Title: anything's righter than books could plan

Pairing: Britta, Jeff/Annie

Word Count: 4716

Rating: PG-13

Disclaimer: I do not own Community. Community owns me. True story.

Author's Note: I set out to right schmoopy baby!fic and somehow ended up with schmoopy baby and Britta!fic. I'm okay with that. Cause Britta kind of rocks my socks off.

Apologies to my best friend V. Several of the scenes here were inspired by the night she gave birth to her little girl.

Titles comes from e.e. cummings.

XOXOX

6:34pm

There are no certainties.

Well, obviously.

Britta stands in the middle of her kitchen, shoulders slumped in a dejected sigh. At her feet a shattered porcelain bowl lays in pieces, wanton noodle soup splattered all over the floor and up onto almost every nearby vertical surface. The cell phone in her hand continues to chirp merrily.

Five minutes ago she'd had a plan.

A simple, uncomplicated plan to come home, put on a pair of ratty pajamas and hole up in front of the television for the rest of the night with a glass of wine and a new knitting project. Any outside attempt at interrupting this blissful night of solitude was going to be ignored. Wholeheartedly.

But then the phone was ringing and flashing the ominous words Annie's Cell on the LED screen and she was involuntarily lunging for it (stupid, stupid, stupid) and then slipping on the tiled floor and things were falling and crashing and of course, of course.

Britta doesn't like being a fatalist but that feeling's dropping into her stomach. The one that's telling her that this night is not going to go as planned and that life had found a way to punch her in the face again with stupid obnoxious things – like Annie who is probably just calling with another barrage of questions about tomorrow. And why, why had her first instinct been to grab the phone?

Remember the plan Britta? Ignore. Ignore. Ignore.

Because she doesn't want to think about tomorrow. It's thereason that she's made this plan to hide out in her apartment all night wallowing in tomorrow's my birthday and what the hell am I doing with my life kind of ennui.

Because yes, tomorrow is her birthday. She's turning thirty-something-oh-god-i-don't-even-want-to-thing-about-it and despite Britta's resistance Annie has insisted on throwing her a party. Because Annie loves birthdays and throwing parties and making a big deal out of everything and she's still in her mid-twenties and she's figured all this shit out already so she just doesn't understand why Britta would prefer for tomorrow (and any reminder of the inescapable passage of time and youth and possibility) to slip by unnoticed.

But of course, the moment Britta had even started to put up a fight Jeff had leveled her with one of those make her cry and I will ruin you looks and she had acquiesced with a tight smile and forced enthusiasm.

"Well screw you Jeff Winger," she's thinking as she finally flips open her phone.

"Annie, I swear I'll be there. Six o'clock sharp and yes, pizza is fine and no, please do not invite Grayson. I know you probably managed to sneak his number out of my cell but I am not ready for that yet. We are not at that level. You know, that level where I subject him to someone like Pierce. These things take time. Do. Not. Call. Him."

Britta stops, half-surprised that she hasn't already been interrupted by a gasp of righteous indignation. Instead there's just a loud intake of breath on the line and then silence. Britta rolls her eyes and grabs the towel from the oven door.

"Annie? I'm sorry. I don't mean to be… I don't know. Whatever. Just, I'm sorry, okay?"

A tremulous voice finally answers, "Britta?"

"Annie?"

"Hi."

"Hey?" She responds in half-amusement then grimaces in disgust as she steps back on a puddle, soup soaking into the heel of her sock.

"Are you busy?"

"Why?" There's an edge to her tone as she yanks her sock off and drops to her knees to try and start cleaning up the mess.

"If you're busy-"

"Annie, what?"

"Do you think you could drive me to the hospital?" The words come out in a rush and it takes a moment for Britta to catch up. Her head jerks up to glance at the calendar pinned to the fridge, her eyes zeroing in on a date that is still over three weeks away.

"Whhhhyyyyy?" She says slowly.

"Um."

XOXOXO

7:07pm

"Move! Dammit. My great-grandmother drives faster than you. And guess what lady? She's dead!" Britta jerks the steering wheel to the right, steps on the gas and accelerates, flipping off the driver of the mini-van as she flies past.

Annie stares at her, looking a little terrified. "Britta, there were kids in that car."

"So? I'm pretty sure none of them wanted to witness the grand miracle of life all over the freeway here. So really, I did them all a favor."

"You know I'm not going to just have the baby right here, right? I have time." But even as the words leave her mouth Annie grimaces and tightens her grip on the door handle.

Britta sets her jaw in determination and presses her foot further down on the gas.

When the contraction passes Annie takes a deep breath. "Really, it's fine. It's probably just a false alarm anyway."

"Uh-huh." Britta's face registers doubt and a moment later she lets out a frustrated cry as break lights flash up ahead. "Oh come the fuck on!"

"Brit-"

"I know. I know. No swearing around the baby. So-rry," she snaps.

Annie shrinks back into her seat, biting her lip. Her hand smoothes absentmindedly over her stomach and Britta feels a lurch of guilt. She silently curses Jeff's name again because of course this had to happen while he was at a conference in Los Angeles and even though he's coming back tomorrow this shit has to start going down tonight.

To make matters worse, he's been unreachable for the past two hours and every time Annie tries calling it goes straight to voicemail.

If there is a God? He's got a disgustingly sick sense of humor.

Suddenly, as if on cue, Annie's cell phone chimes, jerking both women from their thoughts. They stare stupidly at it for a second. It rings again and Annie hits the speakerphone. Britta concentrates on the line of cars inching slowly ahead of them.

"Jeff?"

