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Gilmore Girls Fic: The Scenic Route 1a/2

Title:  The Scenic Route

Summary:  After about two seconds with her mouth open and her eyes fixed, though, she recognized him.  The ski-jump nose, the long face.  Oh, God.  Dean Forester.  She'd just checked out Dean Forester.

A/N:  So!  This is the sequel of sorts to my first Dean Forester fic called "A Shocking Turn of Events."  This one is a two-parter and focuses on Dean and Lorelai.  However, some people may be interested to know that this fic does not conclude the journey of Dean as my cohort sendintheklowns   and I currently are working our way up to an entire verse dealing with Dean after his disappearance on the show.  Our working title?  The Redemptive!Dean verse, which is not so creative but apt enough :)

A/N 2:  This fic was beta'ed by geminigrl11   who is still to blame for all of this and sendintheklowns   who is definitely culpable in her own right.

Disclaimer: So not mine.  Though, I got to say, I wouldn't mind having Lorelai's brain for awhile because it's way fun to write.

-o-

Lorelai Gilmore was alone.

Not completely alone, of course, because this was Stars Hollow and she was Lorelai Gilmore.  Alone wasn't a concept that truly corresponded to either of those facts.  Because Stars Hollow didn't seem to believe in recluses and shut ins, which she was sure was hell on little old agoraphobic women, and seeing as she wasn't capable of sitting still for more than five seconds...

Make that sitting still or shutting up.  Because there was always something to say and always someone to say it to.  Though these days, her empty walls were getting more and more of her attention, not that she would admit that.  Quickly, anyway.

The fact of the matter was that she was a social creature with social habits in a social town.  But, despite all that, she was, for many intents and purposes, alone.

Because alone by definition meant the lack of constant companionship.  While she had her friends (thank goodness) and her parents (whether she liked it or not) and she technically had a boyfriend (which was rather amazing), but she was missing a daughter (which was really what hurt the most).

Friends were friends, and in the end it was impossible to figure out who was truly friend or foe.  Everyone from the paper boy to her great aunt once removed considered her a friend, so the word had almost lost its meaning.  Of course, Sookie mattered, as did Lorelai's associates at the inn, and there was always someone to call if things got lonely.

Her parents were her parents; an unchangeable constant, for better or for worse.  They never seemed to change, and their critical nature was as important to her life as their understated love.  Dinners were still common; being subject to their scrutiny was a given.  They made life interesting, to say the least.

Men were a mess.  Difficult and hard to manage, up and down.  True, she and Luke were making it work, sometimes better than others.  They worked so well as friends, so she was never quite sure why they seemed to struggle so much as a couple; there were times when she just wondered if their stars were crossed or something equally ridiculous.  Really, in the end, she supposed she didn't even need a man.  Not that she didn't like them.  Men were fantastic in many ways and Luke was pretty much the cream of the crop since despite all the ups and downs, all the ons and offs, he was still there.

But unnecessary.  Her on and off relationships had taught her that, even if she was currently on again with Luke.  Her world had enough clutter.  Her mind had enough clutter and bringing someone else into the mix really was just one disaster waiting to happen.  She was just glad she figured that out before she put on the wedding ring and subjected Luke to the horror that would have been their life together.

So men, okay.  She could do without men.  She loved Luke, she did, but if push came to shove, she'd done it alone before and she could do it again. But this whole daughter thing?  Much harder to cope with.

She had known men in general longer than she'd known her daughter.  That, really, was kind of a given, when she thought about how Rory had been brought into the world in the first place.  But no man--not Christopher, not Max, not Christopher again, not even Luke--could compare to what she gained from knowing Rory.  Sure, being a mom had its stresses and difficult moments.  Trying to help her daughter not have a nervous breakdown by the age of 18 was certainly a trial with an overachiever like Rory, and helping Rory navigate her own romantic messes was nerve-racking in its own right (and really, just reinforced why men in general were so totally overrated to begin with). 

Rory was the constant.  What kept Lorelai grounded, if she could ever call herself grounded to begin with.  Rory was her stability, what kept her from totally going off the deep end like so many people in Stars Hollow seemed prone to do (which, she really had to wonder, was it a coincidence?  Something in the drinking water?  Or just the slow insanity that comes from only knowing the same group of people throughout life?).

Of course, Lorelai knew that this was the 21st century.  Yes, there were fantastic modern devices like cell phones and computers which she could employ to keep in touch with her daughter and her daughter's burgeoning career.  And of course she used every one of them.  Learning to text message had been a trial, but she was an old pro at it now, and she had the phone bills to prove her consistent and stalwart efforts to remain constant in Rory's life.

But still.  It was different.  Texting meant keeping words to a minimum, a talent she had never possessed.  Email was okay and it allowed her a much higher word quota but the run-on sentences even gave her a headache when she was the one writing the email (and Rory, despite her journalistic expertise, was not all that concise herself when it came to personal emails).  Phone calls were their best bets, but getting ahold of Rory these days was a bit of a trial.  Because, while Lorelai seemed to be settling into her life, Rory's was just beginning.

Lorelai remembered times like that from her own youth.  Times of excitement and the promise of meeting people and going out.  With Rory so hard to track down, she was beginning to realize a terrible fact: she was getting old.

