-Playing With Fire-

Summary: It's Tristan's senior year, he's back from military school. A new girl, who's rejection of Tristan reaches almost surprising heights, comes to Chilton the same year as his return. Her stony rejection and distancing from every one who comes close chases away most of the Chiltonites, excluding the stubbornly proud Dugrey. One of them dwells in denial and a false front, while the other keeps in the shadows, refusing to let the problems be seen. The two of them must eventually come to terms with their past respective demons… surprising each other and themselves in the process.

Disclaimer: Tristan Dugrey and any other character except for Tara Elden are the property and creation of the WB network. No part of Gilmore Girls is mine. Too bad…owning Tristan would be really…dare I say, enjoyable… Chad Michael Murray is so hot, lolol

A/n: The rating may well go up in future chapters. In fact, it most likely will.

Tristan ran his hand through his dirty blond hair and smiled secretively at the new girl sitting on the other side of the lovely garden behind the school. He had been watching her for a few days now and he definitely liked what he saw. Her name was Tara Elden and she was a new arrival to Chilton Prep. With her sleek black hair and porcelain skin, she caught the eye of more than just Tristan. She had a shy demeanor and was obviously intelligent, though she didn't appear to be overtly sugary. At least three guys had already asked her out only to be shot down. It was quite amusing, actually. Tristan wasn't apprehensive. He wasn't one of those guys. He was Tristan Dugrey, after all. The classic playboy who hadn't known rejection. Except for Gilmore, that is, but he was over her.

The time for silent sizing-up was over. Tristan had seen and liked and now it was time to go in for the kill. "Hi." He flashed his charming smile.

She glanced up. "I was wondering when you'd finally make your way over. Tired of staring from afar, I trust?" So she had noticed his gaze.

Unruffled, Tristan grinned, "Just wanted to get a closer view."

"Really." She looked down again, uninterested.

"So, I know you're new here and I thought it might be interesting to maybe show you around." He said, sitting down next to her.

"That's nice." She answered mildly, turning a page in her book. "I'm sure you wouldn't believe it, but I occasionally have thoughts too."

"So, how about it?" Tristan pressed, ignoring the sarcasm.

"I can find my way around." Tara said shortly.

"Chilton's pretty big," Tristan wheedled.

"Thanks but I'm not really interested in getting acquainted with the janitor's closets." Tara met his gaze and smoothly stood up.

Was he that transparent? "Do you know anyone yet?" Tristan questioned, again choosing to ignore her statement.

She shrugged and picked up her backpack.

"Come on. I'm sure a new friend can't hurt," Tristan flashed another smile.

"I'm sure you've been watching how I reacted to the last few boys who tried to get in my pants. I can make friends on my own." Tara responded.

"Whoa, someone's thinking ahead," Tristan chuckled, "I just wanted to give you a tour of the school."

"Funny. It's only my first week here and I already now that you're the resident playboy." Tara told him. "What does that tell you?"

"Hmmm. Word gets around." Tristan laughed again. "Fine, no tour. What's your name?"

"You know this already," she gave him a pointed look. "Tara Elden."

"Well, hello Tara Elden and welcome to Chilton. I'm Tristan Dugrey. Hopefully, you'll like our humble school." Tristan smiled.

"If it wasn't filled predominantly with stuck-up rich boys, maybe it wouldn't be so bad," Tara was stubbornly refusing to give in, even just a little bit.

"You're hostile," he observed.

"No, really?" she raised her eyebrows. "Really, why don't you skip off and find some little lamb to manipulate? This place seems to be swarming with bimbos."

"You try to be friendly," Tristan shook his head.

"Stop trying to bull shit me and maybe I'd take the attempt more openly," she retorted.

"You don't play very well with others, do you?" Tristan sighed with a smirk.

"I'm afraid your Prince Charming looks may work on some girls but, in danger of deflating your world-sized ego, your appearance is failing to impress me. Unless you haven't noticed, I'm not exactly swooning." Oh so nice. She adjusted her book and with another look of indifference, she started walking away.

Tristan stared after her with a grin. Feisty that one. She seemed even less interested than Rory did. Interesting… The hard-to-get ones were always entertaining. When he had most girls clinging to his feet, practically begging to be used, a little challenge now and then didn't fail to intrigue him. He wondered silently how long this one would last.

Tristan jogged up to Tara in the hallway at Chilton and ran a hand through her hair. "Hey."

"Did you get nothing out of our last encounter?" Tara moved out of his reach.

"Not feeling any friendlier, I'm sensing," Tristan said.

"You're good at this." She replied sarcastically. "I'm not interested, Dugrey."

"I'm offering the olive branch of friendship here-" Tristan grinned.

"I'm not interested, Dugrey." Tara repeated.

"Why are you being so hostile to me?" Tristan asked.

"Maybe I'm just a hostile person. I'm sure you don't like hostile people. So why don't you run along?" Tara responded, her jaw set.

"I don't give up that easily," he informed her.

"I'm going to ignore you now, so really, feel free to give up any time you want," she gave a false smile, grabbing her Discman and placing the headphones over her ears. She waved at him and strode off.

During class, their English teacher announced a new project in which partner work would be mandatory. Feeling annoyed with the bustle of the students choosing their own partners, she took the liberty of assigning the partners for them. Alphabetical order. Tristan grinned. In this particular AP English class that meant only one thing.

"Tristan Dugrey and Tara Elden." Ms. Wyrnell called out dryly. Tristan smirked and turned to Tara, who sat in the desk diagonal from him.

"Going to ignore me for the entire three weeks it'll take to do this project?" he questioned. She was looking at Wyrnell and Tristan with disbelief and rolled her eyes at him, stubbornly putting the headphones over her ears once more.