Disclaimer: I have no affiliation with New Girl.
A/N: First New Girl fic. I hope you like it. I ship Nick/Jess so hard!
Greg had met Jess when she started teaching the creative writing class in the room next door to the one where he held his Intro to IT class for adults. She was great – fun loving, quirky, beautiful. Things were going great. He was really starting to think this could be going somewhere.
They had been together almost a month. She'd come to a dinner party with him and his friends, and willingly spent the evening playing Pictionary and Charades. He, in turn, had met her best friend Cece, and all three of her roommates.
He wasn't going to lie, Cece scared him a little. For one thing, she was taller than him. And even setting aside the fact that she was intimidatingly beautiful, the threats she had given about what would happen to him if he hurt Jess would have a braver man than him trembling in his boots.
Then there was Schmidt, who didn't seem to have a first name, wore too much hair product, and constantly talked about how he'd repeatedly nailed a model (who turned out to be Cece, which left him wondering if maybe there was more to Schmidt than met the eye). The first day that Greg had gone up to the loft with Jess, Schmidt had been making jam in the kitchen, and had screamed at him for moving his carton of crab-apples. Greg didn't go into the kitchen unless Jess was there now.
He'd thought that Winston was normal, to start with. He'd certainly come across that way, toning down Schmidt with the aid of the douchebag jar and with well timed intervention when Schmidt got too weird about cleaning or the loft décor.
That impression stayed until they played Pictionary, Winston and Cece against Greg and Jess. That game involved a lot more yelling than Greg was used to.
"He's very competitive," said Jess, after Winston had stormed off to his room. "He played basketball in Latvia."
And finally, there was the famous Nick. After all the build up, he was kind of underwhelming. Rumpled and grumpy, and a bit of a recluse. He mostly stayed in his room, and flat out refused to play Pictionary, despite Jess disappearing into his room for five minutes in an attempt to coax him out of hiding. Greg didn't know how anyone could resist Jess's coaxing eyes, but apparently Nick could, because all that happened was a lot of yelling.
The next morning, Nick emerged from his room while Greg and Jess were eating pancakes and fresh fruit salad. He sat next to Greg and drank his coffee and didn't say anything. It was awkward, and Greg didn't know why.
"I don't need you to make me breakfast, Jess," Nick said ungratefully as Jess placed a plate of pancakes and one of fruit salad in front of him.
"I picked the blueberries out," said Jess, giving him the same sad look that could convince Greg to do anything.
Nick ate the food and disappeared back into his room with one final, unreadable glance at Greg.
Over the next few weeks, Greg spent more and more time at the loft. Schmidt became more bearable over time, especially once Greg realised that a large part of his lewd commentary and apparent narcissism was due to him really, really not being over Cece. Winston was positively friendly, and a lot of fun to hang out with, as long as you didn't do anything that could be in any way construed as a competition. But Nick? Nick just didn't warm up.
Nick sat on the other side of Jess on the sofa and watched football, refusing to let anyone else touch the remote, despite the fact that it was Greg and Jess's date night.
Nick answered Greg's friendly conversation openers with monosyllables or sarcasm, and made snarky remarks about careers in teaching beginners IT. That probably annoyed Greg the most. The guy was a bartender. Was he really in a position to make fun of someone's career choice?
Once, Nick made coffee for himself and tea for Jess, and didn't offer Greg anything.
But mostly he stayed in his room and didn't come out.
Greg didn't start to get worried until the night the whole crowd of them – Jess, Greg, Schmidt, Winston and Nick – were sitting on the sofas watching The Walking Dead, and Jess hid her face in Nick's shoulder during the zombie attacks. That was when Greg started noticing stuff.
Like, when he made a passing comment about her dresser, and Jess responded with a story about how Nick had driven her an hour and a half to IKEA and an hour and a half back, and then assembled it. And that shouldn't be a big deal, but somehow it was, because he'd just done it, no questions asked, because he had nothing better to do that day.
And how Nick's leaving the room tended to coincide almost exactly with any show of affection between Jess and Greg.
And how maybe Nick wasn't as grumpy as he seemed. How maybe Nick was only grumpy when Greg was there. Greg found that out on a trip to the mall, when he was getting his Christmas shopping done early. He was just coming out of the jewellery store, Jess's Christmas present tucked securely away, when he saw them. Nick was holding a fluffy elephant, and both of them were laughing.
"We bought a birthday present for Nick's Mom," Jess told him when he asked her about her day. There was a strange sinking feeling in his chest, because she hadn't said "Nick and I" or "I went with Nick", she'd said "We", like it was natural. Like she and Nick were part of a "We" that everyone knew about.
Jess and Nick squabbled over things like whether aubergine was a colour and how many times to let the phone ring before picking it up and whether it was acceptable behaviour to tap dance in a supermarket. Greg and Jess never squabbled. She apologised to him for bursting into song in a restaurant once. Nick dragged her out into the hallway and they had a yelling match when he heard her. Greg tried not to hear it, and wished the floor would swallow him up.
But he couldn't quite bring himself to say these things out loud, because when Jess smiled at him, it was like the whole room got a little bit brighter.
He had Christmas in the loft with her and her parents, who keep yelling at each other, and Schmidt, who for some reason didn't want to have Christmas with his mother (from the occasional childhood stories Schmidt told, Greg thought it was understandable), and Nick, who missed his flight to Chicago. Greg stamped down hard on the uncharitable thought that maybe Nick had missed it on purpose.
They exchanged presents around the tree that Jess had decorated with coloured lights and lopsided ornaments, handmade by children she'd taught over the years. She smiled radiantly at the necklace he gave her. The delicate gold chain and drop pearl looked beautiful with her green and red dress, and the metal was cold against his skin as she leaned in to hug him, whispering thanks in his ear. She gave him a voucher for piping hot nerd sex, and a mouse pad with a word search on it, and topped it off with a sweet, gentle kiss.
Nick gave her a bright blue ukulele. She played a short "getting a ukulele for Christmas" song, followed by the soundtrack to Schmidt cooking Christmas dinner. Nick watched her fondly and shrugged it off like it was no big deal, but Greg couldn't help feeling like he'd lost.
Jess gave Nick a knitted zombie. He smiled like it was the best present he'd ever been given, and picked her up, swinging her round, putting her down and stepping away hurriedly when he caught sight of Greg and remembered.
Greg admitted to himself that maybe it was time. But after Christmas. It was a cruel move to break up with someone on Christmas, even if it was right for both of you. So he bit it back and danced to the cheerful strum of the ukulele, twirling Jess's mother around the room and pretending not to notice how she glowed every time she looked at the instrument, and never once touched the necklace he'd given her.
They stayed friends. She still skipped up to him after class and told him stories, somehow making them far more interesting than they really were. He still helped her with her computer and told her about his board game nights, and eventually about Claire, who'd been his partner for Trivial Pursuit, and now was his partner for everything.
Two months later, Jess brought Nick along to a board game night. She introduced him as her roommate. They didn't hold hands, or kiss, or call each other honey, but they both seemed more alive.
It turned out in the right circumstances Nick Miller did live up to the description.