Disclaimer: 'Community' and its characters belong to NBC and Dan Harmon. I'm neither of those things (unfortunately?). What I'm saying is don't sue me or leave me a nasty voicemail over this.
This is how it starts, which is actually not the beginning at all. She rubs the double-knit fabric of his Mariners jersey between her fingers. Her legs are restless, getting tangled in what are surely six hundred thread count sheets of a slate gray color. She had snuck in here when she noticed the last of the other party guests filtering toward the door. Seizing this opportunity had been pretty easy really. Now she just has to be able to get through it without losing her nerve.
Well, the vodka she'd snuck a couple shots of helped.
His voice sounds strange, echoey in her ears. It seems much farther away than it probably is.
"Annie?" he questions again, opening the door to his bedroom merely on a whim. His eyes flicker over her for only a moment and his brain doesn't register it at all. He shuts the door and then, comically is back again only a second later. His face is pale and his mouth hangs open. "Umm…." is all he can manage to get out.
"Jeff." She says it as directly as she can, imagines herself making a case to him in front of a courtroom full of people.
"Annie," he counters, slowly coming back to himself. "You can't be doing this."
"What exactly do you object to here?" she asks boldly as she draws her knees up to her body. Jeff exhales loudly. "You really can't tell me what to do."
"I can when it involves you lying in my bed," he answers in a strangled tone. "Wearing my shirt!" he adds after a moment with a gesture toward her. "Annie, you have to put your clothes…" He motions to the pile of her clothes near his feet and trails off for a moment. She had purposely placed her bra and panties on the top of the neatly folded pile. "Put your clothes back on and go home. We can pretend like it never happened."
"Like the kiss," Annie quickly interjects with a curt nod to herself. "..kisses…"
Jeff's eyes close in what Annie can only assume is frustration. "Annie-"
H steps into the room and shuts the door. "I'm trying to be a good guy here, Annie."
"Really?" she asks sarcastically as she rises to her knees on his mattress. "'Cause I think you're turning me down because you're afraid I'm in love with you." There it is. Direct as she can be. Jeff's eyes narrow almost imperceptibly. "And you don't want to deal with a clingy teenager thinking you're going to marry her."
Jeff sighs. "Annie." He pauses and sighs again. "I know how this entire thing works out. We start casually dating, except you can't do casual, especially not when you're sleeping with someone because it's your first real relationship and you haven't really figured out who you are in this type of scenario." He begins speaking with his hands, and even in the middle of such a spectacular letdown, Annie can't help but think that he is probably a damn good lawyer. "So, we're all of a sudden in a serious relationship, which causes me to freak out and do something insane and completely me. I pick up some cougar at a bar one night and have sex with her in a public bathroom. You're hurt and break up with me. The particulars don't matter, it could be any woman at any location. It always ends with Jeff breaking Annie's heart because he doesn't know how to do anything else. Then I'm a jackass and we can't be friends anymore. So, can we please just… not?" He finally takes a breath, and gives her a slightly manic look.
Annie glances away from him and smoothes her hands over the ends of her hair. "Thanks for giving me the benefit of the doubt, Jeff."
Jeff stares at her incredulously for a moment, his eyebrows furrowed. "Why can't you understand that I'm actually helping you, Annie?" He crosses his arms over his chest. "I'm protecting you, you know."
"I really appreciate that," Annie retorts, her voice dripping with sarcasm. "Thank you so much for being such a big strong man who needs to protect me. I'm so lucky to have you around, alpha male." She narrows her eyes menacingly. "I'm being sarcastic," she adds.
Jeff smirks at her. "I got that, kid."
"Stop it," Annie answers with a shake of her head. "I'm not kid or sport or kitten or any other pet name that describes something in its…infancy, okay?" She purses her lips angrily. "I'm a nineteen year old woman. I can drive, I can vote, and I can have lots of really aggressive sex with whomever I want."
Jeff eyes widen as he stares at her in the ensuing silence. "Are you done now, babe?" he finally mocks and Annie feels her jaw tighten. He cocks his head to the side and shoots her a look. Look, it's…you're not just some nineteen year-old, you're…Annie."
She swallows hard over the dry lump in her throat. "So, I'm not pretty enough for you?"
Jeff frowns. "Wait, what? No, trust me. That's definitely not it, Annie."
"Really?" Annie asks, getting irritated. "Because the way I see it, if I was just some other random nineteen year-old sophomore asking for the first orgasm of her life, it would be a no-brainer for Jeff Winger."
His eyes close almost involuntarily, but Jeff overcomes it a moment later. "What if it a romantic relationship ruins our friendship though? What about the study group?" She knows it sounds as lame to him as it does to her, because a moment later he is literally rolling his eyes.
"I don't think you've actually been listening to what I'm saying, Jeff." Annie reaches up and slowly unbuttons the top button of the shirt she's wearing. "What if all I'm looking for is to learn about sex from someone who knows?" Jeff cocks his head to the side in confusion. "We don't have to hold hands between classes or share fries in the cafeteria. This isn't a manipulative trick to get you into some sort of…relationship." She smirks. "Who says I would even want that?"
All in all, this performance she's putting on is pretty good.
The look he gives her is unsure.
"C'mon Jeff, I'm rare. Exotic even." She undoes another button. "An exotic fish, swimming by you." She levels him with narrowed eyes. "If you want me, take me."
And so he does.
He kisses her hipbone once she stills against the mattress before kissing his way back up her naked torso. Annie lays with her eyes fixed at the ceiling. The only light in his room is the glow coming from the television, set to a late night talk show.
"So, that was what that's like then?" she asks breathlessly.
"Well, I can't guarantee it will always be just like that," Jeff corrects as he trails a fingertip over her tight nipple and she hums. "But the mechanics are always pretty similar, yeah."
He had practically attacked her the moment she'd opened his apartment door an hour earlier, unable to get out that she was bringing him his English Literature book he'd left in the study room. Within minutes, he'd had her stripped down and wrapped around him.
"So, I think we need to take care of you." Annie turns onto her side facing him, propping her head up on one elbow. She traces one finger down his well-defined chest.
"I'm good," he answers as he looks down at her finger before concentrating on her face. "Honestly…." He trails off.
"Yeah?" Annie says uncertainly.
"It sounds…stupid," he answers hesitantly and Annie feels her face fall slightly. "I mean…" Jeff rolls onto his back and stares at his ceiling. "I mean that…okay, this isn't going to sound good."
"Jeff?" Annie asks with a raised eyebrow.
Jeff chuckles. "Okay…It's like..I have a new toy." Annie makes a disgusted noise. "So I get to do all these things to you that you've never done before and somehow, watching you…feeling you experience all these things is kind of enough for me." He furrows his brow. "It's making me a really selfless lover, actually. Weird."
Annie swallows and licks her lips slowly.
"That is unless you keep doing that," he murmurs almost to himself.
"Well," Annie answers with a grin. "Maybe it's time to see what I've learned then." She pushes him backwards with more force that she realizes she is capable of before crawling on top of him.
"Oh good. A pop quiz," Jeff quips as he let his hands start at her hips and then travel up to her rib cage and back down again as he feels her start to move. "God, so good."
"Jeff," Annie admonishes even as she begins to ride him. "What would Craig Ferguson think of this?"
"He would think it was awesome," Jeff murmurs as he bucks up into her before pulling her down for a long kiss.
He grunts and surges forward, emptying into her mouth.
Annie swallows as quickly as she is able to, using the same technique as when her cousin taught her to shotgun beer in high school. When he stills above her, Annie pulls her mouth off of him and licks her lips. Honestly, the taste is nothing great. She understands why nobody had ever made it into an ice cream flavor.
His head is thrown back against his couch, arms spread out at his sides. He's breathing heavily, as if he could have just collapsed here after running three miles instead of letting a teenager give him a blowjob in the middle of the afternoon on a Thursday.
"Was that…?" she trails off, unsure of what is supposed to happen now. Jeff's head finally snaps up and he looks as relaxed and happy as she's ever seen him. Wildly, he reaches down and pulls her up to the couch. Annie awkwardly lands on his naked body before readjusting herself so she's straddling his lap. Jeff groans.
