Delicate


Jessica Day was in her bed, staring at the ceiling. Her room was engulfed in complete darkness and her thoughts were with a certain bartender, Nick Miller, who she'd met a little more than a week ago. Cece's boyfriend, Schmidt, had brought them all to the Griffin after the disastrously publicized breakup with Russell, where she'd met Nick. They'd started dating, but it was quite casual. You couldn't even call it 'dating' exactly. They'd been out on a date or two and had had sex... Well, she'd lost count of that. Both of them had been reeling from their breakup at the time, and were too afraid to properly commit, or even label what they were to each other. It wasn't something they had really talked about, but she knew she they'd been skirting around it, avoiding that conversation on purpose. She knew it was so because though he hadn't directly told her, she'd managed to put that together through bits and pieces from different conversations, that he was being a little careful because his previous relationship had been taxing.

Carol? Coraline? She couldn't remember.

Her phone on the nightstand suddenly lit up, casting a dim light in the dark room, followed by a brief ping, announcing a text message. Reaching for her phone, she scrunched her eyes to read the text.

Dive bar on the east side. Where you at?

She looked at the time and jumped out of bed, realizing that she'd lost track of time to her thoughts again. He was taking over bartender duties for a friend and had asked her to meet him there for that night. She hurried to her closet and put on the plain black dress she knew he liked. He didn't tell her that of course, they were still a little shy with each other, but she'd seen it in the way his lips had tugged into the smallest of smiles and the way his eyes had admiringly taken her in. As she grabbed her purse and hurried out of the loft, she shook her head at herself.

He's taking up too much of my headspace.

She stood outside the dive bar; it was old, around a corner near the beach. The wooden sign hanging over it was slightly rusty, but from outside, she could see through the glass that it was a small, cosy place. But she hesitated because though it looked like the kind of place she would love, it was quite crowded. She hadn't been in a crowded place for a while, and she'd gotten used to the quiet. After her highly publicized breakup with Russell, she couldn't stand being around crowds, her insides burning every time she saw the look of recognition cross their faces, followed by wide eyes that followed her as she walked away. She hesitated outside the door for a moment, before inhaling deeply and walking into the bar.

If there was one thing Jess hated more than anything, it was attention. As she walked in apprehensively, she fleetingly wondered if she was imagining the eyes that followed her and the flutter of whispers, but then sighed internally, knowing that she wasn't. Wishing she'd brought a scarf to cover her face, Jess kept her head down and walked towards the bar, hoping against hope that no one would try to make conversation with her.

She was drumming her fingers on the hardwood, looking around for Nick when she felt someone stand next to her.

"Where the hell is the barkeep!?" he said to no one in particular.

She said nothing and inched away a little bit, eyes fixated on the wood of the bar. Focusing all her attention on the grains in the wood, she brought her hands to her lap, nervously twiddling her thumbs. In her minimal line of vision, she saw someone wearing familiar flannel appear behind the bar, and she looked up at him with a small smile as he placed a glass of pink (with a black straw, of course) in front of her. As she started sipping on it, her eyes followed him as he turned to the other guy take his order. She noted that the dark jeans, paired with his favourite Nikes fit him very well. His flannel shirt was a blue colour that she couldn't quite place, but quite, quite liked on him.

"What can I get ya?"

"Scotch on the rocks, please," the man next to her answered.

She heard the crackling of ice cubes as they hit the bottom of the glass, and the liquid pouring into it, followed by the sound of glass against wood as Nick slid a glass of scotch towards the man. As he took it, she could feel his eyes on her and prayed he won't say anything.

"The pretty lady's wine's on me," he said with flirtatious undertones, making Jess wince.

"Er, no thanks," she muttered before Nick could say something.

"Aw, come on, let me get it for you!" he said insistently, and from her peripheral vision, she saw him lean towards her and resisted the urge to push him away and run out of the bar. She felt the guy's arm land on her shoulder in what was supposed to be a persuasive manner, but she tried to shrug it off.

"No, thanks, I'm good," she said again, turning a little to give him what she hoped would be a politely, but assertive smile.

The man's eyes widened in recognition and she wished the ground would swallow her whole as his facial features twisted into a sneer. Looking her up and down, he said,"Damn, you're that industrialist's mistress!"

