AN: Happy almost Thanksgiving guys! I've been back from my vacation for quite some time, but unfortunately became quickly busy with my life working in retail (time for that busy season) Vacation was amazing. Even if you're not a fan of One Tree Hill you need to go to Wilmington, North Carolina. It's an absolutely incredible town. And the Blue Ridge Parkway by Asheville is gorgeous! I've been careful not to do any crossover in my stories, trying to keep plots and places the characters go different and in my Rory & Riley series I had Rory and Tristan visit Asheville and go on the Blue Ridge Parkway and I Will Always Be Your Soldier has them spending time in Wilmington, but I may need to find a time to get Rory and Jess down there. Perhaps after baby number two comes along. The beaches down there were gorgeous (we visited four different ones). I can already picture a shirtless Jess running after his children, them splashing in the water as Rory lays on a blanket reading a book. Anyway, time for some Mariano family fluff! Happy reading!

Chapter 28: "I must be delirious,"

A couple weeks after Richie's first birthday, the three of them were celebrating Jess' thirtieth. He had said when they were planning Richie's party that he didn't want a big celebration. He didn't need a big party with everyone they knew to make his birthday special. All Jess needed was his wife and their son. He woke up that Tuesday morning to his smiling son laying in the bed next to him, his head on his mother's pillow.

"Birfday Dada!" Richie exclaimed, leaning over to give Jess a kiss.

"Thank you son," Jess said, running his fingers through Richie's growing mane of dark curls. His hair had grown a lot in the last few months and Jess wondered how his first haircut would go, but Rory wasn't quite ready to cross that milestone so for now it continued to grow. Jess would let it it be until it got so long it covered his eyes.

"Thanks buddy," Jess said, looking over at the clock on Rory's side of the bed, frowning when he noticed the time. He had slept in until nine. He hadn't slept in that late in a long time, definitely not since becoming a father and especially not since he opened up Truncheon II. He was usually out the door and at the store by now.

"Dada stay," Richie said, climbing onto Jess' lap when he started to move the blanket away from himself and get out of bed, "Mama!"

"Morning, Husband. Happy Birthday," Rory said, coming into their bedroom with a tray in her hands, setting it down on Jess' lap once Richie moved back to her side of the bed and giving Jess a kiss.

"Thank you. This looks great Ror, but care to tell me why our son confined me to our bed and why my alarm didn't go off this morning?" Jess asked, "I'm supposed to be at the store already."

"Your alarm didn't go off because I turned it off when I took your phone so you wouldn't be woken up by any messages wishing you a happy birthday," Rory told him, joining him and Richie on the bed, placing Richie in between them, "And this one was tasked with the job of keeping you in bed so we could all enjoy breakfast together."

"But the store?" Jess questioned.

"Is taken care of. You know all those employees you searched for, interviewed and hired so you could take a day off every now and then," Rory said, "Let them do what you hired and trained them to do. And to help them if they need anything I called April and she said she'd swing by for a few hours this afternoon."

"Alright, so after breakfast, what do you have planned for us?" Jess asked, taking a bite of the pancakes Rory made before feeding a piece to both her and Richie.

"I have a few ideas," she told him, taking a sip of her coffee.

"Any you want to share?" Jess asked.

"Nope. You'll just have to wait and see," she said.

They did end up going to the bookstore for a few minutes that afternoon. After visiting the old record store Jess took her to when she visited him in New York back in high school, they stopped at a deli to pick up a picnic basket of food before going to Washington Square Park to have a family picnic under Rory's new favorite reading tree. Near the end of her pregnancy Rory spent a lot of time at the park since it was close to Truncheon II and Jess liked having her nearby in case she went into labor early. She could never find a comfortable bench, but there was one tree that fit her ever aching back perfectly. She would take a book with her and read for an hour at a time before Jess would come and help her up so she could stretch her legs. Since they were close they stopped at the store after their picnic to say hello to April and everyone.

After leaving the store they went home to get ready for dinner. Louise had agreed to watch Richie for the evening while Rory and Jess went out so once she arrived they took a cab Uncle Jack's Steakhouse. They took a liking to it after going for their first anniversary and have tried to go back once every few months since.

