Disclaimer: The characters of Tristan DuGrey and Rory Gilmore do not belong to me. They are the property of the WB, Amy Sherman-Palladino and affiliates.

Chronicling Babylon

1. Genesis

It was not bright and sunny nor was it dark, gray and gloomy. The morning light spilling through the windows promised a moderate day, neither too hot nor too cold but a satisfying medium of the two. Essentially, it was perfect weekend - more precisely Sunday - weather; it invited a certain amount of slothfulness from a person. Hence at eleven am, Tristan was content to lie in bed doing nothing. He did not sleep although he currently dwelled on the edge of it, awake but dreaming. His eyelids drooped heavily against his eyes, and they would flutter shut and then open and then shut again. The balcony door was slightly ajar and air crept in, swirling about the room with a hint of early morning coolness although it was now almost mid-day. Because of the breeze, the white, cotton curtains danced giving him brief glimpses of the outside world. The city was resplendent with its high-rise, skyscraper buildings, the cars, the people, the traffic and the dirt. It was a city that had prospered and grown fat with riches; had some compelling hold over the people of the world. This city lured and allured, sparkled and bred, expanded to the heavens. And through the open door, the noise and smell of life and pollution from the city filtered through adding to the lazy haze of this Sunday. Tristan decided he would stay here, in this very position, all day, except for when the basic callings of nature such as hunger and thirst called.

He lived in one of the highest towers of this unfinished city, on the top floor with space to breathe. He lived a privileged existence and often thought of his fortune in a contemplative, philosophical, sometimes cynical manner. Other times he just tried not to think. And when he didn't think, he acted. He was a great actor. His fancies, his whims, his impulses, his emotions would come rushing out, controlled and uncontrolled. They spilled out with a life force of their own, so that everything he did had extra layers and meanings. Tristan ricocheted between stability and instability; he was all about dichotomies. He lived for the highs and the lows, and when life was linear he would grow restless. That meant that eventually mistakes would occur, but he had money, prestige and the DuGrey name. Mistakes could be covered, hidden, bought off and made to disappear. He had no regrets, and that was his mantra. No regrets, no regrets, no regrets.

His bedroom was almost all white: the walls, the bed, the carpet although it was more creamy than white. There were potted plants of green to add color and a mural of photographs of places he had been and people he knew scattered all over the room. On the floor were a few books and papers, a black sock and a navy colored one, a tie and a rumpled shirt; the room sat happily on the border between neat and messy. His head rested on three plump pillows with a small assortment of cushions around him. The sheets were pulled up to his chin and he enjoyed the feel of cotton against his skin as he moved restlessly in his bed. Still, despite his unsettled state, the room was heavy with lethargy. Again his eyelids shut and for a while he dallied with sleep but the rattling click of lock and key meeting interrupted the sound and rhythm of the room. A smile crept across his face; Tristan knew that it could only be one person. The soft familiar pad of feet and then the wafting aroma of coffee confirmed his suspicions even before his bedroom door opened to reveal his guest.

"Hey," he greeted her, though he did not bother to open his eyes.

"Hey yourself," she replied. "It's almost twelve. Time to get up, Tristan."

"I'm already up, Rory," he leered a little, adding innuendo to his words, and casually opened one eye to peek at her before shutting it.

"I can see that," she answered, ignoring the obvious, overt meaning.

"You can feel it too."

"Take your coffee and drink up," she commanded, "You need it. Usually you have more finesse but today you've only managed crude so far."

Sighing with resignation, he opened his eyes and took the coffee without further comment except to mutter, "Thank you."

"So, feel more awake now?"

"Maybe."

"Good, then you can get out of bed."

"I don't want to," came Tristan's petulant reply.

"Well, you have to."

"Why?"

"Because I have a list!" Triumphantly Rory pulled out a piece of paper and waved it in front of his face. "There are things to do, mister. The list says so. And for us to do them, you'll have to get out of bed."

