Once Annie took in that there was still one scene left in Jeff's play, she asked its director, "All right, what's this finale, Abed? You covered all the rotten stuff in sophomore year, but I he wasn't that bad last year."
"You're right, we had nothing to use there," Shirley emerged to say. "We couldn't write anything for him after Model UN, and we couldn't film him helping you move. So we're skipping to last Friday and getting it over with."
"And you really wrote all this with Abed?" Annie asked, figuring she might get some answers from Shirley now, at least.
"I just helped Jeffrey see how he should have let you down easier. Abed made it a script, so blame him for taking the Jesus quotes out, okay? I thought they'd help sell Jeff's guilt, but I'm not Abed, so what do I know about scripts? That's half of 'scripture' right there, but whatever!" Shirley ranted before taking her seat in the study room.
Soon Troy and Pierce arrived as well, leaving Abed to put them right where they were on Friday. As Annie stood in her position from Friday, she tried again to take this all in. She asked for Jeff to show remorse for the past and address it, and he pretty much had. He included most everything she wanted to hear, then and now….everything except….
"And action!" Abed broke her train of thought, but barely. Even as Jeff came up to her, Annie already guessed what he'd do. And she didn't really want to see it.
"Cut!" Annie said in Abed's place very early. "Jeff, if this is going to be like those other speeches, please don't bother!"
Annie took a step back, realizing she started a little harsh. She backpedaled by adding, "Jeff, you put a lot of effort into this, and I love that. And I love the stuff you did say today. But you never could have said that back then, and it barely sounds like you anyway! Besides, the one thing you never said is 'I'm sorry.' And that's the one thing I really wanted from you."
"I knew we forgot to put in something!" Abed blurted out. "I suppose I can't master every genre the first time out."
"Abed, Jeff collaborated with you on these 'scripts,' right?" Annie wondered, to which Abed nodded. "Then he didn't think of writing 'I'm sorry' either," she assured before turning back to Jeff.
"Fair enough. Everyone keep quiet on the set," Abed warned the others, while some intimidating glares from Shirley – and less intimidating ones from Britta – kept the group quiet.
Jeff stayed quiet too as Annie continued. "All I ever wanted were simple apologies. Just to know you understood how much you hurt me. You made it look like you didn't know or care back then, and that made everything far worse!"
"How could I know when you never told me?" Jeff was misguided enough to ask out loud.
"Okay, then I'll tell you now," Annie shot right back. "You helped make sophomore year the second worst year of my life. But how could I tell you that back then, when you would have said it was all in my head?"
"I never would have….not like that!" Jeff tried to argue, but he sounded weak enough to know there was some truth there.
Annie sighed and backtracked again when she heard that tone. "I know I'm better in some ways because of that year, I know that! And I know you are too! It was good for me in the long run, but it sucked so bad in the moment! I've let go of most of it, but I can't go all the way! Not while part of me's still afraid you'll let it get that bad again!"
Annie continued to soft pedal, "I know you care more now, and I'd like to think you wouldn't run away like you used to. But I can't assume anything on blind faith anymore! That's why it hurt so much before! It's one of the biggest lessons I learned from all this."
"And I thought you were the ideal teacher of the group," Jeff tried to quip, though he knew it wouldn't buy much time.
"Jeff, I know you'll hurt me again at some point. Hell, I'll probably hurt you too!" Annie practically chuckled. "I just don't want it to be that rough again. I'm afraid it will, if we can't fix things better than we used to. I don't need a big spectacle that's a few years too late! I just need a nice, simple 'I'm sorry' to know you care. And to know you'll stick around so we can make it right together.''
She then paused, closed her eyes and admitted, "So I guess I should set the example, then. Because….I am sorry too."
"You are? That sounds weird somehow," Jeff pointed out. "I did most of the damage, you know."
"But not all. I did my fair share by being an oblivious, naïve child," Annie remembered. "And I don't remember acting that bad before I kissed you! Chang whistle blowing aside."
"Well, it might have sped up the Chang dynasty by a year or two, but go on," Jeff brought himself to joke.
"In any case, now I want to be someone who doesn't freak out or avoid reality, or drive people away. I wasn't ready to be that person before, but maybe I am now!" Annie noted, but struggled to continue her train of thought.
