Very drabble-y and pointless. Mostly for practicing dialogue.

Season 2, shortly before the car accident.

"Where's Luke?"

Caesar looked over a stack of plates at Lorelai's curious blue eyes. Struggling to balance, he shifted his weight and answered, "He's doing dishes."

"Doesn't he have a guy for that?" asked Rory, glancing up from a textbook.

"Guillermo," Caesar said as he caught a teetering bowl. "Guillermo's on grill today."

"Well aren't you usually on grill?" Rory asked.

"Today I'm on tables."

"What's with the musical chairs?" Lorelai wondered as a mug finally came toppling down to crash below their table.

Caesar sighed and, without putting down the stack, leaned and tried to snatch the largest broken piece. In slow motion the carefully balanced stack of plates collapsed around him. It feel so slowly, it seemed, that every other patron in the diner, including Miss Patty who was busy mooning over the new Doose's grocery boy, could easily have seen its inevitability.

Caesar appeared only mildly irked as he snatched the broom from behind the counter and began sweeping up the pieces.

"So what, Luke just got this burning desire to be Pete Jordan?" Lorelai leaned over to look at Caesar knelt under her chair and plucked silverware from the shards of glass. "I mean, don't get me wrong, I'm glad to see you out of the kitchen, a man of the people and all, you just don't seem to be relishing it."

Caesar breathed heavily as he stretched out across the floor.

"I'm not," he groaned. "Believe me, I like my kitchen. I like my privacy. Back there no one bothers me. Luke even lets me listen to my Strapping Young Lad album so long as you can't hear it up here."

Lorelai raised her eyebrows at her daughter but chose to let the moment pass unmocked while she tried to extract information from the portly, wheezing man.

"But today…" she trailed off when Caesar sat back on his heels. He looked back and forth for a moment before leaning confidentially towards the girls.

"Okay, I didn't tell you this but Luke's sick and he doesn't want to be out here infecting customers."

"Is he okay?" Rory asked with concern lilting in her voice.

"He's fine," Caesar waved his hand. "It's just a cold or something. He just don't want people to know."

"Well his secret is safe with us," Rory replied primly. "Right Mom?"

But Lorelai's eyes were alight like a child who had just found the Christmas presents. "Luke's got a cold?" she grinned. "Mr. Tofu-and-Sprouts? Mr. That-Red-Meat'll-Kill-You? Mr. No-Coffee-For-Me-Thanks-I'll-Just-Have a-Green-Tea has a cold?"

"Mom," Rory warned.

"Huh? Oh," she looked back at Caesar. "Don't worry, I won't tell him you ratted him out."

The cook continued to look concerned and Lorelai smiled and, with a hint of malice, held out her coffee cup. "Refill?" she asked sweetly.

Stumbling over what he could not carry, Caesar rushed to top off Lorelai's drink. The door chimed behind their table and Rory turned just in time to see Jess push out of the diner. Where had he even come from?

"Mom, I gotta go," she said, snatching her backpack and darting towards the exit. Almost there, she stopped and turned back one on foot. "Promise me you won't harass Luke."

"Me?" Lorelai perked up and made her eyes wide and innocent. "You think I'm going to harass a poor, sick man?"

"Yes," Rory said shortly. "I do." She hesitated, seeing Jess's figure disappearing behind the street corner.

"Just don't be cruel," she finished hastily, before pushing open the door.

"Cruel," Lorelai repeated, incredulous. "Me? Who does she think she is, calling me cruel?" Maintaining the look of astonishment Lorelai was quickly humbled to realize she was, in fact, speaking to no one.

With a internal sigh she quickly lifted out of her seat and skirted through the back of the shop, past a frazzled Caesar frantically taking down Taylor's intricate lunch order.

Just as Taylor was carefully articulating, "I'd like six tomato slices but they must each be at least 4 inches in diameter; none of those end pieces…" Lorelai was slipping out of sight.

In all of her times nosing around at Luke's, Lorelai was surprised to realize this was her first time in the kitchen. Even when Uncle Louie died and she had been here full time, Luke had made sure to have her barred from the kitchen. 'Knowing you, you'll probably burn the place down,' he had told her.

Now she could start to understand his concern. This was nothing like Sookie's kitchen. That was the epitome of organization and cleanliness, the complete opposite of the absent-minded chef in every way. Apparently Luke, who liked things simple and neat, kept his kitchen in a constant state of chaos.

She closed the door gently behind her, muting the sound of Taylor railing on Caesar, and coyly snuck forth.

"Hey Jess, wait up!" Rory called and she clung to the straps of her backpack and broke into a run.

Jess didn't break stride or turn but he smiled when a winded Rory appeared beside him. "What's up Flash?"

She gasped for air before looking scornful. "I'm faster without this book bag."

"I'm just impressed you ran that far without falling," he grinned and swept a finger under his nose.

"Where are you going anyway?"

"School."

"School?" Rory was skeptical.

"Yeah school. You know, textbooks, homework, under qualified teachers paid to babysit idiotic cheerleaders and football players between the hours of 7 and 2."

Rory squinted, "It does sound familiar."

"Relax, let it come to you."

"I've never seen you leave for school in such a hurry before."

"Yeah well, Luke's decided that every tardy I get this semester is another weekend of scraping plates at the diner."

"Sound motivation," Rory said, nodding.

"Absolutely," Jess began another quip but was cut short as he whipped away and sneezed, forcefully, into cupped palms.

"Bless you."

"Thanks," replied Jess, not making eye contact.

Rory eyed him for a moment. "Are you sick too?"

"Nope," Jess continued to look away.

"Really?" Rory drew out the word as hints of her mother began to crop up in her voice. "'Cause you don't look so great."

"Thanks again."

"Your eyes are all watery. And red."

"Had to get through the school day somehow."

"And your voice; it's deeper."

"Oh those magic changes," Jess quoted.

"Well, what about," Rory began just as Jess pulled away to sneeze again, "that?"

"Must be something in the air."

Rory studied him a moment longer while Jess fixed his jaw and began to stride even faster. She chose to tread carefully while she planned her next move.

"I hear there's a bookfair today," Jess said. "Will I see you there after school?"

Rory's eyes lit up as she answered. "Of course. Andrew said they've even got some hand-drawn Carroll books he'll set aside for me. But wait, you don't have to work?"

"Not today," Jess' voice was sullen again and he coughed discreetly.

"But you always work after school."

"The exception that proves the rule…" he mumbled.

"Why?" Rory's question was pointed and she touched his arm when she spoke.

Jess shrugged but a smile pulled at his mouth. "Luke gave me the day off."

"Doesn't want you handling food when you're all germy?" Rory asked slyly.

"You know what?" Jess stopped walking and faced her, a smile fully bloomed now. "You're right. I am sick. I shouldn't go to school today. In my condition, it really wouldn't be wise."

Now it was Rory who turned away, trying to appear disengaged. "You've got a cold, Jess. You can go to school with a cold."

"But how do you know?" Jess feigned alarm. "It doesn't feel like just a cold. In fact, I think my airways are closing up. Feel my forehead, I've definitely got a fever. 105, 106 at least."

"Jess-"

"I should stay home. Write out my will and all."

They had finally reached the bus stop where Rory draped a hand over the sign as the old, public bus rumbled down the road.

"Jess, go to school."

"Do you really think that's a good idea?"

"Bye Jess," she said as she stepped up.

"Later Rory," he said with a smirk as he watched her ascend. He doubled back on the route to Stars Hollow High, sneezing again and plucking from his pocket a large stock of tissues he'd packed earlier that morning.