-1AN- I know. I know. But this one is already completely written and beta'd. Three parts. I hit another road block with Nm, though I'm gonna go try and work on it now.

So, AU season… uh 1 or 2. I don't remember. Trory. Forgive me for all the alliterations. And if anything is wrong, either.

Thanks big time to La, LoVe23. You're the best!

Le Masquerades

Part I: Midnight Always Ruins Cinderella's Ball

Chilton Preparatory Academy is known for many things. One of the top private schools on the East Coast; it's the educational home of Hartford's Young Elite; Connecticut State Champions in Soccer, Football, Baseball, Basketball, Track & Field, and Swimming; and last but not least, their Class Fundraisers. Yes, Chilton was known for its fundraisers. Why? Well, they were definitely different. Every underclassman class held a Masquerade Ball. The three balls were the highlight of Chilton's Social Calendar for the adults and students alike.

Every ticket to the balls was $100, each. While it wasn't mandatory, every student was expected to go. Even the scholarship students. The Junior Class hosted the Halloween Ball, setting the bar for the Sophomore and Freshman classes to compete against. Sophomores held the Winter Holiday Ball, taking place the last day before Winter Recess. It was the same for the Freshman in the Spring. Each class had a committee of 10 students from their grade, and 5 Seniors volunteering to help. The Seniors, whose committee was the most successful had their prom bids paid for by the other two classes. It was tradition.

Everything with Chilton was tradition. It was a fact Rory both loved, and hated. She did not want to go to the Halloween Ball. Her only saving grace was that her mother was being forced to go as well. Emily and Richard were paying for the tickets, their dresses and/or appropriate costumes, as well as their masks. Everything. Lorelai was trying to make the best of the situation, going on and on about how pretty they'd look, and no one would know who they were. They could cause total mischief, and sneak out before Midnight when the masks came off.

It was such a Cinderella idea, Rory couldn't contain her laughter at it. Her grandparents chided her, explaining how it was tradition. Not only at Chilton, but at masquerades in general. She briefly wondered why it was always Midnight that something magical happened. It had been just after Midnight when Lorelai brought one year old Rory back inside after her first steps in the first snow of the year. But that had been blamed on the snow's magic, not the time's. I guess, even fairytales have their traditions.

And tradition is exactly why Rory was sitting in her mother's old bedroom, staring at her reflection. Her brilliant, shimmering eyes surrounded dangerously in smoky tones stared back at her. Her features looked soft and delicate as her flowing, brown curls were pinned to the sides of her face, with their excess resting gently about her shoulders. She really felt like Cinderella at the moment. An elaborate hair clip was placed simply at the top of her head, pinning back her bangs, while her body was encased in a beautiful light blue gown. She was more of a modern Cinderella, really, but what made her feel like Cinderella the most, were the glittery wings sitting on her back. Just like Danielle's from Ever After. Lorelai made them herself. Her long white glove-covered arm reached out to pick up the matching glitter and jewel encrusted mask.

The mask was her favorite part of the night. She wouldn't actually have to deal with her classmates or tormentors, as they wouldn't recognize her behind it. She was giving up her free time away from her personal Hell to benefit people who didn't like her, looked down on her and her mother, and occasionally, felt the need to hit on her.

"Hey, hun." Lorelai's presence startled her. "You almost ready?" She asked softly. Rory took in her mother's white Romanesque gown and golden olive branch mask. She looked stunning. Rory took the mask from its place on the vanity and silently handed it to Lorelai, who tied it around her daughter's eyes.

"Good to go?" Once again, Rory was silent. She simply stood up and headed for the door. Concerned, Lorelai stopped her, "Hey. What's wrong?"

Shrugging half heartedly, Rory sighed, "I don't know. I just have a weird feeling about tonight." And she did. She felt like something was going to go completely wrong. Something bad was going to happen. She just hadn't a clue as to what.

