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do i dare or do i dare? [userpic]

GG Fic: The Scenic Route 1b/2

The Scenic Route 1b/2 (part 1a here)

She began walking, slowly, and to her relief, Dean followed, albeit even more slowly.  The walk up to the house wasn't long by any stretch of the imagination, but it certainly felt longer today.  Perhaps it was his unsteady gait, maybe it was the snail's pace, maybe it was the fact that she suddenly felt oddly conspicuous in her overalls in the scorching summer sun.  There was no one around, but that didn't mean that no one would know.  That people wouldn't somehow know by tomorrow that she'd had a part in knocking Dean Forester out and then had tried to play nursemaid to him like some sort of demented Florence Nightingale. 

Yes, this was better than the ambulance.  An ambulance would have attracted a crowd instantly.  The rumors would have been fierce.  This was there'd be little proof to substantiate them.  Of course, she wasn't taking into consideration Kirk's mouth and his propensity to tell ridiculous stories.

Wait, that was her who told ridiculous stories.  Although, at least hers were usually accurate.  On some level.

That was all beside the point.

At the stairs, she climbed cautiously, watching him attentively as Dean dragged his feet up the steps.  He did look steadier--which could only be good--but still not up to par.  After all, he was a young, athletic-looking kid and he was tackling those stairs with the agility of an aging old man.

When he reached the top and she was satisfied that he wouldn't tumble back down them, she opened the door, making sure his hand gripped the open screen behind her before she stepped in.  The inside was cool and dim, from the air conditioning and the lights being off. 

"It's not exactly the Ritz," she said, putting her trowel down on the table by the entryway.  She'd have to clean it later, but really, like that mattered.  What else would she be doing?  Another hobby she couldn't sustain?  Knocking more of Rory's ex-boyfriends into oncoming bikers?

Gingerly, Dean shut the door behind him.  "I'm sure it's fine," he said, smiling lightly as he looked around.  "Looks just like it used to, and, if I remember, you have pretty comfortable couches."

She narrowed her eyes.  "You spent far too much time on my couch," she said.  "Only watching movies, of course."

His head dipped.  "Of course," he said.  "And eating popcorn."

"Yeah, don't look in the cushions; it's probably still there."

"Still as meticulous as ever."

She led him into the living room.  "I'd hate to start cleaning now," she said.  "No sense picking up any good habits to waste my time on.  I have to use my free time on all my bad habits."

"Like killing plants," he noted.

"Killing plants takes quite a bit of effort," she agreed.  "I think you'd be surprised."

"At the Gilmore house?  Very little surprises me."

"Touché," she said.  "Now sit."

He looked like he wanted to protest, but he also looked like he wanted to fall asleep standing up.  No matter how lucid he was, no matter how straight he was able to walk, that thwap to his head clearly was still lingering with him.  "Maybe just for a little bit," he said gingerly, lowering himself into the couch.

"You know you miss it," she said.  "That couch and you go pretty far back."

"Yes, I developed quite a bond with that couch," he said.  "Don't even get me started on that VCR."

"Ooh, we upgraded to DVD," she said.  "But we kept the old fella just for kicks."

"And to view all the countless VHS tapes you still own," he said.

"But of course," she said.  "Because really, VHS is the way to go."

He nodded, sinking lower into the couch cushions.  "The grainy quality, the quick film degradation."

"A very authentic experience.  DVDs are all clear and easy to use, but the rewind is not nearly as convenient."

"Which is definitely problematic when you want to rewatch the same scenes fifteen times."

"Fifteen?  Try twenty.  Thirty.  Forty!  You can never see the same scene too many times."

"How else are you going to memorize it?"

"See, that's why we got along so well," she said.  "You very much understood some of the basic Gilmore values."

"You have to love them or hate them," he said, his smile dimpling his cheeks.  He was looking up at her through the fringe of bangs and he didn't look five anymore, not even ten.  He looked like the twenty-something that he was, but still--young.  Somehow innocent, though she knew he was far from it.  He had no reason to be in good humor.  To act like being here wasn't the most awkward thing in the world.  Because the memories, the bad vestiges of the past, were all around him.  And yet--he was smiling.  He was joking.  She'd seen him laugh and she'd seen his heart break in this house, and if she were him, she wasn't sure she'd be quite so genial.

