Title: Kind of Magical
Spoilers: Through 1.23, "Modern Warfare"
Rating/ Warning: PG-13
Word Count: 5822
Disclaimer: I do not own Community. That fact keeps me up nights.
The study group was missing two key players, but none of the constituents currently in attendance seemed particularly concerned.
"My boys are going to make me breakfast in bed for Mothers' Day! Well, actually I'm going to make the breakfast and get in bed, but they're going to bring it to me," Shirley amended.
The group ooh-ed and aww-ed appropriately.
"I know!" Shirley squealed. "And then they said the cutest thing last night. They said, 'Mama,' 'cause they call me Mama—'"
"Uh, well, if you're gonna be Fun Police…"
Britta entered the room.
"Okay, well, if I'm the Fun Police, then you're Director of Funland Security."
Followed by Jeff.
The gang let out a collective groan of discontent.
"Oh, good. More of this," Pierce muttered.
"More of what?"
Annie couldn't contain herself any longer.
"What do you think?" she asked rhetorically. "The constant bickering! It was cute at first, but—well, Abed explains it best."
The group turned to Abed, who picked up the conversation without missing a beat.
"To be blunt, 'Jeff and Britta' is no 'Ross and Rachel.' Your sexual tension and lack of chemistry are putting us all on edge which is why, ironically—I hear this on every level—you're keeping us from being friends."
"Jeff and I do not have sexual tension. We just argue all the time," Britta scoffed.
The group gave them a silent, withering stare that communicated deep skepticism. Then, Abed thoughtfully tilted his head to the side and spoke.
"What?" Britta asked, apparently surprised at being agreed with.
"The stubborn female and wisecracking lothario whose mutual irritation crumbles under their growing sexual attraction is, well… played out."
"Played out?" Jeff repeated incredulously.
"Yup. Modern audiences are too sophisticated for such a trite setup. Laugh tracks and predictable hijinks are out; meta-humor and esoteric wit are in. In other words, the television audience of today would probably hate this ship," Abed said matter-of-factly.
"When did we start talking about sailing?" Pierce inquired.
"In fact," Abed continued. "The one person with whom Jeff displayed true, spontaneous chemistry this season was Annie, which many conventional viewers would deem inappropriate due to their difference in age."
"Abed, honey, we've talked about this. Real people don't have 'seasons,' except for the kind with equinoxes," Shirley helpfully explained.
"I don't even know what he's talking about," Jeff balked.
"The debate. When Annie kissed you, and you got all wobbly and goo-goo eyed, and then the two of you were awkward around each other for the next week or so," Abed supplied.
"Thanks for clearing that up, Abed," Jeff said, a tight grin pasted on his face.
Abed nodded happily.
"No problem. I think that you two—" He gestured at Jeff and Britta. "–are engaging in an empty flirtation based on the subconscious expectation you both feel to fulfill the role of the 'will they or won't they' OTP of our group."
"Oh, is that what that was? I thought it was gout," Britta deadpanned.
"Unlikely," he scoffed. Then, taking out his iPhone he added, "But I'll check Web M.D."
"The two of you make a good platonic team, but the romantic chemistry just isn't there. If you carry on with the forced banter, you'll only continue to drive a wedge of artificiality into the natural development of our otherwise charming and quirky group dynamic," Abed said all in one breath.
The entire group stared at Abed, open-mouthed.
They all turned to see the Dean enter the study room, a wide grin on his face.
"Just a reminder, our Spring Fling is on the quad today. Music, food, activities, what whaaaat!"
Six heads slowly turned away from the sight of the Dean raising the roof and back to Abed.
"What whaaaaaaat!" the Dean tried again. Then, deflating he snapped, "Well, really, what?"
"Abed just said something amazing," Troy said, awed.
"It wasn't amazing. It was stupid," Britta snapped.
"No, that was stupid," Troy retorted. He crossed his arms across his chest, proudly.
"Your face is stupid!" she rejoined.
Troy gasped, momentarily shaken by the devastating blow.
