Author: shannanagin PM
“She needed someone that needed her right back. And you just needed a reason to grow up.” - CompleteRated: Fiction T - English - Jeff W. & Annie E. - Chapters: 2 - Words: 10,320 - Reviews: 45 - Favs: 172 - Follows: 11 - Updated: 03-03-10 - Published: 02-28-10 - Status: Complete - id: 5784579
|A+ A- Full 3/4 1/2 Expand Tighten|
Author's Note: So, I haven't written fanfiction in about a million years but I started watching Community and this little plot bunny got into my head and wouldn't leave. So there you go. I haven't even seen all the episodes so I'm still trying to get down character voices. I hope this works.
This is the first of a two parter. The second part is almost done so it should be up soon.
The title comes from the song of the same name by The National.
I made a mistake in my life today
everything I love gets lost in drawers
I want to start over, I want to be winning
way out of sync from the beginning
It starts when Jeff finds out he's failing Spanish.
Honestly, he really doesn't care all that much (which is how he sort of got into this mess in the first place). But he makes the mistake of telling Britta and almost moments later Annie's running after him in the hallway, wailing, "JEEEEEFFFF!"
He tells her it's no big deal, he'll figure it out, maybe Chang will actually die in a moped accident… She gives him a look, the look, and he's half afraid she's going to start crying again so he just turns around and walks away so he can go hide in Michelle's office.
Annie's eyes practically burn a hole in his head the entire way down the hallway.
He walks faster.
It's true that he's been treating this whole thing like a joke, as if it's just something he just has to survive for four years. But it's when he's in his girlfriend's office, staring at her shelf of trophies that this word starts floating around in his head. This terrible, awful, no-good word.
Handsome hobo loser.
Things have always come easy to Jeff and it destroys his soul a little bit to think that's he's actually going to have to put some effort into Greendale Community College. God.
It's pathetic. But he can't be that guy.
It's bad enough that he's got his old bathroom faucet sitting by his motel bed and every night he runs his fingers along it like it's some kind of freaking religious relic.
He can't be that guy. That washed-up, has-been loser.
He's got his hand on the top of this weird, little, golden angel trophy and he must be more stressed than he thought because the head just pops off in his hand. He stares at it for a second, sighs and leaves to go find Annie.
He's being tutored by an eighteen-year-old high school drop-out with a sweater tied around her shoulders. It's no wonder that the sharp pain at the bridge of his nose has become a new constant in his life.
They're at the library late one night but he can't seem to get past tense verbs straight in his head and Annie's voice is buzzing until it's just a steady stream of Spanish gibberish floating around the room.
She's tired too though. He can tell because she's resting her head in the palm of her hand and she's kind of slouched over the desk, angled toward him, thumbing through her book. Normally she sits ramrod straight like she's trying win some kind of posture/beauty contest and it's almost unnerving to see her so… relaxed.
As she stifles a yawn, a piece of hair falls into her eyes (it doesn't escape his attention that she's been wearing it down more and more often) and it's almost involuntary when he reaches up and tucks the hair back behind her ear.
Her eyes slide toward him and he's mentally berating himself but she just keeps her big brown eyes focused on him. They watch each other for a moment, or longer, but it's oddly not weird or awkward.
Annie smiles almost wistfully and turns her head back toward the book with a little "hmmm."
He tries to think of something to say but she's right back to barking verb endings and the pain in his head returns.
Jeff assumes that Annie is one of those girls that throws themselves elaborate birthday parties, complete with gold-embossed invitations and a sheet of pink birthday cake and streamers and organized games. So he's surprised when they're waiting for the group one Friday afternoon and he asks her about her weekend plans.
She shrugs, "My parents are taking me out tomorrow for my birthday."
He looks up from his phone. She's biting her lip and staring intently at a page in her notes.
"Your birthday's tomorrow?"
Jeff narrows his eyes. "Uhh. Happy Birthday? Why didn't you tell anyone?"
(Or wait, is this one of those things he's supposed to know already? Does everyone else know? Is he the only one who forgot?)
Another shrug, "It's no big deal." She's quiet but he's suddenly about 98% sure this has something to do with high school and a pill addiction and crossing guards leading her to her death.
He pulls Shirley aside after study group and fills her in and she instantly goes into Mom mode, telling everyone to cancel their plans and then calling Annie's favorite restaurant and making a reservation.
