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 7

It wasn't real. It wasn't. Any moment she was going to wake up and this would all be a nightmare. She'd wake up and it'd be the morning again. And the day would not be anything close to horrific. There would be no suicide attempts, no accidents, no ambulances. Trying to keep as calm as humanly possible was her effort for Rory and Maia's sakes but it wasn't working internally. Inside her head rested the image of a limp Lorelai as the firemen had gingerly raised the hefty telephone pole from her back and the expression on the paramedic's face when he'd taken a look at the damage. Now the doctors were taking their own looks but Diana didn't need a psychic to tell her it was all far from good.

With a jolt, the word 'psychic' brought her back to the present. She glanced down the corridor to where Maia was sat, her tears having dried up but her eyes still blood red. Suddenly she had an odd inkling. Rory was nowhere to be seen and Diana supposed she'd gone to try Richard again. His secretary had originally said he was busy then after the events had been explained had admitted that she didn't have a clue where he was. Her head throbbing, Diana moved down the corridor and sat next to Maia. 'Hey, sweetie, how you doing?'

Her daughter didn't speak at first. She just stared into the opposite wall. Then she mumbled, very quietly, 'I'm sorry.'

'Why?' Diana queried. 'Why should you be sorry?'

'I should've…' Maia's eyes filled again. 'I should've told you.'

'Told me what?'

Wiping her eyes on the back of her hand, Maia muttered, 'I saw it happen. I saw you…'

'Oh, Maia.' Sighing, Diana wrapped an arm around her shoulders. 'It's okay. It's not your fault.'

'She said she'd stop it!'

Pulling her daughter into an awkward hug as her tears started to flow freely, Diana felt her own eyes welling up. It explained a lot. Lorelai knew that it was going to happen and, being Lorelai, she'd kept it to herself. And… and that's what they'd been disagreeing on right at the moment… Diana blinked a tear down her cheek.

Rory's abrupt return surprised her. 'News?'

Shaking her head, she drew away from Maia though kept a protective arm around her shoulders. 'No, not yet. Did you get through?'

'Yeah, finally. He's on his way. I think…' The teen trailed off as a grave-looking doctor approached them. 'What is it?'

Diana stood, swallowing down her fear with difficulty. 'Doctor?'

'Agent Skouris? The paramedics said you were on the scene?'

'Yes,' she answered quickly. 'Is there news?'

'Can I speak to you in private for a moment?' he asked, beckoning her into a room off to the side of the sterile corridor.

Rory immediately protested, 'I'm her daughter! Tell me what's going on!'

Diana briefly squeezed her eyes shut before approaching the Gilmore girl. 'Give me a minute and you'll know everything there is to know, okay? Keep an eye on Maia for me?'

'No, Diana, I can't…'

When she trailed off Diana grasped at her arm gently. 'You're strong, Rory.'

'I can't lose her,' she admitted, her voice trembling.

'You won't,' she insisted, engulfing her in a hug. Then she pulled back and followed the doctor into the compact office. He closed the door behind them and Diana looked at him expectantly. 'Can I ask what's going on?'

'Are you a family member?' he queried.

'We're partners,' she said steadfastly and without thinking. 'So I'm as good as.'

His eyes flickered sideways but he nodded. 'Lorelai's stable. However, there's significant damage to her spine. Until she wakes up we've no real idea of the extent of the damage. It could result in paralysis, permanent or otherwise. I'm sorry.'

Diana's brow furrowed as she tried to take this in. 'Paralysed?'

'I'm afraid it's a possibility.'

No… That was unfair. Unbelievable. That was the universe's idea of a colossal joke, surely. 'Can I see her?'

'She's still heavily sedated, but you can have a minute.'

When he'd left her alone in the room Diana sank down into the chair at the side of the bed. Lorelai looked so pale: it was eerily reminiscent of their first meeting. Back then it was Lorelai's mind that had given up but this time it was apparently her… her body. Letting out her breath she gingerly stroked the limp hand resting on top of the blankets. 'Gilmore, you're crazy. Why didn't you tell me?' She halted. 'I know. You know I wouldn't have let you do that, don't you?'

Returning to Rory and Maia she explained the situation as succinctly as possible. Rory, to her credit, was coping remarkably well. Diana guessed that, having spent years thinking her mother was dead, as bad as this was it couldn't be any worse than that. Maia turned her head away, presumably so she couldn't be seen crying and Diana thought it best not to approach her at the moment. Instead, she sat down next to Rory.

The teenager was shaking as she muttered, 'I can't lose her, Di. Not again. I mean, there's some freak accident and that's it! That's not fair.'

It was far from a freak accident, Diana thought to herself, though she didn't say that aloud. It still wasn't Lorelai's fault. Maybe it was her own. After all, she'd known of Lorelai's ability and had been… what, overwhelmed… by her feelings and desire to see Lorelai and Rory reunited. But there'd also been a degree of logic in there. She hadn't wanted to see Lorelai hounded and locked up by NTAC, as she surely would've been if she'd stayed in Seattle. Overtly, it would've been to help her control her power but ability manifestation was a big thing for NTAC at the moment and Lorelai would've been a prime candidate for them to learn whatever they wanted to know. They'd consider her a danger… Diana swallowed painfully. Hadn't today proved that she was? A power surge created by her own mind had brought down those power cables and subsequently the pole which had…

'Diana, are you okay?'