"Calm down, Flat Butt," Pierce interjected.
Britta swallowed whatever insult she had prepared for Troy and whipped around to face Annie. The two shared a disturbed look before turning simultaneously to Abed, who waggled his eyebrows at Annie.
Jeff sighed impatiently.
"Look, I agree with Britta. Our banter isn't forced. We're not doing it out of some subconscious need to play a prototypical rom-com couple. There is no 'rom' to this 'com.' This is just how we interact."
"Ohhhh, is this convo about how annoying the whole 'Britta and Jeff' thing is?" the Dean asked.
"Mmm-hmm," the group replied, save for the two people in question.
"There is no 'Britta and Jeff!' And why does everyone always put her name first?" Jeff shouted.
"Maybe because I'm awesome," she suggested.
Suddenly Jeff had a malicious glint in his eye.
"Or maybe it's because they knew you'd cry sexism if they didn't," he offered.
"The only person I see crying here is you, Whiny McBlubberson," Britta jabbed.
Shirley slammed her hands down on the table.
"Ugh! Enough!" she growled.
"Kiss him, Annie!" Troy ordered.
"What? No!" she squeaked.
"Oh, stop with the melodramatic gasping, and take one for the team, woman!" Pierce insisted.
"They're right. The only way to stop Britta and Jeff from going through the motions in this overused plotline is to introduce one of them to an authentic love interest," Abed confirmed.
Troy stared at Abed for a moment, then turned back to Annie.
"Yeah. What he said."
Dean cleared his throat.
"There might be another means to get Jeff to go a different way. A very different way. I'm just saying… vaguely, with no specifics that could be used against me in a harassment suit, that I am well practiced in the art of seduction and would be willing to…"
His voice trailed off when he realized that everyone present was staring at him in horror.
"No?" Dean asked. Then, raising his hands in a sign of surrender, he continued. "Okay, just trying to help. I'll just… Paintball Assassin starts on the quad in 30 minutes! The prize is TBD!"
With that he turned and swept out of the room.
"I want TBD! Is that new?" Troy asked urgently.
"If it's what I think, I had it for about a month in the seventies," Pierce quipped.
"You sure that wasn't gout?" Britta asked.
"Let's get back to Annie and Jeff," Abed interjected.
"Wait! What about Britta and Jeff?" Annie exclaimed.
"There is no 'Britta and Jeff!'" Jeff groaned.
Abed nodded in agreement.
"Jeff's right. In essence there is no 'Britta and Jeff'—only a superficial, half-hearted attempt to pair the two most obvious romantic leads. If anything, there's an 'Annie and Jeff.'"
"Well that's ridiculous," Annie, laughing nervously.
"Yeah, totally," Jeff chimed in somewhat enthusiastically.
"What about the kiss?" Shirley asked.
"For the team," Annie muttered at the exact same moment that Jeff muttered, "strategic and joyless."
They looked up at each other, froze, and then, eyes wide, jerked around to look at anything other than each other.
"See, now that is real sexual tension," Abed noted.
Troy, Pierce, and Shirley let out a simultaneous "Ahhh," of understanding.
"I'm dating Vaughn!" Annie reminded them.
The group murmured skeptically.
"What? I am!" she insisted.
"Hm. It seems like we haven't seen him in a half a season," Abed mused.
"Abed," Shirley prompted.
"Sorry. In like three months."
Shirley nodded happily.
"He had that vision quest, and then he decided to march across America to raise awareness for the suffering in Tibet but he had to turn back because Birkenstocks aren't good for long distances, and then he took that performance art class so he spent two weeks as a living sculpture by the drama wing. But right now he's playing hacky sack with his friends," Annie explained.
"Translation: Annie won't give it up, so he's trying the whole 'absence makes the girl grow hornier' approach," Pierce snorted.
"Eww! Pierce!" Annie whined.
"Don't worry, Annie. You'll soon tire of Vaughn's aversion to structure and dump him… or he dumps you… I haven't decided yet. Anyway, that will leave the door open for—."