Jeff calls Michelle and tells her that he'll be late tonight but that he'll stop and pick up Chubby Hubby on the way to her place. He could invite her along but…
The entire restaurant sings "Happy Birthday" as Annie practically beams sunlight out of her pores and Jeff's almost positive he sees tears in her eyes in the instant before she closes them to make a wish.
Jeff passes Spanish.
There's a moment when he's going to have a heart attack and Chang's going on about how he failed and he's a failure but he really means that he failed at failing or whatever and Jeff's got to really stop falling for Chang's idiot misdirects.
He catches up with Annie in the hallway and when he tells her it's almost like she's the one that had been in danger of repeating Spanish 102 the way her eyes light up and she starts jumping up and down.
Jeff rests his hands on her shoulder to stop her from completely spazzing.
"Relax there Tigger... And thank you."
She beams and they continue down the hall.
"It's perfect now. We'll all be in class together again next year. I was afraid…" An odd look crosses her face but she shakes it off, "But it doesn't matter. The study group will live on!"
He narrows his eyes, "I can't seem to bring myself to your level of enthusiasm."
Annie just shakes her head, "Oh Jeff, not even I'm fooled by your blasé nonchalance. You'd miss us."
Jeff's doesn't bother correcting her.
Well dammit, Annie was sort of right.
It's the middle of the summer and he misses his Spanish Group of Misfit Toys. For one brief moment he looks at his phone and considers calling Britta or Abed or Troy or Shirley or Annie or even… Pierce.
In the end though he just shoves his phone between the couch cushions, watches a Real Housewives Marathon and only leaves the house later for his spray tan appointment.
She drunk dials him.
"Jeff! Guess what?!"
He presses the phone closer to his ear and looks toward the bathroom where Michelle is brushing her teeth.
"I'm drunk!" She sounds epically cheerful about this fact and Jeff can't help but smile.
"You okay? You're good?"
He's trying so so hard not to sound like a dad right now.
It turns out though that she's at Britta's where they're having a girl's night (he would pay good money to be a fly on the wall at that party) and she'll spend the night on the couch if she can't drive.
"And guess what?"
He wonders if she's one of those forgetful drunks.
"Britta has cats!"
He lets out a loud guffaw and Annie giggles as Britta yells something obscene in the background.
"Check to see if there's a trashy romance novel under her mattress."
Annie's still giggling when he hangs up and he stares at the phone in his hand until Michelle walks out of the bathroom.
"Britta." He pauses, "Yeah."
Michelle purses her lips so he continues, "She and Shirley are having a girls night. They called to ask me if my refrigerator was running."
Her eyebrow goes up, "Well, that's mature."
But that seems to be the end of it.
Jeff falls asleep with the sound of Annie's giggle tumbling around in his brain - he reminds himself to talk to Britta about supplying underage pill addicts with alcohol.
Three things of total inconsequence happen during the next semester:
He and Michelle are out to dinner and he's telling her about Pierce's Botox injections.
(Britta was doing a generational study in her psychology class and had asked Pierce to participate as a member of the older generation. Pierce had, of course, been offended and had shown up the next day to school in skinny jeans and an Ed Hardy tee-shirt. Even more horrifying than that – he had been to a cosmetologist for Botox injections. He spent the rest of the week looking surprised at everything. Everyone else spent the week just trying not to stare. Britta had apologized profusely).
But Michelle's laughing too hard about it all and suddenly it's not as funny as it had been earlier and he's irritated for the rest of the night.
He runs into Annie at the grocery store.
Or rather, he's about to turn into the cereal aisle when he sees her there, comparing the nutritional facts on two kinds of Raisin Bran. He almost doesn't recognize her because she's not wearing makeup and her hair is pulled back in a pony tail and she's wearing sweats like she just got out of the gym. She looks older than nineteen and it's at that moment when it hits him – her voice gets scary high pitched when she's excited and she has the tendency to react to things like a child but she' not truly naïve and she's been through more than any of the women he's ever dated. So...
He turns around and walks away. He's pretty sure there's a stale box of Cheerios in his pantry anyway
His English teacher is one of those creative types that wants the class to write poems about their feelings towards literature. After the class reads Frankenstein she instructs them to write about coming to consciousness – "Think of the things that made you wake up to this world like a butterfly emerging from it's cocoon."
When Jeff sits down to write the paper the first things he thinks of are the faces of five people sitting around a table in the library.
He spends the next fifteen minutes trying to figure out why.
