"I liked you better as a bum."
" I can't help what kind of people you like."
The whole gang comes over the help Jeff move into his new apartment. Without asking. He's a little bit mad at Britta for disclosing the location of his new digs, but he calms down a little when he realizes that, with six people helping out, he'll hardly have to do any work at all.
That notion lasts for about five seconds before Annie whips out her chart. She has, of course, coordinated the entire moving in process and assigned jobs for everyone. Even Jeff.
But he can't complain too much, because things are done in record time, and he really had thought it was going to take all weekend for him to be moved in.
Troy leaves first, citing the out of town football game he has in the morning as his excuse. Shirley's the next to go, saying that she needs to get home to help her son with a school project. Then Pierce, saying he has a "raging party" to get to, when everyone knows he's just going home because he's tired. Abed stays longer than Jeff had expected him to, helping Annie organize the DVD shelf. But soon he leaves, too, and it's just Jeff, Britta, and Annie, in Jeff's new, not too big apartment and wow he feels a little awkward right now.
Britta's just sitting on the couch, doing nothing, and Jeff wonders why she's still there considering she's not even actually saying anything to him or doing anything to help, and then he realizes it's because Annie's still there, alphabetizing his book shelf, and he kind of can't believe that Britta thinks she needs to stay here to play protector for Annie because, (a) Annie is 18 and can take perfectly good care of herself and (b) like he would ever even go there.
Jeff is pretty sure Annie knows that Britta's there trying to play protector, because she's spending a really long time alphabetizing those books. Way too long. He just isn't sure if she's trying to torture him, Britta, or both of them.
If it were anyone but Britta, and anyone but Annie, he would just flat out tell them to leave. He'd never had any problem with telling people to get the hell out. But Britta actually has the nerve to challenge him on this. And Annie... well, she's Annie.
So he just sits there, staring at Britta, while Annie takes an agonizingly long time putting those books on the shelf. She finally finishes, and Jeff almost breathes a sigh of relief, but then she wonders out loud, "Maybe I should organize these by genre." She then takes all the books off the shelf and starts over.
Britta's eyes widen a bit, then narrow, and Jeff knows she's caught on. And he tries to ignore the victory dance his mind is doing over the fact that he knows Annie so much better than Britta does.
"The girl can take care of herself, Squirrel," Jeff says to Britta. And he's at the perfect angle to just barely be able to see the smirk forming on Annie's face, and he thinks he likes devious Annie.
Britta huffs dramatically, but she picks up her bag and stands up from the couch. Jeff decides to be somewhat gentlemanly and walk her to the door. He opens it for her, and she walks out with her jaw set. But then she turns around quickly and says, "I will injure you," as a warning.
"I believe you," he says. Then he closes the door.
He turns back to Annie, who's still arranging the books on the bookshelf, acting as though the entire exchange between Jeff and Britta hadn't happened.
"Okay," Jeff says, "you've proved your point. You can go if you want." He doesn't want to think too hard about why he can't just tell her to get the hell out.
She doesn't even bother to turn around. "But I'm still alphabetizing your books."
"I'm pretty sure I can do that all by myself. I did pass the first grade."
She finally turns to look at him with one eyebrow arched. "Considering the rest of your academic history, I'm not entirely sure I believe you."
Jeff laughs before he realizes he's doing it, and it surprises him, but he's more surprised that he doesn't hate himself for it.
She turns her attention back to the bookshelf, and Jeff tries to put on an "I'm the grownup in this room" face. "Really, Annie, you can go."
"What, do you not want me here?"
He sighs. He kind of does not want her here, but he also doesn't want to tell her that. He also maybe does kind of want her here, which makes him want her not here even more. Yes, he's a complicated guy. He just likes to think that's part of his mystique.
"Annie, I just moved in today. I want to be alone and go to sleep and maybe pretend that my apartment is bigger than it really is."
Her tiny body unfolds primly from the floor and she smoothes down her skirt and folds her hands in front of her. "I liked you better when you were homeless."
"Because I was unshaven and rugged?"
She make a face at him. "No."
"Really? Because, as I recall, you did call me a handsome hobo."