"No, this is crazy! Abed, stop trying to make us sitcom archetypes, and the rest of you, stop trying to read romance where there is none. There is no 'Jeff and anyone,'" Jeff shouted.
"I noticed that you put your name first," Britta commented.
"Britta, your attempts to bait Jeff into banter is getting kind of desperate to the point of being out of character," Abed chided.
"This is just how we interact!" Britta cried.
"I'm going to let you guys figure this out while I go take a nap in my car," Jeff stated.
And with that, he stormed out of the study room.
A little over an hour later…
"So, Annie, how are things with you and Vaughn?" Shirley asked from her post in the men's bathroom stall.
"Fine. Great! He wrote me another song. It's called, 'Annie, My Moon Star,'" Annie replied from within the trashcan.
"What's a moon star?" Britta asked, shifting her high-heeled boots on the plastic toilet seat.
"I'm not really sure, but he was able to rhyme 'star' with so many things…"
Annie's voice trailed off and the other two ladies could here the shifting of plastic bags and paper towels.
"So, having kissed Jeff once, I can honestly say that it was nice but not magical. Would you agree, Annie?" Britta asked casually.
There were more shuffling noises from within the trash can.
"Um, can we have this conversation some other time? It'd rather not inhale any more than I have to. It reeks. I think this trash can was moved from the cafeteria because there's a disturbing about of food in here for a bathroom."
"SHHH! Someone's coming!" Shirley hissed.
The girls knew what had to be done. They had already taken out two dozen players with this setup. This time, however, Annie had to stifle a gasp as she heard Jeff, Abed, and Troy enter the bathroom.
It all happened so fast. Suddenly, everyone was pulling out their weapons.
"FREEZE MAMMA-JAMMA!" Annie bellowed as she revealed herself.
"All right. Everybody be cool. We can beat the others if we merge alliances," Abed said sensibly.
"We're doing fine on our own," Britta snapped.
"Yeah? You gonna win the whole game camped on a crapper?" Jeff asked.
"Worked on you," Britta returned.
"Did it? Or do you have a gun in your face."
Britta smirked back.
"Yeah! Kind of matches yours."
"Nice comeback," Jeff jibed.
The group could stand it no longer.
"SHUT UP!" they screamed.
"Jeeze!" Jeff and Britta replied, holding up their weapons.
"Did you feel how forced that was?" Abed asked.
"No," Britta and Jeff spat at the same moment.
"Here, let me try something," Abed ordered.
Swinging his weapon onto his back to free up his hands, he turned to Troy and, placing both hands on his shoulders, nudged him gently backwards until he was standing directly next to Jeff. Then, using the same method, he pulled Jeff up to stand where Troy had been moments before so that Jeff and Annie were facing each other, and Britta and Troy were facing off further down the line.
"Okay, let's try it again," Abed stated.
"Try what again?" Annie asked.
"The scene," Abed answered.
"This is ridiculous."
"That's not nice," Shirley warned.
"Only because it's Mothers' Day weekend, I will cave in to your guilt trip."
Shirley nodded approvingly and the group resumed their shootout stance.
"All right. Everybody be cool. We can beat the others if we merge alliances," Abed repeated.
He looked pointedly at Annie, who, realizing it was her line, jumped in.
"We're doing fine on our own," she said, parroting Britta.
"Yeah? You gonna win the whole game camped in a trash can?" Jeff said, trying to adopt the same snarky tone as before, and falling somewhat short.
"Oh no!" Annie said suddenly, her eyes becoming wider and more doe-like than usual.
"What? What is it?" Jeff asked, a slight note of concern in his voice.
"The carton of milk I was standing on just burst and now there's milk oozing all over my shoes," Annie moaned.
Jeff got a small, crooked smile.
"Bet your trash can doesn't seem like such a good idea now, does it?" he teased.
"Jeff!" Annie whined, removing the trash can lid from her head with a pout.
"Sorry, sorry," Jeff said, shaking himself. "Okay, shoulders," he ordered.
Annie nodded and placed her palms on his shoulders.
"Milady," Jeff said with a smile.
