It's a Saturday afternoon, two weeks into summer vacation, when she shows up at his door wearing plaid Bermuda shorts, a white polo shirt and a smile that is way too perky.
She wants something. He knows this before she even opens her mouth.
"Annie," he greets her flatly, leaning into the doorframe.
"Are you having a good summer? You look really tan. Did you go somewhere? You should be careful you know, scientists are saying that the UV index is higher than ever this year and-"
Behind him, in the sanctuary of his apartment there is a baseball game on the television, a fridge full of cold beer and a handful of take-out menus calling his name. He holds up his hand. "What do you want?"
Annie gasps a little as she stops talking in the middle of her sentence, her hands going to her hips, "What makes you think I want something?"
Jeff pushes away from the door and heads toward the kitchen with a dry snort of laughter.
"Before you start in with the Disney eyes, let me just remind you that I'm on summer vacation. I'll gladly, and by gladly I mean reluctantly and if I can't make up a decent excuse, show up at whatever barbeque or Summer Beach Blanket Mixer you're planning but I won't plan or set up or bring or carry or entertain anything that will entail any kind of effort on my part. No matter how many times you passive-aggressively plead or beg or flutter your eyelashes."
Annie sighs and closes the door behind her. "Why do you always assume that I'm going to ask you to DO anything?" she asks as she perches herself primly on one of the bar stools at the counter.
"I recognize that look on your face." Jeff grins and tilts a beer toward her in offering. She waves him off and he kicks the fridge door closed. "It's that I'm about to ask Jeff something unpleasant so I'm going to act as cute as possible so that he's caught up in a fog of preciousness and agrees out of disorientation look." The bottle cap pops off with a snap and Jeff leans toward her over the counter, looking smug.
"I do NOT have a face that says all that."
He shrugs and takes a swig of his beer. "And again I ask, what do you want?"
With a slight tilt of her head, she gazes at him from underneath her eyelashes, then seemingly realizing what she's doing, throws back her shoulders and levels him with a narrow-eyed glare. Jeff has to smooth back a chuckle at the impressive wave of facial gymnastics she goes through before finally sighing loudly and smacking her hand on the counter.
"My apartment's been condemned. They're tearing it down and putting in an office building."
"Hmm." Jeff considers this. "And you want me to use my awesome lawyer skills to have Dildopolis declared a landmark to be preserved for all future generations."
"No. I need… Wait, can you do that?"
"No, Annie. This isn't a Jimmy Stewart movie."
She stares at him for a second, then shakes her head. "Well, I have to be out of my apartment by this weekend."
"Ahhh. Well, I'd like to take this opportunity to remind you that asking me to help you move would violate the terms of this conversation."
"Well, see." Her eyes follow the trail of aimless circles her finger starts tracing along the counter top. She won't look at him. "The problem is that now I don't exactly have a place to live."
Jeff is taking a long pull of beer as this sinks in, as her eyes finally rise to meet his with something like hope glimmering there. Ooooooooh no. No. No.
"Annie," he starts slowly, setting the bottle down with a clink.
"Wait. Before you say anything." Jeff groans inwardly at the familiar sound of determination laced through her words. "Just know that you're my last resort and I wouldn't ask if I didn't have to, but I can't be within twelve feet of Britta's apartment before I go into anaphylactic shock from her cats and Abed's moving back in with his dad for the summer and Troy's out of town visiting his mom and Shirley's already got all the boys and Ben's just learned how to walk and it's chaos at her house and Pierce already left for that Singles Cruise and I know he'd let me stay at his house but Jeff, you've been there, it's huge and Troy's always talking about how he thinks it's haunted and I can't live there by myself and well that leaves you but I swear it'll only be for a few weeks, a month tops, until I can find a new place and save up some money so I'll be able to afford something better but I just need some time to get back on my feet and if I could stay here it would really… well, it would help. A lot."
Annie trails off. Her hands are clenching the edge of the counter and Jeff stares wide-eyed at the way her knuckles are turning white as he digests the run-on sentence she'd just spewed at him.
"Okay, look Annie, I'd love to help but I only have the one bedroom and…"
"That's okay! I can sleep on the couch! I love sleeping on the couch. Sleeping on the couch is great!"
