Disclaimer: No profit is made from this work. It's purpose is to promote the show through exploration of the characters/settings/situations.

AN: This was written in response to a prompt over at community_tv's "The Art of Dessert" over on LJ. The whole week there is devoted to everyone's favorite Community mom.

Home Economics Field Trip

"You know, I'm perfectly happy with my microwavable pizza bagels," Jeff said dryly.

Shirley didn't bother to turn around but continued searching the aisle for chili powder as she said, "And I'm sure you'll be even more happy with them tomorrow when you're throwing up and realize that they expired in 2001."

"You can't prove that," Jeff said mildly, trailing behind her like a five year old, "the year was mostly worn off."

"The extra space before the one proves it said oh-one."

"Or the extra space proves that that's just the way the machine that inscribes the date was made and it said one-oh."

Shirley smiled triumphantly when she saw the chili powder. "Don't you start with me, Jeffrey," she said, her victory softening her tone. "I am making you a healthy, home-cooked meal tonight and you are going to enjoy it. Now, let's see how the meat looks here."

"Yes, mom," Jeff said, smiling as he followed her towards the back of the store.

She'd stopped by his house earlier to lend him her notes on the war of 1812. He'd somehow lost his and with a test on Monday he called her, knowing she'd taken the class the semester before. When she arrived to find him examining the directions on a box of pizza bagels she immediately informed him that they were going shopping. In her words, "a grown man should not be eating pizza bagels for dinner on a Saturday night!"

The temperature dropped as they neared the dairy and meat sections but Jeff would later swear that it was extra cold because all motherly warmth had left Shirley.

"What's up?" he asked, seeing the tense look on her face. The last time he'd seen her like this was when she told him to kick that guy's ass at Christmas.

"Nothing," she said tersely but her choked tone told him differently. She busied herself looking at the closest thing to them which happened to be a display of sponges on the end of an aisle.

Jeff rolled his eyes at her lie and glanced towards the deli counter, seeking out whatever had bothered her. A man who reminded him of Elijah and Jordan was ordering, one arm around the waist of a much younger woman who looked like she'd been poured into her outfit - well, what little outfit she had anyway.

"That's him, huh?" he asked, his tone carefully neutral.

"Mm-hm," Shirley managed and it was painfully high-pitched.

"You wanna go?" Jeff asked. He wasn't used to situations like this, to facing an ex he wasn't glad to be rid of, but he assumed his response would be the same even if he'd been the one dumped. Running just made everything easier.

"No," Shirley said, still paying far too much attention to the sponges.

"Well then -"

A cart hit theirs and the two of them turned, only to find themselves face to face with Shirley's ex and his new girlfriend.

"Shirley," the man said.

"David," Shirley said. "Tanya." Jeff thought if there'd ever been a time for her to use her you're-in-trouble voice it was now, but clearly she couldn't seem to move beyond her uncomfortable-public-speaking voice.

"H-how have you been?"

"G-good. And you?"

"Fantastic," Tanya said, wrapping her arm around David's waist and pulling herself so close to him she'd be sitting in his lap if they weren't standing. She looked Shirley up and down, taking in the outfit she'd obviously been wearing through a full day of watching her boys and cleaning house. "I love your outfit, by the way, it's so … you."

That was it. "Hi!" Jeff said, giving David and Tanya his 100-watt, this-guy-is-guilty-as-sin-but-you're-gonna-let-him-off-anyway-because-I'm-such-an-amazing-lawyer smile. He grabbed David's hand off the cart handle and shook it emphatically. "I don't believe we've met. I'm Jeff Winger, Attorney at Law."

David's eyes widened, he was obviously wondering if Shirley was thinking of renegotiating the terms of their divorce. If Jeff's smile could have gotten wider, it would have. He dropped the bomb.

"Shirley and I have been seeing each other for a few months now."

He released David's hand and wrapped his arm around Shirley's shoulders as David and Tanya's faces fell into identical expressions of shock. Jeff smirked, he bet Shirley was glad now that he was wearing a sleeveless shirt and was sincerely looking forward to hearing her apologize for the stink she'd made about it as they left his apartment.

"Wait," Tanya said, recovering first, "you mean to say that you and -" she gestured to Shirley with her cheap press-on nails - "her are - dating?"

Jeff looked to Shirley as if silently conferring with her. Shirley seemed just as shocked as the others. "I don't know if we'd call it that, would we? We don't like to label our relationship - you know how it is when you're young and in love - but we have been seeing each other pretty steadily since last fall."

Jeff took extra pleasure from the looks of shock and disgust that crossed David and Tanya's faces (respectively) at the words "young and in love."

"Young?" Tanya echoed. "Do you even know how old she is?"

"Tanya," David hissed.

Jeff's hand tightened around Shirley's shoulder, both to keep her from lunging at the woman and to show support. He'd never been the respect-your-elders type, be even he wasn't rude (or stupid) enough to tell a woman like Shirley that she was old.

He leaned closer to the two of them as if telling a secret, his smirk making it a dirty one. "Age is more than a number."

With that he grabbed the handle of his and Shirley's cart with his free hand and began walking towards the deli counter.

"You shouldn't have done that," Shirley said quietly. Her back was ramrod straight, her knuckles white against the handlebar.

"I wish I hadn't," Jeff said honestly. "If only Troy had been here, he'd have been much better."

"Jeffrey!" Shirley cried, pulling away to smack him in the chest.

Jeff shot a wry grin back at David and Tanya, who were still watching them in shock, then bent down to look her in the eye. "Know that I'm only doing this because that Tanya woman called you old."

Shirley's eyes widened as she realized what he was going to do but he didn't give her time to stop him. The kiss lasted only a few seconds and was as chaste as can be, but Jeff was a lawyer, which meant he knew how to put on a show. From the way his arms moved, not touching her body but looking to any onlooker as if he was, and the look on his face when he came up, anyone watching was sure to think their kiss had been downright sinful.

Shirley didn't look at him after, just pushed the cart on towards the deli. Jeff waved once more at David and Tanya before following.

"We're never telling anyone about that," Jeff said while they surveyed the meat selection.

"Of course not!" Shirley declared. "I'm embarrassed enough that I'll never be able to come back to this grocery store again."

"Shirley, you live three grocery stores away from here. You're only in this one in the first place because it was close to my apartment."

"Exactly! You don't expect me to trust you to shop for yourself? I've seen the way you live, Jeffrey, and frankly I'm surprised you show up to school every day with matching shoes on your feet. Next time I come over I'll just have to shop on the way."

"Shirley-" Jeff said, sounding like a petulant five year old.

"Or you could come to my store! Then the boys and I could shop with you - I'm trying to teach them how to manage a kitchen, you know, they've got little lists of their own and they plan out meals. You could do it too! I'll print up one of the worksheets for you tonight."


"And the best part will be that they'll get to see a big, strong man shopping, that way they won't think it's just something women do. You'll be setting such a good example for them and you'll all be so cute together with your lists!"

Jeff sighed. Shirley was the queen of the guilt trip, even when she wasn't trying to be.

"I'll have to bring my camera. Oh yes, that'll be nice."

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