Rory's thirtieth birthday came a few months after Jess' and much to Lorelai's disappointment Rory had decided she wanted to stay in the city and just spend the day with Jess and Richie. She understood her mother's disappointment. They hadn't been to Stars Hollow since mid July for a new summer carnival Taylor decided to startup. They were supposed to go in August for Hunter's birthday, but Richie came down with an ear infection and was feeling pretty miserable so they stayed in the city. They weren't able to go to Stars Hollow in September during the end of summer madness festival since it fell during the time New York schools started up again and the bookstore was busy with parents and students buying things they needed or wanted for the start of the year.

Now the Mariano's would not be back in Stars Hollow until Halloween. Lorelai, Luke, and Hunter had been to the city for a day or two over the past few months, but Lorelai insisted seeing them in New York just wasn't the same.

"Mariano, you home?" Logan asked walking into Rory and Jess' apartment, a sleeping Rory curled up in his arms, carrying her into their living room.

"Logan, what are you…" Jess began, pausing when he saw Logan holding his wife, laying her down on the couch, "Is she okay?"

"Mostly. Nothing major, but she excused herself three times from the meeting this morning to throw up and when I called her on it after she said she was fine," Logan told him, "I insisted she go home. I had to practically force her into the car."

"She's burning up," Jess said, leaning over her to kiss her forehead, "Why didn't she tell me she was sick?"

"You really need me to answer that?" Logan asked.

"Guess not. She's a Gilmore and stubborn as hell," Jess said, "Thanks for bringing her home."

"No problem man," Logan said.

"Now, I just have to figure out what to do with Richie. Taking care of a sick Gilmore is practically a full time job and while he may already be exposed to whatever she's got I'd rather not push it," Jess said, pulling out his phone, looking through his contacts, debating who he could call to watch their son for a couple of days.

"We could watch him," Logan said.

"What?" Jess asked, looking up at Logan with surprise.

"We could watch him. Me and Louise," Logan said, "Louise has watched him before and she and I have looked after my sister's kids before."

"Are you sure?" Jess asked, "He can be a handful and this time it will be more than just a few hours."

"Yeah, we'll be fine," Logan said.

"Okay, well, let me pack some things for him and get a car seat for you," Jess said.

"I've got one, well two actually," Logan told him, "I've had Honor's kids in the car with me on occasion so I just keep them in the car."

"Alright. I'll be back in a minute. We'll you stay with Rory?" Jess asked.

"Sure," Logan told him, taking a seat on the chair across from the couch where Rory was still sleeping, letting out a breath before pulling out his phone to text Louise and tell her about their temporary house guest. Never in a million years did he ever think he'd be here. He never saw himself being friends with Rory again after they broke up let alone being friends with her husband and he sincerely liked Jess. But, volunteering to watch their son so Jess could focus on taking care of Rory, he had to be out of his mind, but he was happy to do it. While weird for him at first when he first saw and held Richie when he was a baby, Logan had grown to love the little guy as much he did his niece and nephew.

"Hey, Book Tease, how are you feeling?" Jess asked, brushing the hair out of Rory's face that had fallen when she had rolled over.

"Like I got ran over by a truck," Rory said, her voice hoarse and scratchy, looking around the room, "How did I get here?"

"Logan brought you home. You fell asleep in his car and he carried you in," Jess told her, running his lips across her forehead after removing the now lukewarm cloth from her head, "You're still pretty warm. Now that you're up I'll get you some medicine and another cool washcloth."

"Thank you," Rory told him, pulling the blanket tighter around herself as she felt a shiver go through her body.

"Can you sit up a bit?" Jess asked, placing a couple of pills into her hand, sitting next to her to help her sit up, handing he the cup of water after the pills were in her mouth, "Why don't you rest some more and I'll work on making you some soup."