He'd innocuously invited her over during lunch, not ever even glancing up from his sudoku game. They'd figured out the best way to not draw attention to themselves was to be as dismissive toward each other as they had always been. Jeff pretended that she didn't exist for the most part, and Annie was allowed to give him worshipful glances every once in a while. They had walked to his car together after her last class, not even really speaking. It wasn't until they'd been safely out of the school parking lot that she'd even allowed herself to talk.
"There's something I want to do, if it's okay with you," she'd simply stated as she glanced out the window. Once inside his apartment, she'd promptly unbuckled his belt, determination heavy in her eyes. Instead of holding her off, telling her she didn't have to do anything she didn't want to do, Jeff had merely helped her undress him as quickly as possible.
"Yeah," he finally answers in a still slightly breathless tone. "That was good." His hands skim along her bare thighs before grazing up her cotton dress and landing on her hips gently.
"We can practice if I need more work," Annie offers, making her eyes as wide and innocent as she can. Jeff lays his head back against the couch cushion again.
"You really are a good student," he tells her, his voice changing to a moan when Annie leans forward to begin kissing down his throat to his chest. A moment later, she feels one of his hands working its way back under her dress and pressing lightly against her center. "Okay, well you kind of enjoyed it too I think," he notes with a lazy grin before fully committing himself to his task at hand.
"So, are we not going to study at all then?" Annie squeaks out as she allows herself to squirm against him.
"Not everything is about book learnin'," Jeff rebukes easily as he works his hand against her.
It's another three hours before Annie even remembers she didn't bring her books anyway.
She is sitting in the passenger seat of his Lexus, hands tucked under her thighs awkwardly. His hand lingers on the gear shift momentarily before he digs into his coat pocket. He hooks his iPhone into the stereo system before handing it to her. Annie merely looks at him questioningly.
"Pick something," he answers with a tone that tells her this should have been obvious to her.
She pulls her lower lip in between her teeth as she scrolls through his library by artist. The scent of tacos they had just picked up from a drive-thru two miles from his house was permeating the car to the point Annie was surprised he'd gone for it at all when she'd stated she was craving hard shells. Her thumb hovers over her choice for a moment before pressing against the flat screen and a moment later, the car is filling with the familiar opening strains. She nods her head to the beat, glancing out the window next to her. A moment later, she feels his eyes on her and turns to acknowledge him.
"Really?" he asks, an eyebrow raised. "Going with Tom Petty?"
"I like this song," Annie answers easily. Her hands move to grasp the bag that sits in her lap.
"Isn't it a little… old for you?" Jeff persists, his fingers still against the gearshift.
She notices the double meaning before he probably does and swallows a smile before shaking her head. "No, I…my dad used to listen to this album in the garage on weekends when I was little." She runs one hand through her hair. "I would go out and help him and we would dance together." She feels a wave of sadness that she wasn't expecting. It crests fairly quickly and all that is left in its wake is an awkward stillness even as Tom Petty wails from the speakers. She chews her lip again.
"The day after their divorce was finalized was the first time I ever took Adderall," she finally bleats out, almost hoping he can't hear her. "I thought if I could be better…"
One large hand covers her own trembling hands immediately and she feels him squeeze. Annie feels the smile crack her face.
"Oh yeah, all right," Jeff begins to sing loudly along with the stereo. "Take it easy baby."
"Make it last all night," Annie joins in loudly, turning to him with a wide smile.
"She was an American girl!"
"So?" he groans.
"Um," Annie answers as she rolls her hips. "Yeah, I guess."
He stops. "What's wrong?" He sounds almost irritated.
Annie throws her arms up in frustration. "I can't see you." She struggles for a moment before looking back over her shoulder. "All I can see is your hairy shins and knees, which no offense, is not your best feature."
"You can see yourself," Jeff counters as he sits up and supports his weight on his extended arms. Annie looks forward at the large mirror he has above his dresser and her naked reflection makes her flinch. She bites her lip, feeling weird for complaining about the different kinds of awesome sex he's willing to have with her.
"Yeah, it's just that…I don't really turn myself on," Annie reasons in a small voice and slumps slightly. If this wasn't mood killing, she didn't know what was. Maybe if one of them had died during, that would be worse. As gracefully as she can, she climbs off of him and settles on the mattress next to him, her knees drawn up to her chest. "I want to see you," she continues, hoping he will understand this.
Jeff's mouth opens, but no sound comes out and he clamps it shut again. Annie nervously tucks her hair behind her ear and glances down at his pink toenails. He had said it was just a one-time thing and it was only because it wouldn't be sandal season for another two months.
"Okay," Jeff finally says, fully sitting up. "Try this."
He physically pulls her up next to him and she takes the rare opportunity of being at eye level with him to drop a kiss onto his lips. He deepens it immediately, wrapping a large hand around the back of her head. She feels him, still hard and wet, against her stomach and she flushes. A moment later, Jeff breaks the kiss and manhandles her into a position on her hands and knees in front of him. Annie realizes what's happening and sits back upright. "Jeff…" she starts, unsurely, searching his face.
"Trust me?" he asks, his eyes dancing slightly. Annie nods and slowly gets back into the position he'd put her in. He settles behind her and Annie feels her whole body relax when she feels him back at her slick entrance. He pushes in and she surges forward, only to press back against him a moment later. "Look," he murmurs to her as he leans his muscled torso against her back. Annie meets his eye in the mirror and clenches around him at the sight. Jeff hisses before he begins rhythmically thrusting forward.
"And now you don't have to look at my gross hairy ankles," he grunts out.
"Wait, hold on a minute here. You're telling me you know how to play the piano?"
He looks up from his Scrabble easel and narrows his eyes at her. "Technically, yes."
"Oh my gosh," Annie giggles as she lays down the word 'basket'. "I never would have guessed that you're musical."
Jeff rolls his eyes at her. "Just because my mom made me take piano lessons for two years when I was in elementary school doesn't mean I'm sitting home composing sonatas." He grins before adding an 's' to her word. Annie sputters wordlessly before smacking him on the arm. "I could maybe pick out some notes if I had a gun to my head. That's all."
"I'm guessing Pierce doesn't know about this?" Annie asks in a sing song tone.
Jeff feels his jaw tighten. "And there is no way he ever will."
"Jeff." Annie bats her eyelashes at him.
"Annie," Jeff shoots back threateningly.
"You've been blatantly cheating this entire game, and now you expect me to do you a favor?" She cocks her head to the side innocently and continues to bat her eyes.
"Making a word plural is not cheating, read the rules. And if we really want to play the 'Tell Pierce A Secret' game, I think I can give him something more interesting on you ." He gives her a pointed look.
"You wouldn't," Annie mock gasps before moving toward him with a glint in her eye.
Jeff puts up his hands in defense, but merely draws her into his embrace a moment later. "Let's just call a truce then." He presses his lips against the top of her head. "I would hate to have to take a picture of that birth mark under your left breast and e-mail it to the entire campus."
"Come on," Annie implores as she tugs on his shirt sleeve. He looks down at the sleeve, as if he's offended that it's allowing itself to be tugged upon. "You have to have one."
"I'm not…" He shakes his head. "No."
"Just one fantasy," Annie pouts before pulling her feet up onto the couch in front of her, knees drawn up against her chest. "Tell me one fantasy."
Jeff chuckles humorlessly. "And then what?"
"I might do it," Annie answers enticingly, batting her eyelashes at him. Jeff flinches and pulls out his iPhone to fiddle with it idly.
"This is a bad idea," he intones as he presses his thumbs against the screen.
Annie sighs and climbs off the couch and ambles to his kitchen to find something to eat. "You know, I told you about my Professor Snape thing," she calls out as she pulls a box of Cheez-its from the top of his fridge. She can't help grinning at his.
Jeff hates Cheez-its.
"I definitely didn't ask you to tell me that," Jeff counters, looking up at her as if she's grown a third head.
Annie plops back down next to him on the couch, crossing her legs underneath her on the cushion. Jeff easily drapes one of his arms over her thigh, letting his hand rest in the open space she'd created with her legs. "Didn't stop you from taking points away from me last night," she cracks as she pops crackers into her mouth one at a time.
