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GG Fic: The Scenic Route 2a/2

December 5th, 2008 (02:22 pm)

A/N:  I'm glad some people have enjoyed part one :)  I forgot to mention that this fic is set post-series, though if you read the first fic, you'd know that. 

Part Two

The medics, she suspected, were better trained than the 9-1-1 operator, but they didn't seem much friendlier.  After a few cursory questions, to which she received quizzical looks (what?  Dean had been run over by a motorized bike--it wasn't her fault that this was Stars Hollow and sheer ridiculous was common place), they had started their assessment of Dean, at which point Lorelai was little more than furniture to them.

Watching them work, however, did afford her the chance to get a good look at Dean.  She'd been looking at him most of the time anyway, but it was a little weird, she had to admit, watching them poke and prod the kid.  Even weirder how totally unaware he seemed. 

The medics were a man and a woman, both in their thirties.  The guy might have been cute, but he needed to shave more often and try plucking his eyebrows, but those were forgivable sins were he even remotely talkative.  He wasn't. 

The girl was blonde, but a dishwater blonde, a shade which Lorelai had always found rather unfortunate.  She looked a little friendlier at least, with a simple face and a smile that looked more sincere than the guy's did.

They didn't move Dean, which was perhaps Lorelai’s first surprise.  She supposed that made sense, the whole not-moving-someone deal, which she wished she'd thought of before dragging Dean inside and plunking him on the couch.  Not that she could have left him on the hot concrete--heat stroke was probably not something he needed in addition to the head injury. 

They picked up Dean’s wrist, felt up and down the length of his body (and she thought she was a dirty old woman), even lifted his eyelids one by one and shining a penlight in (she knew that was the right thing to do).  They murmured to each other, back and forth, not purposefully quiet, but it wouldn't have made any difference.  Lorelai didn't have a clue about what was going on.

"So, uh, is he okay?" she asked, arms crossed across her chest as she bounced nervously on her heals to see Dean. 

The girl was going through the kit she'd brought in, pulling out various pieces.  "His pupils are reactive to light," she said.  "A little sluggish, though."

"That's...bad, right?" Lorelai asked.  "I mean, you make it sound bad."

The girl smiled up at her, a little blandly.  "It's not great, but it could be worse," she confirmed.  "It's concurrent with the description of the accident."

Of course.  Since sluggish pupils went hand in hand with getting run over by a motorized bike any day.

The girl was already back to work, though, playing with some tubing as she extended Dean's left arm.  Her partner was digging around now, but Lorelai watched in morbid fascination as the girl hovered with a syringe above the crook in Dean's arm (and damn, he had nice forearms...and those biceps...) before plunging it in.  Lorelai winced despite herself, and felt a little sick when Dean didn't even twitch.

In fact, Dean hadn't done much of anything since passing out on her couch.  His head was still lolled to his side and his limbs were positioned as the medics had placed them, the one with the IV outstretched and the other cradled in his lap.  They manipulated him like he was nothing more than a doll--a life-sized, rather attractive, very heavy doll, but a doll nonetheless.

Which, oddly, wasn't that unusual.  Not that she'd seen Dean's body parts as pliable as Play-Doh, but the kid had always been rather easy to manipulate.  Or to sway.  Manipulate was rather a harsh word, and she had certainly never tried to purposefully do that to the kid.  But there was no doubt that he was open to suggestion, something she'd found out from his years of dating Rory.  He'd do any chore asked of him, he'd help out with a smile.  And that was just her.  For Rory...

Well, Rory had no reason to be in want while dating Dean.  Any place she wanted to go, Dean took her.  Anything she wanted to do, Dean did.  Anything she seemed to like, Dean liked, too.  It had always been his downfall, Lorelai supposed, the first and the second time.  Dean had been so quick to please Rory that she'd grown tired of him, taken him for granted.  Jess had been far more exciting; Dean had just been predictable.  Rory had been young enough (and women were always this way, it seemed) to think that exciting was better than predictable.

Lorelai had her doubts.

And it had been Dean's readiness to please that led him to delay school to begin with.  To work all those hours.  To respond to Rory's slightest interest.

Dean was perhaps the epitome of ragdoll-ism.  If such a thing existed.

Or at least he had been...

He was different now.  He seemed different.  Which was maybe why it seemed to wrong to see him lying there so prone.

