DISCLAIMER: The characters used in this story are not mine and belong to various people I have to contact with.
AUTHOR'S NOTE: A little faster in the updating this time around. I've rediscovered my love for this story, thanks to a couple of very nice reviewers!
SPOILERS: Up to S2 for The 4400, round about S1 for The Gilmore Girls.
ARCHIVING: Only with the permission of the author.

3459: Lorelai Gilmore
By CharmedLassie


Part 10

Peering around the expanse of bushes that shielded 124 Harlot Avenue from the rest of the street, Diana murmured, 'Where is he?'

'Thomas'll be here,' Alana assured her, drawing her back from the gate. 'You don't want to be seen.'

'No, I wanna get in there,' she argued. 'Five more minutes and I'm going in alone.'

'He knows what he's doing,' Alana tried. 'He would never put Maia's safety at risk.'

Diana sighed and looked at her properly. 'You probably know more than me how much he's beat himself up over Gary Navarro.'

Alana inclined her head. 'I know it affected him, yes.'

'So what's to stop him playing this wrong because of that, hmm?'

'The fact that it's Tom Baldwin,' answered Alana firmly. 'He's an honest and good man.'

Nodding, Diana muttered, 'And that's precisely why he's feeling guilty.'

Alana was saved the difficulty of answering by footsteps behind them. Recognising more than one pair, Diana spun on her heel and came face to face with…

'Lorelai,' she breathed, allowing herself to be engulfed in a gigantic hug. Pulling back, she questioned, 'What are you doing here?'

After glancing to Tom, the returnee shrugged. 'Frequent flyer miles. And I was worried about you.'

'I told you I was fine!'

'Funnily enough, Di, I didn't believe you!' Lorelai squeezed her hand. 'Besides, your little friend here has an idea.'

Tom cleared his throat as they all looked to him. 'I got to thinking about Maia's clues. 'Careful' seemed too generic, and not that useful, until I figured that maybe it wasn't just a word of caution. If it's linked to the alarms then it could be Maia's way of telling us that just storming in there's a bad idea.'

'What other options are there, Tom?' Diana queried icily, aware that every second that passed was another where Maia's life was in danger.

'Well, we find someone who can manipulate the power to the alarms.'

Looking incredulously at Lorelai, Diana asked, 'You can really do that?'

Her lover nodded. 'I think so. I've been practicing.'

'Yeah, but this is big! This isn't stopping an alarm clock or…'

'Look,' Tom interrupted, 'worse case scenario is that Gary thinks there's something wrong with the electrics and comes outside to check it out. That way we've got him as well.'

Still unconvinced, Diana frowned. 'I still think we should get back-up here.'

Tom shook his head. 'Then we have to rely on guns. And they won't work against a man who knows where you're aiming and when you're pulling the trigger.'

Lorelai squeezed her hand again. 'Di, let me do this.'

Finally, she inclined her head. 'Okay. Let's get in there.'

Alana stayed outside; ready to call NTAC for help if- or when, in Diana's mind- they needed it. Keeping under cover of the bushes that surrounded the property, Tom led her and Lorelai around to a good vantage point where they could see the security camera but it couldn't see them. The entire outer rim of the building was thick with spotlights that would have to be eliminated too, and the stiff steel exterior was complemented by equally tough-looking doors which, as far as Diana could see, had a security alarm attached to the opening mechanism.

'Maia wasn't kidding when she said this place was alarmed,' Tom muttered, glancing to Lorelai. 'You think you can handle this?'

'One bit a time, maybe,' she answered.

'Okay. Well, take out the security camera first. That means we can get closer.'

Nodding, Lorelai closed her eyes. For a few moments there was a tense silence, then an ominous buzzing. Diana watched the wires around the camera glow red and then fade back to their regular colour.

'Dammit,' Lorelai murmured, opening her eyes again. 'I…'

Struck by an idea, she took her hands in her own. 'Close your eyes,' she instructed. When Tom looked at her questioningly she just shook her head and focused on Lorelai in front of her. 'Alright. Concentrate on the camera. Can you see it?'

The returnee nodded. 'Yep.'

'Good.' Wetting her lips, Diana then continued, 'The last conversation I had with Maia was about you. She asked me if you liked her like April liked her. You see, April used Maia's ability to predict ball games so she could place bets and win. And Maia went along with it because she thought that was the only way anyone was ever gonna like her.'

There was a loud pop. Diana looked up quick enough to see the wires fall out of the rear of the security camera and allowed herself a satisfied smile. Tom's eyes widened. 'That was impressive.'

Diana shrugged as Lorelai opened her eyes. 'You have to know which buttons to push.'

Her lover acknowledged that with a mild nod and held her gaze for a moment. 'I hate your sister,' she said eventually with full sincerity.

'Well, there's more,' she said evenly. 'Shall we try the lights?'

This time Diana explained how April had pawned their mother's engagement ring to fund her little gambling habit and, sure enough, one by one the lights glowed and popped.

The next obstacle was the door. After a brief pause, Diana indicated to Tom that he should back off a few paces. He did so without argument. As soon as he was out of sight, Diana lifted her hand to cup Lorelai's cheek.

Opening her eyes, the returnee asked, 'What next?'

'Now… Now you have to tell me what happened in Stars Hollow.' Seeing the pained expression on her lover's face, she kissed her quickly. 'I know I'm asking a lot but…'

Lorelai shook her head. 'It's for Maia.'

'Yeah,' she agreed, biting on her lip. 'Can you do this?'

Finally, the returnee nodded. Clearing her throat, she closed her eyes and began, 'The second I got through the door she… she threw something at me. A sweater.'

'A sweater?' Diana queried before she could stop herself.

Lorelai sighed. 'It was your sweater. You know the little blue sleeveless one with the zip?'

