Hola! This is my first ever Community fic and I've not written fanfics for YEARS. This chapter is all Jeff and Annie but the rest of the group will appear later on. Happy reading.
"Let me ask you a question. What is it with Legos? They used to be simple."
Jeff hadn't exactly been paying attention during that Introduction to Biology class back in their third year at Greendale- hell, he was sat across from Annie and her low cut blouse was intensely distracting. But as he sat up late on Christmas Eve, desperately trying to assemble his three-year-old son's new Lego Space Station, memories of his time at Community College came swimming back to him.
Annie ferociously driving the space simulator across the city, Annie patching up his cut forehead at Troy and Abed's house warming party, Annie kissing him before Troy's football match… Annie, Annie, Annie. Everything he loved about Greendale was Annie.
"Let me ask you a question" he said to the Transformer lying on the floor next to him. "What happened to Life? It used to be simple."
"JeeeeEEff… Jeff… JEFF!"
"Could you come here a minute please?" Reluctantly Jeff dragged himself away from his Xbox and followed the chimes of Annie's voice across the living room of their apartment, towards the bedroom and into the en-suite. Annie was perched on the edge of the bathtub, she looked a little pale.
"What? If you want me to go and buy you shampoo I'm busy. I was top of leader board now-"
"Jeff." Annie glared at him
"Jeff…" Annie's eyes darted towards the sink, where a white and purple stick sat face down across the soap dish.
"Annie? Is that a-? Are you-"
"I don't know. It's not been two minutes." Jeff sat down next to Annie on the side of the tub. They waited in silence for what seemed like an hour. "Ok." Annie eventually spoke, reaching gingerly for the pregnancy test. She didn't look at it; instead she passed it to Jeff.
"It's a blue plus sign." A tear rolled down Annie's cheek. She got up silently and walked out. Jeff heard the front door slam and he winced.
Things hadn't been right between Jeff and Annie for a while. Since he'd finished up at Greendale and was back at the law firm and she was enrolled on a post graduate course at The University of Colorado, spending time together was an effort. She was busy with school and he had cases to work on as well as office parties which Annie, who thought Jeff's lawyer friends were slimy and judgemental , had as good as refused to attend. He didn't like hanging out at student bars with her new college friends, saying he was too old for all that now. But if she was ever late home, he couldn't help feeling pangs of jealousy thinking about the charming, exciting men, much closer to Annie's own age, who would undoubtedly be lusting after his girlfriend. When he confronted her about his insecurity she had taken it badly, saying if he couldn't trust her that was his problem. It just wasn't the same as Greendale, when they'd only had to work on suppressing the urge to jump down each other's throats, and being around each other was easy and fun. Now everything was an effort and so felt strained and forced.
But a baby? Jeff couldn't help but feel excited by the idea. He had to admit, it was something he'd been thinking about recently. Annie might only be twenty four, but he wasn't getting any younger and the thought of being mistaken for Granddad in the school yard didn't appeal to him. Maybe this was just what he and Annie needed? He began to slip off into the fantasy of becoming a dad…
It was getting darker, the sky was turning a matt gray and clouds where rolling in. As raindrops began to slash the glass of the bathroom window, a light snapped on in the apartment building across the street and the harsh yellow glow jolted Jeff out of his dreaming. Realising his butt had gone numb against the cold white porcelain of the tub, Jeff checked his watch. It was half past eight. Stretching his stiff legs, he got up and sidled towards the kitchen to get himself a beer. "Annie, you want some dinner? Do you want to order in? I can't be bothered with cooking tonight? Annie?" No reply. He wandered through the house flicking on lights as he went. She wasn't sprawled across their unmade bed, engrossed in her notes; she wasn't in the kitchen doing one of her annoying and unnecessary chores that he could never understand the purpose of, like scrubbing the detergent draw in the washing machine or bleaching dishcloths; she wasn't on their balcony sipping a camomile tea and gazing at the glittering cityscape as she often did when she was thinking; she wasn't even hiding in the closet, squished between the coats with her tiny feet in his gigantic shoes, counting backwards from three hundred in an attempt to stop herself wanting to hurl a chopping board at his head for being a pompous arse. Jeff checked his phone, no missed calls, no messages. How long had she been out? Not more than an hour, surely. No, it was more like four. Had he really been sat on the edge of that bathtub for nearly four hours? Ouch!
He pressed number one on his speed dial but all he got was her voicemail. What was she playing at? It wasn't exactly late, but they needed to talk and she'd just walked out on the most important moment of their lives so far! He was just about to try Britta, when he heard a key turn in the door. "Annie?"
"Jeff, can we talk."
"Of course, I, we, Annie this is so wonderful, I-" he grabbed her hand and pulled her in for a tight hug before leading her towards the couch. "Annie," he beamed, barely able to articulate himself. "Annie, this is fantastic, we're going to be parents. Annie, this is the best thing that could have happened to us. A little you and me…" he reached his hand out towards Annie's abdomen.
