*A/N - I feel like i'm Always apologising about delays for this fic and I truly don't mean for the updates to take so long, I just have a lot going on right now! Thanks for sticking with me if you're still reading, I have some chapters coming up for this one that i'm Excited to finish writing :) *
ARMS OPEN: CH 6
Jess stood under the shower, letting the jets of warm water engulf her as she tried to shift the fuzzy feeling in her head. Tipping her head right back, she opened her mouth and let the stream of water trickle over her tongue, desperate to feel more in the land of the living. She hadn't planned to get drunk last night, but they were having so much fun at that swanky new bar - the drinks were flowing freely thanks to the owner ushering them into the VIP area and telling them to order whatever they liked, whilst slapping Logan jovially on the shoulder. They'd been treated like royalty, and Jess had been happily tipsy, perfectly merry - just the right side of intoxication. She knew she shouldn't have had that last drink. Jess knew her limits and was well aware it was going to tip her over, but Logan insisted and ordered it anyway, so to not accept it would have been a little rude, right? Before you could say 'rosé', Jess was taking her high heels off in order to dance pain free, and singing at the top of her lungs with Logan laughing loudly in the booth behind her. Everything went a little blurry round the edges after that point - she can remember flashes here and there: the beat of the music pulsing rhythmically through her body as she twirled on the dance floor, cheering from some strangers who'd joined them in the booth when she downed a shot of something green and apple flavoured, Logan's arm steering her towards a taxi, and then the welcome softness of her pillow beneath her head not long after.
There was, however, one thing from last night that Jess could not shake from the forefront of her mind no matter how much she tried.
"...is there, maybe...a history between you and Nick that I should know about?"
Logan's words flew around her brain on a loop, and there was a knot of something in her stomach that made her feel uneasy. At first she'd assumed it was guilt - her cheeks still flushed slightly at the memory of him walking in to the chaos from the previous evening. Clearly, seeing the girl you're dating lying on her back between the legs of another man and clutching a cupcake is never going to be a welcome sight, but that was just the crazy kind of shenanigans that went on inside the confines of the loft (hell, if Logan had turned up the day before, he would have found her inspecting the new mole on the inside of Schmidt's thigh with great interest).
Explaining her relationship with the guys to other people was always a little difficult - it was hard for them to understand the loft dynamic without assuming there had to some kind of sordid happenings going on behind closed doors. This was especially true of her and Nick. They somewhat blurred the boundaries on occasion. Jess had lost count of the number of times they'd been out getting groceries and been mistaken for a couple. She had to admit, she once caught a glimpse of the two of them walking out of the store side by side as they shared a joke and they really did look like the height of domestic happiness, so it was probably a fair assumption for a stranger to make. So maybe Jess could kind of understand Logan's insecurities in that department - but at the end of the day, she and Nick were just friends, right?
Jess frowned, lathering up more shampoo in her hair and scrubbing at her scalp vigorously to try and stop her mind from ambling down the dangerous path of revisiting what happened last night. She wouldn't analyse why he was always able to press her buttons easier than Winston or Schmidt, or contemplate why she thought it was a good idea to jump on his back as she toppled over. Jess certainly wouldn't think about that look in Nick's eyes as he gazed down on her while her heart pounded from the adrenaline rush their fight had triggered. It was just another of those occasions where things had been stretched a little way past appropriate. One more moment between them where things got weird and neither of them would acknowledge it the next day.
Nothing to see, here
It was business as usual.
Anyway, she'd seen him clipping his toenails in the kitchen far too many times to think of him in any other capacity, and he'd witnessed her prickly legs when she'd forgotten to shave (on more occasions than she would like to admit to) - which is easily enough to stop any sordid thoughts from creeping in to a guys mind.
Besides, she really liked Logan and wanted to prove to him everything was above board. He would come around and relax about Nick once he knew them better and saw how much the guys all looked out for her, she was sure of it...
