Chapter 7: Good to be Alive
Disclaimer: I own nothing.
A/N: Here's the end of another story. If you've got questions, I've got answers. Ask here, I'll answer on my LJ. The third story will be called: Ain't Life Grand. Thanks to everyone who's reviewed.
This is part of the essence of motherhood, watching your kid grow into her own person and not being able to do anything about it. Otherwise children would be nothing more than pets. –Heather Armstrong [Dooce]
Good to be Alive
It was just past midnight. Lorelai was watching the numbers on the elevator get larger until it reached the eighth floor. When the doors opened, she walked out into the hall and started to follow a green line on the floor. She frowned when she heard a familiar—not to mention aggressive—voice coming from the nurse's station. She rounded a corner and saw Paris Gellar. She was wearing green scrubs and tennis shoes, and she was arguing with a nurse.
"If you'll just let me go into surgery, I want to observe," Paris said. "Just call your chief of surgery and make it happen."
"Doctor. I have references out the wazoo, if you need them."
"Paris? What are you doing here?"
Paris turned, surprised to see Lorelai approach. The nurse Paris had been verbally abusing took the opportunity to sneak away. "Rory called me in a panic. She wanted me to call the hospital and pretend to be Tristan's doctor, so she'll know what's going on with his surgery. But since I was finishing up my shift and a patient was being air lifted to another hospital in Manhattan, I went along for the ride and came here."
"Oh." Lorelai felt more out of the loop than before.
"If the staff here wasn't incompetent, they would let me help with the surgery." Paris said it loudly, hoping someone—anyone—would hear.
A different nurse walked over to the counter where the two women were standing. "Dr. Gellar, the chief says you can scrub in and observe Detective DuGrey's surgery."
"Finally. It only took a half an hour of arguing with you people."
"Uh, Paris, do you know where Rory is?" Lorelai asked.
"Yeah, down the hall. There's a waiting room to the right."
"Thanks." They parted and Lorelai moved down the hall. She found the indicated waiting room. It was empty, except for her daughter. "Rory."
Rory looked up, stunned. "Mom, what are you doing here?"
Lorelai sat down next to her before responding. "You can't just call me in the middle of the night saying you have to go to the hospital and not expect me to come see what's wrong. Now, what happened?"
"Tristan got shot."
"That's awful. But why are you here, if you just met him at Grandma's last week?"
"My editor had me cover the shooting."
Rory looked away. "And I didn't meet him at Grandma's. It was before that."
"Right, well Chilton then."
Rory shook her head and looked back at her mother. "I'm a crime reporter in Manhattan."
"And I'm an innkeeper in Stars Hollow." Rory knit her brows. "Oh, we're not doing a thing? All right, go ahead."
"Tristan is a homicide detective. In Manhattan," she continued. "We both get called to crime scenes. And last October, we were assigned to the same one. He's been my police source ever since. You might say he . . . contributes to the paper."
"Then why did you let Grandma introduce you, if you've been in touch with him this whole time?"
"Because I lied. I haven't been seeing someone for a few months."
"Yeah I know."
Rory shook her head again. "It's been longer. I met someone . . . at a crime scene. In October."
"Romantic. I think that's the true definition of meet-cute," Lorelai said before thinking about it for a minute. "So you ran into Tristan at a crime scene in October. And you've been seeing someone you met at a crime scene in October . . . So you've been seeing Tristan?"
Rory nodded. "Since October."
"Oh," Lorelai said with a frown as she looked down at her hands.
"No I'm not."
"Well you should be. I would be. I tried to tell you all week, but I could never catch you. Where were you earlier? No one answered when I called."
"We were having dinner at Sookie and Jackson's."
"Oh," Rory said. "I'm a terrible person."
"No you're not."
"Yes I am. This isn't what we do. I left out major details when I said I was seeing someone," Rory said, a few tears escaping her eyes. "And it was like you said, when you don't tell someone something, the longer you wait the harder it gets."
"I did say that, didn't I?"
"And what were the chances? Of all the crime scenes in New York City, I got assigned to his."
"You sound a little like Humphrey Bogart."
"I tried not to like him," Rory went on. "I really didn't want to."
Lorelai looked at her daughter. "Why not?"
"Because it's Tristan. It was always really easy to not like him in high school. It was unexpectedly difficult this time."
"I was surprised by him. Surprised that he has a job that helps other people, rather than himself. And he was humble about it, he isn't humble about anything," Rory explained. "After about a week I was surprised to discover he went to Yale Law School. And that he doesn't tell people. It took me a little while to accept that he's not entirely the same person he was in high school."
"You're not entirely the same, either."
"I suppose so."
"So, why didn't you tell me about him?" Lorelai asked slowly. "I mean really tell me."
"I don't know," Rory said miserably.
"It's something I'd do—have done."
"I know. I've been wrapped up in my grown up-cosmopolitan-fast paced-New York life. Where I don't have to tell my mother all the intimate details of my secret salacious love affair."
"It sounds pretty hot when you put it like that."
"Yeah," Rory agreed with a sigh. "And it's not even like it was a well kept secret. People knew, it just went unspoken."
"Why didn't you tell anyone?" Lorelai asked.
"Because he's my source. I'm pretty sure we're not allowed to be romantically involved. I'll have to check my employee handbook. At the very least it's frowned upon. We both knew going in that it was a horrible idea. But we went for it anyway."
"Look at you," Lorelai said, "breaking the rules and not caring."
Rory shook her head and buried her face in her hands. "I'm going to have such a bad reputation."
"Cheer up, it worked out for Joan Jett."
"Relationships with sources are already perilous by nature. And that's when they're just business. I crossed the line on this one. This is why we kept it so quiet." Rory looked at Lorelai with apologetic eyes. "Maybe too quiet. I know I hurt your feelings in the process. Tristan's too, which I was not expecting. He was so mad at me last Friday."
"You didn't seem too thrilled with him, either. If I remember correctly."
Rory nodded. "You caught us on a really bad night."
"So what was all that about?"
She sighed. "I was mad about his participation in the Post's list of eligible bachelors—where I read about him going to law school."