Annie flinched. "Jeff, I can't do this."
"Oh Annie, yes you can, I know the timings not perfect, but when is it ever perfect? We've got like nine months, we can find a new place, you're done with school in July and its already March so you won't even be showing at you're graduation, if that's what you're worried about. Though I don't think you should be, we'll want to show off the little tadpole to everyone. This is so exciting, Annie, we're going to be parents."
"No, Jeff, you're not listening to me. I can't do this." Her voice was a tone he'd never heard before- dull, sincere and void of feeling. Even when she was angry or hysterical, Annie's voice had a kind of music to it, it danced with energy and passion, it wasn't flat and empty like this. Jeff studied Annie's face. She seemed so much older all of a sudden. Her blue eyes were clouded over and her normally flushed cheeks where drawn and tinged with a greyish hue. He noticed a troubled little wrinkle below her left eyebrow which he swore hadn't been there a week ago. She looked tired and her mind seemed distant. She was looking at him, but she wasn't there with him. Gazing at his beautiful Annie, hunched over on their squashy leather couch, Jeff knew a part of her had drifted off to a place he could never go, and his stomach turned over as it dawned on him that he might never get it back.
Annie sighed. "There're some things you don't know about me Jeff. Some things I never told anyone, things I never thought I would, not even you. But I guess, well, can you hear me out?"
"Please don't say anything Jeff, just let me talk, and when I'm done, you can say whatever you want."
Annie took a deep breath. "When I was in High School, I wasn't myself. Yes, I was addicted to Adderall, yes I jumped through a glass door and did a load of other crazy shit that I know Troy has told you all the details of, but it was more than that…"
Seventeen year-old Annie Edison rolled over in her bed, then sat bolt upright. Her stomach clenched and churned and she felt an acidy burning in her throat. Before she had time to even attempt to run for the bathroom, she was emptying the remnants of the day onto her bedroom floor, where her semester long history project was laid out, ready to be handed in at nine am.
"Oh FUCK!" she shrieked, leaping out of bed. "No. No. No. No. Fuck. Fuck. No. Shit." She was scrabbling around on the carpet, still retching and desperately trying to salvage any scraps of paper not drenched in vomit, when a light snapped on in the hallway.
"Annie! What on- Oh Jesus! You stupid girl!" From her vantage point on the floor, a queasy Annie took in her mother's fluffy salmon pink slippers and the lace trim of a chintz nightie which grazed puffy ankles supported by powder blue night socks. Mrs Edison glared down at her daughter. "Have you been drinking!"
"No, Mom, I-"
"Look at my carpet! It's ruined! Do you know that's going to have to be bleached, do you know what bleach does to carpet? Your problem is that you don't think Annie, you never think about anyone but yourself. I'm getting a bucket and you're cleaning this up." Annie heard her mother's feet stomping down the stairs, she heard the clattering of the door to the laundry room and the whirr of a tap being turned on. The stench of the carpet wafted up into her nostrils, making her feel even more weak and woozy. She curled up in a ball in the tiny patch of un-soiled floor and tried as hard as she could not to cry.
"Oh for goodness sake Annie!" Her mother was back, brandishing a fistful of kitchen rags and a bottle of anti bacterial spray. Picking her way across the floor, she arrived at the spot where Annie lay and thrust a cloth into her hand. Her tone softened a little. "The sooner you clean this up, the sooner you can go back to bed." Between them, they scrubbed the floor, salvaged what they could of the homework and threw away what couldn't be saved, including a stuffed rabbit and Annie's favourite comforter. The room still smelt nauseatingly of chemicals tinged with the lingering vomit, but eventually Mrs Edison was satisfied and plodded back to bed. Annie waited until she could hear faint snoring from across the hall, turned her light back on, popped a pill in her mouth, took a swig of coffee from the secret thermos she kept stashed in her desk drawer, and began reassembling the damaged sections of her Civil War timeline.
By the time the sky began to turn from inky black to pale grey, Annie had a reasonable replacement complete and ready to go, in a waterproof folder next to her pre packed school bag. It was only six, she could allow herself an hour to nap before she needed to be up and sitting primly at the table, munching oatmeal, so that she and her mother could pretend the night before hadn't happened. Her head sank into the pillow and she drifted off into a deep sleep.
By the time she woke at eight thirty, her head was pounding and she felt more nauseas than she had the night before. But banking on there being nothing left in her stomach, she splashed herself with water and grabbed her school things before racing to her car to drive herself to school.
It was the first day of the last week, of the first semester of senior year. Annie didn't know that by the end of that week she would have jumped through a glass window, taken twenty four pregnancy tests, checked into rehab and dropped out of High School for good.
