*Here is a one shot especially for youcantmakemee from her prompt of Nick and Jess sitting and talking on the beach. I really hope you like it!*
Words Meet Heartbeats
"And the sun sets high and that moon is low, Cause when words meet heartbeats, baby, you'll know..."
Jess could hardly hear herself think over the thrum of increasingly drunk people and blaring music inside the bar. Her mind was racing as she sat opposite Ryan. Jess understood exactly what he was saying, even though she could barely hear a word.
It was written all over his face.
He was giving her an ultimatum: Time for her to make a decision. Did she want to move in with him or not?
She'd caught fragments of his big speech, about wanting more and needing her to be on the same page. Jess frowned when she concentrated on trying to read his lips as he spoke. And yet, even as her relationship with him was now seemingly hanging in the balance, she still couldn't find an answer for him. The words just wouldn't come, so instead she sat there and floundered like a fish out of water desperately gulping for air. Ryan's shoulders slumped in resignation, and he looked away from her with a pained expression on his face, shaking his head.
"Well I guess I have my answer..." he said, getting up from his seat across the table. Jess instinctively reached for his hand and gave a small squeeze, trying to convey the apology she was still unable to spit out even though it was probably the least he deserved. He looked down at her, eyes soft and full of nothing but a rueful sadness. Gently removing his hand from her grip, he took a deep breath "Goodbye, Jess..."
She was under no illusion as he walked away from her that this could be salvaged.
They were definitely broken up.
Not feeling in the mood to continue with the bar crawl, Jess looked around for the others to excuse herself. Cece was far too drunk to be of any use, and Nick was nowhere to be seen - even though this crawl was his baby. Eventually she saw Winston across the bar and waved to get his attention. Through a mixture of over exaggerated, made up sign language and ridiculous mouthing of words, she managed to get the message across that she was headed home. Stepping out into the night, Jess decided to walk the long way back to the loft. She needed the fresh air to clear her head and process what had just happened, although she couldn't really understand it herself. It shouldn't have felt that hard. It should have been easy to say yes. So engrossed in her thoughts, Jess ended up more than a little off course and suddenly realised she could hear the ocean. She'd somehow ended up at the beach. Marvellous. Thinking that she should really just call an Uber to get home, something caught her eye as she turned around.
A little glint of light reflecting off of something on the beach. Narrowing her eyes, Jess saw someone sitting by themselves with a large bag and leaned forward to get a better look, then chuckled to herself as she walked towards the figure on the sand.
"Mind if I join you, Nicholas?"
He turned to her, a look of surprise on his face as he gave a tipsy grin and raised an arm to greet her.
"Jessi-caaa! Welcome, please do..."
She lowered herself down to sit next to him, smiling across as she did.
"So...what are you doing all the way over here Nick-Nack? Your bar crawl is in full swing in the other direction - your people need you!" Jess nudged him playfully with her shoulder.
He let out a good natured scoff and dropped his head, but not before she saw the hint of sadness swimming in his eyes.
"Ugh, I don't know. It seemed like a good idea at the time - I needed the distraction of organising the crawl, after Kai, you know...but, halfway through I just started asking myself 'why are you doing this?'. It didn't make me feel any better, and there were so many people joining, it got so big and I...I needed some air, needed to be on my own. So...I just left."
"Wait, the others don't know you're gone?! Nick!" She slapped him gently on the chest for being so irresponsible.
"Yup, Schmidt's gonna kill me!" He gave a small laugh, finishing his beer and propping it up in the sand next to his other empty bottle "Anyway, how come you're not still drinking the night away with the guys and Ryan?"
He saw her chin drop and heard Jess let out a loud breath. She suddenly seemed so tiny sat on this enormous expanse of sand with him.
"Uh...Ryan and I...we kinda, sorta, maybe broke up."
Nick's brow furrowed "...kinda, sorta, maybe?!"
Jess exhaled and let out a loud groan.
"Okay, so we definitely broke up...no big deal." she tried to shrug it off, but Nick saw the gleam of tears in her eyes.
"Ah, crap...that sucks."
Reaching into the bag he had acquired from Winston, Nick produced the last two beers from the pack. He opened both and turned silently to Jess with a bottle in his outstretched hand. She took it from him wordlessly and drank several large mouthfuls at once, nearly gagging at the taste, which made Nick laugh and shake his head in disdain.
"I'm sorry, Jess...do you wanna talk about it?"
"No...yes...maybe, oh...I don't know!" She huffed and bit her lip.
Nick looked at her as Jess stared pointedly at her shoes, trying not to cry. Taking a deep breath, he shifted slightly closer and draped an arm around her. Bringing Jess nearer to him, he felt her instantly relax into his shoulder.
