THE GREAT PRETENDERS. PART FOUR:

So here they were. Back at the loft. 11:46pm

Fourteen minutes left until the clock struck twelve.

Fourteen little minutes until real life would need its ball back and the two of them would have to somehow find a way to carry on as normal. Like nothing from the past couple of months had happened. It was over. Because that was the deal. Cinderella rules.

Jess stood opposite Nick in the hallway between their rooms, sliding her foot back and forth along the floor in front of her while wondering how long they were going to stand in silence. Neither of them were quite sure what to do now they were back at the apartment, away from the romance and buzz of the occasion fuelling their little act. Do they just say 'see ya!' and be done with it? Disappear in to their respective rooms and ignore the past few hours? Is a goodnight kiss too weird? Should they settle on a hug? A pat on the back? A handshake? So many awkward possibilities.

"So..." She said, desperate just to break the void of sound.

"So..." He replied with a small, closed mouth smile before looking down at his watch "You know, technically the night isn't over until 12. I mean, there's time for one last drink? If you want...?"

"A night cap sounds great!" Jess grinned "Liquor me up, Miller!"

Nick laughed and rolled his eyes, but extended a hand for her to take so he could escort his kind-of-sort-of-date-for-another-14-minutes to the kitchen for beverages regardless. His head suddenly snapped to the right as he heard Schmidt's door open. Grabbing Jess around the waist with one arm, he lifted her feet from the ground, and backed them both into his bedroom with such speed that a little squeal escaped her mouth.

"Nick, what the hell...?" She screeched.

"Shhh!" Nick placed a finger against his lips without looking at her and strained his head to listen to the other side of the door they were currently pressed up against.

There was no space between them right now. None at all. His chest was flush alongside hers and she could feel his ribcage move as he breathed. Jess found herself staring at his neck, at the spot just below his jaw where the skin was taut and she could see it pulsing. She had an overwhelming urge to place her lips against that part of him, just for a second, but managed to push it back down. Now was not the time.

"Nicholas?! Is that you?" Schmidt narrowed his eyes and padded through the kitchen towards them.

"What's going on?" Jess whisper-shouted.

"Schmidt can't know we're in here! If he sees us, he'll know I went to the wedding without him and he'll never forgive me for taking you instead..."

"Wait..."

"Shhh!" He hushed her more fiercely this time, sensing their roommate just outside.

"Nick? You can't hide from me forever! I know you're in here, I can smell the deceit...I saw your giant head in the background of an Instagram post from that butt-faced friend of yours. You went to the wedding without me, you traitor! And I can tell you used my good cologne - AGAIN - do you even know how expensive that is?! Ugh, and I bet you sprayed it under your dirty, unwashed armpits too, you heathen!"

Nick ducked his head and held his breath, willing his friend to shut the hell up and disappear.

"You'll regret this is the long run, mark my words! I'm like an elephant - Schmidtty never forgets...well, that, and I have an enormous trunk! OK, OK, I'm gonna jar myself for that one!" He took a second to laugh at his own joke before continuing "Whoever this date is that you ditched me for, she'd better be worth it...I mean, I highly doubt it, but whatever..."

Jess's eyes grew big at the sudden realisation of Schmidt's words. Nick had lied to her. Convinced her to go with him on false pretences. Jess swallowed hard as she looked at him. Tilting her head, she spoke slowly.

"But...you said Schmidt couldn't make it to the wedding because he was working on a 'big project' for his boss."

"I know what I said, Jessica..." his gravelly breath was on her cheek and his words fell soft as velvet against her skin. Nick bought one hand down, tracing his fingers along her jawline and she couldn't help but close her eyes at the sensation. When she opened them, he was looking down at her and for a second she felt like she couldn't breathe. As if the oxygen had been sucked from her lungs. The air around them was practically sparking with electricity, and before a single thought had time to cross her mind, his mouth was on hers in a wonderfully hot and heavy kiss. She welcomed his tongue with hers immediately, wanting nothing more in this moment but to be closer to him than she had ever been before. Jess grabbed fistfuls of his shirt and pulled him in to her as he wrapped one arm tight around her waist, the other still resting on her face.

