DISCLAIMER: The characters used in this story are not mine and belong to various people I have to contact with.
AUTHOR'S NOTE: Time got away from me and I'm sorry for leaving this hanging so long. I got caught on the wave called Otalia along with a lot of other people!
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 8

When the office phone began ringing Diana ignored it, as had become her custom. Tom, outside and in conversation with another agent, heard it and rushed in to pick up the receiver.


Since he looked at her almost immediately she could safely assume it was another one of those calls. Studiously avoided his gaze she focused on her computer screen and the random figures that made little sense to her at the present time.

'No,' Tom went on finally, 'I'm afraid she's not in the office at the moment.' There was a pause while he grimaced. 'Yeah, yeah, I'll tell her.' Slamming the phone down into the receiver hard, he glared at her. 'You didn't think to get that?'

'I didn't hear it,' she lied, still not looking at him.

Losing his anger suddenly, he sighed and dropped into his desk chair. After a few moments of tense silence, he muttered, 'That was a Luke Danes. That's a new one.'

'Yep,' she said steadily. 'I suppose it is.'

'Diana, you can't avoid them forever. You have to see that. I've fielded calls for you from Rory, Richard, Sookie… Lorelai.'

He left the name hanging in the air. Diana stood with a false air of calm. 'We've got that appointment with George Hobbs; you haven't forgotten, have you?'

For twenty seconds he just stared at her. Then he shook his head. 'No. I haven't forgotten.'

Opening the door to her dark apartment Diana almost felt her heart sink. Instead, she controlled her emotions, flicked on the light and went to make herself a cup of coffee.

Maia wouldn't be around tonight. She'd pleaded to go to a sleepover and Diana hadn't had the strength to argue over it anymore. Drawing her feet underneath her on the sofa she contemplated how little she'd actually said to her daughter in the last three weeks. Sure, she'd tried to have those conversations she knew they needed to- about honesty and a lack of omission for a start- but the words hadn't come easily. Still, Maia knew what she was trying to say and admitted she shouldn't have kept anything to herself. That mild acknowledgement had all but satisfied Diana, since she hadn't wanted to proceed into a long debate about Lorelai and the minefield that was her current relationship with the Gilmores.

That reminded her… Going to the answering machine she found it indeed flashing. Over the last week she hadn't bothered checking the messages before she deleted them but with Maia being away for the night she supposed she should.

Beep! Diana, it's Rory. Will you please call me?!

Beep! Hi, you may not remember me all that well but this is Sookie St. James from the Inn. Lorelai's friend! Anyway, we're all pretty worried about you here so… Call!

She deleted both messages immediately then went back to her coffee.

An hour later she was partially engrossed in a report Marco had thrown her on the random demographic of returnees which should've made more sense to her than it did. That said, she would concede she was having a little trouble focusing at the moment. Jarvis had commented on it more than once in meetings but hadn't, surprisingly, pressed her on the issue. That welcome reprieve had been about the only good thing to come out of the last few weeks.

For the first few days she'd watched the story continue to break on national television. There was the theory of assassination that was bandied about more times by the anchors than the Osama Bin Laden conspiracy ever was. Lorelai had shot to hero overnight; even more so when she'd walked out of hospital the next day without so much as a scratch on her. The press had then tried to camp out in Stars Hollow but a few determined townsfolk, Taylor Doose and Luke Danes mainly, had put a stop to that vehemently. The cameras had retreated but occasionally there were still mentions on the six o'clock news of the 'miracle'. Diana rarely had the television on these days.

Jarvis, again quite surprisingly, had made little comment in regard to what she evidently thought was a close relationship between Diana herself and Lorelai. After a cursory talk about the events in Tom's presence (with no mention of the devastating manipulation of electricity, of course) Jarvis had assigned two agents to investigate whether any foul play was involved. From what Diana could gather the current consensus was that it was merely a tragic accident. If that was the ball they were playing with she was more than happy to carry on the pretence.

The calls had started up almost immediately. Lorelai only at first, sounding hurt and confused in the messages she left. Those had been supplemented in later days by messages from Rory imploring her to call and Richard, supporting his granddaughter's stance. Diana had ignored every call, regardless of who it came from. She'd tried to throw herself into work and had succeeded in driving Tom up the wall with her attitude. Still, it was really little to do with him. If she didn't want to speak to Lorelai… Well, that was her business, wasn't it?

Leaning back into the sofa, she rubbed her temples. Her head was throbbing from attempting to decode Marco's meandering analysis and since she'd started thinking about Lorelai she had no doubt that the migraine was settling in for the night. Dropping the file onto the table she moved to the kitchen to take some pills. After washing them down with some water she was seriously contemplating going to bed despite the early hour when there was a knock on the door.

Fearing it was Maia prematurely returned from another sleepover, she went to answer it without a thought. Seeing Lorelai on the opposite side of the threshold knocked her for six.

'W-What are you doing here?'

Stepping past her Lorelai muttered, 'Hello to you too.'

Closing the door Diana spun on her heel. 'Answer my question,' she insisted, quite harshly.

Lorelai dropped her black handbag onto the sofa and turned back to face her. To say that less than a month ago she'd been at death's door, pale and drawn, she looked remarkably… Well, 'gorgeous' was the word creeping around Diana's subconscious. Knocking that back from her mind she watched the returnee studying her face intently while her own lips pursed, either angrily or through hurt- Diana couldn't tell which.

'I was bored,' she said finally, her tone sharp. 'I needed a break.'

'So you were bored,' Diana repeated. 'You were bored in Connecticut so you came to Seattle?'

'Call it a spur of the moment thing,' Lorelai threw back. 'One minute I'm at the mall and the next I'm on a plane, okay?'


'Well, I thought maybe your phone was broken and all those messages I've been leaving at work weren't getting through! No, Di,' she went on suddenly, 'I'm not that stupid.'

The injury she'd caused was all too evident in Lorelai's face. Part of her had hoped that what Emily had said was true- that her daughter still had feelings for Christopher and she'd waste no time in creating the happy stable family unit they all apparently needed. At least that way there wouldn't have ever been a confrontation. She hadn't prepared herself for one since it hadn't occurred to her that Lorelai would arrive on her doorstep looking as hurt as she did now. The calls were meant to trail off in a few weeks and that was the last of her experiences with the Gilmores.

'Diana, come on,' Lorelai said after a lengthy silence where Diana looked at everything in the room apart from her ex, 'you didn't expect me to just sit back, did you?'

'Oh, I don't know, Gilmore, you are pretty good at that.' As soon as it was out of her mouth she felt cheap: that was unfair and she knew it but she'd just wanted to hit out. She wasn't at all prepared for this.

Lorelai's lips parted angrily. 'Okay, okay, rewind! What the hell's going on here? Tell me, I'm interested!'

'There's nothing to tell,' she replied firmly, leaving, she thought, no room for argument.

But Lorelai had never been simple, had she? 'Like hell there isn't!'