"Oh, that analogy you used last weekend makes sense now."
"I may have been a bit irrational about the whole thing. Then I said the very thing I don't want people to think. I said that we trade information for . . . time in the bedroom. He did not like that comment. And it didn't help when no one knew him at Grandma's party."
"But you left with him."
"Why did you do that if you were mad?"
"So I could continue the fight I was picking."
"How did that go for you?"
Rory shook her head. "You don't want to know."
"All right. So it's been a week. How are things now?"
"Better. A lot better. With the exception of his current state, of course."
Lorelai sat in thought for a while. "I guess it makes sense, really. When you think about it."
"What makes sense?"
"You've been working the crime beat for a few years now. It makes sense that one of the boys in blue would catch your attention at some point. Why not pick the one who went to Yale?"
"I guess," Rory said.
After a moment Lorelai asked, "You aren't secretly living together, are you?"
"Were you really sick at Christmas? Or was that a fib so you could stay in the city?"
Rory knit her brows. "I was really sick. I had strep throat, like I said. Tristan was probably happier about it than he should have been."
"He didn't have anywhere else to go. His grandfather spends the holiday in Europe."
"What about his parents?"
"He doesn't talk to them much."
Rory looked at her mother grimly. "They're divorced. His mom sent him a Christmas card. I think he feels like he'd be intruding on them if he went for a visit. Like he's not a part of the family."
Lorelai considered this before asking, "You don't feel like that when you come home, do you?"
"No. But you and I have always been different."
"That's true." They sat in silence for a little while. After some time, Lorelai glanced over at the door. "Hey, Paris is back," she said, nodding over at the door, where the young doctor had just appeared.
Rory nervously stood up and approached her friend. She followed Paris over to a pair of chairs along the wall of the hallway. Paris opened the file in her hand and pulled out Tristan's chart.
"Well? How is he?" Rory asked, bracing herself for the answer. "And tell me in English."
"They're finished with the surgery. He'll be moved up to this floor for recovery in a little while," Paris explained. "Do you know what happened?"
"He got shot. Obviously."
"Yeah, and he apparently hit his head at some point, he had a mild concussion. The swelling went down though. The bullet went in and luckily didn't hit any major organs. They just had to remove the bullet and sew him back up."
Paris nodded and looked at her friend. "He lost a lot of blood, but he's going to be fine, Rory."
"Of course I'm sure, I'm a—"
"He'll have to take it easy for a few weeks," Paris went on. "But you shouldn't worry. Surgery went well. And everyone in a hospital usually steps up their game when it's a cop. They're generally viewed as the good guys."
"They are, aren't they?"
Paris shrugged. "Sure. That doesn't mean you shouldn't keep your eyes on the doctors and nurses around here. Staph infection is spread to patients from the people who work in the hospital."
"I'm serous. Don't be afraid to ask them if they've washed their hands. But that shouldn't be a problem for you. You ask people questions for a living."
"You aren't going to get in trouble are you?" Rory asked.
"For telling me all the details. You know, doctor-patient confidentiality."
"First of all, I'm not his doctor."
"That sounds like a loophole."
"Second, he isn't going to sue me for telling you."
"Well, probably not. But I still don't want you to get into trouble for me. I don't want you to be—what's the doctor term for disbarred?"
"Relax, no one will revoke my medical license," Paris said. "You're his emergency contact."
Paris pulled a form out of the file. "Here."
Rory looked at the form. It was on New York Police Department letterhead and listed two contact names to notify in case of emergency. Rory's name was listed before Janlen DuGrey's. It also included their relationship to Tristan.
"You didn't know?" Paris asked.
Rory shook her head. "No. But I'm still not family. You're only allowed to tell family, right?"
"He knows that. He covered all his bases and attached this." Paris handed over another form.
Rory looked at the page, it looked a little like a contract. Tristan had signed at the bottom, so had Mark, as a witness. It was dated a month prior. "What is it?"
"A legal document."
"But what does it mean?"
"It basically says all medical personnel have to tell you what's going on with him. If they don't, he isn't going to be happy. Under no circumstance are they to not tell you something."
"I didn't know there were ways around the confidentiality rule."
"There are always ways to circumnavigate rules. Most people don't bother to hire an attorney to draw up the paperwork. It looks like he did."
Rory furrowed her eyebrows. "He probably drew that up himself. He went to law school. At Yale."
Paris thought it over for a minute. "That makes sense."
"Mm-hmm. It also reaffirms that I made the right decision—career wise."
"Tristan and I . . . are dating. He is my boyfriend. And he has been for several months now."
"Yeah, I know."
"But I never confirmed it. Officially."
"No sweat, I figured it out."
"But you shouldn't have had to. You're my friend and I should have told you."
"I'll get over it."
"Are you sure you don't want to tell me that you told me so?"
Paris shrugged. "Maybe another time. I'm too tired to gloat about being right at the moment."
"Thanks for coming all the way here tonight."
"No problem," Paris said. She put the chart and the forms back into the file before speaking again. "So I guess this is the part where you decide whether or not you're going to stay with him."
"Of course I'm staying. You just said he's out of surgery."
"That isn't what I meant."
"Oh. Well, what then?"
Paris looked Rory in the eye. "I won't sugar coat it—"
"You never do."
"I see a lot of people come into the hospital. I've seen cops who got shot in the line of duty. They don't all make it. Tristan got lucky this time," Paris explained. "It's a lot for a significant other to worry about every day."
"Oh," Rory said, shifting her gaze to the floor, letting the weight of Paris's words sink in.
"He's out of surgery. They're taking him to a room now," Rory told her mother when she'd returned to the waiting room.
"How is he?"
"Paris said he's going to be fine. She went to find the attending doctor."
"That's good. Do you get to see him now?"
"Let's go then."
Rory led them to the room the orderlies had rolled Tristan's bed into. They each took a seat and looked at Tristan. He was still asleep and he was hooked up to an IV. A machine was monitoring his heartbeat.
"So," Lorelai started. "Your boyfriend is a cop. That can be dangerous."
