On the Verge

A Who I Am Hates Who I've Been Prelude

His junior year of Chilton, Tristan Dugrey was on the verge of screwing up his life. But as he embarks on his journey to Amherst Military Academy, Tristan Dugrey finds himself on the verge of a voyage that will forever change the course of his life. But the first thing he needs to do is walk away.

Disclaimer: I own nothing.

Rating: T for language.

Timeframe: Season 2 with focus on the events of Run Away, Little Boy.

Pairings: Allusions to a future Tristan/Rory.

Important Details: Prelude to Who I Am Hates Who I've Been. Everything that has happened in Season 2 has happened.

Hello, everyone. Roxy here. Yes, this isn't another chapter of Who I Am, but since the latest chapter is the much-anticipated reunion scene, I have worked exceptionally diligently to construct the best possibly scenario I could possibly attempt. However, that has taken longer than I expected, and thus, the chapter is only half-finished. So, until I actually finish that chapter, here is a little something to tide you readers over until I do actually complete it. This little ficlet has been lurking in my brain forever since I heard this phrase in a television show. In essence, this is a prelude to Who I Am Hates Who I've Been, so if you're familiar to the story, this will have special connotations. Even if you haven't, you'll still be okay. I've always wondered what went through Tristan's mind those few episodes before he gets sent off to military school. Now, we know. I've also made the ending a bit more Trory friendly that vaguely alludes to the events of Who I Am. Enjoy!

- - -

Tristan Dugrey was on the verge of screwing up his life. There he was, the son of Gregory and Olivia Dugrey, grandson to Janlan and the dearly departed Eleanor Dugrey, part of the most prestigious bloodline in all of Connecticut and arguably the East Coast, and Tristan Dugrey could not transcend the humongous blow to his ego and become a man. He blamed her.

Ever since Rory Gilmore had burst into his life, his meticulously constructed image as Chilton's debonair playboy was slowly beginning to unravel. Sure, he saw Rory Gilmore as a conquest, the only girl to effectively resist his notorious charm, but that was at first. She intrigued him, harboring an inherent innocence that was absent in all of Hartford society. But then the little things began to amaze him. First, it was her little quirks: her insane love for coffee, a steaming to-go cup perpetually in her grasp along with her novel of the day; her voracious appetite for knowledge, learning not for the sake of the 'A' as Paris did but for the genuine curiosity of the world around and before her. Then, it was her tenacity amongst the countless obstacles that was a normal day at Chilton. Rory Gilmore had managed to combat Paris Gellar's jealous and competitive nature, the relentless demands of the many teachers, and his own constant pestering to make her presence blatantly known amongst their constituency. Lastly, it was her staunch refusal to conform to the world around her. Rory Gilmore was unapologetically nothing but herself, and coming from the perspective of someone who hid himself behind the societal mask that was relegated to him due to his given status, Tristan found her extremely admirable.

Tristan couldn't help but be envious of Rory Gilmore. She lived a charmed life, sheltered and loved. It was a far cry from the cold indifference of Hartford society. Yes, Tristan reveled in his playboy image, but even the playboys needed love once in awhile. Normally, Tristan would go out of his way for contact with Rory Gilmore, but lately, he just wanted her to go away. Because with every moment spent in her presence, Tristan was reminded of the fact that she detested him with the fire of a thousand suns as stated to the lanky beanstalk with a haircut that couldn't lay flatter if a fat man sat on it as well as the accompanying Chilton population present in the courtyard.

Banishing thoughts of that particularly vile memory far away to the deep recesses of his consciousness, he returned his attention back to the mass of people swamped around his locker, regaling him with accounts of various exploits and adventures, many of which Tristan was sure they had pulled out of their asses just to thrill him. He shot out a fake grin, nodding his head enthusiastically as though their tales brought him some sort of amusement other than exasperated annoyance. A feeling nudged at his spine, the feeling of being studied. He always knew when she was somewhere around his general vicinity as though his psyche possessed a radar that automatically alerted him when Rory Gilmore was in range. With half an ear to his constituency gathered around him and half an ear perked in anticipation, Tristan waited for the imminent moment for Rory Gilmore to advance.

