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
Yawning, Diana turned off the car engine and sat back in her seat. It had been one hell of a weekend. Dropping Rory back off at her grandparents had been relatively painless- the only person she'd had contact with had been the subdued maid who'd muttered something about quitting due to stress. With that, Diana had said her final goodbye to Rory and started the long drive home. Now, outside Tom's house, the lack of relaxation over her break was starting to catch up with her.
Still, she could always sleep on the job- she had something else to take care of before she could collapse into her bed.
Grabbing a sleepy Maia from Alana, she laid her daughter out on the back seat then drove to NTAC. By the time they'd arrived Maia was stirring a little. In fact, she sat up fairly alertly for a girl who should by rights be asleep. 'Where are we?'
'Just at work, honey. Look, I need you to stay quiet and stay down for a few minutes. I'll lock you in, okay?'
Maia didn't look puzzled. 'You'd better hurry. They brought it forward.'
With that sudden realisation, Diana nodded and hurried into the building. She knew that the only reason Dr Naylor would bring forward the appointment was if he wanted to ensure that Lorelai was transferred into his care. That made her decision not to wait until morning before removing Lorelai from quarantine a vital one.
Using her swipe cards to get her into the basement, she slipped past the sleeping guard and found Lorelai still slumbering herself. Quickly, she shook her awake. 'Lorelai. Come on, I need to get you out of here.'
It took a few seconds for the bleary eyes to recognise her. 'I was just dreaming about you.'
Diana paused then mentally shook herself. 'Listen, we've gotta go. I'll explain everything later.'
Luckily, Lorelai didn't seem to object. Diana supported her out of the quarantine area then forced her into a darkened office as footsteps reverberated around a corner. As three figures passed the door she became acutely aware of her arm around Lorelai's slender pajamed waist, right at the point where her top didn't quite reach the edge of her bottoms exposing a thin circle of bare skin. Simultaneously, she noted Lorelai's dependence on her shoulder and the rippling of warm breath on her neck.
Pulling herself together as the footsteps faded, Diana led them out into the corridor and led them through the rabbit warren that was NTAC headquarters. When they hit the night air Diana felt a wave of nausea, quickly superseded by her desire to get Lorelai safely out of there. Bundling her into the back seat of the car, she looked up and met Maia's eye. 'She's just tired.'
'Let's get her home then,' Maia said firmly.
Diana smiled. 'Let's.'
After a little bit of resistance Maia had finally agreed to go to bed. During the brief struggle Lorelai had simply sat mutely, her eyes flicking backwards and forwards between the mother and daughter as though she was watching a tennis match. Having seen her daughter into bed, Diana now came back into the living room to find Lorelai sat on the sofa staring into the light.
Flopping next to her, Diana glanced over. 'Sorry.'
It took a few seconds for Lorelai to realise the comment had been directed at her. 'What for? It's been an adventure.'
'Do you think you're still dreaming?' Diana asked then, when the returnee looked over at her questioningly, added, 'When I woke you up you said you'd been dreaming about me.'
Lorelai blushed. 'Oh, erm Did I?'
Not wanting to draw anymore attention to a potentially embarrassing situation, Diana cleared her throat. 'There's something you ought to know.'
'About why you kidnapped me?' Lorelai was thankfully regaining some of her humour- she was probably going to need it. 'Go right ahead.'
'Well, it's a bit more than that actually. This weekend, when I went away, I picked something up for you.' Unzipping her travel bag close to her feet she pushed a wooden box into Lorelai's hands.
For a moment her new house-guest was still. Then she hungrily opened it and delved into the memories inside. 'How did you..?' She stopped her rummaging. 'You've been to Stars Hollow.'
Diana nodded. 'I saw Rory and your parents and Sookie. Rory's fine,' she went on before Lorelai could ask. 'She knows the truth now.'
The returnee nodded sadly. 'But she still wants nothing to do with me, right?'
'No.' On impulse, Diana took a hand tenderly. 'It's not like that. Your mother blackmailed her into staying in Hartford, threatened to take away her education if she came to see you.'
It seemed even Lorelai couldn't believe the extent of her mother's meddling. 'How can she do that? Did my Dad just sit back and watch while all this was going on?'
'The first he knew of you being alive, Lorelai, was when I caught up with him on the golf course and told him of the fact. He's been lied to as much as Rory and I have to say he's furious.'
'I don't What did Rory say? How is she? Has she grown? I bet she has.'
Diana smiled and squeezed her hand. 'You can ask her yourself. Your father's bringing her up here this weekend.'
The tears that had been threatening to fall probably since her phone call the previous night finally came out. Instantly alert, Diana held the shuddering figure tightly as Lorelai herself rifled through the various bits of memorabilia stuffed into the box. When she reached the photo of Rory's dad she skipped right past it. Inexplicably buoyed by the act, Diana smoothed down the raging hair and allowed Lorelai to go on with her regaining of memories.
When the tears had dried up, Lorelai pulled away and glanced at her. 'You said you'd explain why you had to drag me out of there in the middle of the night. Or was this the reason?'
'It was partly the reason,' Diana admitted. 'But I had reason to suspect that you were going to used in some experiments in the next few days. I'd rather not fill you in on the details but '
'Are you gonna get into trouble? For pulling me out, I mean.'
She was touched by the concern. 'I honestly don't know yet. I'll see what tomorrow brings. And, on that note, I need to get some sleep before I face my boss. Listen, Rory packed you a suitcase full of your old things, I'll get it out of the car in the morning.'
Lorelai nodded. 'Diana, I really don't know what to say.'
'You don't have to '
'I want to. You know, I didn't exactly give you a reason to help me, or even like me for that matter, but you '
'You gave me plenty of reasons,' Diana cut in. 'Not least of all you being a wonderful mother. Besides,' she went on, looking down briefly. 'I think I needed to remind myself that I'm a fully-living, breathing human being with emotions. Sometimes this job can blind you to that fact.'
When she met Lorelai's eye again she saw a pinch of understanding. 'Still, thank you.'
'No problem. And I'll fill you in on the details about Rory tomorrow, if you think you can wait that long?'
'I'm sure I can cope.' Lorelai smiled, squeezed her hand then released it. 'Goodnight.'
Suddenly feeling cold, Diana stood. 'There's a blanket under the couch. Night.'
Sat with a steaming cup of coffee warming her hands Diana attempted to wash away the uncomfortable night of sleep she'd had with a extreme dosage of caffeine but found her plan to be lacking, especially since she was sat barely metres away from Lorelai, who was still sleeping with a portrait of Rory tucked beneath her chin. Despite the fact it had been an extremely late night Diana had found herself unable to settle into any kind of dream world, instead waking up at dawn-break with no chance of either getting more sleep or getting rid of the headache induced by the lack of sleep. Her only consolation at that present time was the fact that Lorelai was peaceful, content and happy. The whole weekend was worth it due to that.
Realising it was almost time to wake Maia, Diana moved towards her room then stopped as she passed the figure on the sofa. Bending down, she lifted the left arm which had been dangling uncomfortably and placed it gently on the edge of the fabric. Lorelai murmured in her sleep, moved a little then settled back into her peaceful slumber.
