*A/N - HERE IT IS, THE FINAL CHAPTER! Just about managed to complete it in time for the premiere, phew!
Nick was in a blissful half sleep as he rolled over and nestled his head into the pillow. The smell of Jess on the sheets clouded his senses - delicate notes of rose petals and summer sun. His dreams involved re-runs of last night's carnal activities, and the sleepy 3am second act that consisted of deliciously slow, lazy lovemaking that was just as perfect in a million different ways - her body tight to his, skin on skin, his arm around her hip and resting on her stomach with his chest pressed flush against her back as they spooned. He woke with a grin that was a mile wide and felt like he'd fallen asleep with a coat hanger in his mouth, his cheeks aching from the smile he'd been wearing unknowingly as he slept. Stretching out a sleepy hand, Nick reached for Jess but landed on the mattress beside him. His brow furrowed and he squinted in the morning sun, pushing himself up on his elbow and glancing around the room.
Her clothes - thrown aimlessly in different areas yesterday - were gone. The sheets on her side of the bed pulled smooth as if they hadn't been slept in. He swallowed hard, feeling his mouth go dry. Swinging his legs out of bed, Nick grabbed his shirt and shorts from opposite corners of the bedroom and hastily threw them on, ruffling his hair in confusion. He stepped into the hall and checked the bathroom - nothing. Next he walked to the kitchen, only to be met with more silence and an empty room.
This couldn't be happening again, please.
Nick could feel his heart beating faster in his chest and his palms were growing noticeably clammy as he opened the door to the balcony, hoping to find her in her favourite spot. He looked around and sighed.
The sound of keys in the lock behind him had his heart in his mouth and he span round at breakneck speed to look out of the doorway, sunshine beaming in to the living area over his shoulders and relief flooding his body. He let out the breath he had been holding as Jess walked into the apartment, wearing yesterday's clothes and her hair tousled and messy, without a care in the world. Her face lit up when she saw Nick waiting for her. Holding aloft a white paper bag from Cafe du Monde and two cups of coffee by way of explanation for her absence, she smiled.
"Morning sleepyhead...I thought maybe breakfast might be in order..."
"Perfect - I'm always starving after sex!" Nick laughed lazily as she walked towards him, stretching an arm above his head and making his t-shirt ride up to show off the hair dusting his stomach.
"I remember..." She flashed him a grin, placing the food on a side table and stepping out on to the balcony in front of him "...and you must have worked up quite the appetite!"
"No kidding." He quipped, bringing his arm down to slip around her waist and pull her into a hug. Hands resting on the small of her back, Nick bent down and kissed her softly. As his mouth moulded to her own, Jess gave a contented sigh and melted beneath his lips. Losing themselves in the kiss, it quickly turned deeper, Jess groaning into his mouth as he knocked them into the chair and up against the wall, so desperate to be close to her again.
The noise of a car alarm blaring in the street bought them back to the real world, breaking apart and grinning at each other.
"Sorry, I can't help myself." He chuckled, straightening up and gesturing for Jess to lead to way back inside the apartment.
"I'm not complaining! So, you want to eat these on the balcony?" She asked, pointing to the bag of hot beignets waiting patiently for them.
"Actually...I've got a better idea!" Nick bit his bottom lip and wiggled his brows as he suddenly lifted her into his arms like she weighed nothing in his strong embrace, causing Jess to squeal and wrap her legs tightly around his hips. Looking down into his soft, brown eyes she felt a sudden rush of love all over again and couldn't help but grab his face with both hands to kiss him square on the mouth repeatedly, only pulling back when Nick started to laugh underneath her.
"Thanks...I like you too, Jessica..." he winked, starting to walk in the direction of her room.
"Wait, wait, wait!" She yelled, stopping him in his tracks "Let's not forget what's important here..."
Jess leaned herself to the side whilst still in his grasp, scooping up the Cafe Du Monde bag and their tray of coffees into her arms.
"Okay - now we're good." She giggled.
"Alright...well, let's go get some powdered sugar in some unexpected places..."
Nick loaded the last of their bags in to the taxi and slammed the trunk shut, resting his hands on the vehicle for a second and looking up at the apartment building that had been his home for these past few months. Not for one second did he even think he would be going back to L.A like this. The decision of asking Jess to come and visit him was an impromptu, off the cuff one - but one he will be forever glad he made.