She walks over to the couch and picks up her purse. "Because you were nice." She then turns quickly on her heel, her hair flying behind her, and walks out the door. She slams it only a little.
"Lily, you're crying."
"Sure, I turn on a faucet. It's that sort of scene".
Jeff knows that Annie's helping to plan the campus Christmas party. He saw the lists and plans among her notebooks and binders starting the week after Halloween. He didn't enjoy the holidays in general, and he decided he was going to start building his resolve early because he absolutely did not want to attend this party. No matter how much Annie cried.
He really should have known better.
He, however, could never in a million years, have seen the Santa thing coming.
He's become pretty good at knowing what kind of thing Annie is going to say before she says it based on her behavior. He knows when she's going to ask him to do something that she know he isn't going to want to do.
"Jeff!" she shouts as he walks into Spanish class two weeks before Christmas.
He doesn't even bother to turn around. "You're not going to try to talk me into going to your ridiculous Christmas party, are you?"
"No, because why would I have to ask you to do something that you already know is really, really important to me?"
Damn it. He really hates that she's gotten so good at playing him that she can guilt him without even using tears. In the span of about five seconds his resolve was broken completely.
"Fine, Annie, I'll make an appearance at your party." Twenty minutes, tops. Nothing more. He slides into his usual sit, but instead of settling into the front row, Annie comes to stand directly in front of him.
"I need more than that," she says, and she's trying to make eye contact and he will not allow her to be formidable with him, so he looks down at his desk.
"Ice and cups?" he asks hopefully.
"That would be great!" She says happily. "And I'll also need you to play Santa."
What? "What?" He's so surprised he actually looks up at her, and she's been smart enough to ditch the formidable face and now her eyes are wide and getting a little glassy and he should have never looked up at her because now he can't look away even though he knows she's totally playing him.
"It would be so great. The most popular guy in school playing Santa."
"Yeah, I'm the most popular guy in school. Which means I shouldn't have to do anything. Ask Troy, he knows all about how this works."
"But everyone will come to the party if the coolest guy in school is playing Santa!"
"Won't my mere presence be enough?"
Her bottom lip starts to shake and she takes in a sharp breath through her nose and then she lets out a sharp sob.
"Come on, you can't even at least think of a good reason before you start the tears?" But he's already starting to feel his resolve slipping and he's wondering if he'll have to buy his own Santa costume or if the school will provide one for him.
"I just want this party to be perfect! And if you're Santa everyone will be talking about the party for months afterward because they'll just think it was so funny and cool that I got Jeff Winger to be Santa!" she wails. At some point, Shirley had come into the classroom, and she was now standing next to Annie, giving Jeff a look that scared him, because he'd seen her snapping the antennae off of Professor Slater's car on Halloween, and he didn't want to find out what she'd do if he really pissed her off.
"Jeff, my girl here better be standing in front of you crying because she's happy about something," Shirley says in a warning voice.
"He doesn't want to be Santa at my party," Annie says with a miserable little pout.
Shirley aims a very dangerous look at him. "Come on, she's can turn on the tears fast than Jack on Lost!"
And now Annie is looking at him with big, wet eyes and Shirley is looking at him with big, angry eyes, and he thinks maybe they planned this but he's feeling both guilty and terrified. "Fine, I'll be Santa at your stupid party."
Annie and Shirley's faces quickly morph into happy, excited faces and Annie's practically jumping up and down in excitement. "Great! I'll get you the Santa suit by the end of the week."
Shirley moves away and to her seat. Before she turns around to do the same, Annie smiles sweetly at him. "Thanks, Jeff."
He actually blushes a little and oh my god he's such a girl, and now he has to add Annie's sweet, grateful smile to the arsenal of things Annie does to make him her bitch.
"You're not being rude, dear, you're just being yourself."
The Palm Beach Story
Jeff refuses to wear the beard (because it itches) or the pillow (because it looks ridiculous... well, even more ridiculous), and he's worried about Annie tears, but she just laughs at him and says he looks funnier this way, and he guess that's a good thing because she laughs every time she sees him for the first hour of the party and Annie laughter is a sound that he really likes.