It was at this exact moment that Nick's inner voice decided to scream at him and demand that he stop what he was doing immediately. Sure, they'd been intimate before at the wedding and her staff party but that was different. A game, almost. It never happened like this before. In the loft - where they live. This was crossing a boundary that, frankly, scared the shit out of him. No matter how sexy it was.

'You never think before you act!'

'There are consequences to your actions!'

'What is done can never be undone!'

And a whole host of other clich├ęs he had heard a million times over. He'd never noticed before, but his inner voice had started to sound a lot like Caroline. Doubting him and making him second guess himself. But, it had a point. He liked Jess a lot...a lot. But what if this wasn't what she wanted? What if this was just going to open a can of worms and make a giant mess of their - pretty damn awesome - friendship? They were roommates and would have to see each other every single day after tonight. What if she ended up trying to avoid him? Would things get so uncomfortable that she would decide to move out?

Oh, shit.

What if she moved out because of this?

His mind was of course jumping to the worst possible outcome and running away with it. As per freaking usual. Here come the Miller panic sweats.

He had to stop this. And fast, because he could feel Jess's arm snaking up his back and pretty soon he would not be able to walk away from her no matter how hard he tried. Using every ounce of self control he still possessed, he suddenly broke their embrace and stepped back from her so quickly that her eyes were still closed as he saw her brow furrow in confusion when she registered the lack of contact between them. Opening one eye, the question was written all over her face so clearly that she didn't even need to speak it before he answered.

"I'm sorry." Nick spoke through short, fast breaths "We can't keep doing this. We agreed."

Jess paused for a moment as she regained her composure. He was correct, of course. There was a good reason they introduced the rule at his cousins wedding, but screw it - rules were made to be broken.

"We did, you're right. But everyone used to agree that the world was flat, and look how that turned out..."

"Well, it might be..." He said, scowling.

"The world is not flat, Nicholas!"

"You don't know that for sure. No one does!"

"Uh, yeah they do! Astronauts, for one. They've seen it with their own eyes!"

"I don't trust astronauts..."

"What?! What does that even mean?"

"I saw this documentary on Netflix and...you know what? It doesn't matter, you wouldn't understand anyway - and stop changing the subject!" His face was serious and he sighed before speaking again "Look, it's just not a good idea, ok? Not like this."

"Not like what?"

"You know...we've been at a wedding all day, we've been drinking...it's easy to get carried away! To get swept up in the heat of the moment of this fake boyfriend/girlfriend thing we keep doing and...and...end up with our heads in the clouds not thinking about the consequences..." he rambled, arms flailing about as he struggled to get his point across.

"Head in the clouds?! Are you calling me an airhead, Nick?" She accused, outraged by the insinuation.

"What?! No!" He threw his eyes heavenwards "You're twisting my words, Jessica!"

"Pretty sure that's what you just said. You think I'm getting 'swept up in the heat of the moment'? Like I can't separate fact from fiction?"

"I never said that..."

"Maybe it's not me, huh? Maybe you can't separate the two. Ever think about that? I mean, what are you so afraid of?" Her eyes were bugging slightly as she yelled at him. He couldn't answer her honestly, so he didn't answer at all.

They stared at each other having reached an impasse. He took another step back, ran his hand across his face and through his hair, resting it on the back of his neck. She hadn't taken her eyes off him for a moment and it was making him uncomfortable. He had no idea what to donow. This was even more awkward than he thought. Should have just ignored the voices and carried on, Nicholas.

Out of the corner of his eye, he saw her moving her arms in the dim light of his room. And then a sound.

"Bwock, bwock, bwock..."

"What is that...?" Nick rolled his eyes and pinched the bridge of his nose with his thumb and forefinger.

"You chicken, Miller? Bwoooock bwoooock" she clucked while flapping her crooked arms in an exaggerated fashion "Too scared to have a little fun? We're still on the clock after all."

"I know what you're trying to do. It isn't going to work." He stood, with his hands defiant on his hips and chest puffed out. She repeated the action a couple more times, adding in a peck with her head for good measure.

