A/N: Chapter rated M. I've never been to Shakespeare and Company, so I apologise for inaccuracies. Also, there's little French here but if there are any mistakes, please let me know and I'll correct it. I know I sound like a broken record, but thank you for your support and loveliness and encouragement. This fandom is wonderful. I would very much like to French kiss every one of you. :)
On the left bank later that evening, the street buzzes with passing traffic and bleating horns and tourists taking pictures of the Notre Dame Cathedral across the Seine, the brightly lit towers dazzling against the black of the water below. There's an eager bounce of excitement in the way Annie points at a green-fronted shop with a yellow sign that reads Shakespeare and Company hidden by lights threaded between the trees.
Scattered on the sidewalk are wooden carts and boxes of books and through the glow of the windows Jeff can see the shop is busy even though it's 10pm. He turns to Annie just as the flash of her camera lightens the people walking past.
"Okay, so when you asked me if I wanted to get out of there," he thumbs back to Le Petit Châtelet where they just finished dinner. "This is not what I had in mind."
"What did you think I meant?"
Jeff ushers close behind her, fingertips barely caressing the light swell of her hips, crouching so his mouth is level with her ear. He doesn't kiss her but lets her feel the warmth of his breath as he murmurs, "You know exactly what I thought you meant."
Annie quivers a little. "Well, the day's not over."
Jeff smirks, "But a bookstore?" as he pulls away. "You realize we have these at home, right?"
"Never heard of them." Annie studies the shot on the camera but her lips play amused. "Don't know what you're talking about."
"Yes, Jeff, this is a bookstore. Ten points for you," she smiles, rolling her eyes at the quirk of his brow. "It's in lots of movies."
"So Abed told you about it."
"Hey," she gasps indignantly. "Why does Abed have to be the know-it-all about everything? I know things."
"Really. What movie was it in?"
"Before Sunset, with Ethan Hawke?" At his blank expression she fluffs her hand flippantly. "Anyway, I was always going to come here but I know that next week is Abed's Woody Allen movie week."
Jeff blinks at her. "I feel like this story's not over."
"Well, this was also in Midnight in Paris, a Woody Allen film – see I know things – so I thought I'd take a picture for Abed while I was here. Two birds, one stone – that kind of thing."
"You're ridiculous," he grins. "And efficient."
Annie wrinkles her nose but doesn't disagree. "Or maybe I'm just trying to be a good friend. Any movie-related photos will get me at least three cools. You know I'm right."
"Spending an hour acting like Rose or any of Inspector Spacetime's companions will get you five. This is Abed."
"Jeff," she scolds. "Rose is from that other show we're not allowed to mention. You know how Abed feels about it."
"But Abed's not here," he chuckles, just as Annie continues loudly, "And anyway, I play Geneva. I do a mean British accent, listen." She coughs a little and sets her chin high, fisting the air jauntily. "'Ello mate!"
"Hmm." Jeff nods slowly. "It's uncanny. Dick Van Dyke's got nothing on you."
"I know, right?" She smiles, wrestling her camera into its protective case. "Wait, does this mean you've seen Mary Poppins? I'm learning so much about you."
"Everyone knows Dick Van Dyke had the worst cockney accent ever. I don't need to have seen the movie to know that."
"Mmm-hmm. You didn't say no though."
He can't help but laugh. "I think you're missing the real issue here."
"What, that you watch Disney movies?"
"No." He grins widely at the playful twinkle in her eyes. "I'm thinking more along the lines of you playing in the Dreamatorium. Abed, I understand, but you... What's that about?"
Annie's smile wanes a little. "Um, played, only once with Abed. It's actually Troy's bedroom now. I thought you knew."
He shrugs. "But what did you two do in there?" watching Annie fuss with the zip of her purse as she shoves her camera back inside, and Jeff's not sure why his heart races. "Was it like a Dungeons and Dragons thing?"
"Psssh. Nooooo," she squawks, and by the widening of her eyes, louder than even she expected. She shifts her purse higher on her shoulder, the way she often does as an excuse to occupy her hands. "Let's go inside."
Jeff frowns at Annie's evasiveness but shakes it off with a shrug to follow her determined dash inside. As they hover by the doorway, the musky scent of old books warring with the freshness drifting in from outside, a petite woman with blonde hair looks up from sorting receipts and greets them with a very English-sounding, "Bonjour."
Around them there are wooden ladders propped against floor-to-ceiling books on mahogany shelves, every surface eaten greedily. A chandelier above throws out pools of green light between flaking wooden beams.
"Wow, Annie. Isn't this…?" Jeff frowns suddenly at the empty space beside him. "What. The hell."
Catching a glimpse of wavy brown hair bouncing eagerly up the stone steps deeper inside, Jeff follows with a grin, eyes roaming the walls covered with quotes and drawings and notes in foreign handwriting that flutter as he walks past.
