"Lucas Poindexter Danes," Lorelai's voice reverberated in the tiny apartment.
Luke, leafing through paperwork at his kitchen table, jumped and gasped, pressing a hand to his chest. "Lorelai you scared the hel- 'Poindexter?' Where did you get Poindexter?"
"Took a shot in the dark. So I'm wrong?"
Luke shook his head. "Way wrong."
"Oh well." Lorelai shrugged. "Hey, you were supposed to be in bed. And you were supposed to change."
She put down the tray of food she had been balancing and plucked at the front pocket of Luke's shirt. It was still wet and now cold. A visible shiver ran down his back as Lorelai vented cool air between the folds of flannel.
"Oh right," he said, distracted. "Well I was going to, but then I remember I haven't finished the ordering for the month so I started to go through that. Then I noticed that my regular meat vendor increased the price of hamburger patties by thirty cents without even telling me. So I started going through some other inventories to see if anyone else-"
He was cut off by Lorelai pressing a finger to his lips. Her hand drifted up to his forehead and she winced. "You feel warmer than before. Where's your thermometer?"
Reluctantly but quickly he pulled away from her touch. "Still at the store I'd imagine, being that I've never bought one."
"You don't have a thermometer?" Lorelai rolled her eyes. "Why am I not surprised? I guess you don't have cold meds or ibuprofen either."
"I don't like drugs."
"Of course you don't." She reoriented and tray and began to button her sweater. "Well I'm going to run over the Doose's and get some medicine." She waited while he pulled the collar of his shirt up over his nose and sneezed stiffly. "And tissues," she continued. "When I get back I want you in pajamas."
Luke nodded, rubbing at the bridge of his nose and reaching to pluck another inventory sheet from his pile. "Hey," he cried as Lorelai snatched it from his hand.
"I think I'll take these with me," she said gathering all the pages into a folder. "Luke, pajamas, bed, soup," she indicated the tray before him which he eyed cautiously.
"Did you make it?" he asked carefully.
"Don't worry, I had Caesar do it."
He grimaced and took a spoonful as Lorelai scurried across the street.
She reappeared nearly half an hour later, carrying a large shopping bag on each arm with a third, plastic one dangling from her wrist. As she unloaded the bag she wrung out her dripping hair over the sink and pulled off a rain-soaked outer coat.
"What's all this?" Luke asked, buttoning a fresh shirt as he came out of the bedroom.
Lorelai turned with a smile before her face dropped. "I thought I said pajamas."
Luke rolled up the wrists of his long sleeved shirt. "These are my pajamas."
"They're flannel. You wear flannel pajamas? Are you kidding me? Making a mental note to mock you when you're feeling better."
"Yeah yeah," Luke muttered, clearing his throat. "So what, did you buy out Doose's? Was Taylor mad?"
"Oh," Lorelai's face lit up. "Here, my friend, is the ultimate sick day care package."
"This is completely unnecessary," he said with an eye roll.
"Nothing has ever been more necessary."
"Mad Magazine?" he said, pulling it from one of the Doose's bags.
"Essential reading material when you can't focus on a book. And here," she reached into the second bag and began laying groceries across the table.
"Canned soup, tissues, tea, Sudafed, throat drops, eye drops, lemon drops."
"Jelly beans, miniature Snickers bars, Twizzlers, marshmallows, cheetos, orange juice."
"Something healthy at least," he said through a cough.
"And I ran home and got you my favorite electric blanket," she continued, reaching past the magazines in the first bag again. "I'm telling you, when I've got really bad cramps I'd choose this to curl up with over Taye Diggs in a heartbeat."
Luke wrinkled his nose. "Too much information."
"Oh, right. Sorry. Anyway, on my way back from the house I stopped at the video store and got Weekend At Bernie's, Dawn of the Dead, and drumroll please, Star Trek: The Next Generation season 1. I had to fight a off a 45 year-old virgin at the store for that one but for you, my friend, anything."
"Lorelai you really didn't have to do all this."
"What are you talking about? Of course I did. You're always fixing my house, and serving me coffee, and bringing ice to my shindigs; you deserve the best."
For a moment Luke couldn't look away from her. She held his gaze before breaking up the silence.
"Besides, I need you back on the job. Your pancakes are like a million times better than Caesar's. I could only choke down two short stacks this morning."
"Heaven help you."
"At this rate, I'll starve in a matter of days."
She waited patiently while he turned and sneezed twice. When he was done she handed the box of tissues she had bought.
"They've got moisturizer in them. And the box has kittens on it."
"Thanks," he said, snatching two and blowing his nose. As he did he looked up at her from above the billowy folds. He wiped his nose. "Hey you're all wet."
Lorelai shrugged. "It's a new look I'm trying. Natalie Pond's got nothing on me."
"It's pouring rain."
"Oh hey," Luke pulled a flowery curtain aside. "When did that start?"
"About twenty minutes ago. It's definitely slowed down the lunch rush. The only one down there now is Kirk. And that new server you hired."
"Right, Indigo. Anyway the two of them were battling over Splenda. She seems to be taking to this job well."
"So you're saying I don't need to feel bad about not being down there?"
She grinned. "That's exactly what I'm saying."
"Well thanks. And hey you probably should dry off. I don't want you getting sick too."
"Oh yeah," Lorelai looked down at her sopping blouse. "Can I borrow a shirt?"
Luke look surprised. "Why don't you just go to your house? I'm sure you have dry clothes there. Ones that actually fit you."
