Chapter 7

Jeff didn't think about what he was doing. He stood in front of apartment 303 and waited an eternity for the door to open. He didn't think about what he would have done if Troy answered the door. He didn't think about what he was going to say. When Annie pulled the door open, her mouth opened in a surprised "O" and he launched in before he could talk himself out of it.

"Do not pity me," he said first. God dammit, what was it about her that always made him say the wrong thing?

"Jeff I don't pity you," Annie replied softly.

"Good, you know how I feel about pity." He started pacing the hallway. This plan seemed like a better idea in his apartment.

"Do you want to come in?" Annie asked standing back from the door.

"Sure." He followed her in, taking a quick survey and letting out a breath when he saw no sign of Troy.

"Jeff," Annie began.

"I'm sorry for, you know, last night," Jeff finally blurted out around an audible gulp.

"There's nothing to be sorry for Jeff," Annie told him, holding his gaze. "I—I was sorry I missed you this morning."

It was that little stammer, the slightest peek of nervousness as she entered the conversation with him that reminded him this was Annie. This was Annie. This was Annie that kissed him to win a debate. This was Annie that chased him into the bathroom. This was Annie that took his breath away when she moaned his name.

"I'm a mess," he blurted suddenly. "Wait—that wasn't what I wanted to say." This was Annie that still made him flounder with words and stumble over what he was trying to say.

"I know," she responded with a small smile.

"You know what? Which part?" he asked nervously.

"Both," she assured him.

"I'm not sure that helps," he mumbled.

"Relax Jeff," she laughed, reaching out and taking his hand in both of hers, stopping his frenetic pacing. "I've known you were a mess since you invited us all to cheat with you the first day I met you."

"The cat's been out of the bag that long?" he mocked aghast.

"And I've been your friend anyway." She gave him her sweet Annie smile at that, her thumb idly stroking across the back of his hand. He was pretty sure he'd never found hand-holding more erotic. What the hell was wrong with him?

"Don't do that," she told him.

"Do what?" he asked confused.

"Get that look on your face that says you're grouchy about something."

"I'm not grouchy about anything," he countered.

"Yeah you are," she argued. "I can tell because your eyes narrow and that tick in your jaw starts up."

"You notice a tick in my jaw?"

"It's a pretty fantastic jaw." That made him stand a little straighter. Annie thought he had a pretty fantastic jaw.

Then he realized what he was doing and deflated again.

"How do you do that?" he asked her.

"Do what?"

"Make me forget whatever it was I was going to say; make me forget everything I've been thinking about."

"For a professional slacker," Annie teased him, "you think way too much."

He met her smile but the moment had passed. Pulling his hands out of hers he started pacing again and mustered the strength to just say what he had to say.

"Jeff?" she asked, concern creeping into her voice. "Why did you come over here?"

"Can't a guy just visit his friend?" he tried, but it sounded forced even to him. "Yeah—"

She sat patiently, her hands folded in front of her and that calm impassive mask in place again on her face. God she was beautiful.

"You know now my father—abused—me." Might as well just cannonball right in. "He beat me. A lot."

She pressed her lips together, but said nothing.

"When I was 5 he and my mom got into it pretty bad," Jeff began, stopping awkwardly not sure where to look. He couldn't look her in the eyes while he told her this. His eyes scanned the blanket fort, the Indiana Jones model, the hallway to the bathroom. Her bedroom door.

"Go on," Annie urged him quietly after several beats.

"When I was 5, I watched him backhand my mom and send her flying into the stove. The stove was on—she was boiling spaghetti." He had to stop for a moment; he'd never shared this story with anyone and he was surprised how difficult it was. "I started crying and screaming and he turned on me, furious at me for being loud. And weak. That was the night I learned how useless crying was."

She stood still, her hands forgotten in front of her. Her eyes were dry and she held his gaze, but he could tell how difficult it was for her to listen to this. He could see her working through it. The refusal—this couldn't be true she was thinking. The horror—how could this have happened to someone she knew? The agony—nothing she did could fix this or make it better. Nothing she said was the right thing to say.

