Disclaimer: I do not own, nor am I in any way associated with, Community. This work is produced solely to promote the show through use of its characters, settings, etc.

Financial Independence 101

Britta was not in the mood for socializing but between the Anthropology test tomorrow and the knowledge that if she missed a study session there'd be a search party complete with dogs sent out in under an hour, she had no choice but to go. Luckily Shirley had started things off with news of her new boyfriend before Britta arrived and everyone was focusing on that. Britta managed to say a few encouraging words before retreating back into her bubble of pain.

Her day had actually been going well - she finally found the exact perfect setting on her new toaster, Captain Scruffers beat the annoying neighbor's even more annoying dog in a fight, and she was miraculously early for her first class - but then her phone rang and she ignored it because she was busy trying to find a parking space in the student lot closest to her last class and when she finally checked her voicemail ten minutes later the first thing she heard was:

"Hello, Britta, this is your mother."

Nothing, not even the Human Being suddenly turning into a vampire and killing Slater, could have made her day good after that.

Angela Perry was in town for some unknown reason (Britta laid odds on opening a portal to hell from which her demon spawn could rise and overtake the earth) and wanted to get together for lunch with her only daughter.

There was no way out. She'd left the invitation open, saying she was in town all week and whatever worked for Britta would work for her. Britta couldn't say she'd lost her phone or her cat got sick or she was suddenly and urgently needed to fill in at the homeless shelter. She was trapped.

So as happy as she was that Shirley had a new boyfriend, she couldn't bring herself to be excited.

"Hey," Jeff whispered. "What's up?" He was concerned, which hurt more than anything else because that meant he was in caring-mode and that he knew her well enough to see through her best I'm-fine face.

"Nothing," she whispered back, not wanting to break up Annie and Shirley's discussion about Steven, the new boyfriend's, shoulder width.

"Are you sure?"

She glared at him. "Of course I'm sure. You think I wouldn't know if there was something wrong with me?"

"Well, if you had cancer or something you wouldn't know."

"We're not talking about cancer, we're talking about my emotional state - which is fine."

"And this is the study room!" Pierce declared.

Jeff and Britta leaned away from each other, neither willing or caring to break eye contact and see whoever it was Pierce was showing around.

"That is Annie, the lovely Shirley, Troy, Ay-bed, and - well, Britta and Jeff seem to be having another of their lovers' spats. They've been getting more frequent ever since they slept together during paintball and then Britta confessed her love and Jeff kissed Annie - it was this whole big thing."

"Pierce," Jeff sighed, finally breaking eye contact with Britta to give Pierce the too-much-information look-it never worked, but he'd perfected it over the past year so not using it was as much a waste as using it was.

Britta turned in her seat with her own version of the look, this one titled go-to-hell, just as Pierce said, "Everyone, this is my old friend, Heath."

Heath was dressed a bit too well for a college campus and everything about his bearing screamed upper class. If Pelton hadn't hit him up for a donation yet, he would soon.

Distantly Britta heard Troy ask Abed why anyone would name their child after a candy bar. She might have answered, might have explained Heath was a name first, might even have bit Pierce's head off in front of his friend for talking about her sex life so casually, but she was too busy meeting Heath's eyes. Nothing, not even the Human Being suddenly turning into a vampire and killing Slater and Pierce, could have made her look away.

"He's in town for a few days," Pierce explained, "and I thought I'd bring him by to see what I've been up to - and meet all of you, of course."

"Oh, that's nice. How did you meet Pierce, Heath?"

Pierce answered for him. "Oh, it's a great story. We were at a party a few years back and I asked Heath's wife to dance. She was the most ravishing woman, if you don't mind me saying so," Pierce said, jabbing Heath good-naturedly in the ribs.

"Pierce!" Britta and Heath snapped.

"Oh, come on, Britta. Just because you're all hot and bothered over Jeff, don't take it out on me and my buddy here."

Before Britta could snap that she was not hot and bothered over anything, least of all Jeff, a scream made its way through the open library doors. Shirley led the way to see what it was, worrying over whoever may have been hurt while Annie asked if anyone else thought it sounded like Starburns' voice. As the group disappeared Heath's gaze slid easily away from Britta's to peg Jeff. Freed, Britta turned quickly.

"Aren't you going to go too?" she asked, tension overwhelming her tone.

Jeff leaned close to whisper in her ear, "And miss you having eye-sex with a guy twice your age after the shit you gave me about Annie? Not likely." He settled back, arms crossed cockily over his chest, and looked up at Heath.

"So, you slept with my daughter did you?"

Britta watched as Jeff's face crumpled. The familiar smirk turned to a horrified O, tiny lines that would surely traumatize Jeff if he could see stood out on his brow, and his skin paled almost beyond recognition. Just when she thought that maybe he'd gone into shock his head whipped around to face her. In the time it took for him to move his expression became one of accusation - and not the good kind of accusation he used in court, the bad kind that made her gut twist painfully.

"Your mother tells me you're having lunch with her later this week," Heath said and Britta looked up but he was still watching Jeff. "Why don't you bring Jeff along and the four of us can get to know each other."