She glanced to Rory and tried to smile. 'I'm the one who should be asking you that.'

'You look ill,' Rory persisted.

'Well, your mom means a lot to me.' Quickly, she added, 'She's a great friend.'

There was a lengthy silence. After a couple of minutes Diana moved to sit next to Maia and was satisfied by the fact that her daughter collapsed into her arms. A little time later Richard Gilmore rushed into the hospital. 'Agent Skouris?' he said, his voice less than level.

Swiftly taking in his dishevelled appearance Diana deduced it was not only Lorelai's accident that was bothering him. This looked to be a problem days… or weeks… old combined with a new one. She stood and briefly explained again what the doctor had said, almost stumbling over the segment about paralysis.

Richard's frown deepened as he heard the tale. 'I need to call my family doctor, Joshua.' As an afterthought he looked to his granddaughter, 'Rory, are you alright?'

She nodded. 'I'll be fine, Grandpa.'

He obviously wasn't convinced but nevertheless he disappeared. Diana sighed and rested her head back against the wall. 'Maia,' she said suddenly, 'are you hungry? You haven't eaten.'

'I'm okay,' her daughter said quietly.

Rory cleared her throat and got to her feet. 'Come on, let's go to the canteen. I can't sit here doing nothing.'

'Mom?' Maia said, glancing up to her.

'I'll stay here,' she answered. 'Just in case.'

Rory nodded. 'You'll let me know if anything happens?'

'You'll be the first,' she promised, watching them vanish around a corner. Then she fell into a stiff chair and buried her head in her hands.

This was too much like a nightmare. She couldn't comprehend it. All she could think of was the moment when Lorelai had pushed her out of the way: it was replaying repeatedly in her head. She thought there was something she should've done differently, shouted to Lorelai to stay back perhaps. And now she'd be the one unconscious, wouldn't she?

Letting out her breath heavily, she raised her head back up and was astonished to see Emily Gilmore approaching her. Standing again, she questioned, 'What are you doing here?'

Emily was visibly shaken, more so than her husband in fact. 'The maid told me. Is she alright?'

Diana wasn't certain how to answer that. Instead, she settled on, 'Rory and Richard are both in the hospital: you can't be here.'

'I'm her mother, Diana.' The voice crackled with pain and she tried desperately to banish emotions from her face. 'You didn't answer my question.'

'They think she may be permanently paralysed,' she said finally. 'But they don't know for sure yet.'

Emily's head sank briefly. 'Can I see her?'

'I don't know if that's a good…'


Acquiescing, she indicated through the door. 'She's in there. But she's not conscious.'

Emily immediately pushed through into the room. Diana, meanwhile, just stood still wondering whether she'd made the right decision. She knew Lorelai's attitude to Emily; she certainly knew Rory and Richard were no fans. And yet it was… It had to be done. Emily had done some horrible things in her recent past but it was still her daughter unconscious and possibly paralysed. The end of days made you do strange things. When she herself had thought the world might be coming to an end she'd called her father, after all.

After a couple of minutes of worrying what was going on in the room she decided to go in and check. Gingerly popping her head around the open door, she found Emily tearfully holding Lorelai's limp hand and mumbling quietly to herself. Diana didn't want to intrude, but she didn't particularly care to leave either, so she stood there with her arms crossed watching the tableau from afar.

Then she heard, 'Diana, do you think I should call my Dad?'

Caught by Rory, she instantly spun on her heel. 'Oh, erm…'

The teenager's eyebrows knitted as she looked past her. 'Diana?'

Grabbing the girl's arm she forcibly led her away from the open door. 'Look, I know you don't like this but…'

'Mom wouldn't want her here!'

'I know, I know,' she admitted, feeling extremely exposed. Trying to focus on Rory, she went on, 'But if… It isn't fair on anyone to keep her away.'

'In case she dies,' Rory concluded for her bitterly.

'Oh, Rory,' she muttered, 'she's not going to…'

'She might!'

The shout brought Emily out of the room, dabbing at her eyes with a handkerchief. Her gaze landed on her granddaughter. 'Rory…'

'Get out of here!'

When the teenager turned and sped off down the corridor, Emily's head lowered. 'I should speak with her.'

Diana nodded. 'Yeah.'

Emily briefly met her eye. 'Thank you. Diana.'

She just shook her head and let Emily leave in silence. Then she let out her breath and checked her watch. It was after eight already. Diana couldn't believe she'd gotten through the day without screaming once. Having kept her composure for Rory and Maia's sakes she now found the mask slipping. Going back into the room where Lorelai lay, she dropped down heavily into the plastic chair beside the bed and reached for the returnee's hand.