"Hey babe. Sorry, were you trying to get a hold of me? I…" Jeff continues talking, explaining something about no cell service at the convention center but at the sound of his voice Annie quietly gasps, her eyes filling with unbidden tears. She ducks her head down, hair falling into her face. Once again her fingers grip tightly at the door handle and Britta can't tell if she's crying or having another contraction.

"Annie?" Jeff's voice echoes out through the speaker. "Annie what's wrong? There's a sudden panic in his tone but Annie just shakes her head.

Britta grabs the phone, clicks it off speaker and holds it to her ear, "Jeff? Annie's in labor."

The line is silent.

Annie shakes her head again, finally able to grit out, "False alarm. Too early."

Britta ignores her, "Jeff, did you hear me?"

"If this is one of things moments where you're trying to…" He laughs a little but it's forced, on the edge of something hysterical.

"Jeff. Listen to the sound of my voice. Does this sound like the voice of someone who is playing around? I've got Annie in my car and we're on the way to the hospital and she's having contractions... or something. And you need to get here. Now." Her last words come out in a high-pitched staccato.

There's only silence again and Britta waits… waits… as it slowly sinks.

"Shit," he breathes out.

Britta nods, "Yeah."

"Okay. I… um. Okay. Okay."

She imagines him turning in frantic circles around the lobby of the convention center. "Jeff. Take a deep breath. Then get your ass to the airport."

"Let me talk to her." He sounds out of breath like he's running.

Britta hands the phone back and Annie takes a shaky breath. "Jeff?" She turns her face into the phone, curling in on herself and her swollen belly. It suddenly feels too intimate and Britta looks away, feeling flushed. She tries not the listen to the snippets of one-sided conversation.

"Yeah… five minutes… false alarm… really… I know."

The gridlock of traffic begins to move again and Britta curls her fingers around the steering wheel.

Annie's nodding silently to whatever Jeff is saying and shifting in her seat when her eyes suddenly go wide. She freezes, her lips pressed into a deep frown. "Jeff?" she says again quietly, "Just get here."

After a whispered "I love you too," she hangs up and continues to stare quietly out the window.

Britta clears her throat, "He'll get here. And you're right, it's probably just a false alarm. I bet-"

Annie turns to her, "I think my water just broke."

Britta's face falls as she looks down in the general direction of Annie's lap. "Oh, ew, Annie, that's-" She stops at the look of mortification on Annie's face. "Sorry, I'm…Okay. Okay."

They both face forward again. Britta's nails bite into the steering wheel as she fights back the urge to scream.

XOXOXO

7:58pm

The only experiences she's had with childbirth have come from riddled-with-cliché birthing scenes from television and few mild recollections of some horrifying "Miracle of Life" educational video her ninth grade health class had been forced to watch. All she knows is that there should be lots of screaming and panicked people running in circles and strange bodily fluids (oh god) and even more screaming.

And yeah, maybe she's half expecting to run into the hospital, pushing Annie in a wheelchair, screaming "lady with a baby!"

But when they get there Britta feels like she's in some kind of weird stunted la-la-land where everyone's just smoked a bunch of pot and zoned out on some Bob Dylan because it's just too damn quiet and peaceful. The nurses smile easily and hand them forms and speak in hushed tones and the whole thing is fraying at Britta's nerves because why can't any of this go as expected?

And Annie. Annie is suspiciously calm considering that she might be on the verge of giving birth and her husband is a thousand miles away and yeah, she's on the verge of giving birth. But save for a few grimaces and clenched fists every few minutes she seems to be taking it all in stride, calmly filling out paperwork and exchanging pleasantries with another woman in the waiting room.

Britta feels a little bit like slapping her and screaming, "What have you done with Annie? I don't even know you anymore!"

When they get into a room the nurse, a petite Korean woman named Honey, helps Annie into a gown as Britta stands there awkwardly and averts her eyes. She laughs dryly, grasping for any bit of levity. "So I guess I'll just go out and smoke a cigar in the waiting room with the other men."

Honey looks over and levels her with a perfectly arched eyebrow. "We don't allow smoking in this facility."

Britta shrinks back, "Oh right, I was just…" Her voice falls to a mumble as she stares at the floor, "making a joke."

"Hmm."

Annie smiles ruefully at her and Britta stays quiet until the nurse leaves with a warning glare as if she's suddenly going to whip out a box of Cubans and start in on an Edward G. Robinson impression.

"Sheesh. Someone's got a stick up her ass."

Annie nods in agreement and shifts awkwardly on the bed so that she's sitting back against the pillow, her legs stretched out. Her feet are bare, her toes painted a dark purple.

Britta narrows her eyes, "Did you do that yourself?"

Annie sighs, "Please. I can hardly shave my own legs anymore." Then she giggles, "Jeff did it."

Britta's lips curl into a slow smile, "Seriously?"

"Hmm. He's actually pretty good. Kind of a perfectionist about it though. Don't tell him I told you."

"Annie. You can't expect me not to act on this kind of information."

"Well. Don't tell Pierce."

Britta's eyes gleam at the possibility of something to hold over Jeff's head but the doctor, a stocky older gentleman named Doug Schwartz, chooses that moment to wander in (wander being the correct word – it's as if he was strolling hallways, randomly picked a room and been surprised like, "Oh! A woman in labor! How exciting.") Already Britta does not like him.

"Hiiiii Annie. Good to see you again." He stops and washes his hands at the sink, whistling the tune to "Whistle While You Work." Britta tenses up, and it's so incredibly tempting to fly across the room and strangle him but she feels Annie's hand at her shoulder give a squeeze as if to say, please don't murder my doctor before he delivers the baby.

Britta sinks back into her chair but continues to glower as Dr. Schwartz does his exam.