"So, water," she said.  "You probably could use a little."

"Since hitting your head makes you dehydrated."

Eyebrow quirked, she cocked her head at him.  "You still look awfully pale there," she said.  "I'd prefer to think that I did more for you than just throw you back onto the streets improperly hydrated.  They say that most people don't drink enough water anyway, so really, it can't hurt you.  You want ice with that?"

"In the water or for my head?" he asked, reaching his hand up to rub absently at his head.

The area was reddening and a trickle of blood was making its way down his cheek.  "Maybe both," she suggested, feeling a twinge of sympathy.  "And maybe a wet washcloth before you bleed all over the place."

He drew his hand away, examining the blood that speckled it.  "Sorry," he said and he made to move.  "I'll go clean this up."

"Sit, sit!" she said, putting her hands out to stop him.  "You are my patient and I am your nurse.  Just humor me, okay?  You're not going to bleed too much and I'd prefer to have you sitting than risk you having another little attack of vertigo."

Sinking back, Dean rolled his eyes.  "I'm--"

"--fine, sure.  Also macho and in denial.  I can still call that ambulance if you'd rather not be cooperative."

The grimace on his face said enough.

"Just like I thought," Lorelai commented.  "Now, sit still."

He raised his hands uselessly.  "I'll do what I can."

"You always were rather obedient," she said with a smirk as she made her way to the kitchen.  "Is that a habit you still cling to now that you're all big man on campus?"

His snort was audible from the living room.  "Obedient, maybe.  Big man on campus, hardly."

"Aw, come on," she said, rummaging through the fridge for a bottle of water that wasn't half-drained and a year old.  "Cute kid like you, studying engineering, has to get all the girls."

"I've got other things to focus on," his voice drifted back to her.  "I'm trying to get caught up.  You know, make up for lost time."

Plucking up an adequate bottle, Lorelai turned to the sink, pulling a wash rag from a drawer and wetting it slightly.  "Very ambitious of you."  She rung out the cloth so it didn't drip.  "When did you get so career-oriented?  I mean, not that you weren't ever looking ahead because you've always been a worker, and you always seemed to be a good enough student, but I seem to remember your days of junior college fixation.  Of course, you did get into Southern Connecticut State, if I remember, but you--well, you know--"

Stupid, she thought.  Stupid.  The kid was beyond that now.  He probably didn't want to relive his formative years.  Most sane people didn't, but for him, she had to imagine it was even worse.  What with losing Rory like that and marrying Lindsay and then giving up on Rory and Lindsay and school--it couldn't have been a fun time.  All the more reason to swear off relationships and to go to college away from home.  Made life easier.  Easy was good.

There was no reply from the other room and she braced herself as she gathered her washcloth and bottle of water once more.  Undoubtedly, her choice of conversation had worn thin on him.  She needed to refocus.  On things that made Dean happy.  Like his coursework.  He liked to talk about that, or at least he seemed to.  It was the only part of their conversation that had had any substance and managed to avoid truly awkward levels.

"Right, so, your classes," she started again, moving back toward the other room.  "You get to take anything fun?  Like how to rebuild a car engine without a screwdriver?"

Lorelai wasn't sure what she'd expected.  Perhaps some melodramatic sulking, which would only seem appropriate for a kid his age and in his position, or a lesser version of it.  Because he didn't sulk necessarily, not like a little kid, but perhaps like the kicked puppy again.  But he looked rather--blank.  Staring.  Empty. 

"Dean?" she prompted, holding out the bottle of water.  "You with me there?"

He jerked a little, blinking rapidly and she could see his pupils dilate some.  "What?  Yeah," he replied quickly, a little breathless.

"You zoned out on me," she said, worry spiking through her.  "You feel okay?"

