-1"Well I think I ought to tell you that the neighbors are beginning to get a little curious about you and your little girl...You know how people talk." Lolita

After a few weeks, the "dirty old man dating a barely legal girl" feeling had almost completely faded away for Jeff. Of course, he realized too late that the fading of that feeling was just a false sense of security, because the second it was almost completely gone was the moment Britta finally decided that, no, this whole thing was wrong and disgusting and that she had to do something about it.

Jeff really wished the universe would just cut him a break every once in awhile.

"Hey, Roman Polanski," she said as she sidled up to him on the way to Spanish class and, dammit, of course she just had to come along and ruin his day because he was actually looking forward to Spanish class for once. Well, not so much the class itself, but the sitting behind Annie and playing with her hair while Senor Chang wasn't looking. Just to get a rise out of her. Not because it was impossibly soft and shiny.

"Are you complimenting my filmmaking technique?" he asked flippantly. Not the best comeback, but his mind was only partially in "Britta Banter" mode. The rest of it was now firmly in "Annie's Hair" territory.

"How's it feel, living your life like it's a Nabakov novel?" she asked, ignoring his lame attempt at a comeback.

"I'm sorry, did it really take you three weeks to come up with these references?"

"No, it took me three weeks to decide whether or not this was gross. And wrong. Which it is. Gross and wrong."

Jeff, like the gentleman he was becoming (damn Annie and her training) held the door open for Britta as the entered the building. "You do realize that she came after me, right? And that I fought her on it. Right?"

"Oh yeah, it really looked like you were fighting it at the Secular Holiday Party that night. You said 'no' for a whole minute and a half!"

"Were you wearing Pierce's super sonic hearing aid, because as I recall it you were all the way on the other side of the gym trying to hide from Mr. "I have no worries, and by worries I mean 'shirt'"."

"The conversation you two were having lasted a grand total of two minutes before you two left. With you on her arm. Like a little girl."

"She was being all determined and formidable!"

Britta let out a sharp laugh. "Annie? Formidable? Please."

Jeff let a smug look settle over his features. "That just shows you that I know Annie SO much better than you do."

"Are you really tying to turn this discussion into an argument about which one of us knows your girlfriend better?" Britta asked in disbelief.

"I'd call this more of an 'attack', or even 'character assassination' than a discussion."

They walked into the classroom and, predictably, Annie was already there, the first one, sitting in the front row as always. She smiled sweetly up at him. "Hey."

Jeff cursed his physiology when his heart started beating a little faster. He just flashed her a similar smile and plopped down in the seat behind her. He leaned over the top of the desk so he could get as close to Annie as possible. "Did you do the homework?" he asked in a sugary sweet voice.

Annie chuckled. "We didn't have any homework."

"Is that true or are you just telling me that as a lesson that I need to start doing my homework?"

"It's true, we really didn't have any homework. But you really do need to start doing your homework." She punctuated her point by turning around in her seat and planting a kiss on Jeff's cheek.

Britta had been watching the whole scene silently while a look of disgust formed on her face. "Ew," she said as she sat in the seat next to Jeff.

Annie looked back at Britta, confused. "She's finally decided she doesn't support us," Jeff explained. "She called me Roman Polanski."

Annie let out an indignant sound. "He is NOT Roman Polanski!"

"She also said I was living my life like it was a Nabakov novel."

Another indignant sound, this time louder. "Excuse me? I am of legal age of consent! There is nothing wrong or disgusting or slightly illegal about ant of this! He is not Roman Polanski! If anything, he's Michael Douglas."

Jeff winced. "I'm sorry, could I be someone who doesn't look like he's only hanging on because he made a deal with the devil?"

"Some would say that Humbert Humbert was dashing in a way-" Britta started.

"Yeah, no, I prefer to think of myself as Humphrey Bogart. Because, not only am I involved with a younger lady, but I'm also unstoppably cool."

"Well, he was stopped. By cancer." Britta retorted.

"His spirit, Britta. His spirit is unstoppable."

"Look," Annie said, putting on the formidable face that Jeff was starting to find really hot. "Jeff is Humphrey Bogart." Yep. "I'm Lauren Bacall." Well.... "And you, Britta, are the sad, judgmental onlooker who can't accept our love." Ouch.

Annie turned around quickly to face the front of the room. Jeff looked over at Britta, who was wearing a somewhat hilarious expression of shock. He shrugged. "I told you she could be formidable."