"I'm so, so sorry," she finally whispered.

"I—" he paused, unsure how to continue. "I want you to understand why it's complicated."

Annie could only nod her head.

"But I don't want you to pity me. I'm broken Annie. I'm broken in ways I don't even know yet because there are parts of myself I haven't used in twenty years, but I can take care of myself," he was putting his hands in his pockets, taking them out again. He turned and looked into the kitchen, then turned back. He needed something to do while they talked. "You know I have—feelings—for you. You know that I feel really, really strongly for you. I don't want you to keep thinking I'm hurting you on purpose or that, that last night was some sort of regular occurrence for me. That's why I'm telling you all this, not so you'll feel sorry for me or anything."

"Jeff I would never pity you," she said softly. "I'm just—I'm sad for you."

"I'm going to therapy. Did you know that? No, I haven't told anyone," he caught himself. "So yeah, I started going to therapy this summer because I don't want to be me anymore. Or, I want to be a better me. I want to be a me that can stop meddling in your life and messing everything up."

"Jeff I don't want you to stop meddling in my life—" she began but he cut her off again. He had to push through before he lost his nerve.

"I know," he said with a small smile. "And apparently—I'm a jealous person. I never knew that before, but then I've never liked anyone the way I like you so…yeah."

"What are you saying?" she whispered, unsure about where the conversation was headed.

"I'm saying I want to try," he said after a long pause. "I'm saying that staying away from each other obviously isn't working and I think we could be really happy together, you know, if we gave it a shot."

"Is this," Annie paused lost, "do you mean this?"

"Well," Jeff began, "yeah. I mean I didn't exactly know what I was going to say, but I couldn't watch Dolph Lundgren try to act anymore—"

"Dolph Lundgren?" Annie asked.

"Forget that part," Jeff waved it off. "I don't know—I didn't exactly plan that last part, but it's true—the part where I want to try, you know, something."

"Jeff I'm willing to try if you are," she said gently.

"And that's another thing," he kept rambling, uncomfortable with the sincerity of the moment, "I'm sarcastic and I hate touchy-feely stuff and I promise I'll try, but I don't like talking about my feelings. Not on any sort of regular basis. And I hate Glee. If you do nothing else for me, please, please don't make me watch Glee. I will watch as many BBC costume dramas as you want if you just won't make me watch those people sing."

Annie had started crying somewhere in there, and he felt his heart bottom out. He'd fucked it up. Somehow, despite trying his best to do this right he'd fucked it up.

"Or we can watch Glee if it's that important to you," he backpedaled.

"No," she said with a sniffle, "I mean I do like it, but you don't have to watch it with me."

"Then what?" he asked flabbergasted. "Why are you crying?"

"Because I thought after we, you know, that you hated me," Annie said softly, trying to surreptitiously wipe the tears away before her makeup ran.

"Oh god Annie, I could never hate you," Jeff told her defensively. "But sometimes I'm a dick and I don't even mean to be. You can't let me get away with it Annie. If we do this, if we try, you can't just let me walk all over you."

"Ha!" Annie gave a bark of laughter. "Did you forget the part where I went to rehab Jeff? Or the part where I ran you off the stage at student elections? I promise I know how to take care of myself. I'll tell you when you cross the line okay?"

"I'm hoping so," he said, serious again. "Annie last night—"

"We don't have to talk about it if you don't want to," she reassured him.

"I'm trying," Jeff told her anyway, "I'm trying really hard to get it all under control, but I'm—you know, I almost just left this morning."

"You did leave this morning," she said confused.

"No, Greendale, Riverside, the state. I almost took off to Vegas."

"I would have tracked you down and dragged you back here," she said without a trace of humor in her eyes.

"I believe you," Jeff said a little surprised. "Why?"

"Because we're your family," she told him, reaching out to him again to take his hands in hers. "The study group and me—we're your friends and you don't just run from friends because they see you at your worst."

"You aren't going to start singing to me are you?" Now that he'd gotten through the confessional part of the conversation Jeff was losing the battle to stay sincere.

"Only if you want me to," Annie teased him. "So what now?"

