DISCLAIMER: The characters used in this story are not mine and belong to various people I have to contact with.
AUTHOR'S NOTE: I realise I keep making promises about when I'll get around to updating this so I won't do that this time. I'll only say that is my favourite story to write (when the pesky novel is taking a backseat) so it may not be as long as you expect. And, again, thanks for reading and for the people who have emailed me to say they're enjoying it.
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
'Yep.' Lorelai steered her towards the couch sternly.
'Oh, my God.'
'Yep,' her lover repeated, sitting her down.
Diana blinked several times as she tried to take in her surroundings in her bleary state. 'Where's Maia gone?'
'Straight to her room,' Lorelai answered, taking her hand. 'You're shaking, Di.'
'Am I?' she muttered absently.
'See, this is why I said no to you driving us back.'
Diana managed a chuckle then her face fell. 'I think I just quit my job.'
'Are you terrified?'
Lorelai paused then entwined their fingers. 'Do you regret it?'
For a moment she didn't reply. Finally, she shrugged and swallowed painfully. 'No.'
'Di,' Lorelai went on, 'I'm not asking you to do this. I know how important your job is to you...'
'It was,' she interjected. 'My...' Breaking off she tried to concoct something which wouldn't have the returnee doing her usual trick of running for the hills. Looking over to her Diana bit down on her lip. 'My family's what's important now.'
Lorelai didn't flinch. She just took her hand. 'Well, here's what we do. We get you into the shower because, hun, a day without sleep does nothing for a lady.' Diana smiled softly then Lorelai continued, 'And then we get you some sleep. And then... then we go home.'
Though her mind could barely focus she had to shake her head. 'Rory... '
Lorelai cut in with, 'I can't think about that right now. Is that okay?'
After nodding Diana murmured, 'Can you go check on Maia for me?'
'Sure thing.' Lorelai kissed her forehead. 'Don't fall asleep. The shower's the most vital part of the plan.'
'The sleep?' she challenged mildly.
'Has to play second fiddle,' Lorelai answered before disappearing into Maia's room.
Diana stayed still for a good thirty seconds. Then she was snapped back into reality by the ringing of the telephone. She sighed, imagining it to be Tom panicking over Gary, or Nina back to haunt her resolve.
Still, she had to answer it. 'Hello?'
She wasn't sure she wasn't having some sort of audio hallucination. 'Rory?' she eventually queried.
'Grandma called,' the teen replied, ice evident in her tone. 'She said you'd found Maia.'
'Yeah,' Diana said uncertainly. 'We have.'
'Well, is she okay?'
'She's fine, thankfully. A little shaken up and tired, but apart from that...'
'Good,' Rory said. 'Good.' There was a pause. 'Is Mom right there?'
'No,' Diana said, lowering her voice a touch, 'she's checking in on Maia.' Unfortunately, that immediately became an untruth as Lorelai emerged, pulling the door to behind her. Diana pressed a finger to her lips and continued, 'Rory, are you okay?'
Lorelai's mouth opened slightly and she moved closer, taking Diana's hand in her own. From that range she could hear Rory's, 'Just peachy.' Another pause. 'Was all of it so you and her could...'
'No,' Diana interrupted swiftly. 'That happened afterwards, Rory, I promise you.'
'Grandma said...' Rory trailed off and Diana exchanged the same concerned look with Lorelai as was always prompted by the mention of Emily Gilmore. Rory eventually restarted, 'Grandma said she's happy.'
'Well, I don't know about that,' she said, earning herself a disapproving glare from her lover. 'Alright,' she amended, 'I think she is. But that's because she's back in your life, Rory. She couldn't be anywhere close to happy if she didn't have you.'
'She's in Seattle,' Rory said.
Lorelai made to take the phone but Diana pulled back. 'She's coming home now Maia's safe.'
There was another pause. 'I don't blame her for looking out for Maia. I'm just glad she's okay.'
'I'm pretty relieved about that myself,' Diana replied then she met Lorelai's eye before continuing, 'Rory, I just quit my job. I want to come back to Stars Hollow for a little while, but I won't if you're completely against it.'
'You quit your job?' Rory questioned uncertainly.
'It's a long story,' she said truthfully. 'Maybe I could tell you about it over coffee at Luke's?'
'I don't know about that. I'll be staying with Grandpa while you're here, I won't be in Stars Hollow.'
Lorelai visibly flagged. Diana sighed. 'Okay, Rory, it's your call.'
Diana plopped the phone back into the cradle and glanced at Lorelai. It took a good twenty seconds for her lover to speak but when she did she was remarkably calmer than Diana had anticipated. 'Shower, hun?' she prompted.
Willing to accept the gesture for what it was, Diana squeezed her arm. 'Shower.'
'I thought you were exhausted,' Lorelai commented. 'Y'know, not that I'm complaining cos this is kinda pleasant, but if you're gonna drool on me at some point then I'm begging you to tell me quick.'
Diana smiled softly. Her head was rested on Lorelai's lap and with the lights dimmed and the curtains drawn shut she could almost forget the quaint mess that was now her life. 'When I drool, Gilmore, you'll know about it.'
'Grateful to hear it,' Lorelai muttered, stroking some hair out of her face. 'You sure you couldn't do with some sleep? Mop up the bags around your eyes, make you look less like Desperate Dan?'
'You sure know how to make a lady feel special,' Diana replied. 'No, I'm just...' She shook her head. 'I'm expecting Tom to call any second, panicking about getting Gary out of Seattle.'
