Story: Change of Scenery
Disclaimer: I own no rights to anything Gilmore Girls related. I just write for my own amusement.
Description: Set in Season One, up to P.S. I Lo…. Rory goes to her grandparents to escape all the drama that has gone on in her small town life of late. But she isn't so quick to return as she was in the show. A spin on if Rory had more of a season 6 sized emotional meltdown in Season 1. Trory.
AN: Anyone still there? Guys, I didn't abandon this, even though it's been for-ever. I realize, as I've had parts of this written since October. October! It's shameful. But I wasn't doing any writing for a while, and that led to things sucking even more and then I decided to go with what I was feeling and I was feeling something else more. I needed to get the juices flowing. So I did. I came back to this when I was ready, and now, at last, this chapter is ready. If you stuck it out, I thank you.
Rory pulled her robe around her body as tightly as she could, even though her pajamas offered full coverage beneath. It was a vast change from her state of dress not two hours prior. She'd just awoken to the usual sounds from the Gilmore kitchen—the coffee maker brewing and the toaster lever being depressed. However it was the second time she'd woken up that morning—the first involving soft kisses and the heat from Tristan's body against hers that had kept her warm while they slept in the early morning hours. She'd been reluctant to watch him leave in the dim morning light, even though she knew her mother's arrival wasn't far off, and it was best for all involved if her morning was split into two realities.
It'd taken her a while to fall back to sleep once he'd left, leaving her to toss and turn and never quite find a position as comfortable and contented as she'd been in his arms. A smile lingered on her lips as she tied off her robe and reached for her door, realizing that they may get a chance to share a bed again while they were overseas. It was enough to set off butterflies in her otherwise empty stomach.
Lorelai stopped pouring her coffee the moment Rory appeared in the doorway, all happy and fresh from her bed. "Morning."
Rory sat down at the kitchen table as if it were business as usual and picked through the newspaper. "Morning."
"Coffee?" Lorelai asked.
Rory glanced up with a furrowed brow. "That's a rhetorical question, right?"
Lorelai shook her head and reached for another mug. "Right, right. Sorry I was gone all night."
Rory took her mug and immediately brought it to her lips. After she took an initial sip, she licked her lips. The taste of salt from Tristan's skin mingled with the slightly bitter residue of her coffee. "No problem. How's Max?"
Lorelai sat down and stared at her daughter. "Good, he's good. He's happy. Very happy, actually."
Rory cocked an eyebrow, wondering when her mother would get to specifics. "Did he win a contest?"
Lorelai took in a deep breath. "I told him yes. I'm engaged. To Max."
"Ohmygod!" Rory exclaimed, the news not wholly unexpected but at the same time not having been a sure thing. Her mother had been finicky and gun shy with men in the past, even with ones she really liked. She's already broken up with Max once due to her own insecurities. The milestone in Rory's life that transpired the night before was huge, but she was fairly sure her mother's engagement news trumped even that. In an instant she was out of her seat and hugging her mother. "We have to plan your wedding. Did you set a date? How long do we have?"
Lorelai laughed as she hugged her daughter back. "We have time, I think. We didn't talk about when we should get married. He mentioned a class he's teaching this summer, so we're not going to run away and elope immediately. Not that I won't put that option on the table."
Rory drew back. "You can't elope!"
"Why not? I'll bring you!"
Rory shot her mother an expectant glare. "No, this is your wedding. You should wear a fancy dress and have lots of beautiful flowers and have everyone you love there when you walk down the aisle."
Lorelai smirked at her. "That means everyone will also watch you walk down the aisle, as my maid of honor."
Rory clutched her chest appreciatively. "Maid of honor?"
Lorelai nodded, happier than her daughter had seen her in a very long time. "Who else?"
"Can a maid of honor bring a date?"
Lorelai let out a sigh. "You may. Speaking of Tristan, did you completely take advantage of the fact I wasn't around to enforce a proper curfew last night?"
Rory let go of her mom and cleared her throat. "He may have stayed for a while."