Jeff could fill in for her, though, finishing, "But you don't know if I am."
"I want to, Jeff. I should know by now, but…." Annie sighed. "I want to apologize for my mistakes as soon as I can from now on. I want to talk through our problems, like the adult I want so badly to be. I want to stick around and try to understand what you want, fight like hell to give it to you, and not be afraid to get your help if I can't! And I don't want a script to be the only way I show my real feelings! I've followed scripts too much in my life already!"
Annie caught her breath and steeled herself to finish, "If nothing else, I want us to at least keep our friendship strong in those rough times. I don't want to barely stay real friends, like back then."
"You….don't think we were real friends then?" Jeff asked quietly.
"Not like we were before we kissed. And I missed having that kind of friendship so much….you know I never had it before," Annie nearly teared up. "Losing that hurt worse than you not loving me. It took us too long to get it back, and I don't want to go through that again," she left hanging.
"I don't want that either. That's the reason I did this. That's what all those speeches were about!" Jeff came to realize. "They pretty much had the same message yours did!"
With that, Annie now saw the funny side in all this. If Jeff was telling the truth, then they really were on the same page and wanted the same things – and they still went through all this nonsense to figure that out. It was depressing, but at the same time it was also funny by now – which was better than sad and heart breaking like before.
So Annie laughed at all the irony, turning around so Jeff wouldn't think she was laughing at him. And so she wouldn't cry just by looking at him. But a few little sobs did come in between the laughter, although no tears were shed, which was progress.
She thought she heard Abed say, "Wait for it," in the background, but her head was spinning too much to be sure.
And then came the words, "I'm so sorry, Annie" behind her in a near whisper.
If Jeff had used those words in the past, the so would have been quite sarcastic. But it was far from that as possible this time.
This was enough to make Annie turn around at least, while the others – besides Abed – gasped like a studio audience. But Annie didn't acknowledge them, and still couldn't even look Jeff in the eye yet. However, Jeff did put a hand on her shoulder and ask, "I'll get back to the simple stuff later. But can you put up with a few more speeches first? For context?"
"I guess," Annie answered, wishing she wasn't smiling as much.
"Hey now, that's not in Abed's blasphemous script," she heard Shirley comment.
"No more scripts, Shirley. Just tell Abed to keep rolling in his head," Jeff responded.
"Way ahead of you, Jeff. And improv!" Abed added.
Jeff finally took the spotlight back and started, "Annie, you're right. I tried not to think about how I hurt you. If I thought about it, I'd have moved away out of guilt, or dated you before I was ready and hurt you anyway. But when Shirley made me go over how I hurt you, and did nothing about it, I felt even worse."
Annie tried not to look that sad for Jeff's sadness, since he had every right to feel guilty. But he wasn't trying to run from it this time. "You deserve so much more than a regular apology for that. But you're right. I didn't try to find out what you really wanted first. Which is pretty fitting, right?"
"There's a bit of irony somewhere," Annie gave Jeff that much.
Jeff then got to the bigger issue, "Am I sorry I hurt you all those times?" But he answered with, "Well, there's that. But there's also how I never tried to make it better. I just wanted it to go away and ignored that you couldn't do the same. Because of that, you were too hurt and scared for us to even stay friends. At least the friends we were."
"Well, that might have been too hard for crazy lovestruck me, anyway," Annie conceded.
"That's why I still believe we shouldn't have been together then," Jeff admitted. "But I didn't even keep you as my best – well, one of – my best friends in the meantime. And my life is so much easier when you are."
Annie exhaled with a mixture of emotions, but wasn't ready to give a straight reaction yet. So Jeff continued with, "Letting that fall apart for over a year….it was one of the biggest mistakes of my life. So of course I'm sorrier than I've ever been. Hell, if I didn't do it, we could have been ready for a real relationship last year!"
Annie couldn't do the math before Jeff confessed, "I wanted to show you what I should have done after I hurt you. And to show you it's what I want to do now. I can't promise I'll never let you down again, but I can promise I won't go anywhere anymore when I do! It's just what you wanted…but without the speeches."
Now Jeff laughed at the irony and added, "We really were on the same page. I just didn't include two little words, that's all."
Annie searched for serious words to say, but was too overwhelmed to think of any. So she bought time by semi-joking, "One of your biggest mistakes, huh? So it's just behind forging a law degree?"