'Ah...' Lorelai shuffled sideways, forcing her to lift her head indignantly.
'Hey!' Diana complained lightly. 'Don't be mean.'
'Don't hold out on me!'
Lorelai silenced her with a chaste kiss then drew back immediately. 'You're still pouting.'
'Well, what do you expect?!'
When the phone rang ten minutes later Diana was less surprised than she wished. This time it was most definitely Tom. 'Diana, what the hell's going on?'
She glanced to Lorelai: the returnee shrugged and dragged herself upwards. 'Checking on Maia, checking on Maia.'
Diana smiled gratefully and waited until she was out of earshot before she answered, 'Jarvis spoke to you then?'
'Something like that. She's given away your desk to Maloney.'
'Already? That's quick, even by Nina's standards.'
'Okay, Diana,' Tom went on abruptly, 'I have time to tell you all the reasons why you can't quit your job and leave Seattle to be with Lorelai Gilmore, but now I've got bigger problems. Gary's asleep in Kyle's bed. We need a game plan.'
'I agree. We have to get him to Stars Hollow. Neither me or Lorelai can drive him, it's too risky.'
'So, what, bus ticket under an assumed name?'
'Seems a safe bet to me,' she answered.
'And once he's there?'
She chewed on her lip. 'We'll get there early, sort something suitable out.'
'Stars Hollow have any deep holes you know of?' he asked sardonically.
'Tom, I know you're worried but...' Diana trailed off and looked around her apartment which she was all ready to pack up and leave. Finally, she continued, 'This is on my head, mine alone. I get Gary to Stars Hollow and keep him safe and that's great, but if something goes wrong and we're discovered then it's my head on the chopping block, not yours. I just ask one thing, Tom, that's all.'
His voice was soft. 'And what's that?'
'If something does happen and Lorelai gets sucked in I need you to look after Maia for me. I'm sure it won't happen, but if it does...' She left the sentiment hanging but knew he understood her fully. She was just covering her bases.
'Of course, Diana, it goes without saying. Are you leaving first thing?'
'Yeah,' she confirmed, 'as soon as. So get Gary on the road as soon as you want.'
'Well, I'll take you up on that,' he replied. 'You are coming back this time, right?'
Her heart and head were telling her different things. The best thing to do seemed to be evade the question. 'I've got a life here, Tom. It wouldn't be that easy even if I wanted it to be.'
After hanging up the phone thoughtfully she went to locate Lorelai in Maia's room. Her lover and daughter were chatting from Maia's position inside the covers with her knees pulled up protectively to her chin. Lorelai was obviously having a frank discussion with the girl, judging by the serious expressions on both of their faces. It didn't escape Diana's attention that if anyone else was trying to have a mature talk with Maia over things she might not be old enough to hear then they'd be dragged out of the room by their earlobes. Instead of doing that she sat on the opposite side of the bed to Lorelai and rested her hand on the top of Maia's knees.
'Don't you need your sleep, honey? You can't have got much last night.'
Maia shrugged and looked to Lorelai to answer for her. The other woman reached out and mussed Maia's hair. 'We erm... well, we both want to know...'
'Okay,' Diana interrupted the progressive babbling authoritatively, 'here's what's happening.' Both Maia and Lorelai were chewing on their lips and it was mightily endearing. 'Tomorrow, we all see if we can get plane tickets. A holiday to Stars Hollow. Initially,' she added, seeing her daughter's face slip a little. 'Maia, honey, I don't know if we can make it permanent, I don't even know if we should.' She was ignoring the voice in her head which whispered that she didn't want to come back. That she'd found it finally and she should be grateful for that fact. It was a persuasive little mutter, she noted, and it was having some assistance, she found as Lorelai touched their hands together lightly. The simple touch made her ache. Standing, more to mask her own emotions than for any other tangible reason, she moved towards the door. She thought she saw Lorelai understand as she kissed Maia's forehead and left the room to go through to her own bed.
When Lorelai entered herself Diana had her back to the door. She half-hoped her pretence of being asleep would be believed, but she didn't wholeheartedly want that. She heard Lorelai undress and climb into the bed beside her. She tensed and then-
'Boo,' said Lorelai softly next to her ear.
Immediately, she turned over and came face to face with some penetrating blue eyes which probed her immaculately. For the first time in a long time she let herself be the needy one. Lorelai's hand slipped over the loose silken pajamas she always wore for bed and pulled her closer. Diana found herself nibbling on her bottom lip, that was until Lorelai kissed her tenderly and held her close, forehead under chin. She felt completely out of her depth, and unfathomably disinterested in that fact. Diana lifted her head, kissed Lorelai again and promptly felt asleep in that position.
She woke in much the same position as she'd been when she'd fallen into slumber. Lorelai's arms were wrapped around her, probably quite uncomfortably so if either of them had been paying attention to it. Neither of them were though, and Diana's shoulders merely tingled at the contact, rather than ached.
Lorelai was already awake and watching her warmly, her lips pursed together lightly. Diana shuffled her weight so she was resting more on the bed than on her lover and then questioned softly, 'How long have you been up?'
'You're lying,' Diana observed, blinking herself into a more alert state.
'Well, I wasn't as exhausted as you,' Lorelai admitted, grasping her spare hand and bringing it up to her mouth. 'Are you feeling better?'
'Mmm. What time is it?'