"I don't really know," he admitted, pulling her into his arms. "I hadn't really thought past the part where I made my big confession."

"Do you want to take it slow?" Annie asked sweetly. "Watch a movie and kiss me goodnight?"

"Mostly just that last part," he whispered, looking down at her.

"I said Yes I will Yes," she whispered into his lips.

"What?" he asked, pulling back confused.

"I've been reading Ulysses," she shrugged, pulling his head back down to hers. "Doesn't matter."

He agreed wholeheartedly and met her lips with a tenderness he didn't know he could feel.

Annie met his tenderness with a fierceness of her own, her mouth opening willingly beneath his own and he felt his emotions spiraling out of control; he was doing this. They were doing this. There was no going back after this, no making excuses and blaming it all on Annie for misunderstanding. He pulled back, suddenly feeling the need to apologize for that, for so many things, but then her hands were sneaking under his t-shirt and she was nibbling his lower lip in a way that made it hard to focus.

"Annie—" he tried.

"Let's go to the bedroom," she whispered huskily in return.

Not letting go of him, she pulled and started backing them towards her door. He wanted her to know how sorry he was, for everything, she deserved that. She deserved so much more. Oh god, what if he couldn't do this? What if this was just an impulse and it didn't work out? What if he hurt Annie?

"Jeff," her voice pulled him back to reality. They had stopped kissing, she was caught between his body and the frame of her door and her hands were holding him tightly to her. "Jeff look at me."

He did, knowing his sudden lack of surety was written all over his face.

"Jeff this is me," she told him. "This is me. We'll go slow. We'll take it easy. I won't make you watch Glee."

It was the joke that brought him back to the moment. So ridiculous but exactly what he needed to hear. His eyes refocused, meeting hers and he let the doubts slip away for another day, letting her kiss him once, twice with a sweet chasteness that broke his heart.

"Make love to me tonight and we'll figure the rest out tomorrow," she whispered against his mouth. Jeff always did hate to disappoint a lady.

Pulling her arms from around him he bent and picked her up easily, kicking the door shut behind them and carrying her to the bed in three long strides. Lowering her onto the fluffy pink bedspread he took the spot next to her, their bodies meeting at mouths as she let him explore her. His left hand roamed her slowly, rediscovering the heat of her skin, the silky weight of her breasts. Slipping under her pajama pants he groaned at her immediate response and begun a lazy circling with his fingertips.

She moaned beneath him, her back arching, and her breathing going ragged under his kiss. He kept at it until she trembled beneath his touch, drinking in every sound she made as his tongue mimicked his fingers. She let him pull her shirt off afterwards and push the easy cotton pants down her legs, but then she was pushing him, rolling him onto his back before he knew what was happening. He rose up obligingly when she stripped him of his shirt, but a hiss escaped his lips when her lips began nibbling their way down his neck, tracing a wet trail down his chest to his belt, a belt she was quickly opening up.

"Annie—" he growled, reaching down to stop her.

"Shh," she whispered with a devilish grin, undoing the belt and popping the button on his jeans. She eased the zipper down and he raised his hips so she could pull pants and boxer-briefs down with one tug. He kicked his shoes off and with one tug she left him naked on her bed, his clothes a forgotten pile on the floor next to hers.

A look he'd never seen on her face had his breath catching in his throat as she crawled back up the bed, stopping to kiss the outside of his hip, to bite the muscle there. His back bowed and his body responded hot and fast. Reaching down he grabbed her shoulders, but then her hand was on him and she was blowing across the tip, offering a tentative lick. His hands convulsed on her shoulders and he tried to urge her up, afraid he would never last this way, but she refused to budge.

She took him in one swallow and he saw stars.

Releasing his shoulders, one hand threaded through her hair of its own volition as the other fisted into the bedspread beneath him. Heaven didn't begin to describe what it felt like; one hand wrapped around the base and her tongue scrapped up and down as the hot heat of her mouth seared him. Her other hand eased between his legs, stroking and rubbing—a growl exploded from his chest that shook the walls.

