I want to hurry home to you
put on a slow, dumb show for you
and crack you up
It starts when Annie decides she wants to be a lawyer.
Jeff is not surprised.
He is a little irritated (slightly thankful) when she insists on studying for the LSAT together. She's got flashcards and study guides and pie charts and power point presentations and study aids that Jeff has never even heard of but…maybe he's willing to recognize that he might need this (handsome hobo loser, handsome hobo loser).
She comes up with a color-coded study schedule and suddenly his Monday and Tuesdays and Wednesday nights have been taken over by practice tests and reasoning questions like, "If Sue, Roger, Bart, Marlene and John are on a soccer team and the coach is trying to choose the starting lineup and Marlene has blonde hair and John has blue eyes, how many combinations of blah, blah, blah, blah…"
At first they decide to just study in the library each night until they get kicked out. After a few weeks though Jeff starts to feel claustrophobic (around 9:30 his scalp starts to itch and he can't breath and the walls are closing in on him and it's like he's Pierce on an acid trip) and he will go insane if he spends one more second on the Greendale campus. He brings it up with Annie and her eyes start to get that wide, frantic look so it's purely self-defense when he's suddenly saying, "We can just study at my place."
(Oh, genius idea Jeff).
At first Annie seems almost flustered but then she shakes it off and says, "No, this is good. This is good." And Jeff's pretty sure she's already mapping out a plan to turn his living room into some kind of permanent LSAT study corner of doom.
The first night she's there it's awkward and they don't get much done. (She's been there before but never alone and studying shouldn't feel this intimate). It's like she spends the entire time trying to be as small as possible, trying not to touch anything, like she's afraid of leaving any part of herself behind in his place.
The second night she's there she shows up wearing jeans, a sweatshirt and a formidable face like he's never seen and she gets right down to business. She's got this easel corkboard with flashcards and crap pinned to it and all of Jeff's worst fears are coming true.
The third night she's there, she's just there. He orders pizza (no olives, Annie hates them), they study and she leaves.
A few weeks go by and it's Saturday afternoon and Jeff's falling asleep on the couch, his face buried in a pillow, when he suddenly catches the slightest whiff of the Pearberry lotion she wears.
It's a Wednesday night and they're on their second hour of studying when Jeff slams his book shut.
"That's it. Kill me."
Annie looks up.
"No. Seriously. There's a butcher knife in the kitchen. Just, no stab wounds up here please." He waves his hand over his face." I want to go out looking pretty."
Annie raises her eyebrows then purses her lips in thought. "Maybe we have been studying a lot. A break could be nice."
"Good." Jeff leans back and flips on the TV. "I think Family Guy is on."
Annie sits perched on the edge of her seat, her hands in her lap like she's going to get up and bolt at any moment.
Jeff laughs at something on the screen and then glances over at her.
"Have you seen this one?"
She starts, then shakes her head. "I don't watch a lot of television."
Jeff tilts his head at her, "Seriously? Family Guy? You've never watched this?"
Another head shake.
He tosses the remote down and moves toward his movie collection. "Alright, now it's my turn to teach you something."
Annie's face flushes but Jeff misses it as he searches for the first season DVD.
"You should organize them alphabetically, that way –"
Jeff spins around, "Hey, this isn't an episode of Clean Sweep. I have a system."
It takes him five minutes to find it.
When the first episode begins Annie stares in confusion at the screen for about fifteen minutes. Finally, "Isn't Stewie a baby? Why-?"
Jeff holds up his hand, "Don't think about it too hard."
She narrows her eyes but falls silent and pretty son she's laughing so hard there are tears in the corner of her eyes.
"This is ridiculous Jeff."
She glances sideways at him, "I wouldn't think you would like a show like this."
He throws her a puzzled glance but doesn't say anything. There's a compliment in there. Somewhere. He'll take it for what it is.
It becomes a pattern. She comes over on Mondays, Tuesdays and Wednesdays and they study for a few hours and then work their way through the seasons of Family Guy. When they're done with that they move onto Friday Night Lights, then Arrested Development.
