Story: Delayed Dinner (and other best-laid plans)
Description: In the line of Masquerade and Anyone Like You, another Trory one-shot, a little further down the road.
Disclaimer: I own nothing involved with Gilmore Girls. If you don't enjoy Trory pairing, this isn't for you.
The kitchen counter was littered with various ingredients, all in an open or half-used state. Half a stick of soft butter lay on its open wrapper, an empty box of macaroni was discarded on its side, and a box grater with stray shards of cheddar cheese was forgotten behind the woman in Hello Kitty slipper socks and a too-long grey men's t-shirt stirring a concoction over the stove.
Tristan Dugrey tossed his keys into a bowl on the counter and sampled some of the leftover cheese on his way to stand behind his live-in girlfriend. He took an active interest in her behavior as he peered over her shoulder.
"What are you doing?" he asked, staring down in confusion at what was clearly one of the few dishes she was able to master on her own volition—macaroni and cheese.
"I didn't hear you come in," Rory said as she continued her slow, methodical stirring as the cheese had nearly melted evenly into a rich yellow coating over the noodles. When she did cook, she took the process very seriously, never leaving the stove unattended or risking any kind of injury. He took great amusement in watching her process on the rare occasions she demonstrated such displays of domesticity. She'd not had much in the way of role models for stereotypical women's work. She'd learned to work, quite hard, but in her chosen career while sustaining herself on take out and doctored food from box mixes.
"I told you I had super-stealth powers," he said with a grin as he kissed her cheek. She leaned into him, her back resting against his torso, just long enough for him to notice the gesture.
"If the kitchen wasn't in the back of the house, I'd hear you come in," she said, nixing his claims of superhuman qualities.
"We're not having this argument again," he said wearily.
"I'm not arguing," she protested as she reached out and turned the burner off before removing the pot to the safety of a trivet next to the stove.
"Yes, you are. You still think, after all this time, that we should have rented a smaller place."
She turned to face him, leaving the wooden spoon resting inside the resting mac and cheese. "It would have been reasonable."
He raised an eyebrow. "Uh-huh. Okay. Now, tell me, where would we have put all our stuff in this reasonably small apartment?"
She stepped past him and reached up into one of the many cabinets to extract a bowl. "We could have made it work. When you get a bigger place, you fill it up."
"Your books alone needed a whole room," he defended his insistence.
"I offered to weed a few out."
He rolled his eyes at the comment. "A few wouldn't have cut it. The Library of Congress pales in comparison to your collection."
She poured out enough food to fill her bowl and began using the wooden spoon to eat. He stared at her as if she'd licked all the silverware and replaced it in the drawer. "What?" she asked, through a mouth full of hot cheesy comfort food. After she swallowed, she pointed to the pot. "I'm sorry, did you want some?"
He shook his head, the look of exasperation rooted in place. "No. It's Tuesday."
She thought for a second about what his simple reminder meant. "Oh. Crap."
He turned up his palms. "A year under one roof and the magic is gone, huh? I thought we'd make it a little longer before you forgot our standing date night."
She put down her spoon and turned to face him. "I forgot it was Tuesday. I wouldn't forget our standing date. I love our standing date. I've just had a lot of things on my mind, that's all."
He listened to her only excuse and sighed. He wasn't mad, but he was disappointed. Not to mention hungry. "I shouldn't bother calling, should I?"
"No, you love their spicy Hunan beef," she said, feeling guilty for her mix-up. "Call now, you must be hungry. How was your day?"
He shrugged. "Boring. I sat in meetings all day. All I could think about was coming home to you and Hunan beef. Didn't you get my texts?"
She blushed and turned away. "Um, they were received."
"You're going shy on me now?" he asked with a playful throaty growl, as he wrapped his hands around underneath her arms and pulled her flush against him.
She turned with the confines he created to face him with a sheepish expression. "No, but in full disclosure, my day was a little light, so I went and had lunch with Mom," she led pointedly.
His eyes closed as her meaning sank in. "Did she see the first one or the second one?"
Rory tried to suppress her grin. She wasn't so successful. "Both. But she was supportive. And a little jealous, I think," she added.
"Why did she have your phone?" he asked, on the fence between mortification and pride.