Rory nodded solemnly. "His job usually doesn't have this much . . . excitement. He usually spends his time researching and asking people annoying questions."
"Your jobs are pretty similar then."
"Yeah. Except no one has ever tried to shoot me," she said. "That's why he agreed to do that list for the Post. To appear single."
"What do you mean?"
"He makes dangerous enemies and he doesn't want them to know about me."
"Oh. Well, I can appreciate that."
Rory tore her eyes away from Tristan and turned them on Lorelai. "You don't get to hate him."
"What?" Lorelai asked, surprised by the accusatory tone.
"You never like my boyfriends. You can't just hate Tristan."
"Hey, give me a chance. I didn't hate them all." Rory raised a disbelieving brow. "Fine, I guess I can't say I liked any of them the entire time I knew them. But I like to think they gave me reasons to dislike them."
"Then he already gave you a reason. Grandma and Grandpa will approve—do approve, judging by the introduction last week."
Lorelai frowned. "Why does that matter?"
"Come on, if they like someone or something, that's usually your cue not to."
"That's not always true."
"It's true enough. Even you have wondered if you only like things because Grandma doesn't," Rory insisted.
"I like to think I've grown out of that phase of my life."
"It still doesn't change the fact that her liking someone never got them bonus points in your book," Rory said. She paused for a beat."Which of your worlds do I belong to?"
"You're always going on about your separate worlds and how you don't want them to cross. You don't like Grandma and Grandpa knowing Stars Hollow things or people. I've always played the buffer between you guys. Which world does the buffer belong to?"
"Rory, you transcend my worlds."
"But what does that mean? Do I have to pick one? Or are you going to reluctantly accept that I'm with someone from your old world, but privately be against it?"
"You're an adult. I have to live with whatever decisions you make."
"Well maybe I don't want you to just live with it. I know you don't care about what your mother thinks, but I'm not like that. I do care what you think."
"I promise to give this guy a chance."
"I just don't want it to be such an effort," Rory said. "Is that so much to ask?"
"I guess not," Lorelai answered. "But you have to give me a break. You're my kid. Some day a guy is going to take you away from me."
"I already took myself away when I started my career," Rory said dryly.
"This isn't the reason that you didn't tell me, is it?"
Rory shrugged. "No. I don't think so. If I did, it was subconscious."
Lorelai nodded and was quiet for a few minutes. "You know, you have a rare opportunity here."
Rory glanced at Lorelai. "What do you mean?"
She nodded at Tristan. "He'll probably be sedated for a while. Tell me about him."
"Really, I'll have no choice but to believe that he's perfect by the time he wakes up."
"But he isn't," Rory protested. "He's trying to steal your crown, for one thing."
"My Lorelai crown? You're the only one who can take that."
"No. Your crown for stubbornness."
"Oh, that one."
"If he was a wizard, his Patronus would be a mule," Rory said. "You want know why he became a cop?"
"I would love to know."
"Partly because he thought it would be fun and partly because it would make his dad mad. I don't know what it is with you people. Is there something in the water in Hartford?"
"I don't think so. But you're the Erin Brockovich around here. Maybe you should investigate."
"You know how sometimes parents threaten to send their kids to military school if they don't shape up?"
"I do. I've made that threat with you."
"Well Tristan's dad doesn't make empty threats. He followed through when Tristan broke into a safe back in high school. And he tried to force Tristan into being a lawyer by making his trust fund contingent," Rory said. "If you ever get the guts to get a tattoo—"
"I've told you, I'm going to do it!"
"It apparently helps to be mad at a parent and a little drunk."
"I'll keep that in mind," Lorelai said. "So, I guess it really is a hard-knock life."
"He wasn't exactly living in a closet under the stairs or anything," Rory said wryly. "He might not like his dad, but he respects him. I think he knows military school got him off the entitled path he was comfortably cruising down."
"Well, you know what they say. What doesn't kill you . . ." Lorelai glanced over at Tristan and cringed. "Sorry. Ill-timed quote."
Rory turned concerned eyes back to the bed before sighing. "He works too hard sometimes. He doesn't just let a case rest when he turns it over to the prosecutor."
"Dedication to the job?"
"More like control freak. I think he'd do both jobs if he could." Rory thought for a while before speaking again. "He barely even touched me during our first date."
"So he's a gentleman?"
Rory scoffed and shook her head no. "He fell asleep."
"You are pretty boring."
"He'd just finished that case we were both working on and was tired. Trust me. He made it clear he had other plans."
"He still calls me Mary sometimes."
"Ironically, I guess, at this point."
Rory raised a brow and nodded. "At some point during the winter I started inviting myself over to his place on Sundays. It's when he watches football."
"He doesn't make you watch too, does he?"
"No. I take a book to read," Rory answered. "But you know what? I think football is over. I think they had their last big game. What's the Super Bowl of football?"
"You're asking me?"
"What has he been watching?" she asked herself with narrowed eyes. But she shook her head, unable to come up with the answer. Lorelai yawned and Rory noticed. "Why don't you go back to my apartment and get some sleep?"
"No, really. I feel bad enough that you came all the way here in the middle of the night. And all because I was stupid."
"You weren't stupid."
"I'd still feel better if you got some sleep."
"All right, if you insist. But what about you? You must be tired too."
"I'm fine. I'm going to stay," Rory said firmly.
The work day was getting started at the Daily News later on in the morning. Marie was looking at Rory's desk with a frown. Their editor was a few desks away.
"Hey Jimmy," she said, motioning for him to come over. "Where's Rory?"
"She called in sick."
"Did she actually sound sick?"
"Kind of. She sounded really tired, at least. And last night she only sent me her notes for the story I had her cover. I had to write up the article."
"Last night? What was it?"
"Police shooting. Over in Brooklyn."
"Why did you make her go over there?"
"Because it was someone from the twenty-first precinct that got shot."
"Yes. They found the kid they were looking for."
"Do you know who it was?"
"No, the cop that got shot."
"Oh, no. You know they don't release names of officers."
"Yeah I know. But a cop got shot last night and Rory isn't here today?"
"You're very quick this morning," James said dryly.