"Let me have a proper look at that." When Rory handed the piece of paper over to Tristan, he gave it a cursorily glance before casually tearing it into shreds.

"You-you destroyed the list!"

"Yup."

"You destroyed the list," she repeated, flabbergasted at his impertinence.

"No list, no things to do. No things to do, no need to get out of bed." Sliding an arm around her waist, he pulled her down, on top of him. "Rest."

"I hate you," mumbled Rory as she gave in. "I spent a good deal of time on that list, and you just tear it up and disrespect it. Remind me why I am best friends with you?"

"Because I give good massages," Tristan replied as he began to rub her shoulders.

"Unfair," she gave a weak, obligatory protest. "Don't think that this by any means makes up for the destruction of the list."

"Shhh." He pressed a finger against her lips, more of a demonstrative act than an effective means of shutting Rory up.

"Don't tell me to shhh," came her incensed reply. She twisted around to glare at him and he smirked at the sight, which made her scowl. "You're impossible."

"And you wouldn't have me any other way."

She conceded his point by turning round and resting her head on his chest, finally allowing herself to completely relax. By some mutual, unspoken agreement they let the quiet humdrum of the city outside take over. The silence between them added to the tranquillity and the idleness of the day; they were completely at ease with one another. Almost absent-mindedly, he circled the skin of her shoulder while she drew tiny pictures on his arm. The passing of time went unnoticed by the two and without knowing it, they both fell asleep.

*****

Origin: a seed buried in the deep recesses of the warm, dark earth. In time a little green would emerge - a sprout of life sucking in carbon dioxide, absorbing the rays of the sun and quenching its thirst with water. It would grow and take its rightful place in nature until finally its life cycle had expired, and then it would be gone with only traces and memories to signify its existence.

They bought a sapling, a young apple tree, and decided to plant it in the garden of the DuGrey mansion, in Hartford. The planting took place near midnight with the glow of a reddish, quarter moon shining down upon them. Like people with secrets, they dressed in black and carried torches, to bury the roots of the sapling in the ground.

"You could help with digging this hole," Tristan complained.

"I'm holding the light," defended Rory. "We can't both very well dig. We only have one spade. And besides, it would be too dark. We need light and I'm the source of light, or rather the bearer of the source of light. My task may seem trite but really it is very important."

"So, let me hold the torch and you dig."

"Nope."

"Why not?"

"B-because you're the man!"

"And this line of argument coming from Ms. Feminist, herself?"

"Hey, this whole planting an apple tree in your parents' garden, in the middle of the night, was your idea. I'm just here to help."

"And a lot of help you're providing," came Tristan's sarcastic reply.

"Hello? Are we forgetting something? I'm acting as the torchbearer. If I decided to walk away, then you'd be left alone in the dark and in a quandary. So, you should start showing some respect."

"Whatever," he grunted. "There. I think I'm done; the hole looks big enough."

"Hmmm. Maybe a little bit deeper?"

"You just want to see me sweat."

"Yes, that's the very reason, I live to see you sweat. Quit complaining DuGrey and start digging."

"I'm digging. I'm digging."

"Oh, wait! Stop! Gah, now you've done it. The hole is too big now. Add a little bit of dirt to fill it up."

"Now, the hole looks exactly the same size as it did before," he observed, though there was a hint of accusation in his voice.

"Well, I wasn't sure if it was big enough last time. But now I know that it was big enough. So, shouldn't you plant the tree?"

"I'm doing it now, so quit fussing. Y'know, if there is one thing this experience has taught me, it's that you're quite the dictator, Ms. Rory Gilmore."

"Hey!" she responded indignantly, and punched Tristan on the arm. "I'm just telling you how it should be done because you haven't been doing it right. Besides, I would've thought that the one thing this experience would've taught you was that planting trees is best done in daylight."