Frowning at her own smile, Diana went to wake her daughter.
In the end she'd left a note for Lorelai. She hadn't wanted to wake her and since the returnee had managed to sleep through everything from Maia spilling her breakfast to Diana herself dragging a sizable suitcase into the room there was a little doubt over whether she'd actually stir. So, finally, Diana had just jotted down a few words promising that she'd be home as soon as she could.
It was with a tired eye that she noted Tom's beckoning gaze as soon as she got into the office. Jarvis wasn't around thankfully so she didn't exactly rush towards him. In fact, she waited until she had flopped into her seat before she said, 'Do I want to ask?'
Tom Baldwin shook his head. 'I just hope you had Lorelai's consent. Because from the way Jarvis is going on, she didn't have much of a choice when you dragged her out of quarantine in the middle of the night. There's some pretty incriminating CCTV footage of you throwing her into the car as well.'
'Oh, throwing her?' Diana scoffed. 'You know, they were on their way to take her in the early hours of the morning. I bet Jarvis hasn't put that in her report.'
'Come on, you know how it works. That appointment will never have existed in the eyes of the law,' said Tom seriously. 'Unless Lorelai confirms that she was in her right mind and wasn't taken against her will you're looking at an abduction charge.'
And didn't life just keep right on getting better?
She really couldn't be bothered with dealing with Nina Jarvis at that moment in time; the sensible thing to do would be to stay put in the office with Tom or, better still, drift off to the basement and find solace in the company of three mad and arguing scientists. But Jarvis would eventually track her down and the longer she put it off she supposed the worse it would be for everyone concerned.
In that frame of mind, she went to sit in Jarvis' empty office.
It was twenty minutes before her boss returned, with another agent in tow. Jarvis seemed surprised by her audacity; sitting down she said, 'I expected you to be half-way to Europe by now.'
Diana smiled tightly. 'What possible reason would I have to run?'
'Oh, I don't know. How about we start with the abduction of a detainee '
'Someone detained by her own will,' broke in Diana with false courtesy. 'And therefore free to leave whenever she herself deems fit.'
'Yes ' Jarvis frowned. 'I'm a little confused as to why she decided to leave at one o'clock in the morning and why you felt the need to get involved.'
'I suppose you've run a check on my phone records?' Jarvis shrugged her confirmation. 'Then you'll know that Lorelai called me from quarantine on Saturday night. The gist of that call was that she wished to be released, she was rather upset about her family. She'd thought being here would help, she's now realised she was mistaken.'
'So you naturally thought the best time to release her would be in the middle of the night?'
'Well, presumably you've recognised I wasn't in the vicinity until late last night. Instead of waiting until this morning I was suitably concerned about Lorelai to come in here last night on my way home.'
'You didn't wake the guard.'
'I didn't see the necessity. I was going to leave a note, I forgot.'
Jarvis was obviously still unconvinced. 'We have some rather interesting footage of you forcing Lorelai into your car, Diana. Agent Hayle?'
The silent agent in the corner stepped forward and slipped a disc into a drive. Moments later Diana saw herself dashing from the building with Lorelai supported on her shoulder then the opening of the car door and the conversing with Maia. After a second play through Agent Hayle switched it off.
Determined to retain her upper-hand, Diana looked to her boss. 'And?'
'Lorelai looked drugged in my opinion.'
'Well, not by me. I attributed her demeanour to tiredness but perhaps you're right, maybe she was drugged.'
Jarvis also kept her cool. 'Do you often bring your daughter to work after dark?'
'I told you, I was on my way home.'
'Did you take Maia away with you?'
'She stayed with Tom. I picked her up on the way back.'
'Right Care to tell me where you were?'
'I'm sure you already know,' Diana answered calmly. 'No doubt you've checked.'
'I want you to tell me,' Jarvis instructed.
'Well, if we're being petty I was in Hartford over the weekend.'
'The birthplace of Lorelai Gilmore, am I right?'
'So I was right, was I, Diana? You do like picking up stray returnees.'
Feeling her stomach tighten at that repeated phrase Diana battled to keep her impartial mask. Either Maia or Lorelai being referred to as 'strays' was infuriating to her. 'I like to help, I suppose you could call it that.'
'A good agent knows when to draw the line, Skouris. I think you crossed it when you broke in here last night.'
'I hardly broke in '
'You left with something that didn't belong to you, that makes it a federal issue.'
'I think you'll find that Lorelai would argue over the fact that she belongs to anyone,' said Diana.
'She's a returnee, she needs to be monitored.'
'As far as I'm aware she hasn't missed an appointment at all and with her willingness to come back here came an agreement that she could leave at any point.'
'You'll understand we'll need to clear your version of events with Lorelai, independently of you, of course.' Jarvis picked up her phone. 'Where is she? I'll have her brought in.'
Diana shook her head. 'That's not necessary. You can interview her where she is, with Tom present if that's not a problem.'
It blatantly was but Jarvis glanced to Agent Hayle and back again. 'And where is that?'
'My apartment. You'll find Tom has a spare key.' With the feeling she'd won, Diana sat back and crossed her arms ready to drop her final surprise. 'You know, I'm intrigued by that CCTV footage you showed me.'
'Really?' said Jarvis, her growing disdain more than evident. 'Please enlighten me, I wouldn't like you to be confused.'
'Well,' Diana said, drawing out her words. 'I like how you've gone to the trouble of getting the tapes from the car park, it shows real investigative skill. However, there's a set of cameras in the lower corridor, just outside the quarantine area. I'm puzzled as to why you haven't collated that footage.' Jarvis was quiet, unless Diana was completely mistaken she was cornered. 'Of course, I suppose it could be that you didn't want anyone else to see the three people wandering around the corridor at one o'clock.'
Nina Jarvis cleared her throat. 'Agent Hayle, can you leave us please?' She waited until he had left the room before continuing, 'What are you implying?'
Now they were alone Diana felt freer. She leaned forward. 'I know about Dr Naylor's little cross-section of the 4400 society, the fact that Lorelai was being taken in the middle of the night suggests it isn't quite legitimate. You have to ask yourself whether you want the media getting hold of that.'
'I don't actually believe you're threatening your superior, Diana. This woman must have really got to you.'
That dug into her a little. 'Will that be all?'
Jarvis nodded then held up her hand. 'Hold on.' She picked up her phone and dialled. 'Tom? I want you down in the car park immediately and no conferring with any colleagues.' Obviously not waiting for a response she placed the receiver back down and smiled tightly. 'I wouldn't like you coaching him.'
Shaking her head, Diana asked, 'Can I go?'
'For now. But, Skouris, I warn you; if Gilmore's story doesn't match up with yours I'll have your ass out of here quicker than you can spit.'
'Thank you,' she muttered courteously before making her escape.
Outside she leaned against the wall until Jarvis and her crony, Hayle, passed. Giving them a good five minutes, Diana then pulled out her cell phone and pressed speed dial three. It only took two rings and she spoke quickly, 'Tom, it's me but don't let on.'
There was a pause. 'Kyle, this isn't a good time. I'm at work.'
