He's still hopelessly infatuated with her.
Months of being apart has increased his adoration and he's completely determined to reform utterly and prove to her that he can be a new man.
He is in love and if he has to force a personality transplant to make her see him, so be it.
He spent measureless hours thinking about her, remembering with half smiles the old conversations, the old interactions. Treasured keepsakes for an utterly misunderstood soul.
She shot him down without knowing that he was secretly a tortured individual who didn't know who he was or how to act when anything 'real' came to his life.
Rory, dear Rory- his life is entirely centred around your opinion of him! Look past the jerk exterior and you will see a sensitive, insecure, desperately confused teenager!
Yeah. Sorry to shatter any romantic illusions, but Tristan Dugrey was not built that way.
He was shipped to military school.
He didn't stay awake at night writing love letters.
He didn't think up scenarios of confessing his 'true' feelings upon seeing his Mary again.
And he sure as hell was not making some sort of stupid resolution to change himself and everything he held in regard and belief for one silly girl who he barely knew at all.
Yes. He liked her.
Yes. He liked her a lot.
And, yes, this like was different from what he felt for other girls.
Subtext isn't always subtext.
As much as he would like to laugh about how Rory was lusting for him, even Tristan's massive ego wouldn't suffer such a fantasy as to actually believe it was sexual tension the two shared back in the day. He wanted to screw her. She loved her boyfriend and hated the ground Tristan walked on. It amused him and intrigued him; it did not jump start a two second transformation of character.
So the King is back. His throne, he trusts, will still be waiting for him.
The King is back and he isn't some cold little shell, hardened by the cruelty of a harsh school.
He isn't gung-ho military man either; he wasn't whipped into servitude and turned into a GI Joe.
It was a school. Granted, it was a school that made him shave his hair off and wake up at an unholy hour doing physically exhausting tasks, but it was still just a school. He made some friends, pissed off some teachers, and now he's back.
Walking through the doors of the pompous Chilton for the first time in months, Tristan slipped easily into his smirk. And who was the first person he noticed?
"Hey Mary. Miss me? Do try to come up with a retort sufficiently prudish and indignant, I've come to expect it from you. You are still a Mary, right? Or did someone succeed where I did not?"
Rory Gilmore slammed her locker shut, her eyes widening with recognition. Her characteristically polite pleasure at seeing the acquaintance after the time apart lasted a full second before adapting back to the disgust Tristan always had been so adept at evoking from her. It was an emotion he alone had such skill in provoking.
"Good to see Daddy's money was well spent. Military school clearly made a stark impact on you." She glared. "Did you manage to make most of the women in North Carolina seriously consider going lesbian after meeting such a defective example of the male specimen such as yourself?"
"Mmm. Someone remembered where I was sent off to. Looks like someone's been thinking about me." He casually leaned against the lockers, amusement rampant in his expression.
"I would run if I were you. The loathing I feel for you is actually surpassed by Paris, who I don't think will ever forgive you for risking half of our English grade and her future at Harvard. Actually, stick around, why don't you? I'd like to see Paris bull doze over you."
"Ah, sweet one, always looking out for my health. Except Paris is apparently more compassionate to her fellow human than you are. I've kept in touch with her- the beauties of the postal service and all. Must say I was hurt that you didn't care to write." Tristan threw in a mock pout.
"You've managed to disillusion Paris once again when you weren't even in this state?"
"I suppose people just don't have the capacity for callous coldness that you do, honey. I was really suffering in the barracks, you know. And here you were, self-absorbed and not bothering to let the past go even though I was being seriously punished."
"Why people fall over themselves over you will be something I will never understand."
"Oh but Mary, I've changed." He flung his hand against his chest dramatically. "I'm a new man and I see the error of my ways. Please, take me by the hand and guide me in this new world of morality!"
Rory had enough of this pointless conversation and rolled her eyes, ready to stomp off.
Tristan cut in front of her path and leaned in too close for courtesy's sake, as he usually did. "You know, I am new here. When you were new, I let you borrow my notes. Want to return the favour? It is only fair. And the study partner offer is still open, whenever you want to take advantage of it." He wriggled his eyebrows suggestively and deliberately flicked his eyes across her body in an elaborate once-over.
"Pig!" Her hands roughly pushed him back and her voice was filled with revulsion. Of course, Rory being Rory, her face also turned a tint of red and she involuntarily looked away, embarrassed by the lewdness.
Tristan laughed at her shyness, pleased that he could still make her blush.
She started to walk away but paused and turned back for a moment. A small smile on her face, the innocent and other worldly nice girl he hadn't managed to corrupt said sincerely, "I'm glad you're not trapped in military school."
"Why? Want to punish me yourself?"
"It's senior year now. If you don't change, you'll be punishing yourself just fine without any one's help."
"You aren't going to lecture me again, are you?"
"Well, we were almost friends before you decided to pull out the jerk again to Dean those months ago."
"I can look after myself."
"Or your money and last name will buy you a spot in an Ivy." Rory shrugged.
"Thank you so much for your faith in my personal abilities."
"Tristan, you could get in yourself. You could probably even be top of the class. Of course, you'd rather break into safes and kill your brain cells."
"Do you disapprove?"
"It's not my problem. It's your life. And it doesn't affect me in any way what you choose to do. Hope you don't land yourself in jail before you graduate." Rory rolled her eyes and turned her back to him, purposefully striding to her class.
"See you around, Mary."
"Go to class, Bible boy." She sighed as his signature smirk resurfaced on his face. Mmm yes it was good to be back.