The ballroom at Hartford's Country club looked amazing, decorated in spider webs and autumn leaves. Pumpkins sat on hay bails sporadically about the room while Zombies served guests champagne and appetizers. Many Kings and Queens, Princes and Princesses, along with Witches and Fairies littered the hall. Rory felt unique. As far as she could see, she was the only one with an 'angelic' costume, and she smiled at the irony of it. Their 'Mary' dressed as an angel. Who would have thought? She truly hoped Tristan wouldn't. She hoped he'd expect something wacky and original, something rebellious against her bestowed title.

Rory and Lorelai were separated from the elder Gilmore's almost as soon as they entered the room. But soon, Lorelai was taken from Rory as an accented man approached, asking for a dance. After only a few moments in the room, Rory felt like she was going to faint. The ballroom was stuffy and she was beginning to feel uncomfortable amongst her peers. Finding the attached balcony which overlooked a beautiful garden, Rory found solitude.

Her peace only lasted a few moments before the door quietly opened and closed. A tall figure slipped through it and was now looking out over the garden, completely oblivious to Rory. She studied her unwitting companion, as they leaned forward on the railing, sighing deeply. This lasted only until the wind blew, and Rory unconsciously shivered.

The figure jumped, surprised. "Oh, shit." They gasped. "I didn't see you there." The deep masculine voice sounded almost familiar, yet Rory couldn't place it. When he'd turned toward Rory, she could clearly see his mask and half of his face. She'd expected to see a black tux with some type of mask adorning his face. Instead, she was staring at a man dressed as the Phantom of the Opera.

"Are you cold?" He asked, seeing her shiver once again. Her strapless dress wasn't as warm outside as it had been stifling inside. "Here." He removed his cape, wrapping it around her shoulders.

"Thanks." She mumbled softly. "Are you… are you supposed to be the Phantom?" She asked, her voice still gentle. Whether it was from her nerves or the serene atmosphere, she wasn't sure.

"Wow. You can actually identify my costume. Kudos to you." He replied playfully, completely enchanting her. He was witty. She liked it. "And," he continued with his playful tone, "you are supposed to be a modern Danielle, no?"

"You've seen Ever After?" Her mouth fell open in a rather un-lady like fashion. She shook off her surprise and answered his question. "Uh…sort of. My mother thought the wings would make me look like an angel instead of a princess."

"And are you…a princess?" He asked. She knew he was asking if she was a spoiled rich brat like most of her classmates.

"Well, if I'm Danielle, then yes. She does become one." She said, smiling cheekily. He smiled at her response.

"Are you also a former rich girl, forced to work for her evil step mother?" He teased. She didn't reply, she simply smiled back at him and moved closer, leaning on the rail, most likely dirtying her gloves. "The wings and the mask really make it look like Danielle. And an angel. You look beautiful." He was standing behind her, to one side, leaning on the railing on his opposite arm.

She could faintly feel his breath on her face. She inhaled the scent wafting into her nostrils. It was an amazing scent. It was the mixture of a strong yet not over powering cologne, Old Spice deodorant, and soap. He smelled like a rich version of Luke. "Old Spice." She whispered, not realizing it was aloud.

"How'd you guess?" He whispered, his lips much closer to her ear than before.

"My pseudo father wears it. He has a distinct scent of Old Spice and French fries. You don't smell like French fries." She turned her head slightly to look at him, surprised by how close he was. She turned to face him completely. He left one arm resting beside her on the railing, and the other stuffed deep into his pocket. She played with the edges of his cape, still draped about her shoulders.

"Okay, Nancy." He shrugged. She smiled at his literary reference. This guy was something else to her. He seemed almost perfect. "Oh, really? What would make me perfect?" Apparently, that was also said out loud.

"Now, if I told you that, you'd lie to me, and make me think you were." She replied coyly, grateful that her mask covered her crimson cheeks. He smiled at her. It was odd to be looking at half of his face. He seemed so familiar, and yet she couldn't for the life of her place him. His startling icy blue eyes stared at her.

"I know you." He stated, confusion written all over his face. "And yet, I can't seem to place you." He stared intently into her eyes, the only feature he could truly identify. "I know those eyes from somewhere."