"Ah yes, but you're forgetting my mother who would thoroughly object to an apple tree being in her garden. Which is why we're planting it covertly, and in a hidden corner of the garden."

"Do you think it'll get enough light, here in this lonesome corner?" Rory worried.

"It'll be fine, I'll make sure."

"You better," she threatened. A few seconds later a thought occurred to her, "Tristan?"

"Yeah?"

"Why are we planting an apple tree in your garden?"

"Because it'll annoy the hell out of my mother, and that will give me personal satisfaction."

"Aren't you a little too old for that now?"

"I'm never too old to piss off my mother."

"Okay, then why an apple tree? Why not an apricot tree? Or a plum? A pear? A lemon tree?"

"No reason. It's as good as any other." The tree was now seated comfortably in the ground with the loose earth he had dug up surrounding it, and patted firmly down. "So, we're done. It looks good."

"Very good," Rory agreed. "When it eventually bears fruit, I'm going to have try an apple from the tree."

"We'll share the first taste together," he promised.

*****

Tristan woke up with a start and rolled over, the clock face showing that it was almost six p.m. Somehow, he had managed to sleep most of his Sunday away. Sleepily he rubbed his eyes and became aware of the emptiness of his bed. There was an imprint on the pillow, on the right side of him, indicating that Rory had been in bed with him. His stomach grumbled reminding Tristan that he had only drunk coffee for breakfast and missed out on lunch altogether. Reluctantly he made himself sit up, the slow process of getting up and out of bed.

The demands of his stomach took precedent and so Tristan wandered over to his kitchen. He tried to remember what food he did have: some dry biscuits, chocolate, some wine, a pint of ice cream and an almost empty box of cereal. If he were lucky there might be a banana - he couldn't remember if he had eaten it already - not enough for a proper meal, so he would have to call for take-out. Still, he needed to find some sort of snack to tide him over while he waited for the delivery. However, before he could begin rummaging his cupboards and shelves in the hunt for food, he found a note from Rory resting on the top of his kitchen table. In it, she informed him that she had gone shopping and deigned it upon herself to stock up his shelves; all his favorites and necessities bought. There was also dinner waiting for him in the fridge, and he could pay her back later. Opening his fridge, Tristan discovered a box of noodles from one of his regular haunts; a Chinese restaurant some blocks away owned by a thin, wiry man who captained his restaurant like an emperor, bestowing lavish gifts of tasty food to all his guests with a flourish and a toothy smile. Silently Tristan thanked Rory as he grabbed the container. A quick spin in the microwave, a few minutes later, and the noodles were hot and ready to eat. Grabbing the wooden chopsticks he headed to the balcony, ignoring the entreats of the television and the demands of various papers and books.

He sat perched precariously on the wide ledge of the balcony, impervious to the danger, munching on his noodles. The next-door neighbors were fighting again; he could hear the screams.

"I hate you! You bloody bastard. Get out of my sight!" came the shrill voice of the female.

"C'mon baby. Don't be like that," cajoled the male.

"Don't be like that? What's that supposed to mean?"

"Nothing. Nothing. It's just that you're being-"

"If you say irrational, I'm throwing you out!"

The next words were muffled and Tristan imagined the rest of the conversation. He'd have to tell Rory about this latest, soap-operatic event; she'd bemoan the fact that she'd missed it and demand for details. Tristan's neighbors were an enigma. Neither he nor Rory had seen them properly, only shadows and sketchy figures. And the couple fought incessantly, always bordering on the verge of break-up but never quite making it. It was fascinating. He slurped the last of his noodles and went inside, just as the moans from next-door commenced.

*****

Today was Monday because yesterday had been Sunday. His alarm clock had awaken him promptly at six a.m. He had rolled over, turned the damn thing off and then after a moment of contemplation picked up the phone and dialed Rory's number.

"Hello?" came her groggy answer.

"It's me. We're playing hooky today."

"You're not in high school anymore, Tristan."

