Author's Note:

Those of you who have been following my stories are probably already familiar with the challenge I originally gave myself: To write my way through New Girl's season one, sticking as closely as possible to canon, while attempting to imagine all the sweet, tender, frustrated, angsty, delicious moments that might be occurring between our favorite couple, in between the scenes that we're allowed to see on-screen. ;o)

Although my series can be read as a consecutive whole, I also work really hard at making each story stand alone, as well. I know my unfolding of their relationship has seemed excruuuusiatingly slow at times ;o), but yeah, blame the show...THEY'RE the ones who want Nick and Jess to take their time! ;o)

And I, personally, LOVE it. I love some hardcore romance and twirly stuff ;o), but what really makes me feel all giddy and goofy is the heady process of FALLING in love...all the little hints and flirtations and doubts and suspicions that "something is brewing". I hope that there are enough of you who feel the same, who will still find things to relish in my little stories, without getting TOO frustrated, even though they're not ending up in bed or at the altar in every one of them. ;o)

I'm not going to reach my goal of finishing season one before season two (SQUEEEEEE!) starts, but I'm kinda glad about that. I kinda want to see how *they* address the thought process behind Nick and Jess not getting together, like, NOW ;o), before I just make up a bunch of stuff on my own!

Anyway. I do have a HUMDINGER of a story based on "Injured" already written, and I will get that one up just in time to celebrate the new season. But in the meantime...I hope you don't mind another quiet little bit of Nick/Jess cotton candy fluff. :o)

OH, and...can't forget the truly important stuff! :op All lyrics featured here are from Tom Waits songs, mostly from his "early years" albums. (and they really do make great sleeping music! :o))


"I thought you said Nick listened to Paul Simon when he was depressed?"

"That was the college years," Schmidt answered Jess. "Somewhere along the line he graduated to old-school Tom Waits."

Jess, Schmidt, and Winston were congregated in the bathroom. They tilted their heads in unison, all the better to hear the gravelly voice that had been wafting from Nick's room since the night before, and eyed one another trepidatiously.

"Dude sounds like he gargled acid and then let a bus run over his throat, back up, and run over it again," Winston said critically.

"Please!" Schmidt countered, his disdain for Winston's obviously plebeian taste in music dripping from his voice. "I'll back Nick up on this one. Tom Waits is one of our finest American troubadours...a keen, sensitive and sympathetic chronicler of the adrift and downtrodden. His albums are sublime pieces of junkyard sound sculpture."

"CAN WE FOCUS, HERE?!," Jess asked, a little panicky. "Maybe you guys have seen Nick teetering on the verge of a breakdown like this before, but I haven't, and frankly, it's freaking me out. For instance...this song he keeps playing over and over...what does it even mean?!"

She held up a very teacher-y "listen!" finger, as the song began again:

Sun come up it was blue and gold,

Sun come up it was blue and gold,

Sun come up it was blue and gold,

Ever since I put your picture

In a frame.

"I do have to admit," Jess whispered, "There's something soothing about his music that made it kinda nice to sleep to all night."

I come calling in my Sunday best,

I come calling in my Sunday best,

I come calling in my Sunday best,

Ever since I put your picture

In a frame.

"If they broke up," asked Schmidt, "who's he dressing up for? Or in Nick's case, maybe if he dressed a little nicer to begin with, they wouldn't have broken up at all. I tried to impart my sartorial expertise to him, but would he listen? That was a hypothetical question. Of course he wouldn't listen." Schmidt shook his head with deep regret as the song continued:

I'm gonna love you

Till the wheels come off

Oh yea...

"I think it's about death," opined Winston. "I think he's dressing up for the burial of his hopelessly pathetic love life."

"Seriously?!" Schmidt asked incredulously. "Do you really think Nick's capable of grasping that kind of conceptual metaphorical imagery?!"

"SHHH!" hushed Jess. Unnecessarily. I mean, the song didn't have that many words to begin with, and they certainly knew them all by heart by now. Somewhere around dawn Nick had taken Tom Waits off shuffle, and had just been looping this one song incessantly ever since. Still, they all continued to stand there listening as if the lyrics might hold some secret insight into their roommate's psyche.

I love you baby and I always will,

I love you baby and I always will,

I love you baby and I always will,

Ever since I put your picture

In a frame.

