*A/N - I'm kind of embarrassed this fic is taking me so long to write. But i'm determined to finish it! If anyone is still reading, then i thank you profusely! Hopefully thing will start to heat up over the next few chapters which i really would like to complete and post far quicker than i did with this one, lol.
ARMS OPEN: Ch 8
Gritting his teeth, Nick closed the bathroom door behind him. Sighing, he tore off his t-shirt and underwear, throwing them to the floor in frustration before yanking back the shower curtain and stepping inside, turning the temperature up as high as he could bear - trying to burn the feel of Jess off his skin with the hot water, hoping it would somehow rid him of the persistent hardness still rampant between his legs.
Blindly grabbing any bottle of product from above his head, and not giving a damn about whether it was shampoo, shower gel, or that disgusting foam stuff Schmidt used, he emptied some into his hand and half-heartedly lathered it into his hair, using the same suds to wash under his arms and across his body. His fingers moved swiftly and with purpose, until he reached his groin. For a reason Nick couldn't explain, his hand lingered and he gripped himself firmly. The soap made his skin slick all over, and without thinking he began to stroke himself slowly, each sweep of his wrist making his climax gradually pool deep in his gut, building faster by the second.
He didn't mean to think of her - honestly he didn't - but it happened so easily. Once Jess's face appeared in his mind, it wasn't a far stretch for him to imagine it was her hand doing the stroking – and, dammit if he didn't then come harder and faster than he had in months.
Gasping silently under the stream of water as his heart thundered in his chest, Nick clenched his jaw and punched the tiled wall so hard that Schmidt's shower product fell off the caddy and crashed at his feet, releasing an explosion of pomegranate scented foam across the wet floor.
There was absolutely no feeling of fulfilment that followed his act this time. No sense of peace or inner tranquillity, no completeness.
All he felt was empty.
The sudden overwhelming sensation made a lump form in Nick's throat, and tears fell freely from his eyes as he stood forlornly beneath the jets of water - and he had no idea how the hell to deal with it.
Anger, he was used to. Anger, he could deal with pretty damn easily. Nick was scarily well versed in being bitter with the world and everyone in it who pissed him off. He wasn't angry with Jess, of course, just with himself.
None of this was her fault.
He was the one who had developed feelings for one of his best friends. He was the one who had the chance to kiss her – to pour his heart into her mouth and make her understand what was going on inside his head. He was the one who chickened out.
Nick shook his head, knowing that he couldn't carry on this way - if he didn't snap the hell out of this funk he was in, he was going to end up pushing Jess out of his life for good.
And that notion alone scared the shit out of him.
The acrid smell of smoke made Schmidt jolt upright in bed. His senses were fine tuned to danger, he had escape plans for most eventualities covered, yet had never had to use them up until this point. His heart pounded as he leapt from under the covers and out of his bedroom door in under three seconds, ready to wake the rest of the loft in sequence and proceed to their safest exit - only to be greeted with a bewildered looking Nick in the middle of their kitchen as it slowly filled with smoke and set the fire alarms ringing.
"Nicholas!" He yelled over the cacophony of noise, dramatically wafting his arms to clear the air "What the hell are you doing?"
"Burning breakfast, evidently…" Nick coughed as the blackened pan in his gloved hands continued to smoulder.
He grunted in frustration and turned to throw it in the sink with a crash, cursing under his breath.
"Oh my god, what IS that?" Called Jess, wandering into the kitchen with her finger and thumb pinched against her nose.
"Numb-nuts here thought he'd try his hand at cooking breakfast. No further explanation required." Schmidt answered through the dishcloth held up to his mouth, before using it to try and disperse the smoke to stop the alarm.
"Can't a guy get any sleep around here without all this hollering?" Winston scowled as he approached, grabbing a chair from the dining table with one hand and standing on it to reach the fire alarm to stop the strident blaring - as if Nick burning breakfast was nothing new, and he'd done it a million times before.
The reinstated quiet lasted all of a minute before a high pitched squeal of shock rang out from where Schmidt was standing. They all span in unison to see him aghast, holding the sides of his face in his hands, then silently raising aloft his prized cafetière. It was covered in a red sticky substance that was oozing over the top and down the sides.
"Nick…" Schmidt's voice was uncharacteristically quiet "…please explain to me what this is before I explode into a ball of rage so blinding that my head bursts open and splatters brain matter all over the walls?"
"Oh. That. Yeah, I'm sorry bud – I was trying to make some kind of fruit jam to go with_"
"JAM?!" Schmidt roared "You tried to make JAM in my French press? Are you some kind of animal?!"
"It seemed like it would work! I was going to clean it afterward…"
"I can't…I can't even look at you right now…Jess, Jess - can you do something about this?" Schmidt gestured first at Nick, and then to the kitchen, before storming off to open every window he could find in the apartment as angrily as possible.