- - -

From afar, Rory watched him. Watched his long, lean frame settle casually against the bland yellow of the Chilton issued lockers, hands stuck nonchalantly in his pockets. Watched his tousle-locked head bob absently as he appeased the many minions swarming around him, all vying for the attention of the infamous king of the Chilton population. Watched as one hand lazily drifted down his torso, smoothing the mandated tie loosened from its state around his neck. In the cavernous chasm of her distant mind, a tiny little squeak piped up its approval at Tristan Dugrey's easy gorgeousness, and immediately, Rory chastised herself. This was the bane of her existence here in the hallowed halls of Chilton. There was no room for her to acknowledge that he had a very pleasant smile when he chose to unleash it rather than shoot out that infuriating smirk, or that his eyes were the most intense shade of navy she had ever seen, or that his tousled, unkempt tuft of hair gave him an endearing boyish quality to the rest of the appearance that was undeniably man. No, there was no time for that. Tristan Dugrey was Tristan Dugrey, and she had a boyfriend. Dean. Her boyfriend. The reason for the need to muster up her courage and approach him with the trepidation that their almost obligatory banter and bickering would commence. Never mind that a part of her enjoyed their repartee, which no other person managing to master the quickness the way Tristan had. Not even Dean. Okay, right. Dean. Conversation. Got it. Gathering her resolve, Rory approached, unsure of the reception she would receive. With a tentative hand, she tapped his broad shoulder.

"Excuse me Tristan, can I talk to you for a second?"

Tristan rotated, catching the meaningful look in her eye before turning back to the group of his admirers. "I'll meet you guys later, okay?" Tristan watched them leave before turning his complete attention to Rory, arms spread wide in expectation. "I'm all yours."

Rory fidgeted beneath his intent stare. "I need to talk to you about something serious."

Tristan lofted an eyebrow. "Serious, huh?" He propped one shoulder against the yellow metal of his locker, cocking his head in interest. "I'm intrigued."

Rory drew in a deep breath, evading his penetrating eyes. "Dean's coming to rehearsal tonight."

Tristan's eyes widened in faux astonishment. "Wow, are you sure they can spare him? I mean, what if there's a run on baked beans?"

"Can you just shut up for five seconds, please?" Rory demanded, her eyes flashing with irritation.

Tristan smirked, holding his hands up in a gesture of surrender. Rory huffed out a sigh. "Thank you. Look, as I said, Dean is coming to rehearsal tonight, and I'd like to ask you to promise that you won't say anything to him about what happened."

Tristan shook his head in the slightest of movements, waiting for an explanation. "What happened?"

Unsure of the game he was playing, Rory frantically waved her hands before her. "At the party?"

"At the party…?" Tristan echoed her statement, drawing out the words to convey his confusion.

Realizing he was just being difficult, Rory's face darkened with annoyance. "Tristan! You and me, at Madeline's party? You had just been kicked to the curb by Summer, and I found you sulking on a piano bench, and I sat down, we talked, and then…we kissed."

Tristan's brow furrowed in mock bewilderment as he placed a finger on his chin before pointing at her. "That was you?"

Rolling her eyes, Rory turned away, stalking down the hall and muttering under her breath. "You know what, forget it."

Dropping the façade, Tristan called her back. "Hey, Rory…"

Whirling to face him, Rory poked one finger into his solid chest. "There is no point in talking to you. I knew that, yet I tried. Won't happen again."

"You don't want me to tell Dean that we kissed," Tristan reiterated her general motive for their conversation.

"By George, I think he's got it," Rory deadpanned, crossing her arms.

"Okay, if that's what you want…"

"It is," Rory insisted.

"Although, he's gonna find out anyway," Tristan finished, the telltale signs that his patented smirk was about to make its appearance worming their way across his handsome features.

Rory's eyes narrowed. "What?"

As if on cue, a corner of Tristan's mouth jerked up again as though pulled by a marionette string, and he once again smirked in that galling way Rory couldn't seem to escape. "Well, come on, you know that when we kiss on stage, it's gonna be pretty obvious that it's not the first time. I'm a good actor, but I can't hide that kind of passion."

Rory stared up into his stormy navy eyes, their intensity startling her as his lips wrapped around the word "passion," the husky tone of his voice making the normal, ordinary term sound so erotic to her senses. Shaking away the thought, Rory squared up to him, determination prevalent in her stance. "Look, things are really good for me and Dean right now, and I don't want anything to mess that up. Especially not something that meant nothing at all to me and I wished had never happened in the first place."