When he's done he rolls back on one of those short little stools, takes off his gloves and crosses his arms over his chest, "Well, it looks like we'll be having a baby tonight."

Britta snorts, "We'll?" The doctor gives her a strange look and she shuts up.

"Tonight?" Annie squeaks.

"Or tomorrow. You're about three centimeters dilated now so it just depends on how quickly your baby decides to make an appearance."

Annie purses her lips and shakes her head back and forth, looking for all the world like a child ready to hold her breath and start throwing a temper tantrum.

"No."

"Annie." Dr. Schwartz cocks his head to the side.

"No." Annie continues to shake her head. "No. No. No. I still have three weeks. I'm not ready. There's still…." She looks down at Britta in horror, "The nursery isn't even done. Jeff was supposed to paint it last weekend but no… he had to… Oh." Her hysteria is cut off abruptly with another contraction and she grips Britta's shoulder hard enough to leave little crescent marks embedded in the skin.

Britta looks in bewilderment at the doctor but he just continues to smile. She harbors another brief fantasy of smacking said smile off his face.

"Annie. I'm sorry. I know it's sooner than you expected. But many women don't carry to full term and you're at the thirty-seventh week so we don't expect any complications."

Annie unclenches and Britta rolls her shoulder away from her grip, checking quickly to make sure the skin isn't broken. When she looks up again Dr. Schwartz is frowning in disapproval.

Ughh. So the entire hospital staff hates her already. Great.

"I can't do this." Annie's voice is weary and as she turns her head away from them, a tear slips from the corner of her eye and trails a path down under her jaw.

"He's supposed to be here," she whispers.

XOXOXO

9:00pm

"Oh no, Jeff, it's fine. You go to that conference. I still have three weeks left. I'll be fiiiine."

Annie continues to mutter sarcastically to herself as she slowly paces back and forth across the room. Every few minutes (one minute and forty-five seconds to be exact – she's making Britta keep record with the stopwatch and notepad she brought) she stops and grits her teeth and holds on tightly to whatever's in grabbing distance - the wall, the edge of the bed, the top of Britta's head during one particularly painful (for both of them) contraction.

"Shouldn't you lay down?" Britta's at the edge of her chair watching Annie intently as if the baby's going to suddenly just drop out from between her legs.

"No. This feels better. I can't just lie there doing nothing."

Britta laughs, "Well, I wouldn't say you're doing nothing."

Annie looks up and attempts a smile but then gasps and bends over, reaching out to press her hand against the wall. Britta clicks the stopwatch off. One minute forty seconds. She stares helplessly at her friend.

"Are you sure you don't want the epidural?

The contraction passes and Annie takes in a deep breath through her nose. "I'm fine." Then she laughs a little hysterically, "I have a plan. We have a birthing plan that we decided on months ago and just because Jeff's not here doesn't mean that I'm just going to throw the rest of it out the window!" She laughs again as if to say, "What an absurd notion" and Britta's eyes widen a little.

"Maybe try taking some deep breaths?"

Annie shoots her a death-ray-glare with the intensity to bring a grown man to tears. Britta holds her hands up in surrender.

"Sorry." She pauses, "He'll get on that flight."

Annie nods and resumes her pacing. Britta starts the stopwatch again and leans back in her chair.

Jeff had called to let her know he was on standby for a 9:15 out of LAX but there weren't any guarantees and if he doesn't get on – well, at this moment they aren't going to consider that as a possibility. At least Britta isn't going to voice that possibility. She can't help but notice though the way Annie's eyes keep straying toward the clock, watching the minute hand inch ever closer to the time when his flight should be taking off.

"You know Shirley was in labor with Elijah for like thirty-six hours or something. So." Britta stops at the horrified look Annie is giving her. "I just mean, that gives Jeff plenty of time to get here," she trails off slowly.

"That's really comforting. Really. Thirty-six hours. Sounds like fun," Annie snaps.

Britta raises an eyebrow and Annie's eyes widen. "Oh Britta." She shuffles over slowly and grabs her hand. "I'm sorry. Please don't leave."

"I'm not going anywhere."

Annie's grip tightens as her body is wracked with another contraction. Britta stares at the stop watch, thinks about Shirley, the one who should be here. Again, it's another one of life's little jokes because just two days later and she'd be back in town.

"Shirley's going to die when she finds out you've had this baby while she was in Hawaii."

Annie's eyes are clenched shut. She keeps her hold on Britta's hand.

"Hmm. She'll probably think it's God's way of punishing her for going off and having a good time with her husband."

Britta laughs. "Want me to try calling her again?"

"Yeah, you should. Abed too."

As if on cue, Annie's phone vibrates on the little side table. She lunges for it, moving faster then she has all night.

It's a text from Jeff.

"on the plane. leaving now. love u."

Annie chokes back a little sob and nods, clutching the phone to her chest. With the other hand she smooths a hand over her belly.

"Just a little longer baby girl. Please."

XOXOXO

10:30 pm

"You hated it."

"I did not."

"You did. You made mean faces at us for the first six months."

"Well, it caught me off guard. What was I supposed to think?"

Annie falls quiet. She's lying on her side, gripping the rails of the bed as Britta, sitting cross-legged behind her, softly massages her low back, trying to offer some relief from the cramping.

"I didn't want you to hate me."

Britta laughs. "I didn't." Her fingers find a knot and press hard enough to make Annie groan and turn her face into the pillow.

"Sorry."

"No. It feels good," she mutters even though there's pain laced into her words.

Britta shifts her fingers up higher just to be safe

"Were you in love with him?" Annie finally asks with an air of faux-nonchalance.