She turned away and put another spoonful into her mouth before she mumbled something he didn't catch.
"What was that?"
She swallowed. "I said, I was showing her something—an app, it's not important now. You should call and order."
"It's not worth it if you're not going to get anything," he reasoned.
"No, order my usual," she encouraged, even as she prepped another bite of her homemade dinner.
He stared at her. "Because Chinese food is better the next day?"
"Well, it is, but I'll still have room. They won't get it here for another forty-five minutes," she said without batting an eye.
He picked up the cordless phone from the wall unit, but didn't dial. "Didn't you eat with your mom?"
She nodded. "Yeah. Sookie was in full prep mode for Valentine's Day, so we actually ate more than the year we had four Thanksgiving dinners in one day."
He tried to mentally compute that level of calorie intake. "No one can eat four Thanksgiving dinners in one day."
She smiled at him. "We keep waiting for competitive eating to be added to the Olympics. Mom sent in angry letters after they added Trampoline as an event, but still, we wait."
"The only way I can think of you needing two dinners after more than four lunches is if you stretched your stomach so much that you're trying to slowly train it back to normal size," he joked, trying to reach for the shirt she was wearing. She shirked away from him.
"Hey, leave my shirt alone! There's nothing to see here!"
"First of all, I believe that's my shirt. You can't even make the excuse that we share a closet—you have your own, and yet you steal shamelessly from mine. Second of all, don't sell yourself short—there are all kinds of wonderful things under that shirt," he said with a suggestive eyebrow waggle as he pulled her back in for a kiss.
She kissed him, the nearness of his body and the warmth of his mouth especially inviting after a long day apart. It was almost enough to distract them both from the talk of food and make the trip upstairs to the bed unnecessary. It wouldn't have been the first time he'd lifted her up to the kitchen counter and made use of the leverage the height provided. As much as she'd contested the house they'd chosen to rent over a more modest apartment, they'd certainly put each room to good use.
It was with great restraint that she pulled back and licked her lip. "I just meant that my stomach looks the same as it always does. And I like your shirts. They smell like you."
He blew out a breath. "That's unfair. I can't argue with that logic."
She beamed at him. "I know."
"Wait. You went all the way to Stars Hollow for lunch?" he queried with sudden interest.
Her eyes widened and she turned back to the cabinets to get a glass. "Yeah. I told you, I had a light day."
"But you went in late. At least, you were still in the bathroom when I left. And if you ate all that, I can't imagine you were productive in the afternoon."
"What did you want to talk about?" she said, changing the subject deftly, though obviously. "In your first text, you said there was something you wanted to talk to me about. Unless the second text was all you wished to convey."
He smirked at her. "You liked it."
"I would have liked it better if it hadn't been my mother reading it out loud," she said with a slight cringe.
"I was thinking, during my really boring meeting, that we should get away."
She took a long drink from her glass of water. "Like a vacation?"
He reached out and took the glass from her, taking his own drink before handing it back. "Yes. Most people take them annually."
She raised an eyebrow. "Who are these people?"
"I mean it. You and me, alone, without computers or phones or television," he described, as if it were a fathomable paradise.
"Why no television?" she contested with a hand to his chest.
He smiled. "So we can focus on each other. Trust me, I'll keep you plenty busy."
She returned his smile. "That is a promising incentive," she agreed. "When were you thinking of taking this vacation?"
"Valentine's Day weekend," he said without missing a beat.
"Oh. Well, are you sure that's a good idea? I mean, that's pretty short notice, and places get booked up, and we need to coordinate our schedules. That's soon," she said, instantly coming up with excuses.
"I'm sorry, did you have other plans that I'm unaware of?" he asked, not expecting the full brunt of her hesitation.
She smacked his chest playfully. "No, but you've been really busy. Don't you have a lot of work stuff going on?"
"Nothing that I can't put off for a long weekend. Especially a long weekend spent mostly naked in Paris with you," he said with a knowing glint to his eyes. She knew that look. Her knees went weak with no other provocation.
"I already called and reserved a hotel room overlooking the Seine."
"That's a long flight," she remembered, her stomach lurching at the thought of cramped seats and recycled air and unknown bouts of turbulence.
"It's the same length it's always been," he argued, as if trying to remind her that they'd made the trip together before, let alone separately before that.
