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Happiness Is

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It’s after midnight, and Nick and Jess are driving home from Schmidt and Cece’s house. Schmidt and Cece had arrived home from the hospital that morning with their two twin bundles of joy, and everyone had just ended up hanging out at their house until late at night joking around and sharing stories about their own childhoods.

Schmidt had leaned into his shoulder on the couch, tired but happy. “You’re not gonna abandon me now that we’re parents, are you? We’re gonna keep doing this forever, even when we’re old and boring?”

“Yeah, Schmidty, we’re gonna keep doing this forever.”

“We’re family,” Schmidt had said quietly. Nick could only agree.

---

What a difference nine months makes.

Just a few short hours ago, Nick got to hold his best friend’s kid for the first time. He had breathed in his new baby smell and imagined having one of their own someday.

He had looked across the room at Jess holding Schmidt and Cece’s baby girl in her arms, and they had shared a secret smile before looking away from each other. Same page.

Those big questions about their future have been temporarily shelved as they just savor being a couple again, relearning each other. Bit by bit, they’re trying to mend all the things that broke them the first time, making the threads of connection between them strong and new again. She’s trying to be a little more like him, letting go, and he’s trying to be a little more like her, planning for their future, so when they meet in the middle, they can create something beautiful together.

He’s holding her hand as the dark LA landscape flies past them. It’s late, but he’s still wide awake and feeling antsy, so when the exit comes up to take them back to the loft, he just keeps going. She squeezes his hand. He likes that they don’t have to talk about it; she’s already all in.

---

He ends up driving them out to Santa Monica. Pacific Park is closed, so they end up walking along the beach holding hands. They still have half a bottle of pink wine left over from dinner, and they pass it back and forth as they walk along the shore. When they finish it, he digs into his suit jacket for a scrap of paper and a pen to put a message into the empty bottle.

I believe in love.

And in the times when I didn’t, she still found me.

To whomever finds this, I hope love finds you too.

“Aww,” Jess says when she reads it. He tosses it far into the ocean, so the waves can carry it to the other side of the world.

Jess takes off her shoes and chases the waves out. She squeals when they chase her back in and makes him laugh. He attempts a drunk cartwheel after her, but his body is a tangle of limbs. He ends up on his back on the sand, but he’s still happy-drunk, so it doesn’t even hurt. He just feels bubbly and giggly inside. He imagines his insides are effervescent just like that pink wine. He splays his body out and makes a sand angel. Jess comes back from the sea and snuggles up next to him.

He’s drunk on love right now, and so is she. There is a full moon tonight. He thinks about falling in love with her that first time, how she had seemed so otherworldly to him back then, thinking she must have hung the moon. He traces constellations into her palm.

Jess sits up to look out at the crashing waves. She can’t stay still because she’s got moonlight running through her bloodstream. She tells him they should go skinny-dipping in the ocean.

“That’s a terrible idea, Jess,” he says, laughing into her. “Remember when I did it before?”

“It’s a good idea, Nick! It’s an awesome idea. The awesomest.”

“Most awesome,” he says absentmindedly.

“God, you writers are the worst,” she teases him.

“It’s as real as upmost then,” he says.

“Ha! I was right.”

He kisses her nose. “I plead the Fifth.”

“I’ll wrestle you for it,” she says mischievously.

“What?” he laughs.

“Scared you’ll lose, Miller?”

He shakes his head. “Do your worst, Jess.”

She has him on his back in under five minutes flat. She’s straddling him, and her hands are gripping his wrists over his head.

“Dirty tricks, Jess.”

“I play to win. The clothes come off one way or another.” She leans in to kiss him again, and it doesn’t take a whole lot of convincing after that.

That’s how he ends up very drunk and very naked on a beach at 2 a.m. holding hands with his equally drunk and equally naked girlfriend running into the ocean. It’s extraordinarily dumb because it’s the middle of February, and the water is bracing cold like tiny, sharp daggers on his skin. It’s dumb like the first time he did this when he thought it would be this brave and exciting thing to do when it’s really all kinds of stupid, but he still does it, and it’s still cold, but Jess is here with him and that makes him feel warm inside, even when he’s freezing his ass off in the middle of the ocean.