She was saved trying to come up with another pathetic retort by the telephone ringing. Figuring it was safe to answer now, considering who was in her room, she picked it up, eager to buy time for herself. 'Hello?'


Unsure, she queried, 'Luke?'

'Yeah. Hi. I got your number from Sookie, hope you don't mind.'

'No, it's fine,' she answered, casting a look at Lorelai who was still watching her intently.

'I've been trying to call you all afternoon,' Luke continued. 'Thought you should know, Lorelai's hopped on a plane.'

'Yep. I do know, thanks.'

His tone altered. 'She already got there then?'

'Thanks, anyway, Luke,' she said sincerely, meanwhile cursing herself for dodging his call at work. 'I appreciate you trying.'

'Are you okay?' he asked. 'We were all worried when you took off like that.'

'Just had a life to be getting back to,' she answered as lightly as she could. 'Some things can't wait. Look, I'd better…'

'Oh, yeah, course.'

Placing the phone back into the holder she took her time turning around to face Lorelai again. She wasn't surprised when the returnee said, rather quietly, 'Things couldn't wait. What things?' Then her tone picked up a pace. 'And since when are you in contact with Luke?!'

'I'm not in contact with him,' she replied, ignoring the first question. 'Coffee?' she asked after a moment.

'Unless you've got things to do?'

'Take a seat,' Diana said, going through into the kitchen without waiting for any response from Lorelai.

Once in there she almost used the fridge as a crutch. This was beyond her; this being cruel to be kind. She'd never been good at it. In tenth grade she'd tried to dump her first boyfriend because he was better suited to one of her friends and that had all gone horribly wrong and involved a broken toe and a reconciliation that lasted all of a week.

Still, she hadn't felt much for Bobby Parker; it didn't really compare to how she'd longed for Lorelai's touch over the last three weeks. Seeing her illuminated under the corridor lights had just about undone her and yet…

No. She'd thought about this long and hard. Their relationship wasn't ever going to work. There was the distance, the kids and, yes, Emily Gilmore and Christopher Hayden were factors as well- she'd admit it.

Eventually, after buying as much time as she could, Diana returned to the sofa with two steaming mugs of coffee in her hands. Lorelai reached out to take one but, Diana, mindful their fingers could brush, placed it on the table instead.

Lorelai picked it up and then sighed. 'Where's Maia?'


'How's she been?'

'Not bad.'

'Has she missed me?'

'Yes,' Diana answered tightly.

'Have you?' Lorelai probed.

Not looking in her direction Diana simply warmed her hands on her coffee cup. Her palms felt a bit numb, she wasn't certain where her skin ended and the porcelain mug began. Focusing on keeping her gaze away from Lorelai was key here. She knew that with certainty.

Eventually, Lorelai took her silence as a spring-board. Placing her mug back down on the table, she started, 'Okay, I'll tell you how it looks from my side. And then you can tell me how wrong I am. That's always fun, isn't it?'

It didn't really require a reply so Diana just braced herself and sat still.

'Alright.' Lorelai exhaled. 'I remember talking to you, telling you how much I need you. And my mother's there for some bizarre reason and then… Nothing. I see your face and Rory's face and then there's just this black pond that I'm stuck in. The next thing I know I get this feeling that I think is an electric shock but isn't. I open my eyes and there's a teenager with his hands pressed against my chest. Y'know, my first thought isn't complementary but since I can now feel my legs I don't beat him up.

'I'm practically attacked by Rory and my dad and I see Luke and Sookie, even Christopher.' Diana stiffened at the mention of the name though she hoped Lorelai didn't notice the reaction. 'They tell me that it was you who saved my life. That it was you who got Shawn Farrell to my bedside to heal me. And I'm thinking that I wanna see you, thank you for what you did.'

When the returnee paused Diana briefly glanced to her, but not long enough to meet her eye. Finally, Lorelai went on, 'No one can find you. Rory suggests you might've taken Maia home and I'm fine with that because that kid feels like my own and it's already enough that she's had to live with this image of her mummy being squashed by a pole without me cutting into her sleep time. So I figure you'll come back or I'll get home first and see you so it won't matter. Because all I can think about is holding you again.'

'Lorelai…' Diana started.

'Let me finish, Di,' she interrupted warningly. 'You don't come back. I walk out of the hospital that same afternoon. I'm blinded by press and god knows who else but I fight my way home expecting you to be there and… Hey, guess what? You're not! Babbette rushes across to tell me that she saw you leaving with a strange man a few hours before. I try calling. I leave dozens of messages, I know Rory does too. Hell, I think even my father gets in on the act! But I still don't hear anything from you. And that hurts, it's on a par with being kept away from Rory but I can't wallow because I'm supposed to be happy to be alive. But all I can think is that I must've done something terrible for you to walk off like you did. I need to know what happened, Di. You can't keep ignoring me.'

'You didn't do anything wrong, Lorelai,' said Diana quietly, digging her nail into the white mug.

'Then please tell me what happened!' the returnee pleaded. 'I thought we had something special.'

'We did,' she found herself admitting.

'Then what?'

'Lorelai, I can't…' She was broken off by the brunette slotting a palm against her left cheek. She wanted to shrug it off but couldn't. 'Don't.'

'Why?' challenged Lorelai. 'Does this feel wrong to you because it sure as hell doesn't to me?'

Nuzzling her nose into the heel of the hand Diana then came to her senses and jumped up, scalding herself with semi-hot coffee but not really noticing the pain that zipped through her. 'I'm sorry.'

There was a lengthy pause then Lorelai also stood. 'You're not gonna tell me, are you?'

Though her resolve was close to crumbling around her ears Diana kept her back to the returnee. 'I'm sorry,' she repeated.

'Yeah,' Lorelai said eventually, her voice thick. 'Me too. I guess I should've kept you in the loop about Maia, huh?'

'It wasn't that,' Diana replied quietly, tears forming in her eyes as she heard the floorboards near the door creaking. A few more moments and Lorelai would be out of her life completely.

She was startled by Lorelai touching her arm and forcing her to turn around. Looking up she found the returnee's eyes firm and unmoving and then felt her own eyes well up even more. Lorelai's hand lifted almost by itself to cup Diana's cheek. 'Don't cry,' she said simply.

'I'm not,' she answered unconvincingly.

Lorelai's disbelief was let out in a small sigh/laugh which tickled Diana's nose. 'And Fred Flintstone drives a helicopter. Sure, I believe you.'

It was useless. Raising her face to the level as Lorelai's Diana watched the returnee's breathing intensify before they finally kissed. It was slow and almost painful, but Diana couldn't break away even if she'd wanted to. Lorelai was holding her tight and the world, including all her concerns, melted into the air.

Clutching at her left hand with her right Diana stayed rigid, hopeful that by doing so she'd erase the last hour or so. No such luck, though, as the bedroom door swung open and Lorelai came in with two glasses. 'It's late, I thought a coffee hit was out.'