Britta laughs again, "I don't know. Maybe. A little."

Annie doesn't say anything.

"But, it wasn't anything… It was Jeff. Sometimes you can't help, you know, when he's being a nice guy and he's not just trying to be charming… It doesn't mean anything." She smiles to herself. "Sometimes I'm half in love with Troy and Abed too. It's just… who we are."

Annie can't help but smile. "Pierce?"

"Ugh."

"Don't deny it. You did hate Jackie," Annie teases.

"Cause she was a gold-digging trollop. And ha! Look who's talking."

Annie sighs into her pillow, "We weren't very nice to her."

Britta rolls her eyes because no, they hadn't been very nice to Pierce's eighth wife but to be fair she had been an opportunistic leech with fake boobs and an even faker personality. Obviously she had deserved the almost vitriolic treatment she had received from the group (or rather, from the women of the group - Annie, Britta and Shirley had barely even tried to conceal their contempt for the twenty-six year old (!) woman).

The marriage had only lasted a whopping 47 days anyway, so.

"Well at least you got something out of it. People stopped thinking you and Jeff were so creepy."

Annie closes her eyes and fingers the wedding ring she's been wearing on a chain around her neck for the past few months.

"Jeff and I weren't creepy."

Britta considers this, remembers the first moment when she figured that out.

"Not to us at least. Besides, in the end you guys were the smart ones. Marry inside the group. It's easier. Less opportunity for oh, this is my new boyfriend and please don't treat him like a serial killer come to infiltrate and take down our cozy little family here."

Annie snorts, "Pierce is looking for wife number nine."

"Shut up."

"Oh." Annie gasps and grips the railing even harder. Britta stills her hand. After a moment Annie lets out a breath. "How far apart now?"

"About a minute."

She presses her face into the pillow. "I'm scared."

"I know."

"I need Jeff."

"I know."

Britta's practically pulsing with nerves. With one hand she starts massaging Annie's back again. The other she smoothes around to the taunt skin of her stomach, above the baby heart monitor.

"I'm glad you know. That you and Jeff. I don't know. Became you and Jeff." She shifts uncomfortably. "I'm glad you make each other happy."

Britta pauses. "And this baby. Annie, this is a really, lucky baby."

Annie sniffles, "Yeah?"

"Yeah."

After a beat Annie pries one of her hands loose from the railing and presses it over Britta's.

"Thank you."

Their fingers intertwine and Britta closes her eyes, shifting so that she's lying down. Her forehead rests against the back of Annie's shoulder.

Neither of them says anything for a while.

XOXOXO

11:07pm

Britta walks down the hallway on shaky legs. She needs food. Or coffee. Or drugs. Maybe she can talk one of the nurses into giving her an epidural because…

She rounds the corner and stops in her tracks.

The hell?

Troy and Abed are coming toward her and it's just… why does she even bother being surprised by this stuff anymore?

They stop and stare at her, wearing identical expressions of guilt and Britta takes a moment to fully process that Abed's wearing a white lab coat with a stethoscope around his neck. Troy's got a hospital gown shoved on haphazardly over his clothes and some kind of surgical cap on his head. He's rolling himself along in a wheelchair.

Britta feels an incredible surge of frustration - some combination of annoyance at their inability to take this seriously and maybe a smidge of disappointment in being unable to join along in whatever the hell it is that they're doing.

"What? - " Is all she manages to say before her mouth shuts in a firm line.

"We came as soon as we got your message."

As if that explains all of this.

"And you came dressed as Doogie Howser?" Britta shakes her head, "You know what? Never mind. I don't want to know."

Troy looks up at Abed and they both shrug.

"But clearly you have some time on your hands to do me a favor." She digs around in her purse, pulls out a set of keys and drops them in Abed's hand. "I need you to go to Annie and Jeff's. The baby's room isn't finished and she's freaking out."

She gives them a hard stare, maybe adds a bit of condescension into her tone as she asks, "Do you think you can handle painting it? And not messing around? Or is that too much to ask?"

They glance sideways at each other again. Troy crosses his arms over his chest and regards her with a smirk, "You might try throwing the magic word in there. Starts with a "p"? People usually use it when they want something?" He cups his hand around his ear while he waits for her to say something.

Britta's shoulders sag, "Please?"

Abed looks down at Troy and then both men nod, seemingly appeased at the change in her tone.

Troy stands up and tugs off the hospital gown. "How is she?"

"Fine. I guess. I don't know. In labor." Britta shrugs, "Jeff's flight still doesn't land for another half an hour. If it takes him another forty-five minutes to get here from the airport…" Her voice trails off.

Abed's eyes widen with a gleam, "Classic."

Something snaps. "No. No. No. Not classic. Not cool. Not. Not. Not. This is not okay. This is in fact, the opposite of okay. I should be at home right now curled up on the couch with my cat but instead I'm here watching Annie like writhe around in agony and her husband's on a plane 30,000 feet in the air, and Shirley's playing in a waterfall somewhere and the doctor's all, 'Hey, it's all good, I do this every day, bringing life into the world. No big deal.' But it is a big deal. It is! And seriously, Abed, why are you dressed like a doctor?"

Britta's practically yelling by the time she's finished, her hands clenched up at the sides of her head.

Troy's eyes slide over to Abed. "Help," he whispers.

Abed frowns. "Britta, do you remember the end of The Breakfast Club?"

She presses her thumb against the bridge of her nose. "What?"

"In the end it's not so much that they've gotten to know each other. It's that they've gotten to know themselves. And they learn that inside each of them is a basket case and an athlete and a princess."

Britta stares. "And?"