"You were being naughty," Jeff answers, a serious expression on his face. A moment later, it is replaced with one of revulsion. "Okay, I just grossed myself out."
"I won't tell anyone," Annie tries again. "I don't know if you've noticed, but I'm actually pretty good at keeping secrets."
Jeff lays his head back against the cushion and thinks. "I think it's more about everyone else not really paying any attention to anything that happens around there."
"Is it really kinky?" Annie asks, scrunching up her face. "Is it suffocation?" she asks and Jeff glares at her. "Or…I haven't peed on you yet." She taps him with the box she's holding. "Is it a peeing thing?"
Jeff squeezes his eyes shut and reaches the hand that had been in her lap up to scratch the back of his neck. "God, no." He pauses and cracks one eye open to look at her. "And the way you phrased that makes it seem like 'peeing' is on some checklist you have. Like 'Oh, we haven't tried water sports yet'." Annie chuckles.
"I'm just trying to help," Annie asserts as she wipes her hands on a napkin she brought with her and closes the box. "Is it a lingerie thing?" Jeff raises one eyebrow. "I mean…on you. Like Kelsey Grammar?"
Jeff sighs and runs a hand through his hair. "Okay." He winces at nothing and Annie feels something close to fear but more like exhilaration filling her chest. What he is about to say was either really sick or really awesome. "It's…." He clears his throat and finally turns on the couch to look at her. "It's….kind of a…" He screws up his entire face, like he can taste the embarrassment of the whole thing. "…Disney princess…thing."
Annie stares at him in shock. There are about a million things that she would have thought were more likely to come out of his mouth. She feels her jaw drop slightly, waiting for him to soften his face back into a smirk and say he just wanted to see her reaction. But he's not moving, which means it's her turn.
"What?" she asks, trying her absolute hardest not to giggle, because…seriously?
Jeff sighs and rolls his eyes at her, realizing just how much she's enjoying this. "My first…sexual fantasy was for…Sleeping Beauty," he grits out through his clenched jaw. "Since then, it's always kind of been something in the back of my mind. But, it isn't entirely my fault. I mean, that little…mermaid was hot, right?" He lurches forward and drops his head into his hands. "I am a sick, sick person."
Annie almost can't believe he doesn't see the opportunity in front of them. "Okay," Annie moves forward and touches his shoulder. "Well, there are plenty of good ones here. Really, we could do this every night for a week and still have some of them leftover." Jeff narrows his eyes at her, clearly thinking she is crazy. "But I think, given my coloring, that the best place to start would be Snow White." She rises from the couch, but doesn't step away. He has to look up her torso to see her face. A smile is forming on his lips finally, as if he's just getting that she isn't going to immediately go post this tidbit on her twitter account. "So, I guess there's really only one question left to ask here."
"Um, okay?" Jeff answers unsurely.
Annie smirks at him. "Do you have a corset, or do I need to go buy one?"
One sharp tug later, she's on top of him. "Turns out this," he says as he gestures between them with a mock serious tone. "Was a pretty good idea."
"No, I understand that."
Annie looks up from her bowl of cereal at the way he paces around his kitchen in the bleak morning light, which streams in from the window. She pulls her lower lip into her mouth and bites down on it unsurely. She tries to catch his eye, but he is determinedly not looking at her. He instead alternates between squeezing his eyes shut in anger and opening up his cupboards to stare at the contents blankly.
"There must be some mistake then, because I can guarantee I paid that already," Jeff says into the receiver in a clipped tone.
Annie lines up the marshmallows on the rim of the bowl by color. Three pink, two green. Four yellow. They leave a trail of colored goo down the inside of the bowl, coloring the milk. She suddenly isn't hungry. Here she is, sitting at his kitchen table like a small child and playing with her Alpha-Bits while Jeff has a tense conversation with someone whom Annie is guessing is his landlord.
She is rising from her seat and moving toward the sink before she even realizes it, but her eyes are filling with tears suddenly, and she doesn't want to think about why it's happening. She sees him react to her movement and sees a trace of a smirk on his face before she is turning away from him quickly. One large hand wraps gently around her wrist and Annie discreetly wipes her eyes before facing him. His eyes search her face for a moment.
There is a connection between them that is extremely tangible. It is everything she has been trying her hardest to avoid. They are in a relationship. She somehow hadn't even realized it, had purposely not looked for it, because acknowledging it was the same exact thing as ending it. She had managed to accomplish something that presumably many women before her had tried, but none had succeeded at. She knows somewhere deep in the recesses of her brain that she should be celebrating over getting what she had honestly wanted all along, which is Jeff. Real Jeff, not the one he offers to other people, not the one who takes his mom out on her birthday and still talks about fake law cases.
She celebrates in her mind for exactly one second before allowing reality to take back over. She knows what happens now, he told her what happened next and she couldn't fault him for being able to accurately see into the future of this…thing they'd created for themselves. She looks up into his eyes and he must notice the rapid change of emotion crossing her face, because his face fills with concern.
Concern for her. She swallows over the impulse to throw up right there in his kitchen.
"Yeah, I actually. I have to go." He hangs up the phone before the person on the other end can respond. The phone drops to the counter next to them and he continues to look at her in silence. "What….?" He shoves his hands into his pockets. "You okay?"
She nods dumbly, not meeting his searching gaze. "Yeah." It comes out thickly and Annie grimaces. She clears her throat and finally looks up at him. "I'm just…" She shakes her head.
"Ann," Jeff says in a soft voice. Annie frowns and feels her insides tighten at the small term of endearment.
"This is a bad idea, isn't it?" she asks in a tiny voice.
"Okay, there is nothing on." Jeff drops the remote into her lap before settling against her on the couch.
Annie rolls her eyes at him before flipping over to a rerun of 'How I Met Your Mother'. "You're just too picky." He grumbles before pulling his iPhone out to play a game of Fruit Ninja. She looks at the television, figuring out which episode it is, before glancing over at Jeff. He's wearing sweatpants and an old Columbia tee shirt that he claimed had given him some sort of real 'cred'. The pizza box they'd been eating out of all night still sat in front of them on the coffee table. "You know," she says with a grin. "I kind of thought this would be more dangerous." She leans forward and picks up a small slice of pizza before peeling the pepperoni off of it.
"The pizza?" he asks without looking up from the small screen.
"No," Annie replies. "This whole thing with you."
Jeff turns and gives her a questioning look. "Why would you think that?"
Annie shrugs. "I don't know. I guess last year, before any of us really knew you, I imagined that when you left study group you were driving your Lexus off to some penthouse apartment where you were given top secret assignments that involved teaming up with tall women who dressed in leather jumpsuits."
Jeff frowns. "I'm confused, did you think I was Batman or James Bond?" He sits up more fully. "So, I'm not dangerous enough for you?"
Annie tries to smother a giggle. "Jeff, we ordered pizza and watched 'Top Chef' tonight," she answers.
"I had a bunch of episodes on my Tivo," Jeff reasons defensively, pointing toward the television. "Okay so you're saying you're disappointed that I'm just a regular boring guy?"
Annie licks grease off of her finger before raising her eyebrows. "Jeff, you're definitely not boring." He smirks. "I just kind of thought sex with you would be…I don't know." She shrugs. "I figured you were breaking me in before you started pulling out the whips and chains." She waggles her eyebrows at him. "You know, you haven't even tied me up at all yet."
"You actually do have a checklist, don't you?" Jeff shakes his head, but smiles.
"I'm trying to give you a compliment," Annie assures him before leaning over and kissing the corner of his mouth.
"By calling me a dull middle-aged man," Jeff finishes for her. Annie bites her lip to keep from smiling. "I'm not middle-aged," he asserts edgily.
"That depends on how long you live," Annie retorts before easily climbing on top of him. Jeff growls deep in his throat as she settles against him.
"I don't know if you should be rewarded for being so rude to your elders," Jeff notes even as he brings a hand up to palm her breast. Annie hums and he grins at her. "It's your turn," he says after a moment.
Annie frowns at him. "No, I picked the shower thing."
Jeff shakes his head. "And then after that, I picked the thing with the harness in my closet."