Yawning loudly as he exited his room, Nick fumbled with top bottom of his shirt and rubbed his knuckles against his eyes, shuffling towards the kitchen with a sleepy sigh. The smell of pancakes hit his nose immediately, and a smile stretched his mouth so wide that his lips had no choice but to curl at the edges to display all his teeth. After the slightly embarrassing way things had been left after their little cupcake incident last night, knowing that Jess had cooked his favourite breakfast made him think that perhaps she wasn't quite as annoyed at him as he had assumed.
"Mmm, that smells amazing Jess." Nick chirped brightly as he rounded the corner.
"Yeah, it tasted pretty good too!"
The voice that answered him did not belong to Jess. He didn't even need to finish looking up to know who was addressing him.
"Logan..." Nick nodded and tried not to sound too surprised, but it was honestly more difficult than he thought, especially after being caught so off guard. His shoulders slumped a little as he took in the view of Logan sitting at the kitchen counter finishing the last forkful of a breakfast made by Jess. Disappointment visibly deflated Nick's posture as he realised all too late that the sounds he'd heard last night weren't just a terrible dream.
The vivid nightmares he was having had become a regular occurrence, and so lifelike that it often was difficult to tell where dreams began or reality ended. Many times he woke in a cold sweat after being faced with a myriad of dream scenarios which all ended the same way - with someone else blocking his path towards Jess. So when he had stirred in the early hours of the morning and heard Jess giggling outside his door, Nick merely grunted at himself in annoyance while still half asleep and rolled over to face the window, willing his mind to stop playing tricks on him.
Turns out it wasn't a trick at all, and those giggles weren't for him.
They were for Logan.
Who had stayed the night.
Suddenly Nick's appetite had all but vanished, replaced by a swelling tide of nausea deep within his gut - not least because this guy was sat proud as anything on Nick's stool at the counter.
"Hey Nick, you want breakfast? Mr Greedy Guts here has eaten the first batch single handedly but I can make some more?" Jess turned from the stove wearing her favourite apron, hair pulled up away from her face and her big blue eyes shining with happiness as she sucked some errant maple syrup from her thumb.
It took him a second to prise his eyes away from her lips, but Nick cleared his throat and pointed in the vague direction of the door.
"Uh, no...thanks. I'm good...need to, uh...you know, open up the bar..." He mumbled, shifting his weight awkwardly from foot to foot, desperate to remove himself from the situation.
"I thought your car was still out of action?" She asked, turning back to her batter and making herself another round of pancakes.
Shit. He forgot he told her that.
"It is...I was just going to walk."
Jess dropped her spatula and immediately looked up at him, concerned.
"Are you feeling okay, Nick? You never walk to work."
"I walk to work sometimes!" He retorted defensively.
"Like when?! Name one time you've walked to work?"
Nick muttered something largely inaudible about a health kick Schmidt put him on last month before his voice trailed off I to silence.
"Well, you know, if you wait ten minutes I'm sure Logan could give you a ride?" Jess suggested, looking hopefully in his direction over her shoulder as she flipped a pancake perfectly in the pan "I mean, you're going that direction anyway...right?"
Logan scratched the side of his nose before smiling widely.
"I am, as it happens - happy to help if I can. What do you say, Nick?"
There was an uncomfortably long, awkward silence as Nick looked from Jess to Logan and back again.
"Honestly, it's no trouble."
"You know what? Thanks for the offer, but I could really use the fresh air actually..." Nick swallowed nervously, a panicked sweat starting to brew at the thought of sharing a confined space with Jess's new lover "I think the walk would be good for me. Yeah, things got a bit messy after you left last night so I'm not feeling all that great. Truth be told, I can barely remember getting to bed, you know how it is, I'm sure..."
Logan did this half laugh-half snort thing that made Nick want to kick him in the nuts, then took a bite of bacon and smiled in Jess's direction.
"Oh, well, I remember last night in perfect detail." He said, pointedly "But it might be a different story for this little firecracker over here!"
Jess's cheeks blushed crimson in colour as he reached out to squeeze her waist.
"Don't remind me..." She groaned, bringing her hands up to frame her face "...oh, God, did I make a total idiot of myself in front of everyone? I did, didn't I? It's okay, you can tell me the truth - I can take it..."