Her voice had altered, and she knew Lorelai immediately picked up on the difference in her demeanor. She'd breached the point of no return thanks to her mother's radar. There would be no end to the conversation until she made the big reveal. She was more than a little guilty for sneaking it in with her mother's big news. "How long is a while? He's not… oh, God, he's not still here, is he?" she asked, her last words coming out in a stage whisper.
"No!" Rory said adamantly. She closed her eyes. The image that met her mind's eye was his face as he hovered over her, before leaning his whole body down to allow his lips to cover hers while he finally joined their bodies at a much lower juncture. "But he did stay for a while."
"Stop saying 'a while.' What time did he leave?" Lorelai asked, her tone growing demanding.
Rory shrugged. "I don't know specifically, but not long ago. A couple of hours at most."
Lorelai sat down heavily. Her lack of response was far more troubling to Rory than any yelling or lecturing she might have unleashed.
"Mom? Are you okay?"
"I just felt like I needed to sit. It came on suddenly, so I did it suddenly. You do have more to tell me, don't you?" she asked, her voice oddly calm.
Rory nodded and sat down again as well. "We were careful. I did everything you told me to do, in that regard. We'd talked about it, and we used protection."
Lorelai closed her eyes slowly. "You had sex."
Rory waited patiently for her mother to open her eyes, but that didn't seem to be happening any time soon. "Yes."
Lorelai's eyes snapped open at the confirmation. "Why last night? Just because you thought I'd be gone?"
"No. I mean, the timing did work out that way, but you know how you always said that I'd know when the time was right?"
Lorelai cringed. "I know I said that, but I was really hoping when that time came I'd be in a nursing home, or at least on a lot of really good mood elevators. I'm nowhere near my pharmacologically enhanced years."
"It felt right. And it was amazing," she said, not being able to keep the memories at bay. Parts of her body felt incomplete without him, now that she knew just how intricately they could fit together.
Lorelai held up a hand to stop her description. "Okay, okay. That's too weird. Maybe when you're older and there can be copious amounts of alcohol to pad the sex talk, we can discuss finer details. But you're sure you had all your bases covered? Because you can never have too much protection. We should get you on the pill, but that doesn't mean he should stop wearing condoms. Has he been with other girls?"
Rory grimaced, not wanting to think again of his past—or to scare her mother with it. "I promise, it's all taken care of, except the pill, but that's probably not a bad idea, considering."
Lorelai rubbed her temples gingerly. "I have a headache."
Rory stood up after her mother, who had begun a cabinet-to-cabinet search for painkillers. "Should I not have told you? I didn't mean to put a damper on your news, but I thought you'd want to know. You always said you wanted to know."
Lorelai gripped the bottle she'd been in search of triumphantly. "No, it's good that you told me. It's just that we had champagne last night, because he's the kind of guy that keeps a bottle in his fridge for impromptu good news. He's an optimist. He also keeps regular food in there; it's not like here where it's usually just ketchup and a jar of olives that I think we inherited with the house. And after the champagne, we didn't sleep too much, so that in conjunction with the fact that I'm twice your age means I have a killer headache. It's not you. I mean, you look happy. You are good, right? He was… good to you?"
Rory couldn't help the smile that reappeared as memories resurfaced in conjunction with the answer to that particular question. "He was. You aren't going to glare at him like he's a prison escapee now, are you?"
Lorelai let out another sigh. "Well, at least he'll be in France for a couple months, so maybe by the time he gets back my glare will be lessened to the one I use for people who don't clean up after their dogs."
"If it makes a difference in the matter, I do love him," Rory reminded her mother.
"Which is why he's not in jail," Lorelai said with a very wide smile.
Rory cocked her head. "Seriously, though. Are we okay?"
Lorelai regrouped before her daughter's eyes. "It's inevitable, I guess. I can't expect nothing to ever change. Everyone grows up and falls in love, even my kid."
"Things are changing for you, too. You're in love with Max. You're getting married."
Lorelai smiled sadly. "Yeah, I am. Listen, I should go get ready for work. You seeing Tristan today?" she asked knowingly.
Rory smiled. "Yeah. But we're still on for dinner together, right?"
