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.
Lorelai came into Rory's room early the next morning, walking with a determined pace that suggested she was on a mission. Rory had been up for a while, finding it hard to sleep knowing that Tristan was boarding a plane too soon for her liking, and was attempting to read a book.
"Good, you're up."
Rory yawned. "I'm in bed, not up. I was actually considering going back to sleep."
Lorelai pulled clothes from her closet and tossed them on the end of the bed, beaming at her daughter. "Consider getting dressed."
Rory sulked, sinking back down into her pillow. "I don't have anywhere to go, remember?"
"Come to work with me. Nothing is more fun than distracting Michel from his duties. And you know how he especially hates it when we tag team him."
Rory didn't jump at the offer. "I should probably call Chilton again to see if there's room in any of the classes I'd wanted to take for the first summer session. I'm on the waiting lists, and Grandma said she'd bug the headmaster's wife, but calling can't hurt."
"That's your big plan for the day? Stay home in pajamas and call Chilton?"
Rory crossed her arms. "Well, I was going to be on a plane, but my plans got cancelled."
Lorelai did appear somewhat remorseful at the attempt of laying blame. "If there was any part of me that could have let you go, you know I would have."
Rory shrugged, knowing it was the truth. "Yeah, I know. I just miss him already."
"He isn't coming by this morning? When does his plane take off?"
Rory could hear the conversation from the night before in her mind like a recording, the words swimming through her memory. "We decided it would be better to just say goodbye last night. It was going to be too hard to watch him go, and he said if he came over he wouldn't want to leave without me."
"That settles it. I can't leave you home alone today. Come to work with me. If you're really in a bad way, I'll put you in the kitchen and you can call Chilton from Sookie's desk and I'll have her make you that cake with the layers that you love."
Rory did perk up, if slightly. "You'd do that?"
Lorelai nodded and put a hand on her hip. "Yeah, well, I think if there's an occasion for that cake, it's having your boyfriend fly to France without you. Hey, you know if it doesn't already have a name, that should be it."
"My Boyfriend Flew to France cake?" Rory asked skeptically.
"It's better than The Cake with the Layers that Rory Likes, which is how I currently refer to it," Lorelai pointed out.
"I'm going to agree, but that doesn't make it okay."
"Just get dressed. I'll do my best to provide you with distractions until I'm done, and then we'll hit Jo-Jos and go the Black, White, and Read, then we'll top off our evening at Luke's, for pie and milkshakes."
"That's quite the exercise in gluttony. Luke said he'd never serve you pie and milkshakes together at night again, because you went into the bathroom and tried to toilet-paper his diner the last time."
"The man doesn't understand sugar rushes. But he will cave if I tell him that you need them because you're sad. And he can't serve you without serving me."
"I don't want pity pie, nor do I want to serve as a loophole to your madness. Besides, don't you and Max have a date tonight?"
Lorelai waved her hand dismissively. "I'll cancel. He won't mind. Your mental health comes before my night out with Max. And there's no way Luke will serve me milkshakes and pie if I show up with Max. I'm not sure Luke likes Max all that much."
"You can't cancel on Max because of me or milkshakes. He's your fiancé, and he'll not enjoy coming in third under milkshakes."
"Have I not made it clear that the milkshakes are for you? I'm just being supportive, and not letting you drink alone. Drinking alone is sad and a sign of addictive behavior."
"Milkshakes aren't what I need."
"What do you need?" Lorelai asked, ready to give in to most requests.
Rory sighed. "Tristan."
Lorelai clapped her hands. "Alright, that's it. I am willing to coddle you a little, but today is not that day. Get up, get dressed, and be in the Jeep in ten minutes. You can reorganize my files, because they need it and you're obsessive in a way few people are, and I need you. No one can be sad while alphabetizing, or at least, I don't think you can."
Rory got out of bed and picked up the shirt her mother had selected randomly. "I don't blame you, you know that right?"
Lorelai let out a breath. "I know, but it's good to hear. Get dressed. I'll make coffee."
Rory nodded and waited until her mother gave her some privacy before finally taking off her pajamas and getting ready to face her first day without Tristan. She hadn't known what that would look like—she still wasn't sure she wanted to find out—but at least it would involve cake.
