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Shifting Roles

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"What would you say if I asked you to marry me?"

His voice is low and serious, but that never means anything with Jerry. So Jennette looks up steadily at him, and can see from his face that he's being serious and wants a real answer. Of course he does; they're sitting in her dressing room with the door closed, sitting next to each other on the same couch, talking in low tones about whatever pops into their heads.

She holds his gaze, wondering what answer he expects, what answer he wants. Maybe he wants to know if it'll always be a crush or if she's past that, but she's still pretty sure he knows the answer to both of those. She lets herself entertain for a second the idea that he's nervous, completely unsure of the answer, or at least won't let himself believe what he already knows. He's not betraying his thoughts, though, he's too good of an actor, too good at masking his emotions. She answers in a serious but tired voice.

"I'd probably say yes."

Jennette watches his reaction, she sees bits and pieces of different emotions but the only one she can identify is relief, and more of Jerry covering up all of his emotions. His lips are pressed closely together and he nods, his head bobbing up and down like its a buoy. He isn't looking at her as he nods, his eyes are trained on his hands, his knees, and the space between them on the couch.

There's a minute or two where Jerry picks invisible lint off of his trousers and Jennette keeps looking steadily at him. Willing him to look up, to actually ask. She knows that they would make each other happy, blissfully, crazy in love happy. They both want kids, Jennette loves his dog Shoe and would love to get another, they understand how each other work, where they want to go in their careers. Their families know and like each other. They both know it would work. Jennette wants it to happen.

They've kissed a handful of times, mostly on accident, when it was late; tired and unsteady they would hug their goodbyes and both turn their heads at the right moment to the right spot. Once or twice it happened when they were tired on the couch, Jennette cuddled up to Jerry's side, when they would go to whisper something in the other's ear, or nuzzle their head into a more comfortable position. Neither of them draw away or try and push it anywhere. The kisses stay where they are: unspoken, warm, gentle, chaste.

It all pulses through Jennette's head, aching in its intensity, dying to be let out in the open. But she knows that it's not how Jerry operates, and she lets it pass slowly over them until the silence shifts. She swallows the lump in her throat and looks down before she vaguely asks about their filming schedule for the day. He answers, and it all slides back into normalcy until Dan comes around and knocks on the door, calling them to set.

---

For the next few hours Jennette has to very consciously tell herself to remain in-character, to not stare at Jerry, to keep their conversation secret, to push it away so that it isn't her first thought every second. Over the next couple of days she has to keep reminding herself that it's a bad idea to ask Jerry why, why, why he would ask her that; she has to remind herself that they're friends, very good friends, and hypothetical questions of all shapes and sizes are all part of being friends. It's for her own protection, really, that she doesn't ask; she couldn't really stand an answer one way or the other.

So she manages to convince herself it doesn't matter, and things go back to normal. The times she and Jerry show up in each other's dressing rooms are random, usually without a good reason, usually because someone else is bothering them and they need quiet and sanity.

They're going to finish filming iCarly soon. Too soon. She isn't freaked out by what she's going to do after the show ends because she's got her own show coming up. She isn't excited for that, and she's not too sad that iCarly is ending. Except that Jerry is getting his own show, too. They're both in good places, but Jennette can't help but feel the loss of actually getting to see him everyday, to be on the same set, to have dressing rooms so close, a make-up station in the same room. It feels like too much change, and she really hopes that it isn't the peak in their friendship, relationship, acquaintance-ship.

There's no attempt to hide any of the sadness that keeps circulating the cast and crew on their last week of filming. Jennette plays into that. Except when three different groups of people all try and get her to join them in a sad group hug. Then she escapes, not to her own dressing room, where they'll expect her to go. She heads straight for Jerry's room. A few people will probably expect her to go there, too - but she cares less, because Jerry will be there, and Jerry makes everything better.

He doesn't look up from his book when she walks in the door without knocking, he doesn't even look up when she plops down next to him on the couch and nuzzles her face into his side. It's happened before. Extremely long days happen.