Lorelai nodded. "Absolutely. I need all the time I can with you before you leave me to my own devices."
Rory chuckled at her mother's dramatic phrasing. "You'll hardly be all alone. You'll have Max."
It struck her as odd, the way her mother offered only a forced smile and a nod before heading down the hallway toward the stairs to get ready for her day after a night out with the man she'd agreed to marry. It was hardly the reaction Rory expected, even with the untimely news that she'd dropped on her mother.
That afternoon, Rory opened the door to find her boyfriend smiling at her as he waited on her front porch with his hands behind his back.
"Hi," he said, his smile still firmly in place.
"Are you going to do that all afternoon?" Rory asked skeptically.
He frowned momentarily. "What am I doing?"
"Smiling at me like you're expecting my clothes to magically disappear."
He smiled again. "And the likelihood of that happening is?" he led hopefully.
"Slim to none. I … told Mom."
He winced. "Already?"
Her eyes went wide at the fact that she had to explain herself in the matter. "I can't lie to her about something this big."
"I never said you should lie, but did you have to lead with it the first chance you got? I was hoping to actually enjoy this for a little while before she tried to have me killed."
"I didn't lead with it, but not telling her would have been lying by omission, to let her think nothing was going on—that we hadn't," she said, hanging up on the actual words.
He stared at her quizzically. "Had sex," he supplied.
She let out a sigh. "Yes."
"Because we have," he said in a firm, slightly frustrated manner.
She narrowed her gaze at him in a slightly distrustful manner. "I was there. I remember."
"And we will again," he echoed pointedly.
She crossed her arms over her chest. "If my mother doesn't kill you first."
He stepped in closer and eased his arms around her waist, despite her still closed off posture. "We'll probably do it countless more times."
She couldn't resist the urge to roll her eyes at him. "I thought you said that just because we started doing it that didn't mean it's all we'd do from then on."
"There's no time limit. Is there?"
She relaxed in his arms and searched his face. "I don't know. What's the longest you've ever dated someone?"
His brow furrowed slightly. "Ah… I don't know."
It was her turn to be annoyed. "How can you not know?"
"I've never really kept track. Why would I?"
She raised an eyebrow. "How long have we been dating?" she challenged him.
He drew back at the provocation. "Are you serious?"
"There are certain things we should know about each other, given the fact that we," she said, once again cutting off before getting to the meat of the sentence.
"We've had sex. Why can't you say that out loud?" he asked, turning the tables on her.
"I can say it. But if I do, you'll get that smirk and the glimmer in your eyes that makes me sure that you're thinking about me naked and not hearing anything else I'm saying."
"Say it, then," he urged, not letting her weasel out on a technicality.
"First you have to tell me something personal about me. Or us," she said, thinking she'd caught him in a trap that would give her a little leverage in the situation.
"Like how long we've been going out?" he led.
"Anything personal, like my birthday or my middle name or when we met."
He was quiet for a moment, but he gazed at her guardedly in the meantime like he was certain she'd lost her mind. She braced herself for a stereotypical rant about how he didn't need to memorize facts about her to know how he felt about her.
"Your birthday is October eighth, your middle name is Leigh, and the first time I saw you was a Monday morning, two weeks after school started for the fall semester. I came in late to first period, and while the teacher read my excused tardy slip, I noticed you with your head down and your hair falling half over your face while you read out of the text book, which no one else in the whole room was bothering to do. When you finally looked up at the disruption I'd made to the class, our eyes met for a second before you looked away. But that was all it took for me to be hooked."
She was blown away. "You remember all that?"
He nodded once. "Your turn."
She gave him a pleading look, but granted his request. "We had sex. Are you happy now?"
He kissed her forehead. "Very. That wasn't so hard, was it?"
She grabbed his hand and started to pull him into the house. "Come on, I need to finish packing."
He protested as he followed her back toward her room. "Unless that's a poorly veiled attempt to get me into your room to take advantage of me, I want no part in this."
"I have no idea what to bring to France. You've been there, so you can help me," she reasoned.
"The less, the better," he said with an assured smile.