"Milord," she said, dipping her head in a regal bow.
Jeff placed his hands on Annie's waist and hoisted her up and out of the trashcan.
"Eww! My favorite pair of flats!" she lamented.
"Don't worry. I'm sure Pierce knows a good shoeshine boy who can fix those up in a jiffy," Jeff said, still smiling.
"Aww, that's nice!" Shirley cooed.
Abed nodded approvingly. Britta frowned and seemed too confused to speak.
"Who drinks milk in the bathroom?" Troy asked.
About five minutes later…
"Okay. So the agreement is we're allies until we're sure we're the last seven standing," Annie confirmed.
They were out on the quad, having awkwardly shuffled out of the bathroom after participating in Abed's strange experiment. Then, without warning, shots rang out.
"Troy made God mad!" Shirley cried.
"Take cover!" Jeff yelled.
Abed ducked behind a fallen cart, while Pierce, and Shirley found shelter behind an overturned table. Jeff followed Britta and Annie toward another table. Pausing at the last second, he placed himself between the two girls, forcing Britta to shift to the left. She gave him a curious look, which he ignored.
"Glee Club," Abed said.
"How do you know it's the Glee Club?" Britta asked him.
Abed held up a finger.
Suddenly the group was serenaded by "Hit me with your best shot" in three-part harmony.
"Oh, brother," Annie scoffed. She began to stand. "That is—"
"Annie, NO!" Jeff barked, grabbing her wrist and tugging hard.
Annie emitted an abrupt squeak and fell back to the group.
"Sorry," Jeff said sheepishly.
"It's okay. Thanks for saving me," she replied with a nervous smile.
"You can return the favor later," Jeff quipped.
They managed to escape the Glee Club, but only after Pierce bravely (unknowingly) sacrificed himself. Soon the five remaining study groupers were gathered around a crackling fire in an empty classroom.
"What are you guys gonna do if you win priority registration?" Shirley asked.
"I'll make my schedule airtight. Maybe get out of here in three years instead of four," Jeff said hazily.
"I'd take any class with no tests and no papers. What would you do, Shirley?" asked Britta.
"I'd choose all morning classes so I could get home early to spend some time with my boys. It's hard being away from them so much."
She held her hands up to the fire, warming her fingertips.
"You know what? I say if any of us win the prize, we give it to Shirley as a Mothers' Day gift," Britta said resolutely.
"Absolutely," Abed replied instantly.
"Totally," Annie affirmed.
"What? Abed, Annie, you don't have to do that. I am so sick of you guilting people with your phony humanitarian shtick!" Jeff snapped at Britta.
"Phony?" Britta balked. "When I win, you can watch me do it."
"Of course you'll do it, but that won't make it any less phony. You know, you'd be—"
Jeff stopped short.
"I'd be what?" Britta demanded.
Jeff squinted and shook his head.
"Nothing. You know what? That's a nice idea. You should do that," he said.
There was a brief pause.
"What just happened?" Annie asked. Her finger was still on the trigger of her gun. She'd been preparing to take out one or both of the pair to end their new round of banter.
"Character development," Abed replied excitedly.
"The fighting does feel kind of forced," Jeff said, directing his statement at Britta.
She looked at him skeptically.
"No, what were you going to say?"
"It doesn't matter. That was a nice thing, what you suggested. You should do that," Jeff maintained.
"No, come on—" Britta insisted. She stopped at the sound of guns being cocked. She turned to see Abed and Shirley aiming at her.
"Let's do it," Shirley said.
"Study group! Come out and play-ayyyy!"
Before they could process what was happening, the group was surrounded by a gang of roller-skating assassins. Shirley was hit early in the fray, but Abed's tragic elimination hit Annie particularly hard. Jeff absently placed a hand on her back when she whimpered at the sight of Abed's paint splattered ankles. Britta walked over to assure Shirley that she would win the prize for her boys when Annie caught something bright red out of the corner of her eye.
"Oh my god, Jeff, you've been hit!" she exclaimed.