They sit on the couch side by side and when it's cold he throws a blanket over them and she rests her head against his shoulder.
One night his hand finds hers under the blanket (completely by accident) and he tries not to notice when her breathing changes as he starts drawing circles over her wrist with his thumb.
(The holding hands thing becomes a pattern too).
Jeff is eating lunch with Abed when he spies Britta across the cafeteria with some guy, their heads close together as he shows her something on his phone.
She laughs (it's more like a girly, high pitched non-Britta-like giggle) and Jeff narrows his eyes.
"Who's Mr. Technology?"
Abed looks over, "Oh, that's Dustin. He's in Britta's Sexual Politics class. They sit next to each other. Britt's fascinated by his seeming enlightened views on gender roles. He's also good looking in that classic, blonde movie star kind of way, so if you're picking up on a tension of the sexual variety over there, you would be correct… He's not a threat through. Conventional wisdom tells me that he'll probably end up being too aggressive in his progressive values and this will eventually turn Britta off." Abed pauses. "Or he's gay."
Jeff just stares.
Abed tilts his head. "Britta's your Dawson."
"Yeah. I have no idea what that means."
"At first conception you and Britta were the ones set up to be the OTP. She's the Dawson to your Joey. But it didn't work." He frowns, "I'm still not completely sure why. Maybe because you're so alike. But in the wrong ways."
"Still lost. What the hell is an OTP?"
Abed ignores him, "I doesn't really matter why it doesn't work through. Because the audience would much rather see you with Pacey. That's where there's real sexual chemistry. And where there's chemistry, there's story. Any good director knows this."
Jeff's mouth opens and shuts quickly. "And who's Pacey in this scenario?"
There's no answer though, just a knowing eyebrow raise. Abed gets up, taking his tray with him, "It should be about this time that someone tells you to choose between the blonde and the brunette. But we're already past that now. And it was never a matter of choosing anyway. Hmmm." He walks away.
"Hey! Abed!" Jeff half stands up in his seat, palms on the table, yelling after him, "What's an OTP? Abed!"
They take the LSAT on a Saturday in December.
It's the longest day of Jeff's life.
When it's over he drives Annie back to his apartment and they both immediately fall asleep (on separate couches).
The group stops meeting in the library everyday.
(This does not end the way it did last year).
Jeff and Annie are busy applying to law schools and Abed's working on his first full-length film and Britta's taking an extra load of courses so she can graduate with a double major in Psych and Anthropology. All their differing schedules just become too much to arrange around.
But, it doesn't matter.
They eat lunch together when possible and call each other on the weekends and when Troy gets the lead in a local production of Cats they're all there, Opening Night, in the front row.
Annie still comes over on Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday nights (tradition) so they can perfect admissions essays and work their way through various television shows.
But there are Fridays (or Thursdays or Saturdays) when he's bored (bored is probably not the right word) so he texts her. She always responds right away and it turns into a forty-five minute conversation that ends with him telling her to just come over because he's pretty sure he has carpal tunnel in his thumbs.
When she gets there he's hungry and there's no food at his place so they go and grab a burger somewhere. And sometimes there's a movie playing that they've been wanting to see and there's got to be a word for what these things all mean but neither of them attempt to figure it out.
Annie organizes his DVD collection (and his CD's and his books). He complains loudly but secretly, it's kind of nice to be able to locate a movie without tearing apart his entertainment center.
Jeff makes her listen to bands like Metallica and Nirvana and she makes a face like someone's strangling a kitten but he was scrolling through her ipod the other day and she's downloaded some of his favorite songs.
She falls asleep one night against his shoulder. He slowly moves out from under her and she mutters something incomprehensible as she settles against a pillow and lets out a deep breath. Jeff thinks about waking her but she looks too comfortable so he just covers her with a blanket and brushes a kiss over her forehead.
It takes him three hours to go to sleep.
When he wakes up she's gone.
It's been over a year and a half since Jeff has dated anyone or even had a random meaningless hookup with some drunk girl with no last name.
That one time with Britta (the event that they still do not speak of) was the last time and… seriously? Absolutely no one can find out how long it's actually been.