"I'm serious. Do I need a bathing suit or lots of nice clothes for dinners? Am I going to get to work with you, or should I bring more books to keep me company while you're busy?"
He pointed to the stack of books next to her suitcase. "More than that? They have books in France, you know."
She sat down on her bed. "I like my books."
He sat down next to her and stretched his arm behind her for stabilization as he leaned into her. "Bring whatever you like. We'll have dinner with the family every day, but it's not formal. You're welcome to hang out with me while I'm working, or relax in the house or on the grounds if you want. We'll have plenty of time together. If you're rethinking coming with me," he began.
She leaned up to kiss him. She put her hand on his thigh and turned in closer to his body. When she edged back his eyes remained closed and he instinctually leaned in toward her to retain the contact. "It's going to happen all the time like this, isn't it?"
"Like what?" he asked, still seeking her lips.
"Just a kiss will set us on a path to more, quickly."
"Is that a problem?" he asked, leaning in again to kiss her before she could answer. Her other hand went to his chest and she gripped his shirt in a tight ball, using her fist to pull him even closer to her. His lips on hers made her head feel like she was underwater and he was a source of oxygen.
His hand slipped up under her shirt and she shivered as his fingers grazed her stomach. "It's not a problem. At least, as long as we're alone."
He smiled at the detail she added and took advantage of the fact that they were very much alone to raise her shirt up a few inches. "How long do we have?"
She raked her teeth over her bottom lip and let it free before answering. "She'll be home for dinner. You should probably be gone by then if you like all your limbs."
"Trust me, I'm in no hurry to spend time with your mom," he assured her.
Rory ran a hand down the side of his face in a comforting manner. "She'll get over it. I'm sure by the time we get back from France, she'll be so deep into wedding planning that she will barely remember how badly she wants to cause you pain."
He cocked his head to the side. "She told Medina yes?"
Rory nodded. "Yeah. She told me this morning, when she came home."
"No wonder she's pissed about us, you ruined her good news with her worst nightmare," he said, only half joking.
"Actually, she didn't sound as excited as I would have thought, even before I told her about us. I mean, this is the woman that gets overly enthusiastic about snow, any and all town events, and school plays. You'd think she'd be practically floating at a time like this, but she just seems like it's news that she got, not something that she really wants to happen."
"You don't think she wants to get married?"
Rory shook her head. "She wouldn't have agreed to it if she didn't want to. She'd never be cruel like that."
He nodded. "Well, like you said, by the time we get back, she'll be planning the wedding. Maybe she's in shock, because it hasn't sunk in yet."
Rory worried her lip in earnest. "Maybe. You're probably right. And I did kind of burst her bubble with my news. While it's a huge, exciting thing to me, it isn't something she wanted to deal with, possibly ever."
He eyed her curiously. "You're not having regrets, are you?"
She shook her head, snapping out of her thoughts of concern regarding her mother. "No. Not at all. I mean, it's different, now, with us, but it's good. I can't stop thinking about you, or last night, or any of it. All I want is," she cut off, this time not needing to finish the sentence. There was a heat between them already, and her admission drew his eyes to her lips, and she had barely taken another breath before he was over her yet again. Her attempts at packing were forgotten as the suitcase was kicked off the bed by their feet.
The doorbell rang, summoning her from the attempt to tidy up her room after Tristan left for the second time that day. Her mother wasn't due home for a little while yet, but given the state of things, neither thought it best to chance a close call so soon. And one look inside Rory's room would have given her mother irrefutable proof that something had transpired—and there wasn't much chance Lorelai would buy the excuse of a freak tornado or an act of God. Rory's room was always the neatest in the whole house, but after an hour spent in the confines with Tristan things had been knocked over, tossed about, and generally ransacked.
She unlocked the door, expecting perhaps her neighbor Babette, or Joe the pizza guy courtesy of her mother calling for delivery before leaving from work. But given an unlimited number of guesses, she'd not have chosen the name of the actual person waiting on their porch.
"Grandma? What are you doing here?" Rory asked, stilled in surprise.
Emily remained stoic and perfectly poised at the improper greeting. "Rory. I was hoping you might have time to talk for a minute or two."