'What the hell's happening, Gilmore? Hmm? This was… This was all my fault. You kept it from me because you wanted to save me. And you did that because… You know, none of this would've happened if I'd just stayed well away. I had the opportunity; the inclination. I could've just ended it in Seattle and not come here. I should've. That way…' She paused for a while. 'Oh, I was just selfish and scared,' she finally went on. 'The first person I've wanted to be with in a… in a lifetime. And I was stupid enough to think it'd work.'

For several minutes she silently stroked the smooth back of Lorelai's hand. Then she muttered firmly, 'We need a deal, Gilmore. It starts with you waking up. You've got people who care about you, people who need you. Rory, Sookie, Luke even if he'll never admit it to your face.' She smiled softly. 'Your parents: both of them. And me… I need you. You know, I've stopped myself getting close to anyone for a very long time. You broke all my rules and I don't know how it happened but I do know that it happened. I've spent the last month wishing that I was here with you and Maia and Rory.' She hesitated. 'I don't know if that can happen. But you still need to wake up, Gilmore; you hear me?'

Diana closed her eyes to stem her tears. Finally, she heard, 'Di, I appreciate the concern. But not when I'm sleeping, huh?'

Opening her eyes, she found Lorelai looking at her, slightly glazed but still incredibly alert. She let out a relieved laugh. 'I'll get a doctor.'

Lorelai's fingers caught in her own. 'No.'

'Come on, you need to be checked out.'

'No!' The voice was hoarse and the returnee immediately tried to clear her throat. Glancing to the bedside table, Diana reluctantly poured water from a plastic container into a plastic glass and helped Lorelai swallow a little. 'Thanks,' she murmured in a clearer tone.


'A bit.'

'Let me get someone, hmm?'

Lorelai shook her head. 'Please. I gotta explain.'

'You haven't got anything to explain.'

'Please, Di!'

The thinly veiled pain on her lover's face made her acquiesce. 'Do you wanna explain why you didn't tell me; is that it?'

Lorelai's dry lips pressed together and she nodded. 'Partly. I think…'

Diana let her thumb drift over Lorelai's palm. 'Go on.'

'I'm sorry,' she eventually muttered. 'I figured I knew best. And…' There was a lengthy pause during which Lorelai closed her eyes. 'You know, Maia needs you. Rory doesn't need me anymore. I mean, she wants me around but… See, I taught her so well. I gave her the life skills. I disappeared and she coped. She's an amazing kid. But so's Maia. And Maia's got a lot to deal with. She needs you for that.'

'Rory needs you, Lorelai,' Diana said softly.

The returnee smiled sadly. 'No. I can see her trying, you know? She's trying to wipe the last three years clean away and it doesn't work like that. She's not sixteen anymore. She's an adult and… She doesn't need her old mom hanging around.'

'So,' Diana replied eventually, 'you kept me in the dark and tried to save my life because Maia needs me and Rory doesn't need you?'

'And… Di... I can't lose you. This is crazy and I don't do this. I don't let people in like this.'

'I wore you down, that's all.'

'No, it's more than that. But I can't explain it so…'

Diana shook her head and leaned forward to drop a kiss onto her lover's cheek. 'You don't have to.'

Lorelai then stiffened as she looked at something over Diana's shoulder. 'Mom?'

Almost giving herself whiplash, Diana turned to see that, indeed, Emily Gilmore was occupying the doorway. Briefly, she wondered just what she had heard and seen but Emily was too focused on studying her daughter to give anything away. 'I'm sure your father's about to have me forcibly ejected.'

Lorelai's voice was trembling. 'Why are you here?'

'You're my daughter, Lorelai,' Emily answered simply.

Diana glanced backwards. 'I really should get a doctor in here.'

For a moment, Lorelai seemed unable to concoct a sentence then a look of panic spread over her face slowly. 'Di, I can't… I don't think I can feel my legs.'

Emily's face dropped. 'I'll get a doctor.'

Diana waved her thanks as the elder Gilmore left and she took Lorelai's hand again. 'It'll be okay.'

'This is it, isn't it? This is my punishment.'

'You are not being punished! Don't even think that.'

A noise behind her alerted her to Rory's return. 'Has she go… Mom, you're awake!'

'Don't tell her,' Lorelai mouthed as Diana reluctantly gave up her seat to Rory. Stepping back, she watched mother and daughter embrace and saw the tears running down Lorelai's face- half of them were from fear, she knew.

'You idiot!' Rory said, pulling back. 'Why did you do that?'

'A long-hidden urge to have something excruciatingly heavy fall on top of me?'

'It didn't knock your sense of humour then?'

'Oh, kid, nothing could,' she answered, pulling her daughter into another crushing hug. Then she squeezed her eyes shut tight.

Diana's stomach clenched. Looking over her shoulder she saw Emily enter with a doctor. 'Rory,' she murmured, 'let's give them a minute, okay?'

With obvious hesitation, Rory backed away then turned and walked straight past her grandmother without a word. Emily didn't acknowledge that fact. Instead, her eyes rested on her daughter for a long moment before she also turned and vacated the room. Diana lingered still longer, until Lorelai pressed her lips tightly together and nodded.