That assurance didn't do anything to quiet her rolling stomach. She eyed her mac and cheese longingly. "Oh. But Paris is so far. We should stay local. We could have a stay-cation, those are big now. And we could enjoy our house. You love this house."
"Paris is not that far. And the house is nice but the whole point of a vacation is to get away."
She worried her lip with her teeth. "I realize that, but," she hedged, not having much of an argument to his plans without saying too much.
"But you hate Paris? You're tired of croissants? You have some sort of fear of that the French will taunt you?" he guessed.
She smiled. "No. Well, maybe on that last one, but," she relented.
"But what?" he gently prodded.
"I don't know. I just thought this year, we'd stay in and have a quiet dinner," she suggested.
"We do that every Tuesday. And don't tell me you hate Valentine's Day, because last year you very much enjoyed the whole song and dance I put on," he said, recalling their first go at the holiday as a couple.
"Any evening in which you ask me to move in with you will always be one of the more memorable nights of my life," she acknowledged.
"And you think I can't top that feat? Trust me, I have all kinds of romance up my sleeves still," he assured her warmly.
"I have no doubt," she agreed.
"As long as it's not Paris?" he asked.
"I'm just not in the mood to travel. Being in the car and on a plane, the thought of being on a boat," she said as she envisioned their last romantic dinner on a riverboat in the City of Lights, even the good memory able to wreak havoc on her gag reflex.
"You're a great traveler," he amended curiously.
"Normally I am, but it's cold and flu season still. You never know when a lazy co-worker will sneeze on you and ruin your vacation plans."
"You don't get airsick. You're a seasoned flier," he said, trying to make sense of her issue with his suggestion.
"There's a reason they put airsick bags in every seatback pocket. One bad patch of turbulence and even the sky marshals are ready to toss their cookies," she said in earnest.
"You never get car sick. You rode around on a bus for over a year with Obama's campaign press tour. And the way you eat—you've practically got a stomach of steel."
"Why do people always say that like it's a bad thing?" she demanded.
"I'm just trying to make sense of why you're hesitant to escape the dreary New England winter to have a romantic getaway with yours truly."
"I don't mind New England winters. I'm a New Englander. We're a hearty people," she boasted, though she didn't feel so hearty at the moment. She wished she had something to add to the mac and cheese to settle her stomach. The nausea she was experiencing made her reminiscent of her college hangovers. Perhaps she needed to go all out. She opened the fridge. "Do we have any gravy?"
He put the phone down on the counter, between the butter and the empty box. "Have you been drinking?" he asked in a confidential tone.
"No! I just like gravy. What's wrong with that?" she asked as she pilfered around in the appliance to no avail.
He gave a heavy sigh and crossed his arms over his chest as he leaned back on the counter and gazed at her with concern. "Are we okay?"
She shut the fridge and stared at him with doe eyes. "Of course! Why would you even ask that?"
He cocked his head. "You forgot our date night. You have no interest in Paris. You're not excited for Valentine's Day," he explained his reasoning.
She shook her head and stepped in toward him. She ran her hand down his chest and his arm, lightly, reassuringly. "Today wasn't a normal day. I could never forget you. And I am excited for Valentine's Day. You have no idea how excited I am, or how much I want to celebrate this one with you, I just had a different idea about how to spend it, that's all."
He searched her eyes for any slightest sign of negativity, but he came up empty as all he saw was sincerity amid her brilliantly blue irises. "I guess accidentally eating your weight at lunch qualifies for a weird day," he consented.
"Weird, but oh so delicious," she said dreamily. "I miss being Sookie's test dummy."
He smiled at the expression. "So what's your idea?"
She frowned as she continued to look up at him. "For what?"
"How to spend Valentine's Day," he reminded, unwilling to let the conversation veer.
"Oh, well, I can't tell you now," she said dismissively, shaking her head at him as if he should have known better.
"You already said you wanted to stay home," he argued.
"The location isn't the surprise," she explained.
"Yeah, well, the location wasn't the surprise I had planned either," he countered.
She eyed him suspiciously. "You have another surprise planned? On top of a trip to Paris?"
He shrugged. "Maybe."
"What is it?"
"Come to Paris and find out."