She flushes at the memory. "You're sure that wasn't before the shower?"
"No," Jeff readjusts, trying to sit up underneath her. "Before the shower was the school girl thing."
"That was mine," Annie points out. "So, it has to be your turn." She grins at him in triumph and feels something inside of her uncurl at the look on his face. He simply smiles at her before pulling her forward to kiss her chastely.
"I'm sure we can think of something," he murmurs against her neck and Annie wraps her arms around his torso.
When she's finally panting against his mattress almost an hour later, he still doesn't seem hurried. He watches her closely, keeping his eyes on her the entire time. He caresses her arms, her thighs, her chest. When she seizes underneath him, he watches her with indulgent eyes before pressing a gentle kiss to her lips and pausing to breathe against her mouth.
It's the most exciting sex she's ever had.
Annie looks up from her Psychology book at the sound of the knock on her door. She rises with a frown from the floor, where she'd laid out all of her homework in an orderly fashion as well as the copies of notes Jeff would need in the morning. A half eaten tube of Pringles and a diet Coke had been her dinner five hours earlier, but still lay on the carpet near a textbook. This wasn't a Jeff night, so Annie was making the most of being alone for the evening.
Annie checks the peephole warily. Jeff stares back at her, bleary-eyed and cranky looking. One of his arms is braced against her door.
"Jeff," she calls through the door.
"Annie," he slurs back, something strange about his voice that she can't place. "Can I come in?"
"Back up a second," she calls back and waits until he takes his weight off the door before she opens it to him. He stumbles past her with a sidelong smile at her. He leaves the stench of scotch behind him and Annie wrinkles her nose.
"How much time do you spend in the store downstairs?" he asks with a sleepy smirk before taking in the nest she's made for herself on the floor of her small living room. He flops down on her couch. "What are you doing?"
"I've been doing homework," Annie answers slowly before stooping to pick up the remote from the floor and passing it to him. He takes it from her hand and stares at it blankly. "I would ask what you've been doing, but I think I know."
"I went out to a bar," Jeff answers anyway. "With Troy."
Annie grins to herself and begins to gather her books and folders into neat piles. "And how was that?" she asks. Jeff shrugs. "Jeff, how did you get here?" He shrugs again and quickly starts changing channels until he finds something he likes. "Jeff," she says again and climbs onto the couch next to him. "Did Troy bring you here?" She's feeling something close to dread in her stomach.
"No," Jeff answers with a frown. "That wouldn't be very sneaky of me, would it?"
"No," she replies. "It wouldn't."
"I mean, you don't want people to know, right?" he mutters and closes his eyes. Annie watches him worriedly for a moment in silence.
"I'm going to get you some aspirin and a glass of water," she finally says before turning to go to her small kitchen area.
"Do you have any beer?" he asks, climbing off the couch to follow her.
"No," Annie states patiently. "I'm not old enough to buy beer."
Jeff winces and swallows. "I'm going to bring some over to have here."
"Why?" Annie asks in an incredulous tone as she reaches into the cupboard to retrieve the bottle of aspirin. "You've never even been here before."
"It's not a very good neighborhood," Jeff mumbles back with a yawn.
"Thanks," Annie answers, dropping the bottle onto the counter in front of him. She's almost hoping he will pass out quickly. He's a perpetually annoying drunk. Jeff opens the bottle and drops two pills into his hand before tossing them into his mouth. "You can't dry swallow them," she admonishes as she quickly pulls a bottle of water out of her fridge and passes it to him. "Why are you acting like a little kid?"
"Just trying to match the age of my girlfriend," Jeff mutters before stumbling back to her couch.
There's a swooping sensation in Annie stomach but she tamps it down as quickly as she can. "Jeff," she says in as strong of a voice as she can manage. "If you came over here for sex, I really can't tonight."
Jeff sits up and frowns at her. "God, is sex all you think about Annie?"
Annie rolls her eyes at him. "Yes, you have turned me into a wanton woman."
"Awesome," Jeff murmurs.
"Are you going to sleep on the couch?" Annie asks as she takes in his prone position there.
"I need to tell you something," Jeff says, ignoring her question as he stands on wobbly legs.
"Okay." She bites her lip.
He exhales. "I made out with someone tonight," he says in a low voice, staring right at her. Annie lets all the air out of her lungs. "I kissed a woman at the bar and it wasn't…I didn't…it didn't mean anything. I don't even know what her name was." He shrugs again. "I just thought I should tell you before Troy mentions it at study group."
Annie is nodding her head, not really listening anymore. There's a tightening in her chest that she wishes would just go away. "Okay."
He moves toward her. "It didn't mean anything, Ann."
"Okay," she repeats, still staring at his left elbow.
"Annie," he says in a quiet voice. "You're making me feel like a jackass here. Could you please say something?"
"Okay," Annie says again. She nods her head. "I think…" She exhales shakily and moves backwards from him slightly. "I think…that I said when this…thing started that it wasn't going to be a real…" She moves her hands in between them. "So…" She shrugs. "I mean, I wish you had just told me you wanted out rather than passive aggressively making out with a stranger and then telling me about it."
"That wasn't what it was, I just…I forgot about you and…" He trails off.
Annie nods her head. "You forgot about me," she echoes in a small voice.
"Annie," Jeff says. "I didn't want to hurt you. I mean I don't want to hurt you." He moves forward again and Annie steps backwards. "I'm really sorry."
Annie nods. "Yeah." She sighs, but it sounds like a shudder to her own ears. "I'm going to go to bed. There's a blanket on the couch for you."
"Annie, don't be…a sad little girl here. Come on, yell at me. Throw something." His voice is imploring and whiny.
She moves past him smoothly, ignoring the way his hands draw across her arm as she passes. She bends over and retrieves a neatly stapled packet of paper from her stack of books. "Anger implies that there were feelings involved here." She hands him the packet. "I typed notes for you."
"Jeff," she answers in a warning tone. "Sleep."
"We'll talk about this tomorrow?" he asks.
He's gone the next morning when she wakes up.
"Annie, what do you have for number nine?"
Annie snaps her head up from her own work and stares across the table dumbly at Britta, who smiles patiently at her. "Um…" She looks down at her own paper and realizes she hasn't written a word.
"You okay sweetie?" Shirley asks from her left side. All eyes fall on her. Annie meets Jeff's gaze quickly before focusing on Abed's concerned face.
"I'm fine," Annie bleats out. "Just…distracted?"
"Distracted by thinking about your boyfriend?" Britta inquires with a wicked grin on her face.
"Annie, he seems like a nice guy," Shirley notes.
"I don't trust him," Pierce pipes up and, with that, all semblance of studying is gone from the room.
"Neither does Jeff," Abed points toward him. Jeff doesn't look up from his history book but manages to roll his eyes at the entire group. "Isn't that right Jeff?" Now all eyes move to take in the tall man sat at the end of the table. All eyes except for Annie, whose drop back down to her book. "You said he was crazy," Abed reminds him.
"Thanks Abed," Jeff snaps. "I remember."
"So, you think this dude isn't on the up and up?" Troy speaks up with interest. "And you're still letting Annie date him?"
"Excuse me?" Annie says heatedly, rising to her feet. "In what universe do I need permission from Jeff or anyone else in this group about who I date?"
"Pumpkin, I think what Troy means is that Jeff should be looking out for you a little better," Shirley says in a soothing tone.
"Yeah," Britta adds. "Jeff is the one who is supposed to keep the douches away from you."
"He really isn't," Annie states angrily before gathering her books and leaving the study room to the protest of everyone.
Everyone but Jeff.
"Can I talk to you for a minute?"
Jeff asks as he falls into step next to her. She's walking down the street in her neighborhood as a cool down after the mile jog she'd taken. And suddenly, there he is in jeans and flip flops. Mirrored sunglasses cover his eyes, so Annie can't tell where he's looking. It makes her nervous.
"Following a young girl as she jogs alone in a dangerous neighborhood?" Annie asks sarcastically before taking a drink from her water bottle. "That is kind of skeevy, Jeff."