Placing the wine down on the side table Lorelai nudged her over. Feeling the warmth of the naked body beside her was difficult to resist so Diana tentatively placed a hand on her waist. 'Thanks.'

Looking her dead in the eye, Lorelai shook her head. 'Don't thank me, Di, okay?'

'You still want an explanation.'

'Funnily enough, yeah. And don't try and fob me off. I can tell when you're lying.'

Clearing her throat Diana wondered how she was supposed to begin this, or if she was supposed to begin it at all. So much for her resolve! One look from Lorelai and she was backing out of all the agreements she'd made with herself over the past few weeks. How typical was that?!

First off, she tried to clear up some points from Lorelai's version of events. 'The only person I knew could help you was Shawn. You know, the doctors were silently giving you no chance and I could've either sat in that waiting room or tried to do something.'

'I'm grateful for what you did, Di,' Lorelai said softly. 'Another one of the things I owe you for, huh?'

'You do owe me an explanation, Gilmore,' she said carefully. 'I understand why you didn't, but you should've told me about Maia's vision.'

'If you had known you wouldn't have tried to alter it,' objected her lover. 'You knew that trying to do that might've put Maia- or me or Rory- in danger. You wouldn't have done that.'

'Alright,' she conceded. 'But it was my decision to make.'

'That's where we strongly disagree then. You know, Di, I'll apologise for keeping you out of the loop but not for keeping you alive.'

'Even considering the fact that I left you?'

'I'm hoping the explanation might cancel that out,' replied Lorelai, kissing her softly.

Diana withdrew a little uncomfortably. 'It's not going to be that easy.'

'Why? Have you already found someone else or something?' Behind the joke was a certain degree of concern.

'Maybe not me,' Diana answered, shuffling upwards out of touching range and forcing Lorelai to sit up too.

'Riddles don't work unless I'm caffeined up. You know that.'

Studiously avoiding looking to her left, she questioned, 'What's happened between you and Christopher in the last three weeks?'

Lorelai snorted. 'Me and Chris?! Are you serious?'


'Has hell frozen over then? When I was in a coma did I miss that?'

Diana shrugged. 'You're not answering the question.'

'Because it's ridiculous!' Lorelai burst out, grabbing her chin and forcing her to look at her properly. 'Nothing's happened between me and Christopher in the last three weeks. Okay? That good enough?'

'I believe you,' she tried.

'Well, you didn't answer my question,' Lorelai persisted. 'Is that good enough?'

'Yes,' she said, dragging her face out of reach.

'It doesn't seem like it,' observed Lorelai. 'Why would you think anything happened anyway? I don't get how you sprang to that one.'

Unblocking her throat, Diana rubbed at her temple with her fingers. 'You won't remember this but… I was watching Shawn heal you. And afterwards you were disorientated, rightly so, but you looked right at me.'

'I don't remember that. The first I knew was Rory jumping on me, nearly giving me a heart attack I might add. I didn't see you at all.'

'You were barely conscious,' replied Diana dismissively. 'It's not that surprising.'

Lorelai nodded hesitantly. 'Okay. So you did care enough to see me cured. I get that.'

'Of course I care, Lorelai. But… You know, you've every right not to believe me.'

'Trouble is, my lie detector's not giving me any signs here. Which means I still draw a blank as to why you just walked out like you did!'

Diana ran her hand through her own hair then rested her palm on the returnee's arm as she inclined her head in her direction. 'I felt like I didn't have a choice.'

'Because you're insane and think there's something between Chris and me?'

'You have a child!'

'Who's nineteen, Di! It's not exactly recent conception we're talking about here.'

'Do you still love him?' Diana asked quietly.

'You've asked me that before!' Lorelai retorted, her eyes flashing. 'My answer still stands, okay? Yes, I care for Chris as my oldest friend, the father of my kid and a guy who's very bad at competitive sports, but I don't have any romantic feelings towards him.'

'I saw the way he looked at you,' she argued mildly. 'There's no way he's not still in love with you.'

Lorelai averted her gaze and picked up her wine glass. 'I do have a choice in the matter; I'm not a doll. He can't decide who gets me, anymore than you can.'

Diana sighed and reached over the returnee for her own wine. 'What about Rory then? Does she get to decide?'

'I care what Rory thinks, yeah, but…'

'So, if,' Diana interjected quickly, 'all Rory wanted were her parents to be in a happy family unit, then what would you do?'

Shaking her head, Lorelai muttered, 'She's always wanted that. Me and Chris were never in the same place, that's all.'

'Well, maybe he's there now.'

'I'm not! I love you and you're not changing my mind here!'

The admission shook Diana's resolve. Slipping further away from Lorelai she drank from her glass, draining it in two hefty gulps. 'I love you too,' she said finally.

'Good. We're getting somewhere.' Lorelai shifted close again. 'Why did you leave? Tell me in good old plain English, Di.'

She exhaled heavily. 'Promise me you won't overreact.'

The returnee's eyebrows rose. 'Why do I get the sinking feeling I know whose name's gonna pop up here?'

Diana paused. 'I talked to your mother…'

'And there it is! What did that cantankerous old witch say, huh?' demanded Lorelai. 'Did she threaten you?'

'She threatened… both of us.' Glancing to Lorelai, Diana saw the fury evident in her eyes and reached out a hand to soothe her. 'Please calm down. You look like you're gonna kill me.'

Eventually, Lorelai nodded, her anger not abating much but any progress was good given the circumstances. 'Go on.'

Diana squeezed her hand. 'I don't think it was for her own ends, Lorelai, I really don't. I honestly think she thought that she was doing what was best for you. I can even see it from her point of view.' Sensing her partner's frustration, she hurried it along. 'Anyway, she guessed we hadn't told Rory yet and suggested it might be… unbeneficial, I guess you could say, if she was to find out from someone else. Then I saw you with Christopher and I just thought she might've had a point about you two being made for each other. I left the hospital, bumped into Tom in Stars Hollow. He'd jumped on the first plane out to support me and I… I got out of there as quickly as I could because I knew if I saw you again I wouldn't be able to leave.' Tale told she looked to Lorelai who was gazing back at her. 'Say something.'

Lorelai took a long time before replying. 'She's weaselling her way back in. Dad's let her back into the main house, says her concern for me was genuine.'

'Well, I believe it was.'

'Then there's the little issue of blackmail. God, she's good at that! And all the time she was… She can't see me happy, can she? Di, you were the one defending her!'

'I know,' she answered softly. 'I'm sorry.'

'And you should've told me,' Lorelai continued.

'I know,' Diana repeated, looking sideways and being relieved to find nothing close to disgust on her lover's face. 'You don't hate me then?'

'Not you. And that's no riddle!'

She half-chuckled. Then her serious nature resurfaced. 'We need to figure out a game plan, Gilmore.'

Lorelai nodded. 'We do. I have to tell Rory before she hears it from my mother.'