Of course, if people do thing he's having sex then they probably assume it with…
But these are things that Jeff does not think about.
Annie falls asleep on the couch again.
Jeff wakes up the next morning and expects that she'll be gone again but when he walks into the kitchen she's standing in front of the fridge with her head titled in thought. Her ponytail has come partly lose in the night and there are wisps of hair hanging against her cheek. She's wearing his sweatshirt and it knocks the wind out of him for a moment.
She turns to him, sees his expression and then looks down at what's she's wearing.
"I got cold last night."
He nods, "S'okay."
When she leaves later she's still wearing the sweatshirt and he doesn't think to ask for it back.
"Jeff, have you ever had a best friend?"
He looks up, curious.
"I don't know. I've had some good friends. But we never made blood brother solidarity pacts or anything, if that's what you're asking."
She sighs, "I've always wanted a best friend."
"No. What you want is the fantasy Baby-Sitter's Club version of friendship. It doesn't exist."
Annie glares at him. "I'm not twelve Jeff. I know what friendship is. I know it's not perfect." She looks down at her hands and when she speaks again her voice is softer. "I kind of like that it's not perfect."
He raises an eyebrow (there's a hint of a smile on his lips).
"Do you think…" She cuts herself off though and goes back to staring into space, her chin propped up on her hand.
Jeff's silent for a moment. Then, "You don't expect me to buy you one of those heart necklaces where one side says "Best" and the other says "Friend" do you?"
The smile on her face is glorious.
Sometimes there's kissing.
The first time it happens – she's leaving his apartment and it's late so he doesn't even think twice about leaning down and pressing a quick kiss to her lips. Like they do this everyday.
Annie ducks her head and smiles and when she's gone Jeff tries to pretend that the odd feeling in his stomach is from the Chinese they had for dinner.
The second time – They had been watching a movie (Citizen Kane. There had been some kind of discussion about great movies everyone has to see and it was one that neither of them had seen but they both felt they should see at some point so Jeff added it to his Blockbuster queue and then forgot about it and it once it arrived it sat unopened for a month and a half until Annie found it and there was nothing else to watch, so) and they had both fallen soundly asleep halfway through.
Jeff wakes up sometime around midnight to the sound of the DVD menu on loop, his contacts burning his eyes and Annie's feet in his face.
He sits up slowly and rubs his eye with the heel of his hand.
Annie's curled up on the other side of the couch, her hand tucked under her chin. Jeff tries to extract himself without waking her but at the first movement she starts, sits straight up and stares at him with wide blinking eyes.
He has to laugh. Her hair is sticking up on ends and the seam from one of his pillows has left an indentation down the side of her face. He reaches out to smooth down her hair and she just continues staring at him.
Jeff thinks she's maybe still sleeping but then she just launches herself at him. Like a fucking cat. Suddenly he's being pressed against the arm of the couch and her tongue is trailing down his throat and really? He can't complain.
She pulls away suddenly and looks up at him with baleful eyes, "I'm sorry."
He responds by kissing her back, slow and deep and it's different than any of the other times. Jeff keeps the pace soft and Annie's sighing, melting into him and he's consumed with wanting to gather her up and keep her pressed as close to him as possible.
In his entire life Jeff has never kissed anyone for the sake of kissing. It's always with purpose, it always leads somewhere, there's always a higher goal in mind.
But it's suddenly hours later and they're still just curled around each other on the couch, his hand tangled in her hair (he's found this spot right behind her ear that makes her moan and she's learned that he likes having his hair tugged) and they're not really talking, just touching and tugging and pressing and kissing.
It's new and not just because it's with Annie.
(Somewhere tucked into the back of his mind there's this little nugget of thought that it couldn't be with anyone other than her but Jeff Winger does not do cheese like that).
It's not like they're dating or anything.
They're sitting in the cafeteria and Annie's got her nose buried in some book. Jeff's sprawled out next to her with his arm slung over the back of her chair. He's half listening to a forty-five minute joke about a donkey and a priest that Pierce is trying to tell, half contemplating going for another fudge brownie. He settles for snaking his arm out to steal one of Annie's fries.