He took the bottle of water, a little shaky.  "Yeah," he said.  "I'm fine."

"Uh-huh.  You know, saying you're fine is usually a dead giveaway to not being fine."

He merely blinked at that, looking a bit confused.  "Uh.  Right."

So much for the witty banter.  The ambulance might have been a better idea after all.  "Maybe you should let me get another look at that head of yours," Lorelai suggested gently.  "Make sure you still have a brain and all.  I'd feel pretty crappy if you lost it on my watch."

Looking at the water, the kid seemed to be sort of clueless as what to do.

Nervous suddenly, she sidled next to him, trying to get a better look at the damage.  "You're supposed to drink the water there," she advised him.  "Hence the whole being in a bottle thing.  I promise you, it's safe.  No poisons, no expiration dates.  Though I don't think water expires, but you still get the point."

Dean seemed to focus on that, studying the bottle with the utmost concentration, like it took all of his brainpower to compute what to do next.  To her relief (and her trepidation), his long fingers started to fumble with the cap.  Fumbled once, twice, and then the cap was off and the bottle was jerking, splashing water all over him. 

And the five year old was back.  Little line between his eyebrows and a small, concentrated frown tugging at his lips.  "Sorry," he mumbled, trying to pat himself dry uselessly.  "I shouldn't have spilled."

"Hey, no big deal.  It adds personality," she said.  Because she wasn't worried about the couch.  It was just water and really, the mere fact that the kid was suddenly a natural born klutz was more distressing than the thought of another wet spot on the couch.  "You sure you're feeling okay there?"

"Yeah," he said, a little breathy.  "My head just hurts."

Plausible reason.  Dean must have a killer headache.  "Well, let me check you out here and then maybe I'll get you some pain relievers.  Ibuprofen, the only stuff worth getting.  I tried Tylenol for awhile but it just doesn't do anything for me.  After so many years, I think I may have an immunity.  Which is kind of scary because what if I get an immunity to Ibuprofen, too?  Then what will I do for pain relief?"

He turned his head toward her, his expression somewhere between total confusion and utter blankness.

Cautiously, Lorelai brought the cloth up to his temple, brushing his hair away gently.

Hissing in pain, he pulled away, his eyes wide and surprised.

This was not good.  Dean may have let Rory see a softer side of him, one that read books and discussed literature with her, but he was a guy's guy.  Had that macho thing down with the muscles and chiseled features.  Temper to back it up even.  So while Lorelai didn't doubt that it hurt, this wasn't the kid she'd been talking to before.  This wasn't the college student who might have an internship at GM and could battle her wit for wit until the day was done.

Pulling her hand away, she studied him carefully.  "Dean, do you remember what happened?"

He blinked, and she noticed just how hazel his eyes were.  And how they were filling with tears?  "I...hit my head."

Not good.  Sure, the right answer technically, but he knew more than that.  He should know more than that.  His dizziness, his sudden spaciness, his lack of coordination, his emotionality.  Now, his lack of memory.  Her stomach flipped, churning uneasily.  "Do you know where you are?"  Her voice was hesitant, reluctant.  She wasn't sure she wanted to know the answer.

Eyes flicking, he seemed to take in the room.  "Rory's," he said, and there was a distinct slur this time.  "Rory always had the nicest house."

Technically, the kid was two for two, but she was not reassured.  "Do you know who I am?"

This time, Dean’s eyes turned back to her, still wide and wet.  "I'm sorry, Rory," he said, the words tumbling over each other.  "I was so unhappy and I loved you so much and I screwed up.  I screwed up and let you screw up with me.  I loved you, and I never should have let you do that to yourself."

Okay, now that answer was way in left field.

Any doubts she may have had were more than confirmed when he continued, his voice heavier and faster.  "I was so lonely, you know, lonely without you.  And Lindsay didn't make that better.  And you couldn't make that better because I was never the one for you.  I wanted to be, and I tried to be but I was nothing but a failure and a screw-up and I'm sorry.  You’re better off without me and I just want to go home.  I just want to get away from here, from the people, from everything, because I'm better away from here.  I'm someone else, I'm not just Dean Forester.  They don't know just how messed up I am."