'Yeah, I wondered where that'd gone. What happened next?'

'Um… I tried to have a mature adult discussion with my mature adult kid who looked at me like she didn't know me at all. She kept asking me if you'd brainwashed me or something cos this sure as hell wasn't me she was hearing. Then she looked me dead in the eye and said, 'I don't know you, you're not my mother'. Then she, politely, asked me to leave.'

Though it hurt her, she had to keep pressing. 'Then what?'

'Well, she'd packed me a bag. That saved time!'

Saving her further explanation the tiny black box visible just inside the reinforced glass doors blew to smithereens. As Tom went to prise them open, Diana squeezed Lorelai's hand. 'Thank you.'

A tear slipped down the returnee's cheek and she fiercely wiped it away with the back of her hand. 'We should get in there.'

The advice was sound but it still stung that she had to draw away and follow Tom into the deserted building. She felt Lorelai on her heels and, as an afterthought, she drew her gun with trembling hands. Ahead, Tom quietly opened the door straight opposite the entrance. It led into a storage area packed with cardboard boxes full of, Diana found on closer inspection, ammunition. That didn't bode well for their chances if Gary wasn't working alone.

Glancing back to Lorelai, she murmured, 'You should wait outside. This could be dangerous.'

Lorelai shook her head. 'No way, Di.'

Knowing she had little chance of winning this hushed argument, Diana turned her attentions back to following Tom's lead. He lowered his gun slightly as he pressed his ear against the next door in their path. Then he nodded and indicated they should storm in.

'Keep back,' she warned Lorelai, doing as he requested.

Three tense seconds later Tom kicked the door inwards and ran in, shouting, 'Get down on the ground! Down!'

'Okay, okay, don't shoot!'

Recognising Gary Navarro's voice Diana's stomach flipped. Crossing the threshold she found the ex-baseball player on his knees, hands on head. Pulling her gaze from him she cast her eyes around. 'Maia?' Spotting a games board in the corner near another stack of cardboard boxes, she dashed over. Peering behind them she found Maia crouched there. 'Maia?'


'I didn't hurt her!' Navarro protested.

'Shut up,' Tom managed. 'Is she okay?'

Maia nodded. 'I'm okay.'

Breathing a sigh of relief, Diana kneeled and hugged her tightly. 'I'm sorry I took so long.'

Pulling back, her daughter shook her head sadly. 'It's okay.'

'I didn't hurt her,' Gary repeated. 'I wouldn't do that.'

'Well, you'd better start talking, Gary,' Tom answered viciously. 'Give me a good reason not to put a bullet in you right now.'

Though his sentiment matched hers Diana had to admonish him on account of Maia's presence. Lorelai was stood by the door watching them, a troubled expression on her face. Biting her lip and looking from Lorelai to Gary she finally nodded to Maia. 'Sweetie, go outside with Lorelai, okay?'

After some hesitation Maia moved over and slipped her hand into Lorelai's. The elder returnee, however, stayed motionless, her eyes fixed steadfastly on Navarro's bowed head.

Glancing at the barrel of Tom's weapon, still unwaveringly poised, Diana prompted, 'Lorelai?'

Gary, not lifting his head, muttered, 'She doesn't want to. She's torn.'

'Quiet,' Tom instructed angrily.

Briefly, Diana wanted to ask the question but stopped herself. Maybe Lorelai was torn but she wasn't. 'Maia: outside. Now.'

Eventually, Lorelai averted her gaze and led Maia to the door. Maia turned back before they left and looked straight at Gary. Lifting his head briefly, he nodded at her. 'Thank you.'

Diana growled. 'Okay, that's it. Get her out of here.'

Once the door was shut fast Tom's finger tightened on the trigger. Still looking at the floor, Gary said, 'If it'll make you feel better go right ahead.'

Two lengthy seconds and Tom let his arms fall. Stepping back a few paces he said, 'Stand up.'

Navarro did so, allowing Diana to see him properly for the first time since their arrival. He was unshaven and leaner than she remembered: obviously being on the run didn't suit him. His black hair also, which used to be neat and trim, had grown a little unruly. Smiling wryly, he answered her thoughts with, 'I'm trying out the hermit look.'

'Well, I wouldn't say it suits you,' she answered icily.

Slotting his gun back into his holster, Tom then crossed his arms. 'Care to explain, Gary?'

For a moment the returnee was silent. His fingers twitched nervously then he looked to Diana. 'I didn't hurt her. I didn't even mean to take her. I wanted to talk to you two. See, I'd spoken to Collier before he died- he gave me keys to this place if I ever needed it- but The 4400 Centre's off-limits now. Your nephew,' he said, glancing at Tom, 'is trying to keep on the Government's good side. So I couldn't go there.'

'So you came to us?' Tom asked incredulously. 'Why?'

'Who else is there?' Navarro countered.

'We didn't exactly help you last time, did we?' Diana argued.

'I got to thinking,' he replied, 'and you tried. Just couldn't keep your promise in the end.'

After exchanging a confused look with Tom, she questioned, 'What happened in New York, Gary? Why did you run?'

He lowered his eyes. 'New York. Milan. Glasgow. Detroit. It's all the same.'

'Your assignments?' pressed Tom.

'More like assassinations,' Gary amended, his forehead wrinkling. 'I'm given tasks. I get the intel, the suspects mysteriously disappear. At first I thought it was coincidence. But it wasn't.' He let out an angry breath. 'I'm an accessory to murder!'

'Murder?' Tom repeated. 'That's a strong accusation.'

'Come on, Baldwin. You can't tell me you didn't think that's exactly what they wanted me for in the first place.'

When her partner failed to answer, Diana questioned, 'What kinds of people are we talking about here?'

He held her gaze. 'Some guys who could drop some big fish right in it.'

'We need more than generalisations, Gary. Give me a… a scenario.'