'And how do you think she'll take it?'

'I honestly don't know,' she admitted. 'I mean, you're right, she has always wanted me and Chris to be together. I have to tell her that won't ever happen, and I have to tell her why. And I have to be sober when I do it- that all kinds of unfair!'

Diana grimaced. 'You really think she'll take it that badly?'

'Oh, Di, I didn't mean it like that. I just… It took me so long to get back in her life and I'm… I'm scared, that's all. She's had two years of those Hartford snobs telling her right from wrong, not to mention my mother filling her in on what she didn't learn at school. I'm worried some of the mud stuck.'

'Rory's very mature,' Diana argued. 'I think she'll cope better than you think.'

'But what about when I tell her the rest?' Lorelai pressed, casting an undecipherable glance sideways.

'What rest of it?'

'That in a couple of months I've found the person I want to spend the rest of my life with and that I'm willing to move across the country to make that a reality.'

Diana bit her lip. 'Oh, that part.'

Lorelai nodded. 'Mmm-hmm.'

'Shall we talk about that in the morning then?'

'I think it might be an idea.'

Diana awoke suddenly. At first she didn't know where she was. Usually she woke up on the left side of her bed, the side closest to the door because it was easier to roll in at that side and forget the haze of the day in an instant, but at the moment she was firmly planted on the right side. Then she recognised Lorelai's slim figure on the left side and everything flooded back to her.

She'd fallen in love. Said woman had then put herself in the way of a falling pole caused by her own mental ability and ended in hospital. Woman's mother had made it clear that woman's daughter would find out if she didn't leave. Then woman had turned up on her doorstep and confused the hell out of her once more.

Except, Diana realised, she wasn't actually confused anymore. Lorelai's presence had sealed a deal that she'd already bought weeks ago- she wanted this badly and she couldn't let anything, not even Emily Gilmore the Terrible, stand in her way. If she'd noted that blatantly simple fact three weeks ago then she might've saved herself and Lorelai a lot of unnecessary pain. Yet she'd thought she knew best. Something about all her past relationships had geared her up to anticipate trouble at the first wave and to jump before she was swept out to sea. This time, though, she'd been caught in the inbound tide and there was nothing she could do about it.

Leaving Lorelai in bed, slumbering with a smile on her face, Diana went to make coffee. She was aware that she needed to look respectable going into work and knew that she looked rather and disorientated so after her first revitalising cup she went to shower.

When she returned to the bedroom whilst trying to towel her hair dry she found Lorelai strangely absent. Then a noise behind her and the aroma of coffee made her turn around.

Her lover was stood in one of Diana's own shirts that barely reached her lower regions with a cup of coffee in one hand and a cell phone in the other. 'This rang,' she said, handing it over.

'Sorry,' she replied, taking it. 'Did it wake you?'

Lorelai chuckled. 'I think it was the smell of coffee that did it. I have a sixth sense.'

'I remember,' Diana grinned, checking the missed caller display. 'Tom. It must be important, it's too early for a social call.'

Edging closer, Lorelai murmured, 'It'll just be work.'

'Exactly,' she retorted, moving towards the handset on the bedside table.

Lorelai caught at her wrist. 'Ah-hem! What happened to saying good morning?'

Diana shrugged. 'I thought the coffee did that for me.'

'No chance,' her lover answered, wrapping an arm around her waist and kissing her tenderly. 'Morning.'

'Morning.' Moving in for another lingering kiss Diana was frustrated when Lorelai slipped out of her grasp. 'What?!'

'You have your phone call. And I have my coffee,' the returnee replied, sauntering back out of the room whilst leaving very little to the imagination in the skin department.

It took Diana a few moments to sober herself up. She felt quite giddy and then she berated herself- she wasn't a schoolgirl anymore, no matter how much Lorelai behaved like one sometimes! Pushing to the back of her mind the painful conversations they were due to have in the near future she concentrated on dialling Tom's cell phone.


'Hey, Tom,' she said cheerfully. 'It's early.'

'Did I wake you?'

'Not exactly,' she answered truthfully with an intimate smile to herself. 'What's up?'

'Erm, we may have a problem.'

The tone of his voice worried her. 'What kind of problem?'

'Well, Marco's been doing a little digging. I just got an email from him. Apparently the bill suggesting a complete recall of returnees with registered abilities goes into Washington today. It's just ready to be rubber stamped and there's not expected to be an opposition.'

Suddenly her good mood sank into the floor. 'How long have we got?'

'Weeks, maximum. The vote's not being made public, not that it matters. I'm getting Alana out of the country as soon as I can. I don't know what you want to do with Maia…'

'Tom, I can't just see her back in quarantine!'

'Yeah, I know. And you can't let her go without you. I understand, Diana.'

Looking through the doorway to where Lorelai was tentatively returning, she objected, 'No, you really don't. I'm calling in sick today, Tom, okay?'

'You feeling okay?' he questioned anxiously.

'Not exactly,' she replied. 'Thanks for letting me know.'

After she'd dropped the phone onto the bed Lorelai came to sit next to her. 'That wasn't good news then?'

'Well, you could say that,' she sighed. 'Washington's deciding whether to recall returnees with abilities. We knew it was on the cards but… I didn't think it'd get this far.'

'I think Maia did,' Lorelai replied softly. 'Remember?'

Diana did remember her daughter's demeanour the night they arrived in Stars Hollow. But, despite the pressing urgency of the current matter, she couldn't help querying, 'That wasn't the only premonition Maia had on that drive, was it?'

'No. It wasn't.'

'And that's the reason she would barely look at me.'

'She was scared, Di,' answered Lorelai. 'She thought she was gonna lose you.'

Diana nodded reluctantly then brought her mind back to business. 'That didn't happen. You averted that one- stupidly, I might add- so we can stop this as well.'

'What did Tom suggest then? Anything amazingly profound?'

'No. Alana's running. He offered to get Maia out of the country as well.'

Lorelai glanced at her immediately. 'Are you going?'

Shaking her head, Diana muttered, 'I can't just leave.'

'Don't worry about me. If you can get Maia out of this, do it. Plain and simple.'

'Stop trying to second-guess me, Gilmore,' she warned. 'No. Running only gets you so far anyway.'

'You still think you can fight it from the inside, don't you?' Lorelai asked, more than a little scepticism in her tone.

'I think I stand a better chance than if I become a fugitive, yes.'

After a few moments where it seemed as though she was to vehemently argue the point, her lover half-shrugged. 'Okay. Is there anything I can do? You want me to take Maia for a few days?'

'Does that offer extend to me?' Diana questioned, looking up.

Lorelai smiled. 'Always.'

'Well, maybe. But there might be something you can do about this mess,' she said, thinking quickly. 'How many friends does your father have in Washington?'

Catching on to her thought-pattern straight away, the returnee grabbed at the phone. 'Half the damn Senate.'