She should have  stopped him.  Should have done something.  But it was all too stunning to make a move on.  Five minutes ago, they'd been catching up and remembering the good old days.  Now, Dean was clearly concussed and divulging every emotion he had buried inside of him.  It was startling to hear, because the confessions were so real--everything Lorelai had guessed about him, but a level of self-reproach that hurt to hear.  And terrifying, because she shouldn't be hearing this.  This was private, this was Dean's, and here she was trying to nurse his head injury and having complete access to everything.

Not even a dirty old woman could feel good about that.

Oh and she couldn't forget the fact that it was all her fault.

"Okay, you know what?" she said.  "I think we need that ambulance, okay?  I mean, it'll be fun.  A nice, fast ride, flashing lights.  The whole nine yards.  If you have to travel, you might as well do it in style, right?"

Patting him on the arm, she moved to stand, her actions rushed with an air of urgency.  Nursemaid, okay.  She'd done that before.  Raising a daughter pretty much guaranteed that.  But maternal instincts only went so far.  The kid was delirious and sitting on her couch with what could only be a concussion.  Concussions weren't supposed to be this serious, as far as she knew, but the slurring words, the lack of knowing who the heck he was talking to--those were bad signs, she was pretty sure, and she didn't think she needed an MD to figure that out.

No, what she needed as an ambulance.

Unfortunately, Dean wasn't exactly in the most cooperative mood.  She'd chalk another one up to his head meeting the pavement after the bike fiasco.  He tried to follow her up.

Even worse than Dean's lack of listening skills at the moment, was his utter lack of coordination.  He tried to follow her, and the next thing she knew he was a mess of limbs, pitching forward precariously.

Caught off guard, she sought to catch him, stupidly positioning herself underneath his tall, lithe frame.  It was instinct, really, because no matter how squashed this could make her, she didn't like the idea of the kid she was supposed to be taking care of smashing through the coffee table, something that would be good neither for him or the coffee table.

"Hey, easy there," she said, bearing his weight for a moment.  "You should be sitting."

That was an understatement, and worse, she wasn't sure he had enough coherency left to really make sense of it.  But he righted himself a little, easing off of her and collapsing back toward the couch.   "Dizzy," he muttered.  "The whole room's dizzy."

There was a complete lack of logic in that statement but it didn't seem to be the time to critique that.  "You need to stay seated," she said, more sternly now, not because she was angry but because he was scaring the crap out of her. 

He didn't try to get up, which was good, which was progress, but his body seemed to go flaccid, slumping back against the cushions, head lolling to the side.

"Oh, hey," she said, panic surging again.  She leaned over him, shaking his shoulder.  "You got the no standing thing down pretty well there, but we need to do the staying awake thing, too.  Awake.  You know, eyes open, mouth moving, talking.  I don't even care if it's coherent.  You can think I'm Rory and tell the room it's dizzy and goofy and anything you want.  Just stay awake."

Dean’s eyes opened slightly, barely slits.  "...can't change it," he slurred.  "Tried but I can't...never will."

"Well, you stay awake and we'll try to, okay?  We'll try anything you want.  We'll paint the room, cover the couch cushions, invest in Kirk's really powerful bikes.  Anything you want."

There was no recognition in his eyes as the lids slid over them once again.

"Dean," Lorelai called, shaking him anew.  "Dean!"

This time, she got nothing.  Zilch, zip, nada.  And wasn't that just the way her day was going.  She was finally having a conversation with someone to drag her from her pathetic existence and he passed out cold on her couch.  Granted, after being harassed by her on the street, getting run over by a motorized bike, and then being dragged into her house.  Still, between the two of them, they didn't have enough luck to give a go at penny slots.

So help.  It was time for help.  It had probably been time for help when it all began, and Lorelai sort of wished she'd listened to her gut instead of her desire to avoid a larger scene than she'd already started.  Because now Dean was unconscious on her couch and she didn't even have Kirk around to conveniently draw attention from herself in the entire situation.

