A/N: So...here's my attempt at getting back into this story again...because it's not abandoned yet, even if it's been waayyyy too long since I updated...
Hope you guys really enjoy this chapter, because it's been a long time coming!
There were only two more weeks left in this summer semester. And Jess was ecstatic. Not necessarily for the end of the semester, but because that meant she was a week closer to seeing Huxley again.
Just three more weeks and she would be able to hold him and squeeze him and give him all the cuddles and kisses she wanted.
And yes, she had been working with these adults for the whole semester and it didn't seem like anything was getting through to them.
Finally, she had a breakthrough!
One of her students wrote an amazing story using loads of descriptive imagery!
And of course, Jess just had to share the good news with everyone in the loft. She even handed over the story to Nick to read and see how big this breakthrough was.
Two hours later, Nick was coming out of his room, holding the story in his hands. "Guys, listen to this," he said, standing in front of her, Schmidt, and Winston in the living room.
Jess looked up from her grading, taking slight notice that the papers were much more crumpled than when she gave it to him. What did she expect after handing it off to Nicholas Miller though?
"By day, I'm a plumber. By night, I'm a stalker," Nick started, reading off the story Jess had almost memorized from how much she read it herself.
God, she was so happy about this breakthrough! "You read it!" she exclaimed.
Nick ignored her. "I sit in the bushes wearing a gimp costume, stalking my prey."
"He's the first person I got to use first person narrative. I'm an amazing teacher," Jess sang her own praises.
Winston and Schmidt shared their excitement over the story as well.
"My prey is a deer. Her eyes are big, too big. Like bug eyes…"
Nick's voice suddenly trailed off, looking up at Jess.
Jess met his gaze, a proud smile on her face, still unable to believe this amazing breakthrough.
She tilted her head a little, as Nick continued starting at her. "Nick?"
He blinked, widening his eyes, then squinting them as he stared at her still.
Jess began frowning. She wondered when's the last time they snuck him some vitamins and her hand was already reaching for her phone, just in case they had to call an ambulance. "Are you okay?"
Nick quickly shook his head. "Yeah. Yeah, I'm…" He looked back down to the papers in his hands. "Before she can blink those big bug eyes…" He looked up at her again. "Bug eyes…" he repeated, softer and not taking his eyes off of her for a moment.
Jess furrowed her brows. Hearing him say it, that phrase seemed to remind her of something. Something way back buried in her mind…
Whatever memory it reminded her of could wait. She wanted to share this breakthrough and Nick wasn't reading the story right.
She stood up and grabbed the papers from him. "Sit down, let me finish reading it." She cleared her throat, watching as he sat down. She noticed Winston and Schmidt exchanging glances and mouthing words to each other. Probably trying to figure out what was going on with Nick.
"Before she can blink those big bug eyes, I'm stabbing her," Jess picked up where Nick left off. "I stab and stab. I love stabbing. After all the stabbing—it's repetitive—I wash my hands in her dark red blood." She lowered the pages, looking at the men in front of her and hoping they realized how amazing this piece of work was. "Do you hear that detail?"
Nick shook his head "Bug eyes…" he mumbled.
Jess rolled her eyes. "Okay, yeah, it's weird that he used bug eyes when he was describing a deer, but-"
Nick jumped from his seat, obviously gaining some kind of composure over himself. "This man is psychotic."
"It's fiction. There's no such thing as a gimp costume."
"No, gimp costume's a real thing."
"That's a real thing."
"You've seen me in one before."
"I just don't think you should be in a room with this creep, twice a week. It is not safe. Think about Huxley."
"Are you worried about me, Miller?"
"Yeah, I'm a little worried about you! You've got Huxley and I'm just trying to look out for both of you! And if you won't do anything about it, then I'm taking it into my own hands. I'm doing a little investigation."
"Investigating? Please," Jess rolled her eyes as Nick moved to squeeze himself in between Schmidt and Winston, taking the latter's computer to start his 'investigation.' "You're just gonna Google his name."
"I am way beyond that."
Jess shook her head, watching Nick type away at the computer with Winston and Schmidt looking at the screen as well.
"You're typing his name into Google," Schmidt pointed out. "We can all see the screen."