Jess flinched and muttered in a pained whisper, "I didn't know he was married."

He leaned in closer to her, making her lean further away from him. From the look on his face, she knew what he would say next. Over the last few weeks, whenever she'd gone out, she had seen that look on many men's face as they recognised her. So much so, that she'd been cooped up in her house for days, too afraid to step out. She would forever be grateful to Tanya for granting her a few days' leave instead of firing her. She wasn't really heartbroken about Russell, but after a week of seeing her pictures splashed in the local newspapers and social media, she tried to lay low. She'd moved in with Cece for the comfort of her presence, more than anything. She needed to wake up to a face filled with warmth and affection instead of the judgemental looks she got when people recognized her. Jess simply couldn't deal with all the hate, even if it was just from strangers.

As she waited for an insulting invitation to sleep with the stranger, she heard the bartender cut in in a deathly quiet voice.

"Back off, buddy."

The man scoffed. "This isn't your-"

"Her drink's on me," he said coolly. "Now back off."

Muttering under his breath, the man shot Jess a dirty glare before walking away. Jess sighed and put her face in her hands, elbows resting on the bar. She heard the bartender clear his throat and saw that he'd placed her glass of wine in front of her. Pulling it towards herself timidly, she muttered a small 'thank you' to him and started to sip on her wine slowly. Surprised that he hadn't walked away yet, she finally looked up at him.

"I'm sorry about that, it's-"

"It's not your fault," said Jess, shaking her head. "I'm used to it now. My reputation's never been worse, so..." she trailed away, sighing.

"Well, I don't care about that," said Nick quietly took her hand from across the bar.

"You must like me for me, huh," she said with a small smile.

"I do," he said, planting a kiss on her hand. "And I promise that-"

"We can't make any promises now, can we?" she said, cutting him off with a peck on the lips as she leaned across the bar. Resting her face her elbows and tilting her head at him, she gave him a warm smile. "Just make me a drink, Miller."

She smiled warmly and after hesitating for a few seconds, leaned across the bar to kiss her forehead. With that, he turned away to fix her another drink. This was something he did to get her to try drinks other than just pink wine. She stared at his back, swallowing thickly, resisting the urge to touch her forehead in the daze that was filling her mind.

...

A couple of days later, Jess stopped by at the Griffin on her way back home from the school. She'd started just yesterday, and for once, the Fates seemed to be in her favour. All her co-workers empathised with her and believed her when she'd said she hadn't known that Russell was still married. Though she wasn't having a tough time in school, she still felt nervous when she was in the classroom with the children. She knew that she was imagining the strange looks they seemed to be giving her and that no one really looked at her as 'the teacher who had dated Sarah's father while he was still married', but her own guilt was making her see things. Hardly two days had gone by since she'd gone back to school, and she already felt mentally exhausted.

As she pulled up at the bar, she worried for a brief moment if it would be alright with him if she showed up unannounced. They'd been going out for nearly three weeks now and things were just the same with them; nothing had changed. At this point, Jess was starting to feel a little agitated as she realized that she took their relationship seriously, worried that he didn't. It frustrated her that things were going so slow, yet so fast. They couldn't keep their hands off each other and they'd had sex in their cars, in his office, in the basement of the bar, as well as the ladies' room. But she'd not yet been to his house, and neither had she taken him to hers. When she was with him, the question was almost always on the tip of her tongue, but almost as if he knew what she was thinking, he'd kiss her and then, everything was history. Temporarily at least, till the thoughts came crawling back.

She was trying hard to keep the delicate balance of what they were doing, and sometimes it got to her. But she liked him too much and didn't want to drive him away. They'd both started out with the same mindset, but it was probably something as simple as that she'd been able to get over it before he had. She started worrying her lower lip as her mind began to question why she cared that much.

Stop right there.

She simply could not afford to be the one who invested more in this relationship. Did he want it slow? That was fine. It was simply, perfectly fine. He did not want to talk about it? That was cool. Cool, cool, cool, cool, cool, cool, cool.

It was just fine.

Frowning, she was still debating whether or not to go inside when she heard a rap on her window. Jumping, she saw that it was Nick, standing there with a half-amused smile. Grinning sheepishly at him, she rolled her windows down. "Hey."

"Hey," said Nick, crouching to give her a kiss on the lips. "What're you doing here?"