"It will only take a minute," he barrels on, not rising to the bait she was laying out for him. She continues to walk as quickly as she can, but his legs are twice as long as hers and he keeps up with no problem. "Look, this isn't about…." He trails off and Annie stops and turns toward him. "I was elected by the group to talk to you."
"Great. An intervention." Annie continues walking. "Go ahead. Is it my….course load for the summer?" She turns to look at him, but his sunglasses don't give anything away. "My slutty wardrobe?"
"Ann," he says and she feels herself stiffen.
"Don't," she warns.
"Sorry," he answers.
"Jeff, there is only one thing that they could have sent you to talk to me about," Annie continues as she turns a corner with Jeff on her heels. "And it better not be that."
"Annie," he says again, but there is regret in his voice. "It's not my fault. They obviously don't know that we…" He trails off, unable to find the words he needs to finish that sentence.
"You couldn't just tell them it wasn't their business? Or yours?"
Jeff takes a deep breath from beside her and wraps his hand around her wrist. "What if they're right?"
"You have got to be kidding me," Annie hisses at him, staring down at his hand and tries not to think about his long fingers. "None of you have any right to-"
"You know he's not the right guy for you," Jeff reasons
"You've never been an active participant in this group… counseling thing." She glares up at him for a moment. "What gives?" Annie stares up at him and when he simply holds her gaze, she sighs. "Okay, so he's not the right guy."
"Okay," Jeff answers with a nod.
"Who cares?" Annie retorts after a moment. Jeff's forehead wrinkles, but she still can't read his eyes. "Who cares if he's not the perfect guy for me?" She frowns. "And isn't this all coming from the fact that you told Abed that you couldn't sign off on him?"
"You know everyone gets protective of you," Jeff says slowly. "Shirley is kind of freaked out at the idea of you sleeping with this guy when he seems so…." He trails off.
"Well, you can tell her that we are not sleeping together," Annie huffs in response.
Jeff rears his head back at this. There's a beat of silence. "You're not?" His voice is smaller than she's heard it in months. She watches his Adam's apple bob.
"Can you let go of me now?" she asks quietly, glancing down at his hand still wrapped around her wrist. Instead of releasing her, Jeff reaches up and pushes his sunglasses onto his head. His expression is tentative and Annie suddenly wishes she'd never cared about being part of Abed's study group.
"Annie," he says and then his face is lowering towards hers.
"Let me go, Jeff," Annie repeats quietly as she steps back from him. Jeff freezes halfway towards her. He drops her arm like it has burned him and stalks off in the direction he came from, pushing his sunglasses back down onto his nose.
Annie just stares after him.
"Breast or thigh?" Pierce grins at her and waggles his eyebrows, pointing an oversized pair of tongs at the grill. "I shouldn't have to tell you that Britta went with a breast." He snickers to himself. "Lesbian."
"Do you have a drumstick?" Annie answers hesitantly, eliciting a raspberry from Pierce.
Pierce had invited them all over to his lakefront cabin for a fourth of July barbeque. Well, he'd called it a cabin, but it resembled more of an estate really. It was a sprawling house with five bedrooms, indoor pool and spa, and a huge yard with a volleyball pit and a putting green. Annie wouldn't have guessed that the moist towelette game was such a good one.
He drops a chicken leg onto her paper plate and Annie turns back toward the picnic table where she'd saved a place next to Shirley and her sons. Just as she settles herself on the bench next to Jordan, she sees him arrive, fashionably late and giving off a serious stench of not caring about anything around him. He is wearing that same damn pair of mirrored sunglasses as the day he cornered her on the street, and Annie realizes with a start that it was the last time she saw him. A wave of longing washes over her and she chokes on her potato salad. Training her eyes on her plate, she tries very hard to focus on making conversation with the young boy.
"So, are you doing anything fun this summer, Jordan?"
He shrugs as he picks at his own piece of chicken. "I'm going to summer camp."
"That sounds fun," Annie answers brightly, seeing Jeff move toward her in her peripheral vision. She physically turns toward Jordan. "When is that?"
If he answers, Annie definitely doesn't hear it, because five feet to the left of her Troy is introducing Jeff to the woman who owns the mansion next door. "Her name is Amanda," Troy enthuses loudly. "She owns jet skis and said we could use them later."
Jeff smoothly introduces himself to the woman and she can almost hear the way Amanda beams up at him as he offers her a handshake. Annie is very aware of the thickness of her tongue, the slight tremble of her hand, the sensation of someone watching her. She clears her throat and takes a long pull from the bottle of beer Pierce had handed her when she'd arrived.
"-so it should be pretty cool," Jordan finishes and Annie smiles at him as if she has been listening to every syllable he's just said to her.
"That's great," Annie replies before rising from her seat. "Excuse me for a minute."
She climbs back over the bench and starts hurrying toward the house. She makes the mistake of looking toward Jeff for a split second and he moves toward her ever so slightly before Annie averts her eyes and picks up her pace. She had been so sure this wouldn't be a problem for her. The idea of seeing Jeff hadn't raised any sense of dread in her. But Annie hadn't even entertained the notion of Troy bringing some woman to set him up with. It shouldn't matter anyway. She had a…well, she kind of has a boyfriend now. Thankfully, he doesn't follow her. When she's safely inside the kitchen, she takes a deep calming breath.
"-and so I was thinking some sort of teen horror slasher thing," Abed explains as he enters the kitchen with Britta on his heels.
"Am I getting killed?" Britta asks, her eyes lighting up.
Abed points the camera at her and simply watches her for a moment. "Maybe you're already dead," he simply says before presumably zooming in on the blonde's face for a reaction.
Troy comes barreling through the back door, startling Annie. "Why is everyone in here? The party is out there!" With that he begins dancing, bottle of beer in one hand. He stops abruptly. "Are we making a movie?" he asks excitedly.
"Maybe this whole thing is a movie," Britta answers cryptically and Annie rolls her eyes just as Abed turns the camera on her.
"Hey, did you guys see the next door neighbor?" Troy asks as he turns toward the large windows that face the back yard. "Thirty-something divorcee. She's so awesome," he groans. He turns back to face the other three. "I introduced her to Jeff though," he added, almost bitterly.
Annie nervously chews her thumb nail to keep from speaking. Britta joins Troy at the window, eager to scope of the woman. "Ooh, she's the perfect amount of skank." She turns to acknowledge Troy. "Well played." Then her eyes narrow slightly. "What gives though? Are you really trying to get Jeff laid?"
"He's been kind of weird lately," Troy answers. Annie clenches her jaw and begins opening drawers randomly, searching for nothing. "It's like, he was in a really good mood for like the entire year-"
"-some of us came to the conclusion that you were sleeping with him," Abed offers from behind his camera.
"What?" Britta sputters as she looks between the two. "No!"
"-and then like all of a sudden a month ago…" Annie freezes and tries not to look at him, waiting obviously for the end of that sentence. "I don't know. I mean, we were at the bar like the week before finals. And there was this girl who was all over him and he wanted, like nothing to do with her." Troy gives Britta a meaningful glance. "She kissed him and I watched him literally push her away." He shakes his head. "Dude's bein' weird."
Annie clutches the countertop to keep from collapsing as her knees buckle beneath her. What had Jeff actually said that night when he'd shown up at her door? Was it that he'd kissed someone, or that someone had kissed him? She swallows down bile and stares at her hands, now idly holding a potato masher. When she glances up, Abed is pointing the camera at her and she can feel all the blood drain from her face.
"Maybe Annie knows," he offers without looking up from the display in front of him.
Her eyes widen and she shakes her head dully. "I…no. Why would I…? I was just looking for…" She drops the potato masher and spins to open the cupboard behind her. She blindly pulls a bottle of something from the shelf and holds it up, as if it is exactly what she's been looking for.
"You were looking for vanilla?" Britta asks, giving Annie a skeptical look.
Annie licks her lips and frowns at the bottle in her hands before leaving it on the counter and stalking out of the kitchen. If they didn't think she was a head case before, that display was definitely going to do the job.
"I didn't fall asleep," Pierce notes as he slides into the booth first. The rest of the group all stare at each other, none of them wanting to sit next to the old man. Finally, Shirley rolls her eyes and takes the seat next to him, much to the somewhat understated delight of Pierce. "And it was long, so that's something."