"Don't go anywhere," Marie said. She grabbed a file folder from Rory's desk and flipped through the pages. "Here, get this in the paper. Tomorrow's."
James looked down at the sheet in his hand and shook his head. "It's that piece she wrote a while back about the police department. How they work tirelessly for the greater good. I can't print it. It'll look like we're in the tank for the NYPD. I already told her no when she wrote it."
"It's different now. One of them got hurt on the job. Just find a way. Put it in with the editorials. People can write their opinions in that section."
"Gee, I didn't know that."
"You learn something new every day. I want to see it in tomorrow's paper," Maris said authoritatively as she booted up her computer. She pulled her cell phone out to give Rory a call.
Lorelai walked down the hall of the ICU and found the room she was looking for. Rory was sitting in the same chair she'd been sitting in when Lorelai left. She walked over and nudged Rory's shoulder.
She looked up with bleary eyes and sat up. "What time is it?" she asked in a low voice, twisting around a little and massaging her neck. She looked over to Tristan, who was still asleep.
"It's just after eight thirty," Lorelai answered. "When did you fall asleep?"
"About a half an hour ago, I think."
Lorelai handed over some clothes. "You looked damp last night—well, earlier this morning."
"Why don't you go change?" Rory bit her lip and glanced at Tristan. "Go on. I'll stay and keep watch."
"Okay," she said before she left the room.
Lorelai sat down in the other chair. The night's storm had blown over and Friday was proving to be sunny. She looked at the blonde man lying on the bed in front of her. Perhaps her scrutinizing gaze was too intense, because he started to stir.
His eyes finally opened and looked over at the occupied chair. "Rory?" he asked, his voice a little hoarse.
He stilled. "Oh."
"We had a changing of the guard."
He gave a single nod. Then his eyes shifted around the room and he frowned.
"You're at St. Vincent's Hospital," Lorelai answered his unasked question.
He looked down and put his hand to his side. There was a large bandage under his hospital gown. "That didn't feel very good," he said, remembering why he was there. "I should have worn my vest."
"It would have come in handy if you wanted to be bullet proof." Lorelai paused for a beat. "So. You exist."
Tristan looked over at her again and nodded silently.
"And other than being holier than last week, you aren't disfigured at all."
He shook his head.
"What's the matter? Cat got your tongue?"
He nodded again.
She considered him before speaking again. "I know Rory is all grown up and can make her own decisions. But I'm still her mother. So I feel the need to ask, what are your intentions?"
Tristan propped himself up a little. "Well, I'm almost thirty and she gives me the time of day. So, not entirely honorable."
"As the guy who's been sleeping with my daughter on the sly for several months, I don't think you're in the position to lie to me. It's too soon for that."
He arched a brow. "Did I lie?"
"I'd say so. I know why you did that list in the Post."
"Oh. That." He shrugged. "Just because I can't keep myself out of harm's way doesn't mean I can't try to keep her out of it."
"I appreciate your effort to keep her safe," Lorelai said. After a minute passed by in silence she said, "I guess it's a twist that you enforce the rules now, considering you used to break them."
He thought about it before answering. "I'd say I'm living a fairly paradoxical life in general these days."
"So how much is your job like Reno 911!?" she inquired.
"Other than the short shorts, not too much."
A short time later, Rory returned to the room, carrying two cups of coffee. "It's a far cry from Luke's, but it's all the hospital had," she said. She looked up and saw that Tristan was awake. She stopped in her tracks. The bed was inclined so he was in a sitting position. "You're awake," she stated.
"You have to wear your vest if you want to be bullet proof."
"That's the consensus of everyone in the room," he said.
Rory looked over to Lorelai and walked over to her chair. "Mom, this is Tristan, my boyfriend." She looked at him and nodded back a Lorelai. "This is my mother, Lorelai. Don't call her ma'am. Or Ms . . . anything."
"Nice to meet you, Tristan."
"Likewise," he returned.
"You know what? I'm pretty hungry, I think I'll go out and find some non-hospital food," Lorelai said, getting up from the chair. "Is Paris still here? We could get some breakfast."
"Yeah, but she went to the on-call room a few hours ago to get some sleep."
"Oh, I'll let her rest then, she had a late night."
"Okay, see you later?" Rory asked.
After Lorelai had walked out of the room, Tristan asked, "Paris is here?"
"Yes. I called her last night when I got here. I just wanted her to find out what was going on. She had a chance to come, so she did," Rory explained. "I don't think she got to poke around at your insides, but she definitely got a look."
Tristan cringed. "That makes me nervous. I'm probably still on her revenge list."
"You know about her list?"
"Does she actually have one? Shoot, I was half joking."
"I wouldn't have called her if I'd known that the doctors are legally obligated to tell me about your medical issues."
"You weren't supposed to find out about that. I wasn't planning to get shot."
"You know what they say about the best laid plans." Rory sat back down in her chair. She took a sip of her coffee and made a face before setting it down. She looked at Tristan pensively. "What happened to you?"
He knit his brows. "I got shot. I thought you knew that."
"No. Why are you in Manhattan? Did something happen to you?"
"No," he answered, shaking his head a little. Rory looked perplexed. "It was my partner, Eric. He'd been a detective for fifteen years. Some guy he put away a long time ago got out on parole. He didn't go after Eric, but his family. His wife and daughter were crossing the street one day after school," Tristan explained. "They got plowed over by a big SUV. Eric's wife died, but his daughter somehow survived. She's only seven."
"That's terrible," Rory said sympathetically.
Tristan nodded. "He quit the force after that, decided it wasn't worth it. And I . . . ran away. Like a scared little boy. My master plan was to not stay in one place very long. Try to stay elusive."
"You were going to be a nomad for the rest of your life? That's a horrible plan," Rory said.
"It could have worked. I reckoned I was pretty lucky, not to have anyone to put in danger like that," Tristan said. "But now that isn't the case and I have to stay in Manhattan."
"Because I got my foot caught in the door."
"You're here," he said slowly.
He narrowed his eyes at her. "You're going to make me say it, aren't you?"
"Say what?" she asked innocently enough.