"Are you kidding?" Logan laughed, gripping her by the apron and tugging her forward to stand between his legs in a manner that Nick was less than enamoured with "Look, Ms Day, my friends adored you, I promise! You're the perfect package, what's not to like?" He turned his head to look purposefully at Nick "Right?"
"Yeah, she's something special alright." Nick nodded, failing to keep the protective tone out of his voice.
Jess smiled, and Nick watched her lean in to straighten the collar of Logan's shirt. His guts twisted sharply and making his excuses, Nick turned to head towards the door.
"Are you sure I can't drive you to work?" Logan offered over Jess's shoulder.
"I'm good, thanks." Nick replied, more tersely than he could help "I'm not really in the mood for company right now."
Logan looked at Jess and smiled sadly, shrugging and mouthing the words "See? Doesn't like me!" at her. She sighed, chewing on her bottom lip and wondering for a moment if perhaps Logan had a point.
It definitely felt a little like the cold shoulder treatment. Nick never turned down the offer of a ride, it just wasn't in his nature to chose exercise over laziness.
Turning back towards the stove, Jess tipped the last of her pancakes on to a plate and suddenly felt overcome with guilt. Maybe Nick really did just want some fresh air to clear his head - there were an awful lot of empty beer bottles strewn on the floor this morning. Plus, he hadn't eaten. Nick going to work on an empty stomach was like Jess going to work without her stationery - it never happened. The poor guy was probably starving, and disappointed at not getting any pancakes. It was no secret that Jess's were his favourite. Usually she would sneak him an extra round with a wink when the other guys weren't looking, and he'd grin back at her like a mischievous school boy getting extra pudding from the lunch lady.
It wasn't his fault that he's a little...backwards in the socialising department. Not everyone can be as confident and charming around new people as Logan. Nick is like a coconut - it takes a lot of work to crack him open, but once you do he's pretty damn sweet under that hard exterior.
Suddenly, Jess is rooting through the cupboards like a woman on a mission, filling Tupperware containers and grabbing cutlery then scuttling out of the kitchen calling over her shoulder to Logan that she'll be right back.
Nick closed his eyes, letting his head fall forward against the cool metal of the elevator wall with a thud. His stomach grumbled loudly and he sighed, pressing the button to close the doors and wondering whether it was too early in the day for a beer because God knows he needed one. Tutting at the lack of movement, he pushed his thumb against the elevator button several times in quick succession.
"Come on you son of a bitch, do your job and close the damn doors." He moaned through gritted teeth, feeling the prickly heat of anger creeping up his spine.
Or maybe it was jealousy?
What a way to start the day.
Just as the doors finally began to stutter into action, a small hand appeared and pushed them back open again.
"Jess?" He frowned "What are you doing?"
"I felt bad about Logan eating all the pancakes. I know they're your favourite, and you seem like you could probably use a decent breakfast this morning, so...here..." She extended her arm from behind her back to display a tub filled with pancakes, blueberries and a fork.
His brow furrowed a little in confusion.
"How did you...?"
"Oh, these were mine." Jess explained "But I can make more, so I wanted you to have them."
Nick couldn't lie, the gesture touched him.
Typical Jess putting others first.
"Jess, this is...that's so..." A grateful smile quirked his mouth upwards.
"Wait, I have something else for yoooou!" She sang, producing a second, smaller tub from her apron which contained a caramel coloured substance.
"Extra syrup?!" He exclaimed, practically snatching it from her hand in delight.
"Just how you like it." Jess replied fondly "I thought it might cheer you up, so..."
"Yeah, that should do it."
"Anyway, I should probably head back inside to make sure Logan hasn't eaten everything else in the fridge - the appetite on that dude is crazy!"
"Oh. Yeah, no...sure..." He waved a hand dismissively like it was no big deal that Jess was walking back towards the biggest slime ball on the entire planet, getting his douchey-ness all over Nick's stool.