First he glanced to Tom. 'You believe me, don't you?'

Eventually, her colleague nodded, a grim smile on his face. 'I believe you, Gary. But Diana's right, we need something concrete.'

Gary's tale of a Detroit businessman whom Diana had heard of as a sadistic womaniser with a great head for business who got into a spot of trouble with a stray husband rang true as far as she could tell. His relating it was proof enough, for her at least. Tom had been right: this guy was no murderer. He was a ball player. They were the ones who'd thrown him into becoming NTAC's plaything. Well, if not them directly then the people they reported to. It made them all responsible though, even if the likes of Nina Jarvis wouldn't agree with the sentiment.

After Gary had finished talking there was a cool silence. Then Tom muttered, 'I suppose I could corroborate it?'

'Benjamin Grey went missing in Detroit the week I was there. Dates, times: I'll give you anything.'

'We can't make this official,' Diana thought aloud.

Tom reluctantly shook his head. 'They'd lock you up as soon as look at you.'

'And you'd lose your jobs for trying,' Gary said with a touch of bitterness.

'Hey,' Tom replied angrily, 'if I thought there was a chance we'd get a result on this one…'

Finally, Gary shrugged his understanding to that. Leaning against the wall he ran his fingers through his tatty beard. 'So what? You arrest me for the kidnapping?'

'No,' Diana said, surprising herself. 'Provided you didn't lay one finger on Maia.'

'I wouldn't do that.' He paused. 'She's special. When she told me you were coming I realised just how special she was.'

She cleared her throat. 'I don't know exactly what we can do to help.'

'We could get him out of here,' Tom said, watching her carefully. 'No one need know he was ever in Seattle. He could just… vanish.'

'Where, Tom? Where could he vanish to where nobody would know him?'

Her partner scratched his forehead before answering, 'You told me that no one in Stars Hollow knew Lorelai was alive.'

An icy sensation swept over her stomach. 'That's right but…'

'It'd only be for a while. Till we can get him out of the country.'

'We?' she repeated incredulously, looking from one man to the other. 'I'm not getting involved in this.'

'We already are involved,' Tom argued. 'Diana, come on.'

'It's not even my decision,' she tried. 'I can't just drop a wanted man onto her doorstep and expect her to be happy about it.'

'Well, we'll ask her then. Give her the choice, how's that?'

She felt matters being taken out of her control. 'Okay,' she said finally. 'Go get her.'

Tom glanced from her to Gary before complying. She knew what he was worried about but she wasn't about to shoot him. That'd be messy and, yes, probably unwarranted. When they were alone, Gary ran his shoe around the sandy floor of the warehouse. 'I didn't hurt her.'

'The only reason you're still standing is because I believe that,' she said shortly. Then something occurred to her. 'Are you still on the medication?'

'I've learned to control my ability, a bit better anyway,' he answered. 'And they've inserted this… chip into me. It regulates… something. I don't know,' he added with a grim chuckle. 'I play ball, I'm no scientist.'

Tom returned a few minutes later, not just with Lorelai but with Maia and Alana as well. 'They didn't wanna stay outside,' he explained.

Diana looked first at her daughter who was studying her unwaveringly. It was infuriating sometimes, to have a daughter more advanced than she herself was. Maia had seen first that Gary wasn't to be arrested and blamed; her demeanour when they'd broken into the warehouse had more than proved that. Perhaps, though, Maia was just more objective in regards to the current situation. Diana had to admit that her primary urge had been to string Gary up by his ankles for the simple reason that he'd taken Maia without her knowledge or consent.

From Maia she raised her gaze to Lorelai's. Suddenly she was overwhelmed again. Her lover merely held her gaze for a second, her lips parted gently, then cleared her throat. 'So what's going on here?' she asked.

'Well, you've met Gary,' Tom began and Lorelai nodded. 'He's in trouble. He's been doing some… assignments for the government but…'

'They weren't cuddly bear kinda assignments,' Lorelai said shrewdly. Diana had to smile at the curt analysis of the actions of the United States Government then turned her attentions back to Tom.

'Something like that,' he replied. 'So he's on the run, and he needs someplace to hide out. You run an inn, don't you? Couldn't be that difficult to hide a guest in there, huh?'

Alana's eyebrows rocketed as she comprehended what her partner was saying. Lorelai, conversely, remained impassive. 'It's risky. If I'm caught…'

'I'll make sure you won't be,' Tom interjected. 'It'd only be for a couple of weeks. Then we'll get him out of the country. I understand why you're worried but… He's a 4400, Lorelai. That has to count for something.'

Diana watched her lower nervously. Half of her was wishing she'd reject the idea outright and they could get back to a drawing board which didn't put anyone else's liberty at risk. Lorelai began chewing on her lip then suddenly she nodded. 'Okay.'

Gary's chin rose. 'Really?'

Lorelai shrugged. 'You're a returnee. And Maia's got good things to say about you.'

Briefly, Diana wondered what they were but shook the question from her mind as Tom's cell phone began ringing. He growled then looked at the display. 'Jarvis,' he said uncertainly.

'Answer it,' she advised. 'Don't give her any room to suspect.'

Complying, he lifted the phone to his ear. 'Baldwin?' His gaze shot immediately to her, Diana noted. 'Yeah, she's here. Gimme a sec.' Covering the mouthpiece, he said, 'she wants us on speakerphone.'

Exchanging a nervous glance with Gary of all people she then nodded. Tom pressed a button and Diana cleared her throat. 'Skouris.'

'Good.' Jarvis sounded as puppy-like as ever. She was evidently in a car given the background noise of honking horns and wind. 'The law agencies in Connecticut finally got back to me about that list of names. One stands out like a measles epidemic.'

Diana swallowed before asking, 'And who's that?'