Nick slammed the computer shut and jumped up. "This is a private investigation!" He stormed off to his room, but just before walking down the hallway, he stopped and turned around. "And what the hell is his problem using 'bug eyes'?!"
Nick paced the small area of his room.
Who the hell even used that phrase to describe someone?!
Well, he did, obviously. But he was high and drunk and part of him still didn't believe that encounter even happened.
Then he looked at Jess. And she was staring right back at him, waiting for him to finish reading the story.
Except he couldn't.
Because she stared at him with her bug eyes.
Nick growled, sitting back on the bed and picking up the computer again to resume his investigation on this psychotic student of hers.
She blinked at him, her blue eyes looking even bigger behind the lens of her glasses.
"Whoa, you have huge eyes. Like a bug. You have bug eyes!"
Nick squeezed his eyes shut, trying at the same to remember and forget the events of that night he believed to have sex with an alien that had bug eyes.
Because for some reason, the face was starting to clear up and those bug eyes still stayed the same, but now they belonged to Jessica Day.
This was not good. This was not good because if he really thought about it, that happened almost eight years ago and…
Nick didn't leave his room, for the rest of the day. Because he did not want to have to see Jess. No, that would make his thoughts all that more confusing and he just needed to focus on finding everything he could about this student of hers.
A knock on his door brought him out of his investigation. "Don't come in!" he called out, clicking on to page 164 on his Google search.
Still, the door opened. What did he expect considering the roommates he had? He glanced up. At least it wasn't Jess.
"Be honest with me, Nick," Schmidt said as he settled down onto Nick's bed. "What's my pogo?"
Nick frowned as he looked up. "What are you talking about?"
"Winston said you guys talk about me too! Just like we talk about his pogo!"
Nick rubbed his face. "Look, I-I don't…you know what? Just get out."
"But I have to know!"
Schmidt gave a little huff as he got up. Except he didn't move any closer to the door. "You know…you seemed to have trouble getting through that story this morning."
Nick pursed his lips as more images of Bug Eyes and her alien face morphing into Jess' face. "It was a violent story," he growled.
"You, um…you got stuck on the bug eyes parts…"
Nick slammed the computer shut and pointed to this door. "Out. I want you out of my room!"
"I just want to make sure that you're okay."
Nick clenched his jaw. Was he okay? He was beginning to think that maybe he had sex with Jess all those years ago and it was really close to when Huxley was probably conceived and he just did not like the way his mind was following this path and he just wanted to go back to when bug eyes was a weird alien sex dream that he had that may or may not have happened in real life.
"I'm fine," Nick finally answered, looking up to Schmidt and hoping he wouldn't see through the lie.
"Because…well, I'm worried. I mean, we all kind of worry about you. It's actually kind of your pogo…I think Jess has even started crushing up vitamins into your food."
Nick took a deep breath as he got up from the bed. He grabbed Schmidt's shoulder, led him out of his room, and shut the door in face, despite all of his protests.
"So I wanted to talk about your creative imagery assignments," Jess said, leaning against her desk as she addressed her small class of adults. "Wow, guys. I really felt like I was buried under a giant, gleaming, powdery avalanche of adjectives."
And no, she did not care that Nick continued to insist that Edgar's story was a sign of psychosis. Nick just didn't understand anything about creative writing classes.
Her plan was to discuss their work a little bit more, dig into the meanings and why did they chose the adjectives they did.
But then the door to her classroom and freaking Nick Miller came in wearing a horrible disguise of sunglasses and a hat and…
Jess tilted her head a little. He seemed to be growing in a mustache.
"Don't mean to interrupt," Nick said in an exaggerated Chicago accent. "I just hear you're the best teacher of adults?"
Jess refrained from rolling her eyes. "Oh, no."
"I wonder if there's room for one more?"
"No!" He was going to ruin her class!
"How you guys doing? I'm Julius Pepperwood."
And Jess felt her blood freeze in her veins.
Why did he come up with that name?! Why was he…?
"Whoa, you have huge eyes. Like a bug. You have bug eyes! What are you like an alien or something?"
Jess giggled. "Sure! I'm an alien!"
