DISCLAIMER: The characters used in this story are not mine and belong to various people I have to contact with.
AUTHOR'S NOTE: Well, this is something that appeared out of nowhere and is the first part of what I hope to be a long and interesting story! Because it's a rather unusual joining of two very different shows I wouldn't mind feedback, even if it's just to tell me I need to be committed- it wouldn't be the first time! Thanks for reading.
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 2

That was another thing to add to the list of reasons why Maia was the sweetest child imaginable- she was very quick to accept whatever situation she was put in. There hadn't been a moment of hesitation when Diana had suggested she stay with Alana and Tom over the weekend, especially not after she'd explained it was for Lorelai. In fact, until she'd fallen asleep the previous night all Diana had heard was talk of Lorelai. She wasn't complaining, she just found it astounding that Maia had connected to someone so quickly.

After dropping her with Alana early the next morning, Diana began the long drive to Hartford. Throughout the drive she focussed on her plan of action; it started with Rory and used Emily merely as a last resort. From her own experiences with her father she knew that pressing the parental figure would be ridiculously stupid unless done from a position of power. Rory was her power.

It was mid-afternoon when she arrived at Chilton. Having called ahead she'd managed to wangle an appointment with Headmaster Charleston so she parked and headed straight into the pristine school where uniformed girls curiously glanced sideways at her. It reminded her of her own school days; she'd never exactly fitted in there either.

After being admitted to the headmaster's office she took a moment to look through the publicity literature placed conspicuously on the desk. It was an up-to-date newsletter with a picture of Rory on page three, something to do with an English exam.

'Please feel free to take one,' a voice behind her said.

Turning, she shook the hand of the statuesque man in front of her. 'Headmaster Charleston? Agent Diana Skouris, NTAC.'

He indicated for them to sit. 'Yes, my secretary said. Is there an issue here I should be aware of?'

'You have a pupil here, a Lorelai Gilmore.'

'Lorelai is one of our brightest students, I can't imagine her being in any trouble.'

'No. No, she's not. How aware of her family situation are you?'

'I'm very good friends with her grandparents in actual fact.' Diana silenced her groan at that. 'Lorelai's mother disappeared rather tragically soon after she started at the school. The official ruling was 'missing, presumed dead', I believe.'

'Who informed you of this?'

'Why, Emily and Richard when they took her in. Are you suggesting there's some discrepancy in their account?'

'Is there somewhere I can talk with Lorelai privately?' Diana questioned, deflecting his gaze with a cursory smile. 'It is rather important.'

'Of course. Ask my secretary to escort you to the English staffroom, I believe it'll be empty. I'll deliver Lorelai to you myself.'

Though slightly wary of that fact Diana did as instructed, remembering to take a newsletter from the table before she left. The English staffroom seemed more like a great meeting hall to her eyes. Gone were the days where teachers had to make do with one seat each by the look of it. She didn't think she'd been out of school quite that long.

When the door opened, she caught her first glimpse of the younger Lorelai Gilmore. The photographs didn't convey the intense similarities between mother and daughter; even their frown lines matched. After waiting until Headmaster Charleston had reluctantly closed the door on them, she gestured for Rory to sit opposite her. 'This is nothing to worry about.'

'It's not everyday you get pulled out of Sociology class by an agent,' Rory replied, sitting; but only really perching on the edge of her seat. 'What's this about?'

The defensiveness in her posture reminded Diana of her first meeting with Lorelai. Her hands were clasped in exactly the same manner and she was looking everywhere but at her. 'Rory, I wanted to talk to you about…'

The young brunette looked up quickly. 'Hardly anyone calls me Rory anymore.'

'Your mother still does,' Diana said quietly.

'My mother's dead.'

'No, Rory, she's not.' Watching the teen's brow furrow, she continued quickly, 'You've heard of the 4400.'

'What's that got to do with…' She trailed off. 'What are you telling me?'

'Your mother was a returnee.'

The student stood, walking tensely over to the window with her arms crossed. 'You're crazy.'

'I know this is difficult for you to accept…'

'You're talking rubbish!' Rory spat, not turning her head. 'My mother died two years ago.'

Diana still pressed on, 'A body wasn't found.'

'There still is one somewhere, okay? Where do you get off, coming in here like this and lying to me?'

'I'm not lying!'

'I don't have to listen to this.'

When the pupil made for the door Diana stood to block her path. 'You may not believe me but I want you to read this.' She passed her an envelope then her card. 'Call me. Please.'

The silence which occupied the room after Rory left was deafening. Diana glanced around, privately wondering why somebody would put their child through this kind of torture, before leaving the building; slightly less confident than when she went in. The only thing that buoyed her up slightly was that, as she drove away, she glanced up the long Chilton pathway and caught sight of Rory leaning against a tree, the brown envelope in her hands.