"Luke's recipe?" Rory asked. Early in their relationship when they were kids Jess had come down with a cold and Luke had made him a batch of his mother's chicken noodle soup recipe. Jess didn't care much for the idea of Luke taking care of him as if he were a child, but the soup was delicious. Luke gave Jess the recipe years later when he and Rory had got back together telling him he would need eventually if Rory was anything like her mother when she got sick.

"Would I make you anything else?" Jess asked with a smirk, kissing her forehead again before placing the cool washcloth on her head, "Get some rest. I'll wake you when the soup is ready."

"Thanks, Jess," Rory said, closing her eyes as he walked out of the room, sitting up quickly when she took in how overly quiet it was, "Jess!"

"Are you alright?" Jess asked, rushing into the room, urging her to lay back down as sitting up so fast seemed to make her dizzy.

"Richie!" Rory exclaimed, having realized as she began to close her eyes she didn't hear him in his nursery or the sound of his toys from the living room.

"Logan took him home," Jess told her.

"I must be delirious," Rory said, "Did you say he's with Logan?"

"Yep. He knows what a handful you can be when you're sick and wanting to keep Richie away so he doesn't get sick, too, I gladly took him up on his offer," Jess told her, "He'll be fine with Logan and Louise for a couple of days."

"He does have a niece and nephew he spends time with whenever possible," Rory said, "Richie may even make some new friends if he invites Honor and Josh over or goes to their place."

"Maybe," Jess said, covering her back up, "Now, time for you to relax and work on getting well. I'll be in the kitchen if you need him so just holler or whisper even. I'll take the baby monitor with me."

"Thank you," Rory said, closing her eyes as he kissed her cheek, "I love you, Dodger."

"I love you, too. Sleep well, Book Tease," Jess said, leaving her to rest while he went to make her soup.

"That was even better than I remember," Rory said, setting her spoon in her bowl after taking her last bite.

"Would you like more?" Jess asked, removing the tray from her lap.

"No, I'm full. I could go for some coffee, though," Rory said, look up at him with a slight pout.

"Not going to work, Ror. No coffee while you're sick," Jess told her, "You need rest, not a caffeine buzz keeping you up. How about some herbal tea with honey? It will help your sore throat."

"Fine," Rory grumbled, reaching for her phone as it lay plugged into the charger on her bedside table.

"What are you doing?" Jess asked, taking the phone from her hands.

"I was just going to text Logan to check on Richie," Rory told him.

"He's fine," Jess assured her, "Logan sent me a video of him 'reading' several of the books from the shelf in his living room while I made your soup. According to the text he sent with it Richie quickly grew bored with the kid friendly ones at his eye level and pushed an ottoman over to the shelf to reach the other titles."

"This is so staged. You asked him to send you this," Rory said, looking at a picture on Jess' phone Logan had sent him, "No child of mine would willingly grab a Hemingway off the shelf, whether he could read the title and knew what he was grabbing or not."

"Maybe not, but he is my child, too," Jess said, "This has officially become my new background."

"I guess it's a good thing we didn't make any big plans for today," Rory said as she lay on the couch in their living room, curled up under a blanket with her head in Jess' lap as he stroked her hair. She was still running a slight fever, but had been feeling well enough to leave their bed and hadn't been physically sick since Logan brought her home two days prior.

"Not the ideal way to spend a birthday. I'd rather be taking you out to dinner and a movie or whatever, but I'm perfectly happy staying just like this all day," Jess said, leaning down to kiss her lips. He had avoided kissing her the first day or so of taking care of her so he wouldn't get sick, too, but now that she was feeling better and had been taking medicine a few times a day he wasn't concerned with her being contagious, "Happy Birthday, Rory."

"Are Logan and Louise bringing Richie back today?" Rory asked, "I already slept through Mom's phone call, I don't want to go my whole birthday without a hug from my baby. I miss my little boy."

"I know. I do too," Jess said, "It's still early. Why don't you lay here and take a nap while I get all the laundry done. Now that you're feeling better and you're fever isn't so high, I want to get the sheets changed. We'll see how you feel after and then we can give Logan a call, okay?"

"Alright. Can you bring me some juice?" Rory asked.

