Disclaimer: Me no own Community. Me stupid.
A/N: Title is Community's theme song but you guys knew that already. Duh doy! This is based on a prompt by claymay83: 'Over the summer, Jeff goes on vacation in Europe, runs into Annie and they have a passionate European fling.' It kind of became... this. I don't even know. A couple of chapters will be M rated but I'll let you know when that happens. Also, when I mention Twitter handles there should be an 'at' symbol but it's not showing up on ff dot net! Anyway, this chapter is more of a prologue but I hope you like it. Thanks so much for reading. :)
Annie marches out of her bedroom clutching a purple notebook and pen, a spring in her step as she wanders over to Troy and Abed watching re-runs of Saved by the Bell. Just like any other day when they're absorbed in one of their usual TV marathons, they barely pay her much attention as she perches on the arm of Abed's recliner, the leather of the seat squeaking as she moves. She's quite happy to sit there for a moment though, and steals some popcorn from the bowl settled on the foot-rest between them.
"That's not sweet."
Scrunching her face in distaste, Annie dusts her hands of salt grains. "Uh, yeah. I got that, Abed. Thanks."
"You're welcome," he says, staring at the TV with an unblinking sort of focus. "Have you got that list? Let me see it."
Annie sighs in a put-upon and slightly exaggerated way but hands him the notebook anyway because if she's learned one thing living with Abed, it's when not to put up a fight. She chooses her battles wisely now.
"I don't know why you want to read it," she says, somewhat irritated. "I'm capable of planning my own trip."
"You do have exceptional organizational skills and you're incredibly anal about making plans."
"Aww. Thank you!"
"Anal," Troy chuckles around a mouthful of popcorn. "Butts."
"But," Abed continues, finger ceiling-bound for a second. "You're lacking experience."
"Abed, you've never even left the state."
"I watch movies. They tell me everything I need to know."
"Oh." Annie frowns, patting his shoulder softly. "That's kind of sad."
"Not really," he shrugs, eyes still not straying from the screen. Not that she can blame him. Zack and Kelly were getting married and she always loves when Screech catches the bouquet. From the dreamy look on his face, Troy does too.
"You know, you guys could still come with me." Her fingers dance lightly as she sings, "It'll be fuuuuun."
"Thanks Annie, but I have plans this week, you know, doing stuff…" Troy fingers the neck of his t-shirt nervously. "With Britta."
"Oooh," she grins, raising one shoulder to cheek and batting her eyelashes playfully. "Plans, huh?"
He rolls his eyes. "Yes. Plans."
Annie nudges Abed with her elbow. "What about you?"
"I don't have plans with Britta."
"No, I didn't mean…" she sighs, and reapplies a tight smile. "I'm asking if you'd like to come away, silly."
"No thanks. Europe is at least seven hours ahead of us and that just doesn't make sense to me. I'm not comforted by the thought of going ahead in time, at least not without some sort of flux capacitor or D.A.R.S.I.T. Or maybe even a Trimaxian Drone Ship from the planet Phaelon."
There's a heavy pause as Annie and Troy glance at each other a little lost for words but both decide to just let it go.
This happens a lot.
"O-kay, well, it doesn't matter. Obviously I'll miss you guys but I know I'm going to have a great time, even on my own." She wriggles with an excited little clap that belies the nerves she feels at the very thought. "I've got so much planned."
"Yes, I can see that." Abed peers down at her notebook, one finger jabbing a line of swirly handwriting. "Why is this number one? Is this why you're going?"
Flushing lightly, Annie tries to shrug as nonchalantly as possible but probably fails under Abed's scrutiny. He can be a little intense sometimes. And knowing. Annoyingly so.
"I've not listed things on a scale of importance, Abed. It's just random things I'd like to do. So I want to have a summer romance with a sexy European man. Who doesn't?"
"Uh," Troy scoffs. "I don't."
"But this is not how these things work," Abed says, tone serious now. "You're going to find yourself. That will never happen if you let soap-y relationship-y romance stuff get in the way."
"Find yourself?" Troy glances away from the TV, his brow pinched in its usual groove of confusion. "Are you lost?"
"It's just an expression, Troy. Last-minute trips abroad are usually an epic voyage of self-discovery. Think Eat Pray Love."
"Oh," he smiles warmly, reaching for another handful of popcorn and throwing a few in the air. "I loved that movie," he finishes, shrugging to himself when he fails to catch any in his mouth.
"Hang on," Annie starts. "In Eat Pray Love she went away to find herself and fell in love."
There's a sliver of silence and stillness as her roommates both turn to look at her with more focus than she's used to, their eyebrows raised all pointed and skeptic until she shrinks backwards from the intensity.
"What?" she says, one hand rolling the air. "It's right there in the title."
