I'd already worked out that I was going to write myself The Office (UK) fic for my birthday, so I was taken totally by surprise when an email from my lovely beta - alizarin_nyc, take a bow! - exulting over Winston's fixation on his cat prompted me to write this in a day. So even though I'm sure the upcoming episode will invalidate everything here, what the hell, have a second birthday fic! (You might need to have seen the commentary on the pilot to get the last joke of the fic.)
"Dressing Up, Dressing Down"
"What, you think that Dr. Claw couldn't have been black?" Winston asked, looking affronted; Jess still hadn't worked out how he cornered the market on indignation when every word out of his mouth was so very very crazy. He'd converted the coveted corner seat of their couch into Winston and Furguson's Good-Time Island, and there were beads and cat toys and rum everywhere. "Because we've all heard the man, and you better believe that Claw could have been a brother."
Her surprise had come from the fact that she'd actually not thought about Dr. Claw in years, much less considered his race. Jess silently blessed Nick for looking completely unfazed by how straight-up cuckoopants bananas Winston was being as he stroked Furguson's fur and whispered sweet nothings to the cat. Extra belly-biting for Nick later.
Except that Nick started frowning, like he was trying to think this through logically, and, okay, that was so adorable she thought she'd throw in some Betty Crocker roleplay just as a bonus, and then she heard him say, "Wait, I thought they showed him once and he was this bald white guy."
That got Winston's attention. Furguson's little smooshed-up face looked pissed that the belly-rubbing had stopped now that Winston was standing up. She should maybe stop thinking about how that was the same face Nick made whenever they were interrupted. "You are wrong. You are in every way wrong. You are even wronger about this than I am for using the word wronger. You are more wrong about this than you are about all of your moon-landing conspiracies. You know nothing about exploring space and time!"
There was silence, and then Jess ventured, "I think that one got away from you. You were arguing about bald white guys."
Nick was sputtering his indignation. "I have a very clear memory of Inspector Gadget turning Dr. Claw's chair around and seeing this like, little shrunken white-dude head. Like an egg, and I still think about that weird eggy head, and now that's all I'm gonna see the next time Schmidt chows down on egg salad."
"Wrong!" Winston said, reclaiming his declamatory fire. "You're thinking of Darth Vader, man! No one ever saw my man Claw's face! Just that wicked arm," he said, stooping to scoop up Furguson and resume petting. "Petting M.A.D. Cat like it was his job."
"No way, dude,” Nick said. "Vader was James Earl Jones! Jess, gimme your phone. I gotta prove that Winston's totally wrong about this," Nick said, fighting on like he even had a leg to stand on. Come on, even Jess remembered that whole Star Wars thing, and she was hardly the target demographic.
"Nuh-uh. Nope. See ya," Winston said, which would have been a great way to go out, but then he just sank back down on the couch.
Jess put her hand in Nick's, still empty and waiting for her phone. "Winston's right on this one. And the point was to ask what he was going as for Schmidt's Halloween party, and now we know he's going to be Claw, so . . ."
"No, I'm makin' a stand!" Nick shouted, going a little red when Winston closed his eyes and hummed like he really was on a tropical island.
"I'll make you stand. At attention," she murmured into Nick's ear, but she'd bungled the rhythm of it, so it took him longer than it should have to catch on.
"Oh, you mean attention," he said, then grinned. "I'll be your sexy twenty-one gun salute." He did his finger-guns, getting closer to her breasts with each shot.
"Not sexy," Winston said, cracking open an eye, and Jess was actually grateful, because she hadn't wanted to say that she thought those salutes were only for funerals, and she didn’t want to sex them up, if so. "And we better not hear any more biscuit-squeezing. Isn't that right, Furguson?"
"You could be Wonder Woman, maybe?" Nick said from underneath her.
"You got a thing for the dame in the invisible plane, handsome?" she asked, readjusting her fedora and getting back in the groove of things. "I hear she's a real firecracker, see?"
Nick surged up and tipped her on her back, knocking the fedora off as he went. "I got all the crackerjack I need right here," he said, pistoning his hips like nobody's goddamn business. "And yeah, I'd like to see you dressed up as Wonder Woman. Not as a one-time thing."
"Can do, can do," she said breathlessly, letting out a shriek of delighted triumph as she came again.
Nick was still going, all John Henry, skidding her across the bed, and she felt her fedora underneath her side. She arched her back and pulled it free, jamming it on Nick's head. Maybe he'd be a sexy PI for Halloween, in a men's trenchcoat, even. That would do a lot for her, but before she could even bring it up, he was making that face, so she squeezed extra-tight and let him come with a shout of his own.