Eventually he finds Annie in a small alcove that leads upstairs with hardly any room to move. Two red-velour theatre seats wedged underneath the staircase have clearly seen one ass too many.
"Can you believe this place?" Annie beams at Jeff as he gingerly ducks through the archway, treading her fingertips along a shelf of fraying book spines. "Apparently, the owner lets struggling writers live and work here while they write their novels. It's amazing."
"Yeah, it's…something." He squints at the books stacked high on every step, barely leaving a walkable path upstairs, and instantly thinks it's a heath and safety lawsuit waiting to happen. Combined with the height of the low ceiling the air feels a little too close for his liking.
"Well, I love it and you never know Jeff, if you stopped rolling your eyes everywhere we visit you might find you like it too. Mind blowing, I know."
"You…" Jeff huffs out a shocked breath, grabbing Annie by the waist as she starts to move away.
Annie shrieks and jumps as he pinches her side, grinning impishly over her shoulder. "What was that, Jeff? I can't hear you over all that eye rolling. It's so loud."
"FYI, Annie, I do like it here."
"Oooh, watch out for flying gray matter."
Jeff grins, tugging her against him so that her back is pressed warm against his chest, and winds his arms underneath her bust. Annie makes a show of struggling as he crouches a little, his stubbled jaw scraping gently against her cheek, mumbling, "I mean it," before squeezing her tighter.
"Oh, well, if you mean it," Annie says through a smile, and rolls her head back against him, smoothing her fingertips up and down the length of his forearms, although the movement seems almost distracted than done with intent. For a moment they embrace in their own silence, the footsteps of people heavy on the wooden floors above.
At the feel of her pressed close to him after a day of awkward distance, Jeff feels this satisfied buzz of contentment bubble up inside, tumbling from his throat before he has a chance to catch it. He hums between breaths and is halfway dotting a line of kisses along the edge of her jawbone when Annie stiffens beneath his touch, her fingers stilling abruptly against his skin. She stumbles a little awkwardly as she spins and pushes herself away, although Jeff's grip doesn't allow her to get too far.
"Nothing! I just, uh…" she trails off, eyes dashing around the small space like she's searching for something. "I was just thinking how funny it is that you actually like somewhere I've shown you. Yay!" She fists the air feebly, like she's not quite committed to it. "We should celebrate."
Jeff laughs, bemused. "We're allowed to like different things."
"Uh, I know that, Jeff, but c'mon. You've not really enjoyed anything we've done together."
"Wrong. So wrong you need a new word for it."
"Huh." Annie's tense grip around his fingers starts to settle and she taps her chin slowly. "I must have misunderstood your complaining the last week or so. I mean, do you have a Daily Quota of Snark to fill or something?"
"Yes actually and, like you said, the day's not over." His grin widens at the sight of hers, and he honestly didn't realize how happy it made him to make her smile. Until now. "And didn't you saying something earlier about travel being nothing without commentary?"
Annie eyes him curiously. "I did say that."
"Well, Annie, just because my comments aren't positive doesn't make my contribution any less valid."
Her head shakes as she bites down a smile. "Does it hurt, you know, talking out of your ass?"
Jeff rolls his head back and laughs hard, the noise skipping around the small alcove. When his eyes eventually return to meet Annie's, he catches her gaze and plays with it fondly, watching the mixture of pride and amusement skip across her face and he's pretty staggered by the absolute affection he feels for her in that moment, so much so that it's almost overwhelming.
"Fuck," he breathes. "I want you."
He just can't help himself.
Annie's pleasure at his laughter seems to falter and Jeff's does too, instantly unnerved by the sight of her neck rolling hard as she swallows and he feels himself doing the same. He doesn't want a repeat of earlier though – with the silence and the awkwardness and Annie disappearing into her thoughts because then he'd disappear into the mess of his own and that never ends well. The four hours since they left the Louvre have been too good to go back to that now.
"So," he starts hurriedly. "You mentioned something about celebrating? I think we should go do that right now. Preferably somewhere you can see me naked because if that's not a celebration, I don't know what is."
Thankfully she sees his joking as the subject change he intended, and the rigidness of her shoulders relaxes a little.
"I think you just want to see me naked,' she says, reaching up to smooth the line of his shirt buttons.
"Well, duh. But I kind of just want to get out of here to be honest. Seen one bookstore, you've pretty much seen them all."
"See!" Annie says around a spluttered giggle as she points at him firmly. "I knew you didn't like it in here. Bringing Jeff Winger to a place like this, where people willingly buy and read books for fun?! What was I thinking?"
"Okay, so maybe like was a strong word and I have to admit this place makes me feel kind of claustrophobic with the amount of stuff they have packed in here and seriously, was it made for a hobbit?" He gestures to the beams hanging low above them, not really having to reach that high to touch one with his fingertips. "But I like a good bookstore sometimes, preferably one with a well-stocked comics section and, you know, some headroom."
"Really," Annie says flatly.