"Okay, alien with bug eyes. I'm Julius Pepperwood."
Even though the mustache was barely there, she could easily picture it fully grown in and Nick's face matched exactly with Julius Pepperwood and…
"I'm an ex-cop, ex-Marine. I'm here to learn how to write short fiction."
Jess swallowed hard. "Um, not now Ju-Julius…" She closed her eyes and tried to control her breathing.
When she opened them again, Nick was now sitting down and the rest of her class were staring at her expectantly.
Nick was starting to go on about Chicago and all the obvious traits someone from Chicago should have.
Jess tried really hard to get her class under control again. She would not have Nick ruining her class period.
But he said he was Julius Pepperwood!
Jess cleared her throat, "So for a fun follow-up…" Her voice cracked still and she tried to address her entire class, but her eyes kept on looking over to Nick and it actually seemed like he was trying to look everywhere but her and-
The door opened again, bringing in another distraction.
"Sorry, I'm late."
"No problem, Edgar," Jess said with a small wave of her hand. It gave her more time to gather her thoughts and try not to connect dots that were connecting on their own.
For the first time since he came in, Nick made eye contact with her, mouthing the words, 'Is that him?!'
God, what was his deal with thinking Edgar was a killer and coming in and disrupting her class and calling himself Julius Pepperwood?!
"We were just going over descriptive imagery." Jess shook her head at Nick, praying that he would stop his nonsense.
"I'm sorry, dear," Nick said, getting up from his seat. "I can't hear you."
"Mr. Pepperwood?" Jess thought she might choke on the words. She couldn't believe she was calling Nick that name. She needed some air. She needed to get out of there…
"I'm gonna move closer if you don't mind." Nick started making his way to sit next to Edgar, bringing him even closer to Jess.
And it was close enough that she could actually start seeing a mustache on him clearly and… "No!" She cleared her throat at her sudden outburst. "No, you don't have to go…stay over there."
Nick ignored her, looking down at Edgar's work. "How you doing, pal? I'm Julius Pepperwood."
Nick began interrogating Edgar and Jess felt like she couldn't breathe.
She was 98% sure Nick was Julius Pepperwood. He was Julius Pepperwood and Huxley's…
"Um, how about we get into groups of four and you guys can discuss the four classifications of conflict. We talked about it last week and I'm sure you can come up with plenty to talk about in your groups. And I will be right back."
Jess fled the room. This could not be happening.
As soon as Jess left the classroom, Nick felt as if he could breathe a little easier. He knew he wasn't ready to see her. Especially after what he thought he might have remembered and maybe they met way before she moved into the building and…
No! He wasn't going to think about that! He had to focus because he was almost positive Edgar was a killer and going by the drawings in his notebooks of a deer that looked weirdly like Jess and why did he have to put bug eyes on the Jess deer?!
"What's wrong with that deer?" Nick finally asked him.
Edgar shrugged and started giving some kind of story about a hunter and stalking his prey and-
"No, no, no. The eyes man. Why do you gotta give that deer bu-weird eyes?"
Edgar shifted uncomfortably. "I can't ever get the eyes right. I'm a graphic novelist and the eyes are the one thing I can't do."
So maybe Edgar wasn't psycho.
Jess would be glad to hear the news.
If Nick could actually bring himself to talk to her, which he didn't think that was ever going to happen in a million years plus two months.
It might be hard to actually do since Jess was Jess and she would immediately figure out that he was avoiding her and she would want to know and wouldn't leave him alone until she got an answer.
And he knew that he could never tell her. There was no way she could remember it was him. And it was fine like that. Because they were actually friends now and okay, maybe sometimes he was attracted to her, but that had to be because they did actually sleep together even if it was a repressed memory and Huxley was an amazing kid and Nick knew he would screw everything up somehow.
When Jess finally came back in, it was time for class to be dismissed. Nick held his breath, looking for the quickest way to exit to avoid her, but he didn't have to look that hard. Jess just made a quick comment about no one signing up for office hours and then she was leaving the classroom.
If Nick wasn't preoccupied with his own thoughts, he would've thought that Jess was trying to avoid him too.