It was still awkward, running into Schmidt alone. She loved him, she did, but he'd hurt Cece so badly that she'd looked like one of the walking wounded, eyes raw and eyelids tacky from hours of sobbing. Jess had done her best to just hold on and be absorbent.
Schmidt didn't look that much better; he'd said it was the estrogen, but his eyes were puffy and he looked off-balance. Jess had heard his confession in the restaurant, but she didn't know if he still didn't get that what he'd done couldn't be excused by not knowing how to handle female attention. It had gone far beyond that, diminishing Cece and making her feel stupid for following her heart.
"Hey, Schmidt," Jess said quietly.
"Good afternoon, Jessica," Schmidt said. It seemed he'd decided that a weird formality was his best approach these days, after the Captain debacle. "I sent out invitations to the Halloween festivities this morning."
"Yeah, what's up with that? Is this going to be another Danger party?" The thought soured her stomach. The idea of Schmidt trying to win Cece back with fire made her want to scream and tear all his hair out.
"I assure you it will not. Farewell," Schmidt said, picking up his laptop and a pomelo and retreating to his room. Jess stared after him, wondering what his costume might be; if Schmidt could dress up as James Bond just for publicity shots for one of his parties, who knew what nonsense he might pull for what promised to be a costume extravaganza?
"Just tell me!" Jess pleaded, giggling exhaustedly. Somehow tickling Nick to get his so-called big surprise out of him had backfired. "I hate surprises!" She jolted when his big toe drew a path up the sole of her left foot, knocking his headboard against the wall.
"You love surprises," Nick countered. "Even Furguson knows that." As he said that, the last of the egg crates fell off his wall, a strip of duct tape waving forlornly above it.
"Do I want to know?" Winston called from outside the closed door.
"Winnie! C'mere!" Nick yelled, but his voice was muffled by the egg crate, covering his face like a mask.
"Not even to erase the memory of Schmidt sexting my sister," she heard.
Nick threw the packing material away dramatically. "Just don't tell Jess about the big surprise!"
"Wait, how come Winston gets to know?"
"Because - none of your business."
"Well, can you at least tell me what you're going to be for Halloween?"
"No, it's part of the surprise."
"You're an international man of mystery." Actually, she could kind of see Nick doing what her cousin Jeff had done the year the second Austin Powers movie had come out: dress up as Dr. Evil and strap his infant to his chest, dressed as Mini-Me. She had to remember never to let Nick meet Jeff.
"You'll love it," Nick promised, putting his big hand between her shoulder blades and pulling her close for a kiss.
"Help," Jess said.
"I'm thinking you might have needed a little time to get used to the corset," Cece said, looking all cool and comfortable in her costume.
"No, ow, it fits fine, just that the boning got bent and is jabbing right into my boob."
"Please tell me this isn't how you do dirty talk with Nick."
"Don't you dare make me laugh right now. Just unlace me!" She could feel the pressure easing as Cece helped her out. "Ahhhhh." She examined the loosened corset. "Oh, yeah, this is an easy fix. Stay with me?"
"Jess, you're the whole reason I'm at this party," Cece said. She flopped back on the bed, her ponytail fanning out beneath her. "Plus someone's gonna have to lace you back up, and I didn't see that boyfriend of yours anywhere."
"No, he said he had to go get part of his costume." She threaded a needle, then pushed the boning back in its proper place, securing it with a thin layer of cloth. "Done."
Cece stood to commence the relacing. "You know, you look just like Lynda Carter in this get-up."
Jess reached behind to hug Cece's hips. "You look even better than the girl from Bend It Like Beckham. We should have a movie night soon."
"Yeah," Cece said, her fingers swift and light, like butterflies against her skin.
Jess did her best not to mention the name Schmidt as long as Cece was standing right next to her, but there was no denying that the man knew how to fill up an apartment. There actually seemed to be more guys than girls, and at least half the guys had shown up wasted, judging by the general handsiness. "Want to go up to the roof?" she asked Cece after the fourth groper got a hairsbreadth away from second base.
"God, yes." Cece looked grimly satisfied, though, enough that Jess was willing to bet she'd inflicted some damage of her own.
The roof was empty, despite the tubs of ice and beers. No, not quite empty, as she realized when she heard a loud squeak and looked up to see Winston swiveling dramatically to face them, the skyline limning his chair - Schmidt's ergonomic chair, actually - in neon. He was wearing what appeared to be a Viking's two-horned helmet, a black bodysuit, and silver gloves and boots. Nestled in the crook of one arm was Furguson, whom he stroked tenderly.