She wasn't an overly vain person, but she was a woman, a sometimes-single woman who was rapidly approaching the days when the concept of beauty would be a fleeting memory.  She was becoming the age of the woman she critiqued: actresses past their prime, super models in the magazines who were turning pruny and pinched as their bodies wore out.  She was getting ma'am-ed more often than not and she was starting to tell stories about when she was a child.

It was positively wrong.  Reprehensible.  Yet a slow decline that she couldn't prevent.  Perhaps she had been harsh on Joan Rivers and the extensive plastic surgery.  Lorelai wasn't running out there trying to cling to some notion of her youth that was gone, but it damn well wasn't fun realizing just how far away it was.

Normally, it wasn't that bad.  When she was sane and not feeling melodramatic (which really did happen more than Luke ever liked to admit--it wasn't her fault that he was the epitome of mundane when it came to emotions), she coped quite well with being older.  She wasn't walking around in skimpy clothing, she hadn't whaled out from a lack of activity.  She was still with-it enough to pass as a normal person (most of the time) and she was steady enough with Luke that she didn't look like a pathetic old maid.

Now if she could just find someone to talk to, someone to connect with, someone like Rory, then she'd be all set.

Too bad having another daughter was kind of out of the question.  Even if it wasn't, it wasn't like she was looking to get knocked up.  Not that she didn't want to from time to time.  But she could only imagine what kind of conniption fit Luke would throw.  The poor man struggled enough to be a father; she didn't need to splice their jointly defective DNA together to create a new life.  She was almost afraid to imagine what that would entail.

Besides, having a child now would make her practically decrepit by the time the kid was old enough to really enjoy.  Rory hadn't gotten past the needy and difficult stage until she was well into her teens, and even then, it was hit or miss.  By that time a brand-new kid hit that age...well, by that time the kid would have to visit her in a nursing home, with Lorelai struggling to remember his/her name.

And really, Lorelai didn't want another child.  She wanted Rory.  She could never begrudge her child's success, but she had to admit, it would have made her very happy to see Rory successful right there in Stars Hollow.

But it wasn't what Rory wanted.  And even before what Lorelai wanted for herself, she wanted what was best for Rory.

Damn being a mother and the altruistic current that came with it!

All this meant was that Lorelai had more time on her hands, as scary as that was.  There was a Rory-sized hole that was pretty hard to fill.  So she had taken to developing some hobbies.

Her attempt at knitting had been a disaster from the start.  She had thought it would be a wise choice considering her affinity for the sewing machine.

She was wrong.

Her mother had been more than a little befuddled at her request for yarn, and Luke had been downright afraid of her with those knitting needles (and true, she did have a habit of leaving them in inconvenient places--the bathroom, the kitchen drawer, between the couch cushions with the pointy end up).  Her first and only project had been a dilapidated scarf that Luke had worn for approximately five minutes before Lorelai was so ashamed that she made him burn it.  Truly.  Right there in the fireplace.

Then, there had been rose mauling.  Honestly, she had just liked the name; mauling roses certainly sounded like something she could get into.  When she discovered it involved paint and precision and patience, her interest had waned, and she was left with a stock of paints and brushes that she wasn't quite sure what to do with.

There had been the guitar after that (until her A string broke and now the poor instrument sat collecting dust in Rory's old room), her fanciful notion of writing a novel (until she realized that Rory's literary talents surely came from Christopher, not her mother), her jewelry making, her coin collecting--and the list could go on, if she could only remember the rest of it.

Her current effort was something that was time-consuming, good for the environment, and beneficial to the town.  Perhaps with all these positive qualities, Lorelai thought, she might be able to stick with it.  It did require a little bit of getting dirty, but that was all the more reason to go buy some new "work" clothes.  And a hat.  A big one.  Floppy, with a bow. 

Because she was going to garden.

Plants, of the floral variety.  She had considered vegetables and other produce, but those required more manual labor--tilling ground and whatnot.  She just wanted some pretty flowers--she could live off pizza and Luke's cooking for the rest.  So, just flowers.  In pots and along the walkway, that kind of thing.  Which was how she ended up in her overalls, hat on her head and trowel in her hand, outside, that afternoon.

There was nothing special about it.  Just another afternoon in a long line of afternoons that had no particular distinction.  Luke was at work because Luke was always at work.  The inn was running fine.  And all Lorelai had to do was sit around and garden.

Her plants, though, despite her best dutiful efforts, were struggling.  They were withering and turning brown and looking positively sick.  She couldn't figure out why.  She watered them and talked to them (and they liked that, she was sure) and even plucked the weeds from their vicinity.  Yet the things seemed determined to up and die.  Which was about the worst thing ever.  She didn't really like playing in the mud and knowing that she'd done all this to end up with a brown-filled front yard?  Was positively mortifying.

Anyway, that was when Lorelai saw him.

She'd seen him before.  Many times.  But at first, she didn't recognize him.  Because if she had, her first thought wouldn't have been damn, he's attractive.