She arrived back in the waiting area to witness the converging of Emily and Richard. Neither spoke: they just averted their gazes and took seats chairs apart. Rory, her eyes glazy and hard, sat on the left flank of her grandfather; which was inevitably the side furthest away from Emily. To Diana's enormous surprise, however, Maia- who had been watching the scene from a little way down the corridor- took the seat closest to Emily and put her hand over Mrs Gilmore's tightly clasped ones. Emily started, obviously shocked by the gesture, but then she accepted it with good grace and bit down on her lip to, Diana guessed, control her raging emotions.

Diana had to hold it all in herself. She had no justification for expressing the amount of anguish she felt inside so she had to keep a lid on it. That was easier said than done, she realised, as two more faces ploughed into the waiting room.

'How is she? Is she okay?' Luke questioned immediately.

'Taylor said it was…' Sookie trailed off as a couple of tears trickled down her cheeks and she unconsciously placed a hand on her swelling stomach.

Rory jumped up from her seat and hugged the chef. 'The doctor's in with her now.'

'And?' Luke's fists were clenched tightly.

Diana didn't want to say it; neither did Rory by the look of it. Eventually, it was Emily who murmured, 'Possible paralysis.'

Sookie's breath caught and Rory led her to a chair. 'Sit.'


'Sit,' the teen repeated firmly.

Glancing up, Diana found Luke's eyes on her. He understood, she recognised, and when he motioned with a nod for her to follow him she did so without hesitation.

Well around the corner they stopped and he shifted uncomfortably from one foot to the other. 'You… okay?' Then he rolled his eyes. 'Sorry, that was…'

She shook her head. 'It's okay, Luke.'

'I would've been here sooner, you know, but I was at the wholesalers and…'

'You've got no idea how glad Lorelai'll be that you're here,' Diana interrupted before slumping back against the wall. 'She's petrified.'

Luke sighed. 'Hard to think of Lorelai being scared of anything.'

'I think she's changed,' said Diana softly.

'Yeah, I'd say so.'

She just shrugged. 'Yep.'

'How are you holding up?'

'I don't have the right to…'

'You're not talking to Rory or the Gilmores here. You got as much right as anyone to be…' He trailed off, obviously unable to find the correct adjective. 'Well, you have anyway.'

She almost smiled. 'Thanks, Luke.'


As she opened her mouth to let loose some of her fears to the one person she felt might understand a pounding echoed around the corridor. Diana turned with trepidation to the footsteps and found Rory grinding to a halt with a shaken expression on her face. 'Something's going on.'

Rushing back to Lorelai's room she saw doctors swarming around. Ushering Rory back towards Luke's waiting arm she leapt on the consultant she'd spoken to earlier. 'What's happening?'

He glanced to Rory then muttered in an undertone, 'We think she has internal bleeding. Her vitals suddenly spiked. She's slipped into unconsciousness.'

Keeping her voice as level as possible Diana queried, 'And what are you doing to help her?'

'At this stage there's very little that we…'

'No, don't tell me that,' she warned. 'There are things you can do.'

'Short of a miracle,' he answered carefully, 'at the moment, there isn't. It's a waiting game, I'm afraid.'

Four words stuck in her head- short of a miracle. 'I have to go,' she murmured absently, pushing out of the door despite his remonstrations. Reaching the gathered congregation she looked to Maia, still by Emily's side. 'You understand?' she mouthed.

Her daughter merely nodded. Diana then saw Rory approaching and began walking firmly towards the exit. 'Diana, what's going on?' Rory demanded, catching up with her. 'Is she gonna be okay? Where are you going?'

'I have to go someplace, Rory,' she said steadfastly, fixing her gaze on the automatic doors a few yards ahead.

Rory stepped in front of her, forcing her to halt. 'No! You can't just… You can't leave!'

'I've got to,' she replied firmly, sidestepping.

Grasping at her arm, Rory dragged her back. 'What are you doing? I thought you cared!'

Wincing, Diana turned to the youngest Gilmore. 'I do, Rory. More than you know. That's why I have to do this.'

'Do what?' Rory shouted. 'Tell me!'

Another voice broke in, 'Let her go, Rory.'

The teen was fast losing her grip. Swinging her gaze back round to her grandmother, she spat, 'Don't tell me what you do. You lost that right. The only person that I…' The anger faded into silent convulsions while Emily gazed at her granddaughter with her own anguish visible.

Diana watched as Rory flew off down the corridor without another word. Then she glanced to Emily. 'Thank you.'

The matriarch shook her head. 'You have more of a vested interest in Lorelai than I care to imagine.'

After studying the sterile wall for a few seconds Diana nodded. 'I love her.'

Emily was quiet momentarily. Then she queried, 'Can you help her?'

'There's a chance.'

'Then go.'

'Shawn? Shawn, don't hang up! Please!'

She could hear his frustrated sigh on the other end of the line but felt his annoyance matched with her desperation. Maybe he sensed it too. 'I'm getting tired of this harassment, Agent Skouris.'

'It's not…' Composing herself, she looked around the Gilmore lounge to remind herself what was at stake here. 'It's not what you think.'

'Please, tell me what it is then.'

'I need your help, Shawn,' she admitted.

He snorted. 'My help now? Oh, what is this?'