Jeff withdrew his hand immediately began examining himself.
"What? Oh, no!" he moaned in despair.
He located the bright red stain on his shirt, and peered frantically at it.
"Wait," he started. "It's blood. It thought it was paint, but I'm just bleeding. Talk about luck!"
He grinned down at Annie, whose crinkled brow hinted that she did not share his relief.
"That's right, Edison. I'm still in the game! You'll just have to deal with it," he joked.
"What? That's not what I'm worried about, you idiot. You're bleeding!" she cried.
"Jeff's bleeding?" Britta asked, rejoining them.
"Yes, I'm very manly," Jeff assured her.
"Hmm. Or very delicate," Britta replied.
"STOP!" Annie commanded.
"Fine," Britta muttered.
"We shouldn't stay here. We could be ambushed again. We should move toward the center of the building," Jeff suggested.
Britta nodded in agreement.
"Study room," she declared.
They carefully made their way through the halls, taking turns in the lead. It was Annie's turn in front when she turned a corner and got a shock.
She aimed her gun uncertainly at her boyfriend. Jeff and Britta immediately positioned themselves behind her, guns pointed much more decisively. Vaughn stood in the hallway with two others students. A red hacky sack lay at their feet.
"Hey Moon Star!" Vaughn said cheerfully.
"Did you get hit? Are you out of the game?" Annie asked, concerned.
Vaughn smiled at Annie like she was a precocious child.
"Babe, I was never in the game. It's barbaric," he informed her.
"Barbaric? It's paintball, not genocide, Gandhi," he scoffed.
Vaughn glared at him.
"You know, Gandhi once said, 'An eye for an eye only makes the whole world blind,'" he said sagely.
"Yeah, I know. And Hammurabi, the guy who came up with 'an eye for an eye,' would have kicked Gandhi's ass at paintball," Jeff sneered.
"That is so not Zen, dude," one of Vaughn's friends said, shaking his head in disgust.
"Annie, I can't believe you're partaking in this simulated violence! You know it only perpetuates real violence!" Vaughn scolded.
Annie looked abashed, but before she could defend herself, Britta interjected.
"Oh please! Paintball doesn't encourage real violence."
"It's making a game out of war, Britta. I wouldn't expect you to understand, but that, like, normalizes the idea of war so that it's okay. And war is not okay, Britta," Vaughn said gravely.
"I think he's right, Britta. I feel like I might commit a real act of violence really soon," Jeff noted.
"Guys, stop it," Annie pleaded.
Britta and Jeff looked at each other, silently communicating their mutual hatred of the hippie standing before them, but acquiesced. They lowered their weapons.
"Annie, I'm going to go back to my game. If you decide that you'd rather join us in our peaceful resistance, we'll be here," Vaughn concluded.
He turned back to his friends, lifting the red sack from the floor. Annie stared at his back for a moment before turning back to Jeff and Britta. Giving them an apologetic shrug, she started down the hallway away from her boyfriend. Jeff and Britta gave each other a silent congratulatory high five, pleased that Annie had chosen them over Vaughn. Jeff turned to deliver one final, gloating quip, when he noticed something odd.
Vaughn was gearing up to deliver a vicious kick to the red hacky sack. But he wasn't directing it at either of his friends. He was aiming for Britta.
And then he saw it. The hacky sack jiggled.
"IT'S NOT A HACKY SACK!" Jeff shouted.
"Huh?" Britta replied.
But it was too late. Vaughn's foot connected with the red bag, which propelled it at Britta. It struck her in the arm and burst open, red paint propelling out from it in all directions.
"What the HELL?" Britta bellowed.
"It was a paintball?" she shouted.
In a split second, Jeff and Annie had their guns pointed at Vaughn and his lackeys.
"That's not how you play the game," Britta grumbled.
"It's called Paintball Assassin. I created a ball of paint. There's nothing in the rules that says the paint can't be in a balloon," Vaughn crowed.
He and his friends held a paintball balloon in each hand. Annie adjusted her gun.