One thing she hated about travelling was the hotel showers. Somehow there was always something wrong with them; it was either the head being broken, the hose being cracked or just having nothing but plain old freezing cold water. This place was no exception, though the calypso of scalding and cold water was something relatively new.

Dressing quickly, Diana proceeded downstairs to the reception of The Independence Inn. It was no coincidence she'd chosen this place for her stay. Yes, it was quite a drive from Hartford but being in Stars Hollow meant she could essentially gauge the reactions of Lorelai's former friends. Luckily, it seemed Sookie St. James still worked at the inn.

At the desk she found a sour-faced French man tapping away on his keyboard. 'Hi.' When he steadfastly ignored her she cleared her throat. 'Hello?'

A few seconds later a woman came bustling round the corner, someone who Diana recognised from a photo and spotted the scene. 'Michel! Michel!' To Diana, she apologised, 'Sorry, he seems to think that if you ignore guests they'll go away. What's your problem?'

'My shower's playing up, doesn't seem to know the difference between hot and cold.'

'Oh, is it room twenty-three again? We keep getting it fixed and it keeps flying right back at you! I'm Sookie, by the way.' She held out a hand. 'I'm the chef here.'

At least she'd managed to locate one of the targets, Diana thought as she took the offered hand. 'I used to know someone who worked here; Lorelai Gilmore?'

'You knew Lorelai?' Her tone was a mixture between happy and upset. 'Where from?'

'We met on holiday once,' answered Diana smoothly. 'I heard she disappeared.'

'Yeah, well…' The woman immediately changed her attitude, becoming slightly wrought within the space of a few seconds. 'Some of us haven't given up hope. You know, you hear of people all the time disappearing and turning up with amnesia or something. That's Lorelai.'

'How's her daughter doing?'

'Rory? We don't see much of her round here anymore. Her grandparents are pretty protective.'

'I read about a world bagel record or something?'

Sookie grinned. 'Yeah, that was fun. Rory's always been a great kid, coped better than most would've done. Anyway, I'll get maintenance up to your room. Have a coffee on the house.'

'Thanks.' Diana headed into the lounge, settling herself down in one of the large armchairs. Looking around, she could easily imagine Lorelai bustling around here, probably making everyone crazy while she was at it.

It was only really then that Diana recognised she had driven hundreds of miles in order to reconcile this woman with her loved ones. It hadn't felt like much of a task before she'd set off- and the thought of not doing it hadn't even occurred to her- but in reality it was a mammoth offering to undertake. It involved driving half way across the country and dealing with a daughter who believed her mother was dead and a mother who kept the true whereabouts of her only daughter a secret. Somehow she'd fallen into a family drama without knowing it.

Diana wasn't big on self-analysation. Usually, it ended with the realisation that somewhere along the line she'd messed up and now it was too late to change anything. But she recognised that perhaps she'd gone slightly beyond the call of duty with this one. Of course, it could just be rebellion against Jarvis and her insane attempts to categorise and study the returnees at every opportunity, or it could be something else. Was it that there was an affinity between herself and Lorelai? She reluctantly admitted that she felt a protective instinct to a woman steamrollered by a domineering parent then cast aside when she didn't meet expectations. It was something she herself had struggled with for a while before she'd learned to accept things were never going to be perfect between her father and herself. The difference was, there wasn't a kid involved; she'd just thought about herself when escaping. How difficult must it have been for Lorelai?

The sour French man interrupted her thinking. 'Your coffee,' he muttered with false courteousness.

Taking it, she mustered a smile. 'Thanks. Do you know where I could find a Luke around here? Apparently he owns a diner.'

'Well, you could try Luke's Diner,' he answered smoothly before disappearing.

Yep… Fine.

'Agent Skouris?'

Immediately alert at the sound of the young voice, Diana moved away from the road and took up residence in a shop doorway. 'Rory? Is that you?'

'I opened the envelope.'

'I'm glad. Any thoughts?'

'Well, I think I really need to talk to you.'

'Of course. I could pick you up and take you for a drink or something. You still at school?'

'Just out. I've got my car, why don't I meet you someplace?'

She glanced around. 'I'm in Stars Hollow at the moment.'

'How about Luke's then?'

'Sure.' Snapping her phone closed, Diana suddenly found herself roughly herded out of the doorway by a plump bearded man. 'Hey!'

'Excuse me, you'll find this is my shop. Loitering deters custom!'

'And pushing doesn't?'

He glared at her. 'Who are you anyway? You're not from around here.'

