A/N: Leave reviews, please, thanks ;) 3
Jess's room had been empty since she'd moved out nearly a month ago. Nick had insisted that they didn't really need a new roommate, secretly nursing hope that she might move back in. Schmidt hadn't argued because he was still upset about Jess moving out.
Nick felt like he was walking on eggshells in the loft. He felt guilty and unsure of everything. He knew the underlying disappointment emanating from Schmidt was well deserved, that Winston was trying not to look at Nick any differently because irrespective of everything, they were still childhood friends and as for Cece, she wouldn't even look at him and he knew that her restraint was only for Schmidt's sake.
"Hey, Nick?" Jess called from the kitchen on one of her visits, a month after she'd moved out.
"Yeah?" he replied instantly, looking up from the book he was reading at the dining table, feeling his heartbeat increase just a little bit.
It was a rather strange thing that seemed he seemed to feel these days. The last few weeks, he'd felt like a packet of pressure, just walking around the loft whenever Jess was around. He wasn't sure what it was that he was stressing out about, but it was something he felt by her mere presence.
Jess on her part spoke to him quite normally and seemed to behave perfectly soundly around him. But Nick felt that there were the subtlest of changes in her behaviour that made him nervous. Sometimes, he wondered if he was imagining it because of the guilt that seemed to consume him most of the time.
There was always at least a foot of space between them that she struggled to make sure didn't decrease. Before she'd left for jury duty, despite being exes, they would sit side by side on the couch, barely any gap between them.
And it was the way she spoke to him that left a white hot pain in his heart. She would talk to him, but never about herself anymore. She asked after him, but didn't press him to talk to her like she used to. She didn't laugh at his jokes with the genuine warmth anymore. Her laughter always seemed forced around him and she had stopped looking him the eye.
And this new sort of behaviour seemed reserved just for him. Maybe he was in over his head and he was just misreading the entire thing, but that was part of what made it frustrating. He couldn't tell if he was imagining all of it because of the nagging guilt. Maybe it was telling him that she should be behaving that way with him.
He felt strangely on edge because after what he'd done, her calm was unnerving him and he wished she would just scream at him or even ignore him. The way she was around him, talking to him casually, pretending like nothing had happened, pretending like what he'd done was 'okay' was frustratingly despairing. He couldn't even accuse her of behaving strangely or confront her about it, because she was talking to him quite normally. Almost.
So these days, whenever she called for him, he would find himself get nervous with anticipation, hoping that she'd say something, anything, that would ease his guilt even a little. Even if it meant a sound yelling at him, reprimanding him for what he'd done.
"...Nick?" she called again.
Jumping slightly, his gaze focused on her again. She was looking up from her laptop at him, a small frown on her face. Shaking his head, wishing that for once, he could turn his thoughts off, he looked at her questioningly.
"I asked you if Bonnie is coming for the wedding?" she said, staring at him
And just like every time, his anticipation was for nothing because nowadays, every time she called him, whatever followed was almost always mundane. All they spoke about these days were mundane things, and it was driving him insane. He simply didn't want to believe that their relationship had fallen apart to become this irreparable.
"Yeah, Jess," he sighed. "She told me last night that she'd come."
"Nick, are you okay?" she asked, frowning slightly in concern.
"Yeah, Jess. I'm fine," he said, clearing his throat.
"Alright," said Jess, nodding slightly before going back to looking at her laptop. And once again, Nick felt his heart sink because Jess never ever let go of things that easily. "And can I have Mrs. Schmidt's postal address, please? I'd like to send an official wedding invite to her too though we've spoken on the phone and stuff."
"Of course," he muttered and leaned towards the side-table to pick up a piece of paper and pencil. Scribbling down her address, he walked over to Jess and placed the piece of paper next to her. She looked up briefly from whatever she was typing and read the note.
"Great, thanks, Nick!" she said happily and went back to working.
He said nothing and after staring at her for a few seconds he quietly sat across her at the kitchen island. She tensed momentarily and her typing paused for the briefest second before she shook her head ever so slightly and continued to type.