Trying to massage the tension out of her temples was proving to be a fruitless exercise. Giving it up once and for all Diana waited for the bedroom door to open and for Lorelai to explain what had been going on in her phone conversation for the past half an hour.

Suddenly, the door blew open and Lorelai emerged, still in that extra-short shirt that had made Diana melt just an hour earlier. Dropping next to her couch, her partner mumbled, 'He's putting in as many calls as he can. Then he offered to get me, you, Rory and Maia out of the country and far away as he possibly could.'

Diana glanced sideways. 'He actually said that?'

'Straight and upstanding Mr Richard Gilmore, yes. Everything that's happened in the last few months has shaken him up, I think. The whole little safe world that he knew with my mother's been ripped apart and he's got a daughter who stepped out of a ball of light. Talk about your world being rocked, huh?'

'Fair point. What did you say to him?'

Lorelai took her hand. 'Thanks for the offer but I'm staying put. Do you want a coffee?'

'Please, yeah.' When her lover moved into the kitchen Diana followed her. 'Have you spoken to Rory since you jumped on the plane?'

'Well, I called her from the airport. Said I was feeling restless and wanted to fly to Acapulco.'

'What did she say to that?'

'Nothing. It was the answer phone.' Seeing her face Lorelai chuckled. 'Only kidding. She said I wasn't to get pregnant and if I made national headlines with my antics she'd disown me.'

'Sounds fair,' Diana commented.

When they settled on the couch a few minutes later Lorelai stared deeply into her cup, apparently lost in her own thoughts. Diana left her alone for quite a while, sipping her own coffee whilst Lorelai's grew cold untouched. Whatever was going on in the returnee's head Diana didn't particularly want to broach any issue. Things were still tense between them, no matter how they'd reaffirmed what they felt for each other. Diana knew that she was… not so much keeping things from Lorelai but harbouring her own worries. For one, however much she'd tried to convince Lorelai that Rory would be fine about the whole relationship she wasn't so sure about that fact herself. Yes, Rory was mature and understanding but she was also little more than a teenager. She was as susceptible as anyone to prejudice especially, as Lorelai suggested, when she'd spent a couple of years living in a closed social setting like Hartford. Plus- and Diana couldn't exactly blame her for this one- Rory would want her mom all to herself. After all that time away it was more than comprehensible. Perhaps if anything was likely to tip Rory's scales, so to speak, though, it was the fact that her grandmother knew everything before she did. Unfortunately, that was a bit of the puzzle that was beyond controlling now.

Something else troubling Diana was the recall. It had barely occurred to her in the three weeks since Stars Hollow that NTAC would follow through on their secret threat to recall the returnees to quarantine. The logic behind it was skewed; the thought of Washington even taking it seriously had been highly debatable in the first place. Now, however, it seemed almost a sure thing and Diana was frightened. She was scared for Maia and how the authorities would try and use her clairvoyance for their own ends. If Maia was back in quarantine then Diana couldn't protect her, she'd be at the mercy of people like Nina Jarvis, vulnerable to all kinds of manipulation which nobody could question. This recall was the worst thing imaginable for Maia.

Briefly, she wondered if Tom had the right idea. To get Alana out of the country was to ensure her safety, at least for the time being. But it also effectively put paid to his career as an NTAC field agent and that was the part Diana had difficulty with. It wasn't so much that she liked her job anymore, because that had gone with the appointment of Jarvis, but she cared about the welfare of the 4400. It wasn't just about Maia or Lorelai, it about every single one of them living and breathing. The ripple effect permeated every thought she had of the returnees. Now she believed fate had helped her adopt Maia, and had encouraged her to meddle in Lorelai's life. By that same token then, she believed she was meant to fall in love with Lorelai Gilmore. And the ripples of that were what exactly?

So far she'd managed to reunite Lorelai with Rory, stabilised a troubled father-daughter relationship and then she'd been the catalyst for almost getting her lover killed. Whatever happened next came directly from those facts. She still believed, however stupidly, that being on the 'right' side was her way to survive and keep the people she loved safe too. Unless, of course, the 'right' side had suddenly become the opposite to what it said on the tin. Where did that leave her? In Seattle or in Stars Hollow? In America or somewhere entirely different? She didn't know.

Turning her mind back to what she did know- Lorelai perched on the end of her seat looking forlorn- Diana put her empty mug on the coffee table and gently removed Lorelai's full mug from her hands and placed it beside her own. Then she entwined their fingers. 'You look a million miles away.'

It took a couple of seconds for Lorelai's eyes to focus in on the present. She still seemed distant, even as her lips curled upwards into a faint smile and she muttered, 'Not so far really. Feels like yesterday.'

'What does?' Diana probed carefully.

Lorelai shrugged. 'Quarantine. The first time around.'

'Ah. Good times then.'

Taking her time, her partner squeezed her hand. 'It was the smell, you know? I remember it so clearly. It was like… fear and desperation and four thousand sweaty bodies.' She chuckled. 'Everybody was scared, and too scared to admit it. I spoke to everyone for the first few days. I was convinced I was in this massive social experiment, or on reality television, and I wanted to shine.'

Diana smiled. 'I can imagine.'

'But then it sunk in and… I just thought about Rory. Constantly. I couldn't sleep, I think they finally dosed me with something otherwise I'd have been a zombie. But…' Lorelai halted, struggling. 'I didn't believe that Rory wouldn't be waiting for me when I got out. I walked into that lobby looking for her, despite everything. When she wasn't there I almost lost it. Then I got my mojo back. Took the help from you guys to get me as far as Hartford and banged on my mother's front door.

'Turned out I was better in quarantine with that little bit of hope I had left. I've never felt so… alone in my life. I mean, at least before I had Rory. When times were hard I went home to our nice little tool shed and read her a story or took her to see the ducks or whatever. It wasn't perfect but it was enough, you know?'

'I know,' Diana said quietly, stroking her hand.

'I'm still scared, Di,' Lorelai admitted. 'You disappearing like that shook me up. I let you get close and you… you screwed around with my head. I hate being out of the loop.'

'I said I was sorry,' she answered. 'I know it's not enough. I don't have a defence; only that I'm scared too. Because this is new territory for me as well, Gilmore. The last time I had a meaningful relationship was…' She smiled wryly. 'I can't even remember.'

Lorelai ran a finger up her cheek and Diana closed her eyes to better enjoy the touch. 'This is real, isn't it?'

'If not it's a pretty vivid dream.' Coming back down to earth with an almighty bump, Diana drew back her head a little. 'Lorelai, I don't wanna quit my job. I don't wanna lose Maia, or you, and I can't skip the country.'

The returnee rubbed at her forehead. 'That leaves you as NTAC's golden agent, doesn't it?'

'Well, I don't exactly want that either,' she replied with a heavy sigh. 'There's not much I'm decided about.'

'I'd noticed that. What'll you do if they recall Maia? Have you thought about it?'

'Oh, I don't know. She looks to me to protect her and I've promised her she'll be safe and… I can't even protect her from my own bosses. What does that say about me?'