"What happened to 'an eye for an eye makes the whole world blind?'" she asked, still in shock.
"Babe, we're talking about priority registration here! Even Gandhi would want in," Vaughn rationalized.
Annie looked up at Jeff. He met her eyes. She gave him a tiny nod.
Vaughn gaped. His white linen shirt was now stained lime green. Jeff had dodged four paint balloons and taken out the two friends, but Annie didn't notice. She was too busy glaring at her boyfriend.
"Hahahaha!" Britta laughed, pointing at Vaughn.
"Moon Star, what the hell? You shot me!" Vaughn shouted, doing his best to ignore Britta.
"I'm so sick of you bastardizing history! And your stupid neo-hippie philosophy! Guess what, Vaughn? Buddha would NOT find playing Wii tennis better than Nirvana. Buddha would not own a Wii!" Annie yelled.
"You don't know that!" Vaughn shot back.
"Ugh! And another thing—Who tries to walk across the nation in sandals? Buy some Nikes!"
"Those shoes are made in sweatshops! How can you be so callous to the plight of the world's children?" Vaughn accused.
"Who do you think made the stupid beaded bracelets that you bought at Wal-Mart?" Annie screamed.
"You shop at Wal-Mart?" Britta gasped.
"You promised not to tell!" Vaughn whined.
"Look, Vaughn, I'm sorry that I shot you, but Jeff and I have to go. We have a game to win," Annie stated stoically.
"That's fine, Moon Star. Go off with Jeff Winger, the same guy who ruined my relationship with Britta. But if you go, then don't come crawling back to me," Vaughn warned.
"Are you breaking up with me?" Annie asked.
"I just don't think it's going to work, Annie. You're kind of a B," Vaughn clarified.
"Fine," Annie spat.
"Fine!" Vaughn aped.
Vaughn and his cronies spun around in their Birkenstocks and stormed away, leaving Jeff, Annie, and Britta alone in the hallway.
"I'm so sorry, Britta," Annie said.
"It's not your fault," Britta said reasonably.
The two women hugged, and Britta waved sadly as she marched off to the parking lot.
"And then there were two," Jeff intoned.
"Do you really think we're the last two standing?"
Both of them wordlessly tightened their grips on their guns.
"Before I kill you, I should probably help you patch up that wound," Annie said, gesturing at the red spot on Jeff's shirt, which had grown.
Jeff gave her sideways smile.
"How very hospitable of you."
They made it to the study room without further incident, and Annie retrieved her backpack from under an overturned chair.
"All right now, Edison, don't mangle me. This body is my temple," Jeff joked.
"Don't worry. I was a Girl Scout," Annie assured him.
Jeff pretended to collapse into a chair in surprise.
"Shocking. Did they teach you how to apply a Band-Aid in the Girl Scouts?" he asked.
"No, but I learned to identify Poison Oak. And I earned my French braiding badge," Annie said proudly.
Jeff quirked an eyebrow.
"An honor first received by Daniel Boone, I think."
"I was unaware that Daniel Boone was a Girl Scout," Annie played along.
"Well, that, Ms. Edison, is why you are still in school," Jeff concluded.
Annie was turned away from Jeff, searching her backpack, but she smiled to herself.
"I think I have some Band-Aids and Neosporin in here," she explained.
"Of course you do," Jeff replied, a similar smile on his face.
He reached up to remove his undershirt, and had succeeded in lifting it up to his shoulders when Annie turned around, triumphantly holding the medical supplies.
"Oh my God! What are you doing?" she squeaked, promptly dropping said medical supplies onto the floor.
Jeff froze, his shirt still half on and half off.
"What?" he blurted out, bewildered.
Annie was shielding her eyes with her now-free hands.
"Why are you undressing?" Annie whispered urgently.
Jeff went bug-eyed for a second.
"So that you can finally earn your First Aid badge and impress the Troop Leader. I thought we'd already been over this."
Annie, apparently recovering from her shock a bit, was looking directly at Jeff now.
"The cut is just below your ribs. You can just lift the bottom of your shirt," she insisted.