"Your surprise is dependent on being in Paris?" she pressed.
He wasn't going to offer up details lightly. "It's discretionary, but what I had in mind works well with my other plans. What about you, is your surprise tied to staying home?"
She hesitated. "Well, not exactly, but it's what I envisioned. Is your surprise something you have to do, or just something you think I'd like?"
He stared at her like she'd gone insane. "Are you arguing with me over who gets to surprise the other for Valentine's Day?"
She stood her ground. "Maybe. But I should tell you, even without knowing what your surprise is, mine wins."
He seemed ready to take up his side of the fight. "You want to play chicken?"
"I'm serious. Mine isn't something I can return to a store or save for next year," she said passionately.
"It's something you made, with an expiration date?" he surmised.
"In a manner of speaking," she said with a pensive expression aimed up toward the ceiling.
"Rory, just… agree to Paris. I have it all planned and you don't want to miss what I have in mind," he said with nothing but sheer pleading in his voice. He was out of good reasons for her to take his side or simply see it his way. He hadn't expected to meet a wall when he brought the subject up. He thought she'd already have started packing while they awaited their dinner delivery. At this rate, they'd be lucky to get food before midnight.
She crossed her arms over her chest. "No."
He let out a strangled groan. "Why not?"
Her defiant demeanor seemed to slide off her. She shifted her weight and gave him a furtive, almost panicked glance. "Because."
"Because is not a reason."
"Wait. You said you came up with this idea today. You got it all planned in one day?" she said, shifting the focus of the conversation away from her.
He narrowed his eyes as he caught the game she was trying to play. "I'm a doer. I move quickly."
She shook her head. "I don't buy it. It took you six trips to three stores to decide on our mattress, and it took you four months to pick the perfect television."
"This is different," he assured her.
"Because," he answered in a defiant tone.
"Because is not a reason," she parroted back at him.
He let out a heavy sigh, at the moment bested by his perfect match. "We could flip a coin."
Her mouth hung open. "We are not flipping a coin!"
"Why not? If we can't agree on this, then we leave it up to chance."
"That's insane. I can't just forget about my plans!" she reiterated.
He rolled his eyes. "Because you made it?"
"We made it," she corrected, realizing too late that she had offered a clue that she hadn't wanted to let slip. Her hands went to her mouth, clamping it shut.
He stood up straight, as though he'd been struck by lightning. "What?"
She shook her head. "Nothing. Hey, weren't you going to call and order? It's getting late."
"Forget the spicy beef," he said, focused on the line of conversation she was desperate to tangent off of. "What exactly did we make?"
She bit her lip and fixed him with big, apprehensive blue eyes. She appeared on the verge of cracking. "I wanted to wait until Valentine's Day to tell you."
He swallowed, but he realized his mouth was suddenly too dry to warrant the action. "Tell me what?"
"Well," she began hesitantly. "Hang on," she said, turning and moving out of the kitchen. "I'll be right back."
He was left standing in the kitchen with the evidence of her attempt at culinary artistry surrounding him. He noticed that their usual bottle of wine that she had open without fail on Tuesday nights in anticipation of Chinese food and an evening curled up with him was missing. And if she'd forgotten that it was Tuesday, that could explain its absence, but there was something off, thanks to a myriad of little nothings that had been different on her part that made his anticipation and growing anxiety reach the point that he wanted to go find her instead of waiting there like a chump in her absence. He wanted to go to her, to get an answer. "Rory?" he called out, fighting the struggle between obeying her wishes and following his instincts.
"Coming!" she called out, from what he guessed was the stairs. It took a minute before she walked back into the kitchen, holding a small rectangular box with a lid. "I was going to wrap it, but that's when I thought I had more time, so, here," she said offering it out to him.
He frowned and took the box in his hands, not making a move to remove the lid. "This is my present?"
She nodded, watching him expectantly. "Yes."
"If you're giving me my gift now, where does this put us with Paris?" he asked.
"Tristan, just open the box, will you?" she prodded impatiently.
He stared down at it for a long moment before he gingerly took the lid off and nestled it under the box. He took off a top piece of tissue paper and stared down at the contents.
Her eyes never left his face, and she wasn't very patient for his reaction—especially when he failed to have one. "Tristan?"