"I know you have a bundle of unused sick days, Gilmore. Plus, I know a doctor so there'll be no problem with a medical certificate."

"There's something fundamentally wrong with your line of thinking. I think it has to do with morals and the fact that taking a sick day when you're not sick is wrong."

"You've done it before," countered Tristan.

"And I blame it entirely on your evil influence."

"So, is that a yes?"

"The usual place at seven," Rory conceded, "But, if you're even five minutes late, I'm going to work."

"I'll be there, trust me."

"Hah! Easier said than done."

"You wound me, Mary."

"Grow up, Tristan. And remember, seven o'clock," she gave her final warning before hanging up.

He took a taxi to meet Rory because he could afford it and because the hassle of public transport simply wasn't worth it. The time was four minutes past seven when he entered the café. He spotted her sitting at a corner table with two cups of coffee and two blueberry muffins.

"Hey."

She frowned at him, "You're late."

"Yes, but I had five minutes leeway and it's not yet five past seven, therefore I'm still good."

"Just once I'd like to see you early or on time for something."

"Now that would just be unnatural," he protested.

"No, it wouldn't. Nature has nothing to do with your inability to be punctual; social conditioning, environmental factors maybe but not nature."

"Okay then, my lateness has become ingrained in my behavior. I've learnt or been conditioned to be late. I'm a victim of lax, poor upbringing."

"Just sit down, Tristan, and eat your muffin."

"I like it when you get bossy."

"Eat!"

He grinned, incorrigible and ever youthful, before taking a big bite of his muffin. "So, I've been thinking…"

"Stop! Hold the presses! Tristan DuGrey has been thinking!"

Tristan scowled at Rory, "That's just so old."

"Sometime the old ones are the best."

"You could have done better."

"Nothing new seemed as appropriate. So, are you going to tell me what you've been thinking or will I have to drag it out of you using the ancient Gilmore torture?"

"Ancient Gilmore torture? That's a new one. I don't think I've heard it before."

"That's because, miraculously, you've never done anything to warrant such treatment…yet."

"Really? Because I thought last time with the hair and the feather boa…"

"That was you?" Rory screeched.

"Nope," Tristan denied too quickly. "Not me. That was just a hypothetical. A what if. Like, what if I had been responsible for the hair and feather boa incident? Would that warrant the ancient Gilmore torture?"

"Yes. And worse."

He was taking a sip of his coffee when she answered his question and promptly began to choke. "Worse? There's worse?"

"Oh yes. I am my mother's daughter and she has taught me much."

"I just want to make it utterly and abundantly clear that I had nothing to do with the hair and feather boa incident."

"Well, good." Rory nodded her approval as she relished her coffee. "Because, you're my best friend and I'd hate to lose you but…"

"It wasn't me, honest. So, uh, today…I was thinking the park."

"Really? The park? Because we haven't been there for a while." Her voice was wistful.

"We can buy supplies and we'll need a new basket, because the old one got…"

"Oh yes, I remember," Rory chuckled, "It seems so long ago. They were good times. We never seem to do stuff like that anymore, why?"

"Maybe because we're older. More responsible. There's work. And work. And more work. It seems hard enough just to keep in touch and socialize, let alone anything else. Sometimes I get so tired."

"But we're doing what we set out to do, so it should make it all worthwhile."

"Yeah, but does it?"

"I miss Stars Hollow," she confessed. "I'm sick of the city."

"The city's not that bad a place," Tristan suddenly felt compelled to say.

"Oh, she's not. She's been good to us. But…"

"You could always go back," he suggested, "Work freelance or something. You've made a name for yourself now, Rory."

"No," she shook her head, "it isn't time. We should go buy that basket now, and our supplies."

"Yeah, all right." He shot her some curious glances, but Rory seemed fine like she was just blowing off steam; like it didn't matter and wasn't indicative of anything. He accepted it at face value because there was nothing else he could do.