'That you work for a load of bastards, Di,' Lorelai said plainly. 'Nothing else.'

She shrugged. 'I want to make a difference. I need to… do something worthwhile.'

'Look, you wanna know the way I see it?'

Diana nodded. 'Go on; enlighten me.'

'Alright.' Wrapping an arm securely around her waist, Lorelai went on, 'I see you and Maia. She's an amazing kid and she's got this gift that probably means more than any of us know and you're the one looking after her. That's a pretty big responsibility and I'd say it means a hell of a lot more than pushing paperclips around at NTAC.'

'But… Everyone else…'

'You're entitled to your own happiness, Di,' Lorelai interjected, bringing her closer. 'You can't tell me you haven't thought about it.'

She acquiesced with a sigh. 'More than I cared to,' she admitted.

'So start looking after yourself. Come home with me. You and Maia, me and Rory. Let's give it a go.'

Diana shuffled away. 'Lorelai, you're getting ahead of yourself. You haven't even to spoken to Rory yet and for we know the recall's gonna happen. It could be extended to you, it could be indefinite. Then there's your mother and Christopher and…'

Lorelai interrupted her with a deep kiss. 'Think about it.'

Defeated, Diana inclined her head. 'I'll think about it.'

With it being a holiday Maia was due to return around lunchtime. Diana had called Hayley Moore's mother to let her know that she was off work and so it was fine for Maia to be left at the house rather than with the childminder. Still, she was apprehensive. It wasn't just the Lorelai issue; it was the fact that sometimes Maia had the habit of reading her mind, delving into her deepest worries and then intensifying them. What Diana was really scared of was Maia telling her there was nothing anyone could do about the impending recall. She wanted to retain some of her hope in regards to that one.

For the remainder of the morning she lazed on the couch with Lorelai, enjoying their closeness. At times they both drifted off into their own thoughts but Diana was intelligent enough to know that if she started prying then Lorelai would pry right back and that was the last thing she wanted. She was trying to clear her head and make sense of Lorelai's offer for her to move with Maia to Connecticut.

It was something she'd actually been contemplating for longer than the morning; the idea had struck her right at the beginning of her relationship with Lorelai. The overwhelming factor there had been that she wanted to be near her, no matter what. Things were no more complex now than they were then- it only felt that way because events had climaxed so suddenly. The idea was secretly enticing her, so much so that she could see Maia at school in the town and college visits to Rory on the weekends. But, she repeated to herself, she was getting ahead of everything here. Rory still hadn't accepted them; Maia might be forced back into quarantine. There were so many things still up in the air. Making decisions now was foolish.

Maia returned just before lunchtime and immediately launched herself at Lorelai who had been dozing on the couch.

'Hey, there, kiddo! Go easy!' Lorelai complained, though Diana could see she was loving every second.

'What are you doing here?' Maia asked, finally letting Lorelai go and settling close beside her. 'Have you made up?'

'Something like that,' Diana replied, saving Lorelai the trouble of answering. Sitting at the opposite side of Maia, she questioned, 'How was the sleepover, huh?'

Her daughter shrugged. 'It was okay. Hayley snores.'

'Does she drool while she's sleeping?' Lorelai pressed, a wicked glint in her eye.

'Don't you encourage her,' Diana warned. 'There's nothing wrong with snoring. You know, it's annoying but it's perfectly natural.'

Leaning closer to Maia, Lorelai suggested in a whisper, 'Next time put a pillow over her face.'

Diana slapped her arm. 'I heard that!'

Over on the table Lorelai's cell phone burst into life with a horrific ring tone and she untangled herself to leave the room to answer it. As she closed the door to the bedroom, Diana distinctly heard her say, 'Dad?'

Shaking away her worries as best she could, she looked back to Maia who was grinning almost manically. 'Are you okay, sweetie?'

'Now Lorelai's back,' her daughter answered. 'I missed her.'

'I know,' Diana replied. 'I missed her too. Now, how about you go unpack your overnight bag and I'll make you a sandwich. How's that sound?'


'Oh, I think I can find some.' Kissing Maia's forehead as she stood, Diana then kneeled at the side of the sofa. 'Honey, is there anything you need to tell me? Is there anything I need to know?'

Smiling in a way that was unnerving and mysterious all in one go, Maia shook her head. 'Nope.'

'Why don't I believe you?' Diana asked rhetorically, heading towards the kitchen. 'Five minutes!'

After Maia retreated into her bedroom Lorelai emerged and made a beeline for the kitchen. Resting against the counter she exhaled. 'He's done all he can. The ball's in their court now.'

Diana nodded then abandoned her sandwich-making long enough to kiss her lover. 'I appreciate anything he's been able to do.'

'He erm… He sends his regards,' Lorelai added. 'He likes you.'

'I think he's under the mistaken impression that I'm a calming influence.'

'Well, he's always been a little eccentric. Maia okay?'

'She seems it. I mean, things are always a little bit weird around here so…'

Lorelai nearly smiled. 'Yep. Do you mind if I go in there? I feel like we need to talk after what happened.'

'Of course. Go ahead.' Kissing her again, Diana lingered a little longer than was truly necessary. 'Thank you.'

'For what?'

'Nothing,' she replied, turning back to the bread and butter in front of her and leaving Lorelai no chance for further probing.

Putting Maia's sandwich on the table a few minutes later she then flopped down onto the couch. Her stomach was doing somersaults as she pictured her future being decided in some air conditioned room in Washington where the 4400 were statistics and not faces. That had always been the major problem with the returnees- the people who didn't know one personally thought they were monsters. Diana could almost understand the mentality but it still irked her. Maia was as far from a monster as you could get.

The pair returned some ten minutes later. Maia hopped up to the table silently to eat her sandwich whilst Lorelai crashed down on the couch. Reaching for her hand, Diana squeezed it but didn't say anything.

A little while later, after engulfing Lorelai in another bone-breaking hug, Maia excused herself to go play in her room. Diana had the feeling it was an orchestrated move on the part of her daughter and, sure enough, a few minutes afterwards the doorbell rang.

Lorelai looked up briefly. 'I wonder who that is.'

Nervous, she went to answer it. Tom was stood, holding a bunch of flowers. 'Hey, Diana.'

Puzzled, she cleared her throat. 'Those for me?'

He chuckled. 'Erm, yeah. Here,' he added, passing them over. 'You sounded a little odd on the phone, thought I'd check in.'

Diana simply nodded. 'Right, thanks.'

Looking past her he caught sight of Lorelai on the couch and reddened. 'I'll… I'll leave you to it. Sorry.'

'No, no, Tom,' she said quickly, masking her smile. 'Come on in.'

Hesitantly, he stepped past her into the apartment and nodded to Lorelai. 'Hi.'

'Hey, Tom. The, er, weather's good today.'


'Little brisk wind going out there so I heard.'

'Yep, I noticed.'