He continued to stare at his gift, without removing it. "Yeah?"
"Say something. Anything at all," she urged.
"Okay," he began slowly, as he blinked to jumpstart his system from what he assumed was shock. "Didn't you pee on this?"
"Big picture," she beseeched.
"Right," he said, seeming to snap out of his haze. He put the box down on the counter, contents untouched, and pulled her into a hug. "Are you okay?" he asked, his face buried into her hair.
"Yes. No. I feel gross. I cried in the car the other day, at a Dixie Chicks song on the radio. I'm a walking cliché. And this is just the beginning. I'm like, the least amount pregnant you can be, and weird things are happening already."
His eyes widened as she said it aloud, for the first time to his ears anyhow. The test in the unwrapped box had been telling, but her saying it hit home with far more impact. "Wow. So, you're really sure."
She nodded. "That was the sixth one I took. And I called the doctor to get an appointment, and she said all they'd do in the office was have me take a home pregnancy test to confirm anyhow, that's how accurate they are now. I'm going in on the 17th for my first appointment."
"Monday after Valentine's Day," he said with understanding.
She nodded. "You can come, or not. I don't think a whole lot goes on at the first appointment."
He continued to hold her against him. "I'll be there."
"But you're busy. You probably have meetings with clients or court," she said.
"I'll be there," he said again, leaving no room for argument.
She breathed out in relief. "Okay."
They stood there, in the kitchen, not speaking for a while. She closed her eyes as she rested her head against his chest. He kissed her hair in a slow, calming, reverent manner. "So you'll clear your schedule for the weekend of the 14th?" he asked at last.
She pulled back, her face a mix of confusion and frustration. "What? No."
"But you just gave me my gift. Was there something more surprising than that you had in store for me?" he wondered aloud.
"Do you honestly think I told you I'm pregnant just so you could win?" she asked in complete disbelief.
"It's not the only reason," he consented.
"Oh my God!" she stated at him before stalking back over to her mac and cheese. The cheese had begun to cool and the consistency was less smooth and a little too congealed. The thought made her stomach flop, and she turned away quickly, taking a series of quick but deep breaths.
"Are you okay?"
"The macaroni," she managed.
"Is something wrong with it?" he asked, not getting the reason for her sudden turn about.
"Just, get rid of it. Please."
"Tristan! Now!" she said, closing her eyes and continuing the weird breathing.
"Okay," he said, grabbing a plastic storage container with a lid, but he stopped when she put her hand out suddenly, blocking his arm.
"What are you doing?" she demanded.
"Putting your food away," he reminded her slowly, as if she were suffering short-term memory loss.
"No, it has to be gone. I can't stand to even think about finding it in the fridge tomorrow," she said, turning an odd shade of light green and turning for the sink. She ran cool water and splashed it on her face, and he watched for a moment in concern before trashing the food and tying up the bag, taking the time to rid the house of her sudden trigger. When he came back in the back door, he stood next to her. She turned off the water and stood up, using a dish towel to dry off her face.
"When did that start?" he asked.
She met his eyes sheepishly. "A few days ago. I thought I was coming down with something, but then I was in the bathroom, dry heaving, and I opened the cabinet under the sink to pull out a new bottle of mouthwash, and I saw a package of tampons and then I started doing math in my head," she revealed.
"Ah," he nodded in understanding. "Why didn't you tell me then?"
She shrugged one shoulder. "I thought maybe there was another reason. I've been working a lot, and stress can have weird effects on your body. I wanted to be sure before I told you. And then I realized how soon Valentine's Day was, and I thought I'd surprise you."
He smiled and bumped into her shoulder lightly with his arm. "It was a good surprise."
She smiled back. "Yeah?"
He nodded. "Yeah."
"Good," she breathed out again in relief. "I'm still getting used to the idea myself."
"Hence the half a dozen tests," he acknowledged.
"Yeah. And weird things set me off. Food I've recently been eating, the smell of other people's food. I was on the bus yesterday, and I had to get off halfway to my interview."
"Rory, the bus is enough to make most people nauseated. The smell of too many people packed close together, the erratic driving mixed with city traffic," he listed.
"There is nothing inherently wrong with taking the bus," she argued.
"I hate that you take the bus," he shook his head.
