Title: Past Midnight
Disclaimer: Characters are the property of Ms Tina Fey, NBC et al.
Pairing: Jack/Liz all the way.
Summary: Jack comes home to find Liz in his bed.
She's asleep when he arrives.
Blue light from the muted television casts a pallid glow over his bedroom. There is a coffee mug by the lamp on the nightstand. Her computer is open at the foot of the bed. Pillows are propped up on her side. She is sprawled across his side though, lying on her stomach with her hair covering her face and her arms hugging the pillow.
Jack smiles softly as he steps over to the bed, his footsteps silent and slow. He presses a button on the remote, leaving the room washed only with the light from the lamp. Then easing himself down onto the edge of the bed, he lays one hand light on her back.
Liz stirs slightly. He reaches out to smooth the hair back from her eyes.
She makes some low sleep sounds, then murmurs croakily: "I was…waiting for you. I…wanted to be awake …when you got back."
He tucks the hair behind her ear then returns his hand to the dip of her back. "S'okay..." He doesn't point out that the fact she is speaking to him suggests she is awake, because he can see, it's just barely. "I didn't expect you to be here," he says, voice not much more than a whisper.
Liz lets out a deep sigh against the pillow, eyes still closed. "Your bed's bigger than mine," she mumbles: "Plus my cable is out."
He nods his head, lips twisting. "So it has absolutely nothing to do with the fact you might've missed me?"
"That's…ridiculous," she grumbles, sounding a little like him. She flops onto her back, eyes cracking open: "If I'd missed you I would be…wearing your old clothes and bingeing on donuts. Like one of those pathetic ladies who can't survive without their boyfriends for, like…a week."
Jack bites his lip thoughtfully: "Of course. How silly of me. " He reaches out to pull down the bed covers, revealing the faded Princeton logo on the t-shirt she is wearing. Then he pulls the covers down beside her to find a box of donuts tucked into her side. A large one, half-empty. A sly smile curves his lips before he inquires: "Got anything else hidden under there?"
"Just some booze," she answers with a shrug.
He snorts: "You do not have booze under the blankets."
She smiles impishly: "Would you think less of me if I did?"
He leans down to kiss her mouth. "I missed you too."
She hums in the back of her throat as he kisses her. A slow, gentle, night-time kiss. Her lips part beneath his but rather than heating up, the kiss grows more languid, more deliberate.
He loves Liz like this. He loves her always. But he particularly loves when she's warm and floppy with sleep, unburdened by her usual bag of neuroses. He loves being the one to see her at her most soft and private, loves that she lets him. And most of all, he loves that at some magical minute past midnight, her eyes begin to shine with the love she reserves for him but still tends to hide a little away.
"I especially missed…" he murmurs as he pulls back: "…being able to do that."
She blinks up at him, slightly more awake. But her lashes still fall heavily as her fingers move up to tug his tie loose. "So how was your trip?"
Jack plants his hands either side of her on the pillow, tipping his chin up for her. "Good…" he nods: "Productive…But you know what they say about any journey."
Liz throws the tie over the side of the bed and starts on the buttons of his shirt. "What d'they say?"
Jack takes a moment, gaze roaming over her face as she undoes him. Her eyes lift to meet his but her fingers do not still.
"The best part is coming home," he answers lowly. Then leans down for another kiss.
There is heat to this kiss, more urgency, more intensity, and he likes to suppose she missed this too. He thinks perhaps she did because, when she slips her hand inside his shirt, she moans softly, her small palm moving eagerly over the solid contours of him, fingers digging through his fur.
He lets out a sigh as they separate again, and can't help the smirk on his face. "Hm. I think I like coming home to you."
Her eyes twinkle up at him. "Not just 'cos I keep food in the bed?"
"Believe me," he tells her, eyes straying over the outline of her beneath the covers: "I am far more excited to find you in my bed, than the food there. In fact -- I have been thinking…"
"I've been thinking…perhaps…we should make this a permanent arrangement."
She blinks sleepily. "What, you mean, like…move in? Live together?"