"You're a little bit of all of us Britta. Just because Shirley's not here doesn't mean that you don't have some of her mothering instincts. And just because Jeff's not here doesn't mean that there's not someone in the room with Annie who cares about her and her baby, that can give her the kind of strength she needs right now. So you can do this." He tilts his head, "Because we're all behind you."

Troy is nodding frantically to voice his agreement. "That's beautiful man," he chokes out.

Abed smiles.

Britta looks down at the ground, a little befuddled and yet touched at the same time.

At that moment a young woman in her mid-twenties walks by. She touches Abed's arm as she passes, "Thank you again Dr. Nadir. You're a life saver."

Abed gives the woman a smiling nod and then looks at Britta with a raised eyebrow, almost challenging her to say something. She shakes her head.

"I really, really don't want to know."

"Cool, cool."

He reaches into his coat pocket and pulls out a yellow lollypop, "Here. This might also help."

Britta just stares at him until Troy's eyes narrow. He leans toward Abed, speaking out of the side of his mouth. "She's a vegetarian. Maybe she'd rather have a tongue depressor."

Abed nods and pulls a little wooden tongue depressor out of his other pocket. Britta lets out a noise of frustration and yanks it out of his hand. "Just go. And please, follow Annie's design plan. I know there are like blueprints and everything."

Abed salutes her. "Will do." He heads in the direction of the elevators.

Troy moves to follow him, then stops and rests a hand on Britta's shoulder. "You got this." He smiles encouragingly and winks as he backs up down the hallway.

Britta watches them leave, torn by the desire to run after them into the elevator, away from this entire thing. Then she thinks of Annie alone in a hospital room, sighs and resumes her search for coffee and food.

XOXOXO

11: 20am

One weak cup of coffee and a half a package of stale peanut butter crackers later and she's headed back to Annie's room on somewhat steadier legs. She plays Abed's little speech over and over in her head, a small smile playing over her lips. Maybe he's right.

At the doorway to the hospital room she stops when she hears Annie's voice. It's low and intimate and good, maybe this means Jeff has landed and is on his way here. Britta's shoulders sag in relief before she realizes that Annie's not talking to Jeff and she's alone in the room, eyes closed, hands running over her belly.

"He wants to be here. He's trying so hard to be here right now… I know he can't wait to meet you… It's all he's talked about… He's scared too though. Not that he'd ever admit that out loud. But I can see it in his face."

Britta smiles. Jeff had been almost stunned into silence for about a week after finding out that Annie was pregnant. They'd catch him just watching Annie's stomach, his face all pensive or worried anytime she'd make a sudden movement.

"He's already telling people that you won't be allowed to date until you're thirty-five. And I'm sorry about that. I think it's kind of my fault."

Britta snorts and Annie rolls her head to catch her eye. "Oh hey." She looks mildly embarrassed. "I was just…"

"I know." Britta shakes her head and moves back to her chair. "So what's Jeff going to do the day she brings home a guy sixteen years older than her and says Daddy, we're in love?"

Annie tries to laugh, "Exactly. That's what I asked him. It made him go a little pale. I told him not to be a hypocrite."

"I'm sure he took that well."

"He got all sulky for while and locked himself in his office. When he came out again he told me the next one better be a boy."

Britta laughs loudly.

"I threw a pair of socks at his head."

"Good."

Annie closes her eyes, an affectionate smile playing over her lips until suddenly her face contorts and she doubles over in pain.

". Oh."

Britta reaches up and grabs her hand. "I'm here."

XOXOXO

11:50pm

Still no word from Jeff.

His flight had been scheduled to land twenty minutes ago and there's still no word and Annie is starting to panic. Enough so that the doctor comes in and tells her she needs to calm down.

"Annie, you need to breathe. Just focus on breathing. The baby's heart rate is a little faster than we'd normally like it so we need for you to just relax a little."

She goes a little pale at his and nods quietly but as soon as the doctor leaves her head drops back the pillow.

"This wasn't supposed to happen like this. This wasn't supposed to happen like this. This is all wrong," she moans.

"Annie."

"No! It's not fair."

"Okay. Listen." Britta stands up and grabs Annie's hand. She takes a passing glance at the heart monitor. "I know you want Jeff to be here. And I know this isn't what you planned. But Annie, you've got to calm down. Remember what the doctor said, you freak out, the baby freaks out."

Annie nods mutely, clenching tightly at Britta's hand. She takes a deep, stuttering breath.

"Okay good. And hey, look at it this way: maybe it's a good thing that things don't always work out. If they did then none of us would have ended up at Greendale right? I'd still be following Thom Yorke around the country and Shirley would still be married to her lame-o ex-husband and Jeff would still be a sleazy lawyer with some rotating flavor of the month on his arm and you'd be off Grey's Anatomying yourself all over some Dr. McBoring. And if you think about it? Those things all kind of suck."

Annie makes a face, "I never wanted to be a doctor."

"Ugh. Whatever. You know what I mean."

"Hmm." Annie's words are muffled against the fabric of the pillow. "It doesn't make it fair." But she unclenches a bit and opens her eyes.

"Britta?"

"Yeah?"

"Who's Thom Yorke?"

"Oh Annie. There's still so much to teach you."

XOXOXO

11:59am

Britta looks up at the clock and sighs heavily. Cautiously, she tries to stretch out the fingers of the hand that Annie's been holding onto with a death grip. The joints in her knuckles cramp a little at the movement.

Annie pries open one eye and loosens her hold. She's lying on her side again, the contractions starting to wash over her in constant waves. "You okay?" she mumbles.

The minute hand on the clock hits the "12" and then ticks steadily on.

"Yeah. I'm good."

XOXOXO

12:15am

"Talk. Or something."