"Sure." Jeff bites the inside of his mouth just as it starts to twitch with a smile. "It helps, of course, that women find a good looking book-reading man irresistible, Annie. It's clinically proven. Thought you would have known that, what with all those books you read. For fun."
"Hmm. No, no you're right," she nods, playing along with his teasing. "There's usually lots of eye-candy when I go. I just don't know how I keep my hands to myself."
"I'm just kidding - wait." His smirk slowly fades. "What?"
"What?" The flutter of her eyelashes is a little too innocent for his liking and Jeff is pretty sure she's messing with him but he just… He needs...
"When do you go and what's this about eye-candy? And hands?"
"Saturday afternoons, usually." She teases around a smile. "You know, when you're at the gym or the tanning salon."
"I only use the tanning salon in the winter months and it's not every Saturday."
"Because that makes it better?"
"Wow, Annie. Deflecting much?"
"Jeff. Have you been looking up psychological terms to tease Britta again? You know she hates it when you do that."
"Please, as if I'd need to look up crap to tease Britta." His eyes narrow slightly. "And I know what you're doing."
"I'm not deflecting, Jeff. There's nothing to tell. I can joke too, you know! There's eye candy everywhere but I don't eat it – I mean, okay, that metaphor didn't work out like I imagined." Jeff chuckles at her obvious fluster. "What I mean is I haven't…there haven't been -"
"Any men or hands?" he offers, brow raised and probably a little too hopeful if he thinks about it.
"No, well…"Annie's eyes glaze in a thoughtful drift to the side. "Technically, there were three dates but they were terrible and I always had to pay so I forget to count them. Whoa," she breathes and chuckles uneasily, her head shake erratic. "How did we even get onto this subject? It's silly."
Jeff frowns a little at that. He never knew Annie had been dating but the way his stomach drops and his fist clenches at the thought, ignorance was probably a good thing.
"They only count as dates if the guy pays?"
"No but." Annie sighs, opening the cover of a heavy leather-bound book to trace the font inside. "Do we have to talk about this?"
"Hey, why not?" He shrugs, shoving his hands into his pockets. "Just making conversation. And you're a woman, Annie. Typically, you like those."
The cover slaps shut.
"Yes. You're right. I am a modern independent woman and you know what? I don't mind paying for a date or going Dutch but all the time? All I'm saying is – and don't tell Britta I said this because I will never hear the end of it – occasionally it would be nice to be taken on a date the old fashioned way, once or twice, to be romanced and -" Her eyes widen in her sudden pause, like her brain has finally caught up to her mouth, and the fluff of her hand is dismissive as she says, "You know, whatever."
"Right. Whatever. Duly noted."
"What? No, no you don't have to note anything, duly or otherwise. Just to make that clear. This is just a conversation, right? Like you said?"
Jeff nods, aware of the spike of adrenaline gushing in his red-tipped ears as if his body knows what he's about to do before he's mentally even considered it. He fixes his most charming smile and drops it immediately, feeling too awkward the way it settles against his teeth. It's ridiculous how inept he feels right now, even though he's dated his fair share of women and then some.
But this is different territory now – terrifyingly awkward territory that his feet usually never want to travel – and he kind of feels like he's back in that Pottery class from forever ago, sitting behind the potter's wheel with no clue what to do with his hands and he hates it, hates not knowing where to start because he's so much better than this.
Grabbing a book at random he thumbs through it casually, the zip of pages fanning the air a few times while his courage builds. "Well, Annie, let's make it clearer." He tosses the book onto the table, gaze intent as he murmurs, "When we get back to Greendale we'll go out," and steps a little closer, "I'll pay," and closer still. "It will count."
Annie's eyes widen in his shadow. "W - What?"
"When we get home I'll take you out – you, me, dinner - wherever you want to go." He brushes a wave of her hair away from her eyes, letting his fingertips linger at the silky ends for just a second. "What do you say?"
Annie's mouth opens and closes wordlessly before she staggers back a little, spinning swiftly to return his discarded book to its rightful place. "I don't think we need to talk about that now."
"What," he huffs out on a laugh that falls flat. "What?"
She jumps at the bite to his voice but doesn't look at him, her fingers still lingering against the shelf. "Well, let's just enjoy the time we have left."
"You make it sound like we're dying."
"Do I?" Annie giggles, and Jeff is not imagining the awkward lilt to her laugh that might as well be nails on a chalkboard for all it does to his insides.
"Oooh. An old edition of War and Peace."
"Maybe I should buy this for Britta."
"Annie." Jeff's stomach plummets as he tries to swallow her evasiveness, and the soles of his feet tingle in that weird way they always do when he's on a slippery surface or he's about to fall, which doesn't even make sense but nothing does right now. "You maybe want to fill me in on what's going on here?"
Annie finally turns to him, expression unreadable. "We're looking at books."
"That won't work," he scoffs, annoyance dissolving to a frown. "I just asked you out. I thought this is what you wanted. I mean. I gotta say, Annie, I'm kind of confused here."