"Come on, Jess, cut it out..."

"Ok, fine." she huffed and her hands fell still against her sides. Nick was pretty sure he could hear disappointment in her voice and it made his heart beat faster. Maybe she did want this for real after all?

"Sure. I'll go...you know, if you're not man enough to handle all of this." Her words were intended to be flippant, a throwaway comment as she exited, but they came out sharp and made him wince. Jess wasn't sure where all of that had come from, she just desperately wanted to not have to leave. She wanted to shout at him to just grab her and be done with it. But clearly they weren't on the same page. She turned slowly on her heel and rested her hand on the doorknob. Turning it, Jess could feel his rejection smarting and fought the urge to look back at him. Just as she started to pull the door ajar, Nick's arm flew over the top of hers and slammed it shut again. She stayed facing away, feeling his body so close behind her that she could sense the heat of him. His hand was pressed against the door above her shoulder, his breathing heavy and loud by her ear. Nick placed his left hand on her hip before speaking with certainty.

"I'm man enough..."

He moved his right hand down to her other hip and turned her around to face him. Keeping a firm hold, he dipped his head to kiss her and slowly pressed his lips to hers, feeling her open her mouth to welcome him. Jess could tell this kiss was different. He was really taking his time. It was like he was savouring every second. Their tongues met, softly playing across one another as he pushed them back against the door. She bought her arms up around his neck, one hand settling on the spot at the base of his skull, stroking the hair there and sending a shiver right through him. Their kissing intensified and his mouth was harder against her. It became messy and frantic and their hips instinctively pressed towards each other. Jess was making little noises against him every time he rocked in to her and he wanted to just take her right here and now while leaning on the door because it felt fucking magical.

"Bed." Nick growled suddenly as he stepped back from her grip.

"What?" She panted.

"My Bed. Now. Go." He ordered and pointed across the room.

"I know where your bed is, dummy..." She shot back, trying to sound calm and in control when really she felt anything but. He took a second to peek around outside his door, checking they were definitely alone before closing it. Jess heard him click the lock shut and a thrill coursed through her at the sound.

He'd locked them in.

Or locked Schmidt out. Same difference.

Jess stood next to his bed, unsure if she should perch on the edge or lie back on the pillows like some kind of seductress. One seemed too little, the other far too much. It didn't matter anyway, because he was standing back in front of her in a matter of seconds. Close enough to touch, his shirt sleeves rolled up exposing his forearms in that way that now made her insides turn to mush. She searched his face, wondering if this was really happening.

"It's 12:08..." Jess offered quietly after catching sight of his clock. Last chance to change their minds.

"I don't care..." Nick mumbled, and was on her in a flash, lifting her up off the floor. She wrapped her legs around his waist and kissed him feverishly. He held one hand on her butt cheek and the other buried itself in her hair, keeping her lips on his as he lowered them both down on to the mattress. She could feel the delicious weight of his body on top of hers and it gave her goosebumps. Jess pulled him close and drew one knee up alongside his hip. Nick ran his hand all the way up her leg and brushed his fingertips against the material of her underwear, making him harder than he ever thought possible. Out of nowhere, he felt himself being tugged to the bed as she pressed her leg in to him, making him lie on his back so she could straddle his thighs. Undoing the buttons of his shirt, she ran her fingers across his chest and dug her nails in ever so slightly as he cocked an eyebrow at her and pressed his hips up to her groin making her bite back a little moan. She leaned forward to place little kisses on his body, making her way up to his throat and that spot of skin she was so desperate to taste earlier. Jess heard him groan as she nibbled at his neck and she ground herself down against him just to further the torment. Nick grabbed her waist with both hands and flipped them over so she was on her back again.

"You little tease!" He breathed into her mouth as he kissed her once more. Jess locked her legs around him and drew the hardness in his trousers tight against her, driving a bolt of pleasure through them both with the friction, then tried to shove him on to his side so she could switch places again. Nick broke away and looked down at her frustrated.

"What are you doing?" He said.

"What are you doing?" She countered.