"Hmm. So you want to find yourself and fall in love?"
"No, Abed!" Annie makes a noise of frustration in the back of her throat as she eyes the ceiling, trying to get a handle on her rising temper. "That's not why I'm going at all! I'm just saying that if ever there's a time to have a wild uninhibited fling, I'd like it to happen when I'm on vacation. A girl can dream can't she? I mean, do you have any idea how long it's been since I've been on a real date?"
"As far as I'm aware, two years and three months, give or take a few days."
Annie's mouth pinches as tight as the snap of her arms underneath her bust.
"You're doing that thing with your lips again." Abed's eyes narrow searchingly. "Are you upset? Did I say something wrong?"
"FYI. Women don't like to be told how long it's been since they've been out with a guy, Abed."
"But you asked me."
"It was rhetorical."
"I don't understand."
"Ugh." Annie waves her hands in frustration because, as usual, this conversation is going nowhere. "Never mind. It doesn't matter. The point is, it's been a while since I've been, you know, romanced or made to feel special or desired or anything by a man and -"
"What about Jeff?"
It's a pretty innocent question, all things considered, but Annie's mouth parts soundless and she frowns unseeingly at the wall for a long moment. What about Jeff? It rolls on repeat until she realizes with a start that she's not said anything for at least a minute, and she makes a derisive little shake of her head because there's a time for answering that question and it has long since passed.
"Abed, we've been through this, remember? And please. Jeff Winger's idea of romance is a three-way in a hot-air balloon."
Troy shrugs as he considers and his voice is all dreamy sounding when he says, "I bet the view was romantic."
She huffs out a laugh, shaking her head all the while. "You men are all the same. It's shocking really."
Troy frowns in confusion but then his eyes bug wide in slow understanding. "Annie! I meant the actual view like hills and trees and fluffy clouds, not…" His neck cranes a little as he studies her with a dazed sort of fascination. "Who are you?"
Annie shoots her gaze to her hands preening the hem of her denim skirt, too aware of the heat suffusing her cheeks and the tips of her ears to provide any sort of answer.
"I wonder what Jeff will think of your plan to have a summer fling?" Abed tilts his head pensively. "It's times like these I wish we still had the Dreamatorium to run through scenarios."
The agitation she initially felt at his question fades the moment Annie notices Abed scribbling over her perfectly planned list that took her five hours to compile oh my god and she huffs, "He won't think anything because a) there's nothing to think, b) he's not even here and c) he probably wouldn't even care. This is Jeff you're talking about. Jeff. Winger."
Troy's eyes narrow doubtfully. "Oh come on Annie. We've all seen the way he looks at you, even Shirley. She was cursing your googly eyes at dinner last week."
Annie swallows thickly, wanting to kick herself for the little flair of hope dancing giddily in her chest. "Googly eyes? Don't be silly."
Abed looks up from her notebook, pen poised in the air. "No, Troy's right. I'd ask Jeff to confirm but he seems to have gone off grid. I can't get hold of him right now."
"Yeah, where is he?" Troy asks, now picking at the missed popcorn in his lap and down the sides of his seat. "I haven't seen him all week. Do you know?"
Annie frowns. "Why would I know where Jeff is? Your guess is as good as mine."
"But you two are…" His head tilts and his eyebrows lift suggestively a couple of times. "You know…"
"Uh, I don't know actually. Anyway, I'm done talking about this. I have packing to finish." She snatches her notebook from Abed's outstretched hand and clutches it protectively. "You better not have ruined this list, mister."
"Ruined? No. Perfected? Yes." Abed clicks the tip of his pen once, twice, three times. "Follow that list and you will have the summer to remember. A summer worthy of..." His eyes widen in excitement as he gestures a wave through the air, lowering his voice to a dramatic-sounding whisper. "...The movies."
"Three weeks is hardly -" Annie pauses in walking to her bedroom, eyes flitting across Abed's blue-inked scrawl. "Um, Abed…?" she starts and he swivels his chair to face her. "This is just a list of everything that happened in National Lampoon's European Vacation."
"But, um, I think the point of that movie was that you're not supposed to do those things. I mean, no one can actually knock over Stonehenge with a car. It's physically impossible."
Abed watches her with an unfathomable unblinking expression, "Oh, well then I can't help you," and rotates his recliner to face the TV.
Annie shuts her bedroom door and leans against it with a heavy sigh, staring at the piles of clothes and shoes lined up neatly on her bed. If ever there was a time to go on vacation, it was now. The question wasn't where Annie should go but when and why couldn't she have left yesterday?
At a small table tucked away in the corner of Starbucks, Jeff sips at his coffee and stares absentmindedly at his phone. There's nothing familiar or comforting about his surroundings, apart from the occasional accent that has him checking over his shoulder for Ian Duncan, and it's this unease and the British pound notes in his wallet that serves to remind him where he is and what led him here.