"That everything?" The driver's gruff voice asked, making Nick jump.
"Uh, yeah, pretty much. I'm just waiting for...oh, here she is now..." He smiled as Jess pushed her way out of the building, clutching a small box tightly to her chest.
Nick eyed her suspiciously as she approached.
"What ya got there, Jessica?"
"You'll see..." She smiled, nodding for him to open the trunk again so she could add her mystery parcel to their luggage.
They stood on the sidewalk facing each other, a nervous excitement bubbling between them.
"So, we're really doing this?" Nick asked "You and me. In the real world. Back at the loft?" He tilted his head and reached out to take her hands in his, running his thumbs over the smooth skin and sending goosebumps scattering up her arms.
"We're really doing this." Jess smiled, biting her lip like a coy teenager who'd just been asked to prom.
The familiar sound of the loft elevator pinged, doors slowly opening and allowing Jess to step into the hallway pulling her suitcase, with Nick stumbling after her - weighed down by dozens of bags like pack horse.
"Your room here must be empty" he panted "because I swear I'm carrying everything you own right now!"
"Shhhh!" Jess hissed as they approached the door "They'll hear you!"
He huffed and dutifully stood to the side out of view.
"Do we have to do this?"
"Yes! I wanna see the looks on their faces!"
"But surely they'll know I'm here?"
"Have you spoken to them since the other day? About us and our...uh...misunderstanding?"
"Well, no...have you?"
"No. So let me do this, because it'll be fun!" She beamed at him with shining eyes and he relented, leaning against the wall and watching her rattle her keys in the lock.
Walking into the loft dragging her suitcase behind her, Nick smiled to himself as he heard the whoops and cheers of their roommates greet Jess.
"I'm baaaccckkkk!" She laughed.
"Jessicaaaa!" Cece hollered, running in for a bear hug before stepping back to look her up and down "you look...different...you look...happy!"
"Thanks! New Orleans was good for me, but I'm certainly pleased to be home...and I bought you guys a gift!" Jess declared, glancing over her shoulder.
"What is it?" Winston asked excitedly as he stepped out from the kitchen to join the others "Did you bring me back a puzzle? You know how I love puzzles!"
She shook her head and stepped to one side as Nick walked into the apartment beside her to three shocked faces.
"Hey!" He beamed, arms loaded with luggage "Craw-Daddy's home!"
"Nicholas! I have left you four 5-minute long voicemails in the past 48 hours and the only greeting you can grace me with is 'Craw Daddy's home'?! You insult me." Schmidt sulked.
"Ah, Schmidty - don't be like that! I'm sorry, okay - I was distracted with packing up and getting the flight home."
"Fine, I'll allow you entry into the loft, but you had better make it up to me." Schmidt raised his chin in the air "You're early anyway...you weren't due back for another couple weeks - I was going to pick you up from the airport in my best suit and give you the chauffeur service of your life - what made you come back with Jess?"
Nick looked to his right, straight into Jess's eyes - and the smiles on their faces left nothing unanswered. Dropping the bags he was holding, he moved to lace their fingers together and bought her hand up to his mouth so he could press a tiny kiss upon it.
"Oh my god!" Schmidt screeched "You didn't just come back with Jess...you came back WITH Jess!" He jumped up and down on the spot, gripping Cece's shoulder, unable to contain his excitement like a puppy on a lead. Propelling himself at Nick to envelop him in a hug far tighter than Nick was comfortable with, he squeezed him around the shoulders and knocked them a few steps backwards, breaking Nick's hold on Jess.
"Mazel Tov, my man. I thought you were going to mess it all up after that phone call from Jess about the kiss and yada yada yada - but, oh! This is the best news I've heard all week!"
Without warning, Schmidt planted his lips smack against Nick's, earning himself a forceful shove in the chest and a finger pointed right in his face.
"What did I tell you about kissing me like that?!" Nick warned, swiping the back of his hand across his mouth.
"Yeah, Schmidt - those lips belong to me now! You better reign it in, son." Jess laughed, stopping to smile at Cece when she caught her best friend's eye.
Tugging Jess by the wrist gently towards the kitchen until they were out of earshot, Cece began to pour them both a glass of pink wine.
"So, you two are...?"
"And did you...?" She raised her brows up and down "The other day...?"
"Uh-huh!" Jess grinned so hard her face hurt.
"Ha! I knew you were glowing!"
