Hey guys! So since it's almost Christmas, I've decided to theme this chapter, except it won't be taking place in the loft. We're going to Chicago to spend Christmas with Nick's family. Nick and Jess ensues. I hope you all enjoy! Merry Christmas! (How many times did I say Christmas there?)
"Jess, are you almost done packing? We're already fifteen minutes behind schedule."
"Yeah, almost, I can't find my other earring."
"You don't need an earring, Jess, we're going to be on a plane for four and a half hours. You'll need to take them out at TSA anyway."
"Okay, okay, I'm coming. But on the way to the airport we need to stop at the store to get tampons."
"Jess you just finished your cycle. Women, am I right?" Schmidt rolled his eyes and looked over to Winston, who replied with a half-smile and turned his attention back to his own suitcase. Nick, on the other hand, was standing by the door with his hood up. He and Jess were acting extremely awkward around one another since the day at the doctor's office. Neither of them knew what came next, especially Nick, who was concerned about the roommate dynamic and what would happen if they were to get together and then break up. The loft would be nothing but toxic energy, and he ran the risk of Jess moving out and finding other guys to live with, like she did with Spencer. It was too stressful. Plus having a woman in the loft meant it always smelt of vanilla, which, though he hated to admit, he loved.
Jess appeared out into the hallway, rolling behind her a large pink suitcase with polka dots. She beamed at the three guys, setting it at the door.
"'I'm so excited you guys, I haven't been on a plane since I was five!"
"Jess, do you realise you're going to have to deal with mushy, cheap food with little to no leg room for four hours? While breathing in other people's oxygen, in a tiny compact space. There's nothing to be excited about." Nick huffed, turning the key in the door.
"And once you're done with that, you have to deal with Nick's mom for the rest of the holidays." Schmidt added.
"Hey man, don't talk about my mom like that. But seriously Jess, she's a pain. She's gonna make us wear like, Santa hats and crap. And every year she buys crackers which pretty much just make a mess of the place, with the paper, and the loud noise they make when you break them."
Jess pulled on her coat, not wiping the smile from her face. "Guys, don't be such Grinch's. Nick, I'm sure your mom is great, and I got you all really great gifts, so you've got something to be happy about during this 'horrendous' plane ride."
The three guys shook their heads and made their way to the elevator, each one arguing over which of them would have to sit beside Jess during the journey.
After an hour of waiting in line at security, checking their bags in and Schmidt panicking over whether they'd remembered their passports, they'd finally boarded the plane. Somehow, they'd managed to get seats all in the same place. To his luck, Nick had been seated beside Jess, who thankfully, brought a book with her to keep her from talking to him. Winston had already fallen asleep against the window, while Schmidt was busy Facetiming with Cece and Robbie. So far, everything was calm. Except for a few crying babies further up the aisle.
The thought of introducing his roommates to his mom and brothers made Nick feel slightly excited and nervous. On the one hand, he got to prove to himself that he'd managed to make friends and get out of his hippie phase from college, but on the other, he was thirty, single, and was pretty much going nowhere in life. Jess could easily have passed for his girlfriend, especially given the stage they were at, at present. His mom would probably have expected him to be married at this point of his life, but she'd be proud of him nevertheless. That was something he missed about home. He was able to be himself without the pressure of modern life telling him where to go and who to be. He found that same security in Jess. She'd always been there for him, even if she had her occasional outbursts on him when they would argue.
He looked down at her. She was wrapped up in a blue poncho, captivated by whatever story she was reading. Nick often noticed how caught up she'd get in her own little world. How she'd just disappear into a different dimension after a while, if she was upset, scared, even excited, she'd be off on another planet. To understand Jess was almost like trying to find the meaning of life, as drastic as it sounded. She was special. In a good way.
"Whatcha' reading there?" he eased himself closer to her, eyeing the page she was on.
Jess glanced up at him and back at her book. "It's called The Silver-Linings Playbook." She smiled at him. "It's very good."
"Oh yeah, what's it about? A unicorn without a family who finds a silver lining?" He joked.
Jess shook her head and raised an eyebrow. "Nick, why do you think all I read is happy, girlie stories with some form of mythical creature?"
"Okay then, what's the real plot of it, Miss defensive-person?"
"Miss defensive-person Nick? Really?"
"I dunno Jess, just go on."
She shook her head. "It's about a guy and a girl with mental health problems who pretty much end up falling in love through helping each other."
"So it's a chick-flick novel type thing?"
"Not really. There's football in it." She flicked through the pages, avoiding eye contact with him.
"Makes sense. Okay then. Carry on."
Nick turned around in his seat to find a sleepy looking Winston and Schmidt.
"How you clowns doing back there?" He smirked. Schmidt groaned and threw his head back into the seat.
"Terrible, man. When are they gonna land this thing? I can feel fluid retention in my feet."
Nick made his turtle face, barely visible through the tiny slits between the seats. "We've only been in the air for two and a half hours, Schmidty. Don't you have those travel socks you drove us around all day yesterday looking for?"