*****

It was a pretty enough park with appreciable aesthetic beauty; poets might write sonnets or odes to the grass or the numerous trees, or the expanse of water that made the large pond. Tristan, however, had never really been poetically inclined unless it was to toss a line or so out as he wooed some girl. French poetry did wonders, and could cause the coldest of hearts to melt under the influence of his husky, rhythmic tones. There were also your typical sources such as Shakespeare, Wordsworth and Donne, which were always met with approval. Still, there was something about this park - sentimental value - which gave it its appeal. As students, Tristan and Rory had spent many of their days here. He had first, really, fallen in love with her, here. One spring afternoon they had ambled aimlessly across the grounds and the skies had suddenly opened and rain had come pouring down. She had run for cover and he had stood there dumbly, his heart beating erratically in his chest, and thinking that this must be love. They hadn't gotten together, then or later, but the experience of knowing that Cupid's arrow had hit you, for the first time, unawares, would remain with Tristan forever. Thus, the park held its own beauty, illuminated by his memories.

They settled down at a favorite spot of theirs: atop a slope, near some oak trees, with a clear look of the lake. A huge woody basket filled with innumerable goodies was set down on the grass and soon after a checkered picnic blanket, which they sat on.

"I wish the others were here with us," she commented.

"What, my company not good enough for you, Gilmore?" Tristan asked.

"No, it's not that. I just wished the others were here. It would be like old times."

"Back then, we spent as much time alone in the park as we did with the others," he reminded her.

"Yes. Still…"

"What's going on, Rory?"

"What do you mean?"

"I've known you for too long. You're too pensive. You gave in too easily on Sunday and now today. Usually you'd put in more of a fight before I could wheedle you around to my way of thinking."

"Maybe because I know that it's futile to fight with you?"

"Nope, that's too easy."

"Sometimes it is the easiest answers, Tristan. Don't look for complications when there are none."

"Maybe…" He stared deliberately, pointedly, thoughtfully into her eyes but she looked away, and that hurt.

"Let's eat," she stated, her eyes still averted from his. She handed him the sandwiches made from a small but popular deli at the corner of Third and Market Street. The bread was baked daily there - fresh, airy and soft with the perfect brown crust - and when you bit into it, you could imagine that this was the bread of Gods.

He took the sandwich she had offered him and with his thumb and index finger broke a bit off, popping the tiny piece into his mouth where he proceeded to chew in silence. The silence between them was telling but there was miscommunication; he jumped to conclusions and made assumptions, and that hurt him even more. He could not stand the silence - something which was usually so companionable and comforting - so he racked his mind for things to say.

"Oh, before I forget, here's the money I owe you for Sunday," Tristan finally said as he tossed a few notes in Rory's direction. He watched her gather them up and stuff them in her wallet before adding, somewhat nonchalantly, "This isn't as fun as I thought it would be."

"We probably shouldn't have done it in the first place. I have an article to work on and I have responsibilities. So do you."

"Perhaps we should leave."

Rory nodded her head, "I think that would be best."

Tristan stood up, wiping the crumbs off his pants, and began the process of packing up. Rory helped him - they folded the checkered blanket together - and when their fingers accidentally brushed, they looked up and smiled at one another and suddenly everything was okay.

"I love this park. Thank you for taking me here today, Tristan."

"No problem." He swung his left arm around Rory's shoulders and held her close to him; his right hand held the semi-full basket.

They left their spot; they left the park; they headed home as the afternoon sun shone down upon them.

*****

Tuesday, Rory called during Tristan's lunch break, just to talk. He spent the whole hour on the phone with her. She rarely called him during working hours and so it was an unexpected surprise and treat. According to her, it was a kind of thank you for Monday and the park. Towards the end of the conversation she invited him over for a home-cooked meal on Wednesday, tomorrow, night. Tristan quickly agreed; he was no fool. She had learnt to cook via necessity and her cooking was more than passable although she was no Donna Reed, not that he wanted her like that anyway.