"I'm sorry. I didn't think it was a big deal to expose my bare chest. I didn't realize that we were living in Victorian England," Jeff joked defensively.
"It's not a big deal, it's just… unnecessary," Annie said, flustered.
"I get it," Jeff announced smugly.
Jeff gave her a very satisfied smirk.
"This is the wounded soldier scene from every action movie. The quivering female nervously tends to the manly hero, but when he removes his shirt, she can't contain her admiration of his glistening form, and before you know it…"
"That's not it at all!" Annie denied, her voice at a higher than normal pitch.
She stooped to pick up the Band-Aids and ointment, hiding her face behind a curtain of hair.
"Of course it's not. I was only kidding. That's something Abed would say," Jeff chuckled.
"Are you ready?" Annie asked, abruptly righting herself.
"I'm all yours. Be gentle," Jeff teased.
He lifted the shirt just enough to allow Annie access to the cut. The pads of her fingertips grazed his ribs, and he inhaled sharply.
"Does it hurt?" Annie asked.
She was staring up at him with adorably wide eyes.
"Fine," Jeff bit out, forcing a tense smile onto his lips.
Annie nodded, but redoubled her efforts, trying to quickly patch Jeff up since he appeared to be in pain. As she applied the Neosporin to the wound, Jeff spoke hesitantly.
"So… you and Vaughn. Tough break."
"Yeah, well…" she paused to recap the antibiotic. "It's for the best. We never really clicked anyway. I'm Type A, and he's…"
"Type Douche?" Jeff offered.
"Jeff!" Annie scolded, but she was smiling.
She unwrapped a Band-Aide as she spoke again.
"He was always forgetting to wear a shirt, or missing class because he was meditating, or writing songs that all sounded suspiciously the same," she went on. "Plus, once he called me a wet blanket and told me that I was suffocating him with my need for structure."
Annie placed the Band-Aide just above Jeff's hipbone and pressed.
"I know I can be… difficult," she said quietly.
Her eyes were on the Band-Aid, so she nearly jumped when suddenly his hands were on hers.
"Hey," he said softly.
She looked up.
"Don't let anything that greasy hippie said get to you. Without your love of structure, none of your lovable misfit friends would have passed Spanish 101, yours truly included."
She smiled reluctantly, and the sight prompted Jeff to continue.
"Besides, you make Type A adorable."
She blushed and drew away. He released her hands, and the two of them stood a few inches apart, smiling at one another. Annie laughed nervously.
"Speaking of lovable misfits, how crazy was that whole 'Annie and Jeff' thing this morning?" she asked.
"I know, right?" Jeff quickly agreed. "Crazy!"
"Totally," Annie reaffirmed.
They both fell silent. An awkward stillness settled onto the room.
"And the kiss at the debate was clearly, you know, for academic purposes," Annie added anxiously.
"Clearly," Jeff repeated.
"Even though it was kind of enjoyable. In an academic sort of way," Annie rushed to amend.
"Of course. That's what I remember about it. The learning experience," Jeff concurred.
Annie fidgeted with her dress. She seemed to be debating what to say next. She scrunched up her face in a way that made her look like she was in pain, then blurted out her next sentence as quickly as possible.
Annie looked horrified, but squared her shoulders and replied as evenly as she could manage.
"Britta said you guys kissed once and that it was nice but not magical, and I was just wondering, since you've kissed both of us, who was the better kisser," she stammered.
Jeff's eyebrows shot upwards.
"You know what, never mind," Annie squeaked. "Stupid question."
"I'm just thinking," Jeff stuttered. "About your question, I mean. I'm trying to remember both kisses."
"Oh," Annie exhaled. "And?"
"Well, I remember Britta's kiss. And it was nice. But I'm having trouble remembering our kiss," Jeff said slowly.
Annie seemed to deflate in front of him.
"Oh, well, I guess that answers that question. Clearly if you don't even remember—"
"I just think that I might need a little reminder, is all," Jeff interrupted.
Annie froze, unsure that she'd heard him right.