Interrupting his growing anger, she explained, 'There's a 4400. Lorelai Gilmore. This afternoon she was crushed by a falling pole. She's in hospital in Hartford with multiple wounds, possible paralysis and internal bleeding.'

There was a lengthy silence over the line. Finally, he repeated, 'A 4400?'

Intensely relieved that he hadn't hung up, she replied, 'With an ability. An unknown one, Shawn. Not even NTAC know about it.'

'What is it?' he questioned quietly. 'This ability?'

'She can manipulate electricity. She has…' Steadying herself, Diana restarted, 'She hasn't got control at the moment. She caused a power surge in some cables above her head. It started a chain reaction that crushed her.' When there was another prolonged silence, she added, 'Please, Shawn! She could be dying.'

'Why do you care so much, huh?' he said eventually.

'You wouldn't understand.' She halted. 'But if you believe as strongly as you seem to that you were all sent back for a purpose you can't justify letting her…'

'Hartford,' he cut in. 'I'll get the next plane out. I'll call you as soon as I land.'

'Thank you. Thank you.'

Diana knew she couldn't return to the hospital. She couldn't face Rory until she had some sort of concrete reason for apparently running away like she had. Once Shawn arrived she could walk in there with a resolution. She was just praying for that moment to come. Maia, she knew, would be safer at the hospital than anywhere else. Diana didn't think she could be trusted to look after her own daughter at this point. She felt too unsteady on her own feet.

Too much had happened. Not just in the last twenty-four hours. No, the last few months had been an unanticipated whirlwind. Despite the many times she'd sat down since Lorelai had left Seattle and tried to figure it all out in her head, she hadn't come to any conclusion. The junction she was at in her life before was precarious. Her one constant? Maia. As crazy as that sounded considering that two years previously she hadn't known the girl, she still counted Maia as the one thing worth carrying on for. Then Lorelai had come along, work had become simultaneously unbearable and… things had changed.

Damn right they had. Lorelai was lying unconscious, possibly dying, and it was down to her. No matter how she tried to talk herself round the truth of the matter was that Lorelai wouldn't be fighting for her life if Diana hadn't interfered in it.

Shivering involuntarily she glanced around at the family photographs, the warm environment Lorelai had so seamlessly recreated for herself and her daughter. Suddenly she felt extremely sick. Looking around for her cell phone that she'd dropped somewhere after her conversation with Shawn she grasped at it and dialled with shaking hands.

Tom answered almost immediately. 'Diana?'

'Hey, Tom,' she breathed, relieved to hear a familiar voice.

'I was gonna call but I thought your cell would be off,' he said.

'You've heard then?' she sighed, recognising his tone. It was the one that edged into conversation whenever there was a new problem with the 4400. She always detested it.

'It's all over the news,' he replied. 'The press are treating it as an assassination attempt on a returnee.'

'Well, it wasn't,' Diana said. 'There was no one else involved.'

'You were there then?' Tom asked.

First she nodded, then realised he couldn't see her and tried to force out some words. 'Yep.'

'Was Maia?' he probed.

She knew why he was asking- he was concerned for an impressionable young girl- but the guilt she felt for Maia having dealt with a premonition of her mother's death stung at her sharply. 'No,' she finally muttered uncertainly.

'How's Lorelai?'

'It's touch and go,' she said as evenly as she could.

'How you holding up?'

'Oh, I'm…' Halting, she found her eyes watering. All that she thought she'd managed to lock up began streaming out of her. She had silent tears dripping down her cheeks and she knew her voice was thickening. 'I think she might die, Tom. She looks so… helpless and I can't…'

'Hey, hey,' he cut in. 'It'll be okay. Leave it to the doctors, they know what they're doing.'

'I haven't,' she said quietly, wiping her eyes with the back of her hand. 'I called Shawn. He's on a plane.'

There was a pause. 'He agreed to that?'

'I told him Lorelai was special.'

'Because she's a returnee?'

'Yes,' she said swiftly then she faltered. 'No.'

'Diana?' he pressed. 'Is there something you're not telling me?'

'Actually, there is,' she admitted, feeling a knot release in her stomach as she prepared to confess one of her darkest secrets. 'Tom, she… Lorelai has an ability.'

For what felt like several hours he said nothing. Then, constricted and evidently tense, he questioned, 'What is it?'

Sighing at his tone, she answered, 'Manipulation of electricity. She hasn't got control of it.'

Again he was silent. 'You should've told me, Diana.'

'You weren't forthcoming about Shawn,' she reminded him.

'And you weren't exactly open about Maia's new visions either!'

Cornered, she had to agree. 'I know. I'm sorry about that. And I apologise for not telling you about Lorelai.'

Tom exhaled. 'This isn't the time. Where are you? The hospital?'

'I'm heading back there. Maia's there with the family. I couldn't… I couldn't stand it.'

'Well, you sit tight. I'm on the next flight out.'

'Oh, no, Tom, no,' she said uncomfortably. 'I can't ask you to do that.'

'It wasn't really an offer, Diana,' he replied. 'Sit tight.'