'Emily Gilmore. She got on a plane to Seattle more than a week ago and hasn't returned to Hartford yet.'

Lorelai's eyes narrowed fiercely. Since Diana herself couldn't form a coherent response to that announcement she let Tom question, 'What makes you think it's her?'

'Give me some credit, Tom. I know about Lorelai Gilmore and…'

'Alright, alright,' Diana interjected, feeling her face grow warm. 'But that doesn't mean Emily Gilmore's the chief suspect here.'

'I would've thought all you cared about was finding your daughter, Diana,' Jarvis said icily.

Glancing to where her daughter stood, under the protective arm of Alana, she muttered, 'Of course I want that more than anything.'

'So we're arresting Emily Gilmore,' Jarvis continued briskly. 'We're on the way to her hotel now. If she hasn't got Maia with her we'll pile the pressure on. Come back to base,' she added shortly before hanging up.

A silence ensued. Diana finally managed to look up at Lorelai. Her partner stared back at her, troubled and obviously completely lost.

It was Tom who broke the ice. 'Well, what now?'

Gary slumped down to the floor softly. 'I can't let an innocent woman go to jail for what I did.'

Diana was about to applaud the sentiment that had completely redeemed Gary Navarro in her eyes when Lorelai murmured, 'She's not exactly innocent.'

Tom glanced up sharply. 'What?'

The returnee just shook her head. 'You don't know her, Tom. She's a meddling witch; scheming, manipulative, vindictive.'

Feeling her throat go a little dry, Diana exchanged a look with Maia. Her daughter looked miserable, she noted, and she recalled Maia's attitude towards Emily at the hospital. Could it be, she wondered, that Maia knew something they all didn't about Emily Gilmore? Maia was certainly in the habit of keeping secrets lately and Diana had to admit it wouldn't surprise her if Emily had more of a role to play in Lorelai's life than that of the big bad wolf. That was her trouble nowadays, since her world had been turned upside down by first Maia then Lorelai, she never saw things as black and white anymore. The grey patches were too big.

Suddenly Lorelai let out a small chuckled. 'Don't look so worried, Di. I'm not actually advocating it.'

Quite relieved, she nodded. 'Okay. But what? Maia has to appear from somewhere; someone has to be responsible. Jarvis won't have it any other way.'

'It's okay,' Gary said quietly. 'I screwed up again.'

'No,' Diana said softly. 'We just have to figure out another way.'

'I think we need to get back to NTAC,' Tom said after a brief pause. 'You can talk to Emily. You know, maybe Maia could just show up.'

'You think Jarvis'll accept that?'

'She'd have to if Maia turned up with me,' Lorelai said suddenly.

Diana turned her gaze onto her lover who was studying her. 'Are you crazy? I've been trying to keep you out of Nina's way and you wanna step into the lion's den.'

'No, listen, Di,' Lorelai said, stepping closer to Maia and squeezing her shoulder. 'Think about it. Maia was missing me, she asked me to meet her someplace and here I am.'

'And why didn't you call and let us know she was okay, hmm?' Diana queried. 'That'll be the first question.'

'As far as I was concerned you knew where Maia was and I brought her in the moment I realised you didn't,' she shrugged. 'It might be a pile of bones but how can they prove otherwise? You don't press charges, Maia's happy; where's the problem?'

'Nina Jarvis is the problem,' she replied shortly. 'She wants a scapegoat and that's not gonna be you.'

'Now you're sounding like you want it to be my mother,' Lorelai observed.

Diana sighed and looked from Gary to Maia, both of whom were watching her intently. 'Give it an hour before you do anything,' she instructed Lorelai. 'I'll let you know when it's safe to bring her in. In the meantime…'

'They can come home with me,' Alana interrupted softly. 'With Gary as well.'

Tom glanced at his partner. 'Are you sure?'

'Of course I am, Thomas. He's a returnee: they all are. If that wasn't reason enough, he's innocent.'

Finally Tom nodded his trademark curt incline of the head and turned back to Diana. 'We need to go.'

'I'll meet you outside,' she informed him. He, along with Alana and Gary took the hint. Soon she was alone with Lorelai and Maia, whom she quickly hugged. 'Are you sure you're okay, honey?'

'I'm fine,' Maia replied with a mild shrug. 'But you have to help Gary.'

Diana pursed her lips in a half-smile. 'And why do I have to help him, hmm?'

'He's part of the reason it happens.'

Looking to Lorelai to ascertain that she wasn't the only one who was confused she found that she positively wasn't. 'Why what happens?'

Her daughter shook her head. 'I can't tell you.'

'Maia,' she warned, 'if it's…'

'It's good,' she promised. 'Honestly. I'd tell you if it weren't.'

'Well, I've heard that before.'

Lorelai cleared her throat. 'Maia and me sorta made a pact, Di. No more keeping bad things from you; not if we can help it.'

She was more relieved to hear that than she'd ever let on. She had to confess that the idea of more crashing poles and the like had been a frequent worry of hers, especially since Lorelai had insisted she wouldn't alter what she'd done.

'We'd better get going, Di,' Lorelai said suddenly. 'Don't wanna keep the old witch waiting.'

'Which one?' she queried lightly, raising a half-smile.

'Well, now, that'd be telling.' Kissing her briefly Lorelai then took herself and Maia out of the hollow room. Diana took a moment to steel herself then went to join Tom outside.

She and Tom hadn't spoken on the way back to NTAC. Diana was glad about that. She was worried about her impending meetings with Jarvis and Emily, and she didn't need Tom complicating matters. He might go and throw a moral spanner into the works of what she was about to do. Then again, he might not. After all, he was the one who'd just instigated the concealment of a NTAC runaway. She assumed that pondering that fact was what kept him busy on the drive back.