"I'm not gonna lie, Cece...it was even better than I remembered." She whispered and fanned herself with both hands while they both dissolved into giggles.
"Seriously though, I'm so happy for you babe. I know how much you wanted this and I'm so pleased it's all worked out. You deserve to be with the man you love."
Jess simply smiled and gazed adoringly at Nick who was doing some weird male greeting with Winston.
"Nick Miller, you dirty dog!" Winston jibed as they fist bumped, following it up with a half hug-half shoulder slap.
"Hey. I missed ya, bud."
"I'm proud of you, man. And I mean that from the heart." Winston pointed a finger at Nick, one hand still squeezing his shoulder "You could have gone full Miller in this situation, but you faced it head on. You picked the other move." He smiled.
"Thanks, Winnie. I owe you a drink after that call, I can tell you that for sure. And, I just wanna put this out there - this whole cop thing ever goes south? You should totally look in to motivational speaking..."
"Duly noted. Listen, I'm just glad you both realised what we've all known for a while - you're meant for each, Nick. So, I say drinks all round - you in?"
"Oh I am all in!" Nick laughed "But first let us go unpack, huh?"
"Hey, Jess?" Nick called, walking in to her room "I found this in with my bags - this is yours from the apartment, right?"
He handed her the small, well-packed box with holes pierced in the top and 'FRAGILE' stamped all over the sides.
"Yes! I was just looking for that!" She grinned, taking it from him enthusiastically and carefully opening it up to reveal a travel weary but still fully intact plant. Her favourite yellow flower from the window box in New Orleans, because there was no way she could leave it behind.
"Did you steal a flower?' Nick asked, incredulous.
Jess scrunched up her nose and held the plant close to her chest protectively.
"No! I didn't steal it...I like to think of it as rescuing the flower...is that really bad? Do you think Reagan will be mad?"
"Honestly, I don't think she'll even notice." He chuckled.
Jess smiled down at the little yellow petals, once so frail and wilted just like herself. Now the flower was strong - it stood tall and proud, and she couldn't stand the thought of leaving it behind to die.
"It belongs here, with me." Jess said quietly.
"Could you do me a favour and get some water? She'll definitely need a drink after so long in that box."
"She?!" He frowned.
"Uh...I mean it...anyway, water? Pretty please?" Jess fluttered her eyelashes and Nick headed towards the kitchen.
Removing the last of the packaging from the little tub she had used, Jess gently brushed off some displaced soil and placed the flower on a sunny spot upon her windowsill. Her daily reminder that what is broken can be mended, with a little time and TLC.
"This is your home now..." she whispered "...welcome to The Loft."
Jess felt Nick's arms snake around her hips and his head lean down next to hers.
"Your water, m'lady..."
"Why, thank you, kind sir!" She replied in an equally silly voice, taking the jug from him and laughing as she dampened the soil.
Placing the jug to one side, Jess giggled as Nick turned her in his arms to face him.
"Guess what?" He said, biting his lip but still holding her close.
"I've got something big to show you..."
"Oh yeah?" Jess raised her brow and slid her hands slowly up his chest, linking them together behind his neck and edging her lips tantalisingly close "Is it the same surprise you showed me this morning?" She whispered.
"No - although I'll happily sign you up for more of that, too..." Nick bent his knees ever so slightly, bringing his face in line with hers and pressing his lips along her jawline "...this is something I can't wait for you to see!"
"Not so fast you pair of lovebirds!" A booming voice interrupted them from the doorway.
"Schmidt, can you give us a minute?"
"No can do, Nicholas! What with you two finally getting back together, myself and Cece due to become home-owners in a short time, and Winston not killing himself on duty yet - there's nothing else more important in our lives right now than a celebratory game of True American!"
"I'm kinda in the middle of something." Nick huffed.
"Nonsense, get your butts out here - there'll be plenty of time for fornication later..."
"Schmidt!" Jess frowned.
"Don't give me that look, Jessica - I still haven't forgotten the first time round. You two were worse than a randy pair of teenagers. Living area. True American. Now!"
Later that evening, when copious amount of Chinese food had been consumed to help soak up the alcohol, Jess loaded the last of her laundry into the washing machine and heard a loud rustling from Nick's room.
Sticking her head around the door, she watched intrigued as Nick wrestled with an enormous ream of paper and cursed under his breath.