He nodded. "Apparently we're in a new phase of the relationship where you only know things after I tell you."
"I don't know things that I can't find in public records or by making a phone call."
"Fine. I love you. Happy?"
She nodded. "Thank you."
"So that means I'm not going to let anything happen to you because of me. If I can do something about it."
Rory was quiet for a moment before she spoke again. She looked down at her hands as she did so. "I fell asleep while I was waiting for you last night. A call from my editor woke me up. He said I needed to cover a police shooting." Tristan watched her as she hugged herself and looked away from him. "I was worried sick during the whole ride to Brooklyn. I had a horrible feeling it was you. And when I got there and knew that it was, I felt worse."
"I'm sorry," he said quietly.
"I had a lot of time to think last night, after you got out of surgery. And I made an important decision . . . about us," she said, still not making eye contact. She swallowed before she went on. "I can't worry like that any more. I don't want to."
Tristan looked down. "Oh. I understand. I don't expect you to do that. Not many girls would be able to handle that aspect of my job. I wouldn't ask you to."
Rory turned to him finally. She narrowed her eyes. "Stop feeling sorry for yourself and jumping to the wrong conclusion. It's getting old," she said sternly. "I thought you figured out a long time ago that I'm not most girls. I decide what I can handle, not you."
He glanced over at her, a little bewildered. "What did you decide about us then?"
"I decided that you aren't allowed to get shot ever again. I forbid it. Because I love you and you had no right to go out and get yourself shot on the night that I had big plans to tell you so."
Tristan knit his brows and frowned at her. "Come here," he said, waving his hand for her to move closer. She got up and sat on the bed next to him. He scrutinized her face, searching her eyes. "You don't look high."
She glared at him. "I'm not. You're the one on painkillers."
"I must be really fantastic in bed," he said, still looking perplexed. He shook his head. "It's the only thing that makes sense."
"You have potential," she said flatly.
He raised the blanket and lifted up an arm, inviting her to lie next to him. She kicked off her shoes and swung her legs up on the bed. He covered her up as she settled on her side, up against him. He kissed the top of her head and held the arm that she had carefully rested over his chest.
They lied together for a while, Tristan had almost fallen back to sleep when Lorelai returned to the room. If she was surprised to see them both in the bed, she recovered quickly.
"You're back," Rory observed.
Rory frowned and looked at Tristan. "Shouldn't your grandfather be here by now? He's your other emergency contact."
"He's out of the country on business this week. I should call him and tell him I'm okay."
"What else are you going to tell him?" Lorelai asked.
"What do you mean?" She looked at the two of them pointedly. "Oh. Well, I keep him in the dark when it comes to my personal life anyway. He's used to it by now. He'll be too happy that I've got a respectable girl to be upset."
Tristan and Rory both frowned at Lorelai. "How do you know?" he asked.
"Last week at the party he wanted to let me know that you'd get Rory back to the city safely. He mentioned how he wished you'd find a good girl, like my daughter."
"There you go. He'll get over it."
Lorelai smiled deviously. "Rory's grandparents won't. But I have a plan."
"Oh no," Rory said.
"What?" Tristan asked.
"Hear me out. Your grandmother will—no doubt—be offended that you were sneaking around without telling her. And I know you hate to hurt anyone's feelings, the way you hurt mine."
"Uh-huh," Rory said warily.
"So, why tell her everything if it'll just make her upset?"
"I have to tell her or she'll keep trying to set me up."
"Oh I know. I propose that you let her think that this was all her idea."
"What?" Rory said doubtfully.
Lorelai nodded. "She can know you're seeing each other without knowing how long."
"I don't think I want to keep lying to her, though," Rory protested.
"But it'll be different this time."
"I'll know the truth. So it'll be win-win-win. Emily Gilmore will think her granddaughter is dating a suitable Yale man that she introduced her to, you won't hurt her feelings, and I'll get the pleasure of knowing it had nothing to do with her at all."
"I don't know," Rory said skeptically.
"Come on, you really hurt me by not being completely honest, this could help smooth things over." Lorelai sure sounded like she was getting over it just fine.
"You're guilting me into going along with your scheme?"
"How long are you going to milk this?"
"As long as I can," Lorelai answered. She already had her cell phone out and was scrolling down her contact list. Tristan and Rory both watched as, a moment later, she started to talk. "Mom, hi. Listen, Rory called me earlier. She had to cover a police shooting last night. Turns out it was that guy you introduced her to last week. . . Tristan, right. Anyway, she's at the hospital with him right now and she was wondering if you would be able to let his grandfather know that he's going to be fine."
"She thought that up really fast," Tristan muttered.
Rory continued to stare at her mother.
"Uh-huh, that's right. Okay, thanks so much. Rory will appreciate it . . . Yes, I'll see you tonight. Bye Mom," Lorelai said before hanging up and looking over to the bed. She looked rather pleased with herself.
"This is not a good idea," Rory said as her phone rang from her pocket. She pulled it out and rolled her eyes. "Hello? Yes Grandma, I'm here . . . He's fine, surgery went well. . . Uh, yeah, I guess I could do that . . . Okay . . . Sure, bye." She ended the call and looked at Tristan. "I should probably check in on you from time to time, so she can report back to your grandfather."
"That's so nice of her," Lorelai said. She was grinning like the Cheshire cat. "See? I'm having fun already."
"That's usually a bad sign," Rory said.
"You know, if I was a suspicious person—who thought my parents were evil manipulators—I'd think they set this whole thing up."
"You do think they're evil manipulators."
"Oh, that's right," Lorelai said. She looked at Tristan. "You better watch out, they'll stop at nothing."
"I'll keep a weather eye out."
"All right, I think it's time I head back to Stars Hollow," Lorelai said. "It was nice to meet you again, Tristan. Hopefully next time you won't be wearing a hospital gown."
"I hope that, too."
Rory sat up to give her mother a hug. "Thanks for coming. And sorry for not tell you the truth sooner."
"Well, I guess late is better than never."
She headed for the door, but Tristan remembered something. "Lorelai, wait," he said. She stopped at the door and turned back. Rory frowned. "I've heard you have mug shots," he said, pointing to Rory.