The male paramedic had carefully slipped Dean into a neck collar, and, between the two of them, they were working Dean onto a backboard and then onto a waiting gurney.  Dean's body flopped a little, but they were careful, expertly supporting Dean's body effectively enough to get him situated with minimal movement.

The girl was packing up their things, and the guy was back to checking Dean, talking to him, poking at him again.  With his knuckles, he dug deep into Dean's breastbone, an action that made Lorelai wince watching and that elicited a faint groan from Dean.  Encouraged, the guy called Dean's name again, but no further progress was made.

With the girl packed and ready to go, they started toward the door, Lorelai hot on their heels.  "He's...okay?" she asked.  It wasn’t an original question, but it was a necessary question, one that despite all the answers they gave here was never really told.

It was the guy this time who spoke, "We're taking him to the hospital."

"And they'll make him better," Lorelai said.  "I mean, it's all precautionary."

They were all outside now, easing the gurney down the steps.  "Lady, you have to let them do their job," the guy snapped.  "You called us, remember?"

Yes, that was true.  Because she'd wanted to make sure he was okay.  They were supposed to tell her that.  Weren't they?

"Relax," the girl said, flashing another generic grin at her.  "Would you like to come along?  Your story is...different, and I'm sure the ER staff will have questions about how this came to pass."

The guy glared at the girl, then looked begrudgingly at Lorelai.

Even if Lorelai hadn't wanted to go, she would have gone, just to spite him.  But she needed to see this through.  Needed to see Dean through.  Only twenty minutes ago, they'd been talking, catching up, and she wasn't one to leave conversations unfinished.  "Yeah," she said.  "I'll come along."

"Great," the girl said, opening the rear door.  "You get to ride in the back with James."

James jumped inside, helping the girl hoist the gurney up.  Once Dean was settled, Lorelai pulled herself up, finding a place to sit on the bench seat opposite from where James had stationed Dean's gurney.  James was busy with some wires and machines and Dean was still.

"And you're sure he's okay?" Lorelai asked as the door closed.

James just looked at her.

This was probably going to be a long ride.

-o-

The ambulance ride wasn't what she expected.

Of course, she wasn't sure what she had expected.  It wasn't like she often sat around and thought about what it'd be like to ride in an ambulance.  And she'd never even been sure that the whole ride-along thing really happened.  Especially when she wasn't even related to the kid.  But apparently, they thought she might be useful, at least that was what she figured as they plied her with questions every ten seconds.

Maybe it was the questioning then, that made it seem less than intense.  Because just as she was taking in the equipment, the road rushing by them, the sound of the sirens, and Dean's pale face, she was hit with another question from an endless barrage.

"Do you know if he has any allergies?  Takes any medications?"

Did she look like his mother?  Oh, wait.  She probably did.  "I really...I mean, I don't think so, but I don't know.  He's never said anything about them, but we don't exactly talk a lot so it's entirely possible--"

The medic grimaced a little, leaning over to check Dean's monitors again.  "Nothing unusual in his history?"

"You mean like how he fell asleep with my daughter in a dance studio all night when they were seventeen?"

The medic's brow crinkled.  "Medically speaking, ma'am."

Ouch.  Ma'am.  She knew she was getting old, but this guy only looked five years younger than she did.  Maybe six.  "Oh!" Lorelai exclaimed.  "A year ago he was electrocuted."

At this, the guy looked up, eyebrows high.  "He suffered from an electrical shock?"

"Yes!" she said, a bit thrilled she actually had said something worth saying for once.  It was bound to happen with the amount she talked.  "Some sort of freak...electrical error."

"No lingering side effects, though?"

"Well, uh, I don't think so," she said.  "I mean, we probably would have heard about that, right?  Like if he could turn on lights by just pointing a finger at them, I'm sure it would have gotten around town.  Though he has been away at college, which is perhaps to hide his new secret identity."

She'd lost the guy again, looking back down at Dean, not that there was any change there.  Dean was still unconscious--the whole eyes-closed and way-too-still thing.  He had never had the hyperactivity of a Gilmore, but he'd always had a nice activity level that could keep up with Rory, which was on reason Lorelai'd figured they'd worked so well together. 

Still and pale, too.  He'd been pale since the initial accident, and she couldn't say that it made her feel any better about how he was doing.  She almost missed his incoherent rambling--at least with that, she'd known he was alive.  Sure, she knew he was alive now, too, with the heart monitor beeping and all that.  But it was still so...uncertain.  The paleness seemed stark and his long, slack limbs seemed just wrong like that.  Like they should be moving.  Instead, he was strapped to a backboard with a neck brace stabilizing him.