"It's ecologically responsible."
"It's a good place to catch a disease," he countered.
"You're such a snob. And a hypocrite at that," she added.
"I'm not a snob or a hypocrite. My problem is not with public transportation, my problem is that any situation in which it's commonplace for someone to sneeze in my face or for my genitals to be forced into a stranger's face during a breakneck turn on a main thoroughfare. For those reasons it is not going to earn my seal of approval," he explained.
"I only give you points for the fact that in order for the last part to happen, you gave up your seat for others in need," she said with a sweet smile.
"I'm a gentleman," he agreed. "But I prefer to be a gentleman in a car."
"I don't need a car," she said quickly, to cut him off from making some other point.
"I get that you have principles," he began, using the trick of complimenting her at first so she'd more readily agree with him. He knew he had to work harder to convince her of anything.
"My Prius had great resale value, and it didn't make sense for me to keep it," she explained for the thousandth time. "We're walking distance to a direct bus line."
"That was not the main selling point of this rental," he said with a shake of his head.
"It was for me. I told you it was too big. There were so many perfectly adequate apartments closer to downtown," she said.
"Those were all so cramped and generic," he remembered.
"I understand why you wanted a house and not an apartment and why you drive a BMW when you could just as easily take the bus," she said with just a little condescension.
"I can't take clients out on the bus," he said with a sigh.
"I know. You have to sell the whole package. I get that. You grew up with a certain mindset. Even if you don't agree with all the ideals of that life, you're still used to a certain amount of comfort."
"That has nothing to do with why I pushed for this house," he said.
"It's not?" she asked, completely unconvinced.
"Tristan, it's okay. I like the house. I even like the BMW," she admitted. "Because if they make you happy, I'm happy."
"Funny you should mention that," he said, taking her by the hand and encouraging her to walk with him out of the kitchen and into the front of the house. He stopped at the side of the staircase, along the wall in the living room and pointed down. "What's that?"
She stared down at the 12 x 12 Victorian-era cast iron register. "An air register."
"How many of the apartments we saw had registers like those?"
She rolled her eyes. "None."
"And where is your favorite place to sit during the winter to read?" he asked.
She let out a sigh. "They're really warm. They're so big and cozy."
"And how many of the apartments had built-in anything? This house has character; I believe you said on our first tour through."
"It does," she agreed.
"You like character. And you have more shoes than any woman will ever need in a lifetime of walking, and your book collection fills every last available shelf in this house."
"There are some under the bed, too," she added sheepishly.
"And in my dresser," he said with a discerning frown.
"You said I could have a drawer!" she said as she pointed a finger at him.
"My point is, I wanted this house because I knew it would fit us."
She shrugged begrudgingly. "So you were right. But I like the bus."
He put a hand over her stomach, tentatively feeling the area for the first time since hearing about the addition to their lives, regardless of her earlier comment about her stomach being the same as it always had been. "What about after the baby comes?"
She frowned. "What about it?"
"You're going to haul a baby and all the stuff that comes along with a baby onto the bus? I don't want some random dude that smells like feet to sneeze on my kid."
Her eyebrows rose in sudden concern. "I hadn't thought about that."
"We'll also have to figure out which room to clear out upstairs," he continued.
"Oh," she said, her frown lines deepening. "We have kind of filled up the whole house, haven't we?"
He nodded. "We'll figure it out. We have some time. It's something we could discuss on vacation."
"Tristan!" she groaned. "I don't want to go to Paris. I can barely stand up long enough in the morning to take a shower without running to the toilet, no way can I handle flying in a plane for eight hours!"
His face fell. "You really don't want to go?"
"I really don't. Not right now, not like this. You can understand that, can't you?"
"I can, I was just really looking forward to it. Isn't it possible that this will pass by then?" he asked in hopeful futility.
"It's not likely. The book I was reading said this can last the whole first trimester or longer," she said.
"You got a book?" he asked with mild amusement.
"Of course I got a book!" she exclaimed. "Why is it so important for us to go to Paris? We've been there before," she wondered aloud.
"I wanted to get away, just the two of us, somewhere romantic that we love. We loved Paris," he explained without full disclosure on what his plans for Paris involved.
"Technically it won't be just the two of us now, anyway."