Max sat on the couch, awkwardly waiting for Lorelai to come down. "Are you sure she's up for this?"
Rory kept her arms crossed over her chest as if to shield herself for the uncomfortable wait, but nodded assuredly. "She was just afraid to leave me alone. But I'm a big girl and I know how to use the remote better than she does. I'll be fine."
Max gave her a waning smile. "So he left today, huh?"
Rory nodded. "Yeah. He'll be back for school, though."
"You and your mother can keep each other company this summer then," he said in a hopefully upbeat tone.
Rory gazed at him quizzically. "I already told her, I'm fine. I don't need her to put off her plans to cheer me up."
He returned her confused expression. "Didn't she tell you? I'm leaving this week to teach at Stamford for the summer quarter."
"She didn't mention it."
"Well, it's not a big deal, just a few weeks. I'll be back for the fall semester, and the wedding, of course."
Rory sat in stunned surprise. "You set a date?"
Max hesitated warily. "I get the feeling your mother has been unusually mum about me of late."
Rory felt badly that she was putting him in a tight spot. "You know, with all this stuff with Tristan leaving, she has this tendency to not want to flaunt her happy news when people she loves are upset. She has this whole analogy about the emotional turmoil of her middle school social scene," Rory explained insufficiently.
Max glanced anxiously at the empty staircase. "I'm sure that's what it is."
Rory nodded. "Me too. Really. She's really excited about the wedding. I've caught her sneaking wedding magazines in her bag. She doesn't want to come off as a cliché, but she's definitely happy about this."
Max relaxed. "Really?"
"Yeah," Rory said with a smile.
Lorelai descended in a blaze of energy, still pulling on a boot. "Okay, now if you get hungry, there's money on the table, if you get bored, I have that Behind the Music marathon on tape in the player, and if you get lonely, call me."
Rory stood up and shook her head. "I'll be fine. If I get lonely, I'll read a book. Besides, Tristan might call when he lands, if he remembers and isn't too tired."
Lorelai smiled and put her hands on her daughter's shoulders. "He'll remember."
Rory smiled before shooing her mother off. "Go have fun. You're engaged, act like it. Go make some random people uncomfortable with your happiness."
Max shook his head at her instruction, but Lorelai stopped to check one more time that her daughter was not on the verge of some emotional cliff. "You're sure?"
Rory rolled her eyes. "Go. My boyfriend is in a different country, but he's still my boyfriend. I'm really okay."
Lorelai conceded to believe her, if haltingly. "Okay. I have my cell. Neither of us will mind having to come back if you need anything—no matter how small. Even if it's just a light bulb goes out or you desperately need a Mallomar."
Rory frowned. "If a light bulb goes out, I'll call Luke. If I need a Mallomar, I'll get into your nightstand."
Max's face brightened in amusement. "Your nightstand? Is that what you keep in there?"
Lorelai turned to Max, doing her best to mask her true reaction. "She's kidding. Let's go, shall we?"
He didn't buy it, but allowed her to lead him out the door. "Do I at least get to make a 'how many Lorelais does it take to change a light bulb' joke?"
"Not if you ever want to see what is in my nightstand, mister," she said as she shut the door behind them, leaving Rory alone for the first time in a while. She stood in the living room, letting the silence and the solitude sink in. Her solace came in the fact that she knew Tristan would not have gone if there had been a way around any of it, not without her. He'd call once he was able, and until then she'd keep busy. She had plenty of things to do that did not revolve around missing her boyfriend. She just needed to choose one and get to it.
She collected the money meant for her dinner and shoved it into her pocket for later use. It was still light enough out for a walk, but she wasn't in the mood. She had obtained a copy of the reading list for the class she was hoping to get into by week's end at Chilton for French literature, and decided that might be her best bet as she pulled the first book she'd taken out of the library and made her way to settle in on her bed. She'd just cracked the spine on The Elegance of the Hedgehog when there came a knock at her front door. She placed the book down gingerly on its face so as to keep her place and walked quickly back to the front door, assuming her mother had either placed a food order on her behalf to be sure she ate or that it was her mother herself, unable to hold back from making sure her departure was allowable that night.