"Do you think I could have a look at those?"
She smiled at him. "I can do you one better. I have hers and her grandmother's."
He raised a brow with interest. "I'll bring the coffee."
"I'll have doughnuts ready."
"You have access to mug shots," Rory protested. "And you don't even eat dough—"
"Shhh," Tristan hissed. "I don't think you were invited."
"Yeah, you're on punishment," Lorelai added.
Tristan looked back to Lorelai. "We should probably mock her about that building at Yale, too."
"I've waited so long to make fun of that," he said.
"I don't like this at all," Rory said gloomily.
Shortly thereafter, Mark stepped out of the elevator after it'd reached the eighth floor. He followed the stripe down the center of the hall and walked by the nurse's station. He saw a blonde woman stop in front of a taller brunette.
"Lorelai, you're still here," the blonde said.
Mark stopped short and knit his brows.
"I'm on my way back home," the brunette, Lorelai, said.
"Did Tristan wake up?"
"Yeah. They're both in his room now."
"I'm going to talk with his doctor one more time before I check in on him. Then I need to leave, too." The blonde woman looked over to Mark then and scowled. "Do you have a staring problem?"
He shook his head. "No," he answered before he turned and continued down the hall. He entered the room that the person at the desk on the first floor had told him Tristan was in. He found his partner on the bed with Rory next to him, her head on his shoulder. It looked like she was sleeping.
"Hey," Tristan greeted.
"How are you?"
"Holy. But I think I'll pull through."
"Good to hear. It takes too much time to break in a new partner," Mark said. "So, what do your remember about last night?"
Tristan thought about it for a moment before responding. "We talked a lady—in Brooklyn. She told us where Roberts was. Then the bastard put a bullet in me."
Mark nodded. "That about covers it."
"Did you catch him?"
"Yeah, I made the arrest. Jacobs pressed charges for criminal possession of a weapon, running from the police, and the attempted murder of a law enforcement official," Mark explained.
"That sure was nice of him."
"Who knows, maybe you two will turn over a new leaf and get along now."
"I'm not sure about that," Tristan said. "Did you even read that thing in the Post about me?"
Mark shrugged. "I skimmed it. Just enough to be able to mock you about it."
Tristan shook his head but didn't say anything.
"So tell him about Yale already," Rory said, sounding exasperated.
He looked at her sharply, she startled him. She still had her eyes closed. "I thought you fell asleep. But fine." He looked over to his partner again. "I went to law school at Yale. Some might say I get a kick out of intimidating our beloved A.D.A."
"Oh." Mark shrugged again. "Okay."
"See, he doesn't care about it," Tristan said, looking down at Rory.
She opened her eyes then and glared at him a little. "He doesn't sleep with you, either."
"Are you two like, an item or something?" Mark asked, pointing a finger at them.
"That's good, play dumb," Tristan said, not amused.
"Hey, I'm more confused now than ever."
"About what? I'm surprised you aren't looking smug about it as usual."
Mark pointed at the door. "I just saw someone named Lorelai out in the hall. I didn't know you were into cougars."
"You saw my Mom," Rory said. "And she would not like to be called a cougar."
Mark looked at Tristan with an incredulous look. "Her mother too? What is wrong with you?"
"What? Nothing," Tristan answered defensively. Rory put a hand up to her mouth and whispered something into his ear. "Oh. Right. I forgot." He pointed to Rory. "Lorelai Leigh Gilmore."
"You saw my mom. She named me after herself."
"How many names do you have?" Mark asked.
"Probably more than necessary. But Rory is the preferred one."
"Well aren't you clever," Mark said to Tristan.
"I like to think so."
"It's true, he does," Rory said with a nod. "Didn't you see my name on that document you signed a month ago?"
"He didn't know what he was signing," Tristan said. "For all he knows, he and I are legally married."
"We aren't, are we?"
Tristan grinned. "Congratulations, Mrs. DuGrey."
"Could we at least take my last name?"
Mark just shook his head and looked at Rory. "You didn't have any trouble getting here last night, did you?"
"No, I was fine. I called home and my stepdad talked me through it. Which is why Mom came."
"I told you you'd figure it out."
"Figure what out?" Tristan asked.
"How to drive your car," Rory answered.
He looked pained. "You didn't break it, did you?"
"I don't think so. But maybe have it looked at, just in case."
The blonde woman from the hall walked in then and barely gave Mark a glance.
"Well hello, Paris," Tristan said.
"Hello," Paris answered.
She took a look at the medical equipment Tristan was hooked up to and picked the chart up from the end of the bed. "How are you feeling?" she asked him.
"Fine," he answered. "How are you?"
"Tired. I have to get going. There's a Morbidity and Mortality conference that I have to attend."
"Did you kill someone when you were slicing and dicing?" he leered.
She glared at him. "Would you like your hands sutured together?"
He shook his head. "No, not today."
"It wasn't me. It was one of my scalpel jock colleagues."
"I see. Thanks for coming down," he said.
"It was a favor to Rory, not to you."
"Okay. I still appreciate it."
She hung the chart back at the foot of the bed. "Don't get shot any more. Apparently she can be a little hysterical when you're hurt."
"I've already been forbidden."
Paris looked at Rory with a raised brow. Rory nodded meaningfully.
"All right then, I'm out of here."
"Thanks, Paris," Rory said. "And tell Doyle hi."
"Will do," Paris answered before leaving the room.
Mark watched her leave.
"Yes," Rory told him.
"What?" he said when he'd turned back.
"That's how she always is."
"There's never been a better word to describe her."
"Really? I might be able to think of a few," Tristan said.
"Be nice. She came to help," Rory said. "So when will you guys find out if Kurt Roberts strangled all those people?"
"We won't be able to work until we complete our psyche evaluations," Tristan answered.
"I'm going for mine this afternoon," Mark said. "I have the day off."
"Ask if they can send someone over while I'm in here," Tristan said. "I can get it knocked out too." He looked to Rory. "I'll get to talk about my feelings."