"Aaaaaand I just got rid of Chang and it's going to take extensive psychotherapy for me to recover from THAT…"
"Ew! You think I'd be as bad as the guy who went through your underwear drawer and kept chocolate-covered crickets in your fridge? Please."
"I'm not saying that. And you know I'm not saying that." He stares her down pointedly until a smile pulls at her lips and she sighs a little, seemingly exasperated that she can't stay mad at him. And try as he might, he can't help but grin in return.
"Okay," she starts up again, but he cuts her off.
"You don't want to live with me, Annie. You think it's a good idea now. You look at me and you think Jeff's awesome, how great would it be to live with him? Maybe I'll learn some of the secret magic behind what makes him SO awesome." Annie rolls her eyes. "But I'm telling you right now-"
"What are you worried about, Jeff?" she interrupts. "I've known you for three years. There's not a lot that would shock me anymore."
A muscle twitches in his jaw. He picks at the loose corner of the label on the bottle, keeping her gaze but not saying anything.
"Is it...?" Annie starts carefully. "Are you worried that I'm going to somehow cramp your style or something? I promise won't. If you need me out on certain nights when you happen to…" she flushes a little bit here and averts her eyes. "…have a female caller, then just tell me and I'll stay out of your way. You can put a sock on the door! Like a secret code!"
"Yeaaaaaah, cause nothing says 'secret code' like a sock on a door handle… Have you ever actually lived with a member of the opposite sex?"
"Have you?" she shoots back.
Jeff's mouth opens, and then snaps shut again. After beat, he laughs. "Tell me again why you're going into medical administration instead of law?"
Her smile turns smug as she leans forward. "Did you just admit to being out-lawyered?"
"No! Absolutely not." He narrows his eyes at her as she giggles. "I may have acknowledged a momentary challenge. But it's nothing I can't handle. In the end." There's an extra bit of cockiness in his tone and for a split second he thinks he imagines something like curiosity flicker across her face before she looks away. He rolls the nearly empty beer bottle between his hands and waits for her to fill the silence.
"Jeff." She stops and takes a deep breath before meeting his eyes again. "Please. My only other option is moving back in with my mom and I can't. She's… she'll try to take over and she'll make me… it'll be high school all over again. And look how that turned out the first time."
Jeff pauses. There's something in her tone that says this isn't just a tactic of manipulation. "I think you could handle it now," he mutters in the direction of the kitchen counter.
Annie's eyes widen a little, her cheeks flushing a bit pink as she looks down. "Thanks," she says quietly. "But…you don't understand, high school was horrible. She used to-"
He holds up his hand. "Annie. One of these days the I Was a High School Reject stories are going to lose their charm."
She falters, but only momentarily. "Soooooo, does that mean they're charming you now?"
Jeff's only response is a short laugh as he backs away toward the fridge to grab a bottle of water. On the other side of the counter she continues to watch him with hope in her wide blue eyes. Crap. She makes good points. But…
"What about…" he motions between them and raises his eyebrows meaningfully.
Annie looks genuinely confused.
"This isn't some ploy to make me fall in love you?"
She blinks at him. "Wha-?"
"Ugh!" Her eyes roll as she groans in frustration. "Jeff, that's over. You know that."
Okay. It's true that any sort of crush-like tendencies she'd once directed his way had cooled off over the last year. Especially once she had started dating Trevor – the bleached blonde, former California surfer who had strolled into the library with his cargo shorts, flip flops and wavy hair, and sent Annie into fits of girlish blushing the moment he smiled at her and then was actually interested and not too old or shirtless or sociopathic.
They had dated for five months, until Annie had broken up with him sometime after Valentines Day, for reasons that were never specified and when Jeff tried to ask her about it she had brushed it off and sighed and just said it wasn't working. Whatever. He didn't care one way or another - he wasn't Gossip Girl - he just wanted to make sure that he and Troy or Shirley weren't going to be expected to kick Trevor's ass in the parking lot.
When he had told her this, in his driest I don't actually give a fuck tone of voice, she had only smiled and thanked him for his concern and then popped up on her toes and kissed his cheek in a way that was both familial and non-lingering.
This doesn't mean though that co-habitation is an ideal situation.
Annie hops off the stool and scurries around the corner into the kitchen to grab his hand. "Please. Jeff." There's only a slight flutter in her eyelashes, a hint of desperation – the rest is all blue-steeled determination. She's not going to let this go.