Shawn had been miraculously rapid. Just as Diana had decided she couldn't justifiably stay away from the hospital any longer he'd steamed in on a private jet. Now she was striding into the hospital with the solution next to her she felt confident.

That was until she walked in on the picturesque family tableau in the waiting room. Maia was asleep on Luke's knee with her legs poking at his ribs. The diner owner himself was awake- that was obvious enough from the grimace on his face- but his eyes were shut. Beside them sat Emily then Sookie then came Richard and Rory and next to her, with an arm wrapped tightly around her shoulders, was a man Diana recognised from photos as Christopher Hayden.

Feeling uniquely exposed she faltered. Shawn saw her hesitation and asked quietly, 'Everything alright here?'

'Yep,' she lied, her stomach somersaulting. Regaining her balance somewhat she continued walking forward.

Emily was the first to note their presence. 'Agent Skouris?' she murmured, drawing herself swiftly to her feet and striding over, though her walk betrayed her exhaustion. Her announcement alerted the rest of the group who all gazed at her; some expectantly, some quite angrily.

Rory dragged herself out of her father's embrace and pounced forward. 'Where the hell have you been?'

Maia, waking up at the shrill tone, slid off Luke's lap and ran over. Diana gratefully received her daughter in her arms. 'Are you okay?' she whispered.

'You brought him.'

'Yes, I did. I just hope…'

Pulling back Maia squeezed her arm but said nothing. Rory, however, had rather a lot to say. 'You just disappeared! Where the hell did you go?'

Emily placed a hand on her granddaughter's shoulder. 'Now, Rory, please calm down.'

'Don't talk to me,' the teenager warned icily. 'Diana, where were you?'

'And who is this boy?' Richard added.

Completely overwhelmed, she couldn't speak for a moment. Finally, she swallowed hard. 'I had to… do something.'

'Who is this young man?' Emily questioned, in a voice much softer than her estranged husband's.

Slowly a change came over Rory. 'I know you,' she said to Shawn, who himself looked extremely uncomfortable with the family greeting. 'I… You're him. The 4400 who can heal.'

'Is this true?' Richard demanded.

'Is it?' Sookie echoed hopefully.

'Yes,' Shawn said, appearing under pressure.

'Can you help her?' Emily asked.

Richard glanced to his wife, half-reached for her then dropped his arm back down to his side. 'Can you?' he repeated.

'I hope so,' he answered. 'Diana?' Shawn looked anxiously at her. 'I should get in there.'

Emily chewed on her lip. 'They're not letting anybody in there.'

'She's right,' Richard confirmed. 'The doctors are being very strict on that point.'

Luke reached over and touched Shawn's arm. 'I'll get you in there.'

The returnee nodded and pressed through the nearest doors with Luke ahead of him. Feeling a sense of uncontrolled relief Diana watched them disappear out of sight then her stomach tightened as she realised that turning around would mean coming face to face with Christopher Hayden. With that thought in mind she didn't turn back to the group, she simply ploughed on after Shawn and Luke.

Luke had accosted a doctor and was keeping him busy while Shawn slipped unnoticed into Lorelai's room. While Diana watched he pressed his hands down onto her chest and she lurched up, almost like Collier had just before he died. Mindful of the fact Shawn hadn't been able to save him; Diana's fists clenched tightly.

Inside her mind she was counting… One… two… three… four…

Suddenly Lorelai's eyes broke open and Shawn let her drop back onto the hospital bed. He took her hand as she struggled into an upright position. Diana waited for some kind of sign that Lorelai's back had been irreparable, but none was forthcoming. After first looking confused Lorelai then frowned then seemed panicked and looked around. Diana met her eye though the plastic of the door and felt a lump in her throat.

Before she could do anything, though, Rory and Richard had steamrollered past her.

'Mom?' Rory's voice broke as she jumped on her mother.

Diana blinked away the tears that were threatening to fall and turned to locate Maia. Behind her she heard the doctor Luke had cornered shouting at the influx of people into his patient's room. She didn't wait for the miracle to be uncovered.

Finding Maia alone next to a coffee machine, she flopped down in the seat next to her daughter and glanced sideways. 'Hey, sweetie.'

'Everything okay?' Maia asked quietly.

'Looks to be,' she said evenly. Then she put an arm around the small shoulders. 'I shouldn't have left you here. I really shouldn't.'

'I wanted to be here,' objected Maia with a shrug.

'Yep. I know you did, honey.' After a pause, Diana continued, 'I think, when we get home, we need to talk. Don't you?'

'I'm sorry.'

'You're not the one to blame here, Maia. I am. I got us into this situation.'

Maia didn't reply, something which Diana was grateful for. She didn't want to explain the emotions currently raging inside of her; particularly not to a child. However mature Maia seemed at times she was just that- a child. She'd already dealt with so much, it was beyond cruel to give her anything else that could be avoided.

And that, Diana told herself icily, was a sentiment it would've been worth remembering a couple of months ago.

The rest of the waiting area was empty. As far as Diana knew only Rory and Richard were actually accounted for; they were in with Lorelai. Then again, she hadn't been attentively watching where anybody was going when she'd stumbled back out into the corridor. That meant, she realised with a jealous lurch of her stomach that Christopher could be in there as well.

