This is the first time I've dipped my toe into NG fic writing (it feels weird... like I'm cheating on my main fandom...but a good weird :P like Jess), so I'm feeling the waters for these characters after the idea of snuggling wouldn't leave my head after watching Chicago.
Many thanks to my beta, Tadpole24 (who has written a few NG fics... go check them out!)
No ownership :(
Jess had felt her heart lurch in her chest when Nick announced his father's death. All helium induced frivolity evaporated as she'd tugged him into her embrace, unable to resist pressing her nose to his neck and inhaling his Nick-ish scent. She swore blind to herself that she'd been trying to comfort a friend who had been given gut wrenching news, but she knew that she was rationalising to make herself feel better; she wanted to be allowed to hug Nick Miller every single day, but until she could, she would latch onto any and all opportunities.
They'd mobilised quickly after that. Schmidt had immediately called a travel agent, sweet-talking his way into a row of four seats with an extra high luggage weight limit on the first flight from LA to Chicago the next morning. Winston had called Mrs Miller, informing her of the extra houseguests as he shooed Nick into his room to pack.
Jess had felt useless, flitting around the kitchen, pushing homemade snickerdoodles and cups of hot cocoa into any hands that would accept them, cringing as she called Shane at the bar to inform her that Nick would be taking bereavement leave for at least a week.
She'd woken up some time after midnight and padded to the kitchen for a glass of water when she saw him. Nick had parked himself on the couch that evening and had stared blankly at the TV screen ever since. An infomercial for The Wearable Toga (something she was certain that he would be mocking scathingly under normal circumstances) played on the screen, Nick staring blankly, eyes glazed.
"You know, I don't really think that's your colour," Jess commented quietly. Nick mumbled something unintelligible in response.
Jess's heart ached in her chest. She wished she could do something to ease his pain. "C'mon," she grabbed the remote and flicked the TV off. "It's bedtime," she held her hand out to him. The knot in her stomach loosened when he linked his fingers with hers and stood, dumbly following her as she guided him out of the living room.
He looked at her pleadingly when she stopped in front of his door. "Jess…" he murmured painfully, carefully practiced cynicism absent from his face, leaving a scared little boy in its wake.
There was that uncomfortable twist in her chest again. "Do you want to stay with me?" She asked him. At his pitiful nod, Jess couldn't deny him.
He flopped into bed beside her, his head resting on her chest. "My Dad is dead," he uttered, disbelief still colouring his tone. "How messed up is that?"
Jess stayed silent, but stole the opportunity to brush a kiss against his brow. She began to card her fingers through his surprisingly soft brown hair, trying to convince herself that she couldn't feel his stubble scratching against her décolletage. "Just try and sleep, Nick," she whispered, silently wishing there was something she could do.
The flight from LAX to O'Hare had been nightmarish. There had been a kid wailing for the entire four hours, the guy behind him kicking his seat. Schmidt hadn't stopped whining about his lost luggage and it had taken over an hour to find a cabbie that would take them to the outer suburb of Chicago Nick had grown up in.
He shouldn't have been surprised that the planning of the funeral had fallen to him. He was Nicky, the one that took care of everything. What had surprised him was what a bitch his Mom was being to Jess. She knew damn well how he felt about his pixie sized roommate, more than happy to give him hell about when he'd grow a damn pair and make a move, because she wouldn't wait forever for grandbabies (and she didn't trust Jamie to be able to raise a kid without dropping the poor thing on its head). Nick had honestly expected his mother to fall all over Jess, the first he'd ever bothered to bring home to meet his mother. He couldn't understand why his Mom wouldn't like her; Jess was pretty and smart and she smelt really good. He had been certain she was basically the perfect girl to bring home. He didn't get why his Mom was shutting Jess down so viciously. What wasn't to instantly fall in love with?
Nick rolled over in the lumpy camp bed, his eyes burning with tiredness that he couldn't succumb to. He hadn't shared a room with his brother in over fifteen years and he'd forgotten the god-awful smells that Jamie could produce in his sleep. He didn't want to be here. He didn't want any of this to be happening. The pressure to plan his son of a bitch father's perfect funeral was burning a hole in the lining of his stomach; he was so stressed. He kicked off the blankets and climbed out of bed.
He knew what floorboards to avoid so that the floor wouldn't creak. He made his way silently down the hall, opening the door to his childhood bedroom.