A flicker of hesitation plays with her brow before she seemingly gathers her thoughts and her fight and juts her chin in challenge. "Well don't be. There's nothing to be confused about. You don't have to placate me, Jeff. It's okay. I'm an adult. I know what this was."
What. The. Fuck.
She shrinks backwards at the sting of his voice again. "That's, that's what I said."
His head tilts to one side, eyes narrowing carefully. "Right. Okay. Tell me. What was this?"
The silence lengthens between them, heavy with the footsteps above and the distant chime of the bell above the shop door, and Jeff's agitation spreads down from the tightness spearing his shoulders to the fitful tap of his foot.
He folds his arms sharply. "Annie."
"It was, you know…" She pauses, eyebrows rising, waiting for him to understand but he doesn't.
He doesn't understand anything right now.
Annie shrugs, one hand gesturing erratically. "A fling."
"A fling," he grits out distastefully.
"Yes?" she says, weaker now.
"Wow," he states flatly. "A fling, Annie, really. Huh."
His questioning aggravates the pinch of her lips. "Repeating the words won't magically change them, Jeff. Anyway, I thought this is what you wanted."
"What I wanted or what you wanted? Because I don't remember saying that. Ever."
"You didn't need to say it, Jeff. I know you," she huffs loudly, glancing around at everything and anything but him. "You have one night stands and two week flings and that's your thing and why are we even talking about this? We were having such a nice time."
"Look, no one is more surprised about this than me, Annie. They must put something in the water here. I blame France. Stupid Paris with its Stupid. Giant. Television. Transmitter."
Annie turns to watch him carefully, her startled expression at the volume of his voice melting into something else, something Jeff never wants to see, least of all from her. He blanches at it, slamming his eyes shut for a second to get it together before he turns away and cuts back through the store, ignoring the curious looks and nearly dislodging a row of books from the force of his stride out onto the street.
Outside the swarm of tourists and locals has thinned and the freshness of the night envelops his flesh hot and pumped with adrenaline but gives little relief. Fists tight by his sides, Jeff has to restrain his feet from taking the path they clearly want to go, which is far far away, anywhere but here. Instead he paces between the trees, his shoulders bathed in distorted webs of colored light. A small dog tied to the trunk observes him with a sniffled whine.
He stills instantly, unsettled by the way his heart contracts at the sound of Annie's voice, head biting towards her standing hesitantly in the doorway. She frowns and blows out a breath like she's priming herself for something, and Jeff wonders if that's exactly what he looks like before he lets a woman down gently.
You deserve better.
It's not you, it's me.
I hope we can still be friends.
By the time Annie reaches him, Jeff has run through ten different lines that used to roll off his tongue with such practiced ease and he's not prepared to hear any of them. Not from -
"So," he snaps, scrubbing a palm across the back of his neck. "Now what? Now we go back to before - friends?"
Her gaze jumps from her fingers. "Don't say it like that! You and Britta stayed friends and you were doing it for a year."
"More like six months but whatever."
Annie's jaw drops a little. "You can't be mad at me, Jeff. You, you can't pretend that you didn't want to get this," her hands wave erratically between them. "Whatever we are – out of your system."
"Ohhhhhh, is that what we were doing? Why didn't you just say so? I think I could have handled that. I'm an adult too, Annie. You're hot. I've wanted to sleep with you for -"
"Stop it!" she shouts, stomping her foot for emphasis, the sound of which startles an old woman perusing the books on a nearby wooden cart.
"Why?" Jeff lowers his voice at the sight of her intrigue, moving in close. "I'm just reducing our fling to its basic terms, what's wrong with that? It's just a fling, Annie. It shouldn't bother you so much."
Hating the way she flinches and curls her arms around herself defensively, Jeff studies the scuff of his shoes against the asphalt. Her earlier words replay through his thoughts on a train-like rhythm that builds and builds until this hysterical laugh gurgles up inside of him, bursting out as a staggered breath through his nose.
"What about last night?"
Annie's eyes dash between his confusedly. "What?"
"You know – you said I could show you how I feel. Was it bullshit?"
There's a flash of hurt in her gaze before it slips to the sidewalk. "No, I…I don't know what it was."
In the ensuing silence a couple stumble from the brasserie next door shouting, "Plus d'alcool," and "Il fait frais!" around puffs of their cigarettes, and Annie's eyes gratefully follow the distraction. Jeff turns to watch the night swallow their departing forms along the promenade with wisps of white smoke and laughter, the orange flames of their cigarettes like fireflies.
Their eyes reunite because it's impossible not to and Annie steps closer, the flickering golden beam of a nearby streetlamp playing tricks with her face.
Jeff sighs wearily, the earlier burst of adrenaline bleeding away until his limbs feel like deflated balloons. "Look, I don't like to overthink things, Annie, but I don't understand. Earlier you practically beg me to stay with you and -"
"I did not beg!"
"Eh." His face scrunches disbelievingly. "There was a little begging."