Jess looked at him hesitantly before answering. "Honestly? I was debating whether or not I should not come in," she admitted, pointing at the bar.

Nick raised an eyebrow, his smile widening. "Well, I'm glad you didn't. There were too many drunken guys inside. I had to stop a freakin' brawl today."

"Oh my god, Nick, are you okay!?" she asked, eyes widening with concern as she looked him over.

"Yeah, yeah, I'm good," he said, patting her cheek reassuringly. "I'm actually glad you came," he added, straightening up.

Jess leaned out and placed a hand across the window ledge and rested her face on it. "Yeah?"

"Yeah. I, er, don't have my car today. I stepped out of the bar and I thought this car here looked familiar," he said, patting the top of the car.

"Oh," she said, slightly disappointed. "I'll er, drop you back home?"

Nick nervously stuck his hands in his pocket, starting to slightly go back and forth on his heels. "I was thinking we could er, both go to my place...or-or yours?"

Jess leaned out of the window and clutching his shirt, she pulled him down to meet her lips, kissing him hard. "Mine's closer," she whispered.

Their ride home was quiet, but Nick's hand was absent-mindedly caressing her thigh as he stared out of the window at the passing buildings. Jess was hyperaware of his hand, as he left a trail of fire with his touch, completely unaware. She was focusing her entire energy on trying to focus on the road instead of pulling over and jumping him. Gripping the steering wheel tightly, she willed her apartment to arrive faster.

A few minutes later, they were standing outside her door as Jess fumbled with the keys, grateful that Cece wasn't home. The door clicked open, and she gestured for Nick to enter first, following him and closing the door behind her after flicking on the lights. As she kicked off her shoes and took her coat off, she watched Nick looking around the house quietly, and she could see him processing everything he was seeing. Suddenly, she felt quite nervous because she knew the splash of colours was not really his thing.

"I know it isn't your style but-" She started, but he cut her off.

"I love it," he said with a half-smile, turning to her.

Jess smiled at him and feeling herself relax a little she walked over to him slowly and meaningfully, satisfied when she saw his eyes darken a little. As soon as she was within touching distance, Nick pulled her towards him and kissed her. His arms wrapped around her back, engulfing her completely, as his fingers splayed across the length of her waist. He started to tug at the hem of her shirt, and she instinctively guided him towards the couch, leading him there while they were still kissing. Both of them fell on to the couch, Nick on top of her as he continued kissing her passionately. She gasped when she felt his fingers caress her waist delicately before slipping into her pants, and through her panties, rubbing her gently in captivating circles before entering her.

The moment his fingers entered her, she'd lost all capacity to think. Her mind was filled with colourful little explosions and she would wonder later if she was imagining them. She felt her body quake a little as the familiar sensations, which felt new to her every time with Nick, took over her completely. She lost all control, and not caring how she sounded, she called out his name multiple times, punctuated with either a curse or a satisfied moan of thorough agreement. Most of those sounds died in her throat as Nick muffled them with his own kisses, and the only time they saw the light of day were when he left her lips to pepper kisses on her jawlines and neck.. Finally, as she came apart under him, her mind started to focus and she started to feel the return of coherent thought.

She felt his lips leave hers and his face started to come into focus right above hers. His eyes were darker than she'd ever seen before, and she smiled at him, sure that her eyes still probably looked glazed. He bent down to plant a kiss on her nose and squeezed himself next to her on the couch. Draping an arm around her waist, he pulled her closer to him, tucking her head under his chin. A thrill ran through her at the lack of hesitancy on his part. As she stared at his hand, she realized that this was the most intimate they had been so far. She relaxed against him and let herself drift off to sleep.

Maybe this wasn't so bad after all.

...

For two weeks after they'd gone to her place, Jess started to drop by the bar unannounced. Almost all her visits always ended with a night spent in her apartment. Other than that, Nick dropped by during the day when she didn't have to go to school, as well as on weekends. Despite all the time they were spending together, they hadn't spoken about where they were going or what they were to each other. The only thing she knew was they both wanted each other, and that he was in her head almost all the time. She wanted to tell him that she didn't like when he left her apartment, and she'd be wide awake listening to the fading echoes of his footsteps, desperately wanting to tell him to stay.