He was.  Tall and lean but with muscles packed on hard beneath the t-shirt.  Floppy brown hair, sun-streaked and curled at the edges.  A long gait, his hands stuffed in his pockets.  Though he was fully dressed (damn), she could easily see that his arms weren't the only parts of him that were well-muscled.  It didn't matter what age she was, what age he was, she knew how to appreciate the goods when she saw them.

Okay, so she was becoming a dirty old woman.  Gawking at the attractive young hunks from her front yard.  It was possible that this gardening thing wouldn't be a complete loss after all.

After about two seconds with her mouth open and her eyes fixed, though, she recognized him.  The ski-jump nose, the long face.  Oh, GodDean Forester.

She'd just checked out Dean Forester.

Her daughter's first boyfriend, Rory's first love.  Nearly twenty years her junior.  She'd just ogled and gotten a bit turned on by Dean Forester.

"Dean Forester!"

So she hadn't really meant to say it out loud, and she wasn't sure if it was the shock of seeing him or the shock that she'd just checked him out, but it was out of her mouth before she could stop it.  That was sort of the way her mouth and brain worked.  They didn't like to confer before either decided on any action.  She wondered if that could be perhaps some kind of cognitive disassociation, but then again, she wasn't sure she wanted to know.

The brown-haired head jerked up, startled, then sheepish.  He smiled.

It was so familiar.  The dimples, the curves of his mouth.  The same Dean that Rory had first brought home, the same Dean that Rory had first fallen in love with.

Not exactly the same, of course.  He was older now, and his face had filled out some.  He didn't look like a bean-pole that could be snapped by a strong wind anymore.  His skin was more tanned, his hair even more untamed than ever.  Lorelai had to admit, he looked good.  Not just in the way that dirty old women looked at young boys and thought they looked good but he just looked good.  Healthy, happy.

He slowed at her sidewalk, lingering at the end.  "Lorelai," he said, digging his hands deeper into his pocket.  "It's good to see you."

She wiped her hands on her overalls and put her hands on her hips, moving toward him and squinting in the sunlight.  "It's good to see you, too," she said.  "Surprising, but good.  I heard you were in college."

Dean nodded.  "It's summer," he said.  "I took a few classes but I've got about a month before I have to go back and I figured my parents would want to see me."

"Parents usually do," she concurred.  "They like to know that their children are still, you know, alive and well and remember who they are.  It makes us feel better about ourselves."

Dean laughed.  "Yeah."

"So, where are you off to?" Lorelai prompted, noting again his casual clothes.  Walking around the streets wasn't illegal or unusual or anything, but usually it meant someone had someplace to be.  Otherwise, such a person would be inundated with speculation and questioning, much like Dean was now.

She had lived here too long.

If she couldn't beat them, join them, and let common decency and respect for privacy be damned!

Besides, she'd already asked the question.

"Just heading to town," he said, shrugging noncommittally.

It sounded like a fine answer, but going to town didn't usually mean wandering around neighborhoods in the opposite direction.  Maybe he was hoping that this was just polite chitchat.  Or that she had forgotten basic geography.  Poor kid.  Forgot who he was talking to.  "Taking the scenic route?"

A hint of blush colored his cheeks.  "Well, walking lets me think," he admitted.  "Sometimes it's hard being at home."

"Ah, yes," she said, the pieces clicking.  "You come home for your parents, but there's only so much parenting a kid can take.  I feel your pain.  Just don't settle close to them.  You'll be dealing with them the rest of your life."

"Somehow I don't get the sense you really believe that."

She shrugged.  "Maybe not.  But it's still good advice even if I would never want to follow it myself.  One of those things that really makes sense in theory yet when we try to do it, our emotions get all tangled and in the way and make a generalized mess of things.  Very typical, I'm afraid."

"Yeah, the human condition," he agreed.  "We all end up doing stupid things because they seem right.  Sometimes they are, sometimes they aren't."

It had been casual, if awkward, up to that point.  But that just sounded sad.  Regretful.  Well, the kid wasn't stupid.  He did know who he was talking to--someone who knew all about his mistakes and regrets and probably didn't feel like he'd made many choices right at all.  Which, really, he hadn't.  This was the kid who had taken her daughter's virginity, which was never an easy thing for a mother to really deal with.  And it wasn't so much the whole virginity thing (because God knew he did love Rory and that daughter of hers, despite her perfection, was going to lose it sometime), but the fact that he'd done it while he was married.  Not exactly the epitome of responsibility.  Needless to say, she hadn't expected it of him, but she'd watch the kid self-destruct after Rory.  She shouldn't have been surprised.

When he disappeared from Rory's life for good, it wasn't like Lorelai was surprised.  Rory hadn't loved him, not at that point, anyway. She loved the idea of him, she loved the stability and dependability (after Jess' spontaneity burned her--Rory should have seen that coming), and damn it, all of that was as much Rory's fault as Dean's because it was so clearly obvious that he was nothing but goo around her.  Always had been, even from the very start.  Every mother's dream for her daughter's mate.  Which was why Lorelai had liked him so much to begin with.  But when that guy is bonded to another girl, when that guy is married...well, it made him a little less likeable.  A lot less.