Her mouth puckers sourly before she closes her eyes and takes a deep breath through her nose. "Maybe I panicked when you said you wanted to leave. I mean, why the rush? We've been having so much fun I just wanted things to stay as they are. I want things to go back to the way they were yesterday."
He can't stop the disbelief scoring lines across his forehead, though he tries. "And then what?"
Annie frowns. "What…?"
"Well, we continue whatever it is we're doing and then what? This trip is ending whether you want it to or not, Annie. What were you gonna do? Get to the airport and say, 'Bye Jeff. Thanks for the great sex. See you in study group. Au Revoir!'"
"I don't know, okay!" She rubs her fingertips across her forehead, the force enough to redden the trail. "I hadn't thought about it. I didn't want to think about it."
"Who are you?" he laughs, breathily and bitter.
"Who are you?" Annie snaps. "I thought this arrangement would be perfect for you!"
"I wasn't aware it was a business deal."
"You know what I mean," she answers hurriedly.
"No, Annie, I really don't."
The silence gnaws at them again and Jeff would give anything to swat it away.
He looks down when Annie's hands latch onto his more cautiously than he's used to, blinking at the way her thumbs graze the veins carved there. The intimacy had become a natural thing – something he didn't even think about – and the unexpected ease with which it happened has his lips pressing into a thinner harder line.
Annie's gaze darts across his face. "What are you thinking?"
Jeff isn't sure if the desperation shading her eyes is just a trick of the lights or shadows or maybe something he wants to see.
"I'm thinking maybe the day's over."
On the Metro ride back to the hotel Jeff watches the faint outline of his reflection in the train window scratched with graffiti, the tiled wall outside whizzing past in a blur of white. Annie sits on one of the plastic seats, head ducked as she scrolls through the pictures on her camera. Now and then, through the jostle of other passengers, Jeff's gaze dips unwittingly to the glossy shroud of her hair. He can't see her face but his jaw tenses when he spots her pause lengthily over the stupid photo of him she supposedly wants to cherish.
At least now he knows why.
The silence follows them two blocks from the station like an uninvited guest, smothering the air in the hotel elevator and the walk along the hallway only punctuated by the slither of Jeff's tie as he yanks it away from his neck. When they reach their room Jeff enters the bathroom first, slamming the door hard enough to jolt their toothbrushes sitting together in one of the glasses on the sink vanity, the vibrations tinkering the plastic against the glass.
Housekeeping must have put them in there but the sight has Jeff snatching his instantly, mumbling obscenities as he lines it with toothpaste and shoves it into his mouth with enough force to make him retch.
He stares vacantly at the mirror while his mouth froths white and the bristles scrape roughly against his gums the more he thinks about the last hour – about Annie and flings and hand holding and toothbrushes sitting together like they sit there all the fucking time. He spits into the sink with a frenzied burst of laughter, eyes finding his reflection again. The lingering white foam trickles down the sides of his mouth while the base of the mirror starts to steam where he's mistakenly turned on the hot tap.
When he eventually leaves the bathroom Annie startles a little, bouncing on tiptoes by the foot of the bed where she's dressed in a pink camisole and matching shorts printed with tiny purple stars. Her hands twist together in front of her until she looks like she's all elbows and arms, and Jeff has never understood how silence can seem so deafening until it lands thickly in the stretch between them. He sort of aches to fill it but right now he's got nothing.
Turning towards the bed, Jeff glares as he pulls off the heavy-patterned coverlet, folding it distractedly and throwing it on the stool tucked underneath the vanity table.
"I'll just..." Annie points awkwardly at the bathroom. "Brush my teeth."
As Annie passes him Jeff tugs at the tucked-in sheets, yanking them with an angry grunt once the bathroom door closes. He stares at the bed a little dazedly – at the tangled sheets usually wrapped around their naked bodies, and the reminder has him hastily stripping to his briefs and dropping impulsively to the floor, the ensuing press-ups effort enough for the blood to race harder in his ears.
Five, ten, twenty, thirty.
It's not enough for his fitness level but with every rep the urge to throw things and drink the contents of the mini-bar is fading, and he feels a little more in control and that's something.
That is something.
Crawling into bed, he punches the pillow a number more than necessary and stares at the ceiling, thoughts twisted into the kind of murkiness that has him thumbing the bridge of his nose. It's only 11pm and they're usually in a bar somewhere making out or on the hotel balcony while she sits in his lap and steals the scotch on his lips like it's romantic or something.
The bitter huff of his laugh sounds a little hysterical in the solitude.
Jeff's not sure how long Annie's in the bathroom but his heart races when the door eventually opens, unease scoring the length of his tightening muscles as she murmurs, "Oh," and with a click the room floods with darkness.
There's a pause before the bed sinks beside him, filling his nostrils with minty toothpaste and the clean scent of honey soap that will forever remind him of her and holy crap he should not be thinking things like that. Annie fusses for a while - fluffing the pillow, tugging the sheet – before all is still.