Diana couldn't help but grin at the look of discomfort on her friend's face. Dropping the flowers onto the dining table, she perched on the arm of the couch. 'I appreciate the concern, Tom. But I get the feeling that's not the only reason you're here.'

'No,' he conceded, moving to sit in the armchair opposite her and Lorelai. 'Marco's been intercepting emails all morning. Jarvis to Washington; Washington to Jarvis. And I think…' He paused and allowed a small smile to appear. 'I think we might be winning here.'

Exchanging a glance with Lorelai, she questioned, 'Do we know why?'

'Apparently some of the more conservative delegates they were sure would support them haven't. I have no idea why.'

'They had a human face,' Diana answered. 'The 4400 became more than just a collective they'd never met.'

'And how would you know that?' Tom asked, looking between them.

Diana shrugged. 'No reason. Hey, you want a coffee?'

'Sure. Coffee'd be good. Actually, I'll give you a hand,' he went on, practically jumping out of his seat and following her into the kitchen.

'No talking about me!' Lorelai called after them.

Smiling, Diana glanced to her colleague. 'Thanks for coming round.'

'You know, I've got no desire for details but… What the hell happened, Diana? Yesterday you were… I don't know what you were but it wasn't very pleasant to be around. You've been like that for three weeks and all the time you refused to talk to Lorelai or anybody connected with her. Suddenly here she is?'

'It wasn't planned, Tom,' she retorted, rinsing two mugs and grabbing another from the cupboard. 'I fully believed that I was never gonna see Lorelai again.'

'Oh, good. So it wasn't intentional that you've made my life a living hell for the past month.'

She sighed. 'I guess I wasn't much fun to be around, huh?'

'I call that the understatement of the decade,' he replied then his voice softened. 'Are you happy?'

'What,' she countered, 'with Jarvis trying to pull my daughter back into quarantine? Ecstatic.'

He acknowledged that with a shrug. 'It's looking brighter though.'

'Until next time I suppose.' On his questioning look, she added, 'Well, this isn't the end, is it? Some people are never going to accept the 4400 into their communities, even into the periphery of their worlds. Those are the people in power or the reckless. We've seen it before. The bombings? You get a few people stirring up trouble and people get killed. The trouble is, it's not just vigilantes, is it? Half the Government want us to fail, you know that.'

Tom crossed his arms. 'What are you suggesting; that we just give up?'

'Maybe. I don't know,' she said honestly. 'I used to live for work and that was fine for me but… There are more important things in life.'

'You're serious,' he realised, frowning. 'You'd really quit?'

'Wouldn't you? Don't you want a real life for you, Alana and Kyle? One that isn't dictated by the likes of Nina Jarvis?'

'You sound like you've already made up your mind.'

'Perhaps I have,' she admitted.

Tom shut up for a minute and let her get on with making the coffee. Then, as she turned to return to the lounge, he put a hand on her arm. 'Diana, how well do you really know this woman?'

She chuckled. 'Tom, really…'

'Look, I'm worried about you, that's all. The Diana Skouris I know wouldn't be talking about giving it all up like this. I'm concerned your judgement may be a little off at the moment.'

Placing the tray she'd been holding delicately back on the counter, she looked over to him. 'Because I want a life! Did you think my judgement was off when I let Maia into my apartment?'

'Frankly, I thought it was a bit out of character, yes.'

'But it wasn't bad judgement,' she argued. 'And you even contemplate telling me that I shouldn't have adopted Maia…'

'I'm not saying that at all!' he interrupted. 'I'm just looking out for you.'

'And I appreciate that! But if you don't trust my judgement, what about Maia's? With her ability do you honestly think she'd have been okay with me and Lorelai if there was something wrong with it all?'

Finally, he shook his head. 'I guess you're right. I'm just overreacting. Still, you're a good agent, Diana, the best I've worked with. I'd hate to lose you.'

'Part of me wants to stay,' she confessed. 'I used to like my job, Tom. Now it feels like one long struggle to keep my head above water.'

'I know. I feel it too. I wish I could just give up but… Well, I can't. I'm too involved to just let go.'

'Oh, I don't plan on letting go,' she assured him. 'I could never do that.'

'So you're joining the cult?'

His light tone betrayed a slight concern and Diana shook her head. 'I mean I'll be ready. As soon as you know what you need to do I'll be there to help. But first I need to live my life, look after my daughter. Do you understand that?'

Nodding, he reached past her and picked up the tray. 'Understood.'

When they returned to the living room Maia was curled up next to Lorelai on the couch, drawing in a sketchpad. Diana allowed herself a smile as she watched them giggling together. 'Hey, you two.'

They both glanced up, Maia looking very contented. 'Hi, Tom.'

'Hey, there. You having fun?' he asked, setting the tray down on the coffee table.

'Yes, thank you,' she answered politely before going back to her colouring.

Lorelai smiled as she took the mug Tom handed her. 'My saviour.'

'It's only coffee,' he replied, taking a seat.

'Don't go there, Tom,' Diana warned, settling onto the couch next to Maia and manoeuvring her daughter's legs onto her knee. 'What you just said is close to a capital offence.'

'Well, I'll know better next time,' he said, picking up his own coffee. 'Glad to see there aren't any lasting effects from that little accident you had.'

Glancing to Diana, Lorelai then shrugged. 'Hey, if you mess with electricity you'd better learn how to run faster.'

Tom chuckled. 'I'll have to remember that.'

After considering the question which was on the tip of her tongue for a few moments, Diana bit the bullet and said, 'I haven't really discussed this with you Tom, but I need to know if NTAC are mysteriously going to find out about an unregistered 4400 ability.'

'If it should come from anyone it'd be you,' he answered. But since that's not gonna happen and I know nothing about unregistered abilities, it's not an issue.'

Diana sipped her coffee. 'Good point.'

When Tom's cell phone rang he immediately grasped in his pocket and read the display. 'Marco,' he announced, flipping it open. 'Baldwin.'

Reaching over she squeezed Lorelai's arm, nervousness itching at her stomach. Maia put down her pencil and nuzzled into Lorelai's side. Briefly, it crossed Diana's mind how much they probably looked like a family to an outsider. Then her concern returned in full-force as Tom snapped his cell shut. 'Well?'

'The motion to recall was defeated by a seventy percent majority,' he replied, beginning to smile. 'Back to the drawing board, huh?'

Tom left after half an hour, reasoning that Jarvis might question his whereabouts now her grand plan had been quashed. Maia had been in a giddy mood most of the afternoon, not that Diana could really fault her enthusiasm- she felt as excited as her daughter was. Of course, as an adult she had to have a little more decorum. That said, Lorelai was demonstrating just how far you could push the limits of maturity with frequent renditions of The Bangles into the television remote.

When Maia started yawning soon after their celebratory pizza Diana was quick to pack her off to bed. She had the feeling that not much sleeping had been done at the apparent sleepover the night before and, until she knew for certain she meant to do otherwise, she was going to keep Maia in a normal routine.