She had the overwhelming urge to apologize.  For talking too much, for knocking him in Kirk's path, for not getting him help right away.  For helping him believe that Rory still loved him, for never telling him that it wasn't all his fault.

Too bad her conscience seemed to only kick in when he was pale and unconscious and in the back of some ambulance with the world's hardest-to-amuse medic.

The ambulance turned, a bit sharply, and Lorelai had to brace herself against the wall.  The medic barely flinched, still leaning over Dean, fiddling now with the IV line that he had running from Dean's outstretched arm.

"Is he...is he going to wake up?" she asked finally, nodding toward Dean's prone figure.

The medic looked up at her, a bit surprised, almost like he'd forgotten she was there (as if anyone could forget she was there).  "That's for the doctors to figure out."

A noncommittal answer.  Wuss.  Too afraid to take a stand.  "I know, but in you experience, does he look okay?  I mean, what's wrong with him?"

The medic sighed.  "Look, lady, he hit his head, just like you said.  They'll have to do some x-rays to see if there's any kind of skull fracture.  The fact that it's not bleeding a lot could be indicative of that.  But head injuries are funny sometimes.  Sometimes, they can just sneak up and take you under for a bit.  It's been about ten minutes since he passed out, which isn't great, but it isn't terrible.  He did show some response to deep pain stimuli, which the doctors will assess more when we get there.  There's nothing more we can do.  Scans will show if there's anything wrong going on in his brain, but other than that....it's a waiting game."

Well that was more information than she'd expected from her tight-lipped friend.  And certainly more than she knew what to do with.  She liked knowing things and all, and given her own propensity for long-winded answers, she really should be able to take them in just as easily, but this one--all the medical facts, the details--was not nearly reassuring enough.

Fortunately, the ambulance slowed and came to a halt.  Lorelai rocked forward as it did; the medic, again unfazed by the change in speed, waited until they were stopped completely before springing to action once more.  He unlocked wheels, checking gauges and monitors and when the back door cracked open, daylight streaming in, he was already moving, pushing Dean's gurney toward the edge and his partner.  They moved seamlessly, rather remarkably, and a lot like the doctors did on TV, now that she thought about it.  It just wasn't nearly as exciting to watch without the background music.  Attractive actors were certainly helpful as well, and any character on TV had a  more engaging personality than Mr. Bland, medic extraordinaire.

Good thing she wasn't in this thing for a date.  Or even just thrills.  Because she would have been sorely disappointed.  But at this point, her interest wasn't in finding some guy to flirt with (though she doubted she'd turn down such a chance--she was nearly an old lady by now, she had to take it when she could get it).  No, she was here for one reason.  For Dean.  And she'd take all of it just to see the kid wake up.

So far, he seemed about as cooperative as the medic.  Which was just about Lorelai's luck these days.

-o-

ER had never been a show she commonly watched, but she'd seen it enough to get some ideas.  The whole fast-paced camera work, doctors and nurses working seamlessly in a wave of hurry as the latest trauma was wheeled in the door.  The faint look of concern that the good Dr. Carter or the good Dr. Greene showed for their patients as they placed a stethoscope on the various parts of the patient's exposed body.

Okay, so she watched more than she liked to let on.  It's not like she expected the theme song to play as they wheeled through the doors, but there was an atmosphere of urgency, of barely controlled chaos that she assumed came with the territory.

But if operators could be easily annoyed, if medics could lack all personality, she probably should have suspected that the medical staff would never live up to expectation.

It was just weird though, how anticlimactic it seemed.  There was hardly any rushing, no quick streams of dialogue.  It was just...simple.

Which was probably okay, except Dean was unconscious.  The kid hadn't so much as twitched the whole ride over, and Lorelai couldn't deny that that was freaking her out, but that it was easier to feel weirded out by the lack of urgency from the hospital staff than it was to acknowledge that she was beginning to get pretty damn scared about how the kid was doing.

Because it didn't matter what the paramedics said.  Dean still wasn't moving.  He was still breathing, which was something, but movement seemed rather important to her as well.  Though, honestly, she really would have preferred awareness.  Awareness was a sign that one's brain was still fully functional.  And she really didn't like to think about the poor kid's brain being impaired and knowing that it was all for such a stupid, stupid reason like her animated way of speaking and Kirk's ridiculous inventions.  This was the kid who was talking about school and internship opportunities and Newsmobiles and...