She had not even considered that she might open the door to find her boyfriend, very much not in France, on her front porch. She stared at him in wonder and disbelief. "Am I dreaming?"
He smiled. "I could pinch you, if you like," he offered.
"It is you," she said as she stepped forward and pasted herself to his form. His arms slipped around her in kind, and they stood there hugging until she was satisfied that she was definitely not dreaming the feel of his warmth against her. "Did something happen?"
He didn't have time to answer, because her mind filled with instant worry and she peppered questions at him. "Are you okay? Did your flight get delayed?"
He put a finger to her lips, stilled at first and then he slid it to the side, tracing the outline of her mouth. "You said you wanted a boyfriend that picked you up and took you for ice cream and held your hand in a movie theater. Now, this town doesn't have a lot in the way of amenities, but it can manage all of that."
She couldn't quite wrap her mind around what he was saying. "You're here to pick me up for a date?"
He nodded. "If that's still what you want. I know women are prone to changing their minds, but keep in mind I did go through quite an effort to make this one happen."
She couldn't help but gape at him. "I just wanted you to be here."
His eyes remained on her, as she continued to try to grasp the fact that he was really there. "Your wish has been granted."
"But how? And for how long?"
He shook his head. "Just for tonight, you and I are going to be any other couple. Ones that don't worry about college plans and trips to France or my fucked up family. Okay?"
"O-okay." She wanted to know more, but she didn't have it in her to fight whatever had brought him to be on her porch to pick her up for a date. After all they'd been through and what might still lie ahead of them, she wanted for her wish of normalcy to really come through for once. She looked up at him hopefully. "Can I ask one more thing?"
He ran his bottom lip through his teeth as he considered her question. "Go on, you know you want to."
"Do we have time before the movie?"
He smiled knowingly. "For ice cream?"
She shook her head and pushed up on her toes. Her arms circled behind his neck with a practiced grace. He let her meet his lips first, but he did not hold back in returning the kiss. His fingers splayed out to cover her low back, and his other hand cupped her jaw gently, a marked contrast to the direction of their kiss. Suddenly she wasn't concerned about where he'd spent the rest of his day, but she was very intent on getting him inside her house. She slid one hand down between them, grasping his shirt in her fist in case he didn't follow the lead of her still insistent lips as she walked backward toward her front door.
"What about," he began, his words coming so close to her that his breath tickled her cheek.
"She's gone. Max picked her up."
He gazed down into her eyes. "You were going to be all alone here tonight?"
"Uh-uh-uh. No talking about stuff," she reminded him as she pulled the hem of his shirt up out of his pants.
"Right," he said, shifting the tee shirt up over his shoulders and head with an easy flick. "You sure about the movie?"
"We can skip the ice cream and miss the previews," she offered by way of compromise.
"It's not like we're skipping dessert altogether," he informed her, the look in his eyes unmistakably set on devouring her. She might have been slightly terrified by that expression at the outset of their relationship, but now it served to bring about her arousal like a strike to a tuning fork. Her stomach tightened and heat rushed to all the right places to prime her body for his.
She put a hand to his cheek, holding him at bay for just a moment. "I missed you. I know I just saw you last night, but this whole day, thinking you were going… I missed you."
He said nothing in response, but there was a purposefulness to the way he set to undressing her, helping her lift her shirt off her torso, pulling one strap off her shoulder to kiss her freckled skin before employing his other hand to release the clasp of her bra unsighted against her back. He pulled her to him after that and held her to his chest. She could feel his heart beat against hers, keeping the same time as if he were synchronizing the rhythm.
She had grown used to his intensity, letting her own desire ramp up to meet his, but this was like nothing he'd displayed before. She was unable to pull herself from his eyes as she felt her breath match the rise and fall of his chest. When he kissed her, there was a fusion and a wholeness that stilled her. She knew he hadn't wanted to leave, but in that moment she felt that he was never going to leave her no matter what happened.
"You two need anything else?" Luke asked gruffly. The diner was starting to empty out, as it was the last hour before it was set to close on a weekday night.
Rory shook her head with a smile that she couldn't seem to shake. "We're set, thanks, Luke."