As soon was he walked into the loft, he just managed to catch a glimpse of Jess dragging Cece into her room and shutting the door. He looked over to Winston and Schmidt who were staring down the hall with concerned glances.
Then they looked at him.
"So how did crashing Jess' class go?" Winston asked.
"Fine, it went fine. Why are you asking?" Nick clapped his hands together and rocked a little on the balls of his feet.
"I was just wondering…"
"I said it went fine! Stop with the questions! I have nothing to say or admit! I plead the sixth!" Nick yelled.
Schmidt frowned. "Man, you went to law school. Shouldn't you know it's the fifth?"
"I don't know! I don't care! I plead them all! Just stop interrogating! You aren't getting nothing out of me!" he yelled, before practically running to his room and slamming the door shut. He collapsed on the bed.
He could never tell anyone about this. He just had to continue living his life as if he didn't know anything and maybe then he wouldn't screw things up with Jess and Huxley.
Cece softly closed the door behind her. Jess had finally managed to fall asleep and Cece didn't want to disturb her.
She didn't even bat an eye when she found Schmidt sitting at the table with his bare feet in Winston's lap and what looked like a gardening tool in Winston's hand.
"Cece? What are you still doing here? I thought you left already?" Winston asked, the gardening tool hovering just over Schmidt's feet.
She let a small sigh, sitting across from them and making it a point to keep Schmidt's feet out of view. "Where's Nick?"
"He left for work."
Cece gave a small nod. "Jess figured it out."
Schmidt let out an exasperated groan. "She figured out her pogo without even having to ask any of us?!"
"What? No!" Cece leaned forward and lowered her voice. "She figured out about her and Nick."
Both Winston's and Schmidt's eyes widened. Then the two exchanged a look and focused back on her. "Nick knows too."
"Not sure, he hasn't actually told us, but he just looks guilty and this morning when he was reading some story he freaked out with the phrase 'bug eyes' and kept looking at Jess with this really weird look." Winston explained. "So he definitely knows."
Cece shook her head lightly. "Well, Jess figured it out when Nick showed up to her class today and started calling himself Julius Pepperwood."
Schmidt let his head fall back and groaned. "Why are they such idiots?"
"Jess swore she isn't going to tell anyone because she doesn't want to ruin things."
"And I bet you anything that's exactly the same thing that Nick is thinking."
"So what do we do? Everyone knows, but not everyone knows that everyone knows and I'm sure everyone wants to prevent everyone from knowing that everyone knows, except for the ones that don't know that everyone knows."
Cece squinted a little at Winston's phrasing. Surely there was an easier way to put it. She shook her head to clear it a little. "Let's all agree to just not say anything. Jess is…I don't think she's taking this very well and I'm sure Nick isn't either."
Schmidt scoffed. "We told him to have a good evening at his job and he almost flipped the table."
"We have to make sure they keep it together and they're both going to have to come clean at some point. But in the meantime, act normal."
Jess knew for a fact that if she ever saw Nick again, she would quite literally die.
She also knew that sooner or later, she was going to have to see him. Especially when Huxley came back and the first person he would want to see would most definitely be Nick.
Eventually, she would talk to him again. She just had to get used to the idea.
That Nick was…
Nick was Huxley's biological father.
And sometimes she thought that maybe this wouldn't ruin everything. Because Nick and Huxley already had formed this incredible bond and would it really make a huge difference if she introduced the word 'dad' into their relationship?
Knowing Nick, it most definitely would.
When she came home from that fateful class with 'Julius Pepperwood,' Cece was at the table with Schmidt and Winston. She bit her lip to keep from saying anything as she grabbed Cece's hand and dragged her to her room.
As she was closing her door, she heard the front door open again and she could only assume it was Nick Miller.
She didn't look back to check. She just made sure her door was locked before collapsing onto her bed and crying.
Cece asked what happened and why she was crying.
Jess couldn't come up with one concise answer.
Because she was an idiot that had unprotected sex.
Because she missed Huxley.
Because Nick Miller was an idiot.
Because she had become friends with the father of her child and hadn't even realized it.
Because she knew things would never be the same between her and Nick.
Somehow, she managed to string a sentence together and Cece knew.