"Stop." She doesn't even look up.
He smirks, then goes for another one but she's suddenly got the reflexes of a ninja and she's reached back to pinch at the skin at his bicep.
"Ow. This abuse is completely uncalled for."
She just makes a "raspberry" noise in response.
He tugs lightly at the end of her hair.
Annie's eyes are still studiously trained on her book and he's willing to bet that she's still somehow managed to read half a page during this exchange – but her lips curve into a smile and she's rolling her eyes and tapping her tray toward him with her free hand.
Jeff's absentmindedly twirling strands of her hair around his finger and neither of them notice the knowing smiles Shirley and Britta are exchanging across the table.
He's brushing his teeth one morning when he notices her yellow toothbrush sitting in the cup at the edge of the sink. He stares at it for a moment, thinking about the pile of her books that are on his kitchen counter, the pink sneakers sitting by his front door, the change of clothes that she always keeps stuffed in her backpack.
The bottom drawer of his dresser is full of odd and ends and junk anyway so it's not a huge deal when he cleans it out and throws everything useless away.
When he shows it to her later that night if feels like progression.
There's a smile in her voice as she murmurs an "okay."
They're at Olive Garden one night and Jeff has consumed about thirteen too many bread sticks when suddenly Annie gasps.
Her parents have just walked in the door.
Jeff can practically feel his face go white and it's for good reason because this ends up being basically the worst experience of his entire life. (Meeting a girl's parents should not be this hard. How old is he? How old is she? That's right. Oh God).
Her dad gives him the "you're a perverted old man messing with my baby girl and I WILL destroy you" look and her mom just makes disapproving "hmm" noises under her breath the entire time. When it's over he feels exhausted.
Annie's face is red and if this were a cartoon there would be steam shooting out of her ears. Jeff just sits back in his chair and lets out a deep breath.
"Well that was a lot of fun. What do you say we follow it up by going and driving screws into our thumbs?"
"Oh!" She's beginning to look like a child in the throes of a tantrum - fists clenched, body shaking. "They are so unbelievable."
"Annie." He reaches over and rests his hand on her knee and amazingly? The miraculous happens. She closes her eyes, takes a deep breath and exhales slowly. When she looks at him again there's a tentative smile on her face.
"Okay." She grabs a breadstick and chews thoughtfully. "You know. My parents don't think I'll make it through law school. I'm pretty sure they're assuming that it will lead to another trip to the rehab clinic.
He shrugs. "They're wrong."
The movie was over about forty-five minutes ago and the DVD menu is playing on loop again and it's obnoxious but Jeff doesn't really hear it because Annie's mouth is at his collarbone and her shirt disappeared somewhere about an hour ago so his hands are free to smooth over the ridiculously soft skin at her back. His fingers drift down, dipping below the waistband of her jeans and she moans as he presses against her.
God, he can feel beads of sweat on his forehead and he's fully clothed but he's never been so worked up before, everything around him seems to be on hyper drive and he Can't. Stop. Touching. Her.
She sits up then and pulls him with her. The new position gives him perfect access to press a kiss just above the valley of her breasts. She sighs and her head falls back and then her hands are smoothing up the plains of his stomach and she's trying to tug his shirt off.
They both laugh when he gets stuck and is momentarily tangled and blinded with his hands above his head but she yanks and the shirt goes flying and it's probably ruined but who even cares because she's wrapping her arms around him, pulling their bodes flush together. Jeff's hands are at her waist again, pressing her down for more friction and he almost sees white as she chokes out something that sounds like "please."
It's almost too much.
God. She's going to stop this now. It's going to stop and…
"Jeff, your couch is really small."
He wants to cry.
She looks into his eyes and her hair is wild and there's a flush to her cheeks, her lips are red and swollen, eyes heavy-lidded. And then she's kissing his forehead, eyelids, nose and back down to his jaw line.
Jeff swings his legs over the couch and stands, Annie still wrapped around him. He's too old for this but her legs hitch up over his hips and he almost can't get to the bedroom fast enough.