'You almost slept through. It's four am.'
'Relax,' Lorelai answered, kissing her palm again. 'Not a peep.'
'Good,' she murmured. 'Good.' Absently, she made to sit up but Lorelai's grip stopped her. She glanced at her questioningly. 'What?'
The returnee waited until she was settled back down beside her before she asked, 'Why didn't you call me when Maia went missing?'
Immediately uncomfortable, Diana shifted her weight. 'I was just focusing on the moment, that's all.'
'That's not it, Di,' her partner replied firmly. 'Come on, don't treat me like an idiot.'
'Lorelai... I...' Now she felt fully awake again she was almost embarrassed at her behaviour the previous day. She'd allowed herself to be lulled into security. Now it wasn't exactly daylight but she still felt differently. 'I should check on Maia.'
'Diana, no,' Lorelai insisted, keeping her down. 'How is this supposed to work if you won't talk to me?'
She sighed but made no further attempt to dislodge herself. 'You once told me that running away was underrated as a way of dealing with your problems.'
'I admit, I like doing that, and I can't really argue against you on it, but... God, look where it got me!'
'Abducted by beings from future? How do you get from A to B on that one?'
Lorelai shook her head. 'The reason my Mom did what she did was because I took Rory and left. Maybe if I hadn't things would've been different when I got back.'
Diana lifted her chin slightly. 'You sound like you're actually defending your mother,' she observed.
'Crazy as it may seem...' Lorelai shrugged. 'I don't know. My parents come from another world. I know the rules, I know all the expectations but I... I can't stomach the...'
'Conformity,' Diana concluded wryly. 'Believe me, I understand the sentiment.' When Lorelai shot her a questioning glance, she went on, 'My father and I never could get past the rules he thought he needed. But that was completely different.'
'You don't speak. It's pretty similar.'
'Maybe,' she conceded. 'You know your mom put her head on the block today?'
Her lover reluctantly nodded. 'I saw it, Di, don't worry. But it changed nothing. She'd have to be a saint for the rest of her life to make up for what she did.'
'I know that. I know that. But it has to... mean something.'
'What do you want it to mean?' Lorelai queried calmly.
Diana contemplated that for a few seconds. Then she smiled wryly. 'I'd like to believe that if your mother could do the unexpected then other people might come round to the idea too.'
'Do you want a relationship with your father?'
'No,' she admitted. 'But that's not to say I don't want the opportunity to spit in his face.'
Lorelai grinned. 'There's something I can relate to.'
Going back to the initial question, Diana tentatively ventured, 'I honestly didn't wanna worry you. I was holding it together and I knew that if...' When she trailed off she found disbelieving eyes on her. 'What?'
'Tom said you were a walking time bomb. You weren't holding it together, Di, and you let Tom see that, and Jarvis-'
'I did not let Jarvis see that!'
'Well, Tom then.' Lorelai's voice was still tight, Diana noted, and she didn't like the implications of the statement. She ran her tongue over her suddenly parched lips before she spoke again.
'Look, it's not that I don't trust you.' When Lorelai looked away, she asserted, 'It isn't that! Of course I trust you. It wasn't as if I ever thought you were involved or might not support me in whatever action I wanted to take. It wasn't that I didn't want you there.'
'Then what, Di?' asked her partner softly. 'You made a choice.'
'Yeah, to get through! It's the choice I've always had to make, Lorelai. I used to wake up in the night when Maia first moved in, and I was convinced something was wrong. It wasn't but I've lived with that idea in my head ever since.'
'Believe me, I know what that's like. Every mother does.'
'Maia isn't your average kid. She sees the future, and she doesn't always tell me. She could've saved you a lot of pain and the people you care about a lot of heartache if she'd told me what was gonna happen.'
'You would've died and I would've lost someone I care about. And so would Maia! She's not stupid, she knew that.'
Diana paused then rolled onto her back firmly and examined the dim ceiling above them. 'I couldn't let you see me lose it. I've spent so long protecting myself that I wouldn't let myself do that. And Tom's already seen me vulnerable, I think he's maybe the only person who has. It doesn't excuse me letting him in and not you but-'
'I wasn't looking for excuses, Di,' interrupted Lorelai. 'I got my explanation.'
Carefully, she glanced sideways. 'And your conclusion?'
'That we might need to need to build an extension on my small house for all our emotional baggage.'
Diana half-grinned and kissed her. 'Agreed.'
This wasn't packing for a holiday, she realised, as she slipped her favourite, but seldom worn, bracelet into the inner pocket of her travel bag. The whole thing was full of sentiment- a couple of Maia's drawings, family photographs, even her old journal was stuffed in at the bottom. As she heard Lorelai enter the bedroom she quickly stowed the clothes that were folded on the bed into the bag and squashed everything down.
'Maia packed?' she asked, glancing over her shoulder.
'It took her two minutes and twenty four seconds,' Lorelai replied. As she approached she slotted her arms around her waist and rested her chin on her Diana's shoulder. 'It's a good record.'
She turned her head long enough to roll her eyes. 'Get back in there.'
'Because I know Maia and she wouldn't have packed one pair of socks or one set of sensible clothes.'
'It's Stars Hollow, Di,' Lorelai pointed out. 'Not exactly the culture capital of Connecticut.'
'There still might be cause for it. Even Stars Hollow has important people.'