Flashing her badge, she straightened her jacket. 'NTAC. Could you point me in the direction of Luke's Diner please?'

'Oh, erm… I'm… It's there.'

'Thanks very much.' She skimmed her eyes over his name badge. 'Proprietor.'

'This is one great cup of coffee. My sources were correct.'

The distracted man in a baseball cap looked up from wiping the counter. 'You came all the way to Stars Hollow for some coffee?'

'How do you know I'm not from round here?' she countered.

'Taylor phoned me just after you came in. Told me you were NTAC.'

'Ah, that must be the well-mannered shop-keeper I bumped in.'

'Well, that's one way of describing him,' he answered. 'Luke Danes.'

'Diana Skouris.' She sipped her coffee. 'I just wanted to ask you something really.'

'Oh, yeah?' He leaned against the counter. 'Must be important.'

'Mmm, relatively. What did you think about Lorelai Gilmore's disappearance?'

At that he frowned. 'How's that anything to do with you?'

'It was a departmental case,' she lied. 'I'm following up a lead.'

'What, have you found a body?'

Something about his tone made her ask, 'So you don't think she just ran away?'

'You're kidding, right? If she was going anywhere she'd have taken Rory with her, no question.'

'How's Rory doing?'

'Now her grandmother's controlling her every move?' He shrugged. 'She doesn't come by that often.' Along the counter another customer waved. 'Back in a minute.'

Sensing that he was going to be a fairly long time, due to the fact the woman was yelping at him in thick English, Diana took her coffee and sat down at a table near the window. It was from there that she saw Rory's approach, hands dug into her pockets as she looked up at all the buildings and occasionally exchanged a greeting with some random town member.

Entering the diner the teenager smiled shakily at her then went up the counter and attracted the attentions of Luke. He was obviously surprised to see her, breaking off his relations with the woman Diana now assumed to be Korean to pat her on the shoulder in an act of friendliness. Though Diana couldn't hear the conversation she deciphered from the look Luke shot her way that he was now aware of the fact Rory was there to see her, but probably nothing else. After a minute or so, Rory came over and sat down, a steaming cup of coffee in her hands. 'Can't beat free coffee.'

'No, I suppose not,' Diana said, mentally wondering how to start this little exchange. 'So, you opened the envelope?'

'Yeah, I…' She nodded. 'I did. I can't believe it.'

'I realise it must be a shock for you…'

'That's a bit of an understatement, don't you think? I mean, shock is when you find out The Flintstones didn't really exist or that we probably won't evolve into The Jetsons.'

Diana couldn't help it; she audibly laughed. 'You're so like your mother.'

Rory smiled softly. 'Everyone's always said that. What I don't understand is… Look, the 4400 were released last year. If my Mom was one of them then why hasn't she come to see me? Is she locked up or something? But why didn't she even write to me?'

'Okay, Rory, it isn't my place to explain all this…'

'You're the only one who can!'

'No, I'm really not.' Refraining from telling her the whole story, Diana changed tack. 'Your mom really misses you. She'd have contacted you if she could.'

'I don't understand! You're telling me she's alive, you're showing me photos and stuff, but you can't let me see her?' Rory shook her head. 'Don't you think it was bad enough thinking she was dead? This is worse.'

Leaning across the table, Diana put a hand on the fraught shoulder. 'Listen, Rory, I'd tell you everything if I could but I really don't think it's my place.'

'Why wasn't I told when she was brought back? I looked it up on the Internet- family members were all informed of the return.'

'Yes. Yes, they were.'

Slowly, the penny dropped. 'No…'

When the young woman jumped up and fled, knocking her coffee all over the table, Diana was quick to chase her. Though not much of a runner she managed to keep up with the student until she skidded to a halt outside an abandoned house. Tentatively, she reached out and put a hand on a now shuddering shoulder. 'Rory…'

'We used to live here,' she interrupted. 'I always wondered why Grandma agreed to buy it.'

'I know you feel betrayed…'

'She's my mom! Why would they do that?'

It was actually a question, Diana realised when the teenager turned to her. 'I don't know,' she admitted. 'I'm sure they had their reasons.'

'Why didn't she still come and see me? I mean, I know my Mom, she wouldn't have just given up.'

'She didn't. But she was persuaded to leave you alone.'

Rory shook her head. 'I can't believe this…'

When she started crying Diana wrapped both arms around her and allowed her to sob into her jacket. Briefly, she wondered if she had spoken out of turn- it should have been down to Emily and Richard Gilmore to explain this to their granddaughter. But if they weren't willing to do it… Well, it had to be done. For both Lorelai and Rory's sakes.

'Um, Rory, breaking and entering isn't what I usually do.'