Once at work they finally located Jarvis on the lower-level outside one of the dankest interview rooms the facility had to offer. Diana felt another icy build-up in her stomach. Nina had deliberately chosen this place in order to place undue pressure on Emily. This section of NTAC was menacing; it was where they interviewed the dangerous returnees, the terrorists and mass murderers.

When she spotted them she uncrossed her arms. 'What took you so long?'

'Traffic,' Tom answered, saving Diana the bother of excusing themselves. 'What's going on, have you interviewed Emily Gilmore yet?'

'For all the good it did me,' Jarvis said disdainfully. 'She's not talking. She's demanding legal representation.'

'And you haven't given her the opportunity?' Diana queried, even if she knew the answer already.

'My focus has been on finding your daughter,' Nina retorted.

'Well, we appreciate that,' Tom said quickly. 'But if she's not talking…'

'Let me speak with her,' Diana said suddenly.

Jarvis raised her chin slightly. 'Excuse me?'

'I want to talk to her on my own.'

'That's not an option,' Nina asserted.

'Make it one. You keep pointing out that this is my daughter and if I can find her by talking to Emily alone…' She left the statement dangling and mentally crossed her fingers.

Jarvis was evidently struggling with two conflicting ideas. Eventually, she shrugged and stepped aside. 'Go right in.'

'No,' she replied, steadfastly keeping her gaze away from Tom. 'I want to take her outside.'

Snorting, Nina shook her head. 'No way, Skouris.'

'Do you want a result or not, Nina?' she asked angrily. 'Would you like blood on your hands, is that it?'

Tom cleared his throat. 'What she means is…'

'She understood what I meant, Tom,' Diana interjected coldly. 'I'm taking Emily Gilmore outside; is that understood?'

Jarvis conceded the argument with an attempt at a curt nod. Then, however, as Diana made to enter the room, she grabbed her wrist. 'When this is over we're going to talk.'

That was a welcome prospect, wasn't it? Without looking at either of her colleagues again she pushed into the room.

Emily Gilmore had her head resting in her hands. She was dishevelled, disorientated and evidently rather frightened. She looked up at the sound of the door, too rapidly for the movement to be from inquisitiveness alone. No, she was scared, and Diana had to admit the idea pleased her a bit.

The reaction to her entrance was mixed. Yes, she was a friendly face but Diana could also see the wheels turning in Emily's mind as she realised whose hands her fate was actually in.

'Diana,' she finally murmured, gathering herself up enough to stand, 'they're accusing me of…'

'Come with me,' she interrupted, opening the door wide.

'I don't underst…'

'We're going for a walk,' she said.

After a few tense seconds Emily nodded and followed her out into the corridor. They passed a glaring Jarvis and a nervous Tom, not to mention numerous angry agents on their way out in the grounds.

The fresh air hit both of them like a bolt. Diana kept herself steady only through years of training. Emily hadn't had the experience and staggered against the wall. Diana held onto her arm. 'Are you okay?'

Emily let out a sharp laugh. 'I don't believe I am, no.'

Glancing anxiously back to the building, Diana led the trembling woman away from the entrance speedily. 'The fresh air'll help.'

A minute or so later, when they reached the top of a grassy incline, Emily said, in a much calmer tone, 'I haven't the faintest idea where your daughter is, Diana.'

'Yes, I know that.'

'Then what on earth am I still doing here?' Emily asked incredulously. 'You don't even look concerned about that beautiful little girl,' she observed.

'I wouldn't start talking about concern for daughters,' Diana warned, casting a sidelong glance at the woman standing beside her. 'I think you'd regret it.'

'This is completely separate from what happened between me and Lorelai. This is about Maia!'

Diana pursed her lips before turning to face Emily. Then she said, slowly and deliberately, 'Lorelai has Maia.'

A sense of relief swept over Mrs Gilmore's face. 'Well, then! I can go home and this ridiculous mess is over.'

She shook her head. 'Not quite.'

The smile fell from Emily's face. 'What do you mean? Maia's with Lorelai. She's safe. Isn't she?'

'Of course she's safe,' she said with more bite than she'd intended. 'But you've met my boss.'

'Yes, charming woman. Reminds me of an ugly bull terrier an old neighbour used to own. I still don't see the problem here.'

Diana shrugged carefully. 'Nina Jarvis wants a scapegoat for this mess, as you call it.'

'But Maia's with Lorelai!' Emily repeated. 'It's a misunderstanding.'

'She won't see it that way.'

'Won't…' Realisation suddenly dawned. 'They don't know she's safe do they? You want to pin this on me!'

'I want to do nothing of the sort!' she argued. 'I'm in a difficult situation.'

'Well, I don't see how! Lorelai isn't going to be arrested surely?'

'There's something you need to know about the job I do, Emily,' Diana said coolly, moving her gaze out to the extensive view of the Seattle hills ahead of them. 'It's not a pleasant job. Some of my colleagues, Nina Jarvis included, want nothing more to study the 4400 in labs and… contain the threat. Now, Maia isn't a threat, neither is Lorelai. You might think differently, I don't know.'

'I know my daughter's not a threat to anyone but herself and her daughter…'

'Rory,' Diana said with a soft snigger. 'Well, I'll come back to that. As I was saying, NTAC want to study the returnees. When I met Lorelai she was millimetres away from being imprisoned in a psychiatric institution. Research in the name of containment. If Lorelai gets in one of those facilities there's no way she's getting out. A month after surviving what she did it seems a waste doesn't it?'

A muscle was working in Emily's cheek, Diana saw out of the corner of her eye. 'Have you spoken to Lorelai?'

'She's going to bring Maia in,' she said with a shake of her head. 'I honestly don't know why.'

'She… She knows I'm here then?'