At her words, a unmistakable, if slightly unrecognizable flash skated across Tristan's face, but just as quickly as it materialized, he veiled it behind a turgid mask of apathy, and he sobered, shoving one hand into his pockets as he glanced up at her through a set of impossibly long eyelashes, raking his free hand through his tuft of blonde hair. "So things are going good for you two, huh?"

Rory nodded, clutching her books even tighter to her chest as to resist the urge to mimic his movements, wondering if the downy golden locks were as soft as they appeared. "Yeah, they are."

Tristan forced out a smile, a gesture that was more a mere tightening of his lips then a smile as he nodded. "Good, that's…good."

Rory frowned as she noticed his tensed posture and the slight darkening of his eyes. "Are you all right?"

Tristan merely smirked, brushing her off with a dismissive wave of his hand. "Yeah. I think somehow I'll recover from the great romance between you and the Beave." He didn't bother to disguise the aversion in his tone as he casually leaned against the locker beside him.

"A lot of stuff's been going on with you lately, huh?"

Although slightly taken aback by the new direction of their conversation, Tristan remained stoic, only sending her an uninterested look and cocking his head for clarification. "Meaning?"

Rory shrugged, gesturing blankly with her hands. "Just, you know, the car thing, the suspension thing…a lot of drama."

Tristan responded with an offhand shrug. "Well, I get bored easily."

"Just doesn't really seem like you."

One blonde eyebrow shot skyward as Tristan's mouth curved in a sardonic smirk of amusement. "And you know me now?" His voice held a slight derisive quality that Rory didn't expect form him, and she frowned in displeasure.

"I know you don't get suspended for stupid pranks."

Tristan snorted, tossing his head in annoyance. "I pulled stuff like that before I knew Duncan and Bowman, all right?"

"Well, if you did, you didn't get caught. You're getting caught a lot." Rory replied, sending him a meaningful look.

Tristan didn't look concerned in the slightest as he gestured with a blithe wiggle of his fingers. "Your point being?"

"Maybe Duncan and Bowman aren't the best people to be hanging out with," Rory ventured. "They're not as smart as you Tristan, they don't have what you have going for you. They…"

Tristan straightened up from his casual lean, his brilliant sapphire eyes clouding over suddenly as they sparked with a dangerous glint. "You know, I'm gonna have to bail before we get to the whole hugging part. And ask your boyfriend to remind me when it's coupon day, okay?"

Surprised at his sudden change from indifference to aggression, Rory fumbled for a moment before addressing him. "Tristan, I'm serious! You don't want to screw this up."

Tristan smirked, not even attempting to mask the bitterness in the gesture. She sure had some audacity, that Rory Gilmore. Imagine shouting out to the whole Chilton courtyard a loathing of his very existence before inadvertently mocking him with a very public display of abhorrence to the singular soul who didn't deserve her on the planet, only to plead concern for his lack of focus. Rolling his eyes, he resumed his lean against the bland yellow of the Chilton lockers, the navy of his eyes darkened considerably to a stormy indigo as he surveyed the girl in front of him.

"Don't worry, Mary. I'm a big boy. I can take care of myself. What I do has no bearing on you. You've made it abundantly clear you want nothing to do with me." Straightening once again, he glared down at her with eyes devoid of his usual perpetual mischief, only a new acrimony that seemed out of place on his handsome visage. There was no gentle teasing in his deep voice, just a cold indifference. His hands shoved into his pockets, Tristan brushed by her, stalking down the hall without a backwards glance or even acknowledgement to the many salutations that followed in his wake.

Rory only stared as his broad back, the shoulders, normally held aloft with his innate confidence, bowed slightly as though an unseen burden rested across the blades. She watched as he ran an aggravated hand through the blonde tufts of spikes that was his hair, tugging angrily at the mandated blue, striped tie around his neck.

- - -

Tristan marched down the hall, a few choice curses muttered beneath his breath. The nerve. The goddamn nerve of Rory Gilmore. Damn her and her holier-than-thou approach to his life. He stood by his claim. He was a big boy. He could take care of himself. What he did with his life was his business and his alone. Not some case study that Rory Gilmore could pick apart with her logic. In his angered state, Tristan hardly noticed when a strident shout came from his left until the source caught a hold of his arm. Tristan whirled, ready to tell off the person who had interrupted his moment of self-depreciation when he backed away, holding his hands up in surrender.

"Whoa, easy Dugrey! It's just us."

Tristan relaxed as he recognized the figures of Duncan Sanderson and Craig Bowman standing before him. Bowman cocked an eyebrow, smacking Tristan lightly on the arm.

