The Art of Subtlety (or Five Times Jeff and Annie Flirt)
February 3, 2010, Library Study Room
Jeff had that sudden unsettled feeling of being watched. Intently. He glanced up from his phone just in time to catch Annie's head jerk back down close to her notebook, hair falling into her face.
"Stalk much? Did you need something?"
Annie gasped and dropped her pen on the floor. "Umm." She started mumbling something incoherent under her breath as she ducked under the table.
When she still hadn't emerged almost a full minute later Jeff rolled his eyes, his head falling back in annoyance. "Annie."
"I need your help," she said, slightly muffled under the table.
She went quiet again. Jeff stared at her empty chair.
"These are expensive jeans. I'm not climbing under that table with you."
There was a little sigh and then she slowly stood back up into view, her face flushed pink.
"You know. If this is the talk, I think Shirley might be better suited… the whole 'mom' thing and everything?"
Annie scowled as she took her seat. "No! I know about that." She took a deep breath. "I need to know how to flirt."
Jeff's eyebrows rose. "I'm sorry?" There was amusement in his voice.
"I need to know how to flirt and you're… we'll you're good at that. So I thought…"
"That I could tutor you?"
(He knew how this worked. He'd teach her how to flirt during a couple of awkward sessions in dark corners of the library and then the awkward would turn to sexual tension and then jealousy when he saw all his hard work paying off in her actually flirting successfully with some douchbag frat boy and then… Well, obviously he is spending too much time with Abed).
She watched him hopefully.
"I'm sorry. That's ridiculous. I'm not going to teach you how to flirt. We're not sixteen. Well, I'm not at least."
Annie's countenance crumbled in a way that made Jeff instantly feel like the world's biggest ass. How did she keep doing this to him? It was almost impressive. The girl had Bambi "my mom's just been shot and I have nowhere else to go" eyes like he'd never seen.
She ignored him.
Jeff tapped his thumbs on the desk and stared upward. Finally with a sigh he said, "It's really not that difficult."
Annie eyed him warily.
"It's subtlety. Little things." He was thinking about fingers combing through silky strands of hair, the dip of a v-neck sweater.
He looked at her, "Look Annie, it's simple. You want the truth? All you need to do is say hi." The guy will take one look at you and he'll do the rest. Just be yourself."
"Hi? That's it?"
"What if I say it wrong?"
Jeff laughed, "Hi? How would you say 'hi' wrong? Are you going to mispronounce it? Say it in Japanese? It's not rocket science." He thought of something then. "Who are you planning on flirting with exactly?"
Annie's face turned an impossible crimson. "No one."
He folded his arms over his chest and watched her in interest.
So Annie had a crush on someone. Someone possibly other than Troy? For one brief, infinitesimal moment he allowed his mind to skate past the idea that maybe…
But then she was leaning forward with slight tilt of her head, soft eyes, lips turned up in a smile. "Hi," she breathed out softly.
Jeff's stomach did something odd and tumbly in that instant. He would later attribute it to the inordinate amount of macaroni he had recently consumed. But, her eyes on him, it was almost involuntary to begin to moving toward her.
"What that good?"
"What?" He stared at her almost dazedly.
"Was that a good hi?
Oh. He sank back into his chair slowly, "Yeah. That… works."
She nodded happily and scribbled something in her notebook. Jeff began to consider going outside and slamming his head into a brick wall. Repeatedly.
"Hi. Hi. Hi," she was saying under her breath when the others finally began to filter in noisily. Shirley looked concerned.
"Sweetie, are you okay?"
Troy's eyes got big and wide. "Oh man, this is what I heard she was like before… you know." He made the "crazy" sign with his finger and stared at Jeff pointedly.
Annie gave an exasperated sign, "I'm not crazy. I'm just… practicing."
No one seemed very convinced by this so Jeff nosily flipped open his book. "Annie learned a new word today. Let's all be proud of her and move on with our lives. Okay? Can someone please explain to me what the hell preterite tense is?'
As everyone started opening their books and grumbling Annie glanced thankfully at Jeff. He acknowledged it with a slight nod and a smile.
March 11, 2010, Family Day
"Have you been crying?"
"No. I'm not a girl."
"It's okay if you were. Boys can cry too you know."
"Well then, it's a good thing I'm not a boy. This right here? This is all man."
"Don't make that face. This is all your fault anyway."
"How is it my fault? I was just trying to help you be a good friend. And you were. So don't you feel better?"