'I practically own the place,' she dismissed, cracking the lower pane on the back door with a rock. 'Besides, it's not alarmed.'

'That's alright then,' Diana answered as the teenager started to put her hand through the broken pane. 'Here, let me.'

When they were safely inside she found a place virtually untouched by the last two years. The kitchen had been emptied of food and a bedroom had been ransacked, evidently Rory's by her glance into it, but aside from that the house must have looked exactly the same as it had on the day of Lorelai's disappearance. The lounge was a comfortable one, strewn with moth-balled clothes and family photos. In the space of a minute she saw Rory grow from baby to teen- the last photograph was of her in her Chilton uniform.

Rory disappeared upstairs for a minute, while Diana tried unsuccessfully to turn on the lights. Realising the electricity had been stopped she yanked open the curtains, letting a stream of light brush through the room. When Rory came back she was carrying a box. 'This is Mom's special box.'

Diana took it. 'Oh? Can I take a look?'

'Sure.' They sat down together on the musty sofa, Diana lifting the lid on the velvet-lined container.

The first thing she pulled out was a tattered card with 'To Mom' written on it in shaky handwriting. It had evidently been an early finger painting by Rory, probably the writing was done by Lorelai's guiding hand. Next up was a hair band. 'Yours?' she quizzed Rory.

'That's what Mom had on when she ran away with me. She said she kept it because it represented the best decision of her life.'

'And what's this?' asked Diana, holding up an illegible slip of paper.

'Her first pay-slip from The Independence Inn,' Rory grinned. 'She dropped it in a puddle on the way to the bank. And this,' she went on, pulling out a photo of two people, one obviously a younger Lorelai. 'Was her and my Dad before I was born.'

It was illogical. Diana felt a sudden surge of annoyance towards this man, someone she had never met. She tried to justify it by questioning, 'Wasn't he around to look after you when she...?'

'Grandma kinda liked the responsibility. Too much obviously.'

Closing the lid, Diana looked up at the girl. 'Do you mind if I take this with me?'

'Why? I'm coming with you.'

'Whoa, hang on, Rory,' she said quickly. 'I'm not sure that's a good idea.'

'She's my mother, I've already lost enough time.'

'Yeah, I understand that. But I don't think your grandmother would see it like that. She's got a certain amount of control over you.'

'I'm nearly nineteen!'

'Don't they support you?' Diana replied. 'Besides, you need to talk to them first.'

'And say what? They lied to me, I'm never going back there.'

Diana grimaced. 'Okay. Listen, I'm going to talk to your grandparents tomorrow. Is there anyone you could stay with until I've done that?'

'I can stay here.'

'No, there's no heat or electricity, you can't do that. What about Sookie? She thinks a lot of you.'

Rory smiled faintly. 'Can I tell her the truth? She'll be so happy.'

'Um… I'm staying at the Inn, how about we do it together? Then it won't freak her out so much.'

'Yeah, okay. Now?'

'Sure. Just let me check in with my daughter, alright?'

'Hang on, hang on. Rewind a bit there.'

Diana nervously smiled at the expression on the chef's face. 'I realise I should've told you earlier but I thought Rory should hear it first.'

The teenager herself was the one reassuring the hyperventilating chef. 'It's great news! She's fine. You know, apart from the whole abduction thing.'

Sookie clapped her hand over her mouth. 'What did they do to her? She's got two heads, hasn't she? That's why she didn't come back, she's ashamed.'

'As far as I could see, she's only got one head,' Diana answered, smoothly avoiding the initial question. 'As to why she didn't come back, that's not for me to discuss. I'm sure you'll see her soon.'

'You're going straight away, right, Rory?'

The student forced a smile. 'I've got to talk to my grandparents first.'

'Yep,' Diana went on. 'We're doing that tomorrow. We were just wondering if Rory could stay with you until that happens.'

'Oh, of course! It'll be just like old times. We can get Lane over and order take-out and watch The Mary Tyler Moore Show all night!'

Seeing Rory was fairly enthused by that prospect Diana didn't say anything. Instead, she left the pair to their discussion while she went to make another phone call.

She knew from experience that the quarantine guards rarely got calls so she wasn't surprised when the voice first on the line after fourteen rings was muttering, 'It's simple! I disappeared for two years and I can still figure it out!'

'Lorelai!' she said quickly. 'It's Diana.'

'Oh, hey! Just teaching Charlie here how to answer a telephone. You'd have thought a highly trained security guard could manage that but no…'

'How are you?' Diana questioned, moving still further away from the lounge.

'You're on holiday and you're still checking up on me? I'm flattered.'

