Word Count: 846
Disclaimer: I don't own Community
When they go on their first date, she is twenty-two and he is thirty-eight. Jeff had amended his celebratory reservation-for-one at Mori Steakhouse to a reservation for two, and they toast to the end of Greendale Community College together. They talk about the past, about the future, about the rest of the group, and about themselves. They verbally skirt around the fact that this is a date, but Jeff's eyes give away more than happiness for graduation, and Annie can't quite keep the smile off her face the whole night. Even when she notices that people around the restaurant are looking at them with eyes that ask Is she his daughter or his mistress? she keeps smiling.
When she is twenty-seven and he is forty-three, people seem to notice less. This is mostly because Jeff at forty-three looks very much like Jeff at thirty-eight, save for a few more wrinkles around the eyes, and Annie looks her age. They sit in the same restaurant they'd celebrated their graduation (and their first date) in five years ago, but they hold hands across the table as they eat and there is no awkward nervousness as they chat about their thoughts. The gold bands around their fingers answer any questions onlookers might possess. Annie is still smiling.
When she is thirty-four and he is fifty, Jeff still refuses to age like a normal human being and Annie is too involved in corralling three energetic children to notice any stares from passers-by. Jeff jokingly tells their oldest son that he'll be as tall as his mother in a couple months (he takes after his father in too many ways), and Annie swats at his arm before rushing off to keep the youngest from climbing on a clothing display. He reaches the top of it before his mother can get to him and Jeff gives him a thumbs-up while Annie picks him off the clothing rack and plants him back on the ground, glaring at her husband and muttering I'm never taking you shopping with us again even while she fights the smile that threatens to break through. Both of her sons take after their father in too many ways.
When she is forty-four and he is sixty, they look like any other proud parents on their son's graduation day. Annie has to pull her son down to her level in order to hug him, with his diploma in hand and his cap knocked askew in the motion. Jeff proudly pats his son on the back and Annie can tell he's trying his hardest not to get too emotional but there are tears in his eyes (which are surrounded by many more wrinkles, and Jeff had stopped dyeing his hair but so had Annie so they were equally grayed and aged, she thought). Annie doesn't fight her smile, even through her tears of pride and nostalgia that her little boy was all grown up, and soon her little girl would be, and her other little boy, and she pulls her son down to hug him again.
When she is sixty and he is seventy-six, the age difference has become a joke more than anything. At his retirement party (you would think Jeff Winger would have retired at the soonest possible moment, but something in him wanted to keep going and Annie suspects it might've been her influence that did it) Jeff shakes hands with a young man connected with the law firm in some way and says, Jeff Winger, by way of introduction, before pulling Annie to his side and – all sardonic and straight-faced – saying, And this is Annie, my child-bride. Annie rolls her eyes and smiles at her husband, who never lost his dry sense of humor but had stopped trying to seem self-important and narcissistic in his old age.
When she is sixty-eight and he is eighty-four, they have forgotten that the age difference ever even existed. All they know is the years they've shared, not the ones between them. As they sit in their favorite diner around the corner from their home they hold hands across the table like they used to do when they were young and newly wed, their comfort with each other as obvious as the day. They try to ignore the people around them, just as they had back then, but this time the onlookers glance at them and their eyes say What a sweet couple. Annie feels like she's been smiling non-stop for decades, now.
When she is seventy-one and Jeff is gone, she remembers for the first time in what feels like forever, the difference in their ages. But she also remembers the years they've had together, the family they loved (three children, seven grandchildren), the life they lived, and she knows that for all the reservations they'd had about their ages, for all the worry and notice of what others around them had seen, it had never truly mattered. It didn't matter now, either, because Annie knew the distance between them would soon be gone again.
When she slept, she smiled.