Holy crap.  Lorelai followed the paramedics where they were going, right through the hall, right past the admitting desk, and a plain-faced doctor was taking the charge now.  She wasn't nearly as encouraging as Dr. Greene would have been, nor was she as plainly skilled as one Dr. Benton, nor was she as drop-dead gorgeous as one Dr. Ross, though her being a woman probably didn't help her in that regard.  Lorelai could appreciate beauty in many forms, but she just couldn't bring herself to swing that way.  Except maybe for Meredith Viera.  She wasn't sure why, though.

Still, it was a doctor and she was instantly more likeable than the medic devoid of personality and Lorelai was inside the exam room before she realized just where she was and just what was going on.

The doctor was talking calmly, and Dean was lifted from one gurney to another, almost effortlessly, like the kid wasn't freakin' ginormous, with muscles so nicely chiseled that the statue David would be envious.  And still, nothing.  Dean was as lifeless on the new gurney as he was on the old, his arms long by his sides, his legs straight and still, and his head held steady the incumbent neck brace.

"Okay," the doctor was saying as she pulled a stethoscope off her neck.  "I want to get a new set of vitals here."

So that part was going to come true, Lorelai thought, pleased that at least something seemed to be going right.

But then the nurse cut away at Dean's shirt, which was rather a pity, because it had been a nice-looking shirt, a newer one.  Red and blue, stripes, and she figured the kid had to buy at the long and tall stores to fit those shoulders--

And that chest.  She had seen his arms and she had been impressed.  Without his shirt, he was damn near criminally perfect. 

It was a credit to the nurse's professionalism that she didn't stop to gawk a moment.  Heavens knew that Lorelai did.  What had Rory been thinking?

But once she managed to close her mouth and remember that Dean was unconscious, Lorelai became aware of the electrodes on the kid's chest and the sudden beeping of the heart monitor.

Someone had produced a wallet, which meant there had been some groping going on, and if Lorelai hadn't been so wide-eyed about the entire process, she might have found the need to comment.  The doctor was saying, however, "Are you his mother?”

She was waiting to hear the answer when Lorelai became vaguely aware the doctor was talking to her.  “What?”

The doctor looked a little perturbed but he repeated nonetheless.  “You.  Are you his mother?”

“Me?” Lorelai asked.  “No, I mean.  No.”

The doctor seemed again perturbed by her answer and instead turned to the nurse next to him.  “Kathy, find this kid's parents or next of kin or someone.  I'm sure they'll want to know we've got him here."

Kathy, who was apparently the tall, skinny nurse, took the wallet and nodded.  Lorelai didn't watch her go.  While calling Dean's parents was undoubtedly crucial to the process, it was far less interesting than watching what was up with Dean.  Because she needed to know if Dean was okay or not.  It may not have been her business necessarily, but it would be difficult to go on her daily routine knowing she'd seen a kid get mowed over and didn't know how it turned out.

"Ma'am, you were with him?" the doctor asked, and it took a full five seconds for Lorelai to remember she was actually there.  She'd been so intent on blending into the background that she had neglected to account for her own presence there.  Which was kind of a surreal feeling, if she thought about it, but there wasn't really time to think about it since this was a hospital and Dean Forester was out cold on a gurney, and the doctor was speaking to her.

"Oh, yes," she said, not moving from her spot near the door.  She wasn't usually prone to shyness, but this situation was so far out of her control that it wasn't even funny.  "I was there.  Saw it all."

"He hit his head on the pavement?"

"Sidewalk," Lorelai clarified. 

"And he was hit...?"

Lorelai was pretty sure they'd covered this already, that despite the paramedic's lack of a personality he'd actually been fairly detailed with his account of what happened.  Still, this was a doctor and she was treating Dean, so Lorelai could be bothered to repeat herself.  "Yeah, with a motorized bike," she said.  It didn't sound any less ridiculous this time.

"How fast?"

"I didn't really have a stopwatch--"

The doctor seemed distracted and a bit tired by her answers.  "But I can assume that he was hit with some force."

"Of course," Lorelai said.  "I mean, it's not like he just fell over.  I mean, look at him.  The kid looks like he keeps in shape, athletic.  Somehow I doubt his balance is that precarious--"

"And he lost consciousness?"

"Uh, does he look awake?"

"I mean, initially.  You said he lost consciousness, but then came to."