For her twentieth birthday they go bowling. It's dorky and ridiculous and Shirley makes them wear party hats but it's actually a lot of fun and Annie throws her arms around his neck when she bowls a strike.
He walks her to her car at the end of the night (It's a questionable neighborhood and Abed left in Troy's car and Brita left in Shirley's and Pierce is Pierce and it's just a matter of safety.)
Annie's doing that "happy beaming Annie" thing that she does and Jeff's smiling down at her and it's only natural really when she pops up on her toes and presses a kiss just to the corner of his mouth. That's all it is.
Except it's not.
His head turns, his lips sliding against hers and suddenly he's got her pressed up against the car, gasping into his mouth. She grips his arms and kisses him back (kisses him back) and it's only when her leg starts to hitch up against his hip that they both stop.
They stay like that for a moment – pressed together, his hands at her waist – breathing, until he brushes another kiss to her jaw line and whispers in her ear, "Happy Birthday."
She's slides out of his arms and he's momentarily stricken but she's still doing that "happy beaming (blushing) Annie" thing so he knows everything is going to be okay.
He breaks up with Michelle two days later.
These two events are NOT related.
It's a sunny Thursday afternoon when Jeff walks in the library to find Annie in Troy's arms.
Troy has her pushed back against the table and Annie's hands are fisted in his collar and she's making the same soft noises he heard her make back on the night they went bowling.
They don't notice him so he silently turns right back around, almost running into Abed. Abed, who is looking like someone just ran over his puppy. Jeff throws his arm around his shoulders and says, "Come on buddy, let's go get some ice cream."
It doesn't really change anything now that Annie and Troy are dating. Except that Troy has a little bit more of a jaunt to his step and sometimes the two of them are found cuddling on the couch in the library, or in the cafeteria, our outside classrooms.
It's disgusting really.
But Annie is really happy.
So that's the upside.
Jeff and Britta have sex.
It's inevitable really.
He's bored one night and somehow he finds himself calling Britta, and she's answering and a half an hour later they're doing shots at a seedy bar with a bunch of twenty-one year old frat boys.
They get drunk enough that they can't drive and it only seems natural to give the cab driver one address and then to start making out in the backseat.
They're laughing and arguing and kissing as they stumble into Jeff's apartment and the last thing Jeff remembers is Britta saying, "This is probably a bad idea."
It probably is because the next morning everything just goes to hell.
He wakes up to Britta muttering and trying to jam her boot back onto her foot.
She starts and looks up, "Umm. I have to go."
Jeff leans back on his pillows and watches her with a smirk, "No breakfast in bed? No second round?"
Britta gives him a dry laugh but looks pained and Jeff knows immediately that this is not good.
She doesn't meet his eyes, just grabs her purse off the floor. "I've got to go." Pause. "Have a good summer Jeff."
And then she's gone.
Jeff smacks his head back into the headboard. "Shit."
Shirley calls to gossip.
Annie and Troy broke up.
Apparently, Troy broke up with her because he really didn't think it would be a huge deal and he's kind of into this girl that works at his gym and he has seriously underestimated Annie's attachment to this relationship.
Needless to say, Annie did not handle this well.
(Jeff has the sudden image of a boiled bunny rabbit that makes him shudder).
Britta and Shirley have taken her to dinner and consoled her but they're both worried and when Shirley tells him this there's a hint of "now it's your turn" in her voice.
It's not exactly in Jeff's wheelhouse to deal with emotional twenty-year-old girls (women) but he texts her that night and forty-five minutes later they're sitting in his car in the deserted school parking lot.
She's in the passenger seat with her head against the window.
"Do you ever feel like nothing you do is ever enough?"
He's surprised at how almost angry he is at her suddenly.
But then she laughs, "But you're Jeff. You can't und-"
Jeff sighs and interrupts her, "Annie, you know what my problem is? I don't care about anything. You on the other hand, you care about everything. So…"
She picks her head up and shakes it, looking at him firmly. "Jeff that's not true. You care…"
He holds up his hand, "Nope. Nothing. I care about nothing."
She rolls her eyes, "You fought for Abed's honor. You made a fool of yourself for Pierce." She pauses, "You're here."
"Eh. Purely selfish." He looked over at her, "Emotional girls are easy."
The second the words are out of his mouth he regrets it – Annie's eyes are wide.
But then something breaks and she starts to giggle, her hand pressed to her mouth.