Rory stumbled back as she swung the door further open. "Yeah, yes. Please, come in. Mom's not home yet."
"That's all right. It was you I wished to speak to."
Rory sat on the edge of the chair as her grandmother sat equally gingerly on the sofa. She put her hand down on the next cushion, as if testing for better quality, but frowned before removing her hand. Rory's mind raced to the night before, before her night got good—before they left her grandparents' home. "If this is about my going to France," Rory began.
Emily nodded. "It is. I regret the way in which our conversation about your trip transpired. While I think travel is an important aspect of a young woman's life, I do think you're a bit young to go that far for that length of time with your boyfriend."
"Grandma, I understand you don't like it, but Mom discussed the arrangement with Janlan Dugrey. We'll be supervised, with his family the whole time."
It was a lie, but it was one that everyone seemed to realize was a lie and was accepting of that fact—it made the adults feel far better about the situation to have that particular rouse to fall back on. "That is why I wanted to speak with you. I realize in hindsight that I may have overreacted last night."
Rory's eyes widened in surprise and disbelief. It was rare for Emily to recant her feelings or offer any sort of apology. Gilmore women weren't known for their apologetic natures. "Really?"
Emily fixed her with a knowing look. "Don't look so surprised. I'm uncomfortable with the thought of you taking off all summer before we come to a resolution on the matter."
"Grandma, it's okay. I mean, I thought you liked Tristan, but I didn't expect you to jump for joy at the idea. And I won't be gone all summer. Just a few weeks."
Emily smiled sadly. "Well, a lot will change in that time. You'll have new experiences, and when you come back things will have changed here."
Things had already changed, Rory thought, but she knew change would keep happening. Change had been snowballing over the last few months to the point that in the last twenty-four hours she'd had sex twice and her mother had gotten engaged. Neither of which she could imagine her grandmother could know about. "I think everything will still be recognizable."
"Yes, well, for a while. Has your mother discussed if you'll move afterward?"
Rory frowned. "After … what?"
Emily stiffened. "The wedding."
Rory's eyes widened again, surprised Lorelai had been so forthcoming with her own mother. Her whole world had gone topsy turvy. "Oh. No. She hasn't really made many plans. It's so new… In fact, I didn't realize she'd told anyone else yet."
"Funny, it seemed I was the last to find out. Well, I should go, but we're okay?"
Rory stood up with her grandmother as a show of decorum and nodded. "Yes, of course. Please don't worry. I'll be safe with Tristan and his family."
Emily smiled sadly. "He's a fine young man, from a good family. They've had their issues, but then what family hasn't?"
Rory nodded, knowing her grandmother was feeling the weight of all their issues, though she couldn't quite put her finger on why. "Yeah. Thanks for coming all this way. I'll be at your house the first Friday night I'm back."
Emily smiled genuinely. "Lovely. Have a safe trip."
Rory closed the door, but couldn't stop thinking about how many parts of her life were changing and how quickly. After she heard her grandmother's car depart, she grabbed her own house keys and stepped out onto the porch, feeling the need to be surrounded by everything familiar to her and get a last meal with her mother that was fitting for the occasion of what might be their last night truly together as a duo.
Rory entered the front door of her house a little while later that evening, her arms full of take-out bags. She closed the door by leaning back against it until it latched, and immediately began speaking as she'd seen her mother's Jeep parked out front and she knew her voice would carry though the house.
"Al's has Chinese again! I was so excited, I got one of all our favorites, but that's okay because I figure this way you won't run out of food right away while I'm gone, and by the time this reserve runs low Luke will start dropping food off for you," she rambled as she entered the living room. The sight before her made her stop short and drop the double-paper-bagged food on the ground. "Oh my God, what happened?!"
Lorelai was seated on the edge of the couch, next to Tristan, who was half lying back with a bag of frozen mixed vegetables on his left eye.
"I couldn't find a raw steak," Lorelai explained insufficiently.
"I meant what happened to his eye," Rory said, coming around to sit on the other side of Tristan.
"My personal guess is someone hit him, but I've yet to pry," Lorelai answered.