"Oh, yeah," Lorelai said, a little chagrined.  She was being talked to at least, unlike with a medic who would remain anonymous, but she was being talked to like she was five.  Or maybe ten. 

The doctor was leaning over Dean, peeling back an eyelid.  "And how was he acting?"

"Confused.  Dazed.  A little dizzy.  I got him inside and he started acting really weird."

"Weird?" the doctor asked, looking up from her work peeling back Dean's other eyelid.  It was a little fascinating to watch, with Dean's eye open but no response from the kid.

So what if weird wasn't a medical term.  Sue her.  She wasn't a doctor.  "You know, talking to me like I was someone else, not really knowing what year it was, that kind of thing.  All the kind of stuff that makes one think, Gee, I should call 9-1-1, which is what I did.  Hence the reason we're here."

The doctor seemed fairly indifferent to her story, and Lorelai was fairly indifferent to her indifference.  She was too intent on watching Dean, on watching him being played with again and his utter lack of response.  Which, it'd been, what?  Twenty-five minutes?  Shouldn't he be awake?

The nurse was conversing with the doctor, making notes on a chart.  And then the doctor pulled the medic's friendly little trick, using her knuckles on Dean's sternum.  The second time watching it was no less fascinating than the first, but it occurred to Lorelai this time that it would be immensely uncomfortable.  For Dean, that is.  Well, maybe the doctor, too.  And certainly for Lorelai who just had to watch the entire thing unfold with only a vague clue of what on earth was going on.

This time, just like before, there was a response.  Dean flinched, deeper this time, his arms twitching in protest and a muffled mewl escaping his lips (which was practically the sound of a four year old, as if it could get any worse).

"Dean?" the doctor asked, leaning close.  "Dean, can you heard me?"

Maybe Dean could hear her, but really, who would want to answer a question like that?  Much less to a person who had just kneaded his chest for the heck of it?

But Dean moved a little more, his head tossing slightly in its brace.  He mumbled.

The doctor nodded, telling something to the nurse.

Lorelai waited to be included in the news.  "What is it?" she asked.

"We're just assessing his level of consciousness," the doctor explained.

"Which is?"

The doctor looked up at her again, this time really looking at her with a critical air.  "You're a friend of Dean's?"

"More like a casual acquaintance, really," Lorelai attempted to clarify.  "My daughter used to date him for awhile, on and off, until they broke up for good, but then it wasn't really for good even though Dean got married but it didn't work out but it didn't work out with my daughter either and it was really kind of complicated and I hadn’t really talked to him since.  Until today when he was walking by my house and we started talking and then he got hit with the bike and he was passing out and--"

"Ma'am," the doctor interrupted with a placating smile on her face.  "We appreciate your help, but we're going to have to ask you to leave now."

"But, how is he?"

"We're going to take him for more tests, but I can't release any more information to you since you're not family."

Not family?  So she wasn't family?  Didn't daughter’s ex-boyfriend’s mother count for anything?  Possibly?  And isn't a town like Stars Hollow supposed to be one big happy family?

But there was no use arguing.  She could see it on the doctor's face.  Apparently policies were policies and she could try to stay, but getting forcibly removed by security probably wouldn't improve her chances of checking up on Dean's progress.

Instead, she offered a meager smile.  "Okay.  Well, if you need to know any more details, you know, like the color of the bike that hit him, just let me know.  I'll be in the waiting room."

The doctor looked at her funny and the nurse positively stared at her like she'd sprouted a horn in her forehead (which would be rather remarkable) and Lorelai smiled again, giving Dean one more look over.  He had returned to stillness, long and limp, and Lorelai could only hope that she'd be able to finish her conversation with him.  Because suddenly, it seemed like there was a lot left to say to him.  About college, about what he'd been up to, about Rory, about the dangerous quality of motorized bikes and starting a petition against them.

It would have to wait, though, and Lorelai ducked out of the room.

-o-

If Lorelai had ever felt flustered, now was a prime example of it.  Seeing Dean like that--so vulnerable--it had been hard--really hard, even harder than seeing him passed out on her couch.  It was supposed to be easier here, in the hospital, with all the trained staff milling about, but all it did was make him look smaller, weaker, even more like a helpless five year old than before.

Which only ramped up Lorelai guilt, because this was still kind of her fault.  Not purposefully and she wasn't the idiot who had run him over, but it was still hard to watch.  To see Dean stripped down to nothing and treated so indifferently.  Like an object, not a person.  A patient, not a human being.

