TV (and own on DVD). It seemed appropriate, given Tom Cruise's recent batshit-craziness in the media.
Part Thirty-eight: "Thank you for playing should we or should we not follow the advice of the galactically stupid!"
Emily Gilmore was critically eyeing the fresh flowers in her foyer when the doorbell rang at 9:42 am. She glanced up in surprise, murmuring, "Who could that be at this hour?" Crossing the hall, she opened the door and beamed at her unexpected guest. "Tristan! How lovely to see you. Is Rory expecting you?"
"I don't think so, Mrs. Gilmore. Is she here?"
"Yes, she's in Richard's office. Please come in. And how many times do I have to tell you to call me Emily?"
He smiled and stepped into the house. "Just once more, I guess. How have you been?"
"Oh, we're fine. We've certainly enjoyed having Rory here with us, although we wish the circumstances were different."
"Of course. She's doing well, though?"
"Why don't you go see for yourself? You know the way? I simply must do something about these flowers."
He nodded and took his leave, hanging up his coat along the way. The door to Richard's office was open, and Tristan could hear animated voices as he approached. When he reached the door, he saw that Rory and Richard were in the middle of a spirited discussion. He stood and watched them for a few minutes, until Richard glanced up and saw him. Immediately, he broke off the conversation. "Tristan! Good to see you. Please come in, join us."
At the sound of his name, Rory spun in her seat, her face registering her shock. "Tristan..." she said weakly. "I didn't expect to see you today."
He shrugged casually, and sat down beside her. "I thought I'd surprise you. Besides," he said pointedly, "it has been a week."
"Yes it has. Guess I shouldn't be surprised, then."
Richard, completely unaware of the undercurrents, simply smiled graciously at the couple. "I think it's a wonderful surprise. You'll have to join us for lunch."
"I'd love to, but I was actually hoping I could steal Rory away for a while. What do you say?" he asked, turning to her.
"I don't know if I should..." she hedged.
"Nonsense!" Richard declared. "The doctor gave you a clean bill of health yesterday--you should get out and enjoy it."
Rory grimaced. "Grandpa, it's twelve degrees out."
"I'm not suggesting that you go for a walk, but perhaps it would be good for you to get out of the house for a while."
"Actually," Tristan interjected, "I was thinking maybe we could go to Stars Hollow. I haven't seen Billy and the twins in a while, and we could even get you a cup of Luke's coffee."
Rory's expression brightened, and Tristan suppressed a grin. Apparently it sounded sufficiently non-date-like enough to not freak her out. "That sounds like fun," she said. "You'll just have to give me a little time to get ready."
"No hurry," he replied easily. "I'm sure your grandfather and I can find plenty to talk about."
"Indeed," Richard agreed heartily. "Why don't you run along now, dear? I'm sure you don't want to keep your young man waiting too long."
She flushed lightly. "Yes, Grandpa," she murmured before all but bolting from the room.
As soon as she was gone, Richard turned his penetrating gaze onto Tristan. "You may find me old-fashioned, young man, but I need to know what your intentions are toward my granddaughter."
Tristan didn't quail under the older man's stare. "They're honorable, sir. I care for Rory very much, and I want a relationship with her. The extent of that relationship is up to her, though."
"I see. Are you prepared to commit to her? Do you see marriage in your future? I won't have Rory trifled with."
"Neither will I," he said with quiet assurance. "I love her, and I can't imagine anything better than spending my life with her. But I don't think she feels the same way. Not yet, anyway."
"Very good. The truth is, Rory's grandmother and I both feel you're a much more suitable match than that Ryan fellow. The DuGreys are a prominent family here in Hartford. Of course Rory, raised under Lorelai's influence, doesn't seem to understand that."
Tristan fidgeted slightly in his chair. "I appreciate your support, sir, but I don't want to be with Rory because it's 'suitable.'"
"Of course you don't. But it will make things...easier in the long run. From your end--and from ours."
He nodded, the unspoken warning clear: any "unsuitable" behavior, and Richard was prepared to make his life difficult. Or put more simply: hurt Rory, and he'd be screwed. Fortunately for everyone, hurting Rory was the last thing he wanted to do.
They moved on to somewhat safer topics then, like their respective business interested and the plight of the Yale hockey team. They were deep in discussion about the state of college athletics when Rory walked back into the room.
Tristan thought she looked beautiful. Her soft blue sweater highlighted her eyes, a pair of cream-colored corduroys completing the cozy outfit. A knitted hat was perched atop her head, and a scarf and winter jacket were draped over one arm.
"You ready to go?" Tristan asked.
"Yep. Luke's coffee awaits!"
He affected an injured expression. "You're only using me for the coffee, aren't you?"
She grinned. "Uh-huh."
He turned to Richard. "What do you think--should I take her for coffee or leave her here?"
He chuckled. "Son, never get between a Gilmore and her coffee."
"You tell him, Grandpa."
"You two have fun today. Please say hello to your mother for me, Rory."
"I will." She walked over and gave her grandfather a kiss on the cheek. "I should be back sometime this afternoon."
"No need to worry about that. You just enjoy yourself."
"Thanks, I will."