'When you get to my place I think Jarvis is going to request a urine sample, just for show purposes. I need you to get a real one. Something Jarvis said about Lorelai looking drugged made me think.'
'Uh-huh. I'm not the one to speak to, Alana's cooking tonight.'
'Tom, come on! Give it a shot. If it doesn't work I'll take the blame.'
'Fine, I'll try it. Don't blame me if she won't play ball.'
Ending the call, Diana closed her eyes. She'd done as much as she could. Now she had to pray Lorelai didn't slip up. Actually, she had to hope Lorelai had the sense to do a bit of lying on her behalf.
It was a good two hours before the little team of interviewers returned. Eager to keep up her charade for as long as possible, Diana barely looked up as Tom came into the office, instead focussing on processing the latest bunch of 4400 medical forms.
Only when he closed the door did she recognise they were actually alone and looked up from her computer screen. 'Tom, how'd it go?'
He sat down. 'If I didn't know better I'd believe that was the way it happened. What did you do? Get a courier pigeon over there at the speed of light?'
Diana hardly dared to believe him. 'Lorelai corroborated it?'
'Almost to the letter. And we know you didn't call her, the first thing Jarvis did was check the recent phone calls. One number, not you.'
'That's fantastic news! Did you get the sample?'
'Yeah, I did. You were right, Jarvis got one but I doubt it'll make it to the lab. I dropped mine down as a special favour with Bob.'
'Hey, he gets the job done, okay?'
'Fine, Tom, whatever you say.'
Diana was grateful when the day was finally over and she pulled into her regular parking space under the apartment block. The death stares from Jarvis had been fairly amusing up until lunch but then they'd grown old. Diana was thankful that, unlike Tom, she hadn't been put on some sort of probation by her domineering boss, otherwise she'd have to watch her every step.
When she unlocked the door she was struck by the noise of some eighties pop group blaring from her kitchen stereo. Advancing further into the flat she noted Lorelai dancing around the living room, acting like some demented teenager. She couldn't help but laugh. 'Glad to see you're settling in.'
Lorelai spun round quickly, only to go too far and have to twist sheepishly back. 'Hi.'
'Don't stop on my account.'
Moving over to turn the stereo down Lorelai shrugged. 'The Bangles, The Flintstones of the music world.'
Diana smiled. 'I'll take your word for it. Is Maia back yet? The childminder usually waits but I thought she might've left her with you. That is, unless you were dancing like a maniac when she arrived.'
Lorelai raised an eyebrow. 'Ooh, catty.'
'I try my best.'
'Hmm, sure you do.' After a second, she grinned. 'Seriously, your childminder called. She's organised Maia a freebie with a flute teacher.'
'Oh, that was nice of her.' Diana took off her coat and draped it over the back of the couch. 'There's something I wanted to ask you actually.'
Lorelai sat down in the armchair. 'I assume this has something to do with me having to pee in two cups this morning on an empty bladder. Which, I might add, was a very new and exciting experience.'
Diana placed her hands on the back of the chair. 'As I'm told you performed fantastically. So what about the story you spun to my boss?'
'She's pleasant, isn't she? Younger version of my mother.' Lorelai bent her head backwards and smiled upwards. 'As for the psychic connection, I just said what I was told.'
'What you were told?' Diana repeated. 'By who?'
'Nine o'clock this morning I get woken up by your phone ringing, it was Maia. She said that you were having trouble with your bosses and told me what you were saying had happened last night. I didn't question it, a few minutes later your guys were at the door.'
Trying to mask her frown, Diana moved over to the kitchen counter. 'Do you want a coffee?'
'I've just brewed a pot.' Behind her, Lorelai stood and approached. 'Is everything alright?'
'Yeah, I'm just ' She reached for a mug which slipped through her fingers. If it hadn't have been for Lorelai's quick grab it would've broken against the wooden counter top. It left her exceptionally close to the returnee though. 'Thanks.'
'You know, you can talk to me. I'm not as dim as I look,' Lorelai said only half in jest. 'Is there something going on here that I should know about?'
Diana turned so they were face to face, albeit slightly closer than normal. 'What exactly did Maia say? Did she tell you how she knew?'
'I just assumed you'd told her before you left. Why, isn't that how it happened?'
She was so tempted to sweep it under the carpet but looking at Lorelai's sincere face she didn't think she could. 'Okay, there's something you should know about Maia.'
'Well, she's You've heard how some of the returnees appeared to develop abilities when they got back?'
Lorelai nodded. 'There was that guy who shattered glass with his mind. Wait, what are you saying?'
'You have to promise me you won't '
'Diana, hey,' Lorelai grasped one of her loose hands quickly. 'Whatever you've got to say, I'm not gonna think any less of you, or Maia. How could I?'
She smiled weakly. 'Alright. Since her return Maia has been able to predict the future. She has I suppose you'd call them premonitions or flashes.' Her confession done, she glanced ruefully up at Lorelai. 'My boss has tried using her. At one point she put out a subpoena for Maia's diary. In the end I had to forge one.'
Far from being shocked, Lorelai seemed angry. 'You know, she looked like a real bitch. Where do people like that get off?'
Having been concerned Lorelai would reject her outright Diana couldn't help herself- she burst out laughing. 'Oh!'
Lorelai also began giggling. 'Do you want that coffee?'
'Yeah, that'd be great, thanks.' As she moved past their bodies brushed briefly. Ignoring the feeling that went through her, she relaxed onto the sofa. 'Thanks for listening to Maia anyway. You did me a real favour there.'
A few moments later Lorelai sat down next to her, handing her a warm mug and taking a sip of her own coffee. 'What is it with your place? And why do they want excessive amounts of my urine?'
'That's my fault, I'm afraid. Nina Jarvis, the one you had the pleasure of meeting earlier, dropped a comment earlier about you looking drugged in the car. It got me thinking. I mean, you were pretty out of it last night, more than you should've been considering you haven't been sleeping.'
'How do you know I haven't been sleeping?'
'Well, have you?'
'That's not the point.'
Diana smiled. 'Anyway, the second test was taken away for real analysis, I've got a feeling the first one might go in the bin. At least that way I'll know what was actually going on in there.'
'Why would they drug me?' asked Lorelai.
'That's what I want to find out.' For a minute they drank in silence. 'Did you have a chance to look through that suitcase?'
'Mmm. Did Rory pack it herself?'
'Just something to do with the lining of special Stars Hollow biscuits.' Lorelai paused. 'You saw her, how was she doing? Before the great bombshell.'
'Her headmaster described her as one of their brightest students.' That reminded her of something. Getting up she shuffled through her still-unpacked travel bag and pulled out the forgotten article. 'She aced an English exam. Personally, I know nothing about John Dryden but Rory seems to.'
Lorelai took the page and skimmed her eyes over it. 'I knew she'd do well. She's got my looks and her dad's brains.'
Diana leaned back in her seat. 'You've never mentioned her father before.'
'Christopher? Can't say there's all that much to mention. He was never ready to be a dad and we didn't wanna get married. That's pretty much the whole story.'
'Do you still love him?' Even Diana was surprised by her asking that.
'Not so much,' answered Lorelai, resting her head against the cushioned sofa back and glancing sideways at Diana. 'Sometimes you've gotta put the past away, focus on the future.'