He catches a glimpse of himself in a window, wearing an ill-fitting Santa suit, holding a vaguely alcoholic beverage in his hand and good god he looks kind of like a creepy pedophile. And it is pretty funny.
He really, really hates to admit it, but he's actually having fun.
That's probably why he feels the need to act like a VH1 reject near the end of the night.
Annie asks him to lead the singing, and that's where he draws the line. Why, he doesn't really know, but he's already drawn the line in his mind, so there it is.
"Annie, no. Okay? No. I came to the party, I brought ice and cups, I dressed up as Santa for you, okay? I've already done enough humiliating things for one night. I am not, ever, in a million years, going to sing Christmas songs in front of the whole school."
He looks over at her, expecting to see the usual fit of put on hysterics forming. But this time there are no crocodile tears or overly dramatic tantrums. She's just wearing an expression of hurt that's so genuine he feels like a complete and total cad. He really doesn't know what to say, and he really, really hates himself, so much more than he ever could for just enjoying a dumb college party.
"Fine," Annie says and she just turns away before he can see the real tears.
About twenty minutes later she's onstage, looking miserable, with Starburns, who's leading the Christmas singing. It's a cringe worthy moment for many different reasons.
He really wishes he was the one standing up there right now, and that Annie was smiling and happy.
Jeff makes sure he's the last one to leave the party, because he knows Annie is going to stay behind and clean up, and he really wants to say the right thing to her. He's not at all sure what that is, but he's going to figure out what it is and say it.
Britta gives him a sharp look as she leaves, and he's not sure if the look means, "You'd better apologize" or "You'd better keep your hands off of her", but both messages are received.
He decides to help out, but he's never been great at helping or cleaning, so he figures he's probably doing more harm than good. But it's the thought that counts, right?
Annie's silent for so long that he's surprised when she actually speaks. "Just when I think you might be turning into a legitimately nice guy, you make sure I know that underneath it all you're really just a jerk."
It feel like she slapped him. "Look, Annie, I was being mean, I know it..."
"You weren't being mean," she says as she walks out of the room. "You were being yourself."
Jeff's never felt worse in his life.
"What *is* a cocktail dress?"
"Something to spill cocktails on."
The Ex-Mrs. Bradford
Britta has her own Christmas party a few days after the school Christmas party. It's a really quiet thing, just the study group, and Jeff actually thinks this is really nice. Except for the fact that Annie's still acting like he doesn't exist and Shirley and Britta keep giving him really evil looks because of it.
He's been trying to apologize to Annie, but that's a really hard thing to when you no longer exist. He tries to act like it doesn't bother him, but it does. It really does.
He's also bothered by all the drinking she's doing right now. He's pretty sure they shouldn't be letting her drink this much. Because she is only 18, and he was a lawyer for awhile and he's pretty sure they can all get in trouble for getting her drunk. He's also pretty sure that recovering drug addicts probably shouldn't be downing bottles of Jaeger and chasing it with amaretto. Jeff kind of wants to puke.
Of course, it's really hard to think of her as an 18 year old when she's wearing that tiny black dress and her hair is all down and flowing. It's the first time he's seen her with her hair down since that day they were preparing for the debate. And yet again, it's like he's seeing her for the first time.
Everyone else is really drunk by the end of the evening, too. Except for him. For some reason. Which means he's the only one sober and responsible enough to take the illegally intoxicated girl home. She can't act like he doesn't exist when he's the one taking care of her, so he chalks up one positive for the whole situation.
He's halfway to her house (how does he even know where she lives? He can't actually remember.) when he realizes that she's 18, pretty plastered, and that she lives with her parents. So he definitely can't take her home if he values his life outside of a prison. He drives around aimlessly for about 15 minutes before he decides that the best (only) option is to take her to his apartment. And yes, he does feel a bit like a sceezy old man bringing the wasted 18 year old back to his place. But he knows he won't do anything, and then Annie will tell Britta and Shirley what a perfect gentleman he was and they'll stop looking at him like they want to rip his skin off.