What was she supposed to say? That she'd been spending time looking through her old life and had found that she felt closer to her because of it? That sounded ridiculous, and she didn't particularly want to mention where she was for fear of everything going wrong. After all, she still had to face a certain Emily Gilmore- that was going to be a fun encounter. She settled with, 'I guess I missed you.'

'I think Charlie would swap places with you. So, where are you?'

'Hmm? Oh, nowhere special. How's your day been?'

'Well, Fred got a new car.'


'And then his boss crushed it in the junk yard. It was very exciting.'

'I can imagine.' Diana paused. 'Lorelai, I…'


She shook her head to rid her mind of the thought. 'I just wanted to say thanks for looking after Maia yesterday. She had a really good time.'

'Anytime. It's nice having someone to watch cartoons with. Charlie just thinks I'm crazy, don't you, Charlie?'

There was an audible grunt. Diana smiled. 'I've gotta go.'

'See you Monday?'

'Yeah, count on it.'

The bed was adequate, there was nothing wrong with the temperature in the room. Everything that she usually associated with a bad night's sleep was absent so the fact that she woke up barely refreshed was a puzzle to Diana. For want of something else to blame it on she put it down to concern about Maia.

She called Sookie first thing to check on Rory. It seemed they'd had a great night, despite hourly calls from Emily checking on her granddaughter. Not having met the matriarch yet, Diana couldn't make a judgement but from her impressions taken from what Lorelai had said, she suspected that Emily was trying to control her granddaughter much in the way she had exerted her influence over her daughter earlier in her life.

After almost no deliberation she'd decided to take the visit to Hartford on her own. Rory was understandably upset and the last thing she wanted was more tension than was absolutely necessary. Besides, she had some choice words to share with Lorelai's mother, ones that she wouldn't be comfortable expressing in front of anyone under the age of forty.

From the outside the mansion looked imposing. Diana could hardly imagine growing up in a place like that; she'd thought people who came from houses like that to be stuck-up brats incapable of making their own way in the world. Lorelai was obviously the notable exception to the rule.

The door was answered almost instantaneously by a flustered maid. 'Mrs Gilmore isn't accepting visitors at the moment.'

Flashing her badge usually got her what she wanted. 'She'll see me.'

'Oh!' Seeing her running off into the depths of the house, Diana took the initiative and stepped over the threshold, closing the large door behind her.

She was examining a particularly grotesque hat stand when Emily Gilmore arrived, sans the maid. 'I believe my maid explained I'm not free at the moment?'

Noting the lack of a polite greeting, Diana ran her seasoned eyes over the figure in front of her. Emily Gilmore matched up fairly accurately to the image she'd concocted in her mind- pristine hair, nails and clothes, an air of supremacy and a slight sneer always creeping at the side of her mouth. Diana smiled tightly. 'You'll be free for me.'

Emily arched an eyebrow. 'You're extremely presumptuous.'

'Well, we NTAC agents can be like that.'

If the situation hadn't been so serious the change that came over Emily Gilmore at that would've been worth filming. Her eyes narrowed, her mouth visibly sagged open and her arm dropped to her side. 'You'd better come in.'

Following the elder woman into the lounge she noted the pretensions all around, right down to photo frames scattered on all walls and surfaces. Was it worth noting that Lorelai was only conspicuous by her absence? Sitting on the couch, she watched Emily sink into an armchair then proceeded, 'I suppose I don't have to explain why I'm here.'

'No, you don't.'

Recognising that Emily wasn't going to elaborate, Diana went on, 'Lorelai's fine, thanks for asking.' Still nothing apart from a plastic smile. 'Why have you told Rory mother's dead?'

There was a flicker of emotion, it quickly disappeared. 'Lorelai disappearing as she did was unforgivable. I wanted to save Rory any undue pain.'

'Yeah, I'm sure. What I don't get is why you carried on the charade for eighteen months after her return.'

'I don't believe the flying saucer story, Agent…'

'Agent Skouris. I'm here to tell you that it's not fiction. Your daughter was abducted and then brought back. Any other parent would've been happy to see her but what did you do? Paid her off, scared her off making contact with her own daughter. Now why would you do that?'

'I was looking after the welfare of my grandchild.'

'Well, that's a commendable attitude, I'm sure. How will Rory take that revelation, I wonder?'

The mask in front of her slowly slipped. 'You can't tell Rory about this. You can't tell anyone.'

'Mrs Gilmore, don't you think she has a right to know?'

'Lorelai is out of our lives now! After all the trouble she's caused…'

'Like getting pregnant?' Diana said quickly. 'Or running away? I've spoken to Lorelai and you can't even begin to imagine the kind of state she's in. I'd ask you how it felt when you daughter was wrenched away from you but I doubt you even noticed.'