Sipping her coffee delicately as a cover, Diana then questioned, 'So, has there been anyone else since you got back? Anyone you could see as something other than a friend?'
As Lorelai opened her mouth to speak the door rattled and Maia rushed in. 'Look what Gwen let me borrow!'
Diana quickly masked any of her disappointment and stood to receive her daughter and the flute case she was carrying. 'Oh, honey, that's great! How about you give me a demo after dinner, okay?'
Maia nodded excitedly and fled into her bedroom. Lorelai chuckled. 'You do realise what you've let yourself in for, don't you? I remember Rory's drum debacle.'
'Drum debacle?' repeated Diana dubiously.
'Yeah, it started out with a few tin cans in the kitchen at the Inn, next thing you know her bedroom's full of home-made tabernacle drums. Be careful.'
'I don't think it'll get to that stage.'
'Well, don't say I didn't warn you.' Lorelai finished her coffee then stood to wash the cup. 'Listen, I'd offer to cook dinner tonight but you haven't tasted my cooking so how about I stay out of the kitchen and help Maia with her homework?'
Diana smiled as she drained her own coffee cup. 'It's a good offer.'
Later that evening, as she watched her daughter and house-guest sprawled out on Maia's bedroom floor, Diana felt a strange sense of security wash over her. From her vantage point peeking around the doorframe she could see Maia's obvious delight at Lorelai's admittedly odd style of teaching which involved puppets, caricatures and erratic hand-gestures. Lorelai herself was apparently having a great time. Any lingering ideas that she might change her attitude after learning about the premonitions disappeared from Diana's head in that instant.
Going back to the kitchen she pulled the Shepherd's Pie out of the oven and served the meal. 'Maia! Lorelai!'
The duo bounded in, all smiles, and they settled down with their food. As they ate, Lorelai kept up a steady stream of anecdotes about life in Stars Hollow, everything from the bumbling nutty shopkeeper who had a hard time letting anyone into his shop to the Korean contingent which seemingly took over half of the town. Diana noted she'd cheered up considerably since the release from quarantine and somehow the thought warmed her.
Pouring herself another glass of wine, Diana offered the bottle over to Lorelai. Their eyes met for a moment and she attempted to vocalise some sort of smart comment but her throat was dry. She settled for proffering the bottle more violently.
Maia suddenly struck up a one-sided conversation about her flute teacher. Despite not wanting to raise her eyes to Lorelai's again she managed to look up briefly and they exchanged a smile.
After dinner Lorelai volunteered to do the washing-up as Diana persuaded Maia to go to bed early. Her daughter hadn't exactly resisted given the strange events of the previous evening so Diana found herself saying goodnight much earlier than usual.
'Did I do the wrong thing?' Maia asked as she slipped under the pink covers. 'Are you mad at me?'
Sitting down on the edge of the bed, Diana frowned. 'Why would I be mad at you?'
'Because I called Lorelai ealier.'
'Oh, honey, I'm not mad at you for that! You know, you did me a really big favour today.'
'I just really like Lorelai,' Maia explained quietly. 'I didn't want anything to happen to her.'
'You and me both,' Diana assured her. 'And I'll do my best to make sure she's alright. I promise. Now, you get some sleep and maybe I'll think about calling up your teacher in the morning and see if we can organise you some proper flute lessons.'
'Really.' Diana stood and kissed her on the cheek. 'Night.'
Maia settled before she was even out of the room. Going through to the kitchen she found Lorelai scrubbing viciously at the casserole dish, almost to the point of wearing out the glass. After watching her for a few seconds Diana stepped forward, picked up a tea towel and started drying the cutlery.
Lorelai glanced over. 'Is she okay?'
'Just tired, I think. It's been an odd weekend for her. For everyone.'
'Can't argue there.'
For the next ten minutes they worked in silence. When the washing-up was done and everything was packed away, Diana practically fell onto the couch. 'Urg '
'If I remember my caveman vocabulary right, that means 'get me a drink'.'
'Well remembered. There's another bottle in the fridge.'
When they were comfortable next to each other with a brimming glass Lorelai laughed. 'It's weird. This time last week I was sleeping in a flea-bitten motel. What happened?'
Diana smiled. 'Something to do with your fairy godmother I suppose.'
Lorelai clinked their glasses. 'Here's to my fairy godmother. In all her glory.'
Sipping her wine, Diana found, helped control her urge to blush. She wasn't certain why she should be embarrassed near the returnee. After all, Lorelai now knew about Maia and had fully accepted it. She was even helping out around the apartment and integrating into the family. There was nothing to suggest that Diana should be in the least bit uncomfortable. Apart from the feeling in her stomach that told her otherwise. She glanced at Lorelai, who seemed lost in her own thoughts, and smiled. The feeling could go to hell, she was content sat silently with another human being for the first time in a long while.
'Hey, you're chirpy,' he said, swinging round on his chair. 'What's up?'
'The sun's shining out there,' she replied. 'Did you see it?'
'I also saw the road kill on the highway,' he pointed out with a wry smile. 'Anyway, got some news for you.'
She removed her coat and took a seat. 'The urine test?'
'Yep.' Reaching over, he handed her a piece of paper. 'You were right. She was dosed with morphine. It was still in her system so I'd guess it was put in her evening meal.'
'I knew it. Well, I can't exactly take the incriminating evidence to Jarvis, can I?'
'If I were you, I'd hold off for a little bit. You're already seen as a trouble-maker round here '
'Thanks!' Diana interrupted. 'Do I take that as a compliment coming from you?'
'I'm just repeating the rumours, okay? Have you any idea how long you'd last if you waged war on Jarvis? Build up your evidence then take 'em down, it's textbook.'
'And what if they come back for Lorelai?'
'They've got too much to lose now. She's out of their reach, leave it at that.'
Perhaps he was right. It still didn't stop her anger at Jarvis and everyone else involved though. She was getting sick of the job. All she seemed to be doing now was the bidding for the queen bee, and only because Jarvis herself didn't want to be on the front line. Truthfully, Diana wasn't sure how much more of the hypocrisy she could stomach.
'I'm home!' Diana called, pushing through the front door to find an empty living room. 'Lorelai? Maia?'
Suddenly a head popped up from behind the kitchen counter. Lorelai, with a distinctive droplet of chocolate on her nose. 'Can you go out and come back in?'
'What's going on?'
'Okay, okay.' Going back outside she gave it thirty seconds before returning. As she went through the door she came face-to-face with Lorelai and Maia, holding a big chocolate cake endorsed with the word 'Thanks' on a plate in between them. Diana let her briefcase drop to the floor. 'What's this?'
Lorelai shrugged. 'I wanted to do something to say thank you. Cake's always good.'
Unable to keep the smile from her face she moved forward and took the plate. 'Do you know what you two look like? Hmm?' She kissed Maia's cheek then instructed her, 'Go clean yourself up.'
When her daughter had skipped (literally) off to the bathroom, Diana placed the cake down on the counter. Lorelai was standing awkwardly at the side of her. 'Sorry about the mess, I'll clear it up.'