Maia cuddled into her side, drawing her mind away from Rory's father. Her daughter hadn't slept or eaten properly in over a day: she was the important one now. She was about to vocalise the thought that they return to Stars Hollow and rest when Emily Gilmore appeared from the general direction of her daughter's room.

'Can I speak to you, Diana?' she questioned politely.

Diana glanced to Maia. 'You okay, honey?'

After Maia nodded Diana stood and followed Emily around two corners into a quiet secluded corridor of the hospital. It was the way which led to the morgue, she recognised, and wrapped her arms around herself as the implication of that thought sank in. They'd been so close to that in reality, and that reality scared her.

Emily didn't speak immediately. Instead, she fiddled with her sleeve which was, surprisingly, already frayed. Diana deduced she must have been unconsciously unravelling her prized yellow fabric throughout the night. Finally, Emily began, 'That boy's quite remarkable.'

'I know,' Diana replied softly, allowing herself a small smile.

'None of us can ever thank you sufficiently for what you did for Lorelai tonight.'

Diana noted the use of the collective but didn't draw attention to it. 'I'm not looking for thanks.'

'Yes, I…' Trailing off, Emily then looked her fully in the face. 'I realise that, Agent Skouris.'

Suddenly uncomfortable, Diana shifted her weight onto her left foot. 'Is there something you need to get off your chest?'

'As a matter of fact, yes, there is.' Emily exhaled heavily. 'I know that Lorelai has been through a lot in recent years and I accept that I'm partly to blame for that.' When she paused Diana refrained from adding her own comment to that last remark. 'However, I still care for my daughter, whatever anyone thinks. And I care immensely for the welfare of my granddaughter.'

'I'm not disputing that,' answered Diana, wondering where this was going.

'Do you know what is best for Rory then?' Emily queried.

'Well, for her mother to be out of hospital for a start. What else would you suggest?' she added, though she almost felt where this was going.

'Rory needs what she's always needed, Diana. A family: plain and simple.'

'Families come in all shapes and sizes.'

'Please don't insult my intelligence. You know what I'm referring to, Agent Skouris.'

'Yes,' Diana conceded, shifting her weight again. 'But Lorelai isn't interested in Christopher in that way.'

Emily shook her head. 'What, not interested in creating a stable family environment for her daughter?'

'She wasn't before,' Diana reminded her.

'Because she believed Christopher wasn't ready to settle down. You haven't seen him these last few hours: he's ready to make that commitment.'

'It's all a little theoretical, isn't it? There's no way that Lorelai's going to…'

'No,' Emily interrupted in a faux-conciliatory tone. 'Not with you two being… close.'

Where was this leading? Diana eyed Emily suspiciously then cleared her throat. 'That's not going to change.'

'You care for her as much as you say you do then?'

'As it happens, yes. Though why I have to explain myself to you, I don't know.'

'If you care for her, Diana,' Emily proceeded, 'you'll allow her to make the family she always should've with Christopher and Rory.'

'You're delusional if you think that I'll just roll over and let Lorelai go,' Diana threw back. 'And this is none of your business.'

As she made to return to Maia, though, Emily stopped her in her tracks. 'It is Rory's business, isn't it?'

Stiffly, Diana turned back. 'What do you mean by that?'

'I just mean that you've obviously informed her of your special relationship with her mother,' Emily answered innocently.

Right at that moment Diana had a flashback to her first encounter with Mrs Gilmore. Back then she'd been cold, calculating and, even though it sounded a little ridiculous, quite menacing. Steadying her voice, she finally replied, 'What we've told Rory is absolutely nothing to do with you.'

'I know you haven't told her, Diana,' said Emily with a touch of arrogance about her. 'I'm certain Rory's reaction to you leaving would've been more… severe… had she known the extent of your bond with Lorelai.'

'You know, this is sounding more and more like blackmail.'

'I'm looking out for Rory's interests, that's all.'

'Like you were when you told her that her mother was dead?' Diana shot back, her fury growing. 'I've been the one defending you, you do realise that?!'

Emily took her time answering. 'I appreciate that. But this… lifestyle… It's not Lorelai! This is a reaction to everything that's happened; nothing more.'

'I beg to differ,' Diana retorted. 'You know nothing! And why would Rory believe a word you tell her? She won't; you do see that?'

'I also know Rory intimately, Diana,' Emily said. 'She's inquisitive, like her mother in that respect. She'd ask questions and if Lorelai lied to her… Well, it would almost be too much, wouldn't it?'

She needed to get away from this. Not stopping to listen to anymore rubbish from the woman she'd spent the last few days defending to her family, Diana returned to Maia with as much haste as possible. Drawing to a premature halt she tried to clear her face of the involuntary flush that had settled on it.

Luke was seated next to Maia and looked up as she arrived at the seats. 'Hey. You're wanted,' he said. 'Lorelai's been asking for you.'

'Is everything okay?' she asked, cold dread chipping away at her stomach.

'She seems fine,' Luke answered. 'Back to the same old Lorelai.'

'Who's in there at the moment then? Rory, Richard?'