Emily frowned tightly. 'You can't speak to me like that.'

'And you can't deprive a young woman of her mother!'

'I forbid you to speak to my family about this,' answered Emily, her mouth an emblem of frustration, as if she knew she was about to lose.

The use of one word had alerted Diana to something though. She almost laughed. 'You haven't told your husband either, have you?'

The woman stood. 'I want you to leave.'

'Oh, come on, Emily! How's he going to take this?'

'You will not talk to Richard!'

Diana didn't answer. Instead, as soon as she left the mansion she called Rory. 'Do you know where your grandfather is?'

Traipsing up the hill, she began to wish she'd thought about hiring a buggy. The trouble was, she couldn't shake the feeling that she'd look completely stupid, especially minus golf clubs and a stripy jumper.

Finally spotting the figure she'd seen in photographs about to swing, she called, 'Mr Gilmore!'

He turned immediately, almost dropping his club on the head of his caddy. 'Sorry?'

Approaching him, she showed him her badge. 'Agent Skouris. NTAC.'

She could see the concern in his eyes immediately. So he was different to his wife. 'Is this about Lorelai?'

'Yes, it is. Do you want to go somewhere more comfortable?'

'You've found a body,' he said. 'Haven't you?'

'No, Mr Gilmore. Lorelai's alive and she's safe.'

He closed his eyes briefly then wiped away a tear that was threatening to fall. 'Oh, thank you! You've no idea… Rory and Emily are going to be so relieved.'

'I'm sure.'

A little drained, Diana returned to Stars Hollow that evening. She hadn't told Richard Gilmore everything about his daughter's disappearance, rather instructed him to consult the subject with his wife. She had a terrible feeling she was speaking completely out of turn, she was doing the age-old problematic thing of following her heart rather than her head. This had only happened before with one person- Maia. It was odd that she was going to these lengths to salvage Lorelai's relationships with her daughter and her father. For, after a short conversation with Richard Gilmore she had discerned he was very little like his wife. In his emotional state he'd related the tale of Lorelai's birth and his feelings at that. Diana was in no doubt that his relief was genuine.

In her room she rang to check on Maia. 'Hey, honey. How are you doing?'

'Alana's teaching me and Kyle how to bake cookies.'

Somehow Diana couldn't imagine Kyle, a very indifferent teenager, doing that voluntarily. 'Kyle?'

'He said he'd do anything to stop me watching cartoons.'

She laughed. 'I take it you're having fun then.'

'It's great. Did you find Lorelai's little girl?'

'Yeah, sweetie, I did. And I think it'll work out.'

'Are you bringing her back?'

'Well, we'll see. You behave for Tom and Alana okay? And leave Kyle alone!'

'Okay. Love you.'

'I love you too.'

After hanging up Diana went in search of Rory who she knew to be downstairs helping out. Sookie had left her a voice message while she'd been with Richard telling her that the only thing Rory could think of to do to get her mind off of everything was attempting to cook. She'd accentuated the 'attempting' to such an extent that Diana was concerned about what she was going to come across when she entered the kitchen.

It was a little… What was the word? Chaotic, that was it. There was flour over available surface- including Rory's head- and what she supposed to be apple segments nestled in various orifices. In the midst of all this Sookie was juggling with a wok and food mixer. Suddenly, Diana had a flash of what Alana was probably going through with Maia and resolved to buy her a bottle of wine at some point to apologise profusely.

Clearing her throat she drew attention to herself above the din of the food processor. 'Rory, can I have a word?'

'Um…' The teen looked to Sookie. 'Do you want me to…'

'Oh, I'll clear it up! And you might get it next time!'

When they were out of the kitchen, Diana questioned, 'What happened in there?'

'I think I forgot to put the lid on properly or something. Next thing I knew there was apple flying everywhere. Somehow I don't think I'm gonna be a chef.'

Smiling, Diana waited until they'd taken seats in the lounge before she said, 'I saw your grandparents today.'

Rory began fiddling with her hair, periodically lumps of congealed flour would fall from a strand. 'Oh. How was that?'

'Like a particularly bad time at the dentist. Your grandmother was horrific anyway. But…' Noticing Rory beginning to drift, she reached across and touched her arm. 'I want you to listen to me. I'm convinced your grandfather knows nothing of it.'

The young woman snorted derisively. 'How could he not?'

'Well, I don't know the intricacies, but he seemed genuinely relieved when I told him your mom was alive. And something your grandmother said made me think she hadn't told him.'

'Does she know I know?' asked Rory quietly.

'No. I thought we could go see them tomorrow. Perhaps we can get this sorted out.'