Pulling away from Lorelai she hoped she hadn't received the implied message. The only possible reason she could have for wanting Maia to take more than holiday clothes with her was if she planning on them having significant meetings when they were there. With school headteachers, say. Again, the idea had popped into her head so suddenly, just like the urge to steal her bracelet from the top shelf of the wardrobe had, and it scared her. Despite what she'd said to Tom she obviously wasn't planning on coming back to Seattle, at least not on a permanent basis. If things worked out in Stars Hollow- and there were a lot of variables in that equation- then they'd stay in Stars Hollow. There was nothing to tie her to Seattle anymore. After all, she'd walked out of her job, hadn't she?
'Di,' Lorelai said, breaking into her thoughts, 'you look green.'
She shook her head and tried to smile. 'I'm fine.'
If she didn't believe her she didn't mention it. 'I'll go persuade Maia to relinquish the Barbie shorts then, huh?'
'It'd help,' she said evenly.
'The airline got back to you yet?' Lorelai questioned on her way out of the door.
'Nope. Which might make the packing redundant.'
After Lorelai disappeared, Diana sighed and dropped onto the bed. Looking around her bedroom, she realised that it had never really felt like a... a home. It was functional, nothing more. She was holding onto an image of Lorelai's Stars Hollow house like a maniac. It was just what Maia needed. It was just what... what she needed.
Thirty minutes later Maia had managed to pack properly with the help of Lorelai. Diana herself was fully organised and sat on the sofa conversing with the airline. As she ended the call she found both her daughter and lover watching her expectantly.
'We're going, we're going,' she said to smiles from both of them. 'Couldn't get three seats together though. Two in coach, one in business class.'
Lorelai's grin grew. 'Always loved sitting up with the suits when I was a kid. And bugging the hostesses.'
'Actually,' Diana said carefully, 'I was hoping you'd sit with Maia.'
'In the back of the plane. Seriously?'
One look at Lorelai's face told her the indignation was false but she did spot some concern in her eyes. She stood and faced the pair. 'You know you two'll have a better time back there.'
Maia just nodded but Lorelai's frown widened. 'You okay?'
'Of course. Now, the flight leaves in a couple of hours so we should get moving. I'll call Tom from the car.'
'I'll get my bag,' Maia announced and ran to her room.
Diana smiled. 'I guess she's happy.'
'So why are you taking the snob seat again?' Lorelai asked, drawing her attentions back over to her partner.
'I just... I've got some thinking to do. I need to work out how... if... we can do this. And I can't do that with Maia next to me. Or you,' she added as an afterthought.
Lorelai conceded that with a shrug. 'I'll give you that one.'
'You're sure you're okay with the arrangement?'
'Long as it makes you happy. Besides,' Lorelai went on, 'I'm not the one who'll be sat with a bunch of people who send their Martini back if the glass doesn't look new.'
Diana rolled her eyes. 'Hurry Maia up will you?'
'Consider it done.'
Gary was still safe, Diana learned on the way to the airport. Tom sounded as anxious as ever and he brought up the fact that she was wilfully walking out of Seattle once again, but with Lorelai and Maia also in the cab with her she didn't dare argue with him either way. She made do with answering his pointed questions about her plans with one or two word answers. Maybe they didn't satisfy him but they at least didn't upset him.
Before they separated at the boarding gate, Diana took Maia aside for a few moments. 'This all okay with you, honey?'
Her daughter nodded. 'I just want to go to Stars Hollow.'
'And everything'll be alright?' she asked, only half ironically.
Maia smiled softly. 'Everyone has to start somewhere.'
Diana was about to return Maia to Lorelai a few metres away then something occurred to her. 'Sweetie, did you have a vision about Rory the other day? I forgot to ask.'
'And you're not gonna tell me what it was?'
Recalling the pact Maia and Lorelai had apparently made, she accepted that with a sigh. 'Okay, then. I'll see you in Hartford, huh?'
Maia's grin returned. 'Yep.'
Lorelai took Maia's hand firmly when they got back to her. 'We'll be fine.'
Well, that was one thing that Diana didn't need reiterating. 'I know. See you in a few hours.'
She didn't have any difficulty locating her seat. But she stopped short of sitting straight down in the aisle seat when she heard a voice from the window addressing a passing air hostess. 'Excuse me, I want another glass. This is obviously unclean. And, please, don't tip the Martini from one to the other. I want a fresh one.'
How was that even possible?! That wasn't a coincidence, it was a damn conspiracy.
If she could've got off the plane there and then she would've done it. But it was probably a little later to go screaming down the aisle and try to abduct two other passengers on the way. With that in mind, she had little choice but to sit down as quietly as she could.
Still, it wasn't enough to hide her entrance. 'What in God's name are you doing here?'
'I'm on a flight to Connecticut,' she answered briskly. 'Join the dots.'
Emily Gilmore snorted. 'I feel like I'm being stalked.'
Diana rolled her eyes. 'Believe me, I've got better things to do with my time.'
'So this is all coincidence, is it?'
'Yes, actually. I can tell you my idea of a good time is not to sit on a plane next to you. I'm just thankful Lorelai's sat with Maia. This could've been messy.'
Emily raised her chin at that. 'Lorelai's on the plane?'
'That's right.' Pulling her book from her travel bag, Diana opened it at her bookmark. 'And now we've got that out of the way, I don't see any reason for us to talk.'
'You're going to sit there for hours with your nose in a book and pretend I don't exist?'
'Yep, that's the general idea.'