"A reminder?" she repeated.
And then his hand was on her arm and she was moving closer to him. He bent forward and her eyelids fluttered shut.
"Buenos Dias, Children!" a familiar voice shouted.
Jeff and Annie broke apart and turned in horror to see Senor Chang standing in the doorway to the study room holding a tiger-print paintball gun.
Without another word, the pair turned and ran for cover, grabbing their guns from the table as they went. They managed to leap over the nearby sofa just as Chang opened fire. A spray of ammo covered the wall behind them.
"You'll be happy to know you made it all the way to the end," Chang announced.
"You're not even a student!" Jeff hollered.
"Wrong! Critical Media Literacy and Politics of Gender, beeyotch!" Chang proclaimed.
Chang and Jeff exchanged fire, then there was silence again. Annie was panting, crouched low to the ground. She looked to Jeff, then towards the doorway, then back to Jeff.
"I'm going in," she whispered.
"What? No!" Jeff hissed.
She made a move to stand, but Jeff yanked her back down.
"It's suicide, Annie!" he said pleadingly.
Annie smiled sadly at him.
"I know," she replied. "You saved me from the Glee Club. I owe you this. Let me help you."
"I won't let you do it!" he asserted, holding firm on her elbow.
Annie sighed. She placed a hand on his cheek, and looked directly at him.
"Yes you will," she said calmly.
Before Jeff could reply, Annie launched herself at him, grabbing hold of his face and bringing his lips to hers. His mouth opened in surprise, and she used this to her advantage, running her tongue along his. He let go of her elbow and buried his fingers in her hair, but as soon as she was free, Annie pulled away. Jeff was still in a daze, unable to focus on the girl in front of him, when Annie was on her feet and charging at Senor Chang, guns a-blazing.
When it was all over, Chang lay in a paint-covered heap on the floor, and Annie stood in front of him, equally splattered. Then he began to laugh.
"What's so funny, Chang?"
"Maybe it's the fact there's is no such thing as priority registration. Or, maybe it's this."
Chang opened his jacket to reveal a series of paint-filled water bottles connected to some sort of wired device.
"Ta-daaa!" Chang sang.
Chang laughed again, and hit a small red button on the device. A countdown started to beep.
Jeff looked at Annie, eyes wide in terror.
"Gooooooo!" Annie screamed.
Jeff looked back only once more. Then he was off and running. He dived out the double doors of the study room, hearing the blast behind him as he landed safely on the library floor.
The next morning, Jeff entered the school with a priority registration certificate in his bag. As he rounded the corner to the study room, he bumped into Annie.
"Oh!" she exclaimed.
"Hi," Jeff blurted.
"Hi," Annie replied abruptly.
"Hey, you have some paint," Jeff said, motioning to her hair.
"Aw, man! It took me like five washes to get to this point," Annie lamented.
"You still look pretty," Jeff assured her.
They both froze for a split second, and Jeff squeezed his eyes shut in horrified self-reproach. They walked a few more steps in silence, then Annie spoke.
"Jeff, about last night. That kiss was—"
"If you say, 'for the team' or 'strategic' I'm going to shout inappropriate things in the library."
"What?" Annie started, baffled by his behavior.
"Annie, I think that we need to face facts and admit that Abed is creepily observant and may just be right most of the time," Jeff asserted.
Annie tilted her head to the side.
"What are you saying?" she asked.
Jeff let out a frustrated sigh before screwing up his confidence and announcing, "You kiss better than Britta."
"Oh," she said, unsure how happy she should be about such a statement.
"And Slater, and Pierce's whorish ex-stepdaughter, and everyone else," Jeff continued.
"Oh," Annie said, in a slightly higher pitch.
"One might even say it's magical, if one wasn't a heterosexual male with dignity and a macho veneer to maintain," he added.
"Oh, might one?" she parroted.
Jeff couldn't help but flash her a goofy grin. They were standing in the doorway to the study room now, and their friends looked up at their arrival.
"Something's different," Abed declared.
Jeff and Annie looked at each other and shared another smile.