They run back to shore and put their wet clothes back on again. They flop down together on the sand.

"Was that a good idea? Nope," she says. "Would I do it again? You betcha."

“You’re crazy,” he laughs, panting. He’s kind of crazy too because he knows he would follow her anywhere. But it’s the good kind of crazy. The kind of crazy that makes you sing show tunes to a virtual stranger in the middle of a restaurant. The kind of crazy that makes you drive to Mexico in the middle of the night for no good reason. The kind of crazy that makes you believe in love in spite of all the bad things you associate with that word. The good kind of crazy.

They're both still shivering, and he reaches out for her. “Let me warm you up, honey,” he whispers to her, and she snuggles up against him, wrapping herself up with his body.

---

They’re quiet again, but silence with her is never uncomfortable. He’s in a contemplative mood tonight. He’s been here before, that time he was drugged up on pain pills and he thought he had cancer. She was here too, sitting beside him even when he was so hurt and angry at the world that any other woman in her right mind would have left. When you’re young, you think you want the perfect love story, the one where the two of you only have days of wine and roses. But the person who is right for you is really the one that lives through all the bad things with you, someone who sees all the ugly, imperfect things about yourself, your truths, your lies, and loves you anyway. Jess always was a keeper.

They’ve been telling other people that they’ve just been dating since they have gotten back together, but they both know it means something serious this time. It’s been on the horizon for a long time, but he isn’t afraid anymore. They’re all grown up, and he’s ready for it. He feels it in his heart every time he looks at her. But he’s been waiting for the perfect moment. He doesn’t think this is it. They’re both in wet clothes with salt spray in their hair and sand everywhere. He doesn’t even have the ring with him. It’s still hidden under the floorboard of his closet back at the loft. But his heart is so full with how he feels about her right now that he has to say it just to hear the words out loud.

“Let’s get married, Jess.”

It’s not champagne and a room full of flowers. There’s no fanfare or even anyone else there to witness it. But somehow it feels more right than all those other details would have been. It’s just him and her and the absolute certainty of those words coming out of his mouth.

She had been drifting off to sleep tucked in against his side on the sand, but she immediately opens her eyes and looks up at him. She had imagined him saying those words to her for so long, but she’s never heard him sound quite like that. He cups her cheek with his hand looking into her big blue eyes illuminated against the darkness of the night. His expression is hopeful. “I love you, Jess. Will you marry me? Will you be my wife?”

She’s crying and kissing him. He wipes her face with his hand. “What’s a guy to think when the woman he loves cries when he proposes to her?”

“That she’s happy. That she loves him more than anything in the entire world, and he makes her so happy.” Through her happy tears, she says, “Yes, I’ll marry you, Nick Miller.”

He entwines their hands together. Now it’s perfect.

There is the ocean in front of them and the moon above them, and it’s them looking at each other and knowing this is what they both want. He knew it then, and he knows it even more now. He’s older, but no longer falling forward in his life.

He always thought life plans were scary things. Few things in life are guaranteed, but there are things a man needs to be certain of in his life. And until a man can define what those things are, he is adrift. It’s not about other people telling you what you should want or how you should live your life. It’s about choosing your own life. And he knows he would choose her. Schmidt and Winston and Aly and Cece and the damn cat too. And soon they’ll have all have kids, and that’s a good thing too. It’s not a thing to be afraid of because it makes you believe in the world. It feels like he’s been running his entire life. He’s always been running from that feeling of loss, the feeling of failure, keeping ahead of it, but now it finally feels like he’s running toward something good — his future with his wife and a family that loves him, a family that needs him, and it’s not a bad thing. When a man is certain of that love, he really can do anything. This is it, his future enfolding in front of him. It's their future together.

---

They fall asleep on the beach nestled within each other, and when they wake up, they watch the sunrise together. He’s holding the hand of his future wife, and his soul rests easy knowing she’ll be there every single day for the rest of his life, just like he will be in hers. She knows him — the good things and the terrifying things, his truths, his lies — and she loves him anyway.