Annie's been watching him for most of the drive. He thought she was passed out for awhile, but he glanced over at her and she was just staring at him, with a thoughtful and hazy expression on her face. "I do not get you, Jeff Winger," she finally slurs out.
"What's not to get? I'm a complete and total gentleman."
She goes on like he didn't even speak. "You act all nice and wonderful, then you act like a complete jerk, and then you're nice again. You're just totally confusing."
"Hey, I've been trying to apologize to you for two days."
"Actions speak louder than words."
"What do my actions say right now?"
She's quiet, and Jeff thinks she's thinking, but he looks over at her and she's asleep, with her mouth slightly open. It's adorable. And when did he turn into a guy who thinks things are adorable?
She wakes up a little bit when he drags her out of the car, but she's still drunk and half asleep, so he ends up carrying her into his apartment because it's just a lot easier than trying to get her to walk. He finally gets her into his apartment and he drops her on his couch because he's a stud and everything, but it was a long way from the car to the apartment and he needs a really quick break before hauling her into the bedroom.
And whoa that sounded totally wrong.
He thinks about just leaving her there on the couch, but he remembers Annie's "actions speak louder than words" comment, and reminds himself that he's trying to be a gentleman.
During his inner struggle, Annie wakes up a little more, so thankfully getting her to his room (and there needs to be a way to say that that doesn't sound so damn sceezy) isn't as difficult as getting her into his apartment was, because she can actually walk now. He gently helps her lie on the bed rather than just dropping her like he did in the living room, because she's looking a little green right now and he really doesn't want her to puke all over his bed.
Ducking into his bathroom to grab the wastebasket so Annie has something to throw up in if she does, indeed, throw up, he hears Annie say, "This isn't my bedroom..."
Jeff shows her the wastebasket before putting it on the ground so she knows it's there. "You're not of legal drinking age and I don't know your parents. There was no way I was going to risk bodily harm by bringing you home in this condition to your father who might have a gun."
"So I'm in your bed."
"Yep." He's glad she's drunk right now. It keeps this conversation from being way too awkward.
"You'd better be a gentleman."
"I completely intend to be," he says as he takes her shoes off.
She goes quiet again as he pulls a blanket over her, and he thinks she's asleep again, but this time when he looks over at her, she's just looking back at him. It's a very thoughtful look, and suddenly Jeff is wondering if she's as drunk as he thinks she is.
They stare at each other for awhile, and it is a weird moment, but not necessarily in a bad way. "I really am sorry about the party, Annie," he finally says, and he wonders if maybe it's not the best idea to apologize to her while she's drunk, but it's out there, so hopefully she'll remember it in the morning.
"I know," she nods dramatically. "I'm sorry, too."
"For thinking you were a bad guy just pretending to be good."
For some reason, the fact that she thought that really stings. But she puts her hand on his and says, "But I think I realize now that you're a good guy who's been trying really hard to be bad."
Jeff really doesn't know what to say to that, so he pats her hand affectionately. And she's looking up at him, and maybe it's the darkness of the room and the moonlight coming in through the windows, but he really wishes she wasn't drunk right now so that he could kiss her without feeling like a horrible person.
Annie groans and the moment is broken. "I might throw up on your bed."
"There's a wastebasket by the bed."
"I might throw up on your bed anyway."
He chuckles, "That's okay."
And then she's asleep. He brushes a strand of hair off her face and heads to the tiny couch in his living room for the evening.
"Good... I want to talk to you."
The Thin Man
There must be an earthquake or something because Jeff is shaking violently and that's really the only explanation, but wait, this is Colorado and earthquakes are not a normal thing here and there's someone yelling in his ear.
"Jeff! Jeff! Wake up! Jeff!"
He wakes up a little more and realizes that there's a tiny hand shaking him and that it's Annie's voice in his ear assaulting his senses and she was drunk last night and there's no way a normal human can be this strong and loud after that much drinking.
Cracking open one eye, he looks in her direction, but not really at her, because no matter what time it is, he's still tired and it is too early to focus on anything. "What time is it?"
"It's 7:15. Jeff, wake up, this is an emergency!"