Complicated.  That was all.  Complicated, and Dean may have loved Rory but he had too many issues of his own to work out at that point.  Lorelai knew that.  She understood it.  And while she hadn't talked to him since he walked away that last time, she never really hated him.  A little, probably, because of that whole virginity and adultery thing that wasn't so cool.  But she wasn't blind enough to see him as solely responsible, just solely screwed up in the head.  She pitied him more than anything, and from the look on his face, he pretty well knew it.

So, she smiled.  Years had passed.  Rory had made more mistakes (did she even need to think about Logan?) and had more successes (an Ivy League degree was rather substantial, by anyone's standards).  And Dean--well, Dean was a man now, and Lorelai could only hope that he'd grown into that role.  "That's what they say.  Stupid is as stupid does."

His brow furrowed.  "I never understood what that means."

"Me neither," she said.  "But really, it doesn't matter.  Sounds wise and all.  And if it worked for Tom Hanks, then I figure it would probably work for us since he is an award winning actor and all."

"And a stable one at that," Dean agreed.  "Doesn't seem nearly as flighty as most."

She nodded sagely.  "Yep, no 21 day incarcerations for him.  So he's probably pretty trustworthy."

"You still do movie night?"

"Eh, sometimes," she said.  "There's a plethora of horrific movies to entertain, but I'm sorely lacking in viewing partners.  Somehow critiquing it to myself just isn't as much fun.  No one to laugh at my accent, and really, if there's no one to laugh at the accent, then you're just talking to yourself with an accent.  And it makes you look far more insane.  Not to mention the calories wasted on downing the entire bag of popcorn by yourself."

The sunlight ducked behind a cloud and her eyesight eased, focusing in on his face. "That's right," Dean said, crossing his arms across his chest.  "Rory's moved.  To...?"

"Oh, everywhere and nowhere all at once.  She was on the campaign trail for a while."

Remembrance flitted across his face.  "Right, right," he said.  "Seems like her kind of thing."

Lorelai smiled, a little forced and made a grand motion with her trowel.  "You know kids, they want to see the world, or at least the fifty states.  Be crazy.  Go places.  Following the dream."

"Well, if there's one thing true about Rory, it's that she gets what she wants," Dean said.  "She doesn't know how to settle."

There was something wistful in his voice, something almost sad, and suddenly he was 18 years old again and sitting on her front porch saying, She likes Jess, doesn't she?  If anyone knew about Rory and her tenacious grip on her dreams--at any expense--it was Dean.  Dean who had given Rory her first kiss, her first love, her first time, her first everything it seemed.

But Rory was her daughter.  Dean was just the boyfriend who hadn't quite made the cut.  She had to pick her daughter over him, not that it was a contest, but offering him sympathy almost seemed damning.  Betrayal.

And Lorelai was many things and had probably betrayed many people (she would never ask Luke about that) but never Rory.  Not her Rory. 

Still, it seemed wrong not to cheer the kid up.  He looked practically like a kicked puppy and she was the type to help kicked puppies.  Assuming, of course, that they were cute and small and friendly.  And potty-trained.

Dean was surely potty-trained.  He had the cute thing down.  Not so much the small, but friendly, probably.  And did she mention cute?

"So what about you?" she asked, realizing she had yet to really ask him about himself.  "I heard you got into UConn.  You know, after that whole electrocution thing."

He smiled meekly, the flush returning to his cheeks.  That flush wasn't shame, though, not to her oh-so-discerning eye.  It was embarrassed pride.  He just seemed sorely out of place with it, like he wasn't used to people caring.  "Yep."

"What are you studying?" she prompted, a little over-zealous.  She could be zealous under normal circumstances and when the person she was talking too seemed to be lacking in that area, she went into overdrive.  She had to compensate, of course.  Because every conversation needed to be zealous or it just didn't feel right and if one person was decidedly un-zealous, the other person had to make up for it.  It was surely some unwritten rule.  Probably some obscure type of etiquette her mother could lecture her about, should Lorelai desire such a lecture.

Funny that she was never the un-zealous one.  Nor was that a lecture her mother ever felt compelled to give her, and her mother had felt compelled to give her just about every other lecture imaginable.

Un-zealous wasn't even a word.

"Engineering," he replied.

"Right!" she exclaimed.  "You always did have that thing with cars.  Fixing them and building them.  Even impressed my dad with that one."

Impressed might have been an exaggeration, but it didn't matter that much.  Considering her father's first impressions of Dean, the begrudging admission that he'd been too hard on the boy was quite a feat for the kid to score.

A shy smile crept across Dean's face and Lorelai sensed victory.  People liked compliments.  Compliments were good.  Compliments made him look less like a kicked puppy and more like the strapping young man he surely could be.  That would be a sight to see.  Dean in full form.  He had the form and the figure and the looks--now he just needed the self-confidence.  She couldn't give him that, but she certainly wasn't going to leave him as the kicked puppy.  What kind of dirty old woman would she be if she did?

"It's a lot of work," he admitted, and she noticed a shift in his voice.  It got deeper, strong.  His shoulders straightened, almost timidly though.  Like he wasn't sure it was okay to be proud.  "But it's been good.  I'm already looking into internships for next year. Something with a major auto company.  I might even get in with GM."