Wednesday night arrived, and he stood in front of her door; one hand held a choice selection of red wine and the other held a bunch of flowers, an impulse buy. For some strange reason he was nervous; his stomach somersaulted in the most annoying, uncomfortable manner. Shifting his weight to the heels of his feet and then to the forefront, Tristan stood rocking as he contemplated the door. He had never really noticed Rory's door before. It was an ordinary enough door, nondescript and uniform; the same bluestone gray color as all the other doors in her building. The gold plated numbers - five, zero and three - were relatively straight although the screw on the three appeared to be coming loose, giving the number a slightly slanted look. He would have to tell her to call maintenance to fix it, although Tristan thought he might have a screwdriver set hidden somewhere in his apartment. A Phillips screwdriver was all that was needed, and he was confident that it was within his capabilities to straighten the three and tighten the screw.

The door suddenly swung open, without Tristan ever knocking to announce his presence outside. Rory, dressed casually in jeans and sweater, stared at him amused and asked, "Are you planning on standing there all day or are you going to come in?"

"In. I'm coming in. By the way, these are for you." He thrust the flowers and the wine out in the general vicinity of Rory.

"Flowers and wine? Impressive, DuGrey."

"Well, you are cooking dinner for me, which smells delicious."

"Haven't you learnt anything by now? Always reserve judgment until after you've tasted," she cackled.

"Yes, I remember the time you tried to poison me with gypsum."

"I thought it was corn flour!" she protested.

"Very likely story, Gilmore. And you never did explain why you had a bottle of gypsum conveniently lying around in your kitchen."

"That's because I have no explanation. It's one of those unsolved mysteries."

"I'm beginning to think that take-out is a very good idea."

"Fine," Rory huffed, "after I slaved in front of the stove all day, see how you treat me. Men are so unappreciative of women, and all the housewifery they do. No wonder, on average, married women have worse health than their unmarried counterparts."

"There is a pointed remark about marriage and men in that statement but I'm choosing not to read anything into it because I know you're better than that, Gilmore."

"And if I'm not?" she countered.

Tristan disagreed, "But you are. So, what poison have you cooked up for me to eat tonight?"

"Well, there's abalone and truffles."

"Are you making fun of the food that was served at my last party?"

"Oh, I'm sure the food cost a lot but I'm much happier with a burger from Luke's diner."

"Actually," he confessed, "so am I."

"Then you'll be happy to know that I've made burgers. Not as good as Luke's but edible." She gestured to the two plates on the coffee table. "I thought we'd eat on the couch instead of the table."

"Sounds good to me," Tristan shouted as he headed into her kitchen to grab two mugs and a corkscrew. The wine was poured into two Charlie's Angels mugs, which matched the Charlie's Angels plates in which the burgers were served on.

"I get Farah Fawcett," Rory claimed.

"Oooh…I'd like to-"

"Pervert."

"What can I say?" asked Tristan, an impish grin plastered on his face. "I'm a guy."

"I know." She paused to pick up her burger but didn't eat, instead she concentrated on picking the sesame seeds off the bun. He didn't really pay attention to her, more focused on the task of eating; catching wayward pieces of tomato, lettuce and onion as they fell from the burger and licking drops of ketchup off his fingers. Rory continued to watch him, still not having touched her own food except to twist a fry into a distorted shape, until she finally decided to speak. "Tristan?"

"Yeah?"

"I-I-"

He turned to look at her, a curious expression on his face. "Yes?"

"Um, you've got some ketchup on the left side of your mouth."

"Oh, well, could you-?" Rory complied to his half-asked question by wiping the sauce off his face with a napkin. "Thanks."

"No problem."

"Was there anything else?"

"Uh, no."

"Okay."