Jack smiles, sits up straighter, then reaches into his pocket. His smile widens as he presents her with a little blue box. "Even more permanent than that."
Liz stares. "What's that?"
Jack clears his throat. "I got something for you. While I was in Frankfurt."
Her eyes are definitely wide-awake now. "Is that…what I think it is?"
"It's nothing edible," he hints then gives a small shrug: "I saw it. I thought of you. So…I bought it."
She pouts uncertainly: "I dread to think…what might remind you of me."
"It's an antique," he tells her.
"Like me?" she quips.
"One of a kind," he adds. "Like you."
Since it doesn't seem she is going to, Jack opens the box for her, it's tiny hinges creaking. The ring is delicate, old-fashioned, a small but brilliant diamond flanked by two tiny swirls that look like mirrored 'L's. It didn't cost a fortune. Nor did he buy it thinking of it as an engagement ring. But he'd bought it nevertheless, on impulse, and with her in mind. And since doing so, one thought has been at the forefront of his mind.
"Jack…?" She gives an uncertain little laugh, her voice trembling when she speaks: "Is this…the sort of ring you might, I dunno…give your girlfriend when you return from a business trip, just because you missed her, maybe?"
Jack peers at the diamond in the box, glinting gently in the lamplight. "No. No, I'm pretty sure this is the sort of ring you give the woman you adore when you wish to marry her."
Liz seems to stop breathing. "Yikes."
He shifts on the bed, still holding out the open box, but suddenly feeling a little less sure of himself. "To be perfectly honest, I was planning on doing the whole…candle-lit dinner, red roses, down on one knee bit. But…" he pauses, clears his throat again: "I didn't expect you to be here. I guess I got a little swept away."
"You do tend to do that," she muses, eyes wide and wary. "I mean, no offence, Jack. But--" she stops to bite her lip then tells him carefully: "you do have a history of spontaneous proposals."
"I knew you were going to say that," he interjects, an eager grin spreading across his face: "But, this is different."
"Uh huh." She nods, her eyes kind but dubious. "How is it different?"
"Yes, I bought the ring on impulse," he admits, bobbing his head: "But I have been thinking about this for three days."
She smiles wryly. "Three whole days, huh?"
Jack looks her straight in the eye, hoping she can see his absolute sincerity. "I'm serious about this. I want you to consider it. I want to marry you."
"Okay, Jack, okay." She sits up in bed, pats his arm then folds her hands together: "Why?"
He raises his brows. "'Why?'"
She nods: "Why?" and waits.
He's a little taken aback by the question. He is accustomed by now to her insecurity but he knows the query doesn't stem entirely from that. He also knows, after dating Liz for half a year, and knowing her much longer, that she will always insist on him being absolutely honest with her. In fact, unlike most women he's known or dated, she seems to value brutal honesty above romantic fanfare. Which is fine, because generally he can do both, sometimes within the same breath.
Still, he feels a little baffled, a little thrown. Because he's never been met with such skepticism when proposing a lifetime of enduring love and happiness. And this time -- of all the times -- it's for keeps. He's sure of it -- or as sure as a person can be. When he first thought about proposing to Liz, aside from his own excitement, he was vaguely hoping that she might, for once, be as swept away by the moment as he was.
It'd never occurred to Jack that he might find himself in a relationship where he was the more romantic participant. But while she may be more work than the average woman, Jack does not want an average woman. He wants her. He loves her. Of that he is completely certain. Another thing he is certain of is that Liz is worth any extra effort.
He watches her blink at him, her countenance open as she waits for him to respond to the enormity of her question. She recrosses her legs beneath the covers, his t-shirt falling off one shoulder as she raises her eyebrows in expectation. And for a fleeting moment, he feels like his entire world hangs on his next words.
There are not many things at which Jack is inept. Expressing love would be highest on a very short list. When it comes to the crunch though, he will do what it takes to secure his happiness, and hers. Even if it entails pouring out his heart -- something which in the past he has viewed as puerile and gratuitous. He's starting to re-evaluate that opinion. He's done quite a bit of that since meeting Liz Lemon.