Focus!  Ambulance now!  Unconscious kid on the couch!  Head injury!  Delirious talk!  Unable to rouse!

Standing, she moved to the phone, snatching it off its base and dialing quickly.  At least the numbers were easy enough, but she was shaking so badly at the moment that she wasn't sure she could be asked to remember basic information.

Which, coincidentally, was exactly what she was asked next.

"9-1-1, what is your emergency?"

Funny, she'd never called 9-1-1 before.  Well, she'd called it but not for an emergency.  There was the time she'd accidentally dialed it and really, that time, someone asking her what her emergency was had made her realize her mistake, which was pressure in and of itself, but not the same kind of pressure of actually having an emergency.

"Uh, hi," she said.  "I have this kid here--I mean, not that I have him or anything but it's my daughter's ex-boyfriend, you see, and he stopped by and was talking to me--"

"Ma'am, what is the nature of your emergency?" the voice interrupted, sounding mildly exasperated.

"Oh," Lorelai said, slightly taken aback.  She was trying to tell her that much.  "Well, he sort of got run over."

"By a car?"

"A bike!  Well, a motorized bike--"

"A motorcycle?"

"No, a motorized bike."

"Is he hurt?"

That seemed like a dumb question, yet oddly one like she should have answered already.  "Yes," she said, looking back at him again.  Dean hadn't moved, he was still lolled against the cushions, looking as limp as ever--all the way back to the wounded five year old.  "He was knocked out but he came to right away and when I brought him inside to make sure he was okay he passed out again and I can't wake him up."

There.  She said it.  Job done.  Now, there'd be help and she could stop worrying like the kid was her own.

"You address, ma'am?"

Score--easy question.  Lorelai answered that one without much consequence.

"Okay, help has been sent to you.  Now, the victim--"

"Victim?"

"Daughter's ex-boyfriend?"

"Oh, Dean!" she exclaimed, feeling suddenly ridiculous.

"Is he breathing?"

Concentrating (which was work), she made out the even rise and fall of his chest.  "Yes," she said.  "He just hit his head."

"Is he bleeding?"

"Well, some," she admitted.  "I mean, there's a large bruise and a bump and a cut--well, more of a gash, I guess, but I looked at it and it didn't look too deep.  It's bled some but head wounds are supposed to bleed a lot and it's definitely not bleeding a lot."

If it were possible to hear someone rolling his/her eyes, Lorelai was pretty sure that the operator probably just did it to her. 

"Have you applied pressure to the wound?"

"I tried," Lorelai admitted, looking back at Dean woefully.  "But it hurt him.  A lot.  I didn't really want to inflict any more pain on him, and like I said, it's not bleeding a lot or anything.  Not like I would have expected at least."

"Help should be there soon," the operator said wearily.  "Do you need me to stay on the line?"

Lorelai couldn't be sure, but it sounded like the operator was hoping she'd say no.  Which really wasn't all that encouraging.  After all, the operator was supposed to help her, make sure Dean was okay, tell her what to do, right?  Unless there wasn't anything to be done, in which case, maybe Lorelai was just annoying.  Well, Lorelai was probably annoying anyway, but Dean was unconscious.  Did the woman not comprehend that?  "Is there something I should do?  Put his feet up?  Wait, that's shock," Lorelai muttered, beginning to pace back and forth.  "I'd make him drink something but I think right now he'd probably just drown."

"Ma'am."

"What?" Lorelai snapped back.  "I mean, I guess I could just for the response of his pupils, right?  To light?  But I really don't know what that's supposed to look like."

"Ma'am, really, the paramedics can handle that."

Right, the paramedics.  "But where are they?"

"They're in route."

"But they need to be here."

"Ma'am, there's only so fast they can go."

"Are you trying to be frustrating?"

"I'm just trying to do my job."

"Because you're really good at it," Lorelai said.  "At being frustrating. I'm not really sure about your job."

There was a weary sigh.  "Is he still breathing?"