'Yes, Emily, she knows you're here and she knows what you've been accused of. And do you wanna know something about your daughter, hmm?' Diana added quickly, feeling her resentment towards this woman rise again. 'She told Rory about me and her. And you know why she did that?'

Emily stayed mute.

'No? Well, we were convinced that you were going to run back to Stars Hollow and break the news yourself. So instead of that Lorelai told Rory over the phone and they've barely spoken since. And you're still in Seattle! Why, Emily?'

'I never… I wasn't intending to tell Rory,' she answered eventually. 'It was a threat, Diana, nothing more.'

'Why threaten us?' she questioned angrily. 'Why threaten that and not go through with it? Might've won you a few honestly points with Rory at least.'

'No,' Emily said shortly. 'Rory hates me. I realise she has the right and I know that there's nothing I can do to make her understand-'

'-Why you kept her mother from her,' Diana finished bitterly. 'No, I wouldn't imagine there is. But that means you have nothing to lose doesn't it?'

'Maybe Lorelai does love you. I don't know.'

Those simple words made her look at Emily Gilmore with something close to astonishment. 'You can't tell me you're alright with that?'

'I would like my daughter to be happy, Diana. Whether you believe that or not is none of my concern.'

They passed a few moments in almost companionable silence. Then Diana realised her hour was practically up; she needed to be calling Lorelai. Clearing her throat, she said, 'We'll go in there and I'll sort out your release as soon as Lorelai arrives.'

Emily was chewing on her lip. 'Are you serious about what could happen to her?'

'Jarvis wants a result,' she said. 'I don't honestly know how far she'd go to get one.'

There was another pause before Emily said suggestively, 'It'd be infuriating for her if there was no crime and too many suspects, don't you think?'

Ten minutes Diana nervously went with Emily to Jarvis's office. The office noise dimmed as she walked through with what was supposedly the chief suspect in the disappearance of her daughter and Diana had to remind herself to thank these people when this was all over. They'd shown support for her; even if she was about to fly in the face of all they stood for.

Tom was already with Jarvis. Their boss stood expectantly. 'Well?'

'I have a confession to make,' Emily said, looking straight at Nina.

Aware of Tom opening his mouth Diana silenced him with a slight shake of the head. She kept her gaze focused on Nina Jarvis who presently asked, 'And what is it you need to confess?'

Emily didn't pause. 'I know where Maia is. I didn't, however, realise I was taking her without her mother's consent. I picked Maia up from her teacher- she came with me willingly- and I took her to a hotel to wait for…'

'To wait for who, Mrs Gilmore?' Jarvis interrupted mockingly. 'The Easter Bunny? Santa Claus?'

Emily held her ground. 'My daughter. I was picking up Maia on Lorelai's request. Apparently, neither of us informed Diana. We both thought the other was doing it. It's rather an amusing misunderstanding really.'

Diana braced herself. She could tell from the iron expression on Nina's face that she wasn't going to get away with this easily. She knew the question was coming and, sure enough, Jarvis asked stiffly, 'What's your take on this, Skouris?'

'It seems to be a simple misunderstanding, doesn't it?' she replied.

'You're very quick to accept her word,' Jarvis observed.

'She's willing to call Lorelai. And if Maia's with Lorelai…'

'The returnee,' Nina interjected, 'who has a history of things falling on her in mysterious circumstances.'

'Mysterious accidental circumstances,' Diana amended holding her superior's glare with one of equal ferocity.

'I'm amazed you're so willing to accept this dubious version of events, Diana, I honestly am.'

'I want to find Maia,' she said, slowly and deliberately. 'Let her make the call.'

'Wait,' Nina argued. 'I wanna clarify something.' Turning to Emily, she said, 'I was led to believe that your daughter hated you.'

Emily's eyes flickered sideways. 'We've reconciled somewhat.'

'Yeah, I suppose kidnapping brings a mother and daughter closer together.'

Diana stayed silent. If she jumped in at this point Jarvis really would smell a rat. She couldn't be seen to be helping Emily's story along in any way; she had to seem focused on finding Maia. It occurred to her how absolutely crazy a situation she was currently in. Then again, that feeling had been biting at her stomach for the past three months now.

Emily finally gathered herself. Flashing a disdainful half-smile worthy of Mrs Gilmore, she answered, 'I'm afraid I don't come from that sort of background. I'm sure you know more on the matter than me, Nina.'

Jarvis being taken down by a Gilmore: that was a sight to see! Diana didn't dare look anyone in the face for a good few seconds. When she did look up it was to find Jarvis studying her intently. 'You want her to make the call, Skouris?'

'Of course I do.'

'Baldwin?' she queried, spinning her iron gaze around onto Tom. 'What do you think?'

He shrugged. 'We've got nothing to lose and everything to gain.'

After twenty tense seconds, Nina nodded. 'You're going on speakerphone.'

That thought made Diana nervous but she crossed her fingers that Lorelai wouldn't immediately jump on her mother when she picked up the phone. That was rather a tall ask, wasn't it? The whole concoction could be about to crumble around her. Still, she couldn't oppose the idea of the call being on speakerphone: she'd already overruled Jarvis once and it hadn't appeared to go down too positively. If she did it again Nina might just as well pull rank on her and dictate things her way anyhow. It was going to happen, whether she liked it or not.

Tom seemed equally nervous. He took Lorelai's cell number from Emily quietly then dialled it on the speaker. Diana hoped she was the only one who noticed the bead of sweat forming on his left temple. She thought she was. Jarvis, she knew, was alternately between glaring at her and Emily.

Clearing her throat as the ringing began, Emily was remarkably composed when her daughter answered, 'Hello?'

'Lorelai, it's your mother. It's about Maia.'

There were a few milliseconds of silence which seemed to Diana an eternity. Then Lorelai said, 'Damn right it is. It's all over the news, Mom! We're kidnappers!'