"You aren't supposed to know me. That's the point of the mask. You're supposed to get to know me first." He nodded in accordance with the statements. "But, you have me puzzled as well."

"Seriously? Then you either don't go to Chilton, or I'm doing a really good job at concealing myself right now." He chuckled softly. "15 girls recognized me the moment I walked in the door."

Skillfully avoiding his implication about Chilton, she asked confused, "Then why are you out here if your friends found you?" She wished she could have found Louise or Madeline. Even Paris. At least someone she knew.

He removed his hand from the railing, and attempted to run it through his slicked back hair. "They aren't my friends. They're my…" He paused, and looked down chuckling softly. "How do I say this and not sound arrogant… um, okay, I can't. Basically, they're more like my groupies." He said, smiling somewhat sheepishly. She chuckled softly in response to that. "I'm serious. They follow me around, and cling, and beg for dates and offer all sorts of sexual favors, and while being surrounded by girls isn't necessarily a bad thing, it gets tiring. I mean, the one girl I do want to be around, basically hates me, so… wow, you didn't need to know all of that." He turned away from her smirking face.

"That was a Gi- That was a decent rant. I've only seen a guy rant like that once." She smiled at him as he looked back at her. "It's alright. I ramble a lot when I get nervous. I just keep talking, and don't realize that I should stop talking because the person has no idea what I'm saying, because usually, it doesn't make sense. But rants aren't supposed to make sense, right? That's why they're called rants or rambling, and not monologs…" He cut her off with his own words.

"Are you nervous now?" The blush returned to her cheeks as she avoided looking at him. He smiled down at her, lifting her face back to his. "Who are you?" He implored.

"Wait and see." She replied. And that was exactly what he did.

The two spent the remainder of the night talking out on the balcony. At some point, she'd become even colder, and had ended up standing with his arms around her. The warmth she felt was unlike anything she'd ever imagined. They talked of everything from books to movies to music, even obscure topics like Chilton's dress code to the lack of variety in the costumes that night.

They were talking quietly still when a rush of excited noise from inside disrupted their serenity. Midnight was being counted down, and everyone would be taking off their masks. As another burst of sound filtered through the doors, he moved away from her, removing his mask and filling in the other half of her puzzle.

Feeling tears fill her eyes, she whispered, "Tristan?" She shook her head, trying to grasp it.

"So you do go to Chilton." He smiled at her, ready to remove her mask from her, when she pulled away from him. "What's wrong?"

"I…. I have to… I have to go… I'm sorry." She ran back into the ballroom, desperately seeking her mother. His cape still wrapped tightly around her shoulders.

Lorelai had had her own surprise when the masks came off and found out she'd spent the night dancing with an Australian 18 year old. When both Gilmore girls almost literally ran into one another, both were freaked. "Let's go." They said simultaneously. Emily and Richard gave them odd looks, curious as to why their masks were still on, but left anyway.

Rory spent the entire ride home from her grandparents' in deep thought. Well, she was supposed to be listening to her mother's story of how she was with the barely legal all night. Apparently, he was so maturely immature, he seemed perfect. Until she saw how young he was. But Rory was lost in her own thoughts of how perfect her companion had been. Up until he turned out to be Tristan. Her prince turned back into a frog.

For Rory, it seemed, Midnight wasn't so magical anymore.

The following Monday morning, Rory left a note in Tristan's locker along with his cape. Dear Phantom: I'm sorry I ran, but you just weren't who I was expecting. I'm sorry if that sounds mean, but you're the King of Chilton and have a girlfriend. I have a boyfriend. It's simply not a good idea for you to know who I am. I'm sorry. Love, Danielle.

Tristan crumbled the note in his fist, as Rory watched from down the hall. He shoved the cape into his bag, and slammed his locker closed. 3 weeks later, he'd break up with Summer, and kiss Rory at a party after Dean dumped her. And she'd run away, just like Danielle.

To be continued…