Lorelai's eyes darted back to Dean.  To her relief, he was still breathing, in and out, just like he was supposed to be.  At least she hadn't screwed things up that badly.  "Yes," she said.

"Is it labored at all?"

"Labored?  As in, hard?  Difficult?  I don't know," she said, moving closer to Dean.  "I mean, he's not panting or anything if that's what you're talking about.  I guess it looks normal, though I can't say I often sit around and watch people breathe, much less Dean, so I can't tell you for a fact that this is totally normal."

"You can't hear it, can you?" the operator asked, and that exasperated tone was back.  Like she had anything better to do.  And this was her job.  She couldn't really expect people to be perfectly rational when talking on the phone about someone's breathing, labored or unlabored, because it was an emergency, and there were head injuries and delirium and loss of consciousness involved.  Right?

Lorelai leaned closer, close enough to smell him, and she had to admit that he smelled pretty good.  Clean, not that she expected him not to be clean, but really fresh.  He had a good choice in shampoo, at least, because it didn't smell strong enough to be cologne, nor did he seem the type to waste time with that kind of thing. 

Breathing.  Right.  "Uh, no," she said.  "Not unless I get really close.  But I don't assume that you mean can I hear it if I rest my head against his chest.  Because that would be ridiculous.  And entirely inappropriate at this point."

"Ma'am--"

There was a noise in the distance.  Distinct.  A relief.  "They're here!" Lorelai exclaimed, moving from Dean's lax form to the window.  Outside the day was warm and bright.  "I can hear them."

"Good," the operator said all too quickly.  "They can help you from here."

Before Lorelai could reply, or explain anything else, the line went dead.  She looked at the phone, surprised, mouth opened, but closed the mouth and put the phone down as she saw an ambulance pull into the drive. 

Well.  So much for professionalism.  But really.  About stinkin' time.  She'd been fond enough of Dean as Narcolepsy boy, but coma boy? 

That was one she didn't want to have to explain to the neighbors.

Comments

Posted by: a rearranger of the proverbial bookshelf (embroiderama)
Posted at: December 3rd, 2008 04:31 pm (UTC)
Jared - howdy

Eeeeep, poor cute!Dean! I really like your Lorelai voice here, and the descriptions of Dean are great. Looking forward to part two!

Posted by: do i dare or do i dare? (faye_dartmouth)
Posted at: December 4th, 2008 02:12 am (UTC)

Writing Lorelai is actually ridiculously therapeutic. It's like writing without a filter on my brain.

And really. If you think about how Jared looks now then you would think Lorelai wouldn't certainly appreciate how well he grew up....

Posted by: hawk50 (hawk50)
Posted at: December 10th, 2008 07:58 pm (UTC)

Yep. We need that next part. Like, right now.

Great Lorelai voice. I feel sorry for the poor 911 operator.

Can't wait to read more! Awesome story!

Posted by: do i dare or do i dare? (faye_dartmouth)
Posted at: December 11th, 2008 02:55 pm (UTC)
heart and soul

You have to feel sorry for most people who get in the Gilmores' ways when they're under stress or pressure :)

And I make no promises when the next part will be out...it's being worked on and hopefully won't be too far off. The one after that is also getting worked on and it's massive. I have a couple of little Dean one-shots that I hope to polish and post soon that aren't directly part of the verse but still pretty verse-compliant.

Thanks :)

Posted by: ChristianGateFan (cgf_kat)
Posted at: July 4th, 2009 08:02 pm (UTC)
pic#89712014

Uh oh. Not looking good for poor cute!Dean. That's right term, yes? Am I getting it right now? LOL. I'm trying to catch up in the GG world and fan-world, etc...

Anyway, still loving this, and I too love your Lorelai!

Posted by: do i dare or do i dare? (faye_dartmouth)
Posted at: July 9th, 2009 08:30 pm (UTC)
cute!dean water bottle

Cute!Dean, indeed. I didn't make the term, but I think it applies quite well to this character :)

And GG is a great place to play around, as long as you avoid the rampant Dean hate out there. It can be scary!

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