She giggles when he drops her to the bed but stops abruptly when he moves over her, holds himself over her and dips his head to kiss her, almost too lightly, lips just ghosting over hers.
Then she whimpers and her arms are wrapping around his neck as they crash together.
Afterwards, she's trembling (maybe he is too) and he pulls her up against him, tucking her head under his chin.
Moonlight is streaming through the window and he finds himself mesmerized by the way the light dances over the floor as the blinds move in the breeze.
She responds with a choking laugh that sounds a little bit like crying and then shifts slightly so she can look up at him. She traces her finger over his eyebrow and then lets her eyes flutter shut.
Jeff strokes her hair and everything is hazy and quiet and – skin against skin, legs tangled together – perfect.
They only have the talk once. The talk.
He's teaching her how to make his famous grilled cheese sandwich (seriously, this girl cannot cook to save her life) and she's buttering bread while he cuts slices of cheddar cheese.
When she's done she looks at her work. "Is this okay?"
God, it's buttered bread, she's worried about fucking buttered bread.
And suddenly it just slips out.
"Annie, I'm thirty-seven."
Her lips part and she just stares at him for a second. A look of confusion crosses her face.
"Thirty-seven." He says it again, slowly, to make sure she really understands. He needs her to understand.
But she just sighs and cocks her head to the side. "Jeff."
He searches her eyes and then throws up his hands.
She nods. "Yes, but I'll be twenty-two next month!" Like it's an accomplishment.
Maybe it is for her.
"Your parents hate me."
"A little bit."
Jeff just shakes his head, reaches for the Parmesan cheese. "Okay, sprinkle this on each slice."
Her fingers brush against his. "Age isn't just a number Jeff."
"Thanks Bartlett's Quotations."
But he smiles anyway.
Jeff and Annie have been Jeff and Annie for so long that's it's practically a non event when they start driving to school together and Shirley turns the corner of the hallway one day to see them kissing outside Annie's classroom.
For her twenty-second birthday Jeff throws her a party.
They invite everyone.
Britta brings this guys she's seeing, Blaine. He's nice enough but he"s kind of a doofus and he reminds everyone of Kevin Kline in A Fish Called Wanda. And maybe Britta has a type.
Jeff might feel a little insulted by this.
Troy walks in with swagger and some girl from his art class on his arm. She's drop dead gorgeous and everyone assumes she's got the IQ level of a Barbie doll but when she opens her mouth, actual intelligent words tumble out and Troy just beams.
Abed follows everyone around with his camera like it's an episode of The Real World.
Annie glides around like a hostess, like she owns the place and …well, she might as well. She sleeps over almost every night and she's taken over half the closet and rearranged the living room (three times).
Jeff's out on the balcony whistling and grilling hamburgers when Britta strolls out with a beer in her hand. She leans against the railing and tosses him a bemused look.
"You and Annie."
"Don't start Squirrel."
"Hey, it's just an observation." She pauses. "It makes sense."
He looks at her questioningly because he sort of just assumes that everyone thinks they are both insane.
"She needed someone that needed her right back. And you just needed a reason to grow up."
Jeff stares at her, "That's the stupidest thing I've ever heard."
Britta lifts her beer, "Stupid but true."
He changes the subject. "So what about you and whatshisface in there. Bland was it?"
He snorts, "What kind of name is Blaine? Who does that to a child?" He stops and pretends to think, "Huh. Blaine and Britta. You could have a whole litter of children with increasingly ridiculous names. Brewery. Baldy. Balcony." He starts to laugh at his own joke.
Britta looks disgusted.
"Whatever Woody Allen," she calls behind her shoulder as she walks back inside.
Jeff just continues to laugh.
Annie gets into almost every law school she applies to.
Jeff does not.
He's not completely surprised. Despite the tutoring efforts of Annie his grades were still crap and his LSAT score was mediocre, at best.
But Annie's been pouring over brochures from Columbia (the irony does not escape him) and talking about moving to New York and the whole thing just makes him want to crawl back into bed and hide his head under a pillow.
This is exactly what he does and exactly where Annie finds him two hours later.
"Jeff, what are you doing?"
