Rating: FRT (Fan Rated suitable for Teens)

Content Warning: Language, but not much else.

Spoilers: The whole series is fair game, but specific spoilers for the finale.

Disclaimer: I don't own. If I did, the show would still be on. :(

Special thanks to Bluenose, who's spent many a long chat with me deconstructing the characters. :D I owe you.

From Sloppy Seconds to the Main Course

© 2006, By: Ash Carroll (a.k.a. ShadowDiva)

She's decided he's crazy. The cops could come in here any minute, guns blazing, and his only regret - one big one - is that he's wanted to ask her out since he first saw her.

Imagine that. Her - Jessica Rossi - someone's first choice. If that isn't crazy, she doesn't know what is.

Jim calls into the coutroom then, so she doesn't get the chance to respond to Nick. But that's okay - she wasn't expecting him to say what he said, and she has no idea how to answer him anyway.

Later they're all at Sullivan's, celebrating because they got out alive. She can feel Nick's eyes on her from his seat near Billy at the end of the bar, but she pretends she doesn't notice - he only wants her because he doesn't know the real Jessica Rossi. She wishes she wasn't too fucked up for a nice guy like him.

Jim comes over and asks how she is. She lies, of course, but then, so does he. It's what they do. He pretends he isn't in love with Alexandra - Fucking - Cabot; she pretends she doesn't know that if she were to call off her engagement tomorrow, Jim would be at her door before either of their sheets were even cold. That she - Jessica Rossi - is just sloppy seconds because his first choice isn't on the menu anymore.

Some days, she almost fools herself.

She watches as everyone gets ready to leave and Jim offers to walk Cabot to her car.

Some days, she wishes she could stop pretending.

"Heading home?"

Nick startles her and she jumps a little. It's the first time they've talked since the courtroom, and she forces a smile.

"Yeah. It's been a long week."

He nods. "Me too." There's a stretch of awkward silence before he speaks again. "You wanna share a cab?"

She knows he doesn't live close enough - that it's just a reason to spend time with her - and she tries to think of an excuse, a way out. Then she sees Jim leave with Cabot and changes her mind.

"Yeah," she smiles - a little more genuine this time, "that'd be great."

And it is.

0-0-0-0-0-0

The first time they have sex it's at her place - after another group night at Sullivan's - and Nick knows he's her second choice but he doesn't seem to care. Not even when she won't let him call her by name; she's not ready to be someone's first choice. The idea scares the hell out of her.

She wants him to call her something else - his second choice - but he doesn't have one, and that scares her more. So she tells him not to call her anything at all. She thinks it'll be easier that way, but it isn't. Because he doesn't have to call her by name to tell her she's his first choice. He can breathe it on her skin - burn it there with his lips and his tongue; write it on her body with his hands and his fingers.

And he does.

Later, she watches as he pulls on his clothes and stands in front of her bedroom mirror to do up his tie. Her fingers itch to grab him by it - pull him back into bed and ask him to stay. But she doesn't. She's not the kind of woman that men stay with; she's the kind they fuck and leave and she likes it that way.

At least that's what she tells herself as she watches them walk out the door.

But she's not sure she believes it this time.

She waits until she hears the front door close before she drags herself off to the shower and tries to wash his words away. But she doesn't get them all, no matter how hard she scrubs. Some part of them has seeped down inside her and it doesn't feel as wrong as she thinks it's supposed to.

0-0-0-0-0-0

It keeps happening.

Jim keeps choosing Cabot over her, and she keeps finding herself as Nick's literary masterpiece - a work in progress. He picks up where he left off the last time and writes another chapter on her skin. She tries to wash it away in the morning, but each time, each chapter, the words sink in a little deeper.

If you hear something often enough, you start to believe it. And she's heard "second choice" all her life. From her father, who wanted his first born to be a boy. Then from Jim, who wanted her to be Alex. She bought into it all. But now she's hearing "first choice" from Nick, who doesn't want her to be anyone other than who she is. And it takes months, but she learns to accept it. And him.

They're at her place again but this time, it's different. This time, she lets him call her by name.

And she asks him to stay.