But the last time they were here, they were woken up by an annoyed Cece. She had thrown a fit; she was tired of having to either go to the loft or be kept awake in bed by the noises those two made. She would like to spend at least one silent night at her own house, thank you very much.

Now Jess was at standing nervously outside Nick's apartment, waiting for him to open the door. Seconds later, the door opened and he stood in the doorway grinning at her. "Hey, Jess."

"Hi, Nick," she said shyly.

He stepped aside to let her in, placing his hand on the small of her back as he lead her in. He took her coat and purse to hang it on the coat rack. He walked up to her and stood next to where she was standing unsurely. He kissed her temple and gestured around the loft. "This is home," he said.

Jess's face turned red, once again stricken by how didn't hesitate. In the first week, he was always a little careful around her, and though they hadn't talked about anything yet, she wasn't as nervous as she'd been at first. All these subtle things that Nick had started doing - small kisses, absent-mindedly playing with her hair, reassuring squeezes everytime they went out and someone stared in recognition - had been somewhat indicative enough of where he stood. These little things gave her stupid amounts of happiness, and she knew that she liked him.

She liked him a lot.

He led her to the couch, once again, his hand resting on the small of her back. She sat down on his left, unsure of what they were doing. She saw that there was popcorn on the table, and was surprised that her favourite icecream was also on the table. He threw one arm around her and pulled her closer to him. She hesitantly rested her head on his shoulder, and noted with delight that he relaxed as she did so. He picked up the remote and turned on the TV, before resting his hand on the armrest.

"So, I know you love Dirty Dancing," he said nervously. "I thought we could, um, watch it tonight?"

She was still on his shoulder, tears filling her eyes. He actually listened to all her babbling. He listened to all her babbling. Bringing her other arm to rest on his chest, she looked up to give him a peck on the lips. "It's perfect."

Grinning at her happily, he started the movie and the two of them watched it in silence. Unknown to Jess, who was now immersed in the movie, Nick kept throwing sideglances at her, a small smile almost permanently etched on his face. As the movie came to a close, he noted with silent amusement the happy tears in her eyes. She caught him staring and gave him a sheepish grin. "I just... Love this movie so much," she said, smiling through her tears.

He kissed her forehead, whispering, "I know."

She let out a small laugh and her hand travelled upwards from his chest to bunch his t-shirt. She pulled him towards her and kissed, biting his lips hungrily to allow her entry. His hand left the armrest of the couch and rested on the side of her face, tracing her jawline with his thumb; he knew she loved it when he did that. Moaning into his lips, her free hand travelled to his pants and started to tug at its button.

"Bedroom," he whispered raspily, pulling back for a second.

He stood up and offering his hand to her, took her to his bedroom. After he closed the door behind him, he turned around and crashed his lips to hers again. She impatiently began to pull at the hem of his shirt, and chuckling softly, he left her lips for a second to pull his t-shirt over his head before going back to kissing her. Flipping her around, he backed her to the door and continued to kiss her. His fingers slipped under her shirt, and he grazed her breasts through her bra with his thumbs. She let out a satisfied moan and let her hands travel into his pants, teasing him slightly over his boxers. Growling, he started to back away, pulling him with her towards her bed. When the back of his knees hit the edge of her bed, he turned her around and pulled away from her lips. Both of them were breathing heavily and he gave her a gentle nudge so she fell on her back onto her bed. Taking his pants and boxers off of him, climbed on to the bed hovering over her, with his knees on either side of her.

Sliding his hands under her skirt, his fingers teased her right on her hipbone before starting to remove her panties. She was already slipping out of her top, arching her back slightly as she pulled it over her head and threw it away recklessly before lying back down fully. He bent down to kiss her, supporting himself with one hand while the other travelled back down to tug at her skirt. Once that was off, his mouth moved from her lips to her chin, and then to her collarbone. He was moving slowly, from the top of her breasts to gentle kisses on her stomach, teasing her into frustration. Finally, his mouth travelled to between her legs and her eyes fluttered closed as he teased her endlessly with his tongue, alternating between soft caresses and firm kisses. She began to whisper his name, her request clear in her voice until he complied and entered her already slick folds with his tongue. Her hands clutched at the sheets as she arched her back, each thrust eliciting a louder groan.