Luke glanced from Rory to Tristan. "Your mom knows you're out?"
"She gave me the money and the idea to get milkshakes, even."
Luke grumbled under his breath, no doubt a dig about Lorelai's bad influence on her daughter's nutrition. He disappeared behind the counter, and Tristan turned conspiratorially to Rory. "He seems fun."
"Luke's a little prickly, but he means well."
"He talked you out of ordering extra food. Doesn't that hurt his business?"
"Luke's hard to explain. Let's just say he's a healthy eater and he and my mother do not see eye-to-eye on anything."
He put a hand on hers, sliding his fingers through hers. "So, our attempt at an average date night?"
She blushed and studied their hands. "It was good."
He feigned hurt. "Just good?"
Her eyes flashed at him. "I just mean that I'm not sure that our evening qualified as average. It was anything but average. But the last bit, the movie and hanging out here, it's definitely good. Nearly average."
He leaned in further across the table. "About before the movie," he said in a deep, husky voice that made her insides quiver all over again, as if her internal organs had turned to gelatin at the prompting of his voice.
"You sure you two don't need anything else? We're about to close the grill."
Tristan eased back into his seat as Luke glared in his direction. Rory clamped her lips shut to try to hide the giggle that bubbled up in her throat. She gave a lame cough. "You could get us those fries."
"Already cleaned out the fryer. I could get you some carrots," he offered in all seriousness.
"With milkshakes?" she asked in horror.
"How is that different than fries with milkshakes?" he countered.
She wasn't going to get into an argument that her mother would happily engage in. "We're good, Luke."
Luke nodded and left them alone yet again, without checking on his other patrons. Tristan watched him go and turned back to his girlfriend. "Prickly and a little protective."
She shrugged a shoulder. "He takes an interest."
He raised an eyebrow and leaned in, but not as close as before. "So, before the movie."
She stared into his eyes, willing her heart to keep a steady rhythm as it threatened to pound at the very mention of what they'd done before the movie. Technically they'd missed more than the previews. They'd slipped into the back of the theater halfway through the feature and did a little more than just hold hands. Sitting across the table at Luke's was the furthest she'd been from him since he'd shown up on her porch. "Yes?"
"I," he began, but her attention was directed to the diner door opening and her mother coming through as if searching the perimeter. The look of realization that washed over her once she saw Rory and Tristan was unmistakable.
"Is Luke's some kind of wormhole to France?" she asked lightly as she came up to the table.
Rory beamed at her mother. "He stayed to take me on a date."
"Milkshakes, cute. Aren't you supposed to be sharing one with two straws?" Lorelai teased.
"I've attempted to share food with her before," he relented, tossing little barb her way.
"Man, he does know you. I'm gonna go order," Lorelai said.
"He closed the grill," Tristan offered helpfully.
"What am I, an amateur?" she asked briskly as she strode off for the counter.
"Didn't she just come from a dinner date?" he asked.
"Maybe they never got around to dinner," Rory offered distastefully. "It wouldn't be the first time."
He stared at her quizzically. "She tells you that stuff?"
She took a sip of her milkshake. "It borders on child abuse."
He was quiet for a minute and she worried she'd made light of a subject she shouldn't have. He stirred his straw around the remains of his drink. "I went to see my dad today."
Her glassy eyes met his. "You did?"
"I kept thinking about everything, and why things got to be how they were. My grandfather was going to petition my parents through lawyers and use things he had on my dad to hasten the process, but that was going to take months at best. So I went, alone, today."
"Did he… what happened?" she asked more directly. She knew he was fine. She'd had the opportunity to see he had no new injuries to his body, not to mention the fact he had been fully capable of his full range of motion, not to mention an unmatched stamina. She felt herself growing warm again at the thought.
"He signed emancipation papers."
Her jaw dropped. He'd been holding that kind of news all evening, letting her revel in something as simple as a date. Granted, it had been one for the record books, but still. "He didn't fight it at all?"
"He's not a stupid man. I pointed out that he knew which way any judge would rule, given the circumstances, and how much money he'd save by doing it upfront and not dealing with further legal hassles. And since my grandfather is going to cut him off from his usual means of income, he's going to need to hold onto what he has left. This way it's a clean break."