Following the line where wall meets ceiling, Jeff's eyes gradually adjust to the lack of light. There's a faint thud of music from a club down the street, not loud enough to permeate the stillness and silence seeping into everything but enough to make the awkward distance between them noticeable. He tries to wrap his mind around the fact that only fifteen hours ago he woke to the feel of Annie's fingers trawling his spine and the weight of so much…promise.
He can hear the thud of his blood circling every vein and vessel.
Annie's whispered voice sounds so loud that it almost hurts his ears.
His heart races harder.
"It's not going to be the same as yesterday, is it?"
He expels a long breath. "What did you expect?" he asks, quiet and resigned now.
"I didn't expect anything. I just…hoped I guess."
His lips press tightly. "I'm sorry."
Out of the corner of his eye he sees the flutter of Annie's fingers as she picks at the fine skin around her nails and he suddenly wishes he knew what that meant – if she was nervous or bored or as unsure of everything as he was.
"I know this might sound…" Annie starts before trailing off with a shake of her head he feels against the pillows.
Jeff turns to stare at her in the darkness, the pools of her eyes so wide and watery in the gray still of their room. He wills his mouth to vocalize the no no no rolling on repeat in answer to a question she never asked, but then his arm lifts instinctively and he doesn't have time to regret the action as Annie shuffles closer, exhaling a small breath of relief and pressing her cheek to his chest.
They lay there for a while, breaths soft and steady in syncopation with the hum of the mini-bar. Annie plucks at a loose thread on the hem of the sheet where it rests against Jeff's abdomen, and eventually rolls her head up to look at him just as Jeff's sewn together the courage to ask why, why have you done this to me, why have you made me want more? He wants to punish her in some way, make her feel as unraveled as he does right now, but he can't, he just can't.
He shifts to move away but Annie tightens her grip against his waist, her brow rising almost pleadingly in a way that has his adrenaline spiking, triggering memories of so many endless, nameless moments when she's looked at him expectantly and dared him to feel.
The blood races hard in his ears now, and he surprises himself when he half rolls on top of her, his forearm trapped beneath her neck, fingertips splayed across her shoulder as their eyes dart across each other's faces. He can see the want lingering there with something else, an inexplicable something that's been teetering on the edge of every moment between them lately, but it's her whispered "Jeff" that does it and he yields instantly.
It's just a kiss.
Swallowing Annie's throaty moan, he presses her into the mattress, fuelled by the caress of her toes sweeping up the muscle of his calf as she tucks him close, her hands warm around his neck. Resisting the urge to remove her camisole they way he usually does, he strokes a path up the length of her thigh and back again, like it's safe and harmless and…
Kisses don't mean anything.
Their tongues circle almost desperately and Jeff can feel the hum of their mingled moans in his fingertips, but it's the heat of Annie's small hand edging underneath the elastic of his briefs and squeezing the muscle of his ass that has Jeff pulling away, breath heavy, lips wet.
"Annie," he murmurs warningly, although he's not sure who he's warning.
He still wants her. He can't think of a moment otherwise.
Annie blinks up at him as she sets her chin and tugs at his briefs, pulling them down over his ass with the bold kind of determination only she's perfected. Clenching his eyes tight Jeff knows he should move away but he really doesn't fucking want to, and when the warmth of her upturned palm slides down his abdomen he can't help but rock his hips into her grip.
It's barely seconds of tentative little touches and soft intakes of breath against his jaw when Annie removes her hand and pushes hard against his chest. The force has his eyes opening wide.
"Stop," Jeff mutters hastily, lust-dazed and breathless and caught off-guard. "We should stop."
Annie rolls them over with more strength than he thought possible, shifting up onto her knees and peeling her camisole over her head, hair wild and crackling with static.
"No," she murmurs, biting her lower lip as she shakes her head a little. Hooking her fingers into her shorts she tugs them down her thighs, watching him watch her as she shimmies left and right to shed them completely.
Jeff's pulse escalates rapidly as Annie slinks further down the bed, her nakedness dusted in moonlight and shadows, her fingertips skittering up his muscled thighs to tug his briefs off the rest of the way, pausing to kiss the indent of his hip, the ends of her hair faint and ticklish against his skin.
"Annie," he warns again, though the lift of his hips betrays him.
"I don't want to stop!" His briefs hit the floor-standing lamp in the corner hard enough to shake it as she looks at him, eyes as wide and dark as his own, the swell of her breasts so tempting with every harsh breath. "And neither do you."
Her hand circles his growing erection and the mattress shudders as Jeff falls weightily onto his back, his fist unable to stifle his grunt of pleasure so stark in the silence. Every stroke and squeeze is braver, firmer, bolder than before, and when he lifts his head to watch, Annie holds his gaze every inch she drops.