"Damn, Dugrey, did you not hear us calling you? We've been chasing you from the art wing."

Tristan shrugged, running a hand through his hair. "Sorry. I was…thinking about something. Nothing important."

Duncan peered at Tristan, waving his hand before his friend's face. "Hey, man, you okay? You don't look so hot."

Tristan brushed off Duncan's claim, shaking his head. "It's nothing, man. I didn't too much sleep. AP US History is really kicking my ass."

Bowman's eyes widened, turning to Duncan. "Dude, you think that class is harder than that 'appus' History class we read about during announcements?"

Tristan stared a moment at Bowman, reveling in the latter's stupidity before shaking his head again. "So what's up? You chasing me over three wings can't possibly only warrant a salutation."

Duncan snapped his fingers in recognition of their original motive. "Oh, right. Are you doing something tomorrow night?"

Tristan tilted his head in interest. "Why?"

Duncan grinned his pride at their latest scheme. "Me and Bowman are planning something. It's gonna blow everything else we've done outta the water. We're talking highly lucrative. You in?"

"I didn't even know you knew the word 'lucrative,' let alone able to use it in the correct context," Tristan mused, chuckling his amusement.

"Hey, I'm smart," Duncan defended. "So are you in?"

Tristan paused, his eyes shifting back to where Rory Gilmore's inquisitive sapphire spheres studied him diligently from afar. Returning his gaze back to Duncan and Bowman, Tristan threw out a cocky smirk, slapping palms with the two boys. "Of course. I'm always ready for some action."

"What about that Shakespeare thing?" Bowman asked, startlingly astute. "Isn't that, like, half of your grade in English?"

Tristan shrugged, casualty seeping from his stance. "We'll be done before I have to be back here. It's no big deal."

Duncan and Bowman nodded their approval as they backed away, heading towards their next class. "Alright. Sweet. We'll call you with the details."

"Yeah, sweet," Tristan echoed, forcing out a weak smile. Suddenly overcome with exhaustion, he slumped against the lockers thankfully behind him, running his hands over his fatigued features. He could feel her eyes on him, scrutinizing and calculating. He knew she was disappointed, but at the moment, he couldn't bring himself to care.

- - -

That was the worst fucking idea Stock Boy ever had. Tristan growled to himself as he stormed away from the dance studio they had been rehearsing in. Just as she'd promised, at four o'clock sharp, not a second more or less, Bag Boy, The Magnificent strode into the studio, one arm curled possessively around Rory's waist, his dark eyes immediately zeroing in on Tristan as he lounged against a pile of yoga mats, the challenge blatantly evident, daring Tristan to instigate some sort of situation that would have Super Beanstalk jumping to staunchly defend his lady's honor in any sort of excuse to pound Tristan to a pulp. However, to Dean's slight dismay, Tristan found himself doing nothing more than screwing up his lines, leaving Beanie to stew in his corner, warily eyeing his self-proclaimed nemesis, the surly expression never leaving his features. Tristan delighted as he continued to mess with Rory, watching Dean's expression darken until even the night sky would seem more luminous than the look gracing the stock boy's countenance. But still, even with the constant interruptions, and the frequent "forgetting" of his lines, Tristan still had to endure the fact of the matter: Rory had a boyfriend, and he was there. Goddammit.

Tristan remembered their last exchange before he had exited doorway right and into the square of Stars Hollow. As much as he hated to admit it, the sight of them together really did grind his nerves more than he really, really, really wished to acknowledge. So, he had taken out his frustrations in the only way he knew possible: by annoying her.

"Now I noticed you didn't cry when you kissed him. I'm starting to feel a little insecure."

Tearing her eyes away from the retreating back of her boyfriend, Rory whirled, poking one insistent finger into the solid mass of Tristan's chest. "What is wrong with you?"

Taken aback at the sudden aggression, Tristan backed away from the assaulting digit. "Whoa, I think I liked you better comatose."

"I thought you weren't going to say anything," Rory hissed, her face a mask of fury and indignation.

"Did I say that?" Tristan taunted, his smirk prominent on his handsome features.

"You make it impossible for anyone to be nice to you, Rory seethed, venting in a way she had wanted to for a long time. "No wonder you had to join our group. Anyone who's actually suffered through the experience of going out with you would absolutely know better!"