"What happened?" Nick asked.
"He kept pushing me for an answer on moving in together, wanting to know if I was on the same page - and I just didn't know what to say."
"Understandable. It's a big deal, I get that."
"I didn't want to lie to him and say I was ready when I wasn't. But at the same time, I couldn't tell him why I wasn't ready, because I don't know myself...does that even make sense?"
Nick simply nodded and squeezed her shoulder lightly with his fingers.
"So I just didn't say anything to him..."
Jess grunted and sat herself back up away from Nick, crossing her legs in the process.
"I don't get it. I liked Ryan, I really liked him. With his cute little accent and everything..." She sighed heavily "...what is wrong with me?!"
Nick chuckled slowly, taking a swig of his beer and leaning back on his elbows in the sand.
"Nothing's wrong with you, Jessica."
"Then why couldn't I say yes?" She turned to look at him.
"I can't answer that one for you - but I will tell you this...sometimes the thing you think you want isn't actually what you need..." Nick shrugged and smiled at her sympathetically, rubbing his left hand gently in little circles on the small of her back while she remained upright next to him, hugging her knees tight to her chest "...just look at me and Kai."
Jess scrunched up her face.
"I'm sorry, Nick. I forgot this isn't a pity party for one...how are you doing?"
He waved a hand dismissively "I'm fine. I'll be fine, I mean this is nothing in comparison to how I felt after we..."
Nick stopped talking immediately when she caught his eye and swallowed hard. He didn't need to finish that sentence...couldn't finish that sentence if he wanted to, in fact. It might have been a while since they broke up, but it was still far too painful to talk about. To think about. They both took several long glugs from their bottles in silence and turned their heads back to look out over the ocean. The sky was inky black, broken up by the pinpricks of light from the stars - the crescent moon sending narrow beams of white light out across the soft waves as they rippled on to the beach with that calming, repetitive rhythm Nick loved.
"You wanna head home? There's more beers in the fridge."
"Nah, I'm good here. It's peaceful...but...maybe you could stay a while?"
There was quiet for the longest moment, but then he felt Jess lower herself back next to him and they laid side by side, staring up at the sheet of starlight hung in the sky above them. They began looking for constellations, but after Jess had pointed a couple out, Nick had decided to start making up his own.
"That one right there, that's the 'Big Hairy Spider'"
"Is that so?" She rolled her eyes.
"Sure - there's his eight legs..."
"Actually, I guess that does look a little like a spider now you mention it."
"See! And that one? That's the 'Christmas Tree'...and over there? Well, that is the 'Jessica Day'"
She snorted with laughter and jabbed him in the ribs with her elbow "Shut up, you clown!"
"This is no joking matter, Jess! I'm serious, look - there's your frilly dress fanning out around you, your hair over there just blowing to the side in the wind...and right there in the middle are your pretty blue eyes!"
Jess felt a smile spread across her face and she propped herself up on one elbow "You're such a dummy." she stated, eyes looking down into his as they reflected the moonlight. Nick's adam's apple bobbed in his throat as he swallowed and met her gaze.
"Can't argue with that." he whispered, reaching up to tuck a strand of hair behind her ear. There was a brief moment where neither of them dared to move as their eyes locked and time seemed to stand still. Nick finally cleared his throat and Jess took a deep breath, moving her head and breaking away from his stare.
"Yeah, well...if that's me, then that one over there is you!" She pointed up to their right.
"You need your eyes testing."
"Oh come on - that's totally you! There's your messy hair, those are your folded arms...and that line of stars right there looks just like your turtle face."
"You're out of your mind, Jess. And I don't have a turtle face!" He mock-frowned, pouting his bottom lip out in that trademark grumpy expression of his.
Jess simply giggled and laid back down in the sand beside him where they continued to look at the sky and listen to the whooshing sound of the waves without any further conversation. At some point soon after, which neither of them would be able to pinpoint, they both succumbed to the gentle pull of slumber.
Drunken dreams were swimming around Nick's head the entire time he was asleep - Schmidt with a pair of giant feet chasing him down the street, Winston sitting at the dining table with his own body but the head of Furguson, being back at school in gym class wearing just his underpants...but the one that scared him the most, the one he wouldn't be able to shake from his consciousness for days following the event, was the one where Future Nick turned up at the bar: Nick had finished closing up and went to put the garbage out the back when Future Nick popped up out of that cardboard box wearing the stupid tin foil hat again. "I've been waiting for you!" Future Nick had laughed and beckoned Nick over. He wanted to resist, but Sleeping Nick betrayed him by diligently walking to the box. "I have something you need. Look!" Future Nick produced an old pair of headphones which looked like they belonged firmly in the 1980's.
"What exactly are those?"
"These are music players from the Astroplane."