He lifted the bag and winced before replacing it. "I think the raw meat would have felt better."
"Let me see," Rory instructed, urging him to lift the bag again.
"It's not that bad," he said without moving the bag.
"Let me see," she demanded again.
Tristan glanced from his girlfriend to his girlfriend's mother. Lorelai shrugged. "I'd listen to her. She's not known for letting things go easily. You might have noticed."
He let out a resigned sigh and lowered the bag. Lorelai winced and Rory gasped audibly. "Tristan, what happened?"
Lorelai stiffened as he replaced the bag for the relief. "I went home this afternoon and my brother was there. We had some words, and it didn't go well."
Lorelai stood up. "I'll be right back."
Rory scooted in closer and put her hand on his knee. "Did you call your grandfather?"
"Rory, it's no big deal. I know you don't have siblings, but brothers fight."
"Siblings bicker, they don't bruise each other's eyes."
"He didn't do this. We just bickered, as I believe you put it."
Rory didn't believe he was giving her the whole story. "And you what, just happened to walk into a door during the argument?"
"No. My father came home and decided to end the argument for us. Guess whose side he was on?"
Rory felt suddenly cold. "Your dad did that?"
He didn't answer right away. When he spoke, it was slow and measured. "It was an argument. I told you things at my father's house aren't optimal."
Her mouth gaped open. "This isn't 'not optimal.' This is unsafe. You can't go back there."
"He'll cool off by the time I get back from France."
"That's what you're counting on? What if he feels the need to express his opinion again before you leave?"
Tristan shook his head stiffly. "He won't."
"He already hit you," Rory said, unable to let the subject drop.
They sat in uneasy silence until Lorelai came back in with the cordless phone in her hand. "Not to interrupt, but as the adult here," she said authoritatively, "you're staying here tonight."
Tristan and Rory both looked to her in surprise, him with only one eye visible. "Thanks, but that's not necessary."
"I just got off the phone with your grandfather, and we both feel it's best if you stay here while he handles things in Hartford."
He opened his mouth, presumably to argue, but the one person he never really argued with was his grandfather. If the decree was being handed down from him, it wasn't something he would fight.
"Does this couch get more comfortable the longer you sit on it?" he asked hopefully.
Lorelai smiled tightly. "Not at all. But I was thinking you could sleep in Rory's room, and she could bunk with me."
"I wouldn't turn that deal," he said appreciatively.
"Well, normally I condemn any male guests to our very uncomfortable couch to impede long stays or the desire for repeats. But in your case, given the fact you're injured, well, I'm not made of stone. And Rory and I have bunked together enough in the past that we barely notice the other."
"You barely notice me because you're the one that hogs all the covers and has the ability to sleep through natural disasters. I notice you plenty as I struggle to reclaim a corner of bed sheet and get warm enough to fall back asleep."
Lorelai waved a dismissive hand at her daughter. "She tends to overdramatize things. I'm going to go see if I can find a fresh bag of vegetables for your eye. But prepare yourself, it's likely going to have to be a bag of tater tots."
"Thank you," he said succinctly as she turned and retreated back to the kitchen.
"It would appear that she doesn't want to kill you after all. She's never displaced me from my bed for anyone else before," Rory impressed upon him.
"It's just because of my eye. I hear some mothers have actual maternal instincts."
She put her hands in her lap and stared down at them. "I'm sorry. I feel like I should have realized just how bad things were for you at home."
"This is an extreme situation," he assured her.
"But not the first time?" she guessed.
"It's not like I can't take care of myself. I got in a good hit too."
"That's no excuse for what he did. You're a kid, Tristan, and he's an adult."
"I'm not excusing him. I just don't want you to look at me like some kind of victim. Shit happens. Why do you think I was considering moving to France, given the opportunity? If it wasn't for you," he led but stopped short at the look of fresh horror on her face.
"You'd already be gone. This wouldn't have happened to you," she pieced together.
He held his tongue against the corner of his mouth. "I'm glad I stayed."
She stood up. "I should go take the food into the kitchen, it'll get cold. Are you hungry?"
"Rory," he said, taking the bag off his eye to look at her properly, though with difficulty through his sore eye.