"Did you puke on my bed?"
"Then there's no emergency. Go back to bed." It feels a little weird telling Annie to go back to bed in his apartment.
"Jeff!" she whines. He finally opens both eyes and looks over at her. She's barefoot, in a wrinkled cocktail dress, with mussed up behead and smeared make up. And good god, she looks hot.
"You have to take me home now!" she all but shouts, and she seems upset, and now he's wondering if he somehow failed in his gentlemanly pursuits last night. He didn't think he was that drunk, but maybe he blacked out and did something really bad.
"Why?" Jeff questions cautiously, hoping she doesn't say something like, "Because you took advantage of me, you jackass!"
"My parents are going to completely freak out! It's bad enough that they're probably already awake and I'm not there! If I don't get home by the time they leave for work they're going to lose it!" She's legitimately upset.
Jeff hadn't really thought about the whole 'taking her home in the morning while her parents are probably there' thing when he'd decided to be a complete gentleman and let her stay at his place last night. A 34 year old guy bringing home your 18 year old drunk daughter in the middle of the night would be bad. A 34 year old guy bringing home your 18 year old hung-over daughter the next morning would probably be worse. And then there'd be a shotgun involved and Jeff would likely lose his life.
He thinks about bringing Annie over to Britta's and having Britta take her home so that it looks like she spent the evening at a girlfriend's house instead of his. But damn it, he's a strong man, and he's going to prove it by taking Annie home to her parents, because no way is he going to take Britta's teasing that he's not brave enough to do it himself.
So he gives he gets up at 7:20 in the morning on a day when he doesn't have to go to school to face the parents of a girl he's not even involved with. What is this girl doing to him?
"I'm in love with a man whom I dislike intensely, who'd cheat me, who'd lie to me, whom I wouldn't trust as far as I could throw the Queen Mary. I..."
"You... you don't mean me, do you?"
Four's a Crowd
Jeff can't believe it, but he actually misses the study group during Christmas break. He figures that this is what it feels like to have friends. And he kind of can't believe that these people are his friends. But they are, and he misses them. Damn it.
So when he gets a call from Britta halfway through Christmas break, he jumps at the chance to hang out with everyone. At the mal. The freaking mall. He's hanging out with his friends at the mall. What the hell?
It's been awhile for him since high school, so he's forgotten that "going to the mall with your friends" really means that the guys will stand around and make noncommittal sounds while the girls try things on. It's mind numbingly boring and bafflingly fun at the same time.
Eventually it turns into Shirley and Britta whispering and handing things to Annie over the top of the door, and then all three girls whispering at each other and giggling while Annie blushes.
Jeff's not embarrassed to admit (to himself) that most of the noncommittal parts of his noncommittal complimentary sounds towards Annie are faked.
Finally, he and Troy are able to convince the girls that the men really aren't needed, so he heads to the food court with Troy, Pierce, and Abed and Jeff still kind of can't believe that he's hanging out with these people at the mall.
"Girls, man," Troy says. "They wrinkle my brain. What was with all the giggling and the blushing? What's so funny about trying on clothes?"
"They were planning something. For Annie," Abed says matter of factly. "Probably something of a romantic nature."
Troy just nods, clearly not really understanding, and Jeff can't believe how ignorant this kid is about how obsessed Annie has been over him, and Jeff also can't believe that he feels totally jealous about this and this entire day has felt like he was back in high school and he fights the urge to bolt because he promised himself he was going to be a good guy. And he was pretty sure that good guys didn't ditch their friends in the food court.
The girls join them a few minutes later, and Britta and Shirley are giggling (and Jeff doesn't think that giggling is something that suits Britta particularly well) and Annie's blushing so hard she looks like she has a sunburn.
After a while, the group parts ways and it's just Jeff, Annie, and Britta (and why does it always seem to happen that way) walking to their cars, and Britta's looking at Jeff with an 'I know something you don't know' face that makes him really uncomfortable so he says something just to fill the air with something other than weirdness.
He motions toward the bazillion bags Annie is carrying and says, "Are you replacing your entire wardrobe? Do you really need that many articles of clothing?"