They fell into silence again except for the intermittent sounds of Tristan's chewing. It was remarkable that away from the social dictates of his upper-class world, Tristan easily reverted to the messy, noisy boy that secretly resided inside of him, despite years of training, refinement and etiquette. She continued to observe him before letting out a quiet and barely audible sigh, and then picked up her own burger and began eating. The rest of the dinner was finished, not in silence, but with a dumb muteness that seemed to have struck them both. Every now and then conversation would start up but it was clumsy, the words awkward and shallow. They drank the entire bottle of wine because that helped loosen their tongues and talking became less difficult. When the clock chimed the lateness of the hour, Tristan got up to leave with the feeling that something had been left unsaid, at least on Rory's part.

"Hey," he started tentatively as he put his coat on, "was there something you wanted to say to me tonight? Because I got the feeling that-"

"No," she denied.

"Okay." He opened the door and stepped out.

"Wait! There was this one thing."

"Yeah?"

"I just…I just wanted to say thank you."

"Thank you?"

"For Monday. The park." Rory clarified.

"Oh well, it was nothing. Just me being my normal deviant, truant self and dragging you down with me."

"I know. Still, thank you." She shot him a smile then; a bright, bona fide smile that was all Rory. And he couldn't help smiling back because that was what she did to him.

The rest of the week was spent in Rory's company. On Thursday they went out to the movies together. Friday, after work, they went bar hopping in an attempt to relive the glory days of their college years. Sadly, Tristan discovered that while he was still impressive, he could no longer hold his own against the younger generation that downed beer as if they had hollow stomachs. He complained sorely to Rory, something about being old and losing his touch and she laughed indulgently and stated that she liked him just the way he was now. Saturday, in attempt to prove that while his alcohol intake may have diminished he still had the body (and activity) of a twenty-year old, Tristan and Rory went salsa dancing. If once or twice he felt the niggling strain of muscles he never showed it. All night they danced to the sultry sounds of the music, spinning one another until they were beyond dizzy. Lots of grinding and lots of sweat. It was the perfect night and he was still swaying when the taxi dropped Rory off and, later still, performing little dance steps as he opened the door to his apartment.

*****

He could feel the eyes of someone upon him; the uncanny feeling of knowing that you were being watched, which made your whole body alert and, in this case, woke Tristan up. And in waking up and gathering his bearings, he knew all at once whom it was staring down at him though he had yet to open his eyes. He decided to lie there, feigning sleep, as he waited for her to make the first move. What he didn't expect was her first move to be the swiveling of her body as she turned to leave his bedroom.

"Where are you going?"

"You're awake," she turned back round to face him, a look of surprise on her face.

"Yeah. Why were you leaving?"

"You were asleep and I didn't want to wake you."

"I wouldn't have minded, you know that, Rory, despite the fact that it's abnormally early. You're crazy to be up this early especially after last night," he teased.

"Yeah. I'm sorry about waking you up. You should go back to sleep. I'll just go."

"Hey, no need. After all, I'm awake now."

She bit the bottom of her lip and cast her eyes to his windows. "It's going to be a nice day, today. Sunny weather. Warm."

"Is that going to be essential for the plans you have today?" Tristan queried. "Because I was wondering if I could convince you to forgo that list of yours and spend the day lazing about with me. I'm going to admit, but only once, that I'm not as young as I used to be. The salsa dancing took more out of me than I expected."

"Actually," Rory hesitated, her eyes still gazing out at the city, which was glowing with the colors of sunrise. "I'm going to have to pass. That's why I came, to tell you that I couldn't make it today."

"A phone call would have done just as well, Gilmore."

"It's more than just today, Tristan."

The seriousness of her voice struck him as odd. She wasn't looking at him and he felt the impending fear and knowledge that he was about to be blind-sided. "You can't make it next weekend, either?" he asked lightly.

"Not just next weekend."

"For how long?" His throat felt dry and constricted and it was hard to sound casual and normal, if he knew what normal was.

"A while."

"Rory? What's going on?"