"When I got back from rehab I was still only three months, I never told my mother because she'd made it clear that I had embarrassed her enough. So I moved out. Mom gave me a cheque for a few months rent and I had my savings, then two months later I turned eighteen and Mom sent me a letter saying she'd released my college fund to me. So I guess I was lucky…"
"Annie, that's not lucky. That's cruel."
"Is it though Jeff? I mean, I had money which is more than a lot of people can say and as far as I can see, my life has turned out mostly good, well pretty great."
Jeff didn't say anything. It was clear that Annie was far from done with her story.
After spending a couple of weeks in a motel, Annie found an apartment that was within her roughly calculated budget. She knew that her money would run out eventually, even if she didn't use the very generous college fund to actually pay for college, and although she didn't really know about how much things like electricity cost, or if she had to pay any taxes, she worked out that she could last on what she had whilst she figured out her next step.
But it was the next step that was a step too far, even for a teenager as feisty as Annie. She was still somewhat in denial about her 'situation', a situation which she hadn't brought up at rehab because, though the centre had an 'absolute honesty with no judgement' policy to which she'd even signed a contract when she admitted herself, she'd almost forgotten the most recent drama as she got bogged down in the soap opera that was her life. Going over that explanation in the years to follow, Annie would realise how stupid this had been. If she'd just have said it once, told anybody, she'd have got the support she needed and wouldn't be left as she was: alone, pregnant, stripped of the future she'd been working towards since she was seven years old and completely overwhelmed and terrified about what she was supposed to do.
So she acted in a way she never had before, and never ever would again. She did nothing. Annie Edison, the most driven, proactive, conscientious student at Riverside High and later at Greendale Community College and The University of Colorado, did nothing. She ignored it like a math problem she couldn't get her head around or a zit that she knew she shouldn't squeeze.
The longer the 'ignoring' went on, the more Annie was surprised by how easy it was. She didn't know anyone in the neighbourhood so there were no prying eyes or gossip or concerned acquaintances. She even did things like alternate grocery stores, or drive out to other neighbourhoods to shop so she wouldn't become a familiar face or a familiar pregnant belly. She didn't really have to venture out that often anyway, she didn't have school or a job or friends to catch up with. Apart from wearing more sweat pants than jeans, nausea and back pain, and being woken up in the middle of the night by feet pounding on the inside of her abdomen, Annie managed to remain in denial by slipping off the face of the earth and becoming immersed in her very own dreamatorium for another six months.
Until one day, after hauling groceries up three flights of stairs, she felt a sharp twinge in her lower back. She gasped. Her keys clattered to the floor as she reached out to grab the sideboard. The twinge subsided and Annie took a deep breath. Suddenly, everything was sore, the dull ache that had been niggling at her for the last couple of days erupted, and a pain like nothing she had ever experienced before radiated outwards from somewhere deep inside her body. Then the twinge was back, clamping onto her like the jaws of a ravenous beast, it gripped her for a few seconds then released, leaving only the ache and the ferocious pounding of her heart inside her chest.
Annie was about to reach for the phone to dial 911, when it occurred to her: she couldn't go to hospital, she didn't have insurance. She didn't know how much hospitals cost, but she knew that it would be more than she could afford. She began to panic, she was completely alone. Another contraction pierced her abdomen, followed by a warm trickle down the inside of her leg. Still holding the phone in her hand, and guided by pain and panic, Annie dialled the only number she knew by heart.
"Mom I-" she let out a whimper as the pain got worse.
"Annie what on earth is the matter?" Her mother sounded irritated.
"Mom, I-I-I need you to come pick me up."
"No, Annie, I don't think that's a good idea."
"Mom Please I-"
"Annie, we agreed…"
Annie let out a desperate sob. "Mom, you have to come help me, I'm having a baby."
They drove to the hospital in silence. Mrs Edison kept her lips pursed a steely gaze on the road ahead whilst her daughter screwed her face up to keep from screaming in pain, only emitting a small whimper on each contraction.
It was all happening so fast. From what Annie had gleaned from magazines and TV, people could be in labour for days, but after only a few hours she was fighting the urge to push. When they arrived at the hospital, Annie was taken straight to a private room and examined. The doctor declared she was seven centimetres along, they had a little bit longer to wait,
"But considering how quickly you're progressing, I think you'll be meeting your baby before midnight" he said with a smile.
He left, and Annie groped for the gas and air by her bed. Her mother, who was perched on the edge of the chair by the bed, handed the tube to her. Annie pulled it towards her gratefully, but a hand lingered, preventing Annie from pulling away. She glanced up and noticed the expression on her mother's face. Mrs Edison's hard eyes had softened, they were glazed over with tears and she was looking at her daughter in a way Annie had never seen and she couldn't quite fathom. It wasn't anger or disappointment, it wasn't even pity that had crept onto her mother's face, Mrs Edison had wilted and shrivelled in front of her daughter's eyes, but the hand still resting on Annie's was tender and comforting.