"Nick!" Jess gasped. She was sitting up in his bed (still made up with his favourite Star Wars sheets) glasses on and her hair tumbling around her face in curly disarray. She placed the open note pad, the words "eulogy ideas" scratched on the top of the page, on the bedside table, her favourite pen neatly placed on top. "Can't sleep?" She asked sympathetically.
He shook his head miserably.
Jess chewed her lip pensively. Nick's childhood bed certainly wasn't as expansive as her feather topped mattress back home, but she could hardly turn him away (and selfishly, she didn't want to). She slipped her glasses off, placing them neatly on top of her notebook and shuffling as close as she could to the wall. "Climb in," she instructed. She rolled her eyes at his hesitation. "Miller, I'm freezing. Get your ass in this bed before I turn into a Popsicle and Schmidt has to write the eulogy."
He was too tired to remember to tiptoe around his feelings for her. Exhaustion had seeped deep into his bones, making him feel like he actually was the old man she always teased him about being and he was simply too drained to pretend that he didn't want her. The tight space of his bed could have been a justification for his actions, if he cared enough to rationalise being in the position he was. Really, he knew that all of the rationalisations in the world meant nothing. He just wanted Jess.
Curling up behind her, the big cumbersome soupspoon fitting around the delicate piece of silverware that was Jess, he slung an arm tightly around her waist and buried his face in the curve of her neck, his free hand twisting in her curls. There was so much he could say, words burning on the tip of his tongue. Her smell was a balm on his ragged soul and he could finally relax, his eyes slipping shut.
He'd listened to Jess stand up to his mother for him. She'd dressed up as Elvis to make sure that the funeral would be perfect, for crying out loud. He didn't know how he'd gotten lucky enough to get Jess as a friend, but he hoped like he hadn't hoped in a long time that he would be lucky enough that one day they'd finally stop tiptoeing across the friendship line and move firmly beyond it.
Jess had linked hands with him as they crossed the tarmac to the plane, her blue doe eyes daring him to say a word.
She had been his constant, his anchor in the world of turmoil. She hadn't judged, hadn't belittled him or teased him. She'd supported him, attempted to write a eulogy for him and sobered him up when he'd skipped out on her ("just like your dad used to" a cruel little voice murmured in the back of his head). He'd been quieter than usual over dinner; missing several opportunities to sentence Schmidt to paying his douche jar dues. He was on autopilot, doing what he had to in order to get by, barely engaging with the world.
He showered. He brushed his teeth in the sink next to Jess, silently following her to her room.
"Why Sir, inviting yourself into a woman's chambers? I never," Jess sighed in a dramatic damsel in distress imitation.
"Jess, my Dad is dead." The dam that had been threatening to burst in Nick's chest from the second his mother had made that phone call had finally been broken. For the first time since he'd heard the news, tears threatened at his eyes. He angrily scrubbed a hand over his face, waiting for her to rebuke him for acting like a sissy.
In typical Jess fashion, she did the exact opposite of what he was expecting. She snagged both his hands and pulled him to sit on the edge of her bed. Her pale thin hands rested on his cheekbones, framing his face. "I'm so sorry, Nick," she enunciated mournfully.
That did it. He succumbed to the tears, barely ashamed that Jess was seeing him at his weakest. He hiccupped like a little boy, shamefully drawing comfort from her as she brushed away his tears with her thumbs, pressing kisses on the wet mess on his face that was too long to be stubble, but too short to be considered a beard.
She pulled his shaking frame into her embrace, nails tracing up and down his spine through the thin fabric of his undershirt, murmuring soothing nonsense to him as best she could, occasionally humming a lullaby he'd never heard as his tears soaked her favourite set of pyjamas.
His sobs quieted, the chills racking through his body stilling. He discreetly rubbed a fist across his nose, looking forlornly at Jess, his red-rimmed eyes boring into her soul. "Please don't make me sleep alone tonight," he begged her huskily.
"Oh, honey," she sighed, the endearment slipping past her lips before she could censor herself. "You don't have to be alone," she whispered, weaving her fingers with his. In a moment of bravery, she pressed a chaste kiss against his heartbroken turtle face. "I'm here for whatever you need."
He nodded seriously, taking her words to heart.
She knew which side of the bed was his. She knew that the rhythm of her nails scratching patterns against his shoulders would eventually lull him to sleep. She'd known him at his worst and still hadn't turned him away. With that knowledge stored away for ammunition against the wolves of self doubt, Nick Miller drifted off to sleep.