Emily made an indignant noise in her throat. 'That's the most ridiculous thing I've ever heard.'
Steadfastly reading the first paragraph of the chapter, Diana ignored her. As she did during take-off and for a good half an hour afterwards. It didn't matter that she wasn't taking in a word of the novel she was reading or that her eyes were enormously tired. The point was that Emily Gilmore was getting the signal loud and clear. There would not be any discussions or little witch-meetings about Lorelai or Rory. Diana had learned her lesson on that score.
Then Emily broke her silence. 'You do love my daughter, don't you?'
Her eyes flickered. Still, she was determined not to answer. What Emily believed or didn't believe was none of her concern.
The elder woman sighed. 'Lorelai's always been difficult. You tell her to go left, she'll go right. You ask her to do something quietly, she'll scream her head off about it. I've never understood her and I probably never will. And I certainly don't understand this latest twist in her love life.'
Diana tightened at that. This 'twist' was more than the latest storyline in a soap opera. This was her life and she was damned if anyone was going to take it from her or talk her out of it.
'I know,' Emily went on suddenly, 'that I have no right to ask you to do this. You probably think that I deserve nothing from anyone.'
Finally, Diana glanced sideways. 'What I think is irrelevant.'
'Lorelai listens to you.'
'And you assume that I'll use that influence for... what exactly?'
'To make her happy.'
Diana had to do a double-take. 'Excuse me?'
Emily was impassive. 'I think you heard me.'
'Well, I've had a stressful couple of days. My hearing's liable to be a bit fuzzy.'
'I want you to do everything in your power to make her happy, Diana.'
She was having difficulty believing this. If there was one thing she'd learned about Emily Gilmore during the last few months it was that anything that came out of her mouth was inevitably either an untruth or a manipulation.
'I don't see why you're asking me this,' she said eventually.
'Because I can't achieve it without you, that's why.'
'Why do you even care?'
'I care,' Emily said shortly.
'Well, that as may be,' Diana replied, 'I'm not prepared to discuss this with you. You've already tried to come between Lorelai and I, and I won't have that happening again.'
'Do you really think it'll be plain sailing for you and Lorelai in Stars Hollow?'
She closed her book with a thwack. 'Again, this is none of your business.'
'How will it affect Rory's life, hmm? Or your daughter's? Your little girl is-'
'I don't need you to tell me about my daughter,' she interrupted.
'I think you do. Have you any idea what this lifestyle will-'
'Don't use that word,' she warned. 'Don't say it like it's a choice. What I feel for Lorelai is not at all what I planned. But I refuse to lay down and lose one of the best things that ever happened to me because of a few narrow-minded bigots. And Maia and Rory are going to be just fine.'
Emily had the decency to look thoughtful. 'Are you on speaking terms with Rory yet?'
'She called yesterday as it happens.' It was the truth, just an imitation of it. God, she was turning into the woman next to her! 'She was concerned about Maia.'
'Well, Rory has a good heart.'
'She gets that from her mother,' Diana retorted, trying to open her book again. To her irritation, Emily slapped her hand down on the cover. 'What are you doing?'
'Think carefully, Diana. Do you really want to come between a mother and daughter?'
'Well, I could ask you the same thing.'
'What I did-'
'Do you get the feeling we're raking over old ground here?'
That silenced Emily. Perhaps she even conceded the point. At any rate, she signalled to a passing hostess, fortunately not the same one as earlier. 'Excuse me, two Martinis here.'
Diana raised an eyebrow at her. 'You're buying me a drink?'
'Is that a problem?'
She shrugged. 'Not that I can see.'
When the drinks arrived Emily raised her glass. 'Cheers.'
As she sipped Diana tried not to let Emily Gilmore see what she'd managed to surprise her yet again. She honestly didn't have a clue what was going round the woman's head. Get away from Lorelai. Toast her relationship with Lorelai. Was it a sense of discerning the lesser of two evils? Surely it was better to at least seem supportive, that might give her a way in with Lorelai. At least, that could be her thinking. To Emily reconciliation with Lorelai could mean everything. The chance for a second shot at her marriage.
Mrs Gilmore's going to get married.
It felt like an age since she'd read that in Maia's diary. That, at least, meant there was something in Emily's future. That was a good thing. A little more life of her own and she might stop meddling in her daughter's.
They managed to make the drinks last an eternity. Diana certainly didn't want to renew their conversation and it seemed Emily had the same thought. That was why she only sipped the last drop of her Martini when the pilot announced they were coming in to land.
As Diana was stowing away her book, however, Emily asked, 'Have you told Richard yet?'
She glanced sideways. 'That a threat?'
'On the contrary, I was going to give you some advice.'
After examining her face to ascertain her honesty- and coming up empty- Diana carefully questioned, 'Advice?'
'Richard's old fashioned. But one thing he can't say no to is that granddaughter of ours. If Rory's as happy with your relationship as you suggest you'll want to utilise that fact. Good day, Diana.'
Standing aside, she let her go first. The journey had given her nothing if not food for thought.
She followed Emily off the plane and through the gate. Lorelai and Maia were waiting for her. Spotting them, Emily lifted her hand up in a semi-wave. 'Bye, Lorelai.'
Her lover's eyebrows rocketed as Diana reached them. 'What the hell was that?'
She shook her head and took Maia's hand. 'Don't ask.'
'Hang on, you're telling me you stuck a plane journey next to my mother?'