Veiling his hurt beneath his casual indifference, Tristan huffed a dramatic sigh. "Gee, I really wish we could continue your analysis on how pathetic I am. Unfortunately, I have to meet some friends."

As his brisk strides took him past Paris, she jerked up from her position of barking directions to Louise and Madeline. "Where are you going?" She whirled towards Rory, ardently demanding, "Where is he going? We're not finished!" As Tristan continued to ignore her, Paris yelled louder. "Hey, I'm the director here!" Still, he paid her no mind. "Tristan!"

Brad's high, piping voice chimed in, the fear evident in his voice at the prospect he might have to assume the role of Romeo. "Tristan, come back!"

Pushing the look of sheer disappointment adorning Rory's face as she watched him storm out of their rehearsal away from his mind, Tristan angrily ran a hand through his tuft of hair, wondering how the hell someone so unassuming as Rory Gilmore had managed to invade his every thought and cloud his judgments. Why the hell did he even care what she thought of him? Tristan yanked out his cell phone, scrolling down the numbers until he found the one that he knew would provide an outlet to his frustrations

"Hey. You said that you had something planned for tomorrow afternoon?"

- - -

Tristan sat against the wide, heavily armored door of the safe, watching in hilarity as his two comrades sifted through the mass of stock certificates, precious jewels, and cash that inhabited the inner depths of Carson Bowman's safe. That was cool. Under the shadows of the rapidly dimming sky, Tristan, Duncan, and Bowman had successfully snatched the key to Carson Bowman's safe and were currently taking inventory of the elder Bowman's more precious possessions. Tristan chuckled as Bowman chucked a sapphire roughly the size of a ping pong ball at Duncan's head as though the precious jewel was nothing more than a rubber bouncy ball, laughing as the gem bounced off the latter's skull. Craig Bowman and Duncan Sanderson were idiots, that fact was certain, but Tristan sure as hell couldn't deny that the Dumbass Duo wasn't short on entertainment value. He lay his head back against the door that had taken less than two seconds to crack open, thanks to the key Bowman had filched from his father's desk. Normally, the thrill of doing something so illicit and possibly damaging was something he lived for, but with the monotony of having to witness the picturesque, disgustingly perfect, sickeningly sweet, extremely boring romance of Rory Gilmore and the ungainly beanstalk who apparently delighted in completely emasculating himself by donning an apron of green polyester and who Tristan was surprised wasn't blind in one eye from the rays of the checkout scanner, he had felt his thrill quota had been massively depleted with that experience from the previous day.

"Hey, Dugrey. Check this out." Tristan rotated towards Duncan's voice, reaching out to deftly catch the bundle of papers thrown his way. His gaze drifted over the words on the stock certificate, one corner of his mouth quirking upward with amusement.

"Bowman, your father has stock in the Girls Gone Wild franchise?"

"Yeah. Sweet, huh?" Bowman nodded, sharing in a laugh with his two friends as he counted a stack of bills in his fist. "That stock counts for a good twenty percent of the B-man fortune."

"Oh, please tell me you get some kind of perk from that," Duncan commented, his neck loaded with many of the diamond necklaces the trio had found in the safe.

"Why the hell do you think my dad has the biggest collection of those tapes in town?" Bowman answered, tossing a Faberge egg from hand to hand.

"Because he's like any other guy?" Tristan ventured, flipping through the other stock certificates in the pile. Suddenly, his ears picked up on a noise as it crept through the atmosphere. The nagging feeling gnawed at his gut as he sensed something was amiss. Well, despite the fact that three teenagers were going through a safe. His suspicions were soon appeased as almost as quickly as the moment of mirth appeared, it passed as a loud crash resonated through the study, and a stream of lights permeated through the semi darkness, held by a burly team of men meaning business, the telltale insignia of the Hartford Police Department prominently displayed on their uniforms. His eyes quickly flicking to the slightly parted curtains, Tristan suppressed a groan as the betraying continuous flashes of red and blue atop the army of police cruisers lit up the dimming evening sky and the crackles of the police radio knifed through the deafening silence of the street. Tristan closed his eyes, knowing the apocalypse had come. Gregory Dugrey was not going to like this. Not at all. The preceding threat his father had growled at him the last time he had gotten into trouble loomed distinctly against the foggy depths of his mind. He was on the verge of being royally screwed. And as the police swarmed around the teenagers, only one thought flashed through Tristan's conscious mind: Fuck.