"Ooh, will you cry?" she asked.
"I might if they make me watch Field of Dreams."
"What about Old Yeller?"
"That might work, too."
"I'll see where Roberts stands when I go in," Mark said.
"Don't let Meyer know you're working during your mandatory time off," Tristan advised.
"Oh, that reminds me," Rory said. "He came by early this morning."
Tristan looked at her with furrowed eyebrows. "Did he say anything? To you?"
"Well, he asked how you were and I told him. He didn't say anything for a little while. Then, he looked at me and back to you, then he said 'fine.' Then he left," Rory answered. "It was like he accepted that you were going to be okay, but he wasn't completely happy about it."
"I have a feeling that was about you more than me," Tristan said. "I think it was his blessing."
"If I'm not mistaken, I'd say our boy got into some hot water yesterday," Mark said with a grin.
Tristan nodded. "Yeah, he got on my case. He saw you leave. Let me rephrase that. He saw me say good bye to you."
"Uh-oh," Rory said with a cringe.
"Don't worry. I had a defense ready. I must have effectively lawyered him."
"You know, now that I think about it," Mark said, "the law school thing explains why you're so bossy all the time."
"I am not bossy," Tristan protested. "I just . . . know things."
"Whatever," Mark said, standing up. "I might come by again later. But for now I have a lunch date at River East Elementary. That's right. People other than you two can have lunch dates." He pointed at them as he said it. "I'll see you two crazy kids later."
"So what do you think?" Rory asked. "Do you want to try the hospital food for dinner or do you want to order out?"
"Let's order something," Tristan answered.
"Okay, what do you want?"
He shrugged. "Pizza's fine."
"Pizza it is then," she said as she took out her phone to order. She was finishing up when Mark entered the room for the second time that day.
"Huge news," he said. "Roberts' prints matched the ones in his apartment—obviously—and the ones on the grade book in Lance Sooner's dorm room."
"So he did do it," Rory said. "I saw his transcript. He had to withdraw from economics twice before this semester."
"And he wasn't doing well, either," Tristan said.
"He was a marketing major. I think that's a sign to switch majors," Mark commented.
"Why would he kill his roommate?" Rory asked.
"According to his bank statements," Mark started, "he was the one who wrote the check for the rent. So McKenzie would have had to pay Roberts his half. Here, check out the dates." He handed Tristan several month's worth of bank statements. It had certain dates highlighted in yellow.
Beside him, Rory looked too. "It looks like Scout paid his half later and later every month."
"And he still owes for May," Tristan added. "So, what? He snapped and wanted his money?"
"I guess," Mark said with a shrug.
"So if his prints matched the ones in Lance's dorm room, then that means they matched the ones found on the file cabinet in Dr. Greene's office, right?" Rory asked.
Both men nodded. "He's already been charged with the three murders," Mark said.
"Why would he have killed Aaron Wilson?"
Tristan shrugged. "The prosecutor won't care why as long as we can prove that he did it."
"But won't you need to figure that out if you want to know whether or not Vernon Anderson was connected?"
"I suppose," he conceded.
"I'm going in tomorrow," Mark said. "I'll see what I can find out."
"I'll be working a little tomorrow too," Rory said. "Well, sort of. Someone told me that there's a memorial service at City College for all the victims."
"Did your minion tell you that?" Tristan asked.
"Maybe." Her phone rang and she answered. She hung up a moment later. "The pizza's here. I have to go downstairs to get it." She looked at Mark. "Would you like to stay and have some?"
"Sure, you're so nice. For a reporter."
"I won't tell anyone you admitted that."
"That's decent of you."
The next morning, Rory walked down the hallway of the hospital and went into Tristan's room. Mark was already there, sitting in one of the chairs. They were both bent over stacks of papers on their laps.
"What's going on?" she asked them, setting a couple newspapers down on a table.
"We're going through the e-mails from Sterling and McHill," Tristan answered. "We found this one from Vernon Anderson, it was about some program. They were going to sell the college textbooks for less."
"Yeah, I learned about that when I did an interview at McHill. Some of the executives actually thought the burden of college was enough without the added cost of books. I wrote about it in the article that didn't get published."
"Apparently Anderson was the one to think it up," Tristan said.
"Do you think Kurt killed him? Was he at that work event with his uncle?" Rory asked.
"I don't know," Mark said. "He confessed to the other three this morning. But he's being tight lipped about the other two."
"Did it seem like he knew something, though?" Tristan asked.
"Yeah, I got the impression that he did. Not that he can really deny killing Wilson. We have his prints and two videos that show him with Aaron before he was killed. I don't know why he isn't confessing to that one if he already took credit for the other three."
"Have you guys talked to his uncle?" Rory asked.
"Not yet. I'm going to bring him in for questioning today," Mark said, checking his watch. "Actually, I'm going to head out now. I'll see you later." He left Tristan and Rory alone.
"And I'm going to go to the memorial service at City College," Rory told him. "I just wanted to stop by to see how you are today."
"Still kicking," he said.
"All right, I'll be back afterwards," Rory said, giving Tristan a kiss before leaving.
It was later on in the afternoon when Rory returned, Tristan was on his phone when she walked in.
"Mm-hmm. Sure. Okay. I'll have to check my schedule. Bye, Mom," Tristan said before hanging up.
"Mom?" Rory said with a raised brow.
"Mm-hmm. The grape vine can work rather quickly in Hartford," Tristan said. "Plus, there's a little birdie that likes to deliver messages."
Mark must have been in the elevator after Rory's, because he walked in then and took a seat. "We got them."
"Them?" Rory asked.
He nodded. "John Warner didn't kill anyone, but he was embezzling money from McHill. He was just moving a decimal here and there so no one would notice. It was never a very noticeable amount. And would you like to know where the two hundred thousand dollars went after he withdrew it?"
"An off shore account?" Tristan tried.
"No. We found a mutual fund with Roberts' name on it. It had the same amount invested the day after it was withdrawn from Warner's account."
"Did Kurt know about the money?" Tristan asked.
"He said he didn't, but he looked surprised when I asked him about it."