"GM--good American brand," she said.  She tapped her trowel on her overalls thoughtfully.  "I always thought it was a shame they got rid of Oldsmobiles.  Not that I ever had one, but I never thought they were so bad.  I think it was the name.  Oldsmobile.  Who wants to buy a car with old in the name?  Much less mobile.  I mean, it's like they're marketing it specifically to people who miss the days of no seatbelts and glass that shattered."

"They could have called it the Newsmobile," Dean suggested.

She made a face.  "But then people might expect it to deliver newspapers or something."

"That'd be their marketing ploy," Dean suggested.  "Comes with a daily subscription to your newspaper of choice."

"Ooh, I like it," she said.  "Very modern.  Very journalistically-minded.  Rory would love it."

At that, his smile faltered slightly, but stayed strong.  "At least they could count on one buyer."

"Two," she jumped in quickly.  "Because of course I'd need to have one to follow Rory's writing.  And I'll bet my parents would get one, too. Maybe two or three.  They like to have cars to sit around and do nothing with.  I guess it makes them feel rich."

Dean chuckled a little, looking down.  When he looked back up, his bangs over his face, she realized suddenly how much he'd grown.  He wasn't the same kid--not the one who had fallen for Rory, not the one who had clung to her so hard, not even the one who'd made a mess of his marriage.  He was someone else, someone stronger--not quite self-confident, but someone who knew how to make it.  Someone who was making it, only without the flash and flair.

"Well," she said. "You have quite the future in the auto business.  Be sure to pitch the Newsmobile in your classes."

"I will," he said.  "And don't worry, you'll get some of the credit."

She snorted a little, feeling herself relax.  She remembered this.  The joking.  The camaraderie.  Why this kid was so lovable to begin with. 

"So you're...gardening?" Dean asked, noting for the first time her overalls and trowel.

"Yeah," she said.  "It was either that or try to find animals in the clouds and since it's a clear day, I guess my eyes are earthbound.  Not that it's doing any good.  They all seem to die.  My yard looked better before I paid attention to it."

"Well I can tell you right now if you move your pots off the porch, they'll do better."

Brow furrowed, Lorelai looked at him quizzically.  "And you know this how?  Some almighty connection with the plant world?"

He laughed a little.  "My grandmother gardened a ton," he said.  "Every time I visited her, she spent hours out there and would just talk and talk and talk about flowers and how to make them grow.  You've got sun plants in a shady location.  Never a good mix."

"There are sun plants?"  That was news to her.  Did the plants simply speak a language she wasn't listening to?

"Did you even read the tags when you bought them?"

"The tags?  The thing that said the price?"

"And the name and the care instructions.  Just turn them over."

She considered that for a moment.  "I was really more concerned with what color they were."

"Well, I'm pretty sure brown wasn't what you were going for."

"Hey," she said with mock indignation.  "Brown is a universal neutral.  It goes with anything."

There was a twinkle in his eye now, subtle and withdrawn but there.  The kicked puppy was receding.  "The wilting look isn't quite in, though."

"Awww," she said and reached out to shove him backwards.  "I thought you were an engineer--"

She was going to say not a gardener.  That was the joke, or the line, really because there was no real punch line to it.  It still would have been cute enough, funny in that friendly way of two pals bantering.  Not that they were necessarily friends, but old acquaintances, and who was to say that friendship was out of the question?  She was accepting that she was a dirty old woman and Dean hadn't been Rory's boyfriend in years and surely there was some kind of statute of limitations on how long she had to distance herself from Rory's exes.  Not that she wanted to see most of them.  Jess had been a self-absorbed, angst-riddled degenerate most of the time and Logan had been far too pure-blood for Lorelai's tastes, but Dean had always been more her kind of people.  Down to earth.  Marginally sane, except for the whole temper and cheating on his wife thing, but she was trying to give him the benefit of the doubt at this point.

So it would have been the perfect thing to say, were she not so busy talking with her hands.  It wasn't a totally uncommon problem for her, but Dean apparently had forgotten that about her.  He hadn't dated Rory in, well, years, so Lorelai supposed that part of her was forgettable.  Or perhaps she merely underestimated her own shock. 

Because, clearly, it was not going to be her day.  Or his for that matter.  Coincidence was working against them.  Casual conversations were nice and all, but what happened next--

Well, you had to see it to believe it.  And Lorelai did see it and she still wasn't sure she believed it.

Because Dean took one step back.  One small step--hardly anything.  And it was that exact moment that a bike came by.

Not some little kid on a trike or something.  But a bike.  A big one.  Going pretty fast.  And straight.  Right into Dean.

It was almost comical: Dean pinwheeling, the bike plowing.  But the collision was nothing like she could have imagined.  Not that she had often imagined bike/human collisions, because really, who did?  She had heard of cars hitting bikes and deer hitting cars, but bikes hitting people?  On the sidewalk?  In Stars Hollow?

Well, if it was going to happen anywhere, figures it'd be there.

Dean took the brunt of the impact in his legs, the front wheel careening into him and tangling his ridiculously long legs.  The force jarred him to the side, knocking him totally off balance and he barely even teetered before being propelled by the bike's force to the pavement.

The collision looked like it hurt.  Bike wheel to the leg didn't sound pleasant (metal and rubber moving at a high velocity slamming into flesh and bone, after all) and Lorelai couldn't be sure that something else more vital didn't get nicked.  But the impact with the ground?  Looked vicious.