"What?"

"Keep talking. I need something to concentrate on."

"Oh. Uh." Britta looks around the room. Her gaze lands on the tongue depressor and lollypop Abed had handed her earlier in the hallway.

Hmm. Well, why not?

"Did I ever tell you about the time I made out with Troy?"

Annie stills, almost as if the sheer force of Britta's question has dulled the pain. She looks up through her eyelashes.

"What!"

"Yup." Britta shrugs casually and Annie continues to stare at her.

"Britta! When?"

This is where Britta stumbles a little. She bites her lip and looks at the ceiling, managing to say, "Atyourwedding" before turning red.

"What?" Annie nearly shrieks. "Details."

"It's really not a huge deal. We were both drunk and we went for a walk and ended up in the garden and there was this bench and he was being really sweet and offered me his coat and then… I don't know, we were kissing. A lot.

Annie gasps. "But-" She doubles over then at the force of the contraction. A nurse bustles in, takes a look at the monitor and makes a note in the computer.

"It looks like you're getting close Mrs. Winger."

Annie ignores her, looking almost wondrously at Britta. "I'm going to owe Jeff money."

"Why?"

"I thought it would be Abed."

Britta opens her mouth, then shuts it again, trying to ignore the question of why there was money on who she had or had not made out with. Did they really have nothing better to do than sit around and contemplate her romantic entanglements? Not that it was a romantics entanglement per se. And shit, had things really been that obvious?

"Well… what if I told you that neither of you was wrong?"

"What?"

XOXOXO

12:30pm

"Alright Annie. We're going to wheel you into the delivery room now."

"No." She shakes her head. "I'm okay. I'll just wait."

Dr. Schwartz tilts his head and smiles patiently. "Annie, I'm afraid that this baby's not going to wait much longer."

"No. No. No. No. No."

Britta looks over at the doctor and he looks back at her with this patronizing look of this is your job. She sighs and pushes away from the wall she's been leaning against. "Annie, look at me."

"I want to wait for Jeff."

"I know." She clasps Annie's hand between both of hers, cursing Jeff's name for the upteenth time this night because seriously, where the fuck is he? And why hasn't he called? And why does his cell phone keep going to voicemail? And why, why does this have to be her job?

Annie looks up at her, looking every bit like a wounded little girl and Britta squeezes her hand, "I'm here okay? I've got you and we're going to get through this. Jeff will get here. But right now we have to think about your little girl."

Annie swallows hard and nods, lips pursed together.

"We can do this Annie."

"Okay," she finally whispers and the doctor smiles and nods to the nurses to start unhooking things so they can move the bed away from the wall.

Britta's legs feel weak again and she really should have eaten something more substantial than those crackers. Passing out and fainting at Annie's bedside is a humiliation that she'd rather not endure thank you very much. Maybe there's time for a snack break or… but they're already moving out into the hallway.

The exit sign beckons brightly ahead and Britta briefly allows herself to imagine bolting for the stairs. She immediately gives herself a mental slap in the face.

Annie's hand is trembling in hers.

You can do this. You can do this. We can do this.

When they reach the delivery room it's bustling with activity and bright lights and shiny silvery equipment and things and crap, Britta really does not want to know what these things are used for.

"Britta," Annie whimpers.

"I know." One of the nurses rolls a stool over to her and Britta sinks down onto it gratefully. She leans closer over the side of the bed. "Hey, do you remember when we broke into the Dean's office so you could look at that dummy's-" She looks around and drops her voice, "Penis?"

Annie chokes out a laugh, "Yes. What made you think of that? Right now?"

"I don't know. That was a good night."

"You really actually enjoy getting into trouble don't you Britta?"

Suddenly there's a loud commotion out in the hall, the sound of someone running and three seconds later Jeff is bursting into the room, his eyes wide. "Annie?"

His hair's standing up all weird like he's spent the last six hours tearing at it in a frenzied craze and his dress shirt is partially untucked, sleeves rolled up to his elbows. When his gaze lands on his wife, his shoulders slump in visible relief.

Annie takes one look at him and bursts into tears. She tries to sit up but the racking sobs and another contraction make her gasp again and drop back to the pillow. She reaches her hand out blindly and Jeff's there, fingers sliding against hers. He bends down and presses his lips under her ear, murmuring something as she chokes out a cry.

"Ah," the doctor says. "We're all here now."

When Annie's finally able to take a breath she lets go of Britta's hand and reaches up to runs her fingers through Jeff's hair, nails trailing down against his neck. "You made it."

He laughs softly, sounding a little strained and brushes her hair back from her forehead with the palm of his hand, "I bribed an old woman out of her seat. And I'm sorry I didn't call. My phone died."

Annie closes her eyes, "We're having a baby."

Jeff's gaze trails over her features before he drops a lingering kiss to her forehead. "Yeah, I heard something about that."

When he looks up again he catches Britta's eye. "Thank you," he mouths.

Britta nods numbly.

Dr. Schwartz's voice breaks in. "Okay Annie. I need you to take a couple of deep breaths."

Annie's nodding, her eyes wide and a little terrified. She grabs Britta's hand again.

"Don't leave," she orders.

As if her legs could even work long enough to carry her out the door at this point. Britta's practically shivering now in anticipation and culmination of every single thing that's happened over the past few hours. Her mind skitters weirdly over that lost bowl of soup, the plan to ignore the world that had been abandoned so easily.

And then everything turns into a lot of white noise and voices and instruments beeping and minutes start to fade into each other until there's just this steady breathing and pushing and Britta's fingers turning purple under Annie's grip.