"Okay. Again...what exactly are those?"
"They play the song of your soul. So you never forget it." Future Nick replied as though it was the most obvious thing in the world "Here, put them on..."
Nick looked at the headphones, with the cable hanging down and swinging freely, clearly not connected to anything, and frowned heavily as he crossed his arms in front of his chest before Sleeping Nick let him down again, taking them from Future Nick and placing them on his head. There was nothing but white noise.
"They're broken. No surprise there!" Nick had moaned, but Future Nick merely held up a hand and repeated the same phrase over and over.
"If you listen, it will come. If you listen, it will come. If you listen, it will come..."
Closing his eyes, Nick took several deep, slow breaths and let the white noise wash over him. Suddenly, out of nowhere, he heard the most magical music he had ever encountered. It rushed through his veins and filtered in to his blood - suddenly there were dozens of colours popping behind his eyelids. He almost felt like he was being lifted up off the ground. Like he could fly. Listening intently, Nick thought he could make out a word underneath the melody of the song. He concentrated hard, then felt as if he couldn't breathe when the sound rushed to his ears with the speed of a bullet. The word pulsed in his brain like the beats of his heart: Jessi-ca. Jessi-ca. Jessi-ca.
Nick woke with a start, breathing fast and grimacing at the feel of sand that now covered his sweaty face. He blinked in the half light that now surrounded them - the sky a few shades paler, indicating sunrise was imminent. Becoming aware of the warmth in front of him, Nick realised he had rolled to the left during his sleep, his arm now resting firmly around Jess's waist. He jerked it away like he had just received an electric shock and sat up quickly. Bringing both hands to his face, Nick scrubbed his fingers across his eyes and down over his stubble covered chin as he sighed heavily.
"It was just a dream." He whispered forcefully to himself, then looked across to Jess lying by his side. Her knees were pulled up in front of her and her hair was fanned out behind her across the sand. A few stray curls had fallen on her face, set in the most serene expression he'd ever seen. Her bottom lip was ever so slightly parted from the top, and her cheeks had the slightest rosy hue which perfectly complimented her pale complexion. Nick remembered the times when they were together that he would sometimes just watch her sleeping in his arms - not in a creepy way, more just from sheer awe that this girl was his.
Had been his, he corrected himself instantly.
The sun was just about to rise, and Nick knew Jess wouldn't want to miss it, so he reached down to try and wake her. His hand initially headed towards her waist, but he caught himself at the last moment and flexed his fingers, moving up to gently nudge her on the shoulder instead. Jess let out a tiny squeak as she stirred, stretching out her limbs and groaning.
"Hey, Miller..." She looked up at him with a sleepy grin.
"Morning...I thought you'd like to see the day break considering we've been sat out here all night?" Nick pointed to the horizon as the sun's first light approached.
"You thought correctly." She yawned loudly and sat herself up, half heartedly brushing off the sand that clung to her skin.
The glow of sunlight started to slowly rise above the sea. An orange ball of beauty which somehow managed to fill Jess with warmth and happiness as the birds began to call out to one another that a new day was dawning. She felt as calm as the ocean, with its waves minimal in the morning light. Jess knew she would be okay. She'd get over this little blip and move forward, just like always. Glancing across at Nick and noticing the little furrow between his brow as he watched the sunrise, Jess leaned her weight in to nudge against him gently then rested her head on his shoulder.
"Beautiful, right?" She murmured.
"Beautiful..." He agreed, knowing they were talking about two completely different things.
The sun was making its way higher in the sky and the sound of daytime was getting louder: people on early shifts making their way to work, street cleaning vehicles humming down the sidewalks and the general bustle of everyday life stoking up again. Taking a deep breath, Nick got to his feet and brushed off the remaining sand from his clothes. Jess looked up at him and smiled, knowing it was time to burst their peaceful little bubble and leave.
"Shall we?" He offered his hand to her.
"Yeah, I guess we should..."
They headed off down the street in the early morning sun, arms bumping into one another as they walked slowly, but neither seeming to mind. A comfortable silence had settled between them, and each wore a smile on their face for reasons they weren't quite sure of.
As they reached the final stretch of their journey back to the loft, Nick saw Jess stifle yet another yawn and wince as she tried to stretch her back.
"Hey, Jess, I'm sorry I kept you out on the beach all night. I should have just offered to walk you home when you were gonna leave. I guess I wasn't thinking straight."
"Don't be silly, it's fine - honestly."
"But now you're all achey from sleeping on the sand when you probably wanted to be in your nice comfy bed at home."
"No, not at all Nick, it was..." she reached a hand up to rub his upper arm "...it was really nice, considering the circumstances." She smiled up at him, almost shyly "It was just what I needed..."