It wasn't a request. He phrased it like one, but a lifetime of experience told Britta it wasn't. That didn't mean she couldn't treat it like one.

"I don't know if Jeff's free and I know Mom was looking forward to some quality mother-daughter time."

Heath finally looked at her, meeting her innocent smile with his please-I-raised-you eyebrow raise.

"Your mother will be ecstatic to meet your…friend," he said, finishing the sentence by returning to Jeff. "And I'm sure Jeff here will be more than willing to make time. If you'll make my excuses to Pierce, I think I'll escape this institution while I can."

He slipped out the back door and Britta watched him through the windows as he made his way to the nearest exit. Only when he was out of the building did she turn back to Jeff.

"You're rich?" he choked out.

"My parents are rich," she corrected quickly.

"You're rich?" he repeated more forcefully.

"I have a small allowance," she conceded. She wanted to point out that it had taken three major holidays of fighting to get her to agree, that part of the deal required her parents to match any funds they gave her with donations to a charity of her choice, but she knew Jeff well enough to recognize that he'd only use that against her somehow.

"You're rich?"

"You can stop saying it, Jeff," Britta snapped.

"You're rich!" Jeff declared, opening his hands like he'd suddenly discovered some hidden truth.

Seeing the group returning Britta leaned close to hiss, "Will you shut up already?"

"Who knew Chang could take Starburns?" Troy muttered as they entered, digging money out of his pocket to give Annie, who practically skipped to her seat. Rather than berate them for gambling, Shirley leaned close to see how much Annie had won.

"Where'd Heath go?" Pierce demanded. "You two didn't scare him off did you?"

"He said he remembered an appointment," Britta said. "Can we get to studying now?" She opened her Anthropology textbook, hoping to get the others on board, only to be stopped immediately.

"This explains everything!" Jeff said, breathless like he was working things through in his head instead of actually talking to him. "How you could afford to give Abed money and travel to you-don't-even-know-where on break even though none of us know where you work!"

"I said you were a prostitute," Pierce said like it was a compliment.

Jeff went on, "And why you don't know anything about the world! You don't have to! Everything you want, you get!"

"That is not true!" Britta snapped. "I work!"

Jeff donned his lawyer smile and if it wouldn't bring up all sorts of uncomfortable questions at the lunch Britta knew they were stuck going to she'd punch him. "Really?" he asked. "What was your last steady job that wasn't volunteer work?"

She opened her mouth.

"Steady means you had it for more than six months."

Britta's mouth snapped shut.

She could see Jeff gearing up for another go and even though every part of her demanded she be ready to meet him head on, she knew doing so would mean the group heard things she just wasn't ready for them to. Faster than Jeff could think of a witty barb she gathered her books and his in her arms, grabbed his collar, and dragged him out of the study room. Only when they reached a shady corner of the quad, partially hidden by a tree, did she let him go.

"Jeez!" he gasped, adjusting his shirt and rubbing his neck. "You could have strangled me!"

"If I was trying to strangle you," she said, dropping their books in a heap on the grass, "you'd be dead. And believe me, I'm still debating."

"Oh! Come on! I did nothing wrong back there!"

She crossed her arms over her chest, settling back into a posture she knew from years in her father's household was perfect for looking down your nose at people taller than you.

"Could you try - just try - to go a whole week this semester without being a tool?"

He scoffed. "Just because you're still pissed about Annie-"

Britta flung her arms wide, gesturing madly because it was the only thing she could do to keep her hands from wrapping around his scrawny neck. "You're the one who brought Annie up! And this isn't about Annie! This is about my father knowing we had sex! This is about me having to have lunch with my mother! And this is about you almost telling the group who my parents are!"

Jeff stared at her for several long seconds while her heartbeat stopped pounding in her ears and her breath became less ragged.

"You really don't want anyone to know, do you?" he asked quietly.

"Ya think?" she asked but it didn't have the same bite as her earlier tirade. "I just - I don't want to be like them." She sighed heavily, turning to the side to watch Nurse Jackie help Starburns to his feet while the Dean gave Chang a lecture. The continued excitement over there was probably the only reason the whole school wasn't listening to her fight with Jeff.

"You're not," he half-laughed and she wasn't sure if it was a compliment or not.

"I don't want anyone to think I'm like them," she amended.

He nodded and she felt his hand touch her arm momentarily before falling away. "When's lunch?"

"You're coming?" she asked, blinking up at him.

"It didn't sound like your dad gave me much of a choice."

"Oh, he didn't. But you're not gonna fight him?"

He shrugged and smiled down at her. "I'd rather save my fights for someone more entertaining."

She looked away under the pretense of picking up their books. "What are we gonna tell the group about why I dragged you out here?" she asked when she came back up.

He took his notebook and text. "Nothing. We're gonna go around to the library's east entrance, sneak up the stairs to the third floor, take one of the creepy study rooms up there, probably fail tomorrow's test, and end up having to do extra credit."

"You don't do extra credit," Britta pointed out, falling into step beside him.

"I also don't go to lunch with the parents of women I've slept with. This is turning out to be a surreal week for Jeff Winger."

He smiled at her in a way that told her thanks weren't necessary, but she said it anyway.


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