Jeff's got her other hand and he keeps looking frantically from the doctor to Annie and Britta would almost laugh but she's mostly afraid it would come out in a sob of emotion.

This isn't like the movies (Britta wonders if Abed would be disappointed) because Annie's not screaming for drugs and telling Jeff to go to hell - she's just got her chin tucked down to her chest, gritting her teeth and bearing down with long groaning cries every time the doctor says "push". After a while little beads of sweat start to dot her forehead and her hair clings damply to the sides of her face. At one point Britta pulls the tie out of her own hair and scoops Annie's up off her neck into knot at the back of her head.

All the while she keeps her eyes directed somewhere up near the top of the bed and there's this voice in her head screaming, "Don't look down! Don't look down!" Visions of that "Miracle of Life" video are flooding back and she and Annie do not need to have that close a friendship.

"Alright. I can see the head. Another big push Annie."

Annie falls back and looks at the ceiling, panting. "Oh God."

Jeff slides his arm under her back and pulls her up, "Come on baby, you can do this. Where's that formidable spirit?"

"Please don't make me laugh," Annie groans but she nods and takes a deep breath.

And then - everything blurs into jumbled movement and time sort of speeds up or stops completely until there's a sharp cry and the doctor's lifting up this pink squirming baby and laying her on Annie's chest.

Britta almost gasps at the suddenness of this brand new little human taking her first lungful of air.

Annie falls back, crying and laughing messily. "She's okay? She's okay right?" Her hand rests gently against the top of the baby's head.

The doctor smiles and nods.

Jeff pulls Annie to him and presses his lips to the side of her head without taking his eyes off his daughter. He looks stunned and when Britta sees the tears pooling in the corners of his eyes she has to fight back the sudden torrent of emotion that rises up in her chest.

When one of the nurses takes the baby to weigh and measure and clean up Jeff drops his forehead to Annie's shoulder. She closes her eyes and leans into him.

"You okay?" he asks.

"I really want a cheeseburger."

Jeff laughs loudly and pulls away. "After all that? And you're thinking about fast food?"

"I'm starving Jeff. I haven't eaten all day. Oooh, or a baked potato. That sounds good. With sour cream."

Jeff shakes his head and looks across at Britta, "I can barely get this woman to eat during the entire pregnancy and now she wants a cheeseburger."

Annie ignores him. "Or maybe a corndog," she sighs.

One of the nurses walks by, "Well I don't know about any of that but we can probably find you something to hold you over. I think we have crackers."

"Oh. Yay," Annie mutters weakly. She forces a smile onto her face. Britta pats her hand consolingly.

"Alright dad. Would you like to hold your baby?" Honey, the nurse from earlier in the night, steps up to them. All her hardness seems to have melted away as she holds this impossibly small bundle in her arms.

Jeff looks up, startled, but then he nods quietly and opens his arms. He licks his lips, looking nervous as he gazes down at his daughter. One of her hands has come free of the swaddling and he runs a thumb softly over her tiny fingers.

"Hi," he whispers and then huffs out an incredulous laugh.

Annie reaches up to curl her fingers against his forearm and he looks down and smiles at her, moves to sit on the edge of the bed. With exaggerated gentleness he shifts the baby in his arms. Annie's hand slides up and rests over where their daughter has grasped onto Jeff's finger.

Britta watches for a moment until everything threatens to tumble up and out of her. As quietly as possible she backs up and slips out of the room unnoticed.

XOXOXO

1:45am

"Knock-knock."

Annie and Jeff look up and smile as Britta steps into the hospital room. They are curled up close on the tiny bed, the baby snuggled into Jeff's arms.

"Hey, we thought you left."

"No. I just… thought you guys might want privacy or something." Britta waves her hand in front of her. "I just wanted to come by and say goodbye. And give you this." She steps forward and hands Annie a little yellow stuffed elephant. "It's from the gift shop. It's nothing."

Annie smiles at it adoringly and runs her fingers along the plush ears. "No. I love it. She'll love it." She eyes Jeff out of the corner of her eye and sighs, "Jeff's hogging her."

"Hey, you got to hold her for the last nine months. My turn."

Annie and Britta both snort and say, "please," simultaneously. Jeff looks up at them with a raised eyebrow, then down again at his daughter.

"I am seriously outnumbered here."

Britta smiles. "How is she?"

"Perfect," Annie sighs again.

"Says you. I think she may have inherited the pointy nose." Jeff looks perturbed.

Annie rolls her eyes. "I think it's cute." She leans over and taps the tip of Jeff's nose. "On both of you."

Britta grimaces, "Ughh. This is just going to make you more vomit-inducing isn't it?"

Jeff and Annie look at each other conspiratorially. "Should we tell her?" he whispers. Annie nods.

Britta eyes them. "What?" she asks hesitantly.

Annie bites her lip, "We decided on a name."

"Well I was hoping she wasn't just going to be Baby Girl Winger. That kind of thing can scar a kid."

"It's Rachel," Jeff says with a smile.

Britta nods, tries it out on her tongue. "Rachel Winger. I like it."

"Rachel Lynn Winger," Annie adds.

It takes her a moment but then Britta looks up at them sharply. "Lynn. That's my-"

Annie nods, practically giddy with excitement. "We know. We thought, hey you already share a birthday. Why not a name too?"

Britta stares at them for a full fifteen seconds as the full impact of it catches up with her. It's like running into a brick wall.

"You guys!" she cries and throws her arms around Annie's neck.

Jeff looks on, mildly put-out as the two women cling together, sobbing near-incomprehensible thank you's and I love you's. He shrugs away from the way Britta's elbow is digging into his shoulder.

"It was my idea too," he mutters.