"I hadn't counted on that, either," he admitted.
"I'm sure whatever you have surprised, it'll be just as romantic here as it would have been in Paris. Unless it involves climbing the Eifel Tower."
"I just, I had it all planned," he said again, frustrated, but admitted defeat.
"I'm sorry. I didn't plan this," she said, pointing down to his t-shirt that covered her abdomen. "But it's not something I can ignore."
"Yeah, well, what I had planned can't be put off either," he said with a renewed determination, as he sprinted up the stairs far faster than she could have ever moved even in the best of health, leaving her to stand there staring up in the direction he'd disappeared.
"Tristan? Are you mad?" she asked. The heat kicked on, and warm rush tickled her legs. She really did love aspects of that house. As much as she enjoyed arguing with him, it was much harder now that they knew each other so well.
He returned without answering her. He was looking at her with an expression she didn't recognize, which did nothing to curb her concerns. "Are you mad?" she asked again.
He shook his head resolutely. "No, I'm not mad."
She nodded, though she could tell something was still afoot. "Good. I appreciate you understanding. I'm going to need your support with all this," she said honestly.
He nodded his consent, but he kept staring at her in the same way that unnerved her. "I'll be there. The whole time."
"What's that?" she asked, realizing that he had something in his hand that he hadn't had before he went upstairs.
He held out a small cubed box. "I didn't have time to wrap mine either. Not that I would have, but I was going to take it out of the box. I hadn't quite put all the finishing touches together, but in an effort to keep you from throwing up more than you already are," he said, still holding the box out to her. "Take it. It's for you."
She took the proffered gift obediently, but closed her fingers around the entirety of it immediately. She held the whole thing in her hand, reveling at the size of the box without making an attempt to open it in order to confirm her suspicions of what might be inside.
"What's that quote about good things coming in small packages?" she asked.
"I think it's more of an idiom than a quote. Sort of like 'bigger is better,'" he qualified.
Her eyes lifted to his. "So, which adage do you subscribe to?" she queried.
She lifted her hand. "Well, this is a very small box. And if you truly believe bigger is better, then I shouldn't get my hopes up, should I?" she mined for information.
"Just open it, will you?" he said, shaking his head at her.
"Are you sure? You want to do this here? In our living room, with me in one of your undershirts?"
"I don't want to wait anymore."
Her eyes widened. "Anymore?"
"Please open it," he urged, to which she finally heeded his appeal and revealed a breathtaking engagement ring. It was, despite all the small package talk, not even remotely to ever be described as small or any other synonym thereof. If she hadn't been rendered speechless, it was a fact she would have extrapolated excessively about as proof. She glanced up at him briefly before the gravity of the ring drew her back in. He appeared nervous, nearly the same color of ashen grey-green that she'd last sported before they left their kitchen. "Rory?"
"How long have you had this?"
He smiled. "I bought that the week after Thanksgiving."
"You've had this for months?" she exclaimed.
"I knew for sure that I wanted to marry you Thanksgiving night. Before then, I'd thought about it, random thoughts here and there, what it might be like and all that. But that night it was completely clear to me. We were walking through Stars Hollow after dinner at the inn, remember?"
"It had snowed," she said as she remembered with him.
He nodded with a wistful smile. "It had snowed. But it was also the first holiday that I ever spent with my family where, at the end of the day, I felt relaxed and truly thankful."
Her heart melted a little, though she knew her raging hormones were also at play. "Tristan."
"Let me finish. I know it wasn't a big deal to you, because you were used to that strange dichotomy of mixing your grandparents and what your mother had planned for her own sanity. But last year, going from my parents elaborate set up, to drinks with your grandparents and finishing the day at the inn with your mom and her friends, the whole time, no matter where we were, all I cared about was that I was there with you, and how right that felt. I knew I wanted to spend the rest of my holidays and every other day with you."
She was near tears, though these days that wasn't a hard feat to achieve. "Tristan."
"But I wanted to do it right. I had this overwhelming desire to just ask you right there, by that gazebo in the middle of town, but you deserved more than that, for me to just spring in on you as it occurred to me. So, the next week, I went out and looked at rings and thought of you the moment I saw that one."
"This ring reminded you of me?" she asked in disbelief.