"Will you just stay still and let me kiss you, Jessica?"

He grabbed her elbows to keep her pinned underneath him but she couldn't help arguing "You can kiss me and not have to be on top, you know!"

Wrestling free, Jess flung herself forward at him one last time so he fell backwards, landing with his head by the foot of the bed. Arms resting on his exposed chest, she propped herself up and glowered at him "God, you're so annoying!"

"Are you serious right now? You're gonna start insulting me while we're doing this?"

"Because you always have to make things so difficult, Nick!"

"Would you just shut up already!" He got hold of her under the arms and pulled her higher up his body so her face was level with his.

"Make me..." She demanded, feeling more turned on than she ever had done before and not quite being able to figure out why, because she was currently fully clothed and arguing with a man-child from across the hall, which isn't usually conducive to getting hot under the collar.

Nick sat them both up and grabbed her face with his hands, silencing her with his mouth and stealing the breath that left her as he did. He reached around her back and unzipped her dress, letting it fall away slightly. A small smile curled his lips and he blinked a few times at the sight of her cleavage in the navy blue lacy bra she was wearing. The little pink bows on the straps adding the perfect amount of 'Jess'. She got to her knees and he did the same, enabling him to remove the dress completely. His mouth fell open as he saw her matching panties.

"Wow..." he breathed, and she giggled - which only served to turn him on even more. He ran his fingertips gently over her collar bone and Jess's eyes fluttered closed for a second as her skin tingled at his touch. Nick continued across her shoulders, sliding his hands under the straps of her bra that he was desperate to remove.

"You first..." Jess said, placing her hands over his and returning them to his side.

"No, really, ladies first - you know I'm a gentleman!" Nick laughed and tried to reach for her again, but she shook her head silently, slid her hands up his body and pushed his shirt down his arms making it land on the floor. Reaching for his belt buckle, Jess removed his trousers and placed her hands on his shoulders so he ended up on his back, still at the foot of his bed. She kissed him sweetly before draping a leg over his waist and looking him in the eye as she unhooked her bra. He was breathing loudly and she felt his dick twitch below her as she bent forward to kiss him again, her breasts brushing along his chest where he could feel her nipples hard against his skin. Un-freakin-believable.

"Jesus Christ, you're the most beautiful fucking woman I've ever laid eyes on..." Nick murmured against her lips, and he felt her smile at his words.

Jess shimmied herself down his body, laying kisses on his torso as she did until she was able to free him from the constraints of his boxers which she swiftly threw to one side. Previously, she'd have felt self conscious at this point, overthinking what was coming next - but Nick seemed to have unlocked a confidence within her. She felt sexy when she was with him, and now it didn't seem to phase her at all that he was watching intently as she lowered her mouth to his erection. Quite the contrary - she liked it. So she held his gaze and licked her lips before running her tongue along the length of his penis and taking him in her mouth.

"Holy mother of..." Nick closed his eyes and exhaled sharply as she continued to bob up and down, stroking him with her hand, stopping every now and then to run her tongue across his tip and circle him.

"Ok, Jess...you've got to stop...I can't..." He was squirming now, eager for her to move away because he could tell this wasn't going to last long if she carried on. But she willfully ignored him and began doing that thing with her lips again and...

Oh, my...

"Stop, stop!" He begged, placing his hands on her shoulders and pushing her off gently. Jess came away with a pop, letting him fall from her mouth with a smirk. Still breathing heavily, Nick moved himself up on to his elbows and leaned forward as she sat back on her heels, challenging him with a mischievous glint in her eye. Grabbing her around the waist, he guided Jess down to the bed so she was on her back. Looming over her, his hands stroked up her arms, pinning them next to her head and lacing their fingers together. He brushed his nose along her cheek, murmuring against her ear "You...cannot be trusted!" before kissing her neck and making her let out a laugh as she turned her head to him. Keeping her hands trapped on the pillow, Nick lowered his head down to her bare stomach and slowly ran his tongue from her belly button all the way up to the dip below her throat causing her to giggle "That tickles!"