"No. This day sucked. On the suckage meter it's like a 10.5. 10.5 of complete suckage."
"I'm sorry you got your heart broken."
"It's not broken. STOP. LOOKING at me like that. I can see what you're doing. Using some Jedi mind trick to get me to talk about my feelings. Don't do it. You should only be using these powers for good Annie."
"I am! … Are you implying that I would use my persuasive powers over you for evil?"
"Yes. You make me put effort into things. I hate putting effort into things. Hence, the evil."
"Oh please. You can try and pretend like you don't care. You can try and pretend you don't think of us like friends. But I see you for what you really are."
"And what's that?"
"A good guy. I've seen you "break more than a light sweat" for us. On more than one occasion. And even when it didn't involve the possibility of sex. So."
"Wow. Did Annie Edison just use the word "sex" in her outdoor voice?"
"I think you did. Say it again."
"No. Not unless you admit I'm not evil and that you actually enjoyed helping Pierce today."
"Well that's not going to happ- Don't you dare use those eyes on me Annie. Oh, batting the eyelashes. You're really breaking out the big guns here. Not cool."
"Tell me, exactly how dangerous am I?"
"You have no idea."
"Well… if it makes you feel any better, despite your disapproval, there's a pretty good chance that your ex-girlfriend will be finding some kind of dead poultry in her car when she leaves tonight."
"You know what? It does actually."
PJ's Bar, Friday July 28, 2010
"Do you think - ?"
Annie nodded her head toward the corner of the bar where Britta was showing Troy how to play darts. The two were standing close together as she held his wrist and showed him the flicking motion. He said something that made her laugh, head dipping close to his.
Jeff watched in equal parts amusement and curiousity for a moment before it began to feel like awkward voyeurism. He turned back to Annie.
"No." But then he stopped, thought about it some more. "I don't know. Maybe." They both turned their heads to look again.
"Would that bother you?"
"No actually." His face was screwed up in puzzlement. "I don't know why."
Annie swirled a straw around her glass, causing the ice cubes to clink together. She looked thoughtful. "Maybe because she's an actual person now. You know her now as more than just a sexual prospect. She's a friend who you care about and…" She said the words slowly, trying to work out the reason for it all as she spoke.
"That was a lot of rambling nonsense you just said but sadly, I think I know what you mean." Jeff nodded his head back toward the dart-playing duo. "So Troy and Britta, it wouldn't bother you?"
"No." There was a distant, far-off quality to her voice, like she didn't really care, or that she hadn't even considered the idea of caring. Jeff tried to bury the feeling of satisfaction that washed over him.
"Well good. Because, I think I see your next sexual prospect over there at the bar."
Annie turned her head slightly to see a burly biker type sitting about four feet away. His arms were covered in tattoos, his beard knotted into a long braid that reached midway down his chest. As she caught his eye, he winked and she gave a little inward gasp as she spun back around.
"Jeff!" she hissed though her teeth.
"What? Not your type? Cause I think you should go for it."
"Jeff! Stop. He's gross. And old." As the words came out of her mouth she made a face like she was physically trying to rewind time. She looked up at Jeff who was suddenly occupied with knocking back the last of his drink. He set the empty glass down with slightly more force then necessary and leaned his forearm against the table.
"What's wrong with older men?"
And here it was, this unspoken thing.
"Nothing. It's… he's like sixty."
"So that's your cutoff? Sixty?" There was a hint of smile in his words so she knew he couldn't be too entirely put-out about the direction of this conversation.
"No. It's…" she was trying to do math in her head while simultaneously pretending not to do math in her head like this conversation was of no consequence and God, the whole thing made her heart race and her head ache.
Jeff laughed loudly at this, his head thrown back. "Where did you come up with that one?"
She shrugged. "I don't know. Seems like a good number."
He nodded. "42. That's a lot of years away from 19."
He was leaning across the table, angled toward her and doing that "Jeff" thing where he was focused entirely on her and suddenly there wasn't a single other person in the room. No wonder he made a good lawyer. You could get lost in that feeling, in that intimate aloneness.
She dropped her eyes back into her drink, "Age doesn't have to matter."
His lips moved up into a slow, drawling smile. "Noted."
Well. He wasn't running away or looking at her with repulsion. These were good things. Oh God, her eyes were doing that wide, melty, "Kiss me now, kiss me now you fool" sort of thing weren't they? Dammit.