Winston took in deep breath and shook his head as the song wound to a close. "Well, is it at least safe to say that he's in there staring at someone's picture?"

"I'd love to say that Nick's more original than that, but let's face it, he's not," said Schmidt. "In fact, he's the very model of pedestrian predictability. So yes, I'm sure we can take this quite literally."

"I don't know," Jess argued, as if in Nick's defense, "it seems to me like breakups really bring out his creative side!"

"Please Jess," Schmidt scoffed,"do not mistake utter patheticness for creativity."

Sun come up it was blue and gold...

The trio sighed as the song began again.

"But WHOSE picture?" Winston asked. "Maybe that's where he's diverging from the obvious, which would, of course, be Julia."

"I just assumed it was Caroline," Schmidt said, "It ALWAYS comes back to Caroline, for him."

"Who knows," Jess suggested hypothetically, "It could be Amanda." At the weird double-takes she got from her roommates, she lifted her shoulders defensively, "What?! I always felt like they had something special that they never got to explore. And YES, I take full responsibility for that! It keeps me up at nights sometimes..." she finished on a mumble.

"Regardless," asserted Schmidt, dismissing her theory with a withering look, "No one's seen him in nearly 24 hours. It's time for one of us to..." his chin and his voice lowered with the seriousness of the charge, "go in."

The small group eye-balled one another warily as they considered the daunting task at hand.

"I think it should be you, Schmidt!" Jess said thoughtfully. "You know...for old time's sake. You're the one who was there for him through the big Caroline break-up, after all."

"You wanna talk old times," answered Schmidt, "How about Winston, for old OLD time's sake. He's been dealing with Nick's emotional crises since jr. high."

"Longer than that," muttered Winston, before adding quickly, "But I vote for Jess. For NEW time's sake. Come on Jess, you know you wanna, anyway. You live for this kind of touchy-feely crap."

Jess was in the middle of sheepishly agreeing, when the three were startled by the door of the bathroom stall suddenly crashing violently back on its hinges. Nick's shocked friends stared wordlessly as he slowly stalked out, cradling a cactus carcass in one arm, and rolls of toilet paper in the other arm, while pinning them all with a baleful glare.

"Number one," he said, "Don't you people know how to just conduct your business and move on?! You've had me trapped in there for 25 minutes. Number two, I'll have you know, there IS no literal picture. The frame is my MIND. So put that in your 'predictable' pipes and smoke it! Number THREE," he answered their mystified gazes at the rolls in his hands, "I ran out of kleenex." He strode past them with tattered dignity, before turning in the doorway to add vehemently, "And number four, and most importantly, so please do not miss this point: 'New time's sake' is NOT A THING. So don't you DARE send Jess to my room!"

But of course, in the end, they did.

She tapped lightly on the door and, knowing that there was no way he was going to bid one of them to enter, went ahead and stuck her head in. "Hi Nicholas," she said tentatively.

He didn't even open his eyes. "Whatever, Jess. Come on in, you know you're gonna anyway."

It wasn't exactly a welcome, but she chose to treat it as such, walking in to tentatively perch on the edge of his bed. "Look what I brought you."

She handed him a steaming mug and he took a skeptical sniff, certain that it would contain her personal cure-all, hot tea, which he despised. Instead, his nose was pleasantly surprised by the soothing smell of cocoa and melting marshmallows, and a wave of nostalgia swept over him like warm blanket on a winter night. He was touched to realize that Jess must have remembered the time he'd told her that his ma always made him hot chocolate to cheer him up, when he was little. He was so very touched, in fact, that he felt compelled to say, "Would it have killed you to bring me a beer?"

She stretched out a toe and pointedly clinked at the gauntlet of bottles she'd had to traverse to reach his bedside, but didn't say a word. Not for several seconds, anyway. And when she finally did, it wasn't the lecture he'd expected.

"Nick," she seemed to ask shyly, maybe even almost sadly, "Why didn't you want me to come check on you?"

He took a hot, comforting sip, and answered her dryly, "I didn't want anyone to come 'check on me', Jess."

"You know what I mean."