"Jeff..." Her voice dissolves into giggles and it takes her a second to get the words out. "I'm not going to have sex with you tonight." And then her shoulders are shaking and she's doubled over with laughter.
Jeff's suddenly insulted.
"Hey. Wow. Sex with me is not funny."
This only makes her laugh harder.
He watches her, smiling.
"Seriously, you're killing my self-esteem here."
When she finally calms down she ducks her head toward him "Aww. You know I love you Jeff."
He suddenly feels warm. (It's the car. The heater's on. The car is warm)
"And thank you."
Jeff nods. "Listen. For the record, I think it's pretty cool how much you care about everything. Don't change that just because… for anything."
She looks like she's going to cry again so he leans over and kisses her, his fingers brushing along the back of her neck. When he pulls away her eyes are closed and she smiles softly before leaning forward and capturing his lips again.
It's weird because it's not weird and it's just a comforting kiss between friends but it's not…
"I'm still not having sex with you," she whispers against him.
He laughs and leans back into his seat, turns the key in the engine.
"You know, I think I love you too Annie Edison."
She clapped her hands together, "Ha! You do care about something."
Yeah, well. Maybe.
So things are weird when they return for their third year.
Britta and Jeff are awkward around each other (she still won't look him in the eye) and Annie and Troy really aren't speaking. Pierce keeps making inappropriate comments like, "What is this, a swingers club?" and Abed keeps quoting The Big Chill and asking them things like, "Did you guys ever notice the blatant sexual tension between Cameron and Sloane in Ferris Bueller's Day Off?"
None of them are even taking Spanish anymore anyway so it sort of just makes sense when they don't meet everyday, or ever.
There's a weird tug in his stomach though when Jeff sees Troy across the cafeteria and they just nod at each other and then eat at different tables. Or when Britta pulls in next to him one morning in the parking lot and they have a stilted, "Hey, what's up? Not much. That's cool" kind of conversation.
The only one Jeff has class with is Annie. World Civilizations. They pair up to work on an oral presentation about Aztec Rituals. (She's the only one he knows in the class and she'll probably do most of the work anyway so…)
They agree to meet in the library but when Jeff gets there Annie's standing in the doorway just looking at the empty table and everything just seems wrong.
With a hand at her elbow he guides her outside and they work at a table in the main quad. For the rest of the week they either meet at the cafeteria or near the snack stand or at the closest coffee shop off campus - avoiding that room in the library at all cost.
They do the presentation (They get an A and Jeff was right, Annie did do most of the work) but they continue to meet and study together anyway.
The year passes quietly.
He and Annie don't have class together anymore and their schedules are completely different but they still meet for coffee every Tuesday morning (it's just ritual, he's used to it, it doesn't mean anything).
Sometimes she nags him about skipping classes (how does she even know?) and sometimes he teases her because he's seen her talking with her English professor in the cafeteria and hey if anyone knows about the sexual pull of Greendale professors it's him.
But mostly they just talk about things like Annie contemplating moving out of her parent's house or Jeff's uncertainty about whether or not he even wants to go to law school anymore or how they both secretly miss Senor Chang's teaching style.
For her twenty-first birthday Annie doesn't want a party because what does the occasion really mean to someone who's already been in and out of rehab? Plus things are weird without the whole group and she still hangs out with Shirley or Britta on occasion but it's not the same.
Jeff skips one of his morning classes so he can run to the store. When he sets a purple frosted cupcake with a single candle in front of her at lunch Annie looks like she's going to cry so he quickly lights the wick and says, "Don't expect me to sing."
She gives him an exasperated sigh but splits the cupcake with him anyway.
Piece collapses at home one night about two weeks later.
Jeff gets a call from one of Pierce's grandkids because they found his number in Pierce's phone and they know (from the way Pierce is always going on about his friends at school) that Jeff is his closest buddy.
(And that right there is the low point in Jeff's life)
He calls Annie and by the time he gets to the hospital she's there in the parking lot with Britta, Troy, Abed and Shirley.
It's suddenly awkward because he hasn't spoken to most of them in weeks and also, why would Pierce's entire former Spanish Study Group show up at the hospital in the middle of the night? How do they explain that to anyone?
(None of them really understand it either.)
Jeff and Annie go in – she's clutching the arm of his sweater and her eyes are darting all over the place. The doctors are still doing tests though and Pierce's granddaughter will call him when they hear something.
The gang all go to the Denny's down the street where they order coffee and stew in half silence until Jeff's phone rings.