Falling wasn't fun under good conditions, and this happened so fast that Dean didn't even have time to brace himself.  He went down hard and graceless and in the spinning of wheels and sound of metal thwacking, Lorelai couldn't miss the resounding crack.

At first, she thought it might be a broken bone.  Arm or leg or something.  Unpleasant but not uncommon.  But it was much worse than any broken bone--it was Dean's head.

Dean smacked his head against the pavement, lying prone as the bike's momentum churned it forward.  The rider was rapidly losing his balance, entwined with the bike, falling hard on top of Dean's already flattened figure.

It was like something from a movie.  Maybe even the Three Stooges.  It was just that ridiculous.  Dean on the ground, sprawled, and the bike and rider on top, wheels spinning free and the rider grappling to stand.

Only in Stars Hollow, Lorelai had to admit.  This was exactly the kind of thing to happen here.  Forget drive-by shootings and gang violence.  They had runaway bicycles and freak collisions with pedestrians.  What could make it better?

The bicyclist wasn't just some random kid.  Nope.  It was Kirk.

"Kirk!" she said.  "What are you doing?"

The man was looking for his bearings, trying to find a way to get himself up and off the ground--or up and off Dean, as it were.

She winced as he rocked, any movement he made impacting hard on Dean.

"I...I..."

Reaching down, she pulled at the bike, tugging it until it cleared Dean's legs.  "Get up!"

"I'm trying!"

He was trying, in the uncoordinated Kirk way in which effort never meant success.  "Try harder!"

She yanked again, harder now and Kirk yelped.  "Careful!  That's a prototype!"

It pulled free and she tossed it aside, looking at it for the first time.  It had the look of a bike, more or less, with the wheels, the seat, and the handlebars.  But it had something strapped to it, some kind of weird contraption oddly placed where a water bottle should have been.  In fact, it looked rather ridiculous, like someone had had way too much fun with duct tape.  Which really, she was pretty sure Kirk had.  Kirk and duct tape was a scary combination.  Though it also gave her a pleasant image in her mind of him taped to a chair with a strip over his mouth. 

Focus.  She needed to focus.  "A prototype?"

"My latest invention!" Kirk exclaimed, rolling off to the side.  "My attempts to develop a motorized bicycle."

"Yeah, it's called a motorcycle," she said, looking disdainfully at the thing again.

"Does that look like a motorcycle?" Kirk accused.

He had a point on that one.  It looked more like an inept geek's attempt at a science experiment.  "I'm still not getting the point," she said.  "Motor plus bicycle equals motorcycle."

Kirk would not be dissuaded.  "No, no," he said.  "Still run partly on manpower which charges a battery to give the bike extra periods of zest for long distance travel.  It's quite ingenious.  The perfect mix for exercise and travel, not to mention environmentally-friendly in these days of oil woes."

She just looked at him for a moment, a bit perplexed, a bit annoyed, when she remembered Dean.  He was far less difficult to deal with than Kirk was.  "Dean," she called.  "Hey, Dean."

The kid was still sprawled on the ground, looking rather limp.  He was mostly on his back, though his legs were askew from being tangled with the bike.  His head was tilted to the side and his eyes were closed.

"Oh, God!" Kirk exclaimed.  "Is he dead?"

She scowled at him, squatting.  "Dead people usually don't breathe," she said, noting the steady rise and fall of Dean's chest.  "Your ingenious motorcycle wannabe isn't that powerful."

"It's a motorized bike!"

"Whatever," she muttered, reaching a hand out to rouse the kid.  All that maturity she'd seen before, all the age and growth, seemed to shrink away in his unconsciousness.  He didn't even look like a kicked puppy.  He simply looked like he was five, and that made her heart tighten in her chest.  Because if there was something worse than looking at a kicked puppy, it was looking at a wounded five year old.

"Is he okay?" Kirk asked suddenly, as if he'd finally realized there were people in this world outside himself.  Moreover, not that there were just people, but people that he had apparently run over with a bicycle.  Running over pedestrians was probably not a good launch for any prototype.

Lorelai ignored him (for now, anyway, she'd deal with him and his damned bike when she had time to thoroughly chastise him) and touched Dean's shoulder.  "Dean," she said.  She shook the shoulder lightly (not noticing how firm it was, of course not, that would be entirely inappropriate at a time like this, at a time like ever).  "Hey, Dean."

And there it was.  A groan.  A fluttering of eyelids.

Sitting back on her heels, she smiled as he came to, relieved.  Because while Kirk may have been the idiot riding some sort of motorized bike, she was the idiot who had accidentally knocked Dean into Kirk's wayward path.  Not that she was about to admit that to Kirk by any stretch of the imagination, but she couldn't deny it to herself.  Not yet, anyway.  If she gave it a few days, she was pretty sure she could rationalize anything, but first things first--she needed to make sure the kid was okay.

Dean's hand went to his head and he used the other to slowly prop himself up, still blinking slowly.  So he no longer looked five, but still only looked about ten, which was better than five, she supposed, but her maternal instincts still went into overdrive when it came to wounded ten year olds.  "Dean?" she asked again, trying to get a look at his face.