Annie blushes again, and he wonders if there's something wrong with her blood pressure. Britta elbow Annie lightly and says, "She wants to make sure she has the right clothes for a certain someone."
"Britta!" Annie shrieks, completely mortified.
So Abed was right, Jeff thinks. The girls were planning something romantic for Annie. And her pursuit of Troy, obviously. And right in this second he really hates Troy. A lot. He tells himself it's because the kid is so dense and self involved that he never notices Annie, no matter how obvious she is. Yeah, that's it.
He thinks that he'll put it gently, but that whole thing doesn't go as planned. "Annie, why do you waste your time obsessing over an empty headed football player who's way too in love with himself to ever notice you?"
Jeff continues walking, but Britta and Annie stop. He winces, realizing a bit too late that he did not manage to put it gently. When he turns back to the girls, Britta is wearing an expression of amused anger and Annie is still a deep red, only Jeff figures it's probably from rage and less from embarrassment.
"I don't obsess over that guy anymore, Jeff. Now the guy I obsess over is a guy who acts like he's a good guy but can really only manage to do and say nice things for a few hours before he turns into a total jerk again." Then she stormed away.
He stared after her, baffled, until Britta said, "She means you, doofus."
"It's all perfectly clear to me. That adorable young thing is an unholy terror on wheels. There's nothing in the world more deadly than innocence on the manhunt!"
Theodora Goes Wild
Jeff knows the second Annie starts actively pursuing him that he's going down, figuratively speaking. Because he's been having too many soft and gooey and completely confusing feelings about her over the past few months and he's pretty sure it's not going to take a very stiff breeze to knock him down.
And that really freaks him out. So a part of him is glad that he pissed her off at the mall that night. He hasn't heard from her since. The annoying, emotional part of him is crying while listening to Celine Dion songs and eating ice cream. The rational, freaked out by the whole emotions thing is glad. Mostly.
He's not really sure what to think when, on the first day of second semester, Britta is suddenly walking next to him (he's pretty sure she emerged from the bushes somewhere, and what the hell is it with women on the campus emerging from bushes?), and telling him, "Don't worry, I smoothed things over with Annie for you. Not that you deserved it, you jerk."
"If I didn't deserve it then why did you do it?"
"Because she spent a week walking around looking like somebody had kicked her hamster or killed her puppy or something. She's completely crazy about, Jeff. I have no idea why, but she is, and she's happier when she's not pissed at you."
"I didn't ask you to do that."
"Yeah, but I'm pretty sure you wanted me to."
"No, I didn't."
"Why, because if she wasn't mad at you anymore then you'd have no reason to not be nice to her, and then you'd have to deal with your feelings, and I know you really hate that."
Jeff stops and turns to Britta. "You did just to screw with me then, right?"
Britta shrugs. "Half and half."
Jeff rolls his eyes dramatically and starts to walk away.
"She is coming after you, Jeff," she calls after him. "If you're smart, you'll just go with it. It might actually make you happy."
He turns around quickly. "I'm sorry, Miss Over Protective, you're suddenly a cheerleader for me and Annie now? When a month ago the only looks you were giving me we of the 'keep your hand off of her, pervert' variety?"
"That was before I knew for sure that she really wanted you."
"So she really wants me? Really? Is she going to pass me a note in class asking me to circle 'yes' if I like her?"
Britta rolls her eyes hard at him. "Annie's a lot more mature than you give her credit for Jeff." She then puts a big smile on her face. "You'd better go, you'll be late for Biology."
She's already several feet away from him when he realizes, "Wait, how did you know I have biology now?"
She knew because Annie had Biology now, too. Jeff realizes Britta was right, Annie was coming after him. He doesn't even want to know how Annie knew he was taking this class.
When he walks in the room, Annie smiles up at him. And it's not the 'I'm so excited that I get to smile at the cool guy and have him smile back at me' smile she always gave him when they first met in study group. And it's not an 'I want you so bad' smile either. It's just… a nice Annie smile. And it's all for him.
Yeah, he's going down. But he doesn't really mind all that much.