The elevator door opens and Nick and Jess step out in sync with their right foot. He quickly falls behind because it's polite, according to Winston, and it's only a little walk down the corridor.
"Thank you for dinner."
They're standing in front of the loft door, the way they should at the end of a proper date. The guy bids his good night, maybe even gives the girl a little kiss, then waits until she's safely inside before leaving and calling it a night. With them, however, he'd have to wait a minute or two before 'leaving' since they live under the same roof.
"Thank you? The date's not over, so don't thank me yet."
Nick takes her hand and leads her to the staircase that goes up to the roof. She follows without question, climbing each step carefully in her wobbly heels (the best new pair she could get before the date) with him trailing behind.
At the very top, he asks her to close her eyes.
"Yes. C'mon, Jess, I actually took the time to do something that'd make tonight special. Please close your eyes?"
Jess sighs dramatically but obliges. She reaches for his hand and he has the other on the rooftop's doorknob.
He pushes the door open and she can hear the click of the lock being released. Her heart starts beating fast and she's getting too excited. Unknowingly tugging his hand when catching her breath, she almost falls backward. Nick approaches her and holds on to her waist.
"Not ready?" he laughs while kissing her head.
Jess finds her balance and replies, "Now I'm ready."
He warns her to watch her step, and then brings her out for the surprise. She's positioned to get a panoramic view of it all.
"Open your eyes."
The first thing Jess sees is the big bouquet of roses straight ahead of her, held in a crystal vase on a small table. Tinkle lights illuminate the roof, blurring where the night sky ends with its own glistening stars. There is a picnic blanket set on the floor with a basket holding down one corner.
Her eyes reflect the glow of the night, her face brightening up with each little thing she spots as part of the date; his eyes are on her, feeling accomplished every time her mouth forms an ooh shape.
"This is how you end a date," Jess finally says, satisfied. She tiptoes to kiss Nick's forehead, smiling at how pleased he seems by her agreement.
Her hand in his, he walks her over to the picnic blanket.
"We already ate."
"Then what's in the basket?"
They sit down and Nick pulls the basket towards him. He opens it and unveils what's inside.
"I couldn't think of what to put in. I realized we would have already eaten so it would have been a waste to put in food. Unless you have a monster appetite. But I do have this," he announces as he pulls out a handmade item hidden from Jess' view by the basket's other half's flap.
"My feeling stick?"
"I remade it since I broke your original one. Now your travel size's not alone."
Her lips curl into a little grin and she gives him a peck on his cheek. "You are too sweet," she states while stroking his face.
They lay together quietly for a long time. No words need to be said; it's just them, the night and the stars. Her head is on his arm, staring up; he's grazing his finger on the skin her dress exposes.
Nick can barely see her face, only the curves of her cheeks and nose.
"Jess, I...I need to tell you something."
They sit up and she dusts him off before doing the same for herself and fixing her hair.
Her eyes are wide, expectant.
He clears his throat, suddenly nervous at what it is he has to tell her. A small bead of sweat rolls down his back, adding to how uncomfortable he already is. But Jess doesn't notice any of this, lucky for him.
"Uh... Um..." Nick stutters.
She tries to catch his eyes since he keeps averting them away, darting from the blue plaid blanket to the remade feeling stick to the gleaming stars.
Something's unsettled in her stomach. Her legs are repositioned from underneath her right side to outstretched in front of her. She reaches for Nick's hand, the one thing he isn't being fidgety with.
"What's wrong?" Jess' voice is low, afraid of his answer to her question.
He takes a breath and finally makes eye contact.
"Nothing's wrong." Confident. "It's just that –" Not confident.
"It's just that," Nick tries again. "I haven't really been with anyone since Caroline and Julia...and Caroline again. And I took it hard when Caroline dumped me. The first time. I even wore her shirt while crying over her! And then I thought I'd feel the way I felt about her when I was Julia. But then she gave me a cactus. Trying again with Caroline, it was supposed to fix everything that went wrong the first time. We were supposed to live together. I didn't even feel anything when we ended it for good." He pauses. "Anyway, what I wanted to tell you is..." This is where he can't get the right words out. "Well, what I'm trying to say is –"
"Nick, what are you trying to say?" She's become a bit impatient after hearing him talk about Julia and Caroline. Ugh, Caroline.
"I... I kinda..." There’s a hesitation before he continues. "Love you."
"You kinda love me?"
"I love you."
He watches her, anxious for a reaction. She's still and quiet for some time, and then he sees it: the look in her eyes. The way it lights up when she's talking to him. He's caught it plenty of times and thought he was being full of himself to think it was because of him, but he never saw it when she was talking to anyone else. Her eyes would literally twinkle, and paired with the smile she's wearing right now, Nick's relieved.
"I love you too."
He stands up and offers his hand. She takes it and practically flies up by his pull.
Slow music plays from a broken radio hidden from sight. He tried fixing it in his own special way, but the jazz plays well enough to find a rhythm in to dance to.
"What song is this?" Jess' arms around his neck.
"I have no idea." Nick's hands on her waist.
Their heads are close.
"Can I thank you now?"
"You kinda already have."
"The date is still not over."
Her head is on his chest now and they're swaying to the gravelly vocals coming from the music box.
Hours before the sun rises, he lifts her up and carries her back to the loft because she's practically fallen asleep in the lull of the night.
Almost completely out of it, Nick has to help take off her shoes before peeling off his own and jacket.
"Thank you..." Jess mutters under her breath, forced out through her drowsy state.
He doesn't reply with anything; instead he brushes her hair away from her face, and then lies down next to her.
Eyes wide open, he stays awake until morning arrives. His mind's consumed with how big of a step he had taken that day (or rather, the night before). All he feels now is the comfort of her being in the same place.
A little part of him, though, also feels a little stupid for letting Jess believe, the first time she hears it, that he only kinda loves her.