"What about your mom?" she asked quietly.
His expression shifted, but he remained unnaturally stoic. "She's always done what he wanted, no matter her feelings on the matter. He earned the money, and she deferred to him."
Rory didn't bother hiding her disgust. "I'm sorry."
He shook his head. "Don't be. This means I don't have to be shuttled around between guardians. I can choose where I want to be and when."
"You did that to stay around this summer?"
"I did it to give myself options. To finally get away from all their drama. Now it's my choice, whether I want to be involved in any family matters."
"What did your grandfather say?"
Tristan smiled absently. "He was proud of me, for finding my own solution. He's not going to let me fall off the face of the earth, but with his health I knew he wasn't looking forward to legal battles and spending his remaining years reining me in and fighting on my behalf. I know he would, and that's enough for me."
She put her hand on his and squeezed. "I didn't give you enough credit when we first met. I was so wrong about you, it makes me wonder just what kind of judge of character I am."
"I didn't give you much reason to find out who I was. I wasn't in a good place then."
"I'm glad I know better now," she admitted with an admiring smile.
Lorelai slid a plate of fries onto the table and pulled up a chair. "Luke would appreciate you two not looking at each other like that. He said something about this being a place where people eat and you two hindering that process."
Rory turned to her mother. "How did you get fries?"
Lorelai smiled. "I asked nice."
Rory narrowed her gaze. "You flirted."
Lorelai put a hand to her chest, scandalized. "I would never stoop to such levels for French fries."
Tristan watched the two and snuck a fry. Rory cocked her head to her mother. "I told you not to come back early just for me."
"I can see you were kept busy," Lorelai said with a glance at her daughter's fry-stealing boyfriend. "But I would have been home early anyhow. Max still had some packing to do, and apparently I'm a hindrance to that process."
"And how," Rory agreed, stealing her own fry.
"I came here for moral support. I had to hear about my clogging arteries from Luke and now my own kid is complaining about me?" She turned to face Tristan. "What about you?"
He smiled at her, but it was too showy. "Your hair looks nice."
She frowned. "Oh, geez."
He put on his most repentant expression. "I could use a place to crash for a few days."
Rory and Lorelai both looked alarmed, their expressions so similar nearly caused him to choke on the fry. "What happened?"
He cleared his throat. "Well, my grandfather went to France today, and he's already closed up the house. I could get a hotel, but I thought I might check with you guys first. It's just until Saturday."
Rory paled. "What happens on Saturday?"
He met her eyes guiltily. "That's when I'm going to France. I changed my tickets this afternoon. I'm going for a month, and I'll be back for second summer session at Chilton. I'll probably move back into my grandparents' house then."
"Probably?" Lorelai echoed.
"He sought emancipation from his parents and they signed it," Rory provided, still staring at Tristan.
"You're on your own?"
It was plain to see Lorelai was at once uneasy and saddened by the news. "Just for the week. Grandfather is still planning on looking out for me, until he's satisfied that I'm on the right path."
"There will always be a place for you to crash with us, as long as you know the two of you will be supervised and there will be no sharing of beds. You may be an adult in the eyes of the law, but in my house I'm the law."
"I respect that," he said sheepishly.
Lorelai pushed back. "Good. You two finish off the fries. Go easy on Luke, he was nice to me tonight. I'll see you two at the house."
Rory watched her get up with concern. "Is everything okay?"
Lorelai pasted on a forced smile. "Yeah, it's fine. I'm just tired. I spent all day cheering you up, remember?"
Rory nodded and they said their goodnights. She looked to Tristan. "What a day."
"You can say that again," he agreed.
Luke came back over to the table with a rag on his shoulder and a to-go box in his hand. "Your mom left?"
Rory nodded. "Yeah, why?"
"I was going to give this to her. You mind taking it home?"
Rory accepted it. "What is it?"
"Pie. Seemed like she could use some tonight."
"I'm sure she'll love it. Thanks, Luke."
"Yeah," he muttered, as he righted the chair Lorelai had moved and continued to tidy up for the evening.
"You ready to get out of here?" Tristan asked gently.
"Yeah. Let's go home."