What he does is put wrap his arm around her, saying, "I'm trying not to think about it."

She smiles, peering up at him. He's looking at her out of the corner of his eye. "I wish everybody else would try that." He smiles appreciatively and they go back to silence.

They both take several calm, slow, deep breaths before she says, her voice trying and failing to be aloof, light, nonchalant. "I'm more worried about not being around you every day."

Jerry doesn't look at her this time when he replies, "I'm trying not to think about that, either."

His voice is low and steady, and Jennette can feel it rumbling through his chest. Her subconscious wants for a second to be hurt, to take issue with his not looking at her, for the lack of a more reassuring answer, but she sees the book he's reading. It's worn with dog-eared pages, a broken-in binding, and the paper fading and peeling off of the corners and edges. She recognizes it as one of the books he's read countless times. She recognizes it as a book that he once told her he can pick up and read at any point, that he sometimes turns five pages without noticing and pretends he's read them for the people around him, and he can because he knows the book so well. Jennette sees the book and knows he's not really reading it, his eyes aren't focused on the paperback, and he's just turning the pages randomly.

Jennette knows this and just ducks her head, curling into his side, feeling his hand slide up and down her arm, his fingers slowly soothing both of them. She enjoys it while it lasts.

---

The final day comes. They make it easy on everyone - keeping everyone ridiculously busy, re-doing scenes for more takes than usual, Dan making people mess up on purpose, Jerry succeeding more often in making people break character. There are several costume changes, lots of hair and make-up touching up. The last scene they film has the whole cast in it, and their last take is perfect, so perfect that when they hear "cut" everyone knows it's the last one, and almost everyone starts crying. Jennette's crying, definitely. She and Miranda end up with their arms around each other, crying into each other's hair, then trying to wipe their eyes, their arms around each other's shoulders for the pictures people are taking. And people keep mingling around, hugging, and she keeps crying, but smiling, because there's cake and Dan is being ridiculous so he isn't sad.

As everyone gathers for a final picture before the cake is cut, Jerry grabs her by the arm, slinging both of his arms around her as everyone poses. The flash doesn't even blind or phase her, her emotions are running so high, tears thick in her eyes. Everyone separates then, and Jennette finally notices that Jerry is still holding tightly onto her, his head resting on hers. She manages to turn around in his embrace to hug him properly, tightly, while trying not to think about how she's losing him to the world. After a second, though, he pushes her back by her shoulders and says, a gigantic grin on his face, "We're not castmates anymore."

It's an idea she's trying to keep at bay, but hearing him say it renews her tears, and she blurts out, "I know," her voice broken.

Jerry's hands are still on her shoulders, softly holding her in place, and he says, his voice hesitant and excited, "We're not castmates anymore .... will you marry me?"

The words take a few seconds to sink in as she blinks away her tears. "What?" she asks, looking up to see his wide smile and his sparkling eyes hiding the tiniest bit of terror behind them.

"Jennette," his voice wavers, quietly repeating himself, "will you marry me?"

Jennette is still trying to figure out if he's just messing around with her again by intently searching his face when one of his hands produces a small diamond ring and puts it in front of her face. "Oh, God, you are serious," she gasps.

He continues to stare down at her nervously, his smile shrinking slowly as she grins. "You already know my answer." When he doesn't say anything she adds, "It's yes."

Jennette doesn't see Jerry smile before he kisses her, in front of everyone, and she doesn't even hear the outbursts of laughter or squeals of joy that spread out from where they stand on set. It's not until she reluctantly pulls away for air that she realizes he managed to slip the ring on her finger sometime before she buried her hand in his hair. She looks at her finger, dazed, hardly believing any of this is possible. She was so sure she was going to lose him today.

She wipes tears from her face with her right hand, still holding her left up at an angle for inspection. Jerry is grinning down at her, his arms circled around her waist. Jennette shakes her head a little bit staring back up at him. "God, you're such an idiot."

He grins a little wider and says, "I know," before kissing her again.