Brother III

Through the rest of the lunch, Jason's words trouble him, because he knows Jason is right. She's always said she always loved more, and that worries him. He's still holding her hand and she's holding on to his tightly. He doesn't miss the guarded concerned looks she keeps throwing his way, and he feels a little guilty. So he tries to focus on the conversation.

Jason's frowning at his phone. "Liv says her flight will be a little late."

"Mhm," says Jess, sipping her coffee and looks at Jason over the rim of her mug.

"I had… plans," mutters Jason, looking a little lost. "And she doesn't want me to pick her up either! That's weird."

"Jay…" starts Jess.

"I'm telling you, Tiny, something's off," says Jason, staring at his phone with narrowed eyes.

Jess giggles. "Don't think so much, Jay. It's just-"

"You know don't you?" asks Jason, eyes widening with realization.

Jess sets her mug down and looks at him with the straightest expression Nick has ever seen her wear. "I don't know what you're talking about, Jay."

"Right," Jason scoffs.

He doesn't ask any more question and as lunch is finished, everyone argues as to who would pay the bill.. While they argue, Jess shoots Liv a quick text telling her that lunch is done and is relieved that Liv's plan was in place. Nick wins the argument and he triumphantly pays for the lunch.

The three of them walk out of the restaurant, Nick and Jess holding hands.

"Well, I guess I'll see you tomorrow then, Tiny," says Jason, frowning at his phone. "Liv wants to meet at the… park? Huh. That's odd."

"Why?" asks Jess.

"Well, that's where I was planning… things," he mutters.

Jess scrunches her nose. "Okay, big brother."

"What, no, no," laughs Jason. "I was… Well, never mind, I gotta go now. I'll fill you in later."

"Alright," grins Jess. "See you soon, Jay."

"See you, Tiny," he smiles and kisses the top of her head.

"See you around Nick," he says, nodding at him.

Nick merely nods back, tightening his grip on Jess's hand as they watch Jason walk towards his car. Her thumb grazes his hand, and he feels some of his worry dissipate. Jason waves at them once more from his car as he pulls out.

"I can't believe he's getting married," she says happily, as the two of them walk towards Nick's car.

Nick smiles at her, noting that this the first genuine smile she's smiled in a while.

"Yeah?" he says, prompting her to speak more.

"Yeah," she nods. "I mean Liv and Jason have been together since forever! She was his crush in kindergarten," she giggles.

"Wow, they go way back," says Nick surprised.

"They're just so perfect!" she sighs cheerily. "I don't think I've ever seen them fight. Like ever. Well, maybe once," she laughs. "Liv told Jay to 'kiss her ass' when he'd said that proms were stupid and that was why they should just stay home. The sassy dumbass he is, he said 'gladly' and Liv was mad."

"That's cute…." says Nick chuckling a little as he opens the door to his car. "I think."

As Jess puts on her seatbelt and Nick revs up the engine, Jess says, "I love them so much. If it wasn't for the two of them, Mom and Dad's divorce would've been so much worse for me to deal with it."

Nick nods in understanding as he pulls out of the parking. That seems to explain how Jess could possibly be so optimistic about love and marriage despite her parents' divorce. As he starts driving home, Jess is humming now and seems a little bit more like herself.

That evening, Liv and Jason announce their engagement to everyone at the Griffin. Everyone's excited and happy.

It comes to light that Jason had been planning to propose to Liv that very afternoon in the same park, and somehow, Liv had gotten wind of that.

"And of course, I had to beat him to it," she shrugs with a laugh.

Jewellery store receipts were apparently a dead giveaway and should be burnt before being trashed. And when you know someone all your life, you can almost read their mind with the smallest of leads.

When Jason had wanted Liv to come to Los Angeles a week after she'd found the receipt, she had just known. The park was where they'd lost track of time and had been stuck in there for a whole night when out on an assignment while interning with a magazine in Los Angeles. That night, the L-word was dropped, and what better place to propose in?

"So romantic," agrees Cece.

After some celebratory champagne (on the house, of course) and Liv telling Jason off about his arrest, Cece went home with some random guy, much to Schmidt's chagrin. Winston left soon after as well, followed by Jason and Liv because they had a flight to catch the next day and there was packing to do.