"I'm moving away. I'm going to be the new international correspondent for-"

"No," he shook his head, "it's more than that. If it'd just been that you would have told me sooner. There's something else. Or…or someone else?"

"He's no one important, Tristan."

"He has to be someone important if you're going to uproot your life for him."

"I'm not doing it for him, I'm doing it for me."

"And what about me?"

"What about you?" She turned now, and her eyes were a little fierce, a little angry.

"I'm your best friend, Rory."

"Yes, you are. You're my best friend."

"What-," he tried not to choke on the words as he spoke, "what if I told you I loved you?"

Her voice and eyes softened, "I love you too, Tristan."

"No," he shook his head vehemently and reached out to grasp her hand, "I mean, I'm in love with you."

"Don't. Don't do this."

"Do what? Tell you the truth?"

"If it was the truth then why are you saying it now? If you were really in love with me, we would have been together a long time ago."

"Maybe. Maybe not. You see, maybe we just could never get it right. You were dating someone or I was dating someone. And maybe we were just biding our time for when it was right."

"Even if that was true, now isn't the right time."

"But it is. It could be. I mean, all this week, hasn't it shown you-" And then realization occurred, and he reeled back, dropping her hand like her touch had burnt him. "You were saying your good-byes."

"I couldn't just leave."

"And what were you doing just before?" he accused. "You thought I was asleep and you were going to leave without a word."

"I had to. My plane leaves soonish. I need to get to the airport in time."

"Why?"

"Why what?"

"Why did you leave it so late to tell me? Were you ever going to actually tell me? Why did you come here? Why, I don't know, why?"

"Because," she spoke slowly, her eyes meeting his in a plea for understanding, "this is what I need to do. But I couldn't just go. But I couldn't tell you beforehand because I was scared that you'd talk me out of this; knew that you would; that you had the power and ability to. And I can't let you because I need this. We need this."

"How long?" he asked flatly.

"A year, at least. More if it goes well. I left your key on your kitchen table because I won't be needing it. Not for a while, at least."

"So you're just going to go? Goodbye Tristan DuGrey, hello the rest of the world?"

"I would have written and there'll be phone calls."

"Don't bother," he snapped harshly.

"Tristan, please-"

"Don't bother," he reiterated, less harshly but more firmly.

"I'm sorry," she wanted to reach out to him and yet something was stopping her.

"I'm in love with you. I am, Rory. I've been in love with you at so many various points in my life. The first, real time was at the park during college. The last time was this morning, when I woke knowing that someone was watching me sleep; knowing that that someone was you." He paused and made his request as he stared out at the city bathed in the white light of morning. "Stay."

She stood still, not saying a word, and for a brief moment hope lurched up in his chest but then she spoke, "I can't."

"Then go." There was a ring of finality in his voice and choices were being made - voluntarily and involuntarily.

Tristan closed his eyes and let his head hit the soft firmness of his pillow; he couldn't see her walk away and he didn't. Instead - eyes shut and with the ability to see only darkness, though he could feel the morning light surrounding him and warming him - he heard her footsteps and later the gentle click of his door as it closed. It was Sunday morning, and a week had passed. It was the end and the beginning.

He got out of bed and headed out to the balcony. The smell of the city in the morning - a little damp from the street cleaners, a little old from the remains of yesterday, and a little new with the smell of food vendors, diners and restaurants preparing for their early-bird crowd - assaulted him. A haze of morning mist, smoke and pollution settled over the streets and he thought he could see the shade of her form. It was on the tip of his tongue to yell out her name, but the next-door neighbors interrupted.

"Leave!" the woman yelled. "I hate you!"

"I'm going! And good riddance!" the man screamed back.

The smashing of glass could be heard and then more yelling and more glass. Down below, the haze had temporarily lifted and the streets were empty. He headed back to bed and back to sleep with the echoing cries of his neighbors and his own mantra. No regrets, no regrets, no regrets. Another Sunday.