- - -

Paris paced the hallway, her features contorted into a fierce look of the utmost infuriation as she ranted, the subject of her rant still not within a distance Paris would deem acceptable. Namely, right in front of her. "I knew he was going to do this, but no one wanted to listen to me. It was all, 'Let's make Tristan Romeo. He's hot.'"

Rory made no move to placate the manically incensed girl, knowing how pointless the gesture was, continuing to stare at the empty hallway, hoping that Tristan's tall, broad frame would magically materialize through the entryway dividing the school foyer from their location. "What about Brad?"

"Brad transferred schools," Paris answered, resuming her pacing, a choice set of expletives mumbled beneath her breath. Rory opened her mouth to offer some other solution when, as if he had heard Rory's prior wish, Tristan strode through the doorway of the hall, plunging headlong into the eye of Paris' ire as the petite blonde bore down on him.

"Where have you been? You have to get dressed, we're on in ten minutes."

Shoving his hands into his jacket pockets, Tristan only shook his head. "Can't."

Paris' voice lowered dangerously as she glared at him, already irate at his tardiness and his latest confession only seemed to spur on her wrath. "What?"

"Actually, my dad had me pulled out of school," Tristan began to explain. "He…" Tristan trailed off as Paris performed a rapid about-face, storming down the hallway. "… and is she unhappy."

Recovering from the shock he had just induced with his preceding divulgence, Rory drew his attention back to her. "What do you mean he had you pulled out of school? What happened?"

Tristan huffed out a beleaguered sigh, shrugging vaguely. "Nothing. Just ticked the old man off, that's all."

Rory's brow furrowed in concern. "By doing what?" As the deafening silence prolonged its duration between them, Rory gently prompted her companion. "Tristan, come on, tell me."

Rubbing his neck in embarrassment, Tristan's stormy navy eyes plummeted to the ground. "I got in some trouble," he muttered, the sentence barely intelligible.

Rory's breath involuntarily hitched as she guessed where he was going. "Trouble involving?"

"Involving Duncan and Bowman, and Bowman's dad's safe," Tristan blew out in a forced sigh.

Rory blanched at his admission. "Oh no."

"I mean, Bowman had a key. It was supposed to be no big deal," Tristan protested, his contention feeble even to himself. Kicking at the ground, the only evidence of his frustration, Tristan waned off. "And the crazy silent alarm kicked in."

"You broke into Bowman's dad's safe?" Rory repeated, her tone incredulous.

"It's not technically breaking in if you have a key," Tristan began to defend himself, but he faltered as she sent him a pointed look, acquiescing with a sighed, "Yes."


There was no argument from the second party as Tristan simply nodded his head. "Yes."

"Well, okay, you can apologize and you can put back the money and you can explain that, I don't know, you were going through something," Rory ventured, not quite sure what possibly compelled her to try and attempt to protect the boy she had labeled the "Spawn of Satan."

Tristan responded with a dry smile that held no humor within its depths. "I was," he corrected. "I was going through his safe."

Rory paused for a moment, her boundless blue gaze boring into his. "Why would you do this?"

Discomfort was evident in Tristan's posture as he rapidly averted his eyes, a sentiment blatantly residing on the tip of his tongue, but for some reason, he refrained from divulging it. Finally, he settled for a helpless shrug. "I don't know. I guess that's something I can ponder at military school."

Rory's eyebrows shot skyward. "Military school?"

Tristan nodded his eyes downcast. "The police are letting our parents handle it, and in my case that means military school in North Carolina." Blowing out a long, suffering breath between his teeth, Tristan scuffed one shoe against the spotless linoleum of the hallway. "As of tomorrow, at oh-eight hundred hours, I'm Cadet Tristan Dugrey of Amherst Military Academy. Even in punishment, my father picks the most prestigious military school. Only the best for a Dugrey, even a prodigal one," he scoffed, the sound heavy with derision.

Rory wrung her hands, conflicting emotions palpable on her delicate features. "I don't know what to say."

"Well, I imagine you're overwhelmed with the relief in knowing that soon I will be gone," Tristan remarked, the only evidence of his good humor, noticeably absent due to the circumstances, in the slight twitch of his lips.

Rory sighed. "I'm so sorry."

Tristan cocked his head, leaning in towards her despondent face, his eyes twinkling with a sober mirth. "Now say it like you mean it. I told you, I'm a big boy. I can handle it."