For some reason that Annie can't really remember, a call from Abed asking her to go see the last Harry Potter movie with him had quickly turned into yet another study group outing. Even Shirley, who mostly believed the series was against Christian morals, had decided it would be a nice activity for everyone. Annie had been sure however that Jeff would rather be flayed alive and hoisted up the flagpole than to spend an evening with the six of them seeing a movie based on a series of children's books. So when he'd arrived at the movie theatre in a faded tee and cargo pants and those same freaking sunglasses perched on his head, she'd almost done a double take.
He's right behind her now, hovering somewhere near her left shoulder blade, because his aftershave is surrounding her. Annie steps forward, trying to distance herself from him. Abed slides into the booth next to Shirley, but glances up to address Troy. "The special effects were pretty good."
"We could try to re-create some of them," Troy answers immediately. "We will need some C-4." He reaches forward and slaps his chest with one hand while slapping Abed's palm with the other. Troy pulls a chair away from the table behind them and plants himself at the end of their table, next to Abed.
Annie realizes the situation this leaves the rest of them in almost instantly, two seconds before Britta and five seconds before Jeff. She freezes, waiting for someone else to slide into the other side of the booth first. The four that are already seated stare up at them questioningly and Abed cocks his head to the side, observing them closely. Finally, Jeff moves forward with a deep sigh and slides to the far end of the booth. Annie stills, figuring Britta will give up and sit down next. When she doesn't, Annie turns and looks at the woman. Britta raises her eyebrows significantly and Annie swallows. Of course Britta doesn't want to sit next to Jeff. Because to everyone in this group who isn't Jeff or Annie, it would seem as if it would be the most awkward for Britta to sit next to Jeff.
Because they are the real couple of this group.
She clears her throat and slowly relents, sliding in next to Jeff but keeping enough room between them for the holy spirit, as Shirley would say. Britta quickly slides in next to her, forcing her slightly closer to the man on her other side. She awkwardly looks up at him and offers him a tight-lipped smile which he returns fleetingly before staring down at his hands folded on the table top.
The conversation resumes, with Troy and Abed mostly carrying it and Pierce occasionally trying to fight his way in. Annie can't comment because she is biting the inside of her cheek. She is pressed against Jeff from knee to hip, sandwiched in between the person she used to sleep with and the person he used to sleep with. It is so dysfunctional she would laugh if it wasn't still so sad for her. She tries to make herself as small as she can, tucking her arms against herself and sliding her hands into the pockets of her hoodie. Next to her, Jeff fiddles with his iPhone. Britta stares blankly at the menu before engaging Shirley in the conversation about Charlie Sheen's recent overdose.
"-but it's something we would need Annie's help with," Abed says, drawing her out of her detachment for her current situation.
She shakes her head slightly and looks over at the film maker. "I'm sorry, what did you say?"
"Well, I was toying with the idea of having Annie's character relapse," Abed states, inclining his head toward her slightly and pointing his finger at her. Annie's eyebrows rise significantly, surprised at this. "I feel like she really needs a change in her life, or she runs the risk of becoming stagnant."
"You mean I run the risk of becoming stagnant," Annie corrects, trying not to sound as bothered as she is with the idea. "Why a relapse though?"
"It seems likely, given your background." Annie frowns at this, but doesn't respond. Her phone vibrates against her fingertips and Annie pulls it out, surprised at who could be texting her.
When she reads the screen, her fingers tighten on the phone, feeling a surge of adrenaline. She has a text from Jeff. Jeff is texting her. She looks around the table, surreptitiously checking to see if anyone else had received a message recently, but not even Britta has her phone out.
Unsurely, she presses the 'Open' button and holds her breath.
Sorry u got stuck next 2 me but pills r not the answer
Annie lets out a strangled laugh that sounds more like a sob to her ears. It must sound like that to the others too, because all eyes land on her and she hears Jeff snort quietly to himself without looking up.
Her phone vibrates. Annie clears her throat and offers everyone a half smile.
Before she can even begin to think of possible responses to him, the server comes to take their order. After he's left, the conversation turns toward possible course choices for the fall semester. Shirley smiles at Annie, fully expecting her to take the lead on this topic. Annie can't think about anything but the phone in her hand and the man who is pressed against her hip and the way he smells and the way he casually drapes his arm across the back of the booth behind her. She scoots forward, willing herself to shrink into nothingness as she sits sandwiched between two shallow narcissists.
Their food arrives and the topic continues on with Abed explaining why Annie's former addiction is like Chekhov's gun. Then Britta and Annie take turns explaining this concept to Pierce, with him never fully getting it. Jeff only offers sarcastic and dry quips every few minutes, glancing up from his phone to stare at everyone balefully. Annie feels like her cell phone is burning the flesh of the hand she has wrapped around it, but knows she can't actually pull it out and answer him.
It's probably best to not encourage it anyway.
And it vibrates again. Annie is so anxious the phone flips out of her fingers and into her lap.
"Who's texting you?" Britta asks, leaning slightly toward her to read the screen over her shoulder. Annie slips the phone back into her pocket before she can read it and glances up at the blonde next to her.
"No one," she answers with a tight smile.
"Hey, so what's happening with Blake?" Britta asks as she stabs a grape tomato from her salad.
Annie eyes widen, not realizing that nobody actually knew. "Um, we actually broke up." She aims for careless, but ends up sounding sharp. She feels Jeff stiffen slightly and his arm falls off of the back of the booth an instant later.
"Annie," Shirley chirps sadly. "Why didn't you tell us?"
Annie shrugs. "I guess I thought it wasn't that important."
The truth was, despite the fact that she had gushed about the blonde she'd been casually dating since the middle of May, Annie hadn't really felt anything for him. At least not what she knew she should be feeling for someone she was dating. Blake played soccer and liked to work on old cars in his spare time. He did the Sunday crossword and owned every season of 'Mash' on DVD.
He had been perfect for her. Perfect in general.
Eight days ago, he'd texted her. He'd mentioned that he hadn't talked to her in over a week and wanted to know what was going on with her, and just like that, Annie had ended it. The courage had welled up from somewhere inside of her and she'd called without a second though, telling him that she just wasn't in a place where she could date him. In any other universe, she would have known enough to dig her claws into Blake and never let him out of her sight, but Annie had somehow stumbled upon the one reality where what she wanted was a man sixteen years her senior who had faked his college degree and played pool naked in front of the entire student body.
It's what she still wants.
The thought makes her chest hurt and Annie frowns. "Were you not putting out for him?" Pierce asks as he shoves an onion ring into his mouth.
"Pierce!" Shirley admonishes, swatting his hand.
Everything devolves quickly into an argument involving Britta berating everyone for thinking that women are not in charge of their own sexuality and have to wait for a man to make decisions about these things. Annie glances unsurely toward Jeff only to find that he naturally meets her gaze. His mouth quirks up on one side, giving her half a smile.
She melts a little, and is instantly disappointed in herself for it.
She's used to a lot of odd noises at all hours, so when Annie hears an insistent knocking at eleven-thirty the night before fall semester begins, she thinks little of it. When the knocking becomes more pronounced, she sits up in bed and listens for a moment. She realizes it is actually her door that is being knocked on. Cautiously, she rises from her mattress and pads over to the door. Rising up on her toes, Annie checks the peep hole and her heart leaps into her throat.
An anxious looking Jeff stands on the other side, the harsh yellow lighting from the hallway sconces making him appear jaundice. He doesn't look drunk, just agitated. "Jeff?" she asks, hating that her voice sounds like that of a little girl.
He chooses not to look at her peephole, and instead looks toward her doorknob. "Hey, I need to talk to you."
Annie licks her lips nervously. "This can't wait until tomorrow?" she asks.
Finally, he glances up at her peep hole. "If it could wait I would not have left my Lexus outside in this neighborhood in the middle of the night, Annie."
She frowns uncertainly but opens the door. She doesn't ask him to come in, doesn't even let the door fully swing open for him to invite himself in. Instead, Annie stands in the body-sized gap she's made and offers him a smile that isn't really a smile at all. "What's up?" she asks as she subconsciously slides a hand over her hair.