'We're nothing of the sort, Lorelai. That young girl called you for…'

'Enough,' Jarvis interrupted cuttingly. 'Lorelai, do you have Maia with you?'

'Yeah, she's right next to me watching herself on television.'

'Will you bring her in quietly?'

'Well, no, I was going to do a hoopla as I walked through the doors.'

Emily rolled her eyes. 'That isn't what she meant, Lorelai.'

'Yes, Mom. I know that.'

Diana's fist clenched. The tone of that return had been icy to say the least. She exchanged an anxious look with Tom who shifted his weight surreptitiously from one foot to the other several times.

'We have to see Maia's safe for ourselves, Lorelai,' Jarvis said presently.

'Of course she's safe, are you nuts?!'

'I'm superstitious,' Nina retorted. 'Bring her in.'

'I will,' Lorelai answered calmly. 'We didn't mean to worry anyone, you know?'

'I'm sure you can explain that to your girlfriend yourself,' said Nina smoothly. 'See you soon, Gilmore.'

Cutting the call briskly, Jarvis crossed her arms. She obviously wasn't going to be the first one to speak. Tom broke the ice then. 'That's great news.'

'Fantastic,' Diana agreed.

'As long as Maia's safe, huh, Skouris?' Nina said, her voice dangerously low.

'Did you have some other agenda?' she queried.

Jarvis snorted to herself. 'Maybe I should've. I might've been able to keep up.'

Diana held her icy gaze for a moment more than necessary before turning her attentions to Emily Gilmore. 'Would you like a coffee?'

'No, thank you.'

'Right.' She couldn't think of anything else to say. Abruptly, she sat in one of the chairs and exchanged a look with Tom. If anyone was going to give them away it would be him with his eyebrows currently knitted together painfully. She tried to signal to him to calm down and maybe he got it: he moved suddenly across the room at any rate and grabbed the phone. 'We should call a press conference. Let the world know she's safe.'

Nina took the receiver from his hand. 'Not yet, Baldwin. We don't know anything for sure. We don't even know if she'll bring her in.'

'Oh, you'd love to believe that, wouldn't you, Nina?' Diana queried coldly. 'I mean, you're the head of NTAC and what you want is for our charges to be unmasked as dangerous kidnappers? That's very illuminating, I must say.'

'You can't fool me, Skouris. I know you wouldn't be half this defensive of any other returnee. You'd put your neck on the line for her but no one else- so don't give me any solidarity rubbish.'

A faint smile played over her lips as she imagined Gary Navarro currently sat on Tom's sofa. 'If that's what you believe…'

Nina was quiet then. They all were. Both Emily and Tom took seats and studiously avoided looking at anyone. Diana did the same. She was deep in thought and lost in anxiety. After all, despite the best laid (swiftly laid) plans, Lorelai was still walking into NTAC with no guarantee she would walk out again anytime soon. That was what Lorelai was willing to do, not just for Maia, Gary and Diana herself but apparently for her own mother. She could've easily let Emily suffer for longer than she did. Diana couldn't argue the pleasant possibility had crossed her own mind. A couple of nights in a cell would soon have Emily Gilmore seeing the error of her ways. However, she couldn't think like that. She'd become as spiteful and manipulative as Jarvis if she went down that route.

Finally there was a call up from the gate. A woman had arrived with Maia and was asking, quite politely, to be let in. Diana held her breath then. She had the sudden idea that Jarvis would have Lorelai arrested on the spot and thrown in the basement with no further word on the matter.

Instead, after several tense seconds, she instructed Tom to go and accompany them upstairs. That left Emily's hands fluttering nervously around her coat buttons and Diana mentally crossing every fibre of her being.

Not soon enough did the trio appear. Maia ran straight for her arms and she kneeled down to receive her. 'Hi, honey,' she whispered. 'You okay?'

'She can talk to all of us,' Nina proclaimed.

Diana withdrew from her daughter long enough to glare at her boss then she gently turned Maia around, catching sight of Lorelai as she did so. Their eyes locked and she felt another one of those emotional tugs that had been so prevalent recently. They had to get out of this together; there was no way they could fail.

Lorelai broke their moment to glance at her mother, in a remarkably civil manner considering the history. 'Are you alright, Mom?' she asked calmly.

Emily just nodded. 'Thank you.'

'How endearing,' Nina commented. 'And here was me thinking you two hated the sight of each other.'

'Well, you could say we've resolved our differences since I moved home,' Lorelai answered, looking to Tom. 'Unless that wasn't allowed? I was supposed to hate her forever.'

Jarvis shrugged. 'Just assumed you would. Didn't see Skouris falling for a sap.'

That stung at her more than it should've, considering it came from Nina Jarvis. Tightly, Diana muttered, 'Can we get this over with?'

When Jarvis moved towards Maia, Tom intercepted her. 'I've got it, Nina.'

She reluctantly acquiesced and stepped back to her original position, arms crossed and eyes flickering between whom she obviously saw as the guilty parties- Lorelai, Emily and Diana herself.

Tom crouched beside Maia, flashing her a wide smile. 'You look tired.'

Maia shook her head. 'I'm okay.'

'So you got some sleep last night? Can you tell me where you were and who you were with, sweetheart? It would really help us out.'

'I was with Lorelai,' she said simply.

Diana refrained from letting out the breath she'd been holding but she did glance briefly from Emily to Lorelai, finding both as anxious as felt. Tom took a moment before continuing, 'And where were you?'

'A hotel.'

'What were you doing there?'

'Playing games. Snakes and Ladders mostly. Lorelai always loses.'

Tom nodded. 'And Mrs Gilmore- you know her?'

'Yes. She picked me up yesterday.'

'Why'd she do that? Your mom didn't know anything about it.'

Maia paused for, it seemed, a lifetime. 'I wanted to see Lorelai. I had something important to tell her.'