"There's nothing you can… " Rory ventured, almost helpless at the situation at hand.

An authoritative shout permeated their sorrowful moment, and Tristan winced at the commanding tone of Gregory Dugrey. "Tristan, come on!"

Huffing a deep sigh, Tristan glanced down, shifting anxiously from the balls of his feet back to his heels. Taking a deep breath, he gazed up at her through his eyelashes, his eyes once again their navy mischief, his mouth curved into a small, wistful smile.

"I gotta go. So, I might kiss you goodbye but, uh, your boyfriend's watching. Take care of yourself, Mary."

This time, as he said it, Tristan's voice held no vestige of his animosity to Rory's ungainly beau, only an indisposed resignation to the circumstances at hand. He wasn't at a good place and a relationship with Rory Gilmore would only bring her down. So he would wait and show he the boy he could be. That, he had pondered as the police had handcuffed him, plunking him down into a cell before his father had come to pick him up. Idly reaching up to scratch the fine hairs at the base of his neck, Tristan exhaled heavily, gathering his thoughts as she waited patiently. Finally, he lifted his eyes to hers once again, determination shining through the intoxicating navy spheres.

"One of these days, I'm gonna come back, Rory. And when I do, I'm gonna dazzle you."

What threw Rory wasn't the content of his declaration, but the firm confidence with which he delivered it. A mysterious smile gracing his face, Tristan allowed one hand the drift upwards, cupping her cheek as his long fingers caressed the skin with a gentle touch. Lowering his hand, Tristan recoiled reflexively back in surprise as Rory threw her arms around him, wrapping him up in an unconscious hug. Startled, Tristan returned the embrace, taking a moment to revel in the sensation of having Rory Gilmore in his arms, inhaling her herbal shampoo and light cherry blossom perfume. As she pulled away, Rory smiled, hastily wiping her eyes.

"Goodbye, Tristan."

Tristan smirked, the familiarity of the gesture tugging furtively at Rory's heart. "It isn't goodbye, Mary. Think of it as a prolonged, 'I'll see you around.'" Raising two fingers to his forehead in a melancholy salute, he began backing away, at first refusing to break eye contact. Before he rounded the corner, Tristan stopped, his navy spheres boring into hers. A small, mysterious smile curled a corner of his mouth, and in a movement almost imperceptible to the naked eye, one eyelid shut in an unmistakable wink before his long, unhurried strides amidst the strident calls of his father took him out the door and out of her life. Rory only had a few moments to contemplate what had just transpired between them before Paris emerged from the depths of the backstage area, clad in Tristan's Romeo costume, grabbing her hand and tugging her along. But even as Paris babbled on and on about their situation, the only though resonating within the abyss of her mind were Tristan's parting words and the connotation behind them.

Rory let her eyes stray back to the doorway where he had disappeared. He said that he would be back. Well, then she would be waiting.

- - -

Tristan Dugrey followed after his father, Gregory Dugrey's long, brisk strides made even quicker with his ire. Despite the circumstances, he couldn't help but allow a small smile creep through his features. He told Rory Gilmore he would be back, and he would. And that time, he would be better than ever. He would be worthy. She was still with Dean, and he was still pining after her, but things could change. Things had already changed. So he would wait. And he was okay with that. Everything was going to be just fine.

- - -

Unbeknownst to him, the moment Tristan Dugrey took his first step away from Rory Gilmore, he began the journey that would forever shape the rest of his life, the journey that would take him away from the blue-eyed girl who had unwittingly stolen his heart, and a journey that would inevitably lead him back to her once more for the chance he never got in high school, this time to claim the heart of the girl who had run off with his. Tristan Dugrey didn't know it back then, but that day, he was on the verge of greatness, he was on the verge of something more. And that fateful day in the near future as he stood at the entrance to Chilton Preparatory, clad in full military school regalia and Riley Beaumont at his side, his reformation on the verge of being complete, Tristan Dugrey was also on the verge of commencing the story that would bring him full circle. And that day was the beginning of everything.

Wellup, there you go. I hope this was satisfactory. I'm not sure, but I'm pretty certain that this stays true to the canon I've established in Who I Am, and if there are any discrepancies, I apologize in advance. Once again, I hope this is good enough Trory action to tide you all over until I can finish the latest chapter of Who I Am. I promise that the wait will be well worth it. I apologize for the delay in posting, but hopefully this can ease the strain until the latest chapter is finished. Stay tuned!