'And I can get out of here?'

'I want to say yes, Rory, believe me. But let's see how tomorrow works out, okay? Would Sookie mind you staying another night?'

'You're kidding me, right? She wouldn't let me leave.'

Having just settled down for a quiet evening with some paperwork, Diana was surprised when her cell phone rang and the number was a NTAC extension. She answered it immediately. 'Hello?'

'Hey.' The voice, flat as it was, indubitably belonged to Lorelai.

'What's wrong?'

'I don't know. Just feeling a bit… Persuaded Charlie to let me use the phone.'

Diana bit her lip, unsure of what to say. She'd only encountered Lorelai once in this kind of mood- their first meeting- and she wasn't overly certain how she'd dealt with it then to the extent that Lorelai had been happy to see her again. She wasn't very good at comforting people; except Maia, of course. 'Nothing good on T.V?'

'It's Saturday night, what do you think? I bypassed good two hours ago when there was this screeching coming from the set. It took me a good ten minutes to realise it was actually a talent programme.'

'So what made you call me?' Diana found herself asking.

'I dunno. You're like my only friend in the world. And I…'

When she faltered Diana stayed quiet for a moment, listening to the sound of her irregular breathing. She still didn't quite know what to say but she had a stab at it anyway. 'What?'

'You'll think I'm stupid.'

'Now, why would I?'

'People normally do.'

'Come on, Lorelai.'

'Okay.' There was a pause. 'I know I've only known you for a week but I've really really missed you the last couple of days.'

'I missed you too,' Diana answered quietly. 'It's odd, isn't it?'

'Very. Have you ever watched The Wizard of Oz?'

'When I was a kid.'

'You're my scarecrow.'

'Well, you know what they said about Dorothy and the Scarecrow.' After that remark she raised her eyebrow at the phone and mentally berated herself for being so cheesy. Then again, Lorelai had brought it up.

'Yeah, that was so obvious.'

'Mmm,' Diana agreed. 'I suppose I should introduce Maia to the movie.'

'You mean you haven't yet?' Lorelai seemed astonished. 'That's sacrilege.'

'Sorry. I'd better sort that out.'

'Yeah, you'd better!' Another pause. 'Listen, maybe I could watch it with her.'

Diana waited before asking, 'Do I get an invite?'

'Do you want one?'

'I think I do, yeah.'

A second and then Lorelai conversed inaudibly with someone in the background. 'I've gotta go, Charlie says it's bedtime.'

'Sweet dreams, Lorelai.'

'You too.'

Shutting off the engine, Diana turned to the passenger seat. 'Are you ready for this?'

She didn't really need to ask, Rory was obviously fired up for a fight. The glint in her eye was all too reminiscent of her mother on the videotape. 'Yep.'

'Okay, good.'

When they reached the door Diana was about to ring the bell but Rory halted her. 'Wait, I've got my key.'

Letting the teen ahead of her, Diana then followed her into the majestic house. On the way there they'd determined that Emily and Richard would be in the final stages of their Sunday meal and they weren't disappointed. Walking into the large dining room they found the couple finishing their dessert. Emily's eyes widened considerably, Richard's softened.

It was the male Gilmore who spoke first. 'Rory!' His gaze then shifted to Diana herself and he nodded respectfully. 'Agent Skouris. I assume you've…'

'Yes, I've told Rory,' she supplied, glancing at the girl who was, in turn, glaring at her grandmother. 'I had to explain the intricacies of the situation.'

'Of course. And I should say it sounded more plausible coming from you. I had myself in considerable knots last night, didn't I, Emily?'

The matriarch remained mute under the gaze of the three individuals.

Diana cleared her throat. 'I trust you've had time to comprehend the news.'

'Yes,' Richard answered. 'However, you didn't explain everything yesterday. I find there are still some blanks.'

'Really? Well, of course, I'll try and clear everything up. What seems to be the problem?'

'Firstly, I'm slightly baffled as to why Lorelai hasn't contacted us since she came back. I would've imagined us to be her first port of call.'

'Oh, we were,' Rory said suddenly.

Richard looked to his granddaughter. 'Pardon?'

Diana grimaced as Rory went on, 'Everyone was informed when the 4400 returned. All the families.'

'Then I'm at a loss as to how…'

'Grandma knew!' the teen burst out viciously. 'She was the one the authorities informed when Mom returned.'

Richard Gilmore seemed at a loss for words. He looked speechlessly at his wife who was studiously avoiding eye contact with anything apart from her trifle. Then his gaze moved to Diana herself. 'Is this true? His voice was level, dangerously so.

'Mr Gilmore, I don't…'

'I asked you a question, Agent Skouris!'