Watching her step away, practically hypnotised by the little bounce of her waist, he closed his eyes and shook his head.
Snap out of it, dude. It's never gonna happen. You had your chance and you blew it. Too bad, boo-hoo. Life sucks.
Grunting in annoyance at himself, Nick leaned out of the elevator to call after her.
"Yeah?" She turned to face him, loitering just outside the loft door, the smile on her face so perfect and wide it made Nick feel like his chest was full of sunshine. He wanted to just leap out of the elevator, stride over there and kiss her senseless right where she stood - and to hell with the damn consequences.
"I...uh..." he faltered, standing momentarily mute and struggling to know what to say, but realising that he needed to say something - anything - or else risk looking crazy. Finally, giving a little nod of his head and raising the Tupperware in his hands, Nick grinned back at her "...thanks for breakfast."
"Any time, Miller." Jess beamed, shooting double finger guns in his direction before disappearing back inside the apartment.
Bounding back into the kitchen with a spring in her step and a big smile on her face, Jess started to make up more pancake mix and turned the radio up to sing along as Logan cleared up his dirty dishes and placed them in the sink. He came to stand behind her, placing his hands on her hips and resting his chin on the top of her head, such was the height difference.
"So...last night was awesome, and breakfast has been sublime - but I better get going soon."
"Really?" Jess sounded disappointed and span, wiggling the mixing bowl at him in the most enticing way she knew how "I'm making up a fresh baaaatch..."
Logan pouted and nodded his head.
"I have a meeting first thing this morning with a potential new client and as much as I would love to stay here eating pancakes all day, I really can't be late."
He sighed and bent down to kiss her temple, smiling as Jess reached up on tiptoes to swipe crumbs from the corner of his mouth.
"Okay Mr Big-Shot, but call me later?"
"You bet." He smiled, leaning back over the counter to grab his jacket.
Pausing as he was about to walk away, Logan turned on his heel and hovered a few steps away from Jess.
"Yeah..." He nodded, playing with his tie "...it's just, well, I wanted to apologise to you for last night."
"Apologise? I don't understand."
"Yes. I'm sorry I questioned you about Nick..."
"Oh, that? Pfft - already forgotten about!" She lied, staring down at her batter.
"I don't mean to make excuses, but I want you to know that I've been hurt quite badly in the past, so it makes trusting people a little hard for me at first - I'm working on it, I promise."
Jess placed the bowl on the counter and turned to face him, placing her hand on his elbow.
"I appreciate your honesty, Logan - but I thought we cleared this up last night? Everything's good, okay? There's no reason to apologise!"
"I just needed to make sure I wasn't stepping on any toes, you know?"
"I promise you there are no toes to be trodden on in this loft. None. No feet, no toes, no little piggies...nada!"
He grinned as she squeezed his arm, and Jess couldn't help but smile back at the dimples that appeared in his cheeks.
"But I do have something to admit myself..." Logan tilted his head.
"I can't lie - I'm the kind of guy who wears his heart on his sleeve, always have been. So if that's going to scare you off, I'd rather you know now..." He shrugged.
"Consider me fully informed." Jess winked, kissing his cheek and ushering him towards the door before he was late for his meeting.
Settling herself down on the couch in the quiet of the loft, Jess devoured her pancakes in front on the tv and found herself smiling. She was doing that a lot these days. Logan was a breath of fresh air - and although she would admit that his declarations about the strength of his feelings caught her off guard to start with, Jess actually found the fact he was so upfront and in touch with his emotions quite refreshing, given her more recent dating history.
Swallowing the last of her breakfast, Jess felt her phone buzz on the cushion next to her.
Sooo...how was your date?
Giggling like a teenager, Jess tucked her knees up in front of her and hugged a pillow to her chest as she typed out her reply.
Awesome! Well, the parts I remember anyway. Put it this way - he enjoyed his breakfast ;)
Jessica Day, you dirty dog! Spill!
Got to get to work. Details over lunch?
PS. I think he could be the perfect guy, Ceec 3
Usual place, 12:30 :)
PS. No one is perfect, babe...