Thank you for being the amazing person that you are and taking the time out to organize a Secret Santa for our fandom when you didn't really have to. I'll be honest, I'm a little nervous about this. I wouldn't say this is one of my best, mainly because I'm SO used to writing Nick&Jess, but I tried my best to stick to what you wanted - friendship fluff peppered with Nick and Jess. It's uncharted territory, pure fluff, and it is quite evident that I've never written something like this, so I'm sorry about that! And my partiality to Nick&Jess also shows a little bit in this, ha ha.
I hope you like this!
New Year's Eve
"This party is so freakin' loud!" yelled Schmidt over the ridiculously upbeat music. "That nonsense is not even EDM!"
Nick merely grunted, throwing a sour look in Winston's direction, who raised his hands defensively. "What? I thought it'd be fun!"
"Oh, it's fun alright," Nick muttered. "Just not for us."
They were all huddled in the kitchen, eyeing their drunk guests warily. Winston and Aly were hosting their first party as an engaged couple, and their excitement showed clearly. It looked like a madhouse from where they sat. There were bubbles and confetti everywhere, and the loft was filled with dim purple and yellow neon lights. Those Japanese machines were definitely an eyeful and the music was routinely punctuated with a Japanese phrase that came out of one of those ridiculously coloured contraptions. Somewhere in the background was also a vague beeping noise and what sounded impossibly like a robot voice. Despite Nick's constant grumbling and complaints, Jess had extended her full support because she was always one for experimenting.
"Besides, it's their party," she'd explained. "Everyone will be disappointed if it isn't a little weird. And there's nothing wrong with a little bit of weird."
Apparently, sometimes what could initially come off as a "little weird" could spiral into an out of control madness. The loft looked exactly like it had when they'd discovered Aly's stash of toys from her time in that absurd Japanese game show. Both Winston and Aly had, for some reason that they couldn't remember anymore, thought it would be a good idea to pull those machines out again and host a game show themed party. Winston had bought the bubble machine, and Nick had muttered that even a middle schooler would've been embarrassed to be hosting a party like that.
"That's the point Nick, we're not middle schoolers!" Winston had said. "Besides, bubbles make everything... everything so much better."
But after Jess had seconded Winston on that, there had been no further argument.
"Were the candles really necessary, man?" asked Schmidt, as he saw two drunk people laughing hard at a pink candle, shaped like a cat, which gave way to a metallic skeleton underneath as it melted. "That's it, I can't take this anymore!" said Schmidt, shaking his head. Then, muttering something about trying to salvage the few hours remaining this year, he stood up to make a call and headed out of the loft.
"A little alcohol in my system would make all of this bearable," Cece said, dolefully eyeing the bottle of wine Jess was holding.
"No wine for the pregnant lady," said Jess disapprovingly, before laughing one and trying to take another swig of the wine.
"Babe, you need to cool it with the wine," said Nick gently, catching her elbow before her lips touched the bottle.
"But the alcohol makes this better," she said with a pout, waving her hand around the loft, but setting the bottle down on the kitchen island. She leaned into Nick with a small sigh, fingers drumming the island restlessly.
At that very moment, Aly joined them too, anger clearly written on her face. She sat on Winston's lap with a huff, eliciting questioning looks from everyone. "My trampoline is in danger of being shredded to pieces!" she hissed.
"But I love the trampoline!" sighed Jess, her hand on the back of Nick's neck, as she absent-mindedly tugged at his hair gently.
"The sheet I stuck next to it says clearly, very clearly, that not more than three people at a time!" continued Aly. "Can they not read? Can none of them read!?"
Winston chuckled. "Not when they're drunk they can't. And neither can you, you know."
Grumbling, Aly relaxed a little but shot a dirty look in the direction of the trampoline which was sitting just under the window, probably being jumped to smithereens by the five fully grown adults on it. Then she looked at the rest of them apologetically. "I'm sorry you guys. This was not what we'd planned."
"Don't worry about it. Now you know better," said Nick, shrugging. "Next year will be better."
"Worship me, heathens, for it is I, your saviour," said Schmidt, planting his hands on his hips as he walked back into the kitchen.
Everyone's eyes were on him, half curious and half wary of the idea that he would come up with. Grinning at all of them, Schmidt paused for dramatic effect. "It so happens that I can procure tickets to a fashion show of just suits. Isn't that just delightful!" he said, looking pleased with himself.
They waited for the punchline, but a few moments passed before they realized that he wasn't joking. Misinterpreting their silence, Schmidt went on. "It'll be the perfect way to start this year. Beautiful people in beautiful office suits! Can you imagine? And I will, of course, make note of the best ones so I can immediately add them to my ever-growing collection, and-"
"Schmidt!" Cece cut him off with a laugh. "We can't leave the loft filled with drunk strangers."
"Sure, that's the real problem," said Aly shaking her head as she wound an arm around Winston's neck. "A fashion show for suits!? How do you even know about these things, man?"
"I really wish I hadn't broken that damned jar," Nick muttered. "We'd all probably be quite rich."
"Tasteless heathens," muttered Schmidt, as he moved to Cece and started to massage her shoulders gently. She leaned into him, the amusement still clear on her face. She loved the man, but even after years of friendship with these people, he still couldn't seem to tell that their friends were simply not into some of his craziest whims. Her hand went to her shoulder and rested on his, before squeezing it gently with a silent chuckle.
"Let's all just go to the roof," suggested Aly. "We could grab the icebox and take some beer with-"
"And some Sprite," chimed in Cece, perking up as her eyes lit up at the prospect of escaping the loft.
"Yes, let's take some beer and Sprite upstairs along with some blankets!" continued Aly.