Nick grimaced as he removed his oven gloves, leaning forward to rest his forearms on the kitchen island with a groan. He ran his hands through his hair, then dragged them forward over his face with a sigh. When he finally looked up at Jess, she was stood with her head tilted to one side. Her hair was messy as she hadn't brushed it yet, skin pale and clear without any make-up, and she still had a slight crease running along her cheek from where her pillow had marked her in the night. Nick thought it might be the cutest she has ever looked since moving in.
"Wanna tell me what this was all about, Miller?" She dropped her elbows to the counter, resting her chin on her hands so her eyes were level with his.
"This was meant to be my peace offering to you."
Nick rolled his eyes as Jess curled her lips inwardly over her teeth, biting down hard to stop herself from laughing.
"Sorry…" she whispered.
"It's okay, I can see the amusing side I guess." Nick smiled "And Schmidt's reaction face was compensation enough for my misery."
They both imitated Schmidt at the same time, hands clasped Home Alone style to their cheeks, laughter erupting between them and dispersing any residual awkwardness in its wake.
"Look, Jess, I just wanted to apologise again for how I've acted recently. I'm dealing with some stuff right now, but it's no excuse. I was trying to make breakfast as a way of saying sorry for yesterday – but clearly that's not gone to plan. So I guess my words will have to do."
"Well, I appreciate the attempted gesture." Jess straightened and sighed "Things have been a little off between us lately, haven't they?"
Nick stood and shrugged "I miss hanging out with you and having it not end in an argument…"
"Me too." She paused "But I guess I'm not completely blameless in all of this."
"No, Jess. That's not…you didn't do anything wrong."
"Perhaps I've been a little wrapped up in Logan recently. People in new relationships are the worst, I know that. Maybe I've not been the easiest to live with either?"
"Well, now you mention it."
"Don't push your luck." Jess warned jokingly.
"Sorry…" He chuckled "So, how do we fix whatever this is and move on?"
"Oh, I know the perfect way…" There was a glint in Jess's eyes as she leaned towards Nick with her arms outstretched. The movement caught him off guard, and he instinctively took a step backwards.
"What are you doing?"
"We've got to hug it out, silly." She tutted.
"C'mon, don't be a baby. It's happening, Nick." Jess interrupted, reaching forward and putting her arms around his neck and singing theatrically in his ear "It's happeniiiiiiing!"
Nick's eyes closed as he felt her weight press into him, his arms folding gently around her waist as he fought against every single desperate urge he had to hold her tight and never let go.
"There..." Jess said quietly, words getting caught up in the material of his t-shirt as she turned her face into his neck slightly "Much better, see?"
Nick nodded wordlessly, faking a sudden coughing fit from the smoke as an excuse to move away from her embrace.
"I still owe you breakfast." He offered quietly, pointing towards the loft door "You wanna get out of here?"
"It's like you read my mind, Miller." Jess grinned back at him, and Nick felt his heart trip over itself.
He feels her fingers work themselves deep into the skin of his shoulders as he stands facing away from her, toned legs wrapping around his waist from behind as she sits on the kitchen island. He moans and lets his head drop back against her shoulder, her perfume engulfing him as her hands move their way slowly down his spine, a trail of heat following their route, thumbs stopping to rub tiny circles at the small of his back. Her breath tickles across his collarbone as she leans forward, dipping her head to let her lips softly graze the skin of his bare neck - shooting fire straight to his groin. She nuzzles into him, her cheek brushing across his stubbled chin as a hum of pleasure leaves her throat and falls into his ear. His head is fuzzy from the beer he's been drinking, but the buzz of alcohol is increasing the desire that is pulsating hard through his veins. He lets the empty bottle in his grasp fall to the ground with a loud crash, because he just needs to get his hands on her as fast as possible. He needs to feel her skin under his palms, wants the taste of her tongue in his mouth.
Spinning on the spot, he grabs her by the hips and pulls her hard against him, hearing her gasp as he reaches up to cup her jaw with one hand. Her mouth opens for him and she tastes as delicious as he had imagined. His other hand is under her skirt, skating up her thigh and feeling goose-bumps break out across her skin from his touch. His fingertips dig in to her flesh and she arches her back with a moan so damn sexy it pushes him ever closer to the edge. She's pressing her chest firmly into his – but it's not enough to satisfy his growing hunger. Lifting her weightlessly into his arms, he walks them blindly down the hall to his bedroom – stumbling into furniture with her breathing fast and hot in his ear, making him slam her up against the inside of his door as soon as they cross the threshold. She's looking at him like he's the only guy in the world, biting her bottom lip and tilting her chin towards his. He feels her shiver in anticipation as he runs a finger slowly along her jaw and down the soft curve of her neck. He leans down to suck gently on the skin of her shoulder, and she purrs in appreciation.
Her hands reach for his belt buckle and tug impatiently. When he stops to ask if she's sure she wants to do this, all she does is nod wordlessly. He's not sure why, but there's something inside him that needs to hear her say it out loud so he stops and asks her again - is he what she wants? Suddenly she frowns. Placing her hand over his heart, the heat spreads through his chest with such ferocity it takes his breath away. Opening her mouth to speak, his heart stutters as he waits for her answer…but no noise comes. All he hears is a loud bang from behind the door. His brow furrows as he looks up in annoyance at the interruption, and when he glances back down she looks at him sadly, shaking her head as her image starts to fade before his eyes. He calls her name and reaches for her desperately, begging her to stay, but the more he tries to hold on, the louder the banging gets and the faster she disappears from view – slipping through his fingers like dust until he's merely staring at the inside of his bedroom door, as if she were never even there at all.