Yeah, he did. But the cocoa really was delicious. And certainly neither Schmidt nor Winston would ever have brought him hot chocolate, much less nail every last sentimental detail, from the perfect temperature right down to the correct number (three) and size (large) of the marshmallows. But STILL. "Because Jess, would I be having this conversation right now, with Winston or Schmidt? You always just want to talk and talk, about feelings and crap...and you always want me to talk about my feelings and crap...and maybe I don't want to talk about it, you know?"

She sat there in silent response for a few seconds, before asking in a little voice, "Well...what if I don't talk? Will it bother you if I stay, if I don't talk?"

"You're not going to talk." Nick said incredulously. "You're not going to ask nosy questions about my FEEEEELiiiings..."

"Well..." said Jess, "What if I promise I'll TRY, anyway?"

Nick took the final gulp of hot chocolate, the one in the bottom of the mug that is always too rich, and makes you regret taking it. But it didn't matter, because the rest of the cup was curling in his stomach like a warm kitten, and it endeared her to him. Maybe that was why, as he turned to sit the empty glass on his bedside table, he inexplicably grumbled, "Sure, if you try to shut up, you can stick around."

Still, there really was no logical explanation for why he actually scooted over and plumped up a pillow for her to come lean up against the wall with him.

She was instantly happy, like a little girl being promised a trip to the park if she was good, and she kicked off her shoes excitedly as she scooted up to join him. "This is gonna be great..."

"Jess!"

"Oh...yeah!" she whispered. And then motioned locking her lips and sticking the pretend key in her pajama pocket.

I love you baby and I always will,

I love you baby and I always will,

I love you baby and I always will,

Ever since I put your picture

In a frame.

They sat there in companionable silence for another round or two of the song, until he saw her hand sneaking up, surreptitiously, towards her pocket. Then in one quick motion she retrieved the "key", unlocked her lips, and whispered,"Nick?"

Dammit. How did she always manage to make him feel like smiling, right when she was being her most annoying?

"What."

"Since I promised not to ask you any nosy questions, could you do something for me?"

"Depends," he answered cautiously, realizing that since this was JESS, chances are there was no way in Hades he was going to want to entertain her latest notion. But she surprised him with the simplicity of her whispered request:

"Could you put Tom back on shuffle?"

He sighed wearily and crossed the room to do her bidding, careful not to let her see his little smile as he did so.

Well I had me a girl in LA

I knew she couldn't stay,

Had me a girl in San Diego

One day she just had to go,

And I had me a girl Tallahassee

Boy what a foxy lassie,

And my doctor says I'll be alright

But I'm feelin' blue.

She'd settled down a little more comfortably into her pillow, seemingly content for awhile just to listen along with him to the gospel according to Tom Waits, deceptively complex in its simplicity.

And she was doing so well, actually. When she finally broke the silence again, it was merely to whisper, "Hey, do you have another blanket? It's a little chilly in here."

Again he wordlessly catered to her ingenuous request, nudging her over while he pulled up the edge of his blanket and flipped it over her. Then once again they sat back together, carefully not even allowing their shoulders to touch, with the sheet underneath still acting as a barrier between their legs.

It couldn't seem to be helped, however, that one or two of her long curls seemed to keep wanting to reach out, like vines, to occasionally caress his arm. And it bothered him that he was so aware of it, but he refused to say anything about it, since she seemed so completely UNaware.

Instead he just leaned his head back against the wall, looked up at the ceiling, and grumbled into the gathering dusk, "You know, for two people who aren't sleeping together, we sure spend a lot of time in one anothers' bedrooms."

I can't help thinking of your lovin way,

And I cried a quart of tears since you've been gone,

And I can't face the morning by myself love,

And it looks like I'm up shit creek again.

So I'm out a-walkin on this dusty highway

Cause you've given me no reason for to stay,

And I'll walk until I've found someone who loves me not in vain,

And it looks like I'm up shit creek again...

"I'm sorry Nick." It was much, much later, and way, way longer than he ever would have bet that she'd last without speaking, and she sounded half-asleep, as was he.

He didn't even open his eyes to murmur softly, "For what, Jess?"

"I...I don't know for what. And I promised you I wouldn't ask. But I'm sorry. About Julia. Or...whatever it is that's making you sad."

He sniffed a grim smile into the falling night. Trust Jess to understand that nothing was that simple. He waited so long that he didn't even think he was going to answer, before he heard himself saying, "I don't even know if 'sad' is the word. Its more like...frustrated. Hopeless. Despairing."