Jess waits for Nick to finish up at the bar, and the two of them walk home together, hand-in-hand.

Jess can't stop thinking about the future tonight, and she worries about the future of her relationship with Nick. The last year had been one of the best in her life, but now it felt like they were stuck in the same place. She did wonder if that was such a bad thing, but not knowing what was next, if there was anything at all, bothered her. She knows that Nick knows something's up, and she wants to talk to him about it so bad, but she can't.

Nick can tell from the nervous darting of Jess's eyes that she's dying to talk to him about something but that she's hesitating. Besides, there's also how she's unusually silent. Nick doesn't really have to guess what she wants to talk to him about; Jason's words echo in his mind again and he knows that her brother getting engaged has affected her in some way.

Despite himself, he sighs and tugs at her hand, pulling them both to a stop on the pavement.

"Alright, what is it?" he asks.

"What?" she asks.

"I know something's bothering you," he says, now taking both her hands in each of his.

She sighs and leans in him a little, and he kisses the top of her head.

"I was just... thinking about our future..." she murmurs into his chest. She doesn't tell him to what extent she's already thought about it.

"I figured as much," he says quietly. "Jess, I just think that... Look, I love you, alright? But I... I just can't... I've thought about our future too," he lies, chickening away from the truth in the last minute because he loves her, and what if it drove her away.

"Really?" she says, surprised, looking up at him.

"Yeah," he says thickly. "I mean, not to the detail or anything but-"

"No," she says quickly. "That's-That's fine. You've thought about it... So-so you do see a future? For us?"

"Of course!" he says, and he means it.

"Okay," she says and kisses his chin.

"Okay?"

"Okay. That's enough for me," she says because she knows just telling her that much was difficult for him, and she doesn't want to push him. "I just thought that you didn't see us going anywhere, you know? I was just-"

He interrupts her with a kiss, and her arms circle his neck as she pulls him closer to her.

"I love you," he says, the second he draws back to breathe.

"I love you too," she smiles.

"I love you," he repeats. "And we'll make this work."

"I think so too," she says and she genuinely believes it.

...

The next day, Nick and Jess are seeing Liv and Jason off. Jess is parking the car after dropping Jason and Nick at the entrance with the luggage, and Liv is keeping her company. The two men stand in silence for a few seconds, before Jason looks at Nick thoughtfully. Nick looks back coolly, feeling slightly more at ease after having spoken to Jess last evening.

"Don't hurt her, Nick," says Jason at last, and without flinching, he continues. "Or I will end you."

"Funny, Cece said something similar to me when Jess first moved in," chuckles Nick nervously.

Jason just laughs knowingly, and Nick says quietly, "I won't. Hurt her, I mean. I really do love her, you know."

"Oh, I don't doubt that," says Jason. "But I know she loves you too, and that's why you can probably hurt her a lot more," he says.

Before Nick can say anything, Jess and Liv return.

"Well, nice meeting you, Nicholas," says Jason airily, holding his hand out.

"Pleasure's all mine," says Nick, shaking Jason's hand.

"You take care of her," he says, throwing an arm around Liv's waist.

Nick's hands slip around Jess's waist and he pulls her into his side. "I will."


A couple of days later, they wake up to one of their worst hangovers.

In a fit of panic, Nick tells Jess that he wants to be a trucker in space and that he pictures his wife and kids living on Mars Landing. She disagrees.

She finally confesses the full extent of her, to know that they were on the same page. Everyone needs a plan, she says. Nick disagrees.

They agree that they're better off as friends.


The next time Nick meets Jason is three years later when after coming home to her empty bedroom, he chases after Jess to Portland.


A/N: I wouldn't be surprised if most of you don't like this, oops. I know this might be disappointing, but I built all that tension up on purpose for it to implode in Mars Landing.

I wanted to make more sense of that out-of-the-blue fight in ML, with all the "I don't want to have to change" and the "I'm not myself" sort of thing.

More legit drama in "Season 7-with-Jason-where-Nick-follows-Jess-to-Portland" AU, I promise.