He lasted another few minutes, the pleasure so intense he never wanted it to stop, but desperate to be inside her, to see her face as he filled her. His voice took on a pleading quality and he pulled her body up roughly, rolling them over so she was trapped beneath him. Her mouth was twisted in a mischievous grin and he bent down, roughly catching her nipple in his mouth pleased when her self-satisfied expression changed to one of longing. Two could play.

Settling between her thighs he reached to the side but remembered they weren't in his apartment. Oh god let her have a condom. Let her have a condom close by.

"Condom?" he asked. His voice sounded all wrong, deep and throaty, but he couldn't worry about talking right now. It was all he could do to hold his desperation or her in check.

"He—here," she said, reaching into her bedside table and pulling a small package out. That caught his attention.

"You keep these next to your bed?" he asked with suspicion.

"Easy cowboy," she laughed at him. "I got them for you."

His desperation shifted again, this time to tenderness, at her words. Ripping it open he rolled it on expertly and was back between her legs, positioned at her entry before she could catch her breath. Easing in slowly they both moaned loudly as she stretched around him. Jeff was sure nothing had ever felt this good.

Capturing her hands in each of his, he pinned them above her head, arching her back and trapping her beneath him. She raised her legs around him, angling her hips, letting him slip deeper and his head fell to her shoulder, too heavy to lift.

"Annie," he moaned into her skin, his hips beginning a languorous pace of their own volition. She was saying something into his ear, or maybe she was just panting—he couldn't tell as his higher functions shut down. His world narrowed to the feeling of sliding in and out of her, to the way her legs clutched him, to the sensation of her breasts rubbing his chest. If he could he would stay in this moment forever, both of them trapped by the needs of their bodies, blissfully intertwined, the outside world forgotten.

But she was biting down on his shoulder and the pain shot straight to his groin. Her hips were bucking beneath him and he was picking up speed, helpless as pleasure coiled in the small of his back, instinct taking over. He could feel the sweat beading on his body; hear the grunts coming out of him as he hammered into her over and over again. Her bed was slamming into the wall, but it wasn't a concern. All he cared about was the way she was going wild beneath him, her body tightening and clenching around his, her hands still trapped above her head.

She came hard, without warning, contractions milking him as her legs turned into a vice around his hips. His speed was frantic now and he tipped over the edge right after, the orgasm seeming to go on and on and on. With his last remaining thought he released one hand and grabbed her, rolling them both over so she was splayed out on top of him, both limp and exhausted.

He dozed in and out for a while, his brain unable to process what had just happened. He felt her stir on top of him and let out a contented sigh. Pulling energy from somewhere deep inside he buried his hand in her hair, his fingers rubbing the silky strands between them.

"Let's do that some more," she said into his chest.

"Yeah," he sighed then cursed at himself. Someday he would learn to be smooth with her god dammit.

"I don't want you to be smooth with me," Annie giggled. "I like it."

"I'm also going to relearn my inside voice," he said with exasperation.

"Nah," she teased, raising her head to look at him. The blue of her eyes had lightened to cobalt. Her lids were heavy, and her lips swollen from his kisses. Looking at her he felt that emotion again, that feeling he only got from her. It was this, the drive to share this with her that drove him to therapy all those months ago, the drive to earn the right to see her like this. Matching her smile with a small one of his own Jeff didn't regret any of it in this moment; the awkwardness of the first appointment, the pain of recognizing who and what he was, it was all worth it. It was worth it for this.

"I love you," he whispered. She gasped in shock and he wasn't sure he blamed her. Where was his inside voice with her?

"Do you—do you mean that?" she asked tentatively. "If not it's okay, I understand cause we just had sex and—"

"I meant it Annie," he cut her off, taking pity on her rambling. He did; he'd meant it for a while. No real reason not to just get it out in the open; he'd already cried in front of her. "You make a mess of me and I love you for it."

"Oh Jeff," she sighed, pulling herself up to kiss him sweetly. "You know I love you too."

"I know," he said with a sneaky smile, "but I said it first."

She wacked him across the shoulder for that, but he didn't care. He was finally where he was supposed to be, and he spent the rest of the night making sure she knew that.