To her heavy silence he answered, "And don't even ask about what. I don't know about what. About nothing. About everything. About life. About ME."

"Nick?"

Okaaay, he thought. Here it comes. The Jess-speech. The rays of sun and the silver-edged clouds and the unicorns who farted pink glitter.

And he wondered that he didn't find himself dreading it as much as he thought he would.

But again, she surprised him.

"Do you think of me as a friend? I mean...I AM your friend. I want you to know that. I just don't know if you do. And I want you to..." she fumbled for words a bit uncharacteristically, "to...to really know that."

And for a final time, he smiled into the dimly lit room, "I know, Jess."

"Do you really?"

"Yeah," he said with a gentle sincerity, "I really do."

And he reached over and turned off the desk lamp on his bedside table, plunging them into darkness. They both wordlessly snuggled down into the bed, readjusting pillows and blankets and arms and legs until they ended up spooning.

Except that there was a good six inches of careful space between them.

In between love and trying to scheme love,

Who can tell what we may find,

Never thought love, not get caught love,

Between the magic in your eyes.

And loves like women, it's cool and breezy,

Never thought that love could be so easy.

In between love and trying to scheme love,

And in between love again.

He jolted back from that surreal place that straddled sleep and wake to say, "Jess?" Because suddenly it seemed very urgent that he thank her. For the cocoa. For being his friend. For just smiling with indulgent affection at him when he acted like a grumpy old man...and...and...and for everything else that he'd never told her thank you for.

But the only reply that came from the other side of the bed was the sound of quiet breathing.

He swiped at his nose when something tickled it, realizing a second later that once again it was only a stray lock of her hair reaching out for him. He lifted his hand to gently move it away and, like a living thing, the tendril seemed to curl itself around his finger. So what else could he do? He gently bent his knuckle to hold on to it, like you would a very small child's hand, and then followed her to sleep.

Well I hope that I don't fall in love with you

'Cause falling in love just makes me blue,

Well the music plays and you display your heart for me to see,

I had a beer and now I hear you calling out for me...

And I hope that I don't fall in love with you.

When she woke up it was in the small hours of the night, and he felt the moment when she stretched her feet out sleepily, stiffening when they encountered his shins through the sheet, and then relaxing when she realized where she was, and that it was only him.

Then he heard her sigh and smother a small sleepy cough, before gathering her energy to leave his bed and go and find her own.

And as she did, he loosened his finger, an imperceptible movement that allowed her soft curl to slip silently away as she slid out from under his blanket. He trusted it would keep its secrets to itself.

And Nick kept his eyes shut, concentrating on not screwing them up tightly like a child just pretending to sleep, as she sat for a minute on the edge of his bed, shuffling around in the sleepy dark for her shoes, before standing and turning to readjust the blankets around him.

It had been a very long time...longer than he could remember...since he'd been "tucked in". So it came as another happy memory to realize that, just like when he was a little boy, it seemed to make all his problems go away. If just for that second.

And when he didn't open his eyes to peak at her shadowy form as she tip-toed out of his room, it was because he was trying so very hard to stay in that place, that good, snug, cared-for place, where nothing bad could touch him as long as he didn't do anything crazy, like dangle a foot off the edge of the bed, or something.

At that moment, however, such rash impulses were the furthest thing from his mind. No, he was determined stay in the peace and comfort that Jess had created for him as long as he could. Or at least until the new day forced him to stick a foot out from under the covers, and step back into his crazy, screwed-up, pathetic life once again.

But for some reason, as he drifted back to sleep, he found himself thinking about the plant that Jess had given him the day before...and he started having a hard time remembering why he was supposed to be dreading waking up in the morning.

Hell, even Tom seemed to be feeling more hopeful about the future:

Though we're stuck here on the ground

I got something that I've found, and it's you...

I don't need to take no trip to outer space,

All I have to do is look in your face

And before I know it I'm in orbit around you,

Thanking my lucky stars that I found you.

When I see your constellation, you're my inspiration,

And it's you...

You're my North Star when I'm lost and feeling blue...

You're my sun that's breaking through, it's true...

And all the other stars seem dim around you...

I thank my lucky stars that I found you.

When I see your smiling face

I know nothing's gonna take your place,

And it's you, and it's you, and it's you, and it's you, and it's you, and it's you.