"You should keep that on," she instructed, numb to everything but her realization.
"If you're upset, we should talk."
She shook her head and willed tears to stay at bay. "We're not going to agree about this. All I can do is make sure you're okay now. If you're hungry, we should eat. And when you're tired, I'll make sure my room's ready for you. And I think you should stay in France instead of coming back here in the fall, because that's what is best for you."
"We've been over this," he said wearily.
"No!" she exclaimed, pointing a finger at him in an accusatory manner. "We talked, but I didn't have all the information. I don't want you living in that situation just so we can date."
"Just because it's new information to you doesn't mean it changes the situation at all. If you won't want to be with me anymore, that's one thing. But I don't want him to get to make these choices for me. I'm not going to let him bully me. This changes nothing," he said adamantly.
She stood still, confused by the emotion swirling in her mind and body. She stared at him in frustration and couldn't bring herself to exit the room.
"Do you still want to be with me?" he asked blatantly.
"Yes!" she said, hating that she couldn't lie for his protection. "But," she tried to add.
"No buts. I'll stay here tonight, we'll leave on Monday, and things will work themselves out. I'll be eighteen eventually, and then he'll have no say in my life."
"I hate him. I've never met your father, but I hate him," she admitted in a burst of more emotion.
He stood up and put his arms around her back. "Thank you."
"I feel guilty, for keeping you in this position."
He pressed his cheek into her hair. "Then sneak down and tuck me in later," he murmured playfully.
"She's not that heavy of a sleeper. She'll notice if I leave."
"Then just leave me one of your shirts to sleep with," he offered.
She leaned back and touched his bruised skin gingerly. "Does it hurt a lot?"
He shirked back slightly. "I could use some aspirin."
She nodded briefly. "Sit. I'll bring you some, with some dinner. We'll eat in here and you can pick the movie."
He smiled at her offering. "I did not expect such an honor to be bestowed to me in this house, especially today."
She smiled. "Don't get used to it. Besides, you still have to get your choice of film past my mother. Her kindness only reaches so far, even with a busted-up face."
He put the half-thawed bag back on his face. "The shiner just adds to my rugged good looks, don't you think?"
She patted his shoulder as she went to exit the room. "At least your ego hasn't been damaged."
He didn't offer a comeback, so she took the bags into the kitchen where her mother stood, leaning against the counter and not making any attempt to hide the fact that she had solely been waiting on Rory to come into the room.
"How is he?"
Rory put the bags down and crossed her arms over her chest. "I have no idea. I can't imagine he's okay. Who would be?"
Lorelai nodded in sympathy. "I hope it's okay with you that he stays. And that you and I are bunking together."
"I was surprised. I didn't think you'd let him in the house."
Lorelai stepped to Rory. "He looked like he needed a safe place. Honey, the situation he's in," she began gently.
"It's awful. His father is awful," she said, her ire up again.
"Yes, but this is serious. I'm happy to give him refuge tonight, but I don't want you near any of that."
Rory blew out a breath and nodded. "Thankfully we'll be in France next week."
Lorelai paused and stepped closer to her daughter. "I don't think that's a good idea."
Rory's eyes hardened. "You're not going to let me go?"
"How can I?" her mother asked honestly.
Disbelief struck her for what seemed like the millionth time that day. "You said I could go. Everything's arranged, my ticket has been bought."
"That was before. Honey, when I called Janlan tonight, he was very clear with me that this wasn't the first instance and the police will be involved."
"His father won't be in France," Rory argued.
"How do you know? It's not like he doesn't have access to planes or his family's estate."
Rory closed her eyes. "Is this because of the sex thing?"
"No, this is about your safety."
"Unbelievable," Rory muttered as she turned on her heel and made a beeline for her room. Lorelai followed and stood in the doorway.
"I'm sorry you're upset, but this is how it's got to be. Do you want me to tell him for you?"
Rory turned and shot her mother a look to assess her mental health. "No, I don't want you to tell him. This was all we had left, and just like that it's over, gone."
Lorelai frowned in confusion. "What?"