He squinted, looking up at her, more than a little dazed.  That probably made sense.  After all, that thunk had been rather meaty.  Hello, pavement, meet Dean's head and all that.  Not to mention that it had rendered him unconscious.  She'd seen a lot of fluke accidents in her time, but very few had resulted in anything serious, and really, a loss of consciousness was quite serious.  In fact, it kind of freaked her out--all that absence of awareness where the mind just shuts down.  She didn't want to experience it herself, and so of course she wasn't about to wish it on anybody, especially not Dean Forester, no matter how he took her daughter's virginity and cheated on his wife.

Those were other issues for other times.  She needed to focus.  Dean.  Motorized bike.  Head injury.  Because he still wasn't saying much and that confused look in his eyes took him back down to the age of eight. 

"Dean?" she tried again.  "Say something there, kiddo."

"Lorelai?"

Well, he knew who she was, which she figured was pretty good.  She couldn't be high on his list of essential things to remember, so his memory was probably pretty intact.  She smiled again.  "The one and only.  How are you feeling there?"

He fingered the side of his head, and for the first time Lorelai could see the abrasion and trickle of blood coming from around his hair line.  "My head hurts."

A bit concerned, she reached out and turned his head so she could see.  Sure enough, road rash, and a nice gash.  Didn't look too deep, but it didn't look like fun.  "Yeah, that happens when you hit your head."

He pulled away a little.  "What happened?"

Okay, so much for the memory thing being an all-clear.  "You don't remember?"

His brow furrowed (oh, come on, he looked five again) and he shook his head slowly, almost cautiously.  "Uh, I got hit?"

So it was a guess, but a pretty good guess, and perhaps it all happened so fast that he didn't really have time to process it.  "Yeah," she said.  "Kirk mowed you over with his bicycle."

"Motorized bike!" Kirk interjected, huffing angrily.  "And I did not mow him over!  He stepped in my path!"

"They're called brakes," she said.

He knit his brows.  "I haven't gotten that far in the technology yet."

Lorelai rolled her eyes and turned her attention back to Dean.  "You think you can stand up?"

Pressing a hand to his forehead, he managed to nod, shifting his weight as he tried to get his legs beneath him.

She hovered, her trowel-less hand out as if to steady him, though she didn't touch him.  It was kind of a moot point--after all, if he fell, there'd be very little she could do to actually stop his descent, short of getting squashed by a massively large freak of nature.  Incredibly good-looking freak of nature, of course, but that didn't change how squashed she'd be and just how hard Dean would fall regardless.

Dean, however, didn't seem to be having the same train of thought.

For a horrible moment, he wobbled, swaying noticeably as his long arms flailed out to compensate.  Despite the whole getting squashed thing, her mothering instinct still made Lorelai grab him, holding his arm and hoping to help steady him.  "Easy there," she said.  "The whole point was to stay off the ground."

Luckily for all of them (even Kirk, who had to be thinking about the dangers of a lawsuit from running over a kid with a motorized bike), Dean stayed on his feet, though he still looked a bit like the Leaning Tower of Hotness from her perspective.

Dean blinked hard again, and his eyes rose to meet hers.  "Lorelai?"

"Yeah, we've been here and done that," she said.  "You going to be okay?  You look a little pale."

A little pale was an understatement.  The color had fully washed from his face.  She could only hope he wasn't about to hurl.  She wanted to take care of kicked puppies and wounded five year olds and dazed hot ex-boyfriends of her daughters, but she did not want to deal with puke.

"Yeah," he said slowly, tentatively.  "I...I think so."

Reluctantly, she released his arm, still watching him carefully (for puking or for falling, it didn't matter).  "You sure?"

He nodded, his eyes clearing some. "Yeah," he said.  "I just got a little dizzy there.  I got hit...with a bike?"

Kirk's shoulders slumped and he rolled his eyes.  "Motorized bike," he said emphatically.  "It's a motorized bike.  Can't you people tell the difference?"

Dean still looked confused, which he probably had a right to be.  Because getting run over, smacking his head and passing out was enough to worry about.

Lorelai decided to intervene.  For all their sakes.  "Motor or not, Kirk, you still ran him over," she said.  She moved a little closer to Dean, inspecting his face carefully.  "We probably need to get you looked at."

"But it was an accident!" Kirk wailed.

"That you were responsible for!" Lorelai fired back.

Before Kirk could respond, his voice higher and more dramatic than before, Dean held out a conciliatory hand.  "I'm fine," he said.  "Really.  It was just an accident.  I don't need to get checked out."

Lorelai was skeptical.  She wasn't a doctor, but the kid had been out cold and fully dazed when he came to.  His color still wasn't great and the bruise on the side of his head was looking progressively worse.  "Just to be safe--"

"He said he's fine!" Kirk interjected.  "He's fine.  See?  Fine.  Which is more than I can say for my bike."

They both watched as Kirk leaned down to examine the bike, stroking it lovingly.  "All my hard work," he moaned.  "I'll probably have to rewire the motor."

"Is that even safe?" Dean asked, squinting at the contraption.  His confusion seemed to flicker and refocus not on what had happened but at the engineering mystery in front of him.