"Holy fuck," he breathes mindlessly, hips rolling reflexively at the wet warmth of her mouth as it meets her hand, over and over. "Faster," he growls, hating how quickly he succumbs to her – how swiftly his control ebbs away at the feel of her eyes drinking his every moan, lost in a cycle of his head hitting the pillow and lifting to watch.
His muscles tighten with need and want and must fucking have when Annie abruptly pulls away, groaning a breathy, "Come here," as she reaches for him. Jeff sits up instantly, their mouths meeting the moment she crawls over, arms wrapped snugly around his neck as she sets the angle and rhythm of their kiss, nipping at his lip, playing wetly with his tongue.
When they break for air, Jeff runs a fingertip over Annie's kiss-bitten lip gleaming wet in the low light, and they watch each other intently, faces millimetres apart, lips barely touching. Jeff closes his eyes, whispering "Annie" around a sigh, not quite knowing what he means to say.
She takes it as something though, as Annie whines his name in response and Jeff startles at the sound and the movement, his eyes snapping open to watch as she positions herself and sinks onto him.
The hiss of their blended breath is loud and stuttered and Jeff is gone.
Clutching the back of his neck Annie lifts herself a little, and they both moan at every inch she rolls back down. Jeff firmly palms her ass to help guide her impatient little thrusts, needing more, and as they move the awareness of everything withers except for the tip of Annie's tongue grazing the shell of his ear.
She tugs his earlobe with her teeth and a throaty growl, her whispered breath hot and shivery as she groans, "Jeff, I…I want -"
With a growl Jeff spins them suddenly, senselessly, throwing her back against the mattress. Annie barely has time to exhale her gasp of surprise when he demands, "On your hands and knees," and she looks up at him, wide eyed, chest heaving.
She swallows thickly and turns herself over, lifting her ass in the air and arching her spine as she glances over her shoulder, teeth toying with her lower lip, eyes dark and tempting like she knows exactly what she's doing to him, like she's done this a thousand times before.
Jeff growls, "Yes, fuck, yes," as he grabs her hips and Annie cries out, the sound low and raw and visceral, her hands curling into the sheets as he enters her from behind, hard and deep.
Moving together urgently, Jeff lets his fingertips trace the roll of her spine and around to grasp greedily at her breast, trailing up into her hair, looping the waves of it through his fingers and tugging a little as she reaches back to slap at his hip, whimpering, "So good, Jeff, more."
His pace quickens instinctively at the sound, the feel of her fluttering around him the closer she gets, so hot and wet as she pushes back, meeting every hard thrust with one of her own. Her hand slips for purchase a couple of times and she steadies herself on her forearms instead, spreading her thighs wider with a moan as she rests her cheek against the mattress.
Jeff hums gutturally and presses forward to kiss the slope of her shoulder, nose brushing across her honey-scented skin, the rhythm of his hips almost savage because he can't stop, won't stop, not now.
Annie shrieks at the change of pace, wailing like her brain has forgotten all words until the moment she tenses around him tightly, his name muffled where her mouth is pressed into the mattress, her teeth tugging, growling, at the sheets. Jeff rides her through it hard, roaring as the pleasure builds and builds and bursts, his head thrown back as he buries deep into the heat of her and everything goes white.
Hips still lurching slightly, Jeff slumps forward, panting into Annie's neck, the lust-filled haze of her slinking away with every hard breath stretched across his ribcage.
"Shit," he mumbles into her hair, and Annie eventually stirs and turns to look at him over her shoulder, still trying to catch her breath as her fingertips clench into the tense, sweaty strain of his forearms.
"It's okay." He pats her thigh gently and kisses her shoulder blade before collapsing onto his back, trying not to look at her as she settles beside him because if he looks at her he just doesn't know what he'll do.
All he wanted to do was find his fucking dad.
"Let's just go to sleep."
Bathed in sunshine warm and bright through the window, Annie rolls onto her side. Stretching with a squeak and blinking away the sleep, there's a moment of dreamy dazedness before the events of last night seep into her awareness and, with a start, she lifts her head from the pillow.
Dressed in jeans and a t-shirt, Jeff faces the open closet, the sound of empty hangers clattering inside as he unhooks his shirt. Annie hurriedly sits up against the headrest, smoothing the sheet across her breasts and securing it under her arms, her heart lurching at the sight of Jeff's nearly-full suitcase perched on his side of the bed.
Jeff freezes instantly and Annie's not sure how long they stay like that – Annie staring at the back of his head and Jeff staring at the closet. When he eventually turns he doesn't look at her; his attention too focused on the careful folds of his shirt into his suitcase.
His gaze lances her in the way that makes her feel see-through again, and Annie desperately wishes she was wearing more than a sheet. Things were easier to stomach with the buttons of her cardigan to play with - or a bra on, at least. She clutches the sheet tighter between her breasts.
Jeff looks away, choosing to focus on stuffing rolled-up socks down the sides of his suitcase. "I'm gonna go see my mom. Seems like the right thing to do after her phone call." He wanders to the dresser. "Plus semester starts next week. Should probably get ready for that."