"Jess, I'm the Best Man. Why won't you let me help you? I mean, two heads are better than one."
It was after Jess had begun to take up the duties of being the Maid of Honour quite seriously that Nick understood what Schmidt had meant by giving her some space. She had taken over his role of the Best Man as well and had absolutely refused taking his help with anything. She had told him that he really shouldn't worry about being the Best Man because now that she was back, she would happily take over.
That was unlike Jess because she was always one for teamwork and preparing for celebrations together. He suspected it had something to do with the fact that she just didn't want to work with him anymore but he hadn't been sure how to bring that up.
She looked at him with a smile, the same pasted-on, ingenuine smile that seemed to be reserved just for him these days.
"Nick, I know you don't like doing this stuff," she said, almost mechanically. He'd offered his help so many times since then, but she'd always shot him down. "It's fine, I can handle this."
"You're doing this alone, and I know you need help and-"
She chuckled in response, an almost hollow laughter. "No, Nick, really. It's alright. I'll do just fine. I love doing this stuff. Consider yourself one heck of a lucky Best Man because you can just kick back and… I don't know, just relax. I got this," she said, patting his hand lightly.
He tried to catch her eye and when he did, she just shrugged him nonchalantly, the smile still on her face as she turned back to her computer.
He didn't say anything, waiting for her to look up at him. After a moment of silence, she finally looked up at him questioningly.
"Are we…" he started and immediately felt his mind go blank. What was he supposed to ask her, and how. She was still looking at him, eyebrows slightly raised, lips pursed. "Is everything… I don't know… After that…"
"I don't know what you're talking about," she mumbled, looking away and back at her laptop.
And when she refused to look at him, it was the first time she had reacted to him outside of the chirpy demeanour ("demeanour", because he knew something was wrong) she was so hell bent on keeping.
"Jess…" he said again, and she tucked her hair behind her ear, a nervous tell, before she looked at him with that chirpy, not so real, smile again.
"Are we cool?" he asked, swallowing thickly.
Her smile just dropped a little bit, but she composed herself before letting out a seemingly breezy chuckle. When he quirked a brow at her, making it clear that he was expecting an actual answer, her laugh faded and she dropped her gaze back to the laptop screen.
"Yeah, Nick, we're cool. Cooler than we'll ever be," she said, laughing a little again. "Why do you ask?"
Nick started to get a little frustrated, because really, was she actually going to pretend she didn't know what he was talking about? He stared at her but she didn't look up at him, eyes fixed on the screen.
"Because I… When you…" and he stopped because she went still and he was almost completely sure that she had stopped breathing. Her fingers were nervously drumming against the table and Nick sighed. "You know what, never mind," he muttered.
She relaxed but didn't say anything. He could tell that she was still tense and her eyes seemed a little shifty. But that was just it; he didn't know what if he was imagining all that. He just couldn't get a good read of her anymore. It was like the depth that used to be her eyes had frozen over and he couldn't tell what was behind the surface anymore. He didn't remember a time when he couldn't tell what Jess was thinking and he'd never thought that day would come.
He had never felt more lost and without Jess to turn to, he felt like a blind man navigating a busy street filled with winding lanes and alleys.
"Well, alright, I'll leave you to it, then," said Nick defeatedly and stood up.
She merely nodded at him, flashing another smile at him before he walked away. He trudged back to his bedroom slowly and closed the door behind him. He breathed in deeply as he let himself fall on his bed and stared at the ceiling, his brain in active overdrive, thoughts racing a mile, a minute.
He couldn't stand the undercurrent tension. He couldn't stand not even knowing whether that tension was real or if he was just working himself up over nothing. But most importantly, he couldn't stand the distance between them and it was driving him up the wall that he couldn't talk to her about it, because nothing seemed wrong.
He had to talk to her about it.
A/N: Are y'all with me here? Do you understand what I'm trying to say, or rather, what Nick is trying to say? I'm genuinely asking 'cause I'm not sure if it's coming across very well.