Diana glanced over to the front passenger seat of the cab. Lorelai was doing an excellent imitation of a contortionist, with her neck skewed into a position that made even Maia cringe. 'That's the general gist of it, yes.'
'And you survived?'
'Di, I gotta say it, I underestimated you.'
'Is that meant to be a compliment?'
'Actually, yes. I never managed one of those trips, even across country, without a massive argument. I grounded a plane age fifteen. Apparently people frown if you yell 'I'm gonna kill you' at top volume.'
Diana chuckled. 'You're corrupting my daughter's mind.'
'I admit, it's out of the ordinary. Normally you're so upstanding.'
'A perfect role model,' Lorelai added.
Diana lifted an eyebrow. 'Mmm hmm.'
'Is this going somewhere?' she challenged, masking her amusement as best she could.
'Come on, Di, you were supposed to at least argue a little bit.'
She exchanged a look with Maia. 'Oh, I was?'
'Uh-huh. You see you say I'm a bad role model and I am completely astonished by this so I argue. I give you a hundred reasons why I'm fantastic and you collapse in your seat and give in anyway.'
'I saved you the trouble?' she offered.
'No, you stopped me listing all the cool things about myself!'
Lorelai shot her a grin then turned back in her seat. Diana's smile lingered as she closed her eyes and allowed the movement of the car to help her drift away. She couldn't believe she was still tired, but she supposed the last few weeks had taken it out of her. She was still adjusting to certain changes. Like the fact she'd walked out of NTAC, for instance. Because, although she'd contemplated and wanted to do it for a long time, she hadn't actually considered going through with it. Walking out of those doors had been spontaneous, but it still didn't feel like the wrong choice. Maybe that was the really scary thought.
'Look,' Maia said suddenly, her face lighting up as she pressed her forehead against the window. 'Stars Hollow!'
Diana smiled again. 'Yep.'
'Ooh!' Lorelai turned around in her seat. 'We should go to Luke's!'
'We haven't even unpacked yet,' Diana protested.
'Therefore we haven't unpacked, therefore we haven't got food in the house.'
'You never have food in the house.'
'Therefore we can't eat,' Lorelai went on. 'Therefore-'
Diana interrupted: 'Therefore?'
Lorelai pursed her lips. 'Therefore we should go to Luke's. It's common sense.'
'It's something alright,' Diana answered. 'What about it, Maia, honey? You wanna go to Luke's?'
'Sure. Can I have a cheeseburger?'
Chuckling, Lorelai turned back to the road. 'That's my girl.'
Before the cab had actually stopped Lorelai was on the kerb, yanking the suitcases out of the boot. Maia hopped out behind her and Diana followed at a slower pace after paying the driver. The expression on Lorelai's face was bittersweet, though. Yes, she was home, but it was still without her daughter. Glancing at Maia, Diana could at least understand the emotions. Stepping forward, she lifted hers and Maia's suitcases up. 'Ready?'
Lorelai reached for Maia's suitcase. 'I got it.'
Their fingers touched briefly. It was Diana who withdrew, albeit reluctantly. 'Okay.'
If she wasn't mistaken the diner quietened when they entered. Diana glanced to Lorelai to see whether she noticed it but she was headed straight for the counter. A grin settled over Luke's face as he saw her coming. 'You're back then.'
'Well done, Sherlock.'
As they descended into banter Diana dragged her case over to a window table and sat Maia down. 'You want a cheeseburger?'
'With onions?' Maia said hopefully.
'Why did I let her anywhere near you?' she questioned, affectionately tapping her daughter on the head.
Leaving Maia at the table Diana moved to the counter. Luke was wearing something of a pained expression.
'Shut her up, I beg you.'
Diana snorted. 'You think I have that kind of power?'
He sighed. 'I had hoped.'
'Waa-ha,' Lorelai said loudly, earning a few more stares. 'Nothing can stop me. I am unstoppable.'
Luke growled. 'Now look what you've done.'
Diana smiled but her attention was more focused on the other inhabitants of the diner. Lorelai cleared her throat. 'Di, you okay?'
She turned back. 'Just can't decide what to have, that's all.'
'Hey, you snooze, you lose round here,' Lorelai philosophised. 'I'm gonna go sit. Bring coffee.'
'I knew that already,' she answered lightly. When Lorelai was out of earshot, she turned back to Luke's now-serious face. 'How?'
He inhaled and crossed his arms. 'Rory.'
'Yesterday. She announced it in Doose's when Taylor asked where Lorelai was.'
Diana grimaced. 'How bad was it?'
'The word 'girlfriend' didn't make an appearance.'
'Oh, God.' Glancing over her shoulder, she ran her eyes over the rest of the diner and the people barely concealing their intrigued gazes now, then settled on Lorelai and Maia chatting animatedly. 'I don't think she's noticed.'
'She's obliviously happy,' Luke muttered.
'She's putting on a show,' Diana replied.
'That too.' He waited until she reluctantly looked back over the counter before he went on, 'I'm sorry.'
'I can't believe Rory did that.'
'I don't think it was out of spite, I just... She's had it rough the last few years.'
'Luke, I get that. But look at them! This is Lorelai's home, she loves it here. She kept herself away and it ripped her apart. If people don't '
'They will,' he interrupted.
'Small towns are '
'It'll be fine.'
'You sure about that?'
He held her gaze for several seconds. 'Celebratory meal; on the house. What'll it be?'