There are a million reasons to say no. Including that little zip of feeling that went up his arm as her palm pressed against his - irritation mostly because he's starting to actually consider this insanity.
"Only a few weeks right?"
Her eyes light up as she nods furiously, "Yes. Yes. I promise."
"I have three conditions."
Annie's joy is so palpable she's practically jumping up and down as she continues clutching his hand in between hers.
Jeff flexes his fingers and she lets go, clasping her hands under her chin.
"Number one: this excuses me from having to help you move."
"Oh please. You wouldn't have helped anyway."
"Sure. And then I would have received thirty-five text messages from you saying that it's okay that Britta dropped a box of your favorite snow globes and it's okay that Shirley and Abed aren't strong enough to move your dresser and you're sure someone will come along to help. Eventually."
"I don't have a snow globe collection."
"Kitten figurines. Heart-shaped candleholders. Same difference."
Annie smacks his arm and he shrugs away with a laugh.
"Hey, these are the conditions. You can agree to them or you can move home to Mommy Dearest. Your call."
She meets his smirk with a sigh. "Fine. I won't ask you to help. What's number two?"
Jeff narrows his eyes pointedly. "Just because we'll be temporary roommates doesn't mean that you suddenly have free reign to nag me about how I choose to spend my time. If I'm going to waste an entire Sunday on the couch watching The Real Housewives, you have to respect that." He thinks about it for a second, "AND not tell anyone."
"Deal… You don't really do that though, do you Jeff?" Annie's nose scrunches up in distaste and Jeff eyes her incredulously. She winces and mutters an apology.
He shakes his head at the ceiling. "I'm going to regret this SO MUCH."
"I'm sorry. I'm sorry. That's the last hint of disapproval you'll see from me. See?" Annie waves her hand over her face, letting her features relax into a breezy, I don't care nonchalance. "I'm cool. Whatever."
The corners of Jeff's mouth quirk up in amusement as he gazes down at her.
Annie lifts one of her shoulders and grins, obviously pleased that she's managed to make him smile. THIS. This is why she's dangerous. Even at her most obnoxious, there's a hint of adorableness behind it that makes him want to… nevermind.
Jeff exhales loudly, "Okay, and three. And this is the most important one." Annie nods as Jeff motions around the apartment. "This? Is a man's apartment. Where I do manly things like lift weights and refuse to read directions. And it will remain that way. So if anything Beiber or Twilight or My Little Pony-related shows up anywhere near here I will personally move you into your mom's house faster than you can say 'One Less Lonely Girl.' Got it?"
A tiny grin tugs at Annie's lips and Jeff points a finger at her, "Yes. I know the name of a Justin Beiber song. I listen to the local Top 40 station and they overplay everything. Don't smirk all knowingly at me."
"You know I'm 21 now right? I don't actually play with dolls."
"Yes. But I also know that you went to the midnight showing of the last Twilight movie."
Annie opens her mouth but can't seem to come up with a way to respond. She settles for crossing her arms over her chest with a huff. "Fine."
They watch each other for a long moment before Annie smiles and bounces up on her toes, "Sooooooo. Roommates?"
Jeff glances helplessly toward the television where a car commercial is flickering silently. Annie follows his gaze and then tilts her head to the side, regarding him with what looks like pity. Ugh.
"Temporary roommates," he qualifies and holds out his hand to shake on it. Annie's too fast for him though as she yelps and leaps forward, wrapping her arms all the way around him in a tight squeeze.
"You have NO idea how much this means to me!"
"Annie." She's got his arms pinned to his sides and he feels a little ridiculous because she's all pressed against him, her cheek snuggled against his chest and he can't DO anything about it - she's deceptively strong for someone half his size.
When she releases him, beaming little (platonic) hearts out of her eyes, Jeff offers her a tentative smile and somehow resists the urge to pat her on the head.
"Okay." She claps her hands together, her expression taking on a sudden dreamy quality, as she's lost to a tailspin of mental to-do lists. "I have to go finish packing. And find people to help me move. And rent out a temporary storage space and…" she's muttering to herself now as she heads towards the door. "There's so much to get done!"
"Just a few weeks right?" he calls after her.
Annie's already halfway out the door when she turns back. "Promise. And hey, this might even be fun." She doesn't wait for his response and Jeff finds himself frowning at the back of the door as it shuts behind her.