Jeff's eyes flickered down to her lips so briefly she wondered if she had imagined it. He was dunk. Right? This was alcohol induced tension. Alcohol induced sexual tension.
Her skin was hot.
"Do you think that maybe if-"
"Hey guys?" They both jumped as Britta approached the table.
"We're going to need to take him to the emergency room."
Behind her, Tory was crying and holding his hand to his forehead. There was a tiny trail of blood trickling down the side of his face.
Annie and Jeff stared incredulously.
"How did that even happen?"
Britta rolled her eyes, "Don't ask."
"Oh God. Oh God. I think it pierced my brain."
Annie's stomach rolled at the sight of blood. But she quickly tossed aside the emotion. This was a situation she could take charge of and handle.
"Okay, I'm the only one that hasn't been drinking. I'll drive."
She jumped up as Jeff threw some money on the table and they followed Britta and Troy to the door. Troy's cries of pain trailed through the bar, causing everyone to stare. Annie turned and rolled her eyes at Jeff.
Her heart stopped.
And then she smashed directly into the doorjamb.
"Wow. And that's our designated driver."
Cell Phone Log for Thursday October 7, 2010
11:14p Jeff Winger: hey what r u doing?
11:16p Annie Edison: Um. Watching TV. Why?
11:17p Jeff Winger: just curious
11:20p Annie Edison: Okaaayyy? What are YOU doing?
11:22p Jeff Winger: out wit troy and abed
11:25p Annie Edison: Are you drunk?
11:26p Jeff Winger: WHAT? NO
11:27p Jeff Winger: you should come out
11:32p Annie Edison: I'm in my pajamas
11:35p Jeff Winger: silk nighty?
11:37p Annie Edison: Ew. No. Flannel pajamas
11:39p Jeff Winger: that sounds good too.
11:39p Jeff Winger: come out
11:45p Annie Edison: Maybe next time
11:47p Jeff Winger: party pooper
11:48p Annie Edison: I'm really into this Real Housewives Marathon
11:50p Jeff Winger: annie edison closet reality junky?
11:51p Annie Edison: Shut up. I know you watch it too.
11:53p Jeff Winger: shhh thats a secret
11:54p Jeff Winger: i think im recording it
11:55p Annie Edison: I knew it!
11:58p Annie Edison: You could come over and watch it with me
12:01a Jeff Winger: yeah?
12:03a Annie Edison: Yeah
12:05a Jeff Winger: its late
12:07a Annie Edison: Says the guy trying to get me out to a bar at midnight
12:11a Jeff Winger: R your parents home?
12:12a Annie Edison: No
12:15a Jeff Winger: Sounds dangerous
12:17a Annie Edison: You don't trust me?
12:21a Jeff Winger: u r not the one i dont trust
12:24a Annie Edison: That's okay.
12:30a Jeff Winger: im pretty tired i think im just going 2 go home and crash
12:33a Annie Edison: Oh. Ok.
12:35a Jeff Winger: next time
12:37a Annie Edison: Promise?
12:40a Jeff Winger: yes ;)
12:42a Annie Edison: Goodnight Jeff
12:43a Jeff Winger: night annie
January 29, 2011, Study group
"Jeff, is that lipstick?"
He looked up. "What?"
Britta leaned across the table and grabbed at his collar. She gasped and then smacked his shoulder. "It is!"
"Is it that blonde chick from English? Cause… yeah, I hate you."
"Jeff, are you hooking up with Slimcalves again?"
"Eww," Annie yelled. Everyone looked at her.
Her eyes got wide. "What? She's not good enough for him. She broke his heart. Remember?" She looked around the table for assurance.
Britta nodded, "Annie's right. Do you really want to go through that again?"
"I'm sorry Jeff. I've got a girlfriend now so I won't have time to be your shoulder to cry when she stomps on your heart again. Her name's Jane by the way. My girlfriend. In case you guys forgot."
"We know you have a girlfriend now. You don't need to bring her up all the time."
"Troy's right. It's getting all little creepy."
"I don't know what you're talking about."
"Oh please." Britta deepened her voice, 'What's the Spanish word for skirt again? Jane wears skirts. She's my girlfriend. My girlfriend Jane. The one that wears skirts. What are they serving for lunch today? Jane eats lunch. My girlfriend. Jane.' Pierce, we know. Her name is Jane. She eats lunch. She's your girlfriend. Good job."