"Oh, I'll get my polaroid camera!" squeaked Jess excitedly as she jumped to her feet.
"I think you've clicked enough pictures for tonight, Jess!" laughed Nick.
Already on her way to their bedroom, Jess shrugged. "You can never have enough photos."
It had been a Christmas gift from Cece and she had relentlessly been clicking pictures from the second she'd opened the box. The camera had captured some of the weirdest moments of their lives, and the weirder, the better, Jess had said.
Fifteen minutes later, they were all on the roof, laughing and talking, away from the loud chatter. Everyone was squeezed into a lawn chair with their respective spouses and fiancee. They could still hear muffled chatter and music from different parties that were taking place in their neighbourhood, but it felt like time had slowed down for once. It had been a long time since all of them had spent time together; just them. It felt good to sit on a chilly night on the rooftop after such a busy year. This last year had been one of those years when everything moved too fast suddenly; life had been moving at a near-stagnant pace and suddenly, things were hurtling out of control. It so happened that this year, things hurtled out of control for the better.
Schmidt and Cece had moved out into an apartment of their own, and Cece was pregnant. Winston and Aly were engaged, and Winston had made up with his father; he dropped by quite often these days, and Winston had never been happier. Nick and Jess were back together, and Nick's book was very close to hitting the bookshelves. Everything was going great for everybody, but no one contested that this was Nick and Jess's year.
"You deserve this happiness," Winston had cried.
"I agree with Winston, but this is one shenanigan of yours that I'll never forgive. Ever, you understand me?" Schmidt had said, sniffling slightly.
It was one of those many things that neither of them thought about too much, not because they were afraid to, but because they didn't need to. For the first time in years, they were both on the same page and knew it. After that kiss in the elevator, they had found themselves marching to City Hall and getting married, without really telling anyone. Everyone was happy for them, but not quite forgiving about not being invited to witness the "consummation of the ridiculous dance they'd been dancing for six years", as Schmidt put it.
"You guys are not allowed to throw a party ever again," Jess said, looking pointedly at Winston and Aly. "We had to kick ourselves out of our own home."
"Well, you gotta admit, I like this a lot better," murmured Nick against Jess's hair.
She laughed quietly, murmuring an agreement into his chest.
"That won't be a problem anymore," said Winston, clearing his throat.
Aly smiled at all of them, slightly excited. "We might just be moving out in a month or so..."
"Did your application get approved for that apartment?" asked Nick, surprised, shifting slightly under Jess to face Winston.
"I think so, man," grinned Winston.
"What about you guys?" asked Aly, looking at Nick and Jess. "Did you find a place yet?"
"Well, kind of?" said Nick, starting to smile a little.
Cece turned to look at Jess with eyebrows raised. "Why didn't you tell me!? Where? It better be close to the Jaipur Aviv or I swear I will-"
"You all know this place," said Jess slowly, tracing patterns on Nick's chest. "We decided not to move out."
"What! Why? My child's godparents can't be living so far away from us! And-" began Schmidt, his fingers absent-mindedly combing through Cece's hair.
Laughing, Cece tilted her head up to kiss his chin. "It's really not that far away, honey."
"This is the second time you've betrayed me, Nicholas! I will not have it!" continued Schmidt. "I thought we would share our fences and plan our children's weddings while we watched them play. Have barbecue parties, mine will be better of course, and just... Nicholas, this is unacceptable!" he finished, huffing, tightening his arms around Cece.
"The loft is quite an important place to us," said Nick, now resting his hand on Jess's. "I mean what better place to start afresh than where it all began, right?"
"Wrong!" muttered Schmidt, but he had already started to soften.
But Schmidt knew that there was no denying that the loft was important to all of them. There were so many memories in this place. So many heartbreaks and tears, laughter and anger; the loft had seen it all. Yet, here they were.
He watched as Nick fiddled with Jess's fingers, playing with her ring like he so often did these days. Schmidt didn't remember ever seeing Nick this happy, as if the weight of the world had been lifted off his shoulders. Nick, who he'd been sure would die bitter and young due to alcohol poisoning. Nick, who couldn't think beyond today and was haunted by the ghosts of what his father had done. Yet, here he was, married to the doe-eyed woman who they'd all labelled as crazy and annoying when she'd first come to meet them with that ridiculous story of her breakup. And here Schmidt was, married to her bestfriend.
"Girl, Imma marry you."
Chuckling softly, Schmidt looked down at Cece, curled up next to him, her hand absent-mindedly caressing her barely visible baby bump, and felt himself smile a little. He lowered his head to plant a kiss on the top of her head. He would spend his lifetime trying to figure out how they had gone from secret rendezvous at night to where they were today. He wondered if this was where they would be if ten years ago, he'd chosen to live in that penthouse near his office, or if Coach had been allowed to write the ad for Craiglist all those years ago. Probably not.
Looking at Nick, he gave him a small smile. "As long as I see you every day, I'm fine with it. And if you don't reply to my texts, I will break down your door."
"Fine by me as long as you pay for it, man," laughed Nick, taking another swig of his beer.
"And it's not on us if you interrupt us while, you know, we're doin' it," said Jess.
"What're you, twelve?" asked Schmidt rolling his eyes. "Where're do your ladylike sensibilities disappear when you're going at it on every surface known to mankind?"
Everyone chuckled, and as if on cue, they heard the countdown for the New Year begin in the distance. As the countdown reached one, the black sky exploded in lights of all colours, as New Year kisses were exchanged on the roof, filled with hope and promise. It had been one hell of a year, and next year could only get better. Maybe it would all finally be uphill from now on, no looking back as everyone just moved forward.