His eyes narrow the slightest amount before he sighs and resigns himself to standing awkwardly in her hallway with his hands shoved into the pockets of his two hundred dollar pre-distressed jeans. "I just think that…" He shrugs his shoulders. "I think that with school starting again, we're going to need to figure some things out. You know, we can't just keep being weird around each other forever." He chuckles. "At some point, Abed is going to figure it out."
"If he hasn't already," Annie adds with her own stilted chuckle and squirms at the stricken look that takes over Jeff's face for a moment. "I mean…I don't know…" She mumbles haltingly before sighing. "You're right."
"Look, there's no reason why we can't be friends, Annie." He's fidgeting, moving in short awkward bursts that Annie doesn't fully comprehend given she's still at least partly asleep. "I mean, that's where we started, before…everything…" He trails off completely and then punctuates the sentence with another abrupt and humorless chuckle.
"Fell apart," she supplies and Jeff's eyes widen. Annie offers him as sincere of a smile as she can manage. "You're…right, Jeff."
"I am?" he asks, still seeming unsure.
"Yeah," she nods in return. "I mean, before any of this happened-" she waves a hand between them. "-I…" She sighs. "I genuinely liked you. I still like you, Jeff." The words seem foreign on her tongue and the way he looks more and more nauseated as she speaks makes Annie think that she should have just flat out agreed to him and shut the door two minutes ago. She can see him mentally planning his exit and almost breathes a sigh of relief. If she's the one being too clingy and he's skittish about it, at least they're back at square one. She knows how to do this part.
"So, we're good?" he asks with an eyebrow raised in question. His body is already half turning away from her, as if his feet are so excited to leave they can barely contain themselves.
"Yeah," Annie answers with a nod before letting her face fall when she is sure he isn't looking at her. "See you tomorrow."
"Yeah," he calls over his shoulder quietly.
Square one. As if it never happened.
She is just closing the door to his retreating figure when he suddenly turns and is back, pressing his palm against the door to force it back open. Annie's eyes widen at his close proximity and she steps back as he slips himself through the opening and into her tiny apartment.
"Jeff," she squeaks as she backs away from him slightly.
He doesn't try to force himself on her or any other crazy idea that whizzes through her head, he simply stares at her with an intensity that makes Annie feel uneasy. "Annie…" He trails off immediately, and looks around her apartment, as if he has no idea how he ended up inside. Annie numbly realizes that he's only ever been here one time before, and that time things didn't end so well. He glances at her, and Annie gives him a half shrug. She doesn't trust her voice to actually speak. After staring at her for a moment, he sighs and she watches his entire body deflate. "I have Cheez-its."
She blinks at him, confused. "What?"
"I went to the store," he answers more emphatically. "The other day, I went to the grocery store. I…don't really tend to over think too many things, Annie." He pauses and his eyes harden. "But I get home and start pulling stuff out of bags only to realize that I have bought a box of Cheez-its." He gives her a pointed look, as if she's supposed to understand what that means. Annie makes her face as blank as she can because the truth is, she thinks she does understand.
Jeff hates Cheez-its and kept a box at his apartment for her. It had never been something they'd discussed. One day, Annie had brought a tiny bag from the vending machine to study group and the next night, there had been a fresh box waiting for her on his countertop.
"Jeff," Annie starts, unsure of what emotion she's supposed to have right now, because she's sure the sense of warmth spreading through her chest is wrong. "I'm sorry." She pauses. "I can buy them from you if…"
But he's talking over the top of her now, getting to that place in is vocal register where he begins to sound slightly crazed. "That's not the point, Annie. Don't you get it?" He looks almost wild. "I am a bachelor, I have always been a bachelor and I will always be a bachelor." He is talking with his hands again and Annie pulls her lower lip into her mouth to chew on it. "I have no interest in settling down for the rest of my life, driving kids to soccer practice, or-"
"I know!" Annie cuts in sharply, unable to meet his eye. "Okay, I get it." She can feel the tears filling her eyes and she backs away from him.
"No," he sighs. "I wasn't saying…" He runs a hand through his hair as Annie crosses her arms over her chest defensively. He moves toward her and Annie stiffens as he steps into her space. "We did…" He shakes his head and starts again. "We were… together for three months and that was three months ago." Jeff frowns. "And I'm buying Cheez-its for a woman who not only wants nothing to do with me but actively ignores me in any instance when we have to be in the same room together?"
Annie stills completely. He is waiting for her to apologize, to correct him that everything can go back to exactly how it was before their tryst and that he's perceiving awkwardness between them where there is none. But she won't do that. If he wants the truth, she'll give it to him.
"When it started, I spent a lot of time convincing myself that it was just because I needed to know." Annie sighs and Jeff closes his eyes in frustration. "I thought you would get bored with me in the first week, honestly." She shrugs and smiles self-depricatingly, hoping her intense pain isn't completely obvious to him. "I didn't let myself realize until we were five weeks into it that what I wanted was…everything." She frowns when she sees Jeff tense. "But I know me and I knew I couldn't really do casual, and you knew I couldn't do casual, and-"
"Annie," Jeff cuts in, agitation clear in his voice. "I didn't come here to…" He breaks off and looks at her, just looks at her. There is a quality in his eyes that makes her think of their legs twined together on Saturday afternoons and that one evening when they'd had to sweep up his broken salt and pepper shakers after he'd unexpectedly pushed her down onto his kitchen table. Her face heats up of its own accord. "I'm saying it wasn't casual."
He'd bought her Cheez-its and needed her to know that. Something clicks into place inside of her and all the air leaves her lungs quickly. Is he actually telling her he…
He drove to her apartment in the middle of the night to complain that he accidentally bought crackers that he doesn't eat and now he's looking at her as if he…
"Abed said I should just go with the whole boom box over my head thing," Jeff notes with a dry laugh. Annie can't breathe. Last January, Abed had made her watch 'Say Anything' in his dorm room, telling her it was a romantic film classic and had iconic imagery.
"Look," Jeff continues in a low voice. "You didn't…trick me into anything, Annie." She swallows over the lump in her throat. "I'm not naïve enough to not get what was happening from the beginning, but I didn't care because… I needed to know, too. And then, I just didn't want to…stop." He sighs. "But I'm sorry I…couldn't be what you wanted me to be or needed me to be." His hands are back in his pockets now, closing himself off again. "And I'm sorry …that I hurt you." He shrugs his shoulders. He turns away from her again, toward her door. Annie physically can't make herself move or acknowledge he's said anything to her.
His mouth quirks up briefly and Annie feels like she might actually throw up on her cheap carpet. She wants to rush forward, throw her arms around his neck. She wants to explain to him that she knows he didn't really cheat on her, that she feels in her bones that he wouldn't do that to her.
Annie doesn't do any of this. She simply stares at him, her eyes sad. Because really, what other end is there for them? She can drag him toward things he's just told her he doesn't want or she can lie to herself and say those things aren't really that important to her.
In reality, it's probably better to let this just be the secret love affair she tells her grandchildren about in fifty years.
"I've never really been a Peter Gabriel fan anyway," Annie murmurs.
Jeff doesn't look at her, instead choosing to stare at her closed door in front of him. "Nah," he scoffs. "I was thinking 'Boom Boom Pow." Annie laughs at this and Jeff's shoulders relax.
His hand reaches for the door knob and he turns back to face her for a moment. "If…" He settles on the 'f' for a long moment, eliciting a sound close to a hiss. "…you ever feel another lapse in judgment." He shakes his head at that before offering her a half-smile. "I'll see you tomorrow, Ann."
The endearment isn't lost on her and Annie can only nod her head, hoping the smile she offers him is at least slightly convincing before he's gone.
He doesn't come barging back in this time.
"So, you don't know how to play either?" Annie asks Abed, who is staring intently at the dart clutched in his hand.
"Not really," he answers without looking up at her. "But it seems like something friends are always doing on television, playing darts." When he does look at her, his eyes seem rather penetrating. "Sometimes it gives one character the chance to have a heart to heart with another."