"No tea?" Jess asked, lifting her head from his lap so he could stand up.

"I'm sick of tea and I know you'll still say no to coffee and water doesn't sound too appealing either," Rory said.

"Juice it is then," Jess said, going to the kitchen and pouring her glass of orange juice, "Holler if you need me."

"Thank you," she said, drinking half the glass before setting it down on the coffee table in front of her and laying her head on the pillow at the end of the couch while Jess covered her up.

"Mama!" Rory heard, thinking at first it was all in her dream so she turned over, pulling the blanket tighter around her body.

"Shh, Mama's sleeping buddy," Jess told their son, picking him up and carrying him over to the couch, sitting on the end near Rory's feet. He reached up to run his fingers along her cheek, "Rory, time to wake up, babe."

"Jess," Rory mumbled, rolling back over to face him, her eyes fluttering open, "I thought I heard...Richie!"

"Mama!" Richie exclaimed again, trying to free himself from his father's tight hold, not wanting to wait for Rory to sit up.

"Hold on a second, buddy. Let Mama get up," Jess told him, holding him close to his chest with one hand and reaching out the other for Rory to grab onto so he could pull her up to sit next to them.

"My baby boy," Rory said, holding her arms out to him which he quickly jumped into, "I missed you, sweet boy."

"Miss Mama," Richie said, wrapping his arms tight around her neck, nuzzling his face into her chest.

"Was everything okay with him?" Jess asked Logan and Louise, getting up from the couch to join them where they had sat down in the kitchen to allow Rory and Jess a moment with Richie alone.

"He was a perfect little angel," Louise told him, "We enjoyed having him. It gave us practice for the future."

"Are you?" Jess asked.

"No, not yet, but we've talked about it a few times before," Louise said, looking to Logan, who nodded before she continued, "And while I haven't said anything to Rory or even Madeline yet cause she can't keep a secret for anything, we're not doing anything to keep it from happening."

"Good for you guys," Jess said, "Maybe it will happen for all of us and in the future our daughters will be best friends."

"Or our son we'll grow up to marry your daughter," Logan said.

"No. With your history Huntzberger, karma will ensure that you have a daughter first," Jess said, getting a laugh from Louise.

"Hey guys," Rory said, coming into the kitchen, Richie on her hip and his arms still wrapped around her neck, "What did I miss that's so funny?"

"Jess can fill you in later," Louise said, standing up, "We're going to get out of here so you guys can enjoy your day together."

"Richie sweetie, can you give Auntie Louise a hug goodbye?" Rory asked, earning a shake of the head from Richie as he buried his face in her neck.

"Someone really missed his Mama," Logan said, placing a hand on the little boy's back, "Richie, buddy, do you remember what Auntie Louise and I said today was?"

"Mama Day!" Richie exclaimed after thinking on it a moment, kissing Rory's cheek, "Birfday!"

"Thank you sweet boy," Rory said, holding him close to her as he lay his head back on her shoulder.

"Happy birthday, Ace," Logan said, placing a quick kiss on her cheek.

"Happy birthday, Rory," Louise said, giving her as best a hug she could with Richie in her arms.

"Thanks, you guys and thank you for watching Richie," Rory said.

"Anytime, Rory," Louise said before leaving with Logan.

"And then there were three," Jess said, "So, what shall we do for the rest of the day?"

"Hmm, I don't know," Rory said, "Any ideas, Richie? What do you want to do today?"

"Pway," he said, pointing towards his playroom.

"Play it is," Rory said, carrying Richie into the playroom, setting him on the floor before joining him, Richie quickly going to his toy chest and taking out a few items for them to play with.

"So, is this how you imagined spending your birthday?" Jess asked, joining his wife and son on the playroom floor, Richie handing each of them a few blocks so they could start building.

"I could do without the flu bug," Rory said, getting a smile from Jess.

"Definitely," Jess agreed.

"But, this right here, the three of us, I could spend everyday like this," Rory told him.

"Me too," Jess said, taking her left hand in his right, kissing her ring finger as she lay her head on his shoulder, "This is the dictionary definition of a perfect moment."