'I think Rory's dad's in there at the moment,' he said with a shrug. 'I'll stay with Maia if you wanna…'

'Thanks, Luke,' she replied, hesitating then pushing through those all-too-familiar double doors again. This was becoming something of a ritual, she realised. She'd be surprised if these bright sterilised doors didn't make an appearance in one of her frequent nightmares in the near future.

Reaching for the cool slab to push forward into Lorelai's secluded room Diana felt her hand slip away from contact. Looking through the plastic that separated the returnee from the rest of the hospital, Diana saw her engulfed in a hug with Rory and, alongside and looking altogether ecstatic, was Christopher. While she watched he reached out and touched Lorelai's cheek with evident affection.

'They're calling her a medical marvel already,' an unwelcome voice said. 'Your friend made a quick getaway. Good job too, in a hospital this size.'

'I've said all I have to say to you,' Diana said icily.

Emily ignored her. 'Oh, would you look at them? They look like such the little family don't they?'

Conscious of where they were Diana kept her voice low. 'You do realise Lorelai hates you and probably always will, don't you? I am the only thing stopping her throwing you into the abyss at the moment. I don't know why I bothered.'

'This isn't personal, Agent Skouris, I assure you.'

'Like hell it isn't,' she replied derisively. 'You've been after my blood since the moment I told Rory her mother was alive. And now you're banishing me in the name of doing the right thing? Don't make me laugh, Emily!'

'I am doing what's best,' Mrs Gilmore objected. 'Contrary to what you believe, I love my daughter.'

'And your daughter,' Diana hissed venomously, 'loves me.'

'I'm sure that's what you both want to believe but… You wouldn't like Rory to discover anything would you?'

Falling silent, Diana contemplated what Lorelai thought on the matter. Emily was right: Rory wasn't to find out yet. And, perhaps, Diana would grudgingly concede she was correct on another count- from watching this family scene she would guess that Rory did desire a proper family unit.

Aware of Emily watching her, she muttered, 'What do you want from me?'

'I want you to leave,' Emily said simply. 'Before you do anymore damage here.'

'Before I...?' Shaking her head, Diana turned and walked right away from Emily Gilmore.

Luke was talking to Sookie at the other end of the corridor. Beckoning to Maia, Diana took her hand firmly and walked out of the hospital without looking back. Thankfully, Maia didn't argue on that point. Diana didn't have the strength for a fight: Emily Gilmore had just knocked the stuffing out of her. And, despite the yearning inside to turn back immediately and barge into Lorelai's room whatever Rory and Christopher might say, she carried on in a straight path to the kerb where she hailed a taxi.

She felt empty. Even with Maia clutched at her side she felt she was missing a chunk of herself. Still, she kept herself moving mechanically and barely recognised when they reached Stars Hollow.

The town was still in recovery by the looks of it. There was a huge tarpaulin over the site of the accident and investigation crews made it clear to Diana that the assassination theory was being investigated meticulously. However, there were some indications that the news from Hartford had already filtered through. The doors to Miss Patty's dance studio were thrown open and loud music was blaring out from inside. The pizza shop that lived just off the main street had a sign saying that anyone who ordered a Lorelai-style pizza got it free provided they could name all sixteen toppings off by heart.

Diana almost smiled but couldn't muster the energy. It was only when she found Tom sat on the doorstep of the Gilmore house that she remembered his promise.

Arising as he saw them he was immediately full alert. 'I've been trying to call you. I didn't know which hospital you were at.'

'Shawn did his thing,' Diana answered, not looking at him and instead going through the front door she knew was open because she had left it so herself. The living room betrayed those hours she'd spent on her own in silent and grave contemplation. Trying to cleanse her mind, she finally let go of Maia's hand. 'You go pack, sweetie.'

Maia obeyed her without comment. Tom, however, stared at her. 'You mean you're leaving?'

'What else is there for me to do, Tom?' she questioned. 'I'm already overdue at work.'

'Screw work, Diana!' he replied. 'I know what you must be going through right now. That's why I came here- to support you.'

Not looking at him, she pressed towards the stairs. 'I've got things to collect. I'll be right back.'

Upstairs she almost found herself floundering. The bed was crumpled from when they hurriedly left it on Sunday morning to attend the poetry reading that never happened. That all seemed so long ago now. It might not have happened at all for what Diana felt towards it. At the time she'd thought it was too good to last.

Kudos for being right, huh?

Dragging everything she could locate of hers hastily into a bag she returned to the living room at the same time as Maia. Tom looked from her to her daughter then shook his head. 'I don't suppose either of you wants to tell me what's going on?'

'I want to go home,' Maia chimed in softly.

Diana glanced to her daughter gratefully. 'See, Tom? There's your answer.'

Finally he nodded. 'Come on then. I spoke to Shawn. He hasn't left yet. He's on Collier's jet, might have room for a few passengers.'

Letting him lead the way Diana didn't look back into the living room. Somehow she thought her resolve would crumble if she deigned to do that. Flicking the switch in the hallway she said a silent farewell then slotted her arm through Maia's as they left the house in darkness.

Part 8

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