Tristan and Rory headed out of the house, stopping to say goodbye to Emily first. When they reached the car, Tristan held the door open for her, and Rory slid into the passenger seat, an odd look on her face.
While waiting for the car to heat up, he twisted in his seat to face Rory, who was staring straight ahead through the windshield. "You okay?"
Mutely, she nodded. After a moment, she said, "I'm surprised, that's all. I guess I thought I'd have time to prepare myself before I saw you."
"Is it really so bad?" he asked, trying to keep his tone light.
She finally looked at him. "No, I just... I thought things might be weird between us."
"No, not really. But Tristan, I still don't feel like I've figured everything out. I don't know what's going to happen."
"Can't we figure it out together?"
He shrugged. "The usual way, I guess. Trial and error."
"But where do we go from here?"
"How about a date? Isn't that the obvious place to start?"
He smiled. "Yeah, you know, dinner, a movie, that kind of thing. Totally non-threatening."
She gave him a shy smile. "I'd like that."
"Good. This Friday okay?"
"Sure. Pick me up at six."
"I'll be back in my apartment by then. At least that way my grandparents can't interrogate you."
"Oh, you know they love me."
She made a face. "Yeah, they do. Haven't quite figured that one out."
"I'm just teasing. My grandparents have been trying to fic me up with guys like you since college, that's all."
"'Guys like me'?"
She ticked off the requirements methodically. "Good family, well off, good education, attractive..."
He interrupted with a smirk. "So you admit you find me attractive?"
She blushed. "I'm not blind," she said defensively. "You've always been good-looking, and you know it."
Her flush deepened. "Sorry. That was a pretty backhanded compliment, wasn't it?"
"To say the least."
She took a deep breath. "I apologize. I do find you attractive, Tristan. I'm just not sure how I feel about that yet."
"I've always thought you were beautiful, Rory," he said quietly. "I hope you know that."
"Thank you," she murmured, ducking her head in embarrassment.
Sensing that she was growing uncomfortable with the direction of the conversation, Tristan decided to change the subject. "I'm really looking forward to seeing Emma and Charlotte. They seem to get bigger by the day."
She smiled, obviously relieved. "I know! They're growing up much too fast. Billy did the same thing. It's going to be fun when Paris has her baby. I love it when they're tiny, and fall asleep on you. It's so peaceful."
"You want kids someday, then?"
"Sure. I mean, I always assumed I'd have them eventually. What about you?"
"I never used to think about it, honestly. But up until I met your brother and sisters, I never even knew I liked kids, y'know? I was never around them."
"You like them now, though?"
He grinned. "C'mon, you know Emma has me wrapped around her little finger. Much like her big sister," he added.
The blush was back. "Tristan..."
He ignored her protest. "Where do you want to go first--to see the kids, or to Luke's?"
Rory looked at the clock on the dashboard, and considered the question. "Let's go to Luke's first. My mom picks up Billy from kindergarten around noon and takes him to the inn, so we can see all three kids then. That gives us plenty of time for an early lunch at the diner."
"Sounds like a plan."
Tristan was exhausted. He and Rory had pulled the three kids out of the day-care room at the inn four hours earlier. Not wanting them to disturb the guests, Lorelai asked them to take the children back to the house. Billy, Emma, and Charlotte had been running them ragged ever since.
Rory had just gotten Charlotte to go down for a nap, and Billy was playing with Matchbox cars in his room. Emma, however, simply refused to be separated from "her Twisty," as she had taken to calling Tristan. For nearly an hour and half, she had been pulling book after book off the shelves in the living room, crawling onto his lap, and demanding that he read to her. Now, his voice was hoarse, and they were running out of books.
When they were halfway through Richard Scarry's Best First Book Ever, Rory came into the living room and sat down beside them. She smiled as Tristan gamely recited the adventures of Lowly Worm, Mr. Frumble, and many others. His voice nearly gone, he finally finished the book and realized that Emma was at last asleep.
"Do you want me to take her?" Rory asked in a whisper.
He shook his head and yamned. "Leave her. I don't want to make her up."
Grinning, she told him, "You're a good sport, Tristan."
He smiled back, his eyes tired. "Thanks. I just don't know how to say no to her."
"You're going to be in so much trouble when you have kids of your own."
Later on, he would blame his next words on fatigue. Without thinking, he replied, "I guess you'll just have to be the disciplinarian, then."
As soon as the words were out of his mouth, he wished he could take them back. Rory's eyes were huge, and a look of sheer panic washed over her face. He immediately tried to minimize the damage, but he didn't think it was working.
"I didn't mean that the way it sounded. Obviously I don't know who the mother of my children will be. And it's certainly not like I expect it to be you, or anything. So just forget I even said anything. Okay? Rory? Are you listening to me?"
She didn't respond, which he found worrisome. Instead, she stood up, her expression glazed, and walked out of the room.
He wanted to go after her, make her understand, but he didn't dare wake Emma, or he'd be reading children's books until the Apocalypse. And so he just sat there, the little girl asleep on his lap, panic and frustration mounting within him.
And he wondered--had he just ruined everything with a single, careless sentence?
To be continued...