What doesn't help though, is that since inviting her into his private life, allowing himself to see her like this and love her the way he always has, but tried to deny, he actually finds himself looking at her strange, elfish face and being struck dumb. She becomes more beautiful to him by the day, more fascinating and more necessary. And he is not sure how to describe to her with a businessman's tongue just what that does to him inside.
So he just starts to talk and what comes out surprises both of them.
"I want to marry you. Because I want to know, not just hope, that you're going to be there when I wake up every morning. And when I go to bed each night. Or when I come back from a trip where all I could think about was crawling back into bed with you. I want to marry you because we've both waited long enough to find this. Because we work, we fit. I want to marry you because the sex is incredible. And I don't want your children to be any other man's. Because I want to be the one taking you home every night, no matter what. I don't want anyone else eating your bedroom donuts, or hearing your sleep talk, or knowing your secret erogenous zones. I want to marry you because you are the best part of my day, and I want to make you happy. And I want you to make me as happy for the rest of my life as you've made me these last few months. I want to marry you because I can't imagine loving someone this much and not sharing with them everything I have. I can't imagine loving you as much as I do and not giving you everything I know you want. I want to marry you because, if there is such a thing as the love of one's life, then I'm pretty sure I'm yours. And I'm even surer that you are mine."
There is a long pause when he stops talking.
It probably isn't the most elegant proposal he's ever delivered. But it's certainly the most truthful. Of that, he is rather proud. He's confident he could come up with some more reasons too, given time. Those were simply the ones most readily available to him in the moment. He can' t tell how convincing they are to her, but then, to him the rationale behind them getting married is fairly obvious. He doesn't just want to fool around with Liz -- he never did, never could. The quality of the fooling around does contribute to his motivation, but it's more than just that. He's ready to start a life with her. And he's ready to wait until she is ready.
"So. How's that?" he asks: "Just for starters?"
Liz nods, slowly digesting. "Yikes."
He takes her hand in his. "Anything to more to say?"
She blinks at him. "Other than yikes?"
"Other than that."
He eyes her curiously, waiting for her to absorb his words. It's a fairly regular occurrence for her. Just because Liz is romantically challenged, though, it doesn't make her romantically void. It simply takes her a time to grasp someone having romantic aspirations towards her -- and then a little more time for her to formulate a spoken response that isn't a wisecrack.
"Listen…" he starts to say: "if you need a little time to think about it--"
"No," she interjects quickly.
His gaze searches her face: "No?"
"I don't." She shakes her head tightly. "I don't…need to think about it."
"Very well," he replies, waiting for her to elucidate.
Abruptly, she offers him her right hand, elbow sticking up in the air. "Congratulations, Jack. You just scored yourself a bride."
He lets out a surprised chuckle. "Well. Congratulations, yourself." He takes her hand and shakes it: "You've got yourself a loving husband."
"A husband?" Her brown eyes go wide, hands covering her mouth: "Jeepers, a husband. You're going to be my husband."
"That's usually how this works," he replies, unable to stop beaming: "Speaking of which--" He takes the ring out of the box and captures one flailing hand.
Liz grimaces though when he tries to ease it past her second knuckle. "Ow. Wait, I don't--"
He flicks his eyes up to hers, gives a quick shrug. "So we can have the ring re-sized."
"Sure," she nods, dropping it onto the side table.
Then his mouth is on hers, and she is sinking back into the pillows. She's pushing his jacket off his shoulders and he is helping, throwing it to the floor. He is climbing onto the bed, on top of her and when his hands return to her body, one cups her through his shirt.
"Jack," she murmurs, head tipped back, hands in his hair: "Can you promise me something?"
"Lemon," he says, passion making him revert to old habits: "right now, I'll promise you anything in the world."
"That's…flattering," she chuckles. Her hands move to his shoulders: "But, um--"
When he pulls back to look at her face, her forehead is creased and her bottom is lip trapped between her teeth. "Hey," he mutters: "what's with the wrinkle? Didn't we just get engaged? Shouldn't you be the happiest woman in the world?"