(Annie's clutching at his sweater again.)
Pierce is going to be okay. It was a minor case of Angina, he'll be in the hospital overnight and the doctor has put him on bed rest for the next few days.
Everyone breathes a sigh of relief and a damn breaks. They stay there talking and eating chocolate chip pancakes until four in the morning.
The next day he walks by the library at 5:00. (He was going that way anyway, whatever) and he's not sure what to call that feeling in his chest when he sees everyone there, in their place, arguing about something nonsensical (he'd say it's like coming home but, gross).
Abed says the whole "friends coming back together because of one character's crisis" plotline is cliché and he would have gone a different direction – but they all ignore him.
It's summer again and Jeff is bored and he's already seen every episode of Top Model so he calls Britta.
(This does not end the way it did last summer)
Britta calls Shirley and on and on and within an hour everyone's in his living room vying for the Wii controllers and arguing over which was the better Summer Blockbuster (Iron Man 3 or the one with Will Smith and aliens). They all seem to have been thinking along the same lines though because Britta brought a bottle of Jack Daniels and Troy brought a case of beer and Shirley brought a bottle of wine and Pierce brought wine coolers (cause that's what the cool kids drink).
It only takes about two hours before they are all trashed.
(Well, except Annie who seems to get drunk enough on the idea of "friends.")
(And Pierce, who drank one wine cooler, threw up and passed out on the couch.)
Abed has kicked everyone's ass at Wii tennis… and golf and boxing and hockey but even he can't work up the hand eye coordination to start a new game anymore.
So obviously someone suggests Spin the Bottle.
Cause it's 1989 and they are all thirteen.
They sit in a circle and Annie's got a case of the giggles and her face is bright red (Jeff's suddenly not so sure she hasn't actually been stealing swigs of the Jack Daniels). Abed is mumbling about some show, it was on the WB? Maybe? The guy with the… thing? And he's talking so slow that it makes everything hazy.
Then Britta spins the bottle and it lands on Annie.
Shirley lets out a little "oh" and Troy's eyes get big and wide.
Jeff swings his head back and forth between the two women and he is really glad that Pierce is asleep right now because, well, obviously.
For the briefest of moments it seems like the girls are going to back out of it but then Annie starts giggling again and Britta says, "What the hell?" leans forward on her knees and presses her lips to Annie's.
Jeff stares. And then his mouth drops open.
Not because of the kiss. Well it's the kiss, but it's mainly the fact that the kiss is STILL HAPPENING and Annie's hand has moved up into Britta's hair and one of them is making a soft little humming noise and ( Okay, seriously? Has Spin the Bottle changed? Isn't it supposed to be one quick kiss and done? This is about two minutes away from becoming soft core porn and What. The. Fuck?)
Britta finally pulls with a hazy little smile. She glances a little smirk toward Jeff and sits back. Annie's face is practically purple she's blushing so hard.
Troy shifts uncomfortably and oh, this was a bad bad idea.
Jeff clears his throat, "Well, that was… " (So many words. So many words). "Anyone want to watch a movie?" (Did his voice really just crack?)
They watch Wet Hot American Summer because no one else has seen it and that must be remedied immediately.
Everyone sprawls out across the floor passing the bottle of Jack back and forth and by the time Chris Meloni is having a conversation with a can of vegetables and talking about "fondling his sweaters" it somehow makes existentially perfect sense.
Jeff wakes up and his tongue feels swollen like he's slept with cotton in his mouth, there's a marching band in his head that reaches a crescendo as he shifts and basically, he just wants to die. And soon.
Annie's curled up next to him, her nose pressed into his side, hand thrown across his waist, resting just above his belt. (Well, that's...nice). He reaches down to run his hand over her hair and tries to pretend that they are alone.
Which is difficult. Because they are very much not alone.
Abed's curled up on the other side of him, mirroring Annie's position except he's got Troy spooned up behind him, face nuzzled in his neck.
God, this has to be some kind of bizzaro world.
He cranes his head and sees Britta on the other side of Annie, sprawled out with her arm thrown over her head. She's snoring. Loudly.
Pierce is still on the couch and the door to his bedroom is shut so he assumes that Shirley, being the only intelligent one amongst them, took his bed.
Abed shifts then, murmuring something in his sleep and he and Annie both simultaneously tighten their hold on him.
Jeff stares at the ceiling.
(Are you there God? It's me, Jeff. Jeff Winger? WTF man?)