'You know, that's the nicest thing anybody's done for me in a long time,' Diana said, glancing at her nose. 'Sorry, I've gotta ' Lifting her finger, she whisked the melted chocolate from the skin and then, impulsively, licked it. Suddenly embarrassed, she turned away and concentrated on the cake. 'Do you mind if we wait till after dinner to cut it?'
'No, that'll That'll be fine.' Lorelai cleared her throat. 'I think I'm gonna go for a walk before dinner, if that's okay?'
'Yeah, of course. Spare keys are on the side.' Diana waited until the door had softly closed before she muttered, 'Stupid, stupid '
Shaking any of those thoughts well away, she busied herself with preparing the meal. Half way through her potato peeling Maia returned, obviously still bouncy and excitable. 'Where's Lorelai?'
'She's gone for a walk, shouldn't be long. How was your day?'
'Great! Cooking with Lorelai was funny. She said she wanted to do something special for you.'
'Well, that was very nice of her. Both of you. Could you get me the carrots please?'
Getting them from the fridge, Maia plopped them on the counter. 'What's wrong?'
'Nothing. Why would anything be wrong?'
'Yes, you are!'
Diana sighed and concentrated on her peeling. 'There's nothing for you to be worried about. I'm a big girl.'
'Doesn't mean you always know what to do, does it?'
'You're too smart,' warned Diana, placing the peeler delicately on the counter. 'Honestly, though, I'll work it out myself.'
'I know you will.'
She paused. 'Hey, enough with the cryptic, young lady. It's Tuesday.'
Her daughter groaned. 'Do I have to?'
'Well, only if you wanna eat.'
That did it; Maia grudgingly went off to tidy her room whilst Diana relished the prospect of a little peace and quiet.
When Lorelai returned a little under an hour later the meal was almost ready. Maia, having passed the mandatory inspection, was sat at the table sketching in her notepad; Diana herself had just finished setting the table, as a consequence she found Lorelai directly in front of her as she turned back to the kitchen. 'Hi. Nice walk?'
The look on the returnee's face was indecipherable. 'It's a nice neighbourhood. Do you need any help?'
'No, we're almost done here.'
'Let me know if there's anything I can do,' Lorelai said then moved over to the table. I didn't know you liked drawing?'
After a lingering glance Diana left them to their pleasant conversation and began serving up the food. When she placed the three plates on the table a few minutes later Maia instantly stowed her notepad away, leaving Diana a little bit curious as to what her daughter had been sketching in there. Lorelai, it appeared, had seen it and was looking studiously at her plate. Though intrigued she let it rest and allowed them to eat quietly, with only the gentle dripping of the tap in the background.
It was only when Maia was in bed that Diana broached the subject with Lorelai, who was silently reading a magazine she'd obviously picked up on her travels. 'Did Maia show you something earlier?'
'Hmm?' Lorelai glanced up as she sat down next to her then shook her head. 'Not that I remember.'
'Huh You just both seemed a little off at dinner.'
'Well, you weren't exactly Miss Conversation yourself.'
Diana cringed. 'I just had things on my mind, that's all. Which reminds me, I got your test results back from the lab.'
'So from the look on your face I'm guessing I hadn't overloaded my brain on cartoons.'
'Right. You were dosed with morphine, which correlates with what I thought. And, as predicted, the official sample doesn't appear to have been tested yet. I doubt it will be, if I'm honest.'
Lorelai shrugged. 'You know, nothing your guys do could surprise me. Just scary how close I came to being a lab rat. I'd have been better just carrying on like I was.'
'Now I know you don't mean that,' Diana said seriously. 'Whatever you avoided, it brought you closer to a reconciliation with Rory.'
'And it brought me to you,' Lorelai added, smiling a little.
Feeling immediately bashful, Diana cleared her throat. 'I'm just happy to help.'
'You've been really great. You mighta noticed, I've got a habit of getting myself into messes. Haven't had someone to pull me out before.'
Against her raging head Diana found herself rising to her feet. 'I'm a little tired, think I'll get an early night.'
'Okay. I'll see you tomorrow.'
'Yeah,' she said softly before closing her bedroom door and leaning heavily against it. 'You will.'
Wednesday at work was decidedly average. With Tom she'd paid visits to several returnees, finding everything fine. She was relieved to be out of the office, away from Jarvis and all her penetrating stares. Still, all day she felt as if her mind was elsewhere and she didn't have to be an investigator to find where it was grounded.
So when she went home it was with a mixture of trepidation and repressed delight that she entered. In order to combat some of the probable tension she'd stopped by the rental store on the way home and picked up a movie. She didn't usually allow extortionate amounts of television through the week but it wasn't a typical week and she recognised that perhaps Maia and Lorelai would benefit from a little light entertainment.
Finding her daughter crushing their house-guest with a pillow, Diana closed the door and questioned, 'Er, Maia, that's not very hospitable.'
'Nope,' Lorelai answered, muffled through the fabric. 'I think I asked for it.'
'Does anyone get to join in or is it an exclusive game?'
'It's ' Lorelai paused for breath then spun around, catching Maia off-guard and grabbing the pillow. 'Ha ha! The game never stops, child. This you must learn.'
As Maia collapsed panting onto the couch, Diana helped drag Lorelai to her feet. 'What have you been teaching my daughter?'
She shrugged. 'We just had a little bet that's all. I lost, as you might've guessed. Won't be making the same mistake again though.'
'Well, obviously not your down-and-out-last-dime-on-the-derby kind of gambling. This was more of a contest if you will.'
'We were playing a game around called Vegetable,' Maia put in. 'And you have to name a vegetable and the other person has to name someone they know what goes with the vegetable.'
Diana looked to Lorelai. 'You made that up!'
'I was bored! Besides, it led me to some interesting conclusions. You were an onion, by the way.'
'Was I really?'
'Can't wait to reveal all the layers.'
Glancing over to Maia, Diana cleared her throat. 'How about we get a pizza tonight? I've rented us a film.'
'It's not educational is it?' asked Maia dubiously.
'Hey, that was once! And it was about butterflies, they're interesting.'
Lorelai smiled sympathetically. 'Don't worry, kid. Now I'm around you won't get anymore of that rubbish. It'll be fun all the way.' To Diana, she questioned, 'So what did you get?'
She smiled. 'The Wizard of Oz.'
For a moment Lorelai held her gaze. 'Well, that should do.'
When the trio settled down on the couch with pizza about an hour later Diana sat in the middle, Maia leaning against her right shoulder and Lorelai only slightly further away on the left. For the next hour and a half she noted her daughter was entranced by Dorothy and the story of the duping wizard. Maia gasped in all the usual places, it was everything the first film viewing of a classic should be. It was one of those bizarre moments though, when Diana realised that her adopted daughter would've been around the see it released had she not been abducted. Sometimes she managed to forget that trifling detail in her life with Maia.
Lorelai was entranced too, though she must have seen the movie about twenty times at least. More than once Diana swept her eyes towards the returnee, intrigued as to her dependence on the screen. Lorelai, it appeared, was living vicariously through Dorothy. Diana wasn't sure but she'd hazard a guess that Lorelai had adored the film as a child and had always wanted to escape into her own Oz. In a manner of speaking, she'd done that with Stars Hollow. Having been there Diana could safely say the place was something different alright. It was Lorelai's definition of Oz.