"I am happy, Jack, I am, " she murmurs: "But…oh, jeez, how do I say this?" She frowns, propping herself up onto her elbows: "I'm not….like the other women you've dated. Or proposed to. I'm not…Bianca."
He bobs his head. "That is another of the chief reasons I wish to marry you."
She tips her head at him, a gesture he now recognises as a forewarning of her being completely blunt with him. "Look. I'm no society bride. Announcements in Cigar Aficionado or Page Six or whatever would just embarrass me. I can't do the whole lavish white wedding thing. It's not me, Jack, it's just not--"
He smiles as he interrupts her: "Calm down, Liz, take a breath." He sits up again, bringing her with him, his hands holding hers in his lap. "This is our wedding. Yours and mine. We do it anyway we want to." Gently, he massages the crease from her brow with his thumb: "And do you honestly think I don't know you well enough to know that that is not…ah, how you roll, as you would say?"
"Well. Okay, good," she nods, eyes lowering: "Because, really, Jack, I'd be happy just to go down to City Hall."
"Oh no," he shakes his head emphatically: "No-no. This is not an occasion for City Hall, Elizabeth."
"Why not?" she asks: "Lots of people do it that way."
He studies her intently. "Don't you want your parents at your wedding? Your brother? Don't you want to say 'I do' in front of all those people who said it would never happen, we would never work?"
She frowns. "Who said that?"
"And what about your ham napkin?" he goes on: "Why'd you buy it if not to wear it when you pledge your undying devotion to the man you love more than life itself, or should I say, more than a block of cheese?"
She hesitates: "I dunno," then waves a hand between them: "We're not church people, Jack. We're not society people, at least, I'm not--"
"Well, I want you to wear that dress," he cuts her off decisively: "And I want you to stop worrying. Because we are not getting married in church. Nor are we having a big society wedding. And nor are we going down to City Hall."
"No,' he rasps: "Because I have already thought of the perfect place."
She casts him a sidelong look. "When was this?"
"On the plane home."
She rolls her eyes half-heartedly. "And what if I hadn't said yes?"
"I had a contingency plan for that," he admits, but adds: "I didn't think it likely I would need it, but I would've been happy to woo you, if you required it. I might even have enjoyed that."
She gives him a baffled little smile then asks: "Okay so where are we going to be married?"
He smiles, pausing before saying: "The Observation Deck."
She blinks at him, smile widening. "The Observation Deck? At 30 Rock? Is that even allowed?"
"I'm sure I can arrange it." He shifts closer on the bed, his excitement taking over: "Just picture it. We do it up nice, flowers and drapes and white things everywhere. We have a string ensemble in one corner--"
She interjects: "You realize Jenna will insist on singing?"
Jack squeezes her hands. "Jenna can perform her entire repetoir from start to finish and I wouldn't care."
"You might by the end," she mutters.
"As long as you are there," he goes on eagerly: "In your ham napkin. I'll be there in my best tux. We'll be surrounded by friends and family. With any luck, Colleen might cry. And here's the best part -- we say our vows just as the sun is setting over the city."
Liz's eyes sparkle. "And then we eat, right?"
"If I have to buy you a restaurant myself," he replies: "we will eat. Whatever you want. Nothing too good for this occasion."
Liz giggles, actually giggles, a rare sound and music to his ears.
"So?" he grins, eyes lighting up as they usually only would over a brilliant business scheme: "What do you think? It's perfect, right?"
She smiles at him a moment, a warm, closed-lipped smile. "It is perfect," she agrees. Then she climbs out from under the covers, into his lap. "I think you might be a genius."
"I think you might be right," he murmurs, watching her arrange herself astride him: "I think you might be my inspiration." His hands go to her warm, bare thighs: "You're certainly inspiring me now. No pyjama bottoms?"
"I haven't done laundry," she shrugs, arms wrapping around his neck: "I hope you don't want a wife who's good at that sort of stuff because I suck at it."
Jack wags his head, palms spread wide, smoothing up and down her thighs. "I send my laundry out. And regardless, I think I will much prefer my wife with as few clothes as possible."