Which was another thing she didn't need.  Or want.  She only had so much patience for true engineering geekery and for Kirk and his stupid bike and she really just wanted to make sure the kid was okay before she let him investigate the ins and outs of Kirk's less-than-proficient craftsmanship.

"I hardly think safe means running people over," Lorelai said, putting a hand again on Dean's arm.  "Come.  Inside.  You.  Now."

"I told you, I'm fine," he said, more insistently. 

And, to his credit, his voice sounded stronger and more certain.  But he'd been knocked out.  He'd wobbled.  She couldn't just let him walk away if he had a concussion.  She needed to make sure he was okay.  Kids that age tended to not realize the seriousness of some things.  Like Rory and her broken arm.  Like Rory sleeping with Dean.  Like Rory moving in with Logan. 

Enough with Rory.  Dean was the concern now.  Rory was off on her own making her own mistakes on her own time and there was nothing Lorelai could do about that except hear all the juicy details later. What she could do, however, was make sure that Dean Forester didn't die from Kirk's misguided attempts to make money or her own over-zealous way of talking.

"Just come inside," she said.  "Sit down for a bit and let me get you a glass of water.  I just want to make sure you're okay before you go off traipsing down the sidewalk in this heat."

"Traipsing?"

"Walking, skipping, jumping, I don't care," she said.  "I don't want you passing out again."

"I didn't pass out."

She raised her eyebrows.  "Then what do you call that limp routine you pulled a few minutes ago on my sidewalk?  Had a sudden need to sleep?"

Dean seemed to deflate a little.

"Come on," she cajoled now.  "Just humor me.  I have so few people in my life to hover over that it'll do me good."

That was the right approach.  Don't appeal to common sense or logic or anything else that was supposed to work with guys.  All she needed to do was guilt trip him, and he folded just that fast.  She should have remembered that about him--always eager to please, almost to a fault.  "Okay," he relented.  "Just for a little bit."

"There you go," she said, grinning broadly now.  Fault or weakness or whatever, she'd exploit it now.  She didn't want to have to worry about him getting home without another face plant to the sidewalk.  Because Lord only knew what kind of predators who come across him if he did?  She may be getting to being a dirty old woman herself, but she was one with restraint.  Some restraint since this was Dean Forester, after all.  "You ready to go?"

He nodded slightly, as if the movement still hurt him, but she could tell that he had his senses about him enough to at least downplay that.  Clearly, he wasn't looking for her sympathy, even if he was willing to let her play her mothering game.  She could only count that as an improvement.

"Great," she told him, putting a gentle hand lightly on his arm.  "Let's get out of this sun."

Part 1b here.

 

Comments

Posted by: Ryo (littlepunkryo)
Posted at: December 3rd, 2008 08:48 pm (UTC)

Will be back to read later, but - OMG YOU DID A SEQUEL TO THAT FIC!!! I LOVED THAT FIC SOOO MUCH!! ♥

Posted by: do i dare or do i dare? (faye_dartmouth)
Posted at: December 4th, 2008 01:59 am (UTC)
alone

I hope it doesn't disappoint!

Posted by: deanish (deanish_ness)
Posted at: December 4th, 2008 01:45 am (UTC)

OK, scrolled through that with my eyes shut because:

A) I love love *love* Gilmore Girls to bits and little pieces. However, I don't normally (or ever, really) read Gilmore Girls stories, because I have trouble imagining that anyone can get the tone right. That said, I like you and other stories you've written, and would be interested in giving it a chance based on that if

B) It's not going to be a Dean/Lorelai story. Because I just can't look at Dean that way. (I just noticed the bit about someone checking Dean out in your link, and wanted to make sure it's not Lorelai, or if it is, that it's not heading that way before I read it. If it is, I'm sure it's still a good story, I'm just a Gilmore Girls purist.)

Posted by: do i dare or do i dare? (faye_dartmouth)
Posted at: December 4th, 2008 02:03 am (UTC)
brothers

I make no promises in regards to tone. I write as I hear them in my head but I also admit to writing this when I hadn't seen as much of the show as I have now.

However I can tell you that while it is Lorelai who checks Dean out, it is not a Dean/Lorelai story in the sense that they hook up or are even remotely interested in each other romantically. The story focuses on the two of them but it's much more about Lorelai's realizations about who Dean has become and she does feel like something of a dirty old woman by appreciate his physical beauty (though, can you blame her? This story is set post-Gilmore Girls by a few years).

So you can make the decision as you see fit. Basically it's just Lorelai's POV to showcase Dean's growth in my attempt to redeem Dean from how he exited the show.

Posted by: ChristianGateFan (cgf_kat)
Posted at: July 4th, 2009 07:34 pm (UTC)
pic#89712014

Omigosh that was AWESOME. *snicker* Kirk on a motorized bike and one bowled-over Dean. I love it.

Posted by: do i dare or do i dare? (faye_dartmouth)
Posted at: July 9th, 2009 08:31 pm (UTC)
I love you

Kirk so amuses me in all of his self centered eccentricities. He's so perfectly Stars Hollow, and what's great about Stars Hollow is that I can find ways to hurt Dean that seem ridiculous, but really, make so much sense for that town :)

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