Nick leant his forearms on the mahogany of the bar and chuckled as he watched Winston make himself at home in the booth occupied by Sarah and her friends. Winnie hadn't been invited, of course, but he had been welcomed eagerly by the girls none-the-less. The more the merrier, Rachel had declared. He was currently sandwiched between Candace and Danielle - a cocktail umbrella placed behind each ear - all three throwing their heads back in exaggerated laughter as he helped them drain the last pitcher of drink.
Rachel was stood at the jukebox, finishing her selection and starting a drunken little shimmy as the music rang out. She turned to see the others join her, Winston holding a hand each and twirling them simultaneously.
"Hey Sarah! We're waiting!" Teased Danielle, still spinning to the song.
She waved them away with a laugh 'Nooo, no. I'm good here thanks!' and stuck her tongue out at them in response to their boo-ing.
It's not that she didn't like to dance, heck she loved it, just not under the gaze of other people. Nope, she'd be just fine sat watching from the sidelines, thanks very much.
Jess took a seat at the bar, placing her red, heart-shaped purse down on the counter before craning her neck behind her.
"What am I watching here?!" she asked, amused
"Winston Bishop on cocktails is really something to behold" Nick laughed back "He becomes this totally different person - It's why I won't make them for him anymore!"
"Oh, I don't know. I kinda like it. You know, seeing him not strike out for a change!" Jess chuckled as she turned her face back to him, noting for probably a few seconds too long the way the rolled up sleeves of his shirt showed off the tanned skin on his arms.
One thing was for sure, Nick Miller certainly knew how to wear the hell out of black button down. She wasn't quite sure when she had first started noticing that, but lately she had definitely found herself appreciating his choice of work wear.
Her eyes snapped up to meet his at the question. "Uh. Yes...Yes! More drinks, that's what I'm here for!" She cleared her throat and laughed awkwardly.
At this, Schmidt was by her side. Tie now removed and collar open, this was as casual as he came.
"Jess!" He hissed "What is taking you so long?! My beautiful Cecelia is sat over yonder with a mouth as dry as the Sahara and I will not have it for a moment longer!"
Jess raised a hand to correct him 'Cece is not YOUR beautiful anything, Schmidt, OK? Let us just be clear on that!" She warned.
Ignoring her words, he turned and spoke directly to Nick "My Indian goddess must be kept hydrated at all times - Pick up the pace, Nicholas!"
"Will you stop it with that?" Nick replied, exasperated "I'll bring the drinks over in a minute, just cool it, man!" he pointed for him to return in the direction he came from.
Before obliging, Schmidt leaned right over the bar and in a fake whisper he addressed Nick "Oh, and FYI, the cute blonde with Winston has been checking you out all night. Go get her, tiger - apparently chubby, under washed bartenders must do it for her!"
"Get outta here, Schmidt!" Nick scowled, neglecting to mention to his friend that he had full well noticed said 'cute blonde' already. He allowed himself to look over in her direction, and sure enough he caught her gaze.
Sarah looked away almost instantly, embarrassed to have been caught stealing a glance at the only reason she came to this bar every week.
The night was drawing to a close and the bar was beginning to empty. Regulars were drifting out on to the streets and the hum of atmosphere was slowly dying down. The only group still drinking were, of course, Winston and the girls. Nick had observed with growing distain the fruity cocktails take their grip on his pal. There was no saving him now, better to just embrace the crazy that was unfolding before his eyes.
Schmidt, Cece and Jess were all perched on bar stools, watching Winston with differing levels of amusement.
"Do you think we should rescue him?" Jess thought out loud, with a tilt of her head, as she saw him try to balance on a table with the help of his drunken counterparts.
"Winston! What are you doing?!" Yelled Nick, hands placed firmly at his hips. He'd seen this before, and it almost never ended well.
"I got this, man!" Winston tried to reassure them. "Y'all about to see something amazing!" he clapped his hands in preparation, steadying himself on the shoulder of Candace who was stood next to him.
"Are you sure this is a good idea?" she giggled, too drunk to really care.
"Yeah, baby! You ain't seen nothin' till you've seen my impression of Peter Pan!"
Just as he was about to take off from the table into certain pain, Schmidt and Cece had reached him just in time to grab a leg each and stop him in his tracks.
"What are you doin'? I was just about to get my Neverland on..." Winston was clearly disappointed.
"Get down, Winston. Now." instructed Cece
"You are the dumbest boy in school!" Chastised Schmidt, with a shake of his head. "Show's over ladies, I think we need to get this Lost Boy back home"
There was a chorus of protest, and a deal was finally struck - one more song, one more dance, one more shot and all would leave peacefully.
Rachel made her way to the jukebox, calling to Sarah as she did "You! You have to get up and dance now. No more excuses!"
"Ah, ohh, no...please, I'm good here" Sarah's head was fuzzy with all the Old Fashioned she had put away and she wasn't entirely sure she could co-ordinate her feet enough to dance without falling on her face anyway. Plus, from here she had a perfect view.
Seeing her gaze head once again to the bar, a mischievous glint rose in Rachel's eyes and she teased "Oh...oh, I know what would change your mind!" she quickly spun towards the bar and called over in Nick's direction "Hey! Hey, Mr Barman! Come and dance with us, won't you?" and beckoned him with her finger
"No can do, ladies" replied Nick, with a shake of his head "First rule of bartending: You never cross the bar!" he shrugged his shoulders by way of an apology.
She pouted and continued "But my friend Sarah here would really, really like to see you shake your thang-"
"Rachel!" Sarah cried, wishing she could sink into the leather of the seat and disappear.
Nick smiled to himself at her obvious embarrassment. He'd noticed the way she had been looking at him, and if he was honest he kinda liked it. It gave him a buzz, to feel like the most attractive man in the bar to her. It had been a while since someone made him feel that way.
Just then, the song selection changed, and a collective mash up of cheers and groans went up as Cotton-Eyed Joe rang out.
Jess laughed as Nick couldn't help but fist-pump to the beat.
"Come on" she said as she held out a hand to him over the bar hatch "we're going to dance!" and raised her brow.
"Jess, no" he frowned.
It wasn't that he didn't like dancing. He hated it. His body just didn't move the way a normal body should to music.
"Nicholas, you know you want to. This is your jam!" She insisted, her blue eyes telling him that she would not take no for an answer.
He rolled his eyes heavenwards and sighed, taking hold of her outstretched hand and crossing over from his safety net on the other side of the counter.
For some reason, she had a way of making him agree to things even when he really didn't want to do them. Jessica Damn Day.
They joined the rest of the group, already deep in the throes of their dosey doe's, with the exception of Sarah - of course - who was still sat in the booth, suddenly short of breath as she saw him approach.
Dropping Jess's grasp, Nick left her side and headed towards the booth. He stopped by her table, a small smile on his face as he offered her his hand.
"If I have to, then so do you"
It was more of an instruction than a request, and one she couldn't refuse regardless. Swallowing hard and willing her legs to work, she nodded and stood up. She took his hand and felt giddy as his fingers gripped hers and he led her to the others where they participated in mutual, awkward dancing and a healthy dose of laughs.
Jess had watched the whole exchange unfold before her. She had frowned inwardly when Nick had left her side and walked off to the 'cute blonde'. It left a bad taste in her mouth.
It tasted like disappointment.