A/N: Thank you so much for your reviews! For this chapter, you should think back to Nick's greatest fears, as listed in "Jess and Julia." Also, I am apparently incapable of writing short stories, so this has expanded beyond the original 3 chapters I planned. Not sure how many more chapters it'll go. We'll see!
Nick held up a medium-sized plastic carton of the plump red fruit for Jess's inspection.
"In the cart!" she declared grandly.
Refusing to reflect her exuberance, he calmly placed the berries in the cart. He reached for the next closest item.
"Strawberries?" he asked.
Jess nodded decisively.
"Cart me!" she replied.
He rolled his eyes, but couldn't quite stop a smile from creeping onto his lips he placed them next to the raspberries.
"Blackberries?" he suggested next.
"Thank you berry much," Jess gleefully replied, gesturing at the cart.
Nick shook his head, but try as he might, he couldn't force his customary frown in place. And thinking about his lips so much was making him think about what his lips had been doing not too long ago. And that was very inconvenient. He took a sharp turn down the produce aisle to distract himself.
"Apples?" he asked. Without waiting for a response, he started filling a plastic produce bag with Granny Smiths.
"Whoa, whoa! Hey, there buddy, let's slow down," Jess interrupted.
He paused and asked, "Why are you talking to me like I'm a horse?" Now the frown was firmly in place.
"Apple jam?" she stated, squinting up at him.
"Why are you saying it like that? It's not like I suggested garbage jam," Nick said defensively.
"You might as well have," Jess replied.
Nick's eyebrows made for the ceiling.
"I've seen apple jam before. It's a thing," he insisted.
Jess gave him a deeply skeptical look.
"Oh? And where exactly did you see it? At the Poser Grocery Store?"
"The poser store. Really. That's what you're going with?" Nick said dubiously.
"Yup. The PGS. Apples have applesauce. Why they gotta hone in on jam territory?" Jess asked.
"I'm sorry. I had no idea there was some sort of turf war going on in the fruit world," Nick said sarcastically.
"Apples make applesauce. And maybe apple butter. But never jam," Jess said firmly.
She looked so serious, standing in the middle of the produce section with her arms crossed over her chest, that Nick couldn't help but laugh.
"Are you laughing at me?" Jess asked, her arms falling to her sides.
"Absolutely, I am," he said. Off her pout, he continued, "But I'm willing to give you the benefit of the doubt on this whole apple jam issue, because you're clearly the expert. I mean, just look at your shirt."
Her pout disappeared. A tiny smile appeared on her lips, which made Nick's stomach perform a confusing flip.
"So, Jam Expert, you can choose the rest of the fruit," he concluded.
Jess didn't need to be told twice. She proceeded to add a bunch of other fruit to the cart. Nick had never even seen rhubarb before. It looked like celery, and he had some serious doubts that it could possibly taste good in jam, but he kept his reservations to himself. When Jess's fingers closed around a carton of blueberries, however, he spoke up.
"Hey, let's not—nobody likes blueberries, okay? So let's just put those babies right back in the bin," he said brusquely.
Jess stared blankly as he yanked the blueberries from her grasp and put them back. Then she frowned.
"No, I like blueberries. Come to think of it, everybody likes blueberries," she said, reaching for the carton again.
He blocked her, stepping between her hand and the display.
"Nick, come on. Move," she insisted, trying to reach around him.
He grabbed her wrist, but she twisted away and managed to snag a carton with her free hand. She let out a triumphant "Aha!" but it was premature. Nick pulled her back against his chest and wrapped his free arm around her until she was unable to move.
"Drop the blueberries!" Nick demanded.
"Um, Nick?" Jess said softly.
She had stopped struggling in his grasp, and the sudden halt allowed the reality of the situation to set in for Nick. He had his roommate locked in a sort of bizarre reverse bear hug. In the middle of the produce section. And he was shouting at her about blueberries.
"Yeah, Jess?" he said, aiming for a casual tone.
"Do you think you could maybe let me go now?" she asked politely.
He blinked. Her JAM-boree shirt had ridden up above her midriff and her hair was tickling his nose. He released her as if her skin was on fire.
"Sorry," he mumbled, stepping back from her and the blueberries. He pulled the hood of his sweatshirt on and looked down at his feet.
"Oh, no. Not the hood!" she groaned.
He ignored her and pulled his hood down even further, obscuring his eyes from view.
"Hey, buddy?" she attempted quietly. He grunted noncommittally, which she took as response enough to continue. "You wanna tell me what's going on with you and blueberries?" she asked.
"No," he grumbled.
"Okay. That's cool. But, um, I am going to put a carton of them in the cart, okay? Because I really like them," she continued carefully.
He lifted his hood ever so slightly and gave the blueberries a wary glance.
"Okay, Nick, seriously? What is the deal with blueberries? Are you scared of them?" Jess blurted out.
"What? NO! No, Jess, I am not afraid of blueberries! Don't be ridic—WHAT ARE YOU DOING?" he bellowed.