"It was meant to..." He replied with a husky whisper, then fixed his gaze on her eyes, looking up from where she lay beneath him with her hair fanned out like a fucking angel - lips plump, begging to be kissed by him again and - just like that - the mood changed. The air fizzed and crackled around them once more. His eyes swept across her features and she saw them darken, making the heat of anticipation fill her stomach. Jess swallowed thickly and bit her bottom lip as she sensed his breathing quicken above her and she gave the slightest of nods to him. It was all he needed.

His mouth was all over her in seconds, nipping at her jaw, sucking on her earlobe and kissing her so deeply she had to break away to catch her breath. Nick traced a finger down her body, taking the time to caress her skin, her nipples, her hips, until he landed on her underwear. He feathered tiny kisses along the waistband before removing them with one hand (skilful - he'd done this before, surely) and stroking the soft skin of her thigh. Since that night in the photobooth, he hadn't stopped thinking about doing this again. He touched her slowly at first, making her let out a tiny moan here and there as he built up the pace and pressure before using his fingers and making her gasp his name. Jess bucked her hips against his hand and grabbed the back of his head as he moved to gently place her right nipple in his mouth. She had never experienced anything like this before. The pleasure rippled through her from head to toe. He was far too good at this. Her insides felt like they were on fire - but in a good way.

Tilting her head back against his pillows, Nick watched as Jess's mouth opened in the shape of an 'O', perfectly matching the noise that was coming from the back of her throat and sending him insane as she came undone once again at his hands.

Jess pulled his head up to hers and kissed him slowly as she came down from the heady cloud he had put her on. He held her tightly to him and just kissed her back. Like he meant it. Open mouths and dancing tongues. Heat and passion, and, and...oh my god, she needed him right now.

Right.

Now.

Nick reached across to his nightstand to retrieve a condom but she grabbed his arm.

"No." She panted.

"You want me to stop?" He asked, concerned.

"No...I mean...we don't need to...I'm on...uh...you know...birth control..." Jess was still out of breath but she got to the point eventually.

"Are you sure?"

She nodded and kissed him again, returning his arm to the spot at her side where it had previously rested on her hip. Nick lifted his head up to look at her, and brushed away the hair from her face. The disheveled look was actually really working for her right now. He knew she would think she looked a red-faced, perspiring mess - but he was damned if he'd ever seen anything more sexy in his entire life. He pressed a tender kiss to her lips, and a second and a third for good measure before he moved to place himself between her legs and pushed into her so slowly it was a perfect balance of glorious and torturous. They let out moans in unison as he went as far as he could and then stopped. Just holding them there in the moment, feeling her adjust to him and thinking he had died and gone to heaven. He pulled back, drawing another gasp from her lips and entered her again, just as slowly.

"Oh god, Nick..."

Jess had one arm hooked under his, the other was resting on his backside, urging him forward and spurring him on. He picked up his pace a little, giving her what she wanted. He had his forehead resting on hers and could feel her breathy little moans against his neck with every thrust. Just when he could sense that Jess was on her way, Nick pulled out completely with no warning - making her cry out in frustration, until he ducked his head down between her legs and grabbed her thighs, bringing her to his mouth.

He'd never really heard Jess swear much before that moment, but the expletives that came flying out of her were something a sailor would be proud of. And he loved it. He teased her mercilessly until her fingers were tangled in his hair, legs wrapped around his neck as he kissed and sucked and stroked her until she couldn't take it anymore. Nick sat up and grabbed her hands, pulling her with him, despite her confusion. He lifted her into his lap so her legs were wrapped around his waist and he kissed his way up her neck, stroking his hands up her back. Jess responded by rocking her hips against him eagerly. He didn't need asking twice, and pushed himself up to meet her downwards motion so that he was inside her again.

"Oh my god..."

"Oh my god..."

"Fuck..."

"Fuck..."

They had started to mirror one another as Nick grabbed her hips and bucked up harder in to her. The angle and the friction were so close to making Jess lose herself completely. She was pulsing in her most sensitive areas, could feel the waves building in her core and the heat was spreading through her body every time she felt Nick groan into her mouth. He rested his head on her shoulder as he thrust harder, faster, their bodies hot and sticking together from the sweat. He'd never felt anything so perfect. Jess was grinding against him, helping in taking them both to the edge before he felt her spasming around him, drawing out his release as they both cried out.