Britta turns her head and looks at him with a smirk, unwraps an arm from around Annie and pats his cheek, "Thanks Jeff."

"Hrmph."

Annie squeezes her hand one last time. "Happy Birthday." Britta nods and pulls away, wiping discretely at her eyes.

Jeff slowly gets up off the bed. "So, you want to hold her?"

Britta freezes and shakes her head, a little horrified at the notion, "No."

But Jeff is already smiling and walking toward her. "Rachel," he says softly and Britta is momentarily taken aback at the tone in his voice. There's something softer there that she's never heard before, softer even than the way she's heard him talk with Annie and shit, he's a dad now. This smarmy asshole who conjured up a fake study group just to get in her pants is a dad now and holding this baby in his arms and looks absolutely disgustingly schmoopy.

Life is really strange.

"Rachel, this is your Aunt Britta." He maneuvers her into Britta's arms and - wow, she is really ridiculously tiny.

"I'm not-" She swallows hard and looks up at Jeff.

"You're fine." He winks and her and steps back to perch at the edge of the bed. Annie smoothes her hand up along his back as she closes her eyes, sinking into the pillow.

Britta takes a deep breath and looks down at the bundle in her arms.

Rachel is sleeping, her little barely-there eyelashes feathered against red cheeks. Jeff's right. She does already have a little upturned nose. Britta imagines that she'll also have his sarcastic sense of humor, maybe Annie's wide blue eyes and passion. She'll have both of their stubbornness.

She'll be a force to be reckoned with.

Her lips pucker a little in her sleep and Britta shifts her closer and looks up at Jeff and Annie. His head is bent towards hers on the pillow. Annie's got the stuffed elephant curled against her chest.

In her arms Rachel stirs, her lips smacking together and her eyes squinting open.

"Um."

Annie and Jeff look up.

"She's… doing something."

Jeff snorts and stands, yawning as he runs a hand through his hair. "I think that's a good sign. Look honey," he says looking back at Annie, "Our baby is a genius. She does things."

Britta scowls as she slips the baby back into his arms. "Well, I don't know what to do with her," she cries indignantly.

"You'll learn," Annie murmurs. Jeff just shakes his head and Britta sticks her tongue out at him. He looks down at Rachel as he settles back into the bed.

"Remember. Don't listen to anything your Aunt Britta says."

"Yeah, Rachel. Listen to your Uncle Pierce instead."

Jeff makes a face like he's just tasted something foul, "Ughh. Nevermind."

Britta looks up at the clock above the doorway. "I should probably get going. Let you guys sleep."

Annie yawns as if to accentuate the point and Britta notices for the first time how much older she looks all of a sudden. Maybe it's that she's completely exhausted or that she's not wearing any makeup but there's something there beneath the surface that's changed, some kind of wisdom that's settled in after only an hour of being a mom.

"Britta?" Their eyes meet and they both smile and nod in understanding.

As she's walking out Britta looks back one last time. They're all curled back up on the bed together, Rachel resting in the crook of Jeff's arm. Annie picks up the stuffed elephant and makes it say something in a high-pitched voice. Jeff snorts and she hits him softly in the head with it but they both laugh.

Britta can't stop smiling the entire way out to her car.

XOXOXO

10:45am

She wakes up with a crick in her neck, her mouth dry and sandpapery. Sunlight streams through the open windows and she squints into it with a groan then lets her head drop back to the pillow. The arm slung around her waist tightens its hold and Britta scrunches her eyes shut as she relives the events of the night before.

After leaving the hospital she had gone straight to Jeff and Annie's to check on the progress with the painting. The guys had greeted her at the door and led her to the kitchen where she maybe, possibly cried at the sight of a "Happy Birthday Britta!" sign strung above the table and a homemade chocolate cake with a single candle stuck in the middle.

Annie had already bought everything, Abed explained, and they figured the party wasn't happening so why not celebrate now?

They proceeded to sing her an off-key version of Happy Birthday that somehow lasted about five minutes long and meandered into a beat box rap about babies and cake and turtles that made Britta laugh so hard tears started running down her cheeks. Afterwards they ate half the cake, raided the liquor cabinet and spent the next few hours taking turns on Jeff's Playstation while Britta tearily recounted the moment of Rachel's birth.

The sun was already starting to come up when they finally all fell asleep in a pile on the living room floor.

Britta shifts and stretches and starts to move out from under Troy's arm. He stirs and lets out a whiny, "But I don't want to get up" before Britta bends and whispers for him to go back to sleep. He settles and Britta stands, stepping over Abed on her way to the kitchen.

She gulps down an entire glass of water and checks her phone. Fourteen missed calls from Shirley and one text message from Grayson telling her Happy Birthday and that he wants to take her out for drinks.

Britta smiles and taps the phone against her lips in thought, then fills another glass of water and wanders toward the baby's room.

Abed and Tory had actually done a pretty good job. Three walls are painted in a pale yellow and the other in a pastel green. The effect makes the room light and airy. Britta leans in the doorway and closes her eyes. She tries to picture Rachel, her new little namesake, growing up in this room.

It's almost impossible though to move past that image of the little baby in Jeff's arms – there are too many possibilities beyond that.

As she makes her way back to the living room she's mentally picking out the yarns that she'll use to knit a new baby blanket. Maybe green and yellow to match the room. Maybe purple because it's Annie's favorite color. She sets the water and bottle of Advil on the coffee table in case anyone needs it when they wake up, then slides back in between Troy and Abed.

Troy's arm automatically wraps back over her waist and she curls into him, her hand landing over Abed's, fingers encircling his wrist. They all seem to take a simultaneous deep breath together and then Britta drifts off into a comfortable sleep.