When she felt herself close to an explosive release, he'd suddenly left her and cut off her groans of protests with his lips on hers. She kissed him back, a thrill running through her as she tasted herself on Nick's lips. He entered her without warning, just as the waves from her unfulfilled orgasm were starting to fade, making her scream with pleasure as she pulled her tighter to him as he moved in and out of her, each thrust feeling fuller than the last. She bucked her hips, meeting thrust for thrust, as both their screams fuelled each other's fires further. Finally, she felt herself explode under him, and he followed soon after. He collapsed on top of her, both their bodies shuddering with the release of desire they had just experienced. After laying on top of her for a few quiet minutes, he kissed her collarbone and rolled off of her, panting.

He slid one arm under her neck and pulled her into his side as she marvelled for the umpteenth time how well they fit together. She turned towards him, and watched him quietly as he stared at the ceiling. Her eyes traced his jawline, and she absent-mindedly reached to stroke the hint of stubble he hadn't bothered to shave. She saw his eyes flicker towards her at her touch, but she didn't back away. She knew she wanted more. This man made her feel things no one ever had, and she loved it. As she looked at him thoughtfully, he turned his face to her.

"What're you thinking about?"

She looked at him hesitantly, gulping in nervous. This was it. She could either lie and worm her way out of it, or just talk to him. She knew how that would end - he would either look at her pitifully and say that they'd been on different pages all this or... or this could go somewhere, somewhere much better than where it was now.

Leap of faith. Do it, Jess.

"I like spending time with you, Nick," she said softly into his shoulder. "An-And I don't like it when you leave. When you leave, I keep wondering if there're other girls who touch you like I do, you know?

"Jessica, I don't-"

"I know, I know, you don't, Nick. It's just my mind messing with me because of... you know... I just worry that's all. I feel like I'm sharing you with everyone else, and I don't like it. That's weird, right? Yeah, it is weird," she sighed but continued. "I guess it's just because... Because... I don't know what we are to each other, you know? We never really talked about it. Am I your girlfriend, Nick? I wouldn't mind that, to be honest. I would very much like that, actually. I just need to know. It drives me crazy and I just..." she trailed away, eyes still on his shoulder, too scared to look at his face. "I don't know. I just really, really like you, Nick," she finished with a whisper.

She lay still, her hand starting to drum a nervous rhythm on his chest. She felt him tense, and the panic started to build as she struggled to find words that could negate what she'd just said; to make light of what she'd just said. "Um, sorry, is it uh... cool that I said all that? I mean, I couldn't help it."

Cool!? Really, Jessica?

"Should I not have said that? Is it too soon to do this yet?" she asked nervously. "I mean, I know that things are kind of... I-I know that it's delicate."

When he still hadn't said anything, she finally looked at him apologetically, asking defeatedly. "Isn't it?"

Closing his eyes at her tone for a second, he finally turned to look at her. "It is," he said softly, but continued. "But someone had to tip the balance, and I'm sorry that I was too much of a coward to do that."

"And... You are my girlfriend. I thought you knew that," he said, and when her eyes widened in delight and she opened her mouth to say something, but he cut her off. "Yeah, I'm sorry for not getting around to tell you I thought that."

Then, removing his arm from under her neck, he now turned on his side to face her fully. "I like you too, Jess. I like you a lot," he said seriously. "I'm glad you're around."

He turned kissed her forehead, firm but soft and pulled back with a grin. "And nope, it isn't too soon. I'd say it was about damn time."

Jess chuckled in relief and kissed him on the lips as he threw his arm around her. Pulling her to his chest, he kissed the top of her head as he rested his chin on her hair. He ran his hands up and down her back as he felt her relax into him completely. He realized how much of herself she'd been holding back until this moment, and felt his heart lighten at the thought of her having her around more often.

Knowing she'd been reeling from the Russell scandal, he was too afraid to tell her that he'd been wanting more for quite some time now. Given their mirrored states of minds in the beginning of their relationship, he was worried about pushing her away if he disturbed the seemingly delicate balance of their relationship. He couldn't even begin to express how much he admired her for being the first to decide to let the balance go to hell.

Jessica Day, I might just be falling for you.

Smiling, he kissed the top of her head once again and fell asleep.


Prequel OneShots:

First time they met - Enchanted
First date - Begin Again