"Probably." She wants to scoff loudly at that. Jeff Winger's pre-semester preparation has never been anything more than buying a few new shirts and spending an extra half hour perfecting his hair in the morning. "What about last night?"
His hand hovers above the drawer handle of the dresser. "What about it?"
"We slept together."
His mouth tightens a little. "Yeaaahhh…?"
Annie frowns. "Well…"
"Well what, Annie? It shouldn't have happened. I told you we should have stopped."
"You could have stopped it at any time!"
"Yeah, well, I can't seem to stop myself where you're concerned but you knew that already, Annie. You knew what you were doing."
Her mouth drops indignantly. "Oh, so it's all my fault?"
"No," he sighs. "There's no one at fault here. We both got carried away. It happens."
Picking at her fingernails, Annie watches Jeff open and close all the drawers and his dismissal has her lips pinching firmly even though she knows it's irrational, that he has every right to behave this way. He's right. She did know what she was doing – at least she hoped.
"Look," Jeff breathes. "This room is fully paid until Friday so I don't want you to feel you have to leave. Okay?"
"You don't want me to come back with you," she asks, even though she knows the answer.
"You wanted to stay and I…can't."
"Jeff," Annie sighs, feeling like it's pulled from the depth of her stomach, and she cradles her knees as she curls them into her chest. "We should talk."
The score of the zipper on his suitcase cuts through the heavy pause. "I didn't think you wanted to talk."
"That was," she starts loudly before her voice softens and she studies her twining fingers. "I wasn't prepared for what you said to me."
"Says the Day Planner," he scoffs.
"That's unfair! You have to admit everything's happened so fast and unexpected," she sighs, scraping fingertips roughly through her hair. "I've not had any time to think things through and I'm. I was confused. I've been so confused."
"Hey, there's nothing to be confused about. That's what you said."
"I know but dammit, don't lawyer me," she growls, slapping the sides of her calves in frustration. "And don't leave like this. Don't leave angry."
"I'm not angry, Annie." He shrugs. "It is what it is. Just a fling, right?"
She swallows hard, ill-equipped for the pain settling low in her chest. "Right."
He nods in agreement, tugging the suitcase to the floor, muttering, "This wasn't me anyway," as he clicks the extendable handle.
"What do you mean?" she murmurs quietly.
"Oh come on, Annie. You know me. You said it yourself. I'm not the kind of guy who goes to Paris on a whim or holds hands at dinner and… I don't do all this clichéd romantic bullshit."
Her knuckles whiten around the sheet. "Of course. You have three-ways in hot-air balloons."
His expression shifts from hurt to hostility so quickly that Annie flinches as he snaps, "Exactly," the hardness to his voice biting at her spine.
Jeff shucks on his jacket and Annie's heart skitters in a fit of panic at how much closer he is to leaving, even though she should let him – that she should accept this really was the fling she wanted, that moments end and maybe everything will go back to normal.
Except somehow that seems impossible – now that the moment is here, stark and cold and very real – and she feels like she's watching the control she's worked so hard to knit together over the years completely unravel in front of her and oh god, there's absolutely nothing she can do to stop it.
"Are you going back to Heathrow or flying from Paris?"
Jeff tucks his passport into his jacket pocket, frowning at her question. "Paris."
Annie nods, although she's not sure why. "Well, I hope you have a safe journey."
"Me too. Obviously."
"And when you're on the plane, remember to get up and walk around every hour, you know, in case of DVT."
"Deep Vein Thrombosis, it's a -"
"I know what it is."
"Oh. Well. I've heard taking aspirin helps too."
"I'll keep that in mind," Jeff smirks, though a little reluctantly. He scans the room, head slanting softly once his eyes come full circle, and rubs a palm against the back of his neck. "Are you gonna be okay?"
"Sure!" she squeaks hurriedly. "Lots more sights to see. You know me."
Jeff squints at her, his lips pursed as he nods slowly, thoughtfully, and Annie wishes she really was a mind reader. She drops her gaze to the glare of the sheets too-white in the sunlight, willing her eyes not to fill with tears – not now, not yet, just a little longer – as she listens to him wheel his suitcase to the door, the squeak of the handle as it opens.
She blinks rapidly to dispel the stinging of her eyes. "Yes?"
As they watch each other the air settles with the silence that followed them all the way from the bookstore last night, and she hates it. Hates the way it crawls beneath her skin and stretches to all of her corners, making her limbs itch to fidget and punch the pillows or scream just so there's some kind of noise.
Jeff shrugs, one hand gesturing at nothing until it slaps feebly against his thigh. His smile doesn't reach the corners of his eyes the way she likes, the way she longs for now that it's missing, but the meaning is there and Annie wills every muscle in her body to return the gesture, even though it hurts.
It's not supposed to hurt.
The door shuts a minute later and the sound, followed by that silence so thick and lingering and suffocating, has Annie rolling to the side and thrusting her face into his pillow.