"Um hello," Lorelai gestured to the window. "It's pouring out there. Besides, I thought I could hang out here a bit. In case you need anything." An unusual shyness had crept into her voice.
"Oh," Luke looked sheepish. "Sure, if you want. I mean, if you don't mind. I mean, that'd be great. Um… top drawer, there should be plenty of clean shirts."
"Cool," Lorelai nodded. "So I'll just grab one of those then."
As she skirted from the room to change Luke looked down at his care package and then back to the place where she had stood, holding still for a long time.
A short walk from the old bridge was a small pavilion, wooden and decrepit. It was too small for a gathering of any substance and had, subsequently, fallen into disrepair. At this time, though, when the sky had opened, dumping buckets of freezing water onto Stars Hollow, it provided the perfect shelter for Rory and Jess.
He sat on the top step of the stage and watched Rory chatting on the phone. Her wet hair fell in coiled ringlets around her cheeks and her eyes glowed while she talked to her boyfriend. Of course, the one time when she would have Lorelai's cell phone on her would be the same time that she and Jess were conveniently rained into close proximity, with nothing but each other to pass the time. He sniffled and shivered, feeling the icy cold water across every inch of his body then scowled lowering his chin onto his knees.
"Well, when are you getting home from your grandmother's?" Rory asked, fidgeting with her Chilton jacket as she listened to Dean talk. The sound of his voice soothed her but, as she looked over at Jess, hunched and miserable across the pavilion, she felt a pang of guilt for choosing to return the page now.
"Hey Dean, I gotta get going. My mom'll freak if I use all her daytime minutes. Yeah. Yeah, I love you too."
Rory tucked the phone into her skirt pocket and went to sit next to Jess. She wrapped her arms around her knees and watched the falling rain while Jess sulked beside her.
"How are you feeling?" she asked.
"Just peachy," came the sardonic reply.
She frowned. "You don't have to be like that. Why can't you just give an honest answer occasionally?"
She sighed and surveyed him. Then, without asking, she began to pull his jacket from his shoulders.
"What are you doing?" he growled.
"Your coat is drenched. I'm going to lay it out to dry. It can't feel good all cold and wet like that."
He grumbled but didn't argue as he pulled his coat off and allowed her to take it. She spread it out across the center of the pavilion before returning to his side.
"You're soaked to the bone," she said, seeing the hairs on his arm raise above a littering of goosebumps.
"I guess that means I can skip the whole showering thing tonight."
She ignored the remark, instead pulling her backpack into her lap and starting to rifle through it.
"Here," she said, holding out a wrinkled Chilton sweater. "I keep an extra one just in case this one frays or something."
"Well aren't you a boy scout," he quipped, not moving.
"Take it," she held the sweater out more persistently.
Jess snarled derisively. "I am not wearing that."
"Come on, it's warm and dry, and it's not like anyone can see you in here."
"I can see me," he protested with another shiver. His voice quivered and he quickly lowered his head into his arms, sneezing four times and wrenching his shoulders painfully with each one.
"Bless you. Here," she rummaged again and withdrew another pile of napkins.
"I've got my own, thanks," he said, producing a rapidly diminishing pack of Kleenex.
"You aren't too badly prepared yourself, mister. I mean, for someone who doesn't even have a cold."
She continued to cling to the napkins for a moment, staring at Jess' head.
"Your hair is all wet," she told him.
"Good observation," he said, brushing a hand across it and sending beads of water flying.
Rory reflected for a moment before folding together a collection of napkins and slowly starting to dry his head. He did not protest and she did not comment on the heat radiating from his face. A silent understanding had been struck between them.
"There," she said when completed. "How is that?"
"Better," he admitted honestly. Subconsciously his gaze had drifted over to the woolen sweater laying across Rory's lap. She smiled and picked it up. She draped it over his shoulders letting her hands linger for a moment across his biceps.
"I won't tell," she promised. "Not that you need to be embarrassed. Dean wore one of my sweaters once."
"You and Sasquatch wear the same size do you?"
"Well it was actually my Dad's. When I was little I used to wear it when he visited. One day he just left it for me."
"That's nice," Jess said with a touch of wistfulness .
"Yeah, so it was technically a man's sweater. Dean still didn't want to wear it though. But I spilled ketchup on…"
"Can we not talk about Dean?" Jess interjected.
"Oh," Rory stopped short. "Sure."
For a long while they sat and watched the rain. Neither spoke except for the occasional blessing on Rory's side when Jess needed to sneeze. At one point she realized she was about to rest her head on his shoulder and jerked herself upright.
"Are you okay?" Jess asked.
"Fine," she said, still seated but clearly uneasy. "We should head back into town."
Jess groaned. "Stuck in the apartment all afternoon with a sick Luke. Sounds like a good time."
"At least you have your own room now."
"Thank God for small favors," Jess replied with a cough.
Rory studied him for a moment as her interest peaked. "You don't really hate it do you? Living with Luke."
"Well who wouldn't want to live with a stubborn hermit who wears the same shirt and cap every day?"
"At least he cares."
"Yeah right," Jess said with a half-laugh.
Rory turned and furrowed her brow. "Don't be like that, Jess. Of course he cares. Man, for someone so smart you can be really dense about some things."
"Maybe." Jess shrugged uncomfortably. " I just irritate him I guess. We have absolutely nothing in common."
At this Rory laughed out loud. When Jess turned a questioning face on her, she said nothing and he settled for that.