As he spoke, Jess had brought the carton closer and closer to him until it was resting on his shoulder like a pet bird. He flailed wildly and knocked the carton to the ground where it started to ooze juice like sad blue blood. He and Jess stared at the growing puddle of juice for a moment before she broke the silence.
"Yup. That's a perfectly normal human reaction to berries."
"Okay, fine! I'm afraid of blueberries! Are you happy now, Jess?" he shouted petulantly.
Jess squinted at him, then back at the berries before replying.
"I'm happy in that I'm slightly less confused."
"Only slightly?" Nick asked.
"Well—first of all, we totally bought this cartoon, B-T-dubs," she said, stooping to pick up the partially crushed berries. "And yeah, only slightly. I need to know why you're afraid of blueberries."
He watched her place the damaged carton next to the rhubarb and fought hard to suppress his urge to scream.
"Come on, Jess. Sometimes people are just afraid of weird things. Just leave it. Don't we have to buy a funnel and a canner?"
"Schmidt already has that stuff," Jess said, waving him off.
"Of course he does," Nick muttered under his breath.
"So as we're walking to the checkout counter, why don't you tell me a little more about you and blueberries," she added, setting off towards the front of the store.
"Don't you just have some, like, totally weird fears?" he asked, trying desperately to deflect her attention.
"Of course I do, but I have definite reasons for all of those fears. Like I'm afraid of cotton balls because they remind me of my pet bunny who committed suicide by running headlong into an oscillating fan—"
"What?" he demanded, face screwed up in horrors. She continued right over him.
"Or how I'm afraid of pets with people names because I think they might actually be reincarnated people with human consciousnesses."
"WHAT?" he repeated, more urgently this time.
"Like my friend at work has a miniature schnauzer named 'Karen.' Who names a dog 'Karen?'" she asked.
He gave her a bewildered frown as they entered a checkout line.
"Right. Your friend is the weird one," he said.
"Exactly," she nodded. "So what's your story?"
He began to help her load the fruit onto the conveyer belt. After a brief pause, he let out a sigh.
"Okay," he started. "It's because of the movie Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory,'"
She frowned, her hand frozen on the apricots.
"Depp or Wilder?" she asks.
"Wilder. Please," he scoffs, offended.
"Of course. Sorry. But I only remember schnozberries in that movie. No blueberries," Jess said, moving up to the cashier.
"Violet eats that gum that's an entire dinner in one piece," Nick prompted.
"Right! The Three-Course Dinner Gum, go on," she filled in.
"And she's tasting a whole dinner and then for dessert—"
"There's blueberry pie!" Jess exclaimed.
Nick nodded. "Right. And she—"
"And she turns into a giant blueberry!" Jess continued over him.
"Do you need me to tell this story or..."
As he trailed off, she looked mildly apologetic.
"Sorry," she said.
She went to open her purse, but he gently moved her aside and pulled out his wallet.
"I got this," he said.
After money had exchanged hands, they made their way back to Jess's car, bags in hand.
"So the movie scared you?" Jess reminded him.
"The movie scared me. But then my brothers absolutely terrified me," Nick corrected.
"Let me guess; they told you that if you ever ate a blueberry—"
"Yup. And even after I figured out that they were lying, I still couldn't get over the image of that girl's face turning blue and puffy," he said, trying and failing to repress the shudder that wracked his body.
Jess couldn't help herself any longer. As soon as the bags were loaded in the car she whirled around and exclaimed, "Oh, Nick, that's so cute!"
His frown deepened.
"No it isn't, Jess. It's a shameful episode from my past, and I don't want to talk about it anymore."
"Okay," Jess said, raising her hands in surrender.
She made a show of backing slowly away from him. Nick watched her, eyes narrowed.
"You're not actually going to let this go, are you?" he asked.
Jess whipped back around to face him.
"Nope!" she announced. She started to move back towards him smiling in a way that made him feel distinctly uneasy.
"Because guess what, Nick Miller?" she continued.
Without really understanding why, Nick found himself backing away from her as if she was holding a knife. His back hit the car, and Jess closed in on him just as he managed to ask, "What, Jess?" She leaned in and he could see the determination on her face.
"I am gonna make you love my blueberry jam," she whispered.
In the blink of an eye, she was sliding into the driver's seat, leaving him pressed up against the car without anything holding him there. He squeezed his eyes shut and pinched the bridge of his nose with his thumb and forefinger. He had to remind himself why he was doing this. He was the one who made this awkward by grabbing Jess and kissing her in front of Spencer. It was up to him to make things normal again.
"You can do this, Nick," he muttered. Then he opened his eyes. "Oh my god, I'm talking to myself. I'm becoming her."
The beeping of the horn made him jump a foot in the air. He turned and glared at Jess, who was now poking her head out the car window.
"Come on, roomie! We have a jam-sesh to start!" she proclaimed.
End Notes: Next up, the making of the jam. I plan on bringing in Winston, Schmidt, and Cece very soon. But don't worry. There will still be plenty of UST (… and RST?) between our two favorites.