Dorothy was just about to return to Kansas when Diana felt nervous fingers entwine with her own which were resting by her side. She didn't glance sideways, only remained glued to the screen.
The young farm girl was crying as she whispered to the Scarecrow, 'I think I'll miss you most of all,' and kissed his cheek.
As the heels clicked together three times Diana summed up the courage to look at Lorelai. Finding that their eyes locked, she mustered a weak smile. When the credits began to roll a few minutes she reluctantly pulled her hand away and paid attention to her daughter who was grinning inanely. 'Did you like that?'
She nodded emphatically. 'It was great!'
'I'm glad you enjoyed it. How about you go get ready for bed, okay? I'll bring you in some milk.'
'Okay.' Maia jumped off the couch and kissed her mother then Lorelai. 'See you in the morning.'
'See you, kid,' answered Lorelai affectionately.
Watching her daughter into the bedroom, Diana waited until the door was closed before she turned back to her house-guest uneasily. 'I guess that went well, huh?'
'Yeah, it did. Do you want the last slice of pizza?'
'No, you go ahead.' Standing, Diana cleared up the boxes from around them and disposed of them in the kitchen. Returning to the sofa, she didn't sit back down. 'Have you thought about the weekend?'
Swallowing, Lorelai chuckled. 'You're kidding me? My mind's been on two things this week and that's one of 'em.'
She didn't ask what the other thing was. 'You know, I'm sure it'll be alright. Both Rory and your father seemed genuinely delighted.'
'I still can't believe my mother did that to him. I've always seen them as this dual force, united against me.'
'His little girl means more to him than he ever let on, I think.'
Lorelai smiled wryly. 'Well, we'll wait and see about that.' She paused. 'It's Rory I'm really worried about.'
Diana sat down next to her again. 'I can't predict how she'll react on the day but she was determined that things were gonna go back to normal.'
'You and I both know it isn't that easy. How do I make up for two and a half years of not being around when she got home from school? I didn't cook any of her meals. Okay,' she shrugged. 'I didn't order takeout for her everyday. I didn't hold her when she was given a hard time by some rich snob at school. And, God! What if she's got a boyfriend? I was supposed to be there- not my mother. I can't explain anything to her.'
'Alright, look,' said Diana firmly. 'What happened wasn't your fault. Rory's a bright girl. Yeah, she might've needed you but it sure as hell didn't stop her from trying her best in everything. You've seen the articles, she did pretty well. And don't,' she went on quickly. 'See that as a slight on yourself. If anything it's a compliment. It means you brought her up to soldier on. I think she definitely got that from you.'
After a moment Lorelai nodded. 'You might need to give me the pep talk again.'
'Well, I'll pencil it into my diary. Now, I'm going to go say goodnight to Maia.'
'Do you mind if I use the phone?'
'Go right ahead.'
Twenty minutes later- after a lengthy debate with her daughter about whether Oz was just a dream (Maia was firmly a believer which was how it should be)- Diana closed the door on her daughter and was about to extricate herself from the passage and make her presence known to Lorelai when she heard she was still on the phone. Despite her better judgement, she stood still and listened.
'Chris, come on! I know I've pulled some pretty freaky stunts in my time but I don't think even I could come up with something like this on my own Yeah, well, that's complicated Look, I'm sorry! I thought you'd be like the rest of them I know, I know I've missed you too.'
Realising she'd heard more than she wanted to Diana quietly opened the door to her own room and slipped inside. She wasn't stupid, she just felt it at that moment. Reaching under her bed she pulled out the box of books she had been meaning to read for the last three months and picked one at random. Her laptop wasn't to hand so there was little else to do.
It was all well and good creeping around herself but she could hardly imagine Maia being receptive to the idea when she woke up. Lorelai was snoring lightly on the couch and in the hour since she'd awoken Diana had done everything in her power not to disturb the sleeping figure. Part of her felt she was being irrational- Lorelai had every right to talk to Christopher, he was her ex, the father of her child, it was understandable she'd contact him at some point. But Well, she didn't want to explain it. She just felt betrayed in a manner.
The decision of what to do was taken out of her hands by the sudden awakening of the returnee. Diana spun on her heel to get another unnecessary glass of orange juice as she felt Lorelai stretch out behind her.
'Morning,' replied Diana shortly.
'Hey, you didn't come back in last night. What happened?'
'Oh, nothing. I just felt tired, that's all.'
'Sure that's it?'
'What else would it be?'
'Ah, a stalemate, I like it.' Lorelai stood and came over. 'Can I have the orange juice?'
'Sure.' She managed to pass it over without looking or touching her guest in any way.
'Diana, what's up? You don't seem yourself.'
She finally glanced sideways. 'Just because I'm not running around laughing my head off it doesn't mean there's anything wrong. I've gotta get Maia to school.'
Perhaps Lorelai watched her as she left. Alright, she knew Lorelai was watching her as she left. And it frustrated her.
The screen just wouldn't 'Damn it!'
'Hey, hey!' Tom, who was just coming in the door, held her arm back as she attempted to wipe the computer system from her desk. 'What the hell's going on with you? When I went out to lunch you were close to yelling at security and now you're destroying NTAC property?'
'Tom, I Forget it. I think I need to get outta here.'
'Take your lunch. And if you're thinking about driving, don't. I like you the way you look.'
'I'll take that as a compliment, shall I?'
Without waiting for his smart reply she left the office, dodging past Jarvis' open door with remarkable dexterity. She got into her car but didn't start the engine. Instead, she pulled out her cell phone and scrolled through the numbers she had recently added to the phonebook. After a moment of deliberation, she dialled 'Richard: Work'.
'Richard Gilmore's office, how may I help you?'
'Hi, I'd like to speak to Mr Gilmore if possible. It's Agent Skouris.'
'Of course. One moment please.'
A few clicks later and Richard Gilmore's voice rang through crystal clear, 'Hello?'
'Mr Gilmore, it's Diana Skouris. I was wondering if you could help me.'
'Yes, if I can. What is it you need?'
'Lorelai's thinking about getting in touch with Christopher, if you've got an up to date number and address it'd be really useful.'
A couple of minutes later and she had got what she needed. Staring at her cell she contemplated whether to go through with the plan that had popped into her head spontaneously and uninvited so recently. Of course, it was practically a violation of privacy and, to be honest, she wasn't particularly sure what she stood to gain from it. Was she wanting to ensure Christopher was up to the task of taking Lorelai back on? Or was she thinking along the lines of something a little more sinister?
No use. She couldn't justify doing it.
'Maia's at a friend's and there's strawberries and cream on the counter!'
Diana glanced briefly towards the bathroom then placed her bag down next to the door and went to sample the fruit. When she heard Lorelai come in, she queried, 'What time's she back?'
'She's having dinner there so a couple of hours. So I was wondering, do you wanna go out for a meal or something? My shout. Well, my mother's if you really like nit-picking.'
'Um, I don't '
Lorelai came into her line of sight. 'Look, you seemed stressed this morning. I know that's mostly my fault and I'd like to make up for it.'