Another endless line of mistakes.
Deciding to find his father had been his first error. A pretty big one, too. Why did he want to find that asshole anyway? He abandoned him for a reason, right? And it's not as if he needs to know that reason. Therapy is taxing enough as it is.
Following a random lead all the way to London – England for fucks sake – had probably been his second mistake. As if his con-artist, waste-of-space father would ever make the effort to come all this way. The guy could barely muster the energy to pick him up from school. Most days he didn't. Travelling halfway across the world seems even more unlikely.
But his mom mentioned something once, flippantly, just a random observation at one of their monthly dinners about how her ex-husband had always wanted to live in Europe - more glamorous apparently - and when the web search located one of the few William Winger's in London, Jeff connected non-existent dots and threw clothes in his case and caution to the wind.
He kind of regrets that now, sitting here, miles away from home. Still fatherless, still angry about it. Probably angrier now.
His fist curls at the thought and nope. He really does not want to keep thinking about this. As much as it still shocks him to admit sometimes, he needs his friends around him. He needs to not be alone right now. The sooner he heads home the better.
It's already been a tough year and he hasn't even had the whole summer to recuperate. Re-taking Bio 101 and a few other courses, no thanks to Chang and his stupid army of brats, has left him with less than three weeks before the fall semester. Three. Damn. Weeks. How was he supposed to get a tan that lasted all the way through winter with those kinds of odds? He's man enough to admit that he doesn't look his best when he's too pale. It's a problem.
Expelling another heavy sigh Jeff downs the rest of his coffee in one quick gulp, the cup clattering back to its matching plate with more force than necessary and startling a woman reading on a nearby table. Throwing her an apologetic smile and a flirty wink when she blushes and bites down a little smile, he stuffs his wallet and phone into his pockets and quickly exits onto the sidewalk teeming with tourists, surrounded by a city noise somehow so different than Denver, though he's not sure why.
Trying not to feel dazed by the red bus as it passes on the wrong side of the street, Jeff looks left and right to find his bearings and starts towards Trafalgar Square as soon as he spots Nelson's statue high enough in the air for him to find its direction.
It's not the reason he's here but he should probably, at some point, buy a map to get around easier except he doesn't want to look like a tourist. Or a douchebag. It's the same reason he doesn't carry a book-bag at college or an umbrella when it rains, even though those are both looks he would rock if he gave them half a chance.
When the square eventually comes into view, Jeff stops for a moment, ignoring the nudge and knock of people as they try to pass him by. He's not ashamed to admit he's a little taken aback by the sight before him with the crowds and the buildings only familiar to him from movies and TV - and holy crap he's in London and he's whining about his deadbeat dad? Shaking his head lightly, he pulls out his phone and takes a picture of the statue surrounded by four bronze lions and the fountains as discreetly as possible before uploading it to Twitter and finally tweeting his whereabouts with a "Surprise, guess where I am?"
He regrets it a minute later.
It's just… He hasn't told any of his friends where he is. He's not sure why, maybe because it was a spur-of-the-moment decision made at 2am after one drink too many, or that none of them know he's started looking for his father and he's not quite ready to tell them yet; to deal with Pierce's questions and flippant remarks about having things in common, or Britta's offers to help 'therapize' him of his 'obvious daddy issues' or Abed noting all the long-lost father-son movie parallels.
It's exhausting just thinking about it.
Briefly though, he wonders what Shirley would have to say about this whole dad thing. She'd probably give him a hug that was too long and too understanding – the kind of hug he'd gotten far too used to this past year – and a brownie he would throw in the trash when she wasn't looking. And then he thinks of Annie and what she might say, and his heart races just a little as he remembers the last time he saw her. It was one of their bi-weekly potluck dinners at apartment 303 and the table was covered in half-eaten dishes that should never be eaten together, and there was music and alcohol and laughter in the air. Annie had looked at him for some reason he can't really remember now, blue eyes wide and tempting across the table, the pink flush to her cheeks he still can't find anything but endearing, the bite of her glossed lips more seductive than she probably realized and damn, that woman can throw him off track, even thousands of miles away.
It's a nice reprieve though, from his other thoughts.
He reaches a road crossing then, and falls behind the rest of the waiting crowd all bottlenecked and pressed close, smiling at the little red man on the traffic signal and waiting for it to turn green. His phone vibrates in his pocket a second later and Jeff quickly presses view, eagerly anticipating the flood of comments and questions from his friends. Instead he frowns, more than a little disheartened by the single reply he receives.
JeffWingerAtLaw Is that London? Spoiler Alert.
Yeaaahhh…he has no idea what that even means but then again, this is Abed.