Annie feels her stomach tighten, but because it is Abed, the moment doesn't linger. He switches places with her and throws blindly toward the dart board, hitting a bulls eye.
"Abed!" Annie exclaims as she throws her arms around him. "That was amazing. How did you do that?"
He shrugs. "I just thought I could hit it, and so I could." He glances over his shoulder to the rest of the group who are gathered at a nearby table. "Isn't it strange that we've known Jeff for two years and nobody knew when his birthday was except for you?"
Annie shrugs and lets her eyes linger on the birthday boy himself. He looks as if he would rather be getting a lap dance from the dean than sitting between Shirley and Pierce, who were still presumably bickering about jukebox selection. When Shirley had first entered the bar, she'd picked 'We Are Family', dancing over to the table with a wide smile. Almost instantly, Pierce had risen from his seat and before anyone knew it, the next song blaring from the sound system had been a song about riding cowboys instead of horses. Shirley had exploded, calling Pierce inappropriate.
"I don't know," she finally answers as she pulls her eyes from Jeff's face. "Guess he doesn't really like people to pay attention to him sometimes."
"That's true," Abed notes as he too looks over at the table. Troy seems to have started to chant the word 'presents', which Shirley quickly joins in on. She claps her hands and pushes a gift bag toward Jeff expectantly. He rolls his eyes but takes it from her. "It looks like he's opening gifts." Abed turns to face her. "Do you want to go back to the table?"
Annie pretends to think about it. "No, let's finish our game." She chuckles. "I'm sure we'll find out what he got either way."
The truth was, the entire reason she'd asked Abed to play darts with her was because Annie absolutely could not be at the table when Jeff opened her present. The fact that she'd brought it here at all tonight showed poor planning on her part. But, if he were to open it right in front of her, she would have to see his expression. Shock mixed with discomfort. She would have to see him give her an uneasy smile. She would have to explain to everyone else that the gift itself is just an inside joke between them and it's kind of hard to explain.
No, this is definitely better.
"Whose turn?" Abed asks, turning his attention toward her.
"Um…" Annie trails off, unsure of even what they were playing. Jeff is handed her present, with its cheery bright paper exclaiming 'It's Your Birthday!' in big letters. She knew he would hate it the moment she saw it. He carefully peels back the wrapping and her heart stops. When he sees what it is, his face instantly snaps up in her direction. Annie chews her lip and sees Jeff regard her seriously. She gives him a shrug and a tentative smile before physically turning toward the dart board. It was admirable, the length of time she'd been able to look at him. Abed watches her closely, his head cocked to the side. "I think it was my turn?" she finally guesses and takes a step back to throw.
"Hey guys," Jeff says in a friendly tone as he approaches them. He barely glances at Abed before standing in front of Annie and looking at her. She knows she couldn't help the hopeful expression on her face if she wanted to. She offers him a wavering smile that becomes even more shaky when his eyes soften in front of her. "Thanks for the present, Annie." He is still using that same politely detached tone, as if she lent him a pencil.
She swallows and shakes her head before deciding that she would hold his gaze if it was the last thing she ever did. "I…don't own a boom box," she finally murmurs in a quiet voice. Jeff inhales deeply, but doesn't respond.
"What's going on?" Abed asks, stepping up next to them. He points a dart between them.
"Nothing," Annie answers, looking over at him with a smile.
"Yeah," Jeff agrees. He crosses his arms over his chest, trying to offset of impression of the pointy party hat. "Just being courteous." He smiles tightly at Annie before walking past her.
That was it? She offered her heart and he gave her a pen?
"You know what?" Jeff says to no one in particular from somewhere behind her. "Screw this."
A moment later, his fingers are sliding across her cheeks, wrapping around the back of her head tenderly. He leans down and kisses her so deeply she can't breathe. Her arms wind around his neck and his slide down to her waist to hoist her off the ground. There's a commotion at the table behind them, but Annie can barely hear it over the sound of her own heartbeat. It's so loud she figures everyone in the entire bar can hear it. When he finally pulls away and allows her to breathe, all she can do is beam up at him.
"It's actually a used copy," she explains and smiles widely when none of that seems to register with him before he kisses her again.
"What?" he finally asks.
"They don't sell that particular movie any more," Annie continues as she slides her hands down his chest before bringing them back up to his face again. "It was put back into the vault." She blushes and awkwardly raises one shoulder in a half shrug. "It's mine."
"Terrible judgment," Jeff scolds with a smile and a shake of his head.
Annie nods in agreement. "The worst."
"I didn't expect such a front row seat for this," Abed states from next to them.
"Can someone explain," Troy asks as he rises from the table full of stunned silence. "How this results in that?" He points between the DVD case in his hand and Jeff and Annie, still embracing.
"Well, he apparently really likes…" Pierce leans over to read the cover. "Snow White?" He looks up at Jeff with disdain. "Gay."
"As the day is long," Jeff concedes without taking his eyes from Annie's.
Day 218 ( or Day 1)
"So, you're sure about this?" Annie asks from her perch on his bathroom counter. Jeff sticks his shampoo covered head out from behind the shower curtain to look at her confusedly.
"What's there to be unsure about here?" he asks. Annie rolls her eyes at him before he pulls his head back into the shower. "Look, it's not that big of a deal." Annie begins to sputter out a rebuttal to that, but Jeff keeps talking over her. "The group knows, and they're the ones we would really have to worry about."
"And I'm sure they're going to be totally fine with it," Annie sarcastically responds before hopping off the vanity and stepping up next to the shower. "And you're forgetting everyone else on campus." She gives the shower curtain an imploring look for some reason. "Leonard and Garrett and, oh god, Duncan." She crosses her arms over her chest, the overlong sleeves of the button down shirt she'd stolen from his closet getting in the way. "And what about Sheila, the cafeteria lady who has the hots for you?"
Jeff pokes his head out again, smirk in place. "Sheila has the hots for me?"
"Could you focus for one minute, please?" she asks with a chuckle.
To prove that he can't, Jeff raises one eyebrow at her. "You should get in here."
"That would accomplish absolutely nothing," Annie continues, using her strictest tone.
Jeff rolls his eyes. "Now, we both know that's not true." He steps farther forward and the shower curtain gapes around him, showing off a good portion of his naked body. "Hey, eyes up here missy." He smirks at her when her gaze snaps back onto his face. "I could help you clean up," he offers sweetly, making his face as innocent as he can.
"You have class in like forty-five minutes," Annie argues with a giggle.
"You need to shower anyway," Jeff shoots back, giving her a pointed look.
Annie opens her mouth in shock. "Only because of what you did to me."
Jeff licks his lips. "It was my birthday, I should get to eat cake off of whatever surface I want."
"Really," Annie grins as she begins to unbutton his shirt. His eyes travel down her body, which is still smeared with traces of dried white frosting from throat to thigh. When Jeff doesn't respond, Annie snaps her finger. "Hey, eyes up here mister."
"What?" he asks, his gaze coming back up to her face.
Annie looks at him, exasperated. "Doesn't one of us have to be a grown up in this relationship?" she asks.
"I vote you," he answers simply with a smirk. "You're the more organized of us anyway." He pauses to think. "And really, it makes the pervasive age difference between us seem much smaller if you're the mature one here."
"Not so mature," Annie notes almost to herself. "I let you lick frosting out of my… baby place last night." She blushes, the memory still fresh.
Jeff snorts at her. "That seemed pretty adult," letting his smirk slide into a wide grin. Annie drops his shirt and steps over to him. He stares at her for a moment in silence, but puts his hand up to stop her when she tries to climb into the shower. "I am not going to hold your hand between classes," he states, his face serious. Annie just nods. "And I'm not going to ask you to all five dances," Jeff continues with a shake of his head.
"Okay," Annie agrees, keeping her face as straight as she can.
"And if Sheila likes the way my ass looks in jeans so much that she gives me extra fries at lunch," he says. "You can't have any of them." At this, Annie pouts. "Okay, maybe some," Jeff relents with a exaggerated roll of his eyes toward the ceiling. He grasps her hand in his wet one.
"Can I paint your toenails again?" she asks as she steps under the spray.
He looks down at her critically for a moment.
"Talk to me in November."