She did make sure to swear Cece to secrecy. She didn't want Nick or anyone else to ever know about this.
"Babe, don't you think he should know?" Cece asked, stroking Jess' hair as she rested her head in her lap.
Jess shook her head, wiping away a few stray tears. "You know how Nick is. He'll get weird and probably won't want anything to do with either of us anymore."
"But you're going to start avoiding him now, aren't you? Don't you think he'll know something's up?"
Jess grabbed a pillow and covered her face with it. "I don't want to think about it," she grumbled.
That night, she had all kinds of dreams of different scenarios of what might happen.
Nick was thrilled and immediately fell into the role of being a good dad.
Nick went into shock and they had to take him to a hospital after he had a heart attack which he then fell into a coma.
Nick and Julius Pepperwood were actually identical twins and they entered a poly-relationship.
Nick didn't say anything when Jess told him. Instead, he walked out of the loft leaving Jess alone.
That last dream woke Jess up at four in the morning and she couldn't go back to sleep.
She finally got up around six, just before Schmidt came back from his morning jog and Winston from his night job.
And Nick would still be asleep and if she timed herself right, Jess could make it out of the apartment without seeing any of them.
She managed to go a full day without seeing any of them.
Schmidt was the first one she saw. Jess greeted him the way she normally would.
If he picked up on any awkwardness, he didn't show it. But if Jess really looked closely and thought about it, she could see a hint of pity in his eyes.
Then Schmidt came out of his room complaining about someone stealing his lotion and how expensive it was and maybe even that it was brought down on a donkey's back from Machu Pichu. Jess couldn't be sure because then Schmidt began making accusations that Nick was the one to do it and Jess was almost sure Nick would come out of his room to defend his name.
Jess quickly made an excuse and left the loft.
For the next two weeks, Jess avoided Nick without any kind of issue. For the first few days, she thought he might show up at her class again in his Julius Pepperwood disguise and still carry on with his investigation on Edgar. She even asked Winston about it a few days later too.
"Oh yeah, he figured out that the dude's just a graphic artist."
Jess felt like she could breath a little easier, knowing Nick would not be showing up unannounced to her class again.
Those two weeks, Jess didn't even see a glimpse of Nick. And finally, she was done with school and needed to grade final papers, but still she didn't see Nick. Part of her wondered if maybe he was avoiding her? But what reason did he have to avoid her?
Now, she had a full week with absolutely nothing to do since Huxley still had one more week left in Portland.
She knew her time spent avoiding Nick would come to an end. She had hoped by that point, she would be at least somewhat comfortable with the idea and could maybe have a normal conversation with him.
That wasn't the case though as she walked out of her room and came face to face with Nick Miller.
Jess swallowed hard. "There was a knock…"
Nick nodded, meeting her eyes for a second before quickly looking away. "Yeah, I think it's the front door…"
"I can get it," they said simultaneously.
Jess forced a laugh. "Oh, um, no, this is actually your place. I'm moving out in a week."
Nick matched her forced laughter. "Yeah, but you probably get more company than I do."
Whoever was at the front door continued with their knocking.
"Okay, well I'll get it."
"You're probably right, I should answer it."
They both took a few steps to the front door before pausing, realizing it still wasn't settled who was actually going to open the front door.
And they finally held eye contact for more than a second and Jess could see the nervous energy in his face and…
Was Nick hiding something from her?
The door opened before they could settle who would actually be the one to open it.
"Look who I ran into outside," Winston said as he walked in, carrying a couple bags from the grocery store.
Jess looked away, if only to look at something other than Nick.
By instinct, Jess bent down to catch Huxley as he launched himself into her arms.
"Oh my God, Huxley! What are you doing here?!" Jess exclaimed, tilted her head back to look at her son (their son, oh God, she wasn't going to be able to do this…).
"We wanted to surprise you!"
Jess looked away from Huxley to her mom that was standing at the front door with two suitcases and a wide smile.
"Nick! I'm back!" Huxley squirmed out of Jess' arms and he threw himself into Nick's arms too.
Nick easily caught him. "Huxley! Um…hi?"
Jess looked over at them. Father and son.
How had she not realized it before?