Funny, that was pretty much how he was treated in Stars Hollow anyway.  Ever since losing Rory, he'd been the object of gossip and derision.  She'd never thought about it before, how impersonal all that was, and how empty that must make the kid feel.

She sort of hoped that she never had to tell him that'd she'd been there to see it.  Or anyone for that matter.

In fact, she just wanted to go home.

But she couldn't just go home.  Not with Dean as he was and not knowing for sure what was going on.  The doctor's hadn't been worried, hadn't sounded frantic--it hadn't even been fast-paced like she'd expected.  But she still needed to talk to Dean, to apologize, to--

Crap, parents at six o'clock.  Not hers, not that that would have been a good thing either, but Dean's.  They were nothing more than casual acquaintances.  When two high school kids dated, it was sort of necessary to at least know who the parents were.  They'd had no other cause to socialize, not even when Rory still attended the public school.  Lorelai was many things, but a good room mother?  Not so much.  Plus, the Foresters had moved to town just as Rory left for Chilton, which had minimized their chance meetings even more.

She did know that they'd been friendly, at first, but that by the end, they hadn't been a huge fan of Rory.

Well, she hadn't been a huge fan of Dean at that point either, so she couldn't really blame them there.  And so that had pretty much ended any friendliness between them, reducing them to mere civility when they were forced to interact.  Which was rare.  If ever.

The couple now looked distracted.  Which made sense, as they were in a hospital looking to see what had happened to their son.  Lorelai had been there, done that--well, not exactly that, but close enough--either way, she knew that looking for an update on a loved one was never fun, and she did not envy them.

Nor did she envy herself.  What was she supposed to say to the parents of her daughter's ex-boyfriend?  Much less the parents of her daughter's ex-boyfriend who had had his heart broken by said daughter at least three times?  And did Lorelai need to mention the fact that they were the parents of her daughter's ex-boyfriend whose marriage had fallen apart thanks partly to her daughter's presence?

For a second, she thought maybe she could get away without talking to them.  She could sneak by and have them all assume that they had no business together.  But they looked all tense and nervous, hands wrapped together and she was a witness...she couldn't just leave them like that.

"Randy, May," she said as she approached.  "Hi."

They blinked once, twice.  "Lorelai," May said finally, distractedly.  "Hello."

"You're here for Dean, right?" she asked.

That definitely piqued their interest, and suddenly she wasn't the mother of their son's ex-girlfriend, but rather the person who could tell them about their kid.  "You know about Dean?" Randy asked, his hand going protectively around May's shoulders.

Lorelai tried to smile.  "Yeah, I'm afraid so," she said.  "I mean, not that I'm afraid about Dean, but just that I was there when it happened."

"He's okay?" May asked.

"Well, he's kind of unconscious, but the medics told me that he'd probably be okay," Lorelai said.  "They needed to run some tests or something before they asked me to leave."

"Tests?  What tests?" May asked, nearly wailed, and Lorelai could not help but wonder if she spent her free time watching General Hospital or something, because she had the melodramatic response to medical emergencies down pat.  Lorelai would have to pay attention if she wanted to ramp up her own responses in the future.

"Just...tests," Lorelai said.  "I really don't know for sure.  They didn't want to tell me much since, you know, I'm not family."

May looked distraught.  Randy looked distrustful.  "Why were you with him to begin with?"

"He was walking by my place," she said.  "I never really figure out why.  He said he was just taking a walk and I was trying to do some gardening and we started talking and really, you'd be surprised how much he knows about gardening."

May now looked bewildered.  Randy looked impatient.  "So how did he get hurt?"

"Oh!  Right," Lorelai said.  "He was hit by a bike."

May's face contorted.  "A bike?"

"Yeah," Lorelai said.  "A motorized bike.  Knocked him over pretty good and he was out for a minute.  He came to and I was making sure he was okay when he went out again, which is when I called for help and then the ambulance came and Dean didn't wake up which is how I ended up here."

They were both staring at her now, a bit incredulously. 

"Oh," May said.  "Well."

Randy's brow darkened.  "I suppose we owe you thanks then," Randy said.  "For making sure he got here."

"Ah, hey, you'd do the same.  I mean for me.  Or my kid.  Or whatever," she said with a smile.  No need mentioning the role her hands had played in the ordeal.  It wasn't like that was really her fault, anyway.  Those things had minds of their own sometimes.  She was pretty sure.

Randy frowned a little, and May seemed to be deflating.  "We need to see the doctor," she said. 