"Marianne could never love by halves; and her whole heart became, in time, as much devoted to her husband as it had once been to Willoughby." Sense and Sensibility

Jeff sometimes wondered about Annie and Troy. Because someone would have to be blind (or completely and utterly oblivious, which Troy was) to not have seen how into Troy Annie had been. And sometimes Jeff had a hard time believing that one kiss in the heat of debate was enough to completely nullify that.

He really did like Troy. God help him, he found the boy's idiocy and irrational fears and bizarre sometimes-feminine ways endearing (what the hell was this place doing to him if he found those things reasons to be friends with someone rather than avoiding them like the plague). But there were times when he walked into the library and Annie would be giggling at something Troy said and he just wanted to put his fist through the prom king's face.

Jeff really didn't like being jealous. It wasn't a feeling he was overly familiar with, because, well, he was awesome and what woman in their right mind would pick some other goober over him? But he was feeling it a lot in regards to Annie and Troy.

He'd see the way Annie would smile at Troy, and laugh at Troy, and giggle at Troy, and he'd wonder if she smiled, laughed, and giggled at him like that. And then he'd start imagining the many, many different ways in which he'd be Troy up.

And then they'd hang out after study group, or class, or in the evening (Jeff really didn't like calling them dates. It sounded juvenile for some reason. Whereas "hanging out" sounded..... shut up) and he'd see the way she looked at him. The way she laughed at his jokes. The way smiled at him. The way she'd just lean her head on his shoulder when they were quiet and hold his hand. And he knew it was SO much better than any look she'd ever give Troy.

"But you have no idea how frightfully interesting it is to take a human being and change her into a quite different human being by creating a new speech for her. It's filling up the deepest gulf that separates class from class and soul from soul." Pygmalion

Jeff had been holding doors open for Britta and Shirley for weeks before he realized that Annie had been training him.

Annie had been successfully formidable a total of five times before Jeff realized he'd been training her.

It was initially intended to be training for Debate, because she'd pouted at him and he'd wanted her to stop so he agreed to continue being her Debate partner. And if he was going to be in Debate Club, for Christ's sake, he was going to win ALL THE TIME.

So he'd given her lawyerly lessons on how to sell your point, and how to make people feel good about themselves, and how to make people feel bad about themselves. And pretty soon he was just teaching her how to stand up for herself in general. Because he was getting sick of Senor Chang treating her like crap all the time, and teaching her to have a little backbone would probably be a lot less destructive than him beating up a teacher would be.

He was not expecting her to make Senor Chang cry in class with a crack about people wondering if his wife had adopted him from Korea. That was a pretty glorious moment. Jeff had never been so proud of anything in his life.

"I sometimes have a queer feeling with regard to you--especially when you are near me, as now: it is as if I had a string somewhere under my left ribs, tightly and inextricably knotted to a similar string situated in the corresponding quarter of your little frame. And if that boisterous channel, and two hundred miles or so of land come broad between us, I am afraid that cord of communion will be snapt; and then I've a nervous notion I should take to bleeding inwardly." Jane Eyre

Being around Annie made him feel awesome. It had been awhile since anything had made him feel truly awesome. It was probably the last time he won a case, which was a long time ago. And even then, he'd been doing it long enough that the truly awesome feeling had started to fade away. But he was with Annie now, and it was the first time in years that he felt this awesome.

Simply walking into a room she was already in made his mood go up about a thousand points. Walking around campus holding her hand made him smile like a lovesick idiot. And he didn't even care that he looked like a total tool. He was actually happy. Which was weird. And great.

What wasn't great was the feeling he had when he didn't get to see Annie for a few days. At first, it seemed like not seeing her for a whole night was awful. Then she went to Chicago to visit a sick relative for a weekend and those two days were complete TORTURE.

When she got back into town she came over to his still new-ish apartment, entered without knocking, and sat on his couch. He went over to her, put his head in her lap, and as she ran her fingers through his hair he said, "Never leave me again." Partly joking. Mostly not.

Annie laughed and called him a big baby, but then she repositioned herself so that she was laying on her side facing him (Annie Edison: tiniest full grown human ever, because Jeff's couch wasn't that big, but they both still fit on it perfectly fine laying that way) and said, "I missed you, too."

The rest of the night was pretty fantastic.

So going a night without seeing her wasn't so bad, but he still felt a little tug of something (maybe emptiness), when she wasn't around.

Jeff wasn't 100% sure what that meant, but he had a pretty good idea. He hated to even think it, because it made him feel like a 15 year old girl writing the name of her latest obsession in her English notebook and surrounding it with hearts. But, if the word fits….

He was pretty sure he loved Annie. And that was awesome. Most of the time.