Cece laughed, the first happy sound she'd made in weeks. "Get yours, Dr. Claw!"
Winston beamed at her and did the voice. Poorly, but still. "I'll get you next time, Gadget! Next time!" Furguson appeared unmoved by the passion in his voice. Jess wondered if he'd been hoping for more of a reaction from his feline friend, because he slipped back into his normal voice to ask, "Hey, one of you wanna hand me a beer? He doesn't like being moved. Or dripped on. Never mind, I'll figure it out."
When Cece located not just a Heisler but a cozy too, Winston let her pet Furguson with only minimal supervision.
"Nick? Wait, I can barely hear you. Hang on, I'm going into my room -" she said, clapping one hand over her free ear to try to block out the noise of all those bodies in the living room. She swung open the door and sat on her bed. "Okay, where are you?"
"I'll be there soon. Can you grab Schmidt and Winston and get to the roof?"
"Um, yeah -"
"Meet you up there!" he said, then hung up.
She hadn't seen Schmidt as she'd made her way through the loft, so she tried his room. He was sitting in his chair, staring out of the window, dressed like he usually was.
"Hey, Schmidt," she said uncertainly, because she'd kind of been expecting him to have a kickline of chorus girls flanking him all evening, "can you come up to the roof? Nick's surprise is for all of us, I guess."
"Fine," he said, dispiritedly. "Though I shouldn't be obliging you when you couldn't even get Cece to accept your invitation tonight."
"What are you talking about? She's here, but" - she grabbed his arm to make her point because he had that fanatical look he got when discussing hair chutneys - "you're not to talk to her until she's ready to talk to you."
"And how will I know when that is unless I ask?" Schmidt asked with his most diabolical grin. "Jessica Q. Day, what a mass of contradictions you are."
He took the stairs two at a time and burst out onto the roof, Jess dogging his steps. Winston and Cece had moved to sit side-by-side on the bench and were still talking; Furguson had made his way over to Cece's lap. Schmidt took a deep breath and bolted over, startling Furguson, who jumped into Winston's waiting arms and was rocked like a fractious baby.
"Cecelia," Schmidt said. "On this Halloween night, I come to you, not in disguise, but as I am, to ask you to forgive me and give me a second chance. You know I love you. You know this. Please, Cece."
Jess held her breath as the night went cold and crystal around them. Cece had a lot to say, and this was her chance. But it shouldn't have to be on Schmidt's timetable. But maybe all she'd wanted was for Schmidt to man up and take responsibility for what he'd done. Even Furguson went still, like he was waiting like the rest of them for Cece's answer.
Cece reached up a finger to stroke the cat between his ears and Furguson purred. She smiled. "No," she said, and Jess wrapped an arm around her as they walked to the door without a backwards glance.
She didn't really feel like climbing all those stairs again to get back into her overcrowded apartment, or the extra flight to get to the roof, but she probably shouldn't just be hanging out on the street in basically a bustier and some briefs. A honk behind her startled her, and she turned to see the headlights of Nick's junker coming at her, aiming for the spot Cece had just vacated. She squinted against the light. "Get out of the road and cover your eyes," she heard him shout, and she hopped to it, wanting the pick-me-up of a genuine surprise.
She heard the ignition cut out and two doors open and close, and Nick cursing out silk for being so slippery, and then his hand tugged hers down, away from her eyes, and he was standing in front of her wearing a pair of silk red-and-white striped shorts, a blue panel with white stars adorning each hip, high-tops, and a pair of boxing gloves slung around his neck.
She gasped. "The Italian Stallion?" she asked excitedly.
"Rocky IV comes straight to your door," Nick said suavely. "And I brought a friend. In my version, Apollo Creed didn't die, he just went into hiding."
She was too consumed by the thought of kissing the daylights out of him to figure out what he'd been babbling about. "Wait, what?" she asked. He spun her around, pulling her against him so her bare back rested against his bare chest, mostly, even if the gloves got in the way a little. Standing in front of her was Apollo Creed, in the same patriotic shorts and way cooler lace-up sneakers.
Apollo's face broke out into a wide grin. "Hey!" she said, at last understanding the surprise. "Coach!" She held up a hand for his enthusiastic high-five and then caught a glimpse of some familiar fabric underneath his stars-and-stripes shorts. "Wait, are those my jeggings?"
"Full circle!" Coach said, then picked her up for a hug.
As always, I'd love to hear what you think.
This same entry also appears on Dreamwidth, at http://innie-darling.dreamwidth.org/432561.html.