Looking up, Diana couldn't help but agree to the idea.
That was how she found herself, a little under an hour later, sampling the delights of a Thai restaurant she'd been meaning to try out. It was a small new place, underestablished and in desperate need of a clientele. From the taste of the starter it was difficult to understand why it wasn't being swamped with reservations already.
As they awaited the main course, the pair sat in silence. Diana wasn't sure what to say, she felt awkward again. 'Did you have a good day?' she asked finally.
'Let's see. I woke up, I sat on the couch for eight hours and then you came home.' Lorelai shrugged. 'I'm not kidding.'
'Is it better than being in quarantine?'
'Oh, definitely. I've got something to look forward to.'
'Rory,' said Diana.
'Yeah,' replied Lorelai slowly. 'Rory. So, how were things at the office?'
'It was just the usual. Don't know why I bother going in sometimes.'
'For the money?'
'That's about what it's boiling down to actually.' She sighed. 'You know, I hate that. I can't stand being tied by people who've got no clue what's going on.'
'I'm taking it you mean your boss? Well, you've gotta give her credit, she's trying the whole experimental thing now, that has to count in her favour.'
Diana smiled. 'Call me cynical but I think that might be more about containment than anything else. She still has you down as some kind of infection.'
'That just makes her like the rest of the world,' Lorelai reasoned. 'And who knows, we might still be a disease.'
'No, you're really not.' After a second she dropped her chin bashfully. 'Wonder where that food's got to!'
'The cooking's probably slowing it down.'
'Yeah, you're You're right.' Diana stood quickly. 'I'll be back in a minute.'
In the bathroom she splashed cool water on her face. As soon as the blush lifted she made to leave but found the doorway blocked. 'What's going on with you?'
'Lorelai, we should get back to the table.'
'We will, when you tell me what's wrong!'
'Look, I ' She stopped, lowered her eyes and tried to regain her composure. 'Lorelai, please.'
'Diana, come on, talk to me!' The returnee grabbed her hands then all around them the lights shorted off. 'Whoa, what was that?'
She took the chance to back away, her hand still tingling from the unanticipated contact. Pulling out her car keys, she managed to find the switch on her small torch and swung the beam upwards into Lorelai's face. 'We'd better get out of here.'
Her friend blinked against the glare. 'Yeah, suppose.'
Out in the main dining area they found the table candles emitting a fair amount of light. The manager appeared to be asking customers to leave, Diana didn't need to be told twice. They hit the air of the street and suddenly the building behind them lit up energetically. 'Must have been a fuse or something.'
Lorelai nodded slowly. 'Yeah, sure. Can I make my food suggestion now?'
'Does it come with added grease?'
'That was actually very nice,' Diana commented as she opened the door to the apartment.
Lorelai grinned and flopped onto the couch. 'See, I told you. Glad the lights wigged out on us like that?'
'Still bemused, but yeah. Do you want a coffee?'
'Thanks. Want some help?'
As there was a knock at the door, Diana shook her head. 'That should be Maia, can you let her in?'
Her guest was quick to comply, leaping up with the vigour of someone who hadn't just eaten a bucket of chicken. When she opened the door though, all Diana heard was a rushing of feet and then a banging door.
'What was that?' Lorelai wondered aloud, closing the door behind the whirlwind.
Diana padded into the living room, frowning. 'Something must have happened. I should '
'Hey, do you want me to do it? I've had practice in this stuff, to be honest I could do with getting back into it.'
'Knock yourself out.' Watching until the returnee had followed her daughter into her bedroom, Diana switched the kettle on then leaned back against the counter, her mind drifting back to the events at the restaurant.
She'd admit it; she'd been nervous, embarrassed and elated- everything that was associated with a first date scenario. The trouble was, it hadn't been a date. No way in hell had it been a date. Dating had been off the agenda, even before Maia came into her life, and it especially wasn't going to happen with a returnee and definitely not with Lorelai Gilmore!
Sighing, she made the coffee and poured two cups. In a few minutes she heard the soft closing of a door and Lorelai reappeared. 'She's fine, just a bit upset.'
'Has someone been picking on her again?'
'Yeah, in a way. She was caught drawing some pictures and she got offended by the reaction to them.'
'Reaction?' Diana repeated. 'What was she drawing?'
'It's not important.'
'Well, I think it is.'
'Diana, look, it's sorted, why don't you just leave it at that?'
When Lorelai moved past to get her coffee Diana halted her with her arm. 'Hey! This is my daughter we're talking about, if there's something going on I wanna know about it.'
'Why, so you can sap the last bit of privacy she has? You're just like my mother.'
'Excuse me! Unless you had visions when you were a kid I don't think it's quite the same. These drawings, are they something to do with a premonition?'
'Diana! You've read her diary, can't you leave it?'
Affronted, she moved in front of her guest. 'I'm trying to protect her, surely you can see that?'
Lorelai finally sighed. 'Of course I do. I understand that and I'm not trying to undermine you. I just think it'd be better if you didn't push this one. It's kind of embarrassing.'
'For Maia, for me, and I think especially for you.'
Diana frowned. 'Okay, now I'm intrigued. What was the drawing?'
'Have you shown Maia a picture of Rory?'
'Yeah, she was with me when I was researching.'
'And my house in Stars Hollow?'
She shook her head. 'No. She's had a vision of your house?'
'That's all, okay? It's nothing to be concerned about.'
'Then why all the secrecy? Somehow I think you're not telling me the whole story.'
'I'm not. But I've told you the important bits. That counts for something, right?'
Diana nodded slowly. 'If you're positive I'll trust you.'
'Thanks, I appreciate it. Can I drink my coffee now?'
'Sure.' Her eyes followed Lorelai to the couch, she couldn't really resist the temptation but berated herself for it immediately. As the dark head dipped she watched, entranced, then snapped herself out of it. 'I'm gonna take Maia some hot chocolate.'
'I think she'll like that.'
She found her daughter sat up reading an Enid Blyton book. 'Hey, sweetie, brought you a drink.'
Maia placed her book to the side and shuffled upwards, obviously anticipating some kind of onslaught. 'Thanks.'
Sitting down on the edge of the bed, Diana handed her the mug. 'Careful, it's hot.' Maia took it, didn't drink but sat still. 'You okay?'
'I'm fine. Are you?'
'Me? I'm always alright, you know that. So what's happening with The Famous Five?'
'Okay. Well, I'll leave you to it then.' A little dismayed at her daughter's reluctance to confide in her, she went to the door.
She swung back. 'Yeah?'
'Lorelai's a good person. She's truthful and kind and caring.'
'Of course she is, I know that.'
When Maia began drinking her hot chocolate Diana assumed the rather bizarre conversation was over. Leaving the room she found Lorelai sipping from her coffee mug while flicking through the television channels. 'Anything on?'
'Nope.' She switched it off abruptly and smiled. 'How's she doing?'
'Revelling in The Famous Five I think.' Diana picked up her own coffee from the kitchen counter and plopped herself down on the couch next to her guest. 'I'm sorry I got a little bit protective before.'
'I'm sorry I compared you to my mother.'