"Yes Nicholas, I do. And as a matter of fact, they're called flight socks."
Jess joined the conversation, peering through her own little crevice in the seat.
"What are we talking about?"
"Schmidt's weird obsession with his circulation."
"Ew, what? You're discussing his-?"
"No Jess! Just go back to reading." Nick exclaimed, pulling her back to her seat. He'd have to talk to her at some point. About more than just her literacy interests. And it'd have to be soon.
By the time they landed, they'd headed straight for the nearest bar. Nick had been without alcohol for over forty-eight hours and needed something to get his mind off of the headache he was experiencing from Schmidt's whining. Jess and Winston sat at a booth in a corner, both exhausted from the seemingly endless ride. So far, she loved Chicago. It wasn't as rambunctious as Los Angeles, but it had a nice city-feel to it. The streets were decorated nicely, with a festive touch to every building in sight.
"One pink wine and one light beer." Nick placed the drinks in front of them, cradling his own, which looked almost empty.
"Whadya think of this place? Feels like home, am I right?"
Jess smiled at him, taking a swig from her glass.
"I can't wait to see your house, Mr. Miller. You in your natural habitat."
"I'm exactly the same there, you guys. Oh and Jess, you might have to share a bed with one of us, I've only got one water mattress and one double bed."
Jess thought she caught a hint of excitement in his tone as he spoke, and she'd have been lying if she said she hadn't felt the same.
"Fine. Just so long as you all wear clothes in bed, we're good." Schmidt and Winston each exchanged horrified looks and turned away from each other, knowing the fate of the night.
At the Miller residence, Jess and Nick's Mom, Denise, were already on good terms with one another. They'd spent twenty minutes talking about how much they loved decorating the tree and hanging up stockings, with an emotional moment of Jess remembering the last time she'd decorated one with both her parents as a family. They were treated to helpings of spaghetti with meatballs, garlic bread and red wine, afterwards accompanied by lemon and vanilla cheesecake. A combination Schmidt seemed to be the most interested in.
"So." His mom said to Nick. "Jess seems nice. When did you meet her?"
Nick, who was busy helping with the wash-up while the rest of them had assembled themselves into their rooms, shrugged his shoulders at the question, replying with a simple "A year and a half ago." He was in no mood to discuss his relationship with Jess, not wanting to jinx anything before it happened.
He glanced out of the window above the sink, meeting his own reflection. It was exactly like old times. His twelve year old self, long hair and big-shot guy clothes, helping his mom with the chores during Christmas. Outside of that window, he could see his entire neighborhood. It was a nice open space that helped him to relax. A lot had changed since then. Lots of trees had vanished, there were completely different cars parked in the driveways, homes had been re-painted and renovated, by the looks of it. He sometimes questioned why he moved to L.A. Then again, if he hadn't, he wouldn't have met Schmidt or Winston. Or Jess.
At around eleven, everyone had retired to bed, eager to sleep off the meal they'd devoured. Nick and Jess had taken the double bed in Nick's old room, still decorated in worn down posters of The Smiths and The Sex Pistols. Nick had paid close attention to wear more than he usually would in bed, which was actually just a white shirt and boxers. Jess, on the other hand, had covered herself from head to toe in button down pajamas and fuzzy socks.
"Your Mom seems nice." She smiled, placing her glasses on the bedside table.
"Yeah, you guys are a lot alike actually."
Jess pressed her lips close together, pulling herself under the duvet. Nick's room was warm, either from the heating or from Nick himself. She felt like she'd never get to talk to him alone that day, being so close to everyone else. And now was a perfect opportunity to say something. But she couldn't. She knew how he felt about her and how she felt about him, so why was it so freaking hard?
Gosh, Jess, just ask him, you ninny.
God, Nick, just ask her, you ninny.
Once they were both settled, they each looked at each other, unknowingly for the same reason.
"Jess, what are we?"
"I don't know anymore, Nick. I mean, I feel like we should embrace our feelings for each other but I don't want to ruin our friendship."
Nick sighed. "What more is there to ruin, Jess? We basically fell into each other's arms last week. How can that happen once and then never be spoken of again?"
"What are you saying?" Jess' eyes had turned to a dark shade of blue and she could feel her heart racing in her chest, scared of the answer.
"Jess, I want-."
He was interrupted by a very excited sounding Schmidt. He peered his head around the door.
"SNOW! YOU GUYS, LOOK OUT THE WINDOW"
He smiled enthusiastically, immediately dragging Jess into a whirl of incitement.
"OH MY GOSH REALLY?"
She jumped out of bed, having rarely seen snow in her life. She drew back the curtain forcefully, and watched as the white flakes delicately swerved around the air, creating an icy white blanket around the house. Her mouth dropped open as she took in this experienced, with Schmidt, Winston and Nick behind her.
"My first white Christmas with you guys." she whispered, happily, bringing them all in for a group hug.
Nick forced a smile, his words hanging in the back of his throat. He so badly wanted to tell her, but didn't want to take this moment away from her..