So I promise this was originally meant to be a one shot and I got way too carried away. Nothing special, just a little AU on how the season 6 finale could have gone down (plus like a tonne more). I understand some of you may feel it's a little out of character, particularly from Jess's perspective. It's just that I wanted to give her the chance of being strong powerful woman Jessica Day that we all knew she could be.
I'll add chapter notes along the way, but for now, enjoy!
"I'll just cut to it guys, Pepperwood and Jessica Knight will never get together."
Jess's couldn't stop the tears from streaming down her cheeks as she rushed to the door of the library without taking a moment to look back.
That was it. This idea she had in her head of a romantic and passionate reunion in the middle of Nick's pepperwood reading had crumbled to pieces alongside her heart.
Nick's dumb, she convinced herself as she stopped just outside the door. If he doesn't realise how lucky he would be to have me again, he's the crazy one.
She took a deep breath as the tears came to a slow stop, reaching into her pocket to catch her phone ringing and Nick's name popping up on the screen.
It took her a second of hesitation. Self-control, Jessica Day, she tried to talk herself into putting the phone back into her coat pocket but just couldn't let this last chance slip away. She loved him that much.
"Hey this is crazy but, were you just at my reading? You're not in LA are ya?"
"No… uh… I'm in Portland with my Dad." Jess's words were so weak that she was sure he would see right through them.
"Jess." Nick's tone turned borderline stern as his heartrate picked up. I'm a fucking idiot, he thought as he shook his head.
"Okay Nick, so I might have been at your reading." The tears began to fall again and she could hear him recognise it straight away as he let off a sigh across the phone line.
"And Jess." He took a deep breath. "Where are you now?"
"It doesn't matter. I'll see you when you get home." And with that, she hung up.
Nick knew he should have left the library and gone straight home. He knew he should have chased after her and tried to sort this shit out once and for all. But something was stopping him and he couldn't put his finger on what it was. Maybe it was the fact that as soon as he had realised she left, he couldn't get her off of his mind. The minute he found out she had run away to Portland, he had finally opened his eyes to how much he needed that woman in his life. And maybe that scared the shit out of him.
"Dammit Nick!" He slammed his hand against the park bench a little harder than he should have.
"What am I gonna do, Tran?" Nick put his hands to his face as he let out a sigh.
"Out of all the people in the world I could have hurt, why did it have to be Jessica Day." He started to laugh but not a real genuine laugh. A laugh at himself. A painful laugh like he knew he had screwed up BIG time and his brain was trying to justify it for his heart.
Tran just looked at him. To any normal person walking down the street it would have seemed like just any plain old look. But to Nick, it triggered a huge sigh and a nod of the head.
"You're right. I'm just scared of hurting her… Hurting me. I don't know. I thought the door was closed you know? How was I supposed to know?" He mumbled, defeat so obvious in his voice.
"Tran, what happens if I go home and she's crying? I've seen Jess cry before, sure, even recently. But now? Now I know why she's crying. Because of stupid old Nick Miller that stuck his dumb and superficial relationship in her face for months. Tran, I had sex across the hall from her!" He was talking fast now, his words becoming one huge drabble, leaving his mouth at a million miles an hour. "I wandered around the loft in fucking fairy land while my BEST FRIEND was completely alone. But the worst part? She tried to help me. She did a typical Jessica Day and put my feelings in front of her own. Sending me off to New Orleans with Reagan because she thought that was what I wanted. Damn. I wish I had known what she wanted."
He stood up and patted Tran on the shoulder.
"Wish me luck, pal."
Nick was wrong. Jess wasn't crying when he got home. In fact, Jess wasn't even there when he got home. He pulled out his phone and hovered his finger over her phone number but quickly decided against it, scrolling up to call Cece instead.
"Cece, where's Jess?" He tried to sound calm but he couldn't pull it off.
"Hi Nick, how's it going?"
"C'mon Cece, please!"
"She's here, with me. And she's fine. You don't have to worry; she'll be home later." Cece's tone was super matter-of-fact and it made Nick stomach flip over and over.
"Well, you see Cece, I have some things I need to talk to her about. Some things that can't really wait." Nick heard Patrick Swayze's voice fade into the distance as Cece clearly moved out of the room.
"Look Nick, I know you're a great guy. You're her best friend and that's serious, coming from me… But honestly, you've sat back and watched her hurt for months and you're only just putting things together now? That scares me. Sure, it's probably none of my business, but when Jess comes to my door, crying her eyes out saying it's over and she's considering moving to Europe or anywhere that's not here, I feel like it's my responsibility to step in."
The phone line went silent for a moment.
"We all screwed up, Nick. I should have been there for her when you were shoving your dumb Reagan drama in her face. She's always there for us and we weren't there for her. And now we have to pay for it."
"You're right. She needs someone who can give her everything she deserves."
Cece let off a sarcasm filled chuckle and paused for a moment.
"You wanna know your problem, Miller?" Her voice had a sudden pissed off vibe to it.
"You always go on and on about what Jess 'needs'. But here's the thing; she doesn't need you. She doesn't need anyone. Jessica Day is a strong and independent woman who fell in love with a guy who couldn't learn to love himself. You gotta admit it, Nick. The reason you didn't work the first time was because you thought she needed someone to rely on, shoes you couldn't fill. But the thing you never seemed to get your loser head around was that she wanted you, she didn't need you. She can survive without you, Miller, she just didn't want to."
"I don't, I-"He was speechless as the truth from Cece's words crashed down on his shoulders.
"She'll be home soon, Nick. I'm sorry." And with a deep sigh the line was cut.
A few hours later, Jess turned the handle to the loft for the first time since before she took off to Portland. Her hair was neat and her eyes so fresh, no one would have guessed she'd just spent the past three hours sobbing.
"Winston!" She cheered as her eyes met his concerned gaze. "How's my favourite man-in-uniform?" She chuckled as she skipped to the kitchen to wrap him in a perky and way too enthusiastic hug.
"No, Jess, how are you?" He pulled her back with his hands on her arms and his eyes staring to her soul.
"Please, I'm all out of tears, okay? I feel better, ready to move on." She gave him her best attempt at a convincing nod and took a seat on the nearest bench stool.
"You know Jess, I feel really bad. Cece told me what happened and I just- I should have been there; you know?" He leaned across the bench towards her. "I was a really shitty friend, Jess."
"Winston, I'm serious, I'm fine! It's all out of my system and I –" Her speech was interrupted as she saw the light leave Nick's bed room and enter the hall.
Clearing her throat and focussing back on Winston, she began from where she left off.
"I'm moving out." The words came out so fast but once they did she couldn't help the smile of relief that took over her cheeks.
Winston looked at her for a moment and then turned to face the frozen solid body that stood only a few meters away.
"I'm sorry, you're what?" Nick's face went from stunned to angry as he tried to catch her eyes which had settled on the coffee mug in front of Winston.
"Nick, just chill for a second." Winston faced his palms to Nick's intensifying stare on Jess, but she still didn't move a muscle.
"I'm moving out." She said again, this time even more confidently than before and with an already established smile, she met his eyes. "You know, it's time for this old gal to change things up a little."
"You're not moving out, Jessica." He didn't see the light in her tone, in fact, the whole room seemed to be getting progressively darker, alongside his thoughts.
"It's fine, Nick. I'll still swing by the bar and stuff. I think we all just need some space from each other, you know? Anyway, I'd better get packing! Nadia leaves tomorrow and the landlord doesn't want the place to be empty for too long." And with that she left him dead still in the middle of the kitchen.