"What did Aaron Wilson hear after his interview?" Rory asked.
"I talked to the woman on the other side of Warner's cubicle—"
"Janet," Rory finished.
The detectives both gave her a look, but didn't say anything about it. "Yeah, Janet," Mark said. "She heard Warner arguing with someone one day about that program you mentioned yesterday. The one that was Anderson's idea. And Kurt was with his uncle at that event Sterling put on the night Anderson was killed. But they left separately."
"What did he do? Wait for Anderson to leave so he could follow him home?" Tristan asked.
"Apparently," Mark answered. "His shoe size fits the print in the mud at his house."
"I guess John didn't like the idea of selling the textbooks for less if he was skimming a little off the top for himself," Rory commented.
"Yeah, I don't think Kurt wanted to rat his uncle out for stealing from his employer, so he didn't confess to those until today," Mark said.
"When I was at probate court, I saw that Kurt's parents didn't have much to leave him when they died."
"He was an acquaintance of Wilson and knew he was sniffing around. Roberts lured him into the science building, hoping to make it look like Greene did it. And why not? What're the chances of someone previously accused of murder to look innocent?"
"That's when I saw him the first time," Rory said, snapping her finger. "He was outside the science building after Aaron was found. I thought he was out for a morning jog."
"I guess you were right," Tristan said. "He was returning to the crime scenes."
"Gosh I love it when I'm right," she said. "So he'll be pleading guilty?"
"His defense lawyer could have him decant his confession," Tristan said. "But it'll be hard with his fingerprints on everything. He may have been tidy about it, but he left just enough."
"I need to get back," Mark said. "I just wanted to let you know that I got the confession."
"Good work," Tristan said. "I'll see you later."
Mark left, leaving Tristan and Rory. Rory started to read a book and Tristan found a movie on television. But after a while, he turned the volume down low and Rory thought she heard him start to say something.
"What?" she asked, glancing over.
He shook his head. "Nothing."
"No, it sounded like you had something to say."
"I was just going to ask," he started slowly, "if you ever regret telling him no."
"The Huntzburger you turned down," Tristan said, using the words Lorelai had used the week before.
"Oh. Logan," Rory said.
Tristan shook his head again. "Don't answer that. It's none of my business."
"No, I'll answer," she said. She closed her book and paused in consideration before answering. "No. I've never regretted it."
"You don't have to tell me what I want to hear just because I'm injured."
"When have I ever told you something because it's what you wanted to hear?"
"Then believe me when I say it. I haven't regretted saying no. But I did love him. And I had imagined us getting married. But it was a hypothetical thought. When he actually asked me—and in front of all those people," she shook her head a little and covered her eyes with her hand at the memory. "I was caught so off guard. And not in a good way. I just wanted him to put the velvet box back in his pocket and stop talking."
Rory took her hand away from her eyes. Tristan continued to listen in silence as she went on. "After I pulled him away from the eyes of the crowd, I said I needed time to think. And then I asked my mother what I should do. I'm not sure, being a girl, but I don't think that's the kind of response a guy hopes for."
"I don't think it is either," Tristan said.
"And it gets worse. While he was out in California, planning our future there, I already knew that I had no intentions of moving there with him. I knew before he even asked," Rory said before thoughtfully going on. "I might not have needed time to think about my answer if I'd already had a job offer."
Both were quiet for a moment.
"That isn't to say I wanted to break up, though," she continued. "I didn't. I asked if we could do long distance, but he didn't want to. So that was the end for us. It was terrible. For a while I felt sick just thinking about it. So I threw myself into work. And I didn't date anyone for a long time. It didn't seem right. It was a big relationship after all, so I needed some time away from it."
"But you got better?" Tristan asked.
Rory nodded. "Yeah. And it's been seven years. I've had time to think about it and gain perspective. I can admit to myself that he and I just weren't on the same page. It wasn't the first time either, when I'm being honest with myself. And Logan was right. Long distance wouldn't have worked. It would have just strung things out a little longer."
"So," Tristan said. "No regrets then?"
She shook her head and joined him on the bed as she had the day before. "No. Why would I have regrets? I got to write about a presidential campaign and be a White House correspondent. If I hadn't done that I wouldn't have gotten to see first hand how childish and self-centered our lawmakers are. Then I never would have given it up to come to New York. And I love New York City. I'm supposed to be here. I want to be here."
"With me. In a hospital bed," he added, a bit flatly.
"Yes—although, the hospital part I can do without."
"Positive. Feel better now?"
"Not really. It didn't seem like we were on the same page last week."
"No. Do you?"
"It was a bad week, I can't deny it. But we brought it on ourselves," Rory reasoned. "Think about what the issue was. We both want a few more people to know about us."
"I guess so," Tristan agreed.
"I'm not saying we're always on the same paragraph, but I think the page number is the same."
"The whole notion must be bizarre for you."
Rory nodded. "Sometimes life can throw you things you never could have predicted."
"Don't I know it?" Tristan said. "Hey, did you write an editorial?"
"No, why?" Rory asked. She picked up the Daily News, which was already open to the right section. Tristan pointed to the piece he was referring to. She scanned it with a frown. "How did that get in here? Jimmy said he couldn't print it."
"He said it made it seem like the paper is a little bit in love with the NYPD."
"I know, how can a paper love a police department?" she said, shaking her head as she put the paper back down.
She lied back down and they stayed like that for a while before Rory spoke again. "You know, with all this college business, I've been thinking that I should finally take the plunge and go to graduate school."
"Yeah. It seems to be popular to go to both Harvard and Yale."
"It's no big deal," Tristan said. "We don't have t-shirts or anything. And I can teach you the secret handshake."
Rory smiled. "Harvard is pretty far from New York."
"Mm-hmm. Do you know who has a really excellent graduate school of journalism?"
"Columbia University. And it's right here in Manhattan."
"Your chances of winning a Pulitzer would be greater too."
"I have noticed that statistic," Rory said. "Now, this would mean that we won't have attended both of the same schools. But I can think of something else that we have in common."
"We've both kissed Paris."
"That's the important thing anyway," Tristan said with a grin.