"Mom- I'm ss-"
As soon as she spoke, the moment was shattered and her mother morphed back to the formidable creature Annie recognised. She patted Annie's hand, thrust the plastic tube towards her then bustled out of the room to see about getting her daughter some more effective pain killers.
Just an hour later and Annie was being told to push. Before she knew it, a tiny, bawling thing, all blue and covered in goo was being placed on her chest. She rested her hand on its delicate, matted head before it was quickly whipped away, weighed, swaddled and handed back to Annie, cleaner and slightly pinker but still howling with indignation as if to say "put me back now."
"It's a girl." Someone whispered into her ear and Annie looked down at the little bundled in her arms. The baby had stopped crying but through the towelling she could feel its tiny pink chest heaving up and down. Its eyelids fluttered under a wrinkled brow and bleary blue eyes gazed up at Annie. Annie gazed back. Her finger stroked the little red raw cheek and she rocked the baby back and forth.
"Do we have a name yet?" A nurse asked. Annie paused. She hadn't thought about names because she hadn't really thought this was happening.
"She's not keeping it." Her mother's voice cut through the warm silence.
"We stayed in hospital for a couple of days, my mother arranged for an adoption lawyer to come and visit. She talked me through everything and convinced me it was for the best. I got to hold her again before I was discharged. My Mom took care of everything, she even offered for me to come back and live with her, but I said no. Then in the August I enrolled at Greendale and just sort of started over."
Jeff couldn't speak. Annie listened to him breathing. Finally, he whispered,
"Did you want to?"
"No… yes… I don't think I knew what I wanted. I was just relieved to have someone else make decisions for me."
"I don't know, I guess she'd be about six." Five years, nine months and twelve days, Annie knew exactly how old the baby was.
"What's her name?"
Annie shook her head. "I didn't give her one."
"Do you know where she is?" Once Jeff started with questions, he couldn't stop. He'd just uncovered this whole part of Annie that he had no idea existed. He knew she'd had a rough time in high school and a bad relationship with her parents. He knew she was strong and he'd admired her for her tenacity, been sympathetic to her insecurities and mostly patient with her sometimes childish, sometimes precocious and sometimes unsettlingly wise behaviour. He knew all these things about her and loved her for them and in spite of them, but there had always been something mysterious about his little Annie. Now she was laying herself out raw in front of him and he was witnessing a strength and a vulnerability in her that he didn't know what to do with.
"Jeff, I don't know where she is, and I don't want to know. I need you to be very clear about that."
"Do you ever, y'know, think about it?"
Annie breathed deeply. "I try not to, but yeh, all the time. Like I'll just be sat on the terrace looking at all the lights and I'll think, maybe one of those belongs to her and she's tucked up in bed with her mom and dad being read a bedtime story. Or I'll drive past a school and think, maybe that's hers and maybe one of those kids shrieking in the yard is her. But I try hard not to. I don't know if she's even in the state, or the country. She's not mine, whether it was the right decision or not, I gave her away, she's not mine and I have to let her go and move forward. That's why I needed to tell you now, if we're moving forward together, you need to know where I'm coming from."
"How much of your college fund did you spend on therapy trying to make yourself feel that?"
"You know, you could've just asked Britta, she'd have been cheaper and I reckon about as convincing as you're sounding right now."
Annie smiled weakly. "But I'm serious Jeff, its past, this is now. And now I'm scared all over again."
"Annie, this is nothing like then. You've got me, you've got friends, admittedly they're a dysfunctional group of crazies but they mean well and would do anything for you. And you're not a lost teenager anymore; you're this amazing, self assured, driven, slightly but loveably neurotic, successful woman who I'm so proud to call my girlfriend."
"And you're a pompous douche who can talk his way in or out of whatever the hell he likes." She winked at him and he hit her with a pillow. She giggled, then, with tears in her eyes, leant forward to kiss him. "I love you Jeff Winger, more than anything."
He kissed her back. "I love you Annie Edison. Even more than I love my iphone."
Annie giggled again and kneed him playfully in the stomach. "I haven't even asked you how you feel about this."
"Annie, I'm thrilled."
"I know what I just told you is a lot to swallow."
"Anything you tell me about you only makes me love you more." As cheesy as it might have sounded, it was a significantly sincere statement from a man renowned for his cynicism and emotional indifference and Jeff could see that Annie knew that everything was going to be ok.
"So I guess we're having a baby."
"I guess we are." He picked her up and swung her around, then they collapsed back onto the sofa, his hand resting on her flat stomach.
Would love to know what you think so far. I'm very much open to questions, comments and criticism.