After ordering she slotted into her seat between Lorelai and Maia, pushing her hand across the table into Lorelai's. She didn't care if more eyebrows rocketed: the second Lorelai realised what was going on here she was going to need the assurance. For the moment, however, they were all contented, even if it was just a show.
The bomb remained ticking for the entire meal. They actually managed to eat and get out of there without Lorelai noticing the obvious stares. Either she really was dense (which Diana doubted) or she had something more on her mind than town gossip. That theory proved itself in the slow manner in which they made their way home from the diner. Lorelai stopped to take in practically every shop display, tree and fence going. Of course, they had to reach the house eventually. A fixed smile settled on the returnee's face as she clutched Maia's hand that little tighter.
It seemed the anticipation was the worst. As soon as they'd stepped over the threshold and established Rory most certainly wasn't home the hope slipped out of the air. The facade Lorelai was becoming so adept at resurfaced and she bounced into the kitchen complaining of caffeine withdrawals.
Diana, for all the good sense telling her not to, played along. 'You just had coffee at Luke's.'
'Several blocks away. And I walked, using up some of my energy there.' Turning her attentions to Maia, she suggested, 'How about we get this coat off you and get you settled, huh? What do you want to eat?'
'We just ate!' Diana protested.
'That's your ration for the day? That's child abuse.'
Maia just smiled. 'Maybe pizza?' she ventured.
'Sure, kid, why not? So you go into...' Stopping, Lorelai cleared her throat. 'Go into the bedroom and get yourself unpacked, okay, hun?'
'Do I have to?' Maia asked quietly.
Diana exchanged a look with Lorelai then asked, 'You don't want to stay here?'
'I don't want to stay in Rory's room.'
A flash of pain swept across Lorelai's face but it was gone almost instantaneously. 'Well, then, may I introduce you to my beautiful couch?'
Watching them into the living room, Diana glanced around the kitchen. She wasn't sure if she was expecting Rory to have left a note but there was nothing of the sort. Carefully, she pushed open the bedroom door next to her and took a look inside. Everything was neat and ordered, even the bed had been stripped and the duvet folded neatly at the bottom. It was almost as if Rory was relinquishing her room to Maia. Suddenly, the notion that Maia might not want to stay in there didn't sound so crazy.
Hearing footsteps, she pulled the door closed and turned as Lorelai appeared.
'How's the couch?' she queried lightly.
'She's inspecting it as we speak.'
As Lorelai's eyes flickered around the empty kitchen, Diana reached for her hand, drawing her into an embrace.
'Sorry,' the returnee murmured thickly.
'Don't be stupid,' Diana whispered back.
Did things sometimes just happen because Maia voiced a premonition? Would they have happened in the first place or was it just because she drew attention to them that they came true?
Diana found herself pondering that idea as she stood in the dark leaning against the doorframe of Rory's room. Illuminated by a small lamp there was Lorelai asleep on the bed with her hands wrapped around a dusty Harvard scarf. Either Maia had seen this coming or the realisation that no one would be in here tonight prompted Lorelai to get out of bed at two am and slip downstairs. Diana had vaguely heard the movement at the time but figured it was a bathroom run. When she turned over at six and found Lorelai missing she'd almost panicked... then she discovered this scene.
Of course, she was concerned by Lorelai's pain but another emotion was prevailing at the moment anger. For the first time she began to take a dim view of Rory's behaviour. Up until now she'd managed to sweep it aside under the reasoning that the teenager had been through a lot. And, yes, what Emily had put her granddaughter through was unforgivable but surely that was a flashing neon sign that Rory would now do anything to keep her mother? It hadn't worked like that and what with Rory splashing Lorelai's new relationship over town Diana found her patience wearing thin.
With that in mind she stole back upstairs and dressed quickly. Lorelai had left the keys to the Jeep next to the phone and she grabbed them before quietly escaping the house.
In the conundrum of whether to intercept Rory at the Gilmore mansion or Chilton Diana chose Chilton. That decision also gave her a little clarity: she focused more on where she was driving and how to see Rory before she went into school than just the grab and kill variety of thoughts. As a result she was calmer when she got there, and ready to speak in a civil tone.
However, the look on Rory's face as she locked her car was less than encouraging. In fact, it stirred the anger in Diana's stomach again to melting point.
Rory tossed her bag over her shoulder and crossed her arms. 'What?'
'Well, hello to you too.'
'I'm in school.'
Diana checked her watch. 'Not for another five minutes, you're not.'
Rory evidently thought about walking off but seemed to glance around and think better of it. Her voice even lowered, though there were very few pupils milling around the car park. All in all, Diana supposed she was nervous about another dent to her reputation around school. She couldn't imagine Lorelai raising her that way.
'I thought I made it clear I didn't want to see either of you,' the teen muttered.
'That's petulant, Rory, and you know it.'
'All I know is... Look, whatever's going on with you two I don't want to know about it.'
'Well, forget me,' Diana replied shortly. 'How about we talk about your mother for five minutes?'
'And twenty-seven seconds. You do realise this is tearing her up inside? I came downstairs and found her cuddling your scarf this morning. If you're trying to tell yourself she doesn't care, Rory, you're wrong. You just need to think about this for a minute, think what you're doing.'
The teen snorted. 'Think? That's all I've been doing for three years! Grandma was always telling me to think about the consequences of my actions. She didn't say it but I knew she always wanted to add 'unlike your mother'. I've done nothing but think, Diana, okay?'