"Right," Lorelai said. "Last I saw him, he was just down that way."  She pointed back to the exam room. 

"Thank you," May said absently.

"Our younger daughter--she's in the waiting room.  We didn't want her around, in case...," Randy said, his voice trailing off.  "But do you think that you could sit with her?  Just until we get back.  Explain to her a little what happened.  I think she's pretty nervous."

"Oh, well--"

"We'd really appreciate it," May chimed in.  "Just until we can get back."

"Sure," Lorelai said finally with a fake smile.  It was not a responsibility she wanted to undertake, but their kid was in an exam room and Lorelai knew damn well that he was still pretty out of it and she would not want to be them.  At all.  So she could babysit a teenage girl, right?  She did raise one, though she was pretty sure Rory was not the run-of-the-mill teenage girl.

"Thank you," May said, so sincerely, that for a second Lorelai forgot her own guilt, forgot how much she didn't want to talk to Dean's sister, how much she didn't want to sit here and play the hero to these people.

But what was she going to do?  Tell them no?  Tell them to forget it and walk out? 

She wasn't heartless.  Sentimentality wasn't her thing, but a bitch, she was not.  Besides, if she wanted to know about Dean, sticking close to the family was the way to go.  "Please," she said.  "Don't mention it."

-o-

Finding the waiting room was the easy part.  Remembering that she had gallantly promised to babysit was not.  Lorelai had been all intent on walking out, feeling like she'd done something great, when she remembered that she actually had to do that something.

Damn, little sister.  She remembered her.  Vaguely.  She'd seen her a few times, knew what she looked like.  It wasn't like they'd met often, but Rory had talked about her.  Dean had, too.  It was Tara or Clarice or...

"Clara!" she exclaimed, approaching the girl sitting by herself in the corner of the room.  "Hi."

The girl looked up at her, a little uncertain.  Though she was blonde, she had the same well-defined features Dean had.  Though she was tall and skinny like Dean had been when Lorelai'd first met him, it was more becoming on her, making her look older than she probably was.  Which was painfully apparent when the girl opened her mouth to speak--though Clara could look the part of a teenager, she still had the vocal intonation of a pre-teen girl.

As if the facial similarities weren't enough to equate Clara with Dean, she had that same wrinkle between her eyebrows when she looked concerned.  "Hi," she replied, a little coldly, a little uncertainly, almost haughty.

Which maybe was understandable.  Lorelai was a relative stranger, after all, and anything Clara did know about her was that she was Rory's mother, the same Rory that had stolen Dean's heart and trampled on it time and again before letting it go its depressed way.  "Your parents asked me to sit with you," Lorelai explained.

The response Clara offered her was full of disdain.  Of the pre-teen variety.  Lorelai did not miss those days—her own or Rory's.  "I know," Clara said.  "I don't know why.  I'm not a baby."

"Nope," Lorelai agreed, noting the fashionable clothes that probably cost her way too much and the smattering of makeup.  "But you know how parents are--over-protective.  I'm sure they mean well and they're worried enough about Dean--"

The girl's face darkened and her posture stiffened.  "Is Dean okay?"

Lorelai's guilt bubbled up.  "Oh, yeah," she said.  "He just hit his head a little bit."

Clara looked down, her attitude melting away a little.  "Last time we were here, Dean was hurt really bad."

The kid cared about her brother.  That much was plainly obvious.  And her parents didn't even have the decency to take her with them to see what was up.  She supposed they wanted to shield her--just in case--but keeping kids in the dark was not a policy Lorelai had ever abided by.  It only caused more grief in the end.  At least, that's how she'd dealt with Rory, and it seemed to have worked.  Rory was, after all, a college graduate, started in a career, and, in general, well-adjusted despite her obsessive tendency to enjoy CSPAN.  "Well this is different," Lorelai assured her.  "Last time was a fluke."

"He shocked himself," Clara said, looking up at Lorelai, almost tentatively. 

"And this time he hit his head," Lorelai concluded.  "See, very different."

"So he's okay?"

Lorelai hesitated, shrugging a little.  "They've got to check his head out," she said.  "You know, make sure he still has a brain."

The joke was lost on her.  But Lorelai figured her timing wasn't ideal.  Clara still looked at her, quite serious.  "But he's not dead?"

"Dead?" Lorelai asked, lifting her brows quizzically.  "No, not dead."

"How do you know?"