'It's true, Richard,' Emily said quietly. 'I did know Lorelai was back.'

Rory's anger was seemingly justified by this revelation. 'How could you? She's my Mom!'

Emily shrank slightly at the tone. 'Rory, you have to understand…'

'Understand?' Richard said softly, his voice laced with venom. 'I thought my only daughter was dead for over two years and you knew otherwise. What is possibly worth understanding about that particular scenario, Emily, please enlighten me?!'

Regaining her stature, Emily Gilmore stood to her full height, throwing down her napkin on the table. 'I did what I thought was best! Eighteen months in a flying saucer? That's typical Lorelai!'

'It wasn't her fault!' Rory shouted. 'She wanted to come back, why didn't you let her? Were you enjoying the power, enjoying me being dependant on you? Did it bring back everything you lost when Mom ran away?'

'You're delirious, I can't speak to you when you're like this. You are, you're just like…'

'My mother? Don't think I'm about to apologise for that.' Rory looked over to Diana. 'I'm going back to see her.'

'I'd advise against that, Rory,' Emily said determinedly.

'You would?'

Glancing at her husband, Emily continued, 'You will not miss a day of school. If you do Headmaster Charleston will, under my instruction, prevent you from getting into any Ivy League college.'

Diana was surprised at this turn of events, even though she'd been expecting some sort of solid resistance from Emily. After all, if the woman could lie about the death of her daughter why would she be unable to stoop to this kind of blackmail? Richard, it appeared, was watching his wife as though he didn't know her at all.

Rory's anger was still undimmed. 'Well, fine! It's not worth as much to me as having my Mom back.'

Grasping her arm, Diana whispered, 'Don't be stupid. Your mom wouldn't want this. Think about what she wanted for you.'

'But this is ridiculous!' Rory hissed back. 'After all she's done how can she even threaten that?'

'I don't think it's a threat, Rory. I think she means it. She's trapped, this is her way of hanging onto you.'

'She's gonna need a stronger noose.' To her grandmother though, she said, 'I don't think you can even do that.'

'I can,' Emily argued. 'And I wouldn't like to see your future disappear in the blink of an eye.'

'Emily, for the love of…' Richard shook his head. 'What are you doing? How exactly do you propose to stop me seeing Lorelai? Are you going to strap a tracer to my golf buggy?'

His wife seemed utterly caught up in herself. 'Richard, you have to see…'

'No, I don't!'

Before she could argue that point, Rory jumped in, 'I'm going to see her!'

Emily swivelled her snake eyes to her granddaughter. 'No! I promise you I'll…'

'Rory,' Richard interrupted quietly. 'Can you wait until next weekend? Then I can take you there myself. And,' he added, glancing at his wife. 'You won't miss a day of school.'

Diana nodded as Rory looked to her. 'It'll give you a chance to get used to the idea. Plus, I think I'd better fill your mother in on events as well.'

Finally, Rory looked back to her grandfather. 'Yes, thank you. Now, if you don't mind, I'm going back to Stars Hollow to pack a bag for my Mom.'

Richard nodded, Emily simply stood and left the room. Diana cleared her throat. 'I'll drop Rory home later, okay?'

'Yes,' he answered. 'And, thank you, Agent Skouris.' With that, he also left the room.

Diana glanced to Rory. 'I think that went well.'

'Yeah.' The teen nodded. 'Very.'

'Is that it?'

Rory threw one more sweater onto the open suitcase then said, 'I think so. Did you remember the box?'

'It's already in the car,' Diana answered, shutting the lid and squashing it down. 'I'm sure she'll be grateful for all this.'

'I can't wait to see her, I've got so much I want to ask.'

'I understand, just don't expect too much,' cautioned Diana. 'Most returnees don't remember anything from their time away.'

'But she's still had a year of life that I don't know anything about,' countered Rory. 'There's got to be something she has to tell me.'

Considering the alienated state of Lorelai when Diana had first met her, she seriously doubted that anything she'd gotten up to was worth telling her daughter about. Still, she didn't want to dash any hopes. 'Well, perhaps. Alright, I'd better get you back to Hartford.'

The teenager nodded reluctantly. 'Make sure she knows I don't blame her, won't you?'

'Of course.' Diana slipped an arm around her shoulder. 'You've got my number. If you want to talk anytime this week, call me.'

'Thanks. I mean, really, thanks for coming to find me. I don't think it was in your job description.'

'Your mother's a very special woman, I wanted to help.'

Rory grinned. 'I owe you one.'

'Just do me a favour, okay?' Diana asked. 'Try to wean her off The Flintstones for me?'

'I'll do my best.'

Part 3

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