'Good! I'm not At least I hope I'm nothing like '
'Hey, that was just me being over-sensitive. You're nothing like my mother.' Lorelai grinned. 'Have you ever forced Maia to dress up in a meringue dress and paraded her around all your friends like you were at a cattle market?'
'Not that I can recall.'
'See? Nothing like my mother!'
Diana smiled slightly. 'I'd ask you how you dealt with all that but I think I already know the answer.'
'Yes! I ran away! It's grossly underrated as a method of dealing with problems, I thoroughly recommend it to anyone.'
'By that reckoning I'd quit my job tomorrow and hitchhike to Bermuda.'
'Ooh, can I come?'
'You'd better, otherwise I might come back.'
Lorelai placed her empty mug down on the coffee table. 'So, you run all that way because of what?'
'The same reason anyone runs I guess. To get away from the painful things.'
'But you'd be taking me with you,' the returnee pointed out.
Not eager to reply to that, Diana took the remote and switched the screen on. 'Sure we can find something.'
'Yeah, good luck.'
'Feeling better today?'
She didn't lift her eyes from the computer. 'I don't know what you're talking about, Tom.'
'Must have imagined yesterday then, huh?'
'Must have. Here,' she said, passing him the printout she'd been given twenty minutes earlier. 'Today's little task.'
He took the paper. 'Andrew Goldman, wanted in connection with a rape?'
'Our job to sit in on the interview.'
'Tell me about it.' As she made to stand her cell phone vibrated in her front pocket. 'I'll meet you outside, okay?'
'I can't wait.'
After glancing at the display she answered it with, 'Rory, is that you?'
'Yeah, is this a bad time?'
She checked her watch. 'Shouldn't you be in class or something? Not that I'm busy or anything.'
'Study period,' the teenager answered. 'I just thought '
'Is something wrong? You don't sound too good.'
'I'm just You know, I needed to talk to someone.'
'Well, I'm glad you chose me,' Diana replied, settling back into her chair. 'I take it things at home aren't too good?'
'Grandma's moved into the pool house, Grandpa's walking around like some angry zombie. I've been going to Sookie's every night but I She's great but she doesn't understand how freaky this all is.'
'It's fine to be nervous, Rory. Even angry if that's how you truly feel. Trust me, your mom's expecting all that and more.'
'Of course she is. Rory, she's got no illusions, she's as terrified as you are.'
'That's actually nice to know.'
Diana frowned at what she was about to say but knew she owed it to the teen to bring it up. 'If you feel like you don't want to come this weekend you don't have to. I know how difficult this must be for you. Well, I don't but I'm trying.'
'I want to see her,' said Rory, with obvious uncertainty. 'But it's been a while, you know? What am I supposed to say to her?'
'What did you used to talk about?'
'Then I'd imagine the playing field to be wide open,' Diana reasoned. 'And if you want, I can stay with you both.'
'You've got something better to do with your weekend.'
'It'd be my pleasure. I'll see you tomorrow.'
There was a note on the table when she got home. Lorelai had taken Maia for a special Friday ice-cream, they'd apparently be back just prior to being sick. Unlike when Maia had disappeared off with April for hours on end, Diana felt completely secure in the knowledge that Lorelai wouldn't actually make Maia sick. She did have a certain amount of intelligence after all, not to mention the fact that she'd raised a daughter herself.
Finding herself alone though brought up a few ravaging inner debates. She wasn't going to stoop to rifling through her daughter's possessions in search of her drawing book. As much as the idea was niggling at her she knew that she'd not only be betraying Maia's trust; she'd be letting Lorelai down too. There was no reason to do that, not when she'd been assured everything was fine.
The other point, however, was Christopher. His telephone number was practically burning a hole in her jacket pocket; she was finding it rather difficult not to succumb and call him. One thing halting her was the problem of what to say. She felt she wanted to talk to him but about what? His feelings for Lorelai or her own muddled ones? She wasn't sure. Then there were the ethics of the thing- this counted as private meddling, she was sure of it. From her experiences with her mother Lorelai rightly detested it, Diana couldn't imagine being on those terms with the returnee- it didn't bear thinking about.
So she stowed away the thoughts again. Until the front door opened a hour or so later she worked on her outstanding paperwork; though it needed doing Lorelai and Maia were definitely welcome distractions when they came back. 'Did you have a nice time?' she questioned of them as she closed her laptop and stood from the kitchen table.
Maia nodded enthusiastically. 'I had strawberry and toffee!'
'And chocolate and banana,' Lorelai added, smiling. 'And remember, it was on one condition.'
'Okay, okay,' the youngster grumbled lightly before trotting off to the bathroom.
'I made her promise to brush her teeth the second we got back,' Lorelai supplied as she crashed onto the couch. 'Good day?'
'Mmm.' Diana debated for a moment then sat next to her. 'Rory called.'
'She did? Is she alright? I mean, is she '
'She's still coming, don't worry. She was just a bit nervous.'
Lorelai shrugged. 'Of course she is. I can't turn up after two years and expect things to be normal again. I just don't want her I don't know, hating me.'
'At the moment the only person she hates is your mother.'
'Oh, yeah. How is the evil old '
Spotting her daughter emerging from the bathroom, Diana said quickly, 'Maia, honey, all clean?'
'Yep. Can I watch TV?'
'Sure, go ahead. Drink, Lorelai?'
'That'd be great, thanks.'
The apartment had long been quiet when Diana recognised she should have been asleep a while ago. The trouble was, her mind was too busy going over the events of the last week and anticipating the coming mother-daughter and father-daughter reunions with Rory and Richard Gilmore. Hearing a thud from the living room, she rose out of bed and slipped her dressing gown on.
Lorelai was sat with her head buried in her hands. Diana tentatively took a seat beside her and placed an awkward arm around her shoulders. 'Hi.'
'I hope I didn't wake you,' she sniffed through her tears.
'No, I was awake,' Diana assured her. 'What's up?'
'Call me unconvinced. Come on, Lorelai, talk to me.'
'Okay. I'm petrified,' the returnee admitted with a long sigh. 'I've dreamed of this for so long and now I don't know what to say or do or if I'm supposed to let her do the talking. And what about my Dad? Do I talk to him or treat him like a leper?'
'Lorelai, it wasn't his fault.'
'I've gotten used to blaming him. It's not easy switching that off.'
'I think you should try,' Diana advised her. 'For everyone's sake.'
For a moment Lorelai was silent. 'What am I supposed to say when they ask me why I let Mom pay me off?'
'You tell them the truth. It's all you can do.'
'So I tell my daughter that fear got the better of me.'
'She's a teenager, she'll understand the feeling.'
'Of course.' Diana used her second hand to rub Lorelai's knee soothingly. 'What you need is a good night's sleep, okay?'
'Could you No, it doesn't matter.'
'Would you stay with me a little while?'
'If you think it might help.' As Lorelai rested her head back on the makeshift bed Diana moved to allow her to settle properly then sat on the edge of the couch, gently stroking down the energetic hair. A few minutes of her presence and Lorelai was sleeping peaceful. Diana lingered a couple of moments more then went back to her own bedroom.
She still couldn't get to sleep herself though.
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