Rory sank onto her bed. "He can't come back here. He needs to stay in France. He wants to come back for me, but I'm not going to let him. I was going to call things off before I left, for his own good, so he'd stay there and not come back. But if I have to stay, then I guess I have less time with him. About two days, to be exact."
Lorelai's face fell. "Oh, Honey. I'm sorry."
Rory turned away. "I'm going to get some stuff together, and get the room ready for him."
Lorelai watched her daughter sadly for a beat. "I'll leave you alone. We can talk later?"
Rory nodded, wholly numb. "Yeah. Okay."
She knew she wouldn't feel like talking, not in a few hours or in a few weeks. Everything was wrong, and there was nothing she could do to make anything right, let alone fair. She had pulled a pair of pajamas out and put an extra blanket over the bed, and was just opening her dresser drawer when Tristan walked in, with a single knock to the wall as he entered, not waiting on her permission to join her.
She offered him a weak smile. "Hey. I was just getting you a shirt to sleep with."
He walked over to her and eased the drawer shut. "How about the one you're wearing? It'll smell the most like you."
"Whatever you like."
He slid an arm around her waist and rested his chin on her shoulder. "I'd like you. I'm settling for the shirt."
She closed her eyes. Her heart hurt, for what he'd been through and for what she knew she was going to do in the much-too-soon future. "How's your eye?"
He didn't move from his perch. "It's been better. Did you and your mom have another fight?"
Tears welled up in her eyes, but none fell immediately. "We had a discussion."
She turned slowly, but he kept his hands at her waist. He was the one who was hurt, and yet he was a reassuring force for her. "She doesn't think it's safe for me to be with your family right now."
He nodded, not happy but certainly seeming to understand. "I agree with her."
She gaped at him. "What?"
"I'd never let anything happen to you, but it's a volatile situation right now. I can't argue with her, if that's how she feels. She loves you, and so do I."
"I'm not the one that needs protection. You are."
"Look in the mirror, Tristan, you're not fine," she argued, gesturing to her mirror. He did as she asked, and he met her gaze in the reflective surface sheepishly.
"I'm with you, I'll be fine," he reiterated.
She turned back to face him. "I wish I could stay with you."
He kissed her softly. "Me too."
Tears finally breached her eyelids and spilled down her cheeks. His embrace tightened.
"Hey, it's okay."
She shook her head with her eyes closed. "Is it?"
There was a separate knock to her doorframe, the familiar sound of her mother's fist lightly announcing her presence. Lorelai had averted her eyes from the melancholy couple caught in an embrace. "Not to interrupt, but Tristan, your grandfather's here."
Rory looked up into his concerned eyes and wiped her cheeks with the back of her hand. "You should go talk to him."
"Are you okay?" he asked quietly.
"Yeah. Go," she urged.
He slipped away from the women and Rory made eye contact with her mother. It was no secret between them that Rory was most definitely not fine.
"Hungry?" Lorelai asked.
Rory shook her head. "Not really."
"You didn't end things, did you?" Lorelai asked.
"No, I didn't. I should have, but I couldn't," Rory said, upset with herself. "I'm not sure if I'll be able to at all."
Lorelai held out an arm. "I wish I could tell you that just because the two of you are in love that everything will work out. I think that only happens in fairy tales, but if anyone deserves a nice fairytale ending, it's you."
"Thanks, Mom. That means a lot," Rory managed.
"Come on. We need egg rolls," Lorelai decreed.
"I'll be right in. I'm just going to change."
Lorelai shut the bedroom door and Rory pulled the drawer open again, choosing a fresh t-shirt off the top of the pile. She peeled her worn shirt off and tucked it under her pillow before pulling the clean shirt over her head. She turned on her bedside lamp and patted the made bed. She hoped he'd be as comfortable in her room as she always was. She wanted to believe that things would work out for the best, but she knew better than to believe that the best for him would coincide with her own wishes. When it came down to it, she hoped she could have the courage to do right by him. She owed it to him—she'd always believed the axiom that if you loved something, you should set it free. She just never thought she'd be forced with having to put it into practice. He wouldn't be easy to let go of.