"Need a hand?" She laughed.
He visibly jumped three feet in the air at her voice, causing pages to be sent tumbling on to his bed.
"Oh, man...you made me drop my book!"
"What?" Jess asked in quiet disbelief.
"Yeah, this is what I wanted to tell ya!" He smiled, eyes bright with an excitement he struggled to contain.
"Oh my god!"
"It's my book! Read the first page, check it out..."
"To Anthony Rizzo and the Chicago Cubs - for all we've been through...and to my friend, Jessica Day, for the same thing..."
She looked up at him and beamed as he gave her a little salute and a quirky grin.
"Yeah, I might have to change that last bit a little now I guess." Nick chuckled nervously and fiddled with his hands.
"Nick, this is...this is amazing."
"Well, you say that - but you haven't read it yet." He quipped.
"I already know I'm going to love it. I knew you could do it." Jess replied without hesitation "I am so proud of you. So proud..."
Nick's smile faltered slightly and he sat down on his mattress.
"You always believed in me when I wasn't able to believe in myself. No one else has ever had that kind of faith in me." he sighed, running a hand through his hair "I'm sorry, Jessica."
She frowned at him and perched on the end of his bed, laying her hand on his knee and leaning her shoulder against his.
"Everything. I'm sorry that I wasn't who you needed me to be the first time round, I'm sorry that I didn't fight harder to save us...I'm sorry about Reagan, for not being there when you were hurting, and about going to New Orleans, and..."
He was silenced by Jess reaching around to place her finger on his lips.
"Don't." She shook her head and spoke softly "Don't do that - there isn't anything to apologise for. We both made mistakes. It's not productive to be stuck dwelling on the past, Nick. This is our chance to make it right...I can't be without you again, I couldn't bear it. This is it for me." Taking her hand in his, Nick nodded and kissed her fingers one by one, turning so they were facing each other.
"I know, but I don't ever want you to think there was a time where I didn't care about you that way. You have always - without a shadow of a doubt - been one of the most important people in my life since the first day you walked into it, and I'm so glad you're crazy enough to like me back. I just need you to know that..."
"I do, Nick. I do." Squeezing the hand still on his knee and smiling up at him, she continued "But we have to stop looking behind us now. There's so much to look forward to in our future...it's going to be so good."
Stroking his cheek, Jess leaned in to kiss him tenderly on the lips and felt him smile broadly against her.
"Sooo good..." He teased, laughing as he pulled back and she swatted him playfully on the arm.
"I see what you did there. Well done, you..."
Nick reached forward and scooped Jess up into his arms, bringing her onto his lap where he held her tight as she wound an arm around his shoulders and giggled. The sound that made his heart sing.
"I love you, Nick Miller."
"I love you too, kid."
Jess stroked her fingertips across the soft skin on the back of his neck and bit back a smile as he shivered under her touch. Laying her lips on his temple, she kissed Nick softly and let the scent of him fill her nostrils. She didn't have to be afraid of herself and her feelings around him anymore. She could get that hit, let it course through her veins and ride out the high of being with the only man who had ever made it seem like she was floating on the clouds. Jess would never get over the way he made her feel - like there was some kind of magic in the air.
She'd just had to believe...
Nick rested his head against Jess's shoulder, breathing in her delicate perfume. He closed his eyes, soaking up the sensation of her weight on him. He couldn't believe that somehow, they'd found their way back to one another. Like magnets, there was an unseen force inexplicably drawing them together despite everything, and nothing could stop it. Nick smiled to himself, feeling like the luckiest son of a bitch in the world - some people didn't even get one shot with the person they love, and here he was the second time around with the only girl who had ever made his earth spin on its axis.
Some wishes really do come true...
*A/N - THANK YOU SO MUCH FOR READING, THE SUPPORT AND FEEDBACK WHEN WRITING THIS HAS BEEN SO AWESOME. THIS FIC HAS CONSUMED ME MORE THAN ANY OTHER I HAVE WRITTEN, IT HAS BEEN A REAL LABOUR OF LOVE - BUT I REALLY HOPE YOU HAVE ENJOYED READING IT AS MUCH AS I ENJOYED WRITING IT!
(For anyone curious, the inspiration for this fic came after listening to a song called New Orleans by Parachute, as it gave me mega Ness vibes. I could just see them hanging out and finding their way back together. Go check it out and let me know what you thought!)