They sat that way for a while, just holding on to one another tightly, feeling their hearts pounding against their chests and struggling to calm their breathing. Nick eventually collapsed backwards on the mattress and pulled her with him, so Jess was lying with her head on his chest. She found the rhythmic rise and fall of his ribcage quite hypnotic and let herself close her eyes as he played with her hair. Sighing, Jess realised she couldn't stay that way forever. She needed to go and clean up so excused herself and grabbed a towel from his dresser to cover her modesty before very carefully tiptoeing to the bathroom without disturbing anyone else.

When she returned to his room, Nick was sat up on his pillows, still naked but under the sheets. She gave him a shy smile and he grinned back, making her heart swell.

"So, I was just doing some thinking while you were out of the room..."

"We've spoken about this, Nicholas - no good can come from you thinking." She laughed as he stuck his tongue out and continued to talk.

"...anyway...I know I promised today was the last time I'd ask you but, I have this big family party coming up in a few weeks and..."

Jess zoned out of the rest of his sentence. Her stomach dropped and her heart ached. He's still talking about carrying on this stupid little charade. That's all this was to him. A silly game, and she was the prize. What a fool. What a damned fool. She stood abruptly and threw her dress back on quickly, retrieving her underwear and making a move for the door.

"Jess? What's wrong? Where are you going?"

'Shit' he thought 'I've blown it. I knew this was a bad idea'

"I...uh...I'm sorry, I have to uh...early start tomorrow so..."

"But you never answered my question."

"Question?" She said, trying to sound like she didn't care or hadn't heard, when really she could feel her soul crumbling inside.

"Yeah, the family party next month - what d'ya say? One more for the road? I mean, I think we make a pretty good team..."

"I can't..."

"Oh..." He sighed.'God, she can't get out of here fast enough, look at her, desperate to leave.'

"Sorry. I just don't think it's wise, you know?"

"Why?"

She stood quiet for the longest time. So much so that Nick started to wonder if she'd heard him ask in the first place. Eventually her voice came out of the silence as she took a step forward.

"Because I don't think I can carry on pretending anymore, Nick..."

His brows shot heavenward. Definitely not the reply he had been expecting. He instantly reached for her hand and tugged her back towards him until she had perched against the edge of his bed. He sighed heavily and looked down at his lap, as if trying to find the words he needed. Jess was steeling herself for the rejection she was sure was coming, so much so that she began to mentally make a list of places she would have to check for a new apartment to live in. She certainly couldn't stay here after this. It would be way too weird. Imagine having to live across the hall from your one night stand.

When she looked up, Nick was just staring at her, incredulous.

"What?" She asked, nervously.

"Jess, none of what we've been doing recently has been pretend. For me, at least. I realised pretty quickly that I wasn't coming back from this. I mean, if I didn't do a good enough job of showing that to you just now then I may as well give up on sex and become celibate, because I'm clearly not as great at it as I thought..." He tried to laugh but it came out as a strangled, high pitched noise that gave away how nervous he was to finish his sentence "I only suggested going to that other party because, honestly, I wasn't exactly sure how you really felt about all this..." Nick gently squeezed her hand in his "...but I knew I didn't want it to end yet."

"Really?" She whispered.

"I swear. You're the most amazing person I've ever met. There's no one else I'd like to spend time in a photo booth with quite as much as you, Day!"

She grinned and he tugged her closer to him, settling her sideways across his legs and kissing her like crazy. Jess broke away and slid an arm around his neck, playing with the hair there in the way he'd come to adore. Biting her bottom lip, she met his gaze.

"So...us...this...is real?"

"This is real..." he smiled "I told you I was no good at make believe, Jessica..."

*A/N - SO, THAT'S ALL, FOLKS!

I HOPE YOU LIKED READING, IF SO PLEASE DO LET ME KNOW - REVIEWS WELCOMED!*