Jarvis looked up with interest at that. 'What was it, Maia?'

'It was about her daughter, that's all.'

Immediately looking to her girlfriend Diana tried to ascertain if Maia had actually informed her of a vision involving Rory but her face remained impassive. The implications of what that premonition could be also hit Emily who was chewing absently on her lower lip as she watched the exchanges.

'Is this true?' Nina asked Lorelai.

'Every word,' the returnee replied steadfastly.

There was no way she accepted it as truth, Diana conceded, watching Nina's measured analysis of the situation. However, she didn't seem able to think of another manoeuvre. Her face contorted several times into carnivalesque caricatures but she controlled it remarkably well. That was one thing Diana would give her- when impassiveness was the key, Nina Jarvis had it in droves. Finally, she said something. 'I don't suppose you want to prosecute for the misunderstanding?'

'Absolutely not,' Diana confirmed.

'Then show Mrs Gilmore out, she's free to go.'

After exchanging the briefest of glances with Lorelai she indicated to Emily that they should leave the office. Perhaps Emily wanted to halt and converse with her daughter, her posture certainly suggested that, but she wasn't stupid and merely nodded at Lorelai then Tom as she opened the door. Diana followed her out without a word.

They were out in the car park before either of them spoke. Eventually, as she hesitated over the entrance, Emily said coolly, 'I hope you know that I realise you were playing me in there.'

Diana glanced sideways. 'I beg your pardon?'

Emily's eyes, which had been rather watery in the last hour or so, were once again hard. 'There was no way you were going to let Lorelai take any blame for anything. I could see it in your eyes. You would have sacrificed yourself before that, wouldn't you?'

'Or you,' she threw out nonchalantly.

'Well, I rather wonder why you didn't just do that then,' Emily replied conversationally. 'I mean, you could've easily taken me out of the equation, Diana, and saved Lorelai without paying me so much as a thought.'

'It wasn't an option,' she answered curtly. 'Though don't imagine it didn't cross my mind.'

'What about Lorelai's?'

'Perhaps,' she admitted, thinking of her girlfriend's demeanour back in Collier's warehouse. 'But she came, didn't she?'

A half-smile settled on Emily Gilmore's lips. 'Yes. Yes, she did.'

'Do you need a cab?' Diana queried, getting back to immediate business. She was mindful, too, of the potential situation upstairs with Lorelai and Jarvis currently occupying the same stretch of land.

'I'm quite capable of arranging that myself, Agent Skouris.'

She just nodded. 'Good. Safe trip,' she said by way of parting. She didn't look back on her way into the building but she could feel Emily's cool eyes on her the entire time. Never a good sensation, Diana was coming to learn.

Returning to Nina's office she found the previous four occupants still there and embroiled in what could only be called a stalemate. As she saw her come back, however, Nina abruptly made a decision and walked straight past her. 'Tom,' she threw back over her shoulder coldly, 'let's give them a minute.'

Diana almost raised an eyebrow. Nina Jarvis was giving up her office so that her least favourite employee could have a private chat with the woman who had apparently returned her kidnapped daughter and cost the Government thousands of dollars on manpower and resources? It didn't seem altogether likely in her head, but Nina had never been easy to decipher. Tom was evidently of the same mind but he was still painfully anxious about Gary, Diana could spot that simply enough. In fact, she was more concerned about the thought of him being alone with Jarvis than anything her boss might still have to throw at her, however selfless and strange that sounded.

Still, left alone with Maia and Lorelai she did relax a fraction. The first thing she did was kneel down in front of the chair Maia was occupying, the one Emily Gilmore had vacated. 'Sweetie,' she said softly, looking her daughter straight in the face, 'I know that I shouldn't have done that to you. Any of it.'

'Di,' Lorelai said in an equally low tone, 'it's not the place. You know, spying eyes and everything?'

Unfortunately, she had to agree with the sentiment, though she still felt the overwhelming urge to… explain. Even if the notion crossed her mind that Maia understood more of what had gone on in the last few days that she herself actually did. Standing again, she squeezed Lorelai's arm, 'Are you okay? You look…'

Her partner half-grinned ruefully. 'Like I've just seen my mother?' she finished. 'So do you.'

Diana mildly shrugged. That wasn't for mentioning here either. She had the idea Nina would just come charging back when it suited her and, sure enough, without warning a few moments later the door sharply opened. Nina was far from breathless, but she did seem determined. Perhaps Lorelai had been right- they were under surveillance. She wouldn't put anything past her delightful boss, not since she'd tried to put Lorelai in a testing cage for an unknown period of time.

However, if Nina had heard her speaking to Maia then she didn't bring it up immediately. 'I want an explanation, Skouris,' she said firmly, slamming the door behind her.

'As far as I was aware…' she began but she was cut off.

'No. I saw you yesterday, Diana. You were distraught.'

She exchanged a brief glance with Lorelai but kept her mouth closed.

Nina barely waited for an answer, she continued, 'You weren't distraught this morning when you got back from wherever the hell you and Baldwin were. Where was that exactly?'

'You want an explanation, Nina?' Diana said tightly. 'Alright.'

'Di...' Lorelai said anxiously.

'No, Lorelai, I've got this,' she shot back. 'Okay, Nina. This morning Tom and Alana took me back to their place because my daughter was missing and I was catatonic. They fed me, tried to get me to sleep, which didn't work by the way, and that's where we were when you called.'

'Is that so?' Jarvis questioned icily. 'Well, when I check your facts...'

'Don't bother,' Diana interrupted. 'You want a head to roll, Nina, is that the way is it?'

'I want the truth, nothing else.'

'Try this for the truth- I quit!' Stepping sideways she grasped at Maia's hand and glanced to Lorelai. 'Come on, you two.'

Part 11

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