Pierce sat up straighter, puffing his chest out. "Britta. I know I'm what some people might consider a silver fox, but this jealously thing is getting a little out of hand."
"Oh god." Britta dropped her head to the table.
"Guys! Focus. We were talking about Jeff. And his new girlfriend."
Jeff swung his head to the side incredulously, "Thanks a lot Annie."
She smiled with wide eyes and gave a tiny shrug of her shoulders.
"You know Jeff, you're a grown man. And sooner or later this kind of behavior just becomes inappropriate."
"Okay! Enough." Jeff held up his hands, "Listen. Pierce, I won't be needing a shoulder to cry on this time. Troy, it's not the girl from English but she is hot and you should be jealous. Britta, I realize that I offend whatever femi-nazi oppressive ideas you have about the entire male species. And for that I'm sorry. Abed, what ever pop culture television staple your brain has decided to lump me in, I don't really care. And Annie…" He shook his head, "Whatever you're thinking. Just stop." He slouched back into his chair, arms across his chest.
Everyone was quiet.
"Wow. You really like this girl."
"This is just like Friends."
Troy looked confused, "How is this like Friends? I'm pretty sure there are too many black people here."
Abed's eyes flickered around the table. "Nevermind."
"Are you in love Jeffrey?
Jeff threw his hands up in the air. "How did you get that from what I said?"
""It wasn't what you said. It was how you said it."
"Like you were defending someone's honor."
"You might as well have been standing outside with a boom box over your head."
"In Your Eyes. Oh God." Troy put his fist to his mouth. "I love that song."
"It's a really good song."
Pierce patted Troy on the back consolingly.
Jeff rubbed the heel of his hand into his eye, "Hey, here's an idea. How about we study and stop taking about things that make Troy cry or give me a migraine."
Annie perked up. "Jeff's right guys. We do have a test on Friday. Okay. Everyone turn to page 98."
She glanced a perky smile at him but he just scowled.
He caught up with her in the hallway, falling into step beside her. "I'm sorry. Did you actually enjoy that in there?"
"Maybe." Annie glanced sideways at him. "Shouldn't you be off making out in some disgusting supply closet with your hot new girlfriend?
"I should be yes. But she's one of those academic types who actually insists on attending classes."
She gasped in mock horror. "Attending classes? At SCHOOL? Why would you keep someone like that around?"
Jeff shrugged, "Well, she's a really good kisser." He looked quickly around the hallway and lowered his voice, "And I might add, a really good actor. It's a little frightening actually."
A smile played at the corner of her lips but she didn't say anything.
"You know, I thought we agreed you weren't going to wear that lip gloss anymore."
"My lips felt chapped." She narrowed her eyes, "Besides, I thought what we agreed was that you weren't going to wear white shirts to school anymore."
"Well then, I guess we're at an impasse."
"We could always stop making out in supply closets. You know, because it repulses you so much."
They stopped and faced each other. Annie scrunched up her nose, 'Jeff, it is disgusting. Who knows what else has gone on in there?"
Jeff leaned forward slightly and whispered, "If I recall correctly, you were the one who attacked me this morning."
A wave of pink washed over her cheeks, "Well maybe I like the white shirt."
He dropped his gaze to her lips, "Well maybe I like the lip gloss. What is that? Pineapple?"
"Whatever it is, I'm a fan. Really. I'm President of the 'Annie's Lipgloss Fan Club.'"
Annie smiled and reached up, tugging on his collar, scratching lightly at the pink spot there.
"Hmm. I think Abed knows."
"And that surprises you?"
She was standing close. Probably too close if they wanted to continue to keep up the whole covert romance thing.
"Maybe you'll just have to take the shirt off next time."
Jeff's eyebrow quirked upwards. For a moment, caught in the intensity of her gaze, he thought she was going to step forward and kiss him right there in the hallway. Instead she dropped her hand, the edge of her finger trailing lightly against his collarbone.
He swallowed hard, trying to open his mouth to reply but she just tapped her fingers against his chest and fixed him with a bright smile.
"I'll see you later Jeff!"
And with that she turned on her heel and disappeared down the hallway, looking back only once with a coy "I know what this is doing to you and I'm going to enjoy every minute of it" sort of smile.
Jeff stared after her, shaking his head. "She is evil. Completely evil," he muttered to himself before turning and walking in the opposite direction toward the bathroom.
Screw class. A cold shower was in order.