Nick jolted awake to the pounding on his bedroom door and sat up in bed, the sudden elevation giving him an epic headrush and making him close his eyes until the feeling passed. Sweat had begun beading across his forehead, causing him to swipe at it with the back of his hand. He noticed with alarm the rate at which his heart was beating, the speed of his breathing doing nothing to help the light-headed feeling washing over him.
"Nicholas!" Came the irritated yell from Schmidt on the other side of his door.
Swinging his legs off the bed, Nick forced himself to his feet. His room felt like a sauna, and his clothes were so damp with sweat they were sticking to his skin. Stumbling across the room, he leant his weight against the wall before summoning every ounce of strength he could muster to pull the door open a crack.
"What, Schmidt?" He demanded.
"Oh, finally! What are you doing in there, man?" Schmidt tried to peer beneath the arm that Nick had firmly braced on the edge of his doorframe "Wait, are you sweating? And you're looking a little flushed…oh, god - don't tell me I interrupted you whilst you were…you know…self completing?"
Gagging dramatically, he earned himself a swift shove backwards from Nick who tried to slam to the door in Schmidt's face.
"Get out." Nick instructed flatly, finding his attempt thwarted by Schmidt's hastily planted foot in the doorway.
"I will not. I need your help, and as my bro…"
"Don't say 'bro'."
"…as my bro, you are duty bound to comply with my request for assistance."
Sighing wearily, because he really wasn't in the mood for this, Nick opened his door wider as a signal for Schmidt to continue.
"So, Cece is going to be here for dinner tonight and I need you to help me with my plan of bombarding her sassy Indian mind with an overload of deliciously subtle subliminal messages that she needs to end this ridiculous thing with Shivrang. Stat." Schmidt grinned proudly.
"There is so much wrong with that sentence, I don't even know where to start."
"Why are you calling me Thomas? My name is Nick. You know that. N-I-C-K…Nick!"
"B-because…you're a doubter. Like doubting Thomas. You know what, never mind. I don't have time to explain. I just need you to not question me with this one. It'll work, I've been researching it for days. It's fool-proof. Winston's already in."
"Of course he is…" Nick rolled his eyes "…and why is Cece coming here for dinner?"
"It's Jess's dinner party tonight. So everyone can meet Logan properly, were you not paying attention when she made that announcement the other day?"
Schmidt entered into a long speech about how Nick needed to be more present during the loft meetings, because he kept missing important information, but Nick didn't hear a single thing after 'Logan'. The name alone had made his fingers curl up into tight fists, and now Nick would have to spend an entire evening with him for company. In his own home, no less.
Nick cut his friend off, mid-rant.
"What time is dinner?" He asked quickly, already starting to close his door again.
"Eight. It's at eight. I literally just said it, have you been listening to a single word I've been saying?" Schmidt threw his arms in the air, exasperated.
"Quelle surprise! So are you in, for the plan?"
"Do I have a choice?"
"Then I guess I'm in. Now leave me alone." Nick clicked the door shut, resting his forehead against the wood.
"Sure thing, Nicholas. Still got a little business to attend to, huh? I was right about interrupting you, wasn't I? And in the middle of the day, whilst we're all home? You deviant…"
"For the love of god, Schmidt! If you don't disappear in the next two seconds, I'm going to be walking Cece down the aisle to marry Shivrang myself!" He yelled angrily, pounding his fist against the door for good measure, the scurry of Schmidt's footsteps only vaguely audible in the distance.
Nick stood helplessly next to his bed, pressing his knuckles hard into his eye sockets and groaning. He couldn't get Jess out of his mind. Awake Nick could be distracted by food, or work…but Sleeping Nick was getting out of control. The images flooding his unconscious were becoming more primal, more animalistic, and it was making it increasingly difficult for him to look Jess in the eye over the dining table. If she knew what was going on inside his head, knew the things he had been doing to her in his dreams, she'd be out of there in a heartbeat.
He caught sight of himself in the mirror and curled his lip in resentment at his own reflection. He hadn't shaved in two weeks, his hair was all over the place, and he was wearing the same t-shirt he'd slept in for three days.
What a catch.
If he were Jess, he wouldn't be interested in himself either.
He hated to admit it, but it was no surprise that Logan had caught her eye. He clearly worked out, had a successful career, his own place, and could obviously offer her things that were well out of Nick's grasp.
Logan was going places.
Nick just felt like he'd been running in place for most of his adult life.
Staring hard at himself in the mirror, he came to a decision. Nodding resolutely, he checked the clock. Three hours until dinner.
Three hours to get his head straight and smarten the hell up, if he wanted any chance of being the kind of guy Jess needed. He was going to prove to her that he was worth taking a shot on.