He nodded curtly. "You're the most beautiful woman I've ever seen, and that's the most beautiful ring I found."
"It is beautiful," she agreed.
"So, I thought the most appropriate time to ask you was the next holiday, so I planned it out for Christmas," he led, but she instantly knew why he'd put off his plans.
"Your grandfather," she said softly.
He reached out and grabbed her hand. "Losing him was one of the hardest times I've ever gone through. If it hadn't been for you, I don't know what I would have done."
She knew his grandfather hadn't just been his favorite relative, he'd been his mentor. Tristan had a detached notion of family loyalty when it came to his parents, but he'd always respected his grandfather. He always told her that he was the only member of the family that acted in ways that deserved respect. Tristan acted out of family obligation, but largely due to his loyalty to the family's patriarch. His death, shortly before Christmas, had been unexpected and had upset the whole family and their plans for celebrating together. He'd spent most of his time, aside from the funeral, solely with her and her family. "You needed time to grieve."
He nodded in agreement. "I did. But once I had the ring, some days it was all I could do not just ask you. Valentine's Day was next, and I was so set on it because I didn't want anything else to delay me asking you," he said ironically.
"I have a good excuse!" she cried out.
He kissed her free hand. "I'll let you off the hook."
"Gee, thanks," she muttered sarcastically. "This is your doing, you know," she said, indicating to her stomach.
"So, you are sure it's mine," he said with a straight face, completely messing with her.
"Be nice, or I'll say no!" she said, heaving the ring up between them.
He pursed his lips together to hold back whatever he'd had to say. He waited, not so patiently, as he considered her with curious blue eyes.
"Technically all you asked me to do was open the box. And I did," she said, prodding him for more.
"I thought the ring was self-explanatory."
"It does make a statement," she said, taking another glance at it.
"You don't like it?" he asked, concerned.
"No, I love it. It's just… very substantial. It might take some getting used to. Like the house," she offered an analogy.
"You can admit you love the house," he prodded.
"I love that you share it with me. And the registers, but mostly that you're here. And the ring itself is worthy of admiration, but I love it because you got it for me."
"So you'll wear it?" he asked with a wide grin of relief.
She considered his request with a great deal of facial gesturing. "I don't know. What exactly are your expectations?"
"I want to marry you."
She beamed. "I'd like that very much."
He let out a shaky breath and pulled her close against him in a crushing hug. He paused, slightly, loosening his grip. "Does this hurt you?"
"I'm pregnant, not breakable," she said, holding him back even tighter. "I'm sorry I ruined your plans."
"This is better. I can take care of you and whoever's making you sick in there," he said as they let go and he rubbed her stomach.
"It's still an it. We won't even be able to tell for months," she said.
"Is that what your book said?" he asked, still considering her stomach.
"I should probably read that book," he said.
"You should probably also put this ring on my finger," she said. "Before some man on the bus shoves his genitals in my face and snaps me up."
He shook his head in laughter at her humor, as he honored her request. "I knew you had ulterior motives for riding the bus."
"It fits," she noted, waving her fingers at the end of her hand to catch the light play on her ring. "And it's sparkly."
"It better be," he said with a slight clearing of his throat.
"I bet the baby will like it," she mused.
"I'm sure we can find other more age appropriate toys for the baby," he assured her.
"Listen to you, already taking care of our little it," she smiled at him appreciatively.
"I do what I can. I have had practice, making sure you're fed and entertained," he said.
She leaned up and kissed him. "You do a great job. And I have a feeling you'll get more practice in the next few months."
"Because you'll need more entertaining?" he asked lightly.
"If I have to grow the kid, you have to help me feed it and make sure I'm happy so I can provide it with a happy, if dark, environment," she explained.
"Right. So I should call for food?" he surmised.
"And then put a movie on. Nothing too long, I'm kind of tired."
He shook his head. "I don't feel like a movie. I thought we'd take our dinner up to bed."
"I don't know that I'm that tired."
He pulled her in and kissed her, leaving no room for her to wonder just what else he planned to do in the bedroom to entertain her. The kiss was enough to allow them to let go of all the life-changing events that had happened under their shared roof that evening. "Good. Because we need to celebrate. A lot."
She put her left hand, which felt oddly heavy, over her stomach. "We definitely do."