At some point they'd stayed up so long that they decided to just go ahead and stay up until the sun came up. Some kind of heady slumber-party-mentality was involved in that pact...something along the lines of seeing Valentine's Day through together, until it was officially the morning of the 15th. Or something like that. Whatever. It seemed to make perfect sense at the time.
And, more importantly, it lent a structure of logic to the fact that neither one of them seemed to have any desire to part ways. And so, they just kept dragging more pillows and blankets down to pad their nest, stifling yawns in between telling giggly stories about old boyfriends and girlfriends, and singing ukelele-accompanied cartoon theme songs from the 80's and 90's.
"DOCTOR SNUGGLES?!" Nick said in disbelief, about half a measure into her latest tune. "Are you kidding me?! I've never met anyone else who remembers that show! People look at me like I'm nuts when I mention it!"
They muddled through the rest of the song together, each providing the lyrics when the other faltered, and at the end they smiled at one another like they shared a secret.
"Nick?" she asked softly.
She wrinkled her nose at him happily. "It was kinda cool spending Valentine's with you!"
They'd tip-toed around it all night, but now he raised an eyebrow and ventured, "Better than spending it with Schmidt?!"
She immediately hid her face in her hands and pleaded, "Please, oh PLEASE Nick, I'm begging you. Can we just pretend that never happened?!"
"What on earth were you thinking, Jess?!" he asked relentlessly, but gently.
"I wasn't thinking! Schmidt told me not to over-think things!"
"I just want to know one thing: Why SCHMIDT?! Why not Winston, or...or..." or ME?! he wanted to ask, but he continued, "...or that pale, skinny, writer-y guy down the hall who walks his secret-weinie dog every night at midnight, and always smells like scrambled eggs?"
"I don't KNOOOOOOOW! It had been such a crazy night, and he'd been so sweet, really...and I was feeling so frustrated and twirly...and he hugged me and he smelled really good! And he said something about my first one-night stand being with someone I knew, but someone it wouldn't mean anything with, and..."
Someone it wouldn't mean anything with. He glanced at her sharply at those words, but she seemed completely unaware that she was echoing a previous discussion they'd had. About why she'd stopped him before he could kiss her, that crazy night with Remy. Because kissing him would have meant something to her. Meanwhile, she was complete misinterpreting the look he was giving her:
"...and UGH, I KNOW, no matter how you slice it, it was SCHMIDT!"
Someone it wouldn't mean anything with. Now, as previously, Nick decided that he liked being "the guy that it would mean something with". Of course, she hadn't come right out and said it this time, but he chose to believe that it could be extrapolated.
"...PLEASE Nick, don't ask me to try to make sense out of it! I'm just grateful you showed up when you did. You don't know HOW grateful. UGH!"
Someone it wouldn't mean anything with. Yep, that worked for him. He could live very comfortably with that. So he gave in and grinned at her, and asked, "Well, this was nice too, right?" His beer was long gone, but he'd held onto the bottle like a security blanket, and now he used it to gesture around the little area they'd made their home that night.
"This was REALLY nice." They shared another secret smile, and then Jess's face turned suddenly animated, "OOOO! I even have the perfect theme song for us!"
She plinked and plunked a bit on her uke before starting:
to somebody new,
you belong to me..."
"...just to little old me..." Nick echoed goofily, only slightly off-key, and Jess opened her mouth in happy surprise.
"You know this song?!"
"SURE," Nick said, "Steve Martin, Bernadette Peters, 'The Jerk'...it's a classic scene."
He reached over and took the instrument from her, and strummed a few chords himself.
"Wait...what?! You play?!"
"You're not the only one who wanted to be a rock star, Jessica Day!" he chastised her with mock seriousness. "I'll have you know I once played guitar in a ska band!"
"You did?!" Her delighted shock continued.
She was gazing into space wonderingly now, as if contemplating fabulous possibilities. "So all this time we could have been sharing, you know, fellow-rock-and-roller stuff!"
He just grinned at her silliness, and started her song back up again:
you're a part
of my heart,
His singing was really, really bad, and as rusty as he was, his playing wasn't much better. But she listened in awestruck wonder before joining him:
by the stream...
it will seem,
just to dream,
in the moonlight...
My honey I know
with the dawn
will be gone,
And, as if reluctant for the song to be over, Nick tagged the last part again, more slowly this time, and they wistfully whisper-sang it together:
"My honey I know
with the dawn
will be gone,
And as the last notes faded, Jess looked out the window and whispered almost sadly, "Look Nick...it's morning."
Nick stretched awkwardly to look over his shoulder, and smiled rueful acceptance of the pink sky showing through her lace curtains. He breathed in once, deeply, through his nose, and exhaled regretfully as he slowly handed the instrument back to her. "I guess that's my cue to go."
"Afraid you'll turn into a pumpkin?!"
He laughed huskily as he stood, and groaned as he straightened gingerly. "I think I already did."
He twisted at the waist to loosen up his back, before glancing down to find her looking up at him with something so deep and pure that it stopped him mid-stretch. He couldn't have named it, that look in her eyes, but it warmed corners of his heart that he wasn't even aware had long since gone cold and dark, and made him feel like someday, just maybe, he might even be able to be someone's hero. Him. Nick Miller. Screw-up, extraordinaire.
"You know what Nick?!" she was asking with happy content, "this might go on record as my favorite Valentine's ever, actually!"
"You know what Jess?!" he squinted his eyes at her fondly, and agreed, "I'm kinda thinking the same thing."
Then she surveyed him with those big, serious, owl-eyes and asked tentatively , "Nick...can I...tell you something?"
"Sure, Jess," he answered, ignoring the fact that his heart was suddenly beating decidedly faster than usual.
But a long pause stretched out while she assessed him unfathomably from behind those heavy bangs and heavy frames. And just when the silence started to get uncomfortable, she blinked three slow times, and he could almost feel her deliberately shifting emotional gears, as she suddenly smiled and said, "If I ever get the band back together..."
"...you can NOT be in it!"
He grinned, "Oh, don't worry, I completely understand. As long as you understand that if I ever go back to law school, you're not tagging along."
"You don't think that 'Legally Brunette' would go over well?" she asked, coquettishly flourishing a pig tail.
"No, I just don't think it would be fair to anyone else. Because if it's possible to win an argument against you, Jessica Day, I haven't seen anyone do it yet."
She grinned back at him through a yawn and a stretch that was as wholehearted and unselfconscious as a young child's, before ending on a blissful sigh, "Happy Valentine's Day, Nicholas."
And he smiled back affectionately, "Happy Day AFTER Valentine's Day, Jess."
And suddenly it seemed to him that there was still a lot left to say. About life taking unexpected turns on the way to finding your ultimate destiny. And things that you thought you wanted until you got them. And things that you never even knew you desperately needed until they were right there in front of you, staring you in the face.
But just like in all the best fairy tales, the coming of dawn had broken the magic spell they'd woven around themselves, and it was time, like the song had said, for him to be gone.
Besides...he was still wearing those cursed chastity boxers.