Going in to check on her daughter a little while later, Diana found her merely pretending to be asleep. Playing along for a few moments she made to close the door then flicked the light on just quick enough to catch Maia unawares. 'Ah-ha.' Shutting the door softly she moved to perch on the edge of the bed while Maia looked a little sheepish. 'Why are you still up?'

Maia sat up and then shrugged mildly. 'I'm not sleepy.'

'Well, you couldn't stop yawning before,' Diana argued, unconvinced. Examining the droopiness of her daughter's eyelids, she added, 'You look exhausted. There is no way you're staying awake of your own accord, sweetie. So why don't you tell me what's going on, huh?'

'You'll find out soon enough,' Maia replied, playing with the edge of her blanket.

'Now, what does that mean?' When Maia refused to answer, she sighed. 'Alright, I'm gonna get you some warm milk and hopefully you won't have a choice in the matter anymore. How's that sound?'

Going back into the living room, she found Lorelai leafing through a magazine. Looking up as she entered, the returnee asked, 'Is she asleep?'

'Not exactly. I get the feeling she's waiting up for something.'

Lorelai frowned and closed the magazine. 'Like what?'

Diana shook her head. 'I haven't the faintest idea.' Before she could follow through on the threat of warm milk the doorbell rang. 'I wonder who that could be.' Opening the door she again found a well-dressed elder woman staring disdainfully back at her. 'Mrs Gilmore.'

Emily simply nodded. 'Diana.'

'Wh… What are you doing here?'

'Concluding our arrangement; what else?'

Her brow furrowed. 'What arrangement?'

Lorelai slowly approached her from the couch. 'Mom, what the hell are you doing?'

Wrinkling her nose, Emily said, 'I didn't expect you to be here, Lorelai. My business is with Diana.'

'We haven't got any business,' Diana supplied, glancing anxiously to her partner. 'None.'

'Now, come on, Diana,' Emily replied icily, 'you might as well admit it.'

'Well, I would if there was anything to admit.'

Lorelai's lips were pursed as she studied her mother. 'Mom?'

Diana felt her stomach muscles tighten as she watched the cogs turning in Lorelai's mind. Emily cleared her throat and finally said, 'I had hoped you wouldn't find this out. Diana and I came… to an agreement regarding her involvement in your life.' She held up a thick brown envelope. 'This is my part of the deal.'

'No,' Diana said instantly. 'No way. Lorelai…'

The returnee held up a hand to stop her talking. Her lips were pressed together hard but her eyes were darting from side to side. Suddenly they stopped, focusing straight on her mother. 'How much are we talking? Did I get a good price?'

'Lorelai…' Diana tried but was immediately shushed.

'Twenty thousand,' Emily said eventually. 'I thought it adequate.'

'So… You expect me to believe that Diana made some sort of… pact with you, is that it, Mom?'

'It doesn't matter what you believe, Lorelai, you can't ignore the facts. Diana leaves Stars Hollow and here I am with an envelope of money. You could draw your own conclusions. I mean,' she went on with a cold tinkering laugh, 'it's hardly a coincidence now, is it?'

Lorelai shrugged. 'No more of a coincidence than you showing up here tonight of all nights.' When her mother made to open her mouth, she quickly continued, 'I mean, you've had three weeks to close this little deal of yours and you choose tonight? When I'm back in Seattle and Dad knows it? Some kinda freaky coincidence that is, huh?' Diana let out the breath she was holding as Lorelai took her hand and stared at Emily defiantly. 'Nice try, Mom. But you're forgetting one thing. This is me: not Rory or Dad and I know you. Get out of my life and stay out of it.'

When she made to slam the door Emily pushed it back open with her outstretched palm. Her lips curled into a frown as she murmured, 'I do hope I get to talk to Rory when I get back.'

Grabbing at Lorelai's arm to stop her going after the retreating woman, Diana then kicked the door shut and led her lover to the couch. Sitting them both down, she held her hand tightly. 'Thank you for not believing any of that.'

Lorelai just shook her head. 'I'm not that stupid. However much she thinks I am.'

Soothing the returnee by gently massaging her palm, Diana tried to comprehend Emily Gilmore's latest act. It reeked of desperation; a last ditch attempt to perhaps salvage her family relationships, even if it was completely illogical. But she had forced a hand at least. 'She'll tell Rory the second she gets home,' she said finally, snapping Lorelai out of her almost catatonic state.

'I know, I know.'

'There's no way you can get a flight in time.'

'Yep. I know that too.' Sighing, Lorelai gazed at her miserably. 'Pass me the phone, huh?'

Obliging, Diana kissed Lorelai's forehead then made herself scarce. Retuning to Maia's room she found her daughter, knees curled up to her chin, watching the door with a forlorn expression on her face. Sitting down next to her, Diana patted her arm. 'Sometimes I wish you'd tell me these things.'

'Sometimes I'm not supposed to,' Maia replied, moving her stare to the carpet off to her left.

'How'd you know when you're not supposed to? Is it different somehow?'

Maia shrugged. 'It isn't supposed to be changed sometimes.'

'Well, then, why do you see it?' Diana challenged gently, shifting position so she was next to her daughter on the bed.

Moving her body weight over Diana's legs, Maia tried to smile. 'So I know when something bad's going to happen. So I don't have to be there when it does.'

'That's one reason, I guess,' Diana answered, hugging her tightly. 'Now I really think you should get some sleep.'

'Soon,' Maia said pleadingly. 'Honest.'

The look on her face gave her no choice but to acquiesce to the request. She remained in the room until Lorelai knocked on the door and called her name five minutes later. With a backwards glance at Maia she went out into the lounge.

Lorelai turned as she entered. It was all too evident she'd been crying. 'Hey.'

Immediately, Diana engulfed her in a hug. Pulling back, she asked, 'It really went that badly.'

'Um, she… She hung up!' The laugh was painful to hear. 'I have to…'

'Get back there,' Diana concluded sadly. 'We know.'

Wiping away a stray tear from her cheek Lorelai muttered, 'I guess we know why Maia was waiting up!'

'Hey,' Diana said firmly, grasping her hand. 'It'll be okay. Rory's mature; she can cope with this.'

'God, I didn't even think how Dad would react to all of this!' Lorelai continued, hardly missing a beat in the hating-herself-marathon.

'Don't think like that,' tried Diana. 'Listen, I wish I could come. But I can't,' she went on quickly and resolutely. 'Not yet. If you need to talk I'm only a phone call away. And there's Luke: he understands, you can talk to him.'

Through her tears, Lorelai quipped, 'It's like talking to an unresponsive sandwich toaster.'

'Maybe not this time.' Blinking away her own emotions, Diana nodded to Maia's bedroom door. 'Someone's waiting to say goodbye.'

Before she went through the door Lorelai glanced back, her eyes still red. 'Think about what I said, Di. About the future.'

'Yeah. I will.'

Part 9

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