"Well, that turned out kind of well. But I'm still hoping the bigger mistakes do too. Praying, even," Jeff admitted.
"Yes! See, even Jeff's acting is better than your writing, Abed! What do that and Jesus tell you?" Shirley gloated, although Jeff and Annie blocked her out.
"So now what?" Annie inquired.
"Well, that was the first half of my apology. Treating you better for the rest of….our time together is the second," Jeff revealed. "But I need your help. Shirley and Abed were great helpers this weekend, but they can't help like you can. I need that to stay better, before I wind up making you a sitcom wife."
"A what?" Annie asked before she understood. "Oh God, Abed, you told him your sitcom couple rants?"
"They're not rants when they're based in truth. And hours of clichéd evidence set to laugh tracks. Still improving," Abed reminded.
Jeff shook it off and continued, "He does have a point. I make progress and go back to being a dick almost every week. That's okay for the most part, but not with you anymore. I don't want you to keep forgiving me for crap I'll do again next week. And I can't stop doing it unless you help me….unless I let you help me. But I'll owe you real, faster apologies either way."
Jeff got started by saying, "I'm sorry," and then kissing Annie's right cheek. Then he said "I'm sorry" again and kissed her left. He then said it again before kisses to her forehead, nose, and neck.
By then, Annie realized these five kisses were his shorter, simpler apologies for his five major mistakes with her. For the one he made last Friday, he again embellished, "I am so sorry," and briefly kissed her lips.
After letting Annie take it all in, Jeff added, "Keep in mind, saying and doing this sappy stuff is murdering my cool guy soul. And I did the sappiest stuff without a script. And I'm doing it in front of people….so if any of that gets me brownie points, let me know."
This really wasn't the time to joke, even about true stuff. But with the truth Jeff gave her, it was refreshing to hear him sound more like himself – so she had to laugh. Yet she held her hand up to signal she wasn't laughing at Jeff. So by the time she was done, Jeff looked lighter and more relieved as well.
"Okay, when you put it that way," Annie paused, making Jeff visibly twitch while waiting for more. Yet she showed mercy and said, "Apologies accepted. All of them. Knowing you're truly sorry is enough for me. And now we've moved on."
Annie gave Jeff her own peck on the lips, then smiled until he finally smiled back – with the most relieved smile she'd ever seen on anyone.
"And cue clapping!" Abed announced, leading to the study group clapping on cue like in an inspirational movie finale. Troy even chanted "Rudy! Rudy! Rudy!" for a while, even after everyone stopped applauding. "Oops, wrong Abed script, sorry!" he corrected.
Jeff brushed that aside and stayed focused on Annie, daring to ask, "So, does dinner sound good again?"
Annie left him hanging again, then answered, "You know, we've got a busy week ahead, so we can't set a date for a while. But we can warm up with some one-on-one practice time together until then." Then she put on a smile and added, "First and foremost, I'd like some juicy behind-the-scenes stories from the weekend, please."
"Ooh, that's good, expose Abed's devilish editing so it can't go to Heaven with me!" Shirley demanded.
"Thanks for the reminder, Shirley. We've got a few minutes before class, so I might fit that in. Next time or the time after that, definitely," Jeff promised. He quickly went back to Annie and asked, "Well? Will you go to this….kind of pre-date with me?" After a pause, he added, "This is one of those 'killing me on the inside' things I get brownie points for, by the way."
"I think it could be the best date I've ever had," Annie reacted, trying to brush over the sad implications. Yet despite the sad handful of real dates she'd had, and the failed dreams of romance in the past, walking a more open Jeff Winger to class wouldn't merely be good by comparison.
And if it led to a real, proper best date ever – or a few – maybe it'd be worth being a sitcom wife once in a while along the way. Only once in a while.
"Abed, you can fade to black now," Jeff interrupted Annie's train of thought before leading her out of the study room.
As they left, they heard Pierce say, "Are we done being props now? I still get scale for this, even if you didn't give me lines!"
"Done. Shirley, you and Jesus can take us home," Abed's voice rang out.
"Ah, saving Jesus for the tag line. Better than nothing," Shirley was heard, as Jeff and Annie exited from view. But before they disappeared, Shirley announced, "In His name, cut and print! Is that how you -"