"Well, I was there," she explained.  "I saw it happen and I was with Dean when he came to the hospital.  He was pretty out of it and it may take him a bit to wake up, but he's definitely not dead."

"Is he hooked up to machines?  Like before?"

Lorelai hadn't seen Dean before, though she'd heard all about it.  From what she gathered, Dean had hovered near death, dependent on machines as he body found the will to live in the wake of the horrific accident.

Which probably meant it'd been touch and go for a while, but that as soon as the kid's brain reset itself, all was well.  "A few," she relented.  "You can't be in one of these places without being on something.  I swear, those nurses have needle fetishes--they just like poking people and they use the IVs to make us think it's important."

Clara smiled a little.  "Dean has to be okay," she said, settling back in her chair.

"Of course he does," Lorelai agreed, more relieved that Clara's tension had abated than anything else.  She'd dealt with enough drama from the Forester clan today--she didn't need it from Dean's little sister.  "He's a strong kid."

"He works out," Clara informed her helpfully.  "At least once a day.  He says he does cardio and weights.  That's the key, he says.  To staying healthy."

Well, that explained the body, then.  Perhaps Lorelai should be taking notes.  Getting in stellar shape might be a good hobby.

"He's teaching me how," she went on.  "Starting me out light."

"Always a good plan," Lorelai said with a nod.  "Don't want to overtax yourself."

"He's also studying all the time."

That piqued Lorelai’s interest.  "I thought he wasn't taking classes this summer."

"He's not," Clara said brightly.  "But he wants to get ahead.  He's always like that anymore.  He spends half the day with his head in a book--technical books, novels, anything.  He says he just wants to know more.  That he can't know enough.  Mom thinks he's just wasting his time, that he could be making money or something useful but Dean said he doesn't need the money."

Didn't need the money?  What was the kid doing--selling drugs on the side?  Because last time Lorelai checked, college was expensive.  Room and board was expensive.  The free time of a college student was expensive.  And last she checked, Dean Forester did not come from money.  In fact, Lorelai would guess that Clara's designer clothes were bought second-hand.  It didn't make them less trendy, but a little less pricey.

"He got a scholarship," Clara announced proudly.  "Covers everything."

"A full ride?" Lorelai asked, looking at her, surprised.  She usually kept up with the town's gossip, and things like full rides usually got touted pretty heavily.  "Really?"

Clara nodded decidedly.  "And he has a really good job on campus during the year.  Works for a professor as a research assistant.  Most undergraduates don't get that kind of opportunity."

Well, go figure.  Dean Forester was a hotshot student.  Rory wasn't the only Stars Hollow graduate destined for bigger and better things.

Which begged the question--why didn't anyone know about this?  Lorelai had her fingers on the pulse of the town, and--

Clara was looking at her now, eyes wide with concern.  "But don't tell anyone," she said.  "Dean says I shouldn't talk about it.  He says it's bragging.  And Mom would be so mad at me if she knew.  She's really weird about it."

"Weird?  Like weird she buys all the newspapers with news of his achievements and makes shrines in the back of her closet?"

Shaking her head, Clara folded in a little on herself.  "No, weird like, weird.  Like she doesn't think it's real or something.  Dad doesn't even talk about it, but Mom talks like it's going to change at any second.  But it won't," Clara said confidently.  "I mean, you should just see Dean."

Oh, Lorelai had seen Dean alright.  And it was a sight to behold.

"He's so dedicated.  It's just, like, everything I want to be."  Clara looked around, almost conspiratorially.  Then she leaned in closer to Lorelai. "But don't tell my mom that either.  She'd like totally flip."

"Like, totally," Lorelai agreed with a solemn nod.

Clara smiled a little before settled back into her seat.  "And you're sure Dean's okay?"

There was such hero worship in the kid's voice that it made Lorelai ache a little bit.  For Clara, for Dean, for the siblings Rory never had.  For the sibling's she'd never had.

Dean would be okay.  For Clara, he'd be okay.  Lorelai didn't know why she was so sure of that, but, if anything, Dean was dependable, always had been.  So she couldn't imagine that Dean would let Clara down. 

"Your parents will be here soon," she assured her.

The kid smiled a little before looking away again, her eyes wandering to the stack of out of date magazines on the nearby table.

And Lorelai slouched in her chair, hoping that Dean didn't make her a liar.  And thinking, just thinking, about what Rory would say if she were here.  If she'd be worried, if her emotions would show.  If she'd care at all.

Part 2b