Though impassioned, the speech hardly touched her at all. 'I know you've had it tough, I'm not denying that. But you need to listen to what she's got to say.'
'About you?' Rory questioned scornfully.
'I'm not trying to come between you two.'
'Then why are you here?'
'Because after Maia...' Her throat suddenly felt dry. She took a moment to swallow then continued, 'I nearly lost Maia and I realised that '
'Don't go on,' Rory interrupted.
'You don't want to know that I love your mom? That I'd do anything I could to protect her?'
Rory's eyes sped around the Chilton grounds. 'I don't want to do this now.'
'Then come home,' Diana said. 'Come talk to your mother and maybe we can work something out.'
'Like you going back to Seattle?'
'If I really thought that would make Lorelai happy I'd do it in a heartbeat. I already did once, and it didn't work for either of us.'
'She missed you like crazy,' Rory said, though it obviously pained her to do so. 'I didn't know why but... She couldn't be happy with just me there.'
The edge of Diana's anger suddenly disintegrated. 'That's not true.'
Rory shrugged. 'She's got you and Maia, she doesn't need me anymore.'
'You can't really believe that?' One look at Rory's face said she did. Diana didn't want to be frustrated but the image of Lorelai's miserable face kept protruding into her head. 'It's not true.'
'Then why are you there and I'm staying at Grandpa's?'
As Rory made to move away, Diana grabbed her arm. 'Don't punish her for this.'
Rory just shook her off. 'Don't tell me what to do,' she warned before stomping off towards the main school building.
Diana stared at her until she vanished indoors. She'd set off from Stars Hollow ready to drag Rory back there by her earlobes, make her talk to Lorelai, but somehow that notion had disappeared. She couldn't force Rory to have a conversation she didn't want to. There was nothing to do but wait until she wanted to listen.
She stood there long after the car park began to properly fill up and suffered the curious gazes of the Chilton students. Then her cell phone rang, surprising her. The number was Lorelai's home.
'You took my car.' The voice was sleepy but recognisable. 'Need car. Pregnant woman yelling. Have to go work.'
Diana frowned and set off back to her car. 'Sookie's yelling at you? Why?'
'Don't know why. Need car.'
'I'm coming home now.' A thought crossed her mind and her anger reignited. 'I gotta make a pitstop first.'
She stormed into the kitchen of the Independence Inn without announcing herself. She found Sookie frying something black at the stove. The rest of the kitchen staff were cowering by the back door, evidently not about to touch anything.
Diana slid to a stop beside the chef. 'Sookie.'
The frying pan clattered to the floor, spewing crisp sausages all over. Sookie spun on her heel, a mixture of disdain and irritation adoring her face.
'She sent you? I don't believe it. I want Lorelai here and I get you instead. Great.'
'Lorelai didn't send me,' she answered tightly. 'I wanted to talk to you about her though.'
'Oh, I'm sure you do,' Sookie said sarcastically. 'All you two want is each other.'
Diana didn't even contemplate flushing, though a week ago she might have. 'Listen, if you want to believe everything that comes out of an angry teenager's mouth then far be it from me to stop you. But you are not going to take your bigoted ideas and squash Lorelai's happiness. Not you or anybody in this town.'
Sookie kicked a sausage violently across the floor, splattering a path of fat along the wood like a tattoo. 'You're coming between a mother and her child. Do you want congratulations?'
'Rory's hardly a child anymore, is she? She's going to college next year and she doesn't have a clue how to survive in the real world. Her idea of maturity is storming out of every conversation her mother tries to have with her about something important in her life.'
'Important?' Sookie repeated. 'Important?'
'That's what I said.'
'You're insane! You've polluted her; you hid her away in that facility and just messed with her brain.'
'God, do you know her at all?' Diana questioned. 'Firstly, no one can tell Lorelai what to do, apart from her own screwed-up fears. You should know that about her. Second of all, do you really think I'd come here bring my daughter if I wasn't absolutely certain that my life is where she is?'
Sookie opened her mouth then closed it again. She was focusing on something beyond Diana's shoulder. It was Lorelai, she knew it without looking. A pause and then Sookie teared up and rushed past her. Diana turned around to see Lorelai being trapped in a bone-breaking hug. Off to the side, Maia was smiling softly.
When Sookie finally let go, she said, 'I'm so sorry. I shouldn't be judging you. Are you happy?'
Lorelai nodded, looking slightly dazed. 'Yeah, I am. Apart from... you know.' Glancing to Maia, she went on, 'You were right, kid. That was quite a show.'
Now Diana did blush. Sookie let go of Lorelai, wiped her eyes on her apron and reached for Maia's hand. 'Come on, honey, I'll teach you how to make pancakes. I kinda ruined the sausages, huh?'
As the pair of them drifted to the cooker Diana moved to stand beside Lorelai. 'What are you doing here?' she asked softly.
'I was closer to here than Hartford.'
Diana looked sideways. 'I'm sorry I didn't speak to you first. I just... I saw you asleep on her bed and it...'
'Shush, it's okay.' Lorelai paused and stretched for her hand. 'So Rory spilled the beans?'
'Yeah,' she muttered. 'Should've told you that as well.'
'Di, stop beating yourself up. That's my job.'
'Well, my eloquence is legendary.' Lorelai grinned. 'That was a nice defence there.'
Diana returned her gaze to Maia cracking an egg on the side of a bowl almost bigger than she was. 'I thought so,' she said steadily.
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