"That's sweet," she snorts: "We should put that in the vows." She leans in to nip at his lips: "For better, for worse…"
He kisses her back, mumbling: "For richer, for poorer…"
She sucks on his lower lip briefly: "With pants, or without..."
His hands sweep up her back, under the adopted t-shirt. "For as long as we both shall live."
She looks down her nose at him, one hand on his jaw. "You may kiss the bride," she declares solemnly.
"Gladly. That was always my favourite part of the ceremony." He tosses her back on the bed, making her shriek, then covers her body with his as their mouths rejoin. One hand immediately finds her breast again, while the other draws her leg up round his hip.
Liz resumes undressing him, pulling his shirt off and throwing it away. "Um, Jack?"
"Mmm?" he answers, sucking her nipple through his shirt.
"Did you, um," her body squirms beneath him, her voice breathless: "did you mean what you said? About kids?"
"Of course," he murmurs, moving gradually lower: "I love you. That includes your biological clock."
She smiles down at him. "Thankyou for not prefacing that with 'wildly ticking'."
"You're welcome," he smiles, lifting her shirt and beginning to kiss her stomach. "And for your future reference, I intend to eagerly perform all my husbandly duties, including the one I have to your biological clock."
"My clock thanks you," she simpers, watching him pause to kiss the inside of one raised knee.
Jack starts to draw her panties down her legs: "In fact…I think…we should make a start on that tonight."
"Right. Now," he rasps: "Immediately."
Liz hums. "Oh, you do, do you?"
"I really, really do."
"You aiming for a shotgun wedding?"
Jack grins roguishly: "Just doin' my duty."
She guides him back onto his knees, peering up at him from beneath her lashes. "So does this mean I can stop taking my birth control pills?"
"You always forget to take them," he points out, watching her hands work on his belt buckle.
"I know. Does this mean --" she lies back, rips his shirt over her head, only completing her sentence when she is fully naked: "--I can stop feeling guilty about forgetting to take them?"
His eyes drop over her. "It does. Yes." He rolls to one side to divest himself of the last of his clothing while Liz rids the bed of excess junk, then they roll back towards each other. "It also means…" he adds, drawing in a breath as he runs a hand over her hip: "that I won't need to take…alternative precautions as I normally would."
She raises one eyebrow, propped on her side, head in hand. "Oh. So…no…alternative precautions…tonight?"
His lips lift in one corner. He leans in to kiss behind her ear. "None."
"Oh." She swallows and nods: "We've never…"
"I know," he rasps, shifting closer on his side: "But I don't want anything between us tonight. I want to feel…every inch of you. Every pulse." He kisses her neck. "Tonight, I want to feel you properly. Like I never have before." He kisses her forehead. "My mate." He kisses her cheek: "My friend." He kisses her mouth: "My love."
Liz gazes at him a moment, her eyes shining with something he's never seen before. "No one's…ever called me their love before," she admits.
"That's because you're my love," he tells her softly, simply: "You were meant for me and no one else. Just as I was meant for you."
Her lips twitch into a smile. "So what took you so long then?"
He picks up her hand, kisses it and lays it over his heart. "I apologise for the wait. I hope it wasn't too inconvenient."
"Well," she muses, running her hand down his chest: "you're here now at least. That's something."
"I am," he hums, drawing her thigh over his: "We both are."
"Yeah," she sighs, hand drifting lower: "we are."
"Hope it was worth the wait." He lowers his mouth to her breast, kissing one erect nipple then taking it into his mouth.
Her neck elongates and she arches towards him languidly, longingly. "It was. It is..."
With his mouth still teasing her breast, he slips a hand between her legs, rubbing gently, spreading her open. "Ready?" he murmurs when he finally lifts his head.
She opens her eyes, meets his, and nods once. "Yeah…Ready."
He brings her as close to his body as possible, lifts her leg higher. She positions him at her entrance with one hand, her other drawing his mouth back to hers. Then Jack begins to ease inside her, slow and steady. Not stopping until they're fully, intimately joined. Nothing separating them but a single shared breath.