"Please don't tell me you consumed this entire can of whipped cream."
The bed shifts and her hands are sliding over his back, "Jeff, look at me."
He ignores her until she hops off the bed and stamps her foot on the floor.
"Listen buddy. I understand that you're upset right now but if you think I'm just going to let you wallow around here in your own filth, consuming copious amounts of sugary dairy products then you've got another thing coming."
Under the pillow Jeff can't help but make a face. He finally turns around and looks at her.
She shrugs, "I appealed to the absurd obsession you have with your own physical beauty. Sue me."
"Wait a minute – "
"Jeff. Listen to me." She cuts him off and sits back down next to him. "Life isn't over. You have options." It's then that he notices the manila folder in her hands. She tosses it down onto his chest.
He opens it up to find a pile of glossy brochures to the likes of NYU, Columbia and Cornell.
"Graduate schools. You can go through a few more years of school and then take the LSAT again. Get a Masters in political science. Maybe teach or go into research or-"
"Annie, these are all in New York."
"Well." She's playing nervously with the corner of his comforter.
Jeff tosses the brochures aside and pulls her down on top of him, wrapping his arms around her securely. She buries her face in his shirt and murmurs, "I don't want to go to New York alone."
He closes his eyes and smiles, trailing his fingers through her hair. They are quiet for a long moment.
(Dammit. He just wants to wallow in his own failures. Why does she have to come along and make it seem so easy?)
"So. You wouldn't mind some old man following you all the way to the big city?"
Her head pops up and she grimaces, "Jeff, that sounds creepy."
Jeff raises an eyebrow but then she gasps, "You can be my Felicity!"
"Okay. That's it. You are spending way too much time with Abed."
She giggles and starts talking about Ben and Noel and time travel (what the fuck?) and he has no choice but to flip her around and kiss her until she stops.
It seems sort of backwards and twisted, this whole thing. Like he fell in love with her and then got to know her and then she had practically moved in before there was even any sex and now they're just together and it works.
After graduation Abed insists that everyone meet at the stairs in front of the library. He mentions something about symmetry and framing and no one has any clue what he's talking about but they do it anyway.
They sit and laugh for awhile about the complete inappropriateness of Dean Pelton's speech ("Your future is out there, dangling in front of you and you just have to wrap your hand around it with a firm grip until it comes…") and how creepy the Human Being looked in a cap and gown. After awhile though they all fall quiet.
Jeff leans his elbows back on the step behind him, Annie next to him gazing wondrously at the rolled up paper in her hands.
"You know that's not the actual diploma right? Just a piece of paper that says "Congratulations?"
"Let me enjoy my moment."
He smiles, and looks back at everyone. "Guys, I just want to say… thanks. You ended up making this place almost bearable. I actually don't think I could have survived it without you."
"Oh, that's nice."
"And just think. None of this would have happened if you hadn't wanted to bang Britta."
Annie and Britta both throw Pierce disgusted looks.
"What?" Pierce looks genuinely confused. "It all worked out. Jeff ended up with Annie and Britta's still a lesbian."
"Peirce! I'm not-" Britta shakes her head. "Never mind."
Jeff looks over at Abed. "So, how does it all end?"
Abed frowns, "Well, if this were a television show, Annie would be going to the conveniently placed and previously unheard of Greendale Law School and the rest of us would barely work and spend most of our time at the bar slash dance club that you open. But… it's not a TV show. So, I don't know."
Troy jumps up off the steps, "I'm hungry. Who wants pancakes?"
"Oh, that sounds good."
Shirley and Britta follow him and Jeff stands, offering his hand to Annie. She brushes herself off and then reaches out to Pierce, "I want you to promise me you'll take care of yourself Pierce."
He scoffs, "What? You expect me to die sometime soon? You go away for a couple years and only come back for some big reunion at my funeral? Now I'm insulted."
Jeff laughs and throws his arm around Annie's shoulder. They follow the others.
Abed sits for a moment, alone on the steps, head tilted in thought.
"Abed! Come on!"
He smiles to himself, murmurs, "The End" and then jumps up to run after his friends.