Jeff was just starting to feel proud that he had avoided Valentine's Day drama, Greendale VD-Day drama – short for Valentine's Dance Day, as the Dean unfortunately explained it – and drama of any kind today. At least that was a better record than yesterday.
And then of course, Annie stopped him from running the rest of the clock out at the study room in mid-afternoon.
"Jeff?" she asked quietly. "I need to ask you something. But if the answer is no, promise not to get mad or make me feel too embarrassed. Okay?"
Jeff was understandably confused, so he tried to deflect it with a joke. "Well, no embarrassment might be a tall order. But not being mad? I can probably give that a shot." Since he was too puzzled to be mad – and too hopeful this would end quickly – at least he was telling the truth there.
"Okay. Um….did you scare every guy in Greendale from asking me to the Valentine's dance?"Annie asked.
Okay, maybe the mad part was the tall order here. "Come again?" Jeff still managed to ask evenly.
"Did you get jealous and make sure no one asked me to the dance?" Annie repeated, with fewer nerves than before.
Jeff answered with more annoyance to balance it out. "Annie, you believing I've ever been jealous is one thing. Especially since it made you ignore Rich's genocidal dark side. But it's quite another to think I'd threaten every single man in Greendale. Especially when you know my hands are too perfect to get blood and bruises on them!" Jeff noted.
"Are you sure? I won't be mad if you're lying, Jeff," Annie stayed calm. "I'm just trying to figure out why no one's asked me at all. Sure, I'm still going with you guys, but a date would have been nice too! At least before Troy and Abed turn the dance into…..no, they told me not to spoil it!" She paused and added, "Okay, you might want to borrow a helmet, but that's all I know, I swear!"
"Well, that's what I get for going, I guess," Jeff resigned. "That's enough of a chore for me. And that makes me perfect to risk my face and hands, threaten hundreds of men, work to keep you from dating and spend more time in Greendale! When I'm four months from glorious freedom!"
Instead of heating up the argument, Annie deflated and answered, "Yeah, you've got me there. Well, I knew it was a long shot, so I'm sorry I asked," she apologized.
"Then why even ask it, pray tell?" Jeff asked, using a careful amount of sarcasm.
"It was my last theory for why no one asked me to the dance!" she admitted. "It made me sad and I took a crazy shot in the dark, okay?"
"Annie, having a big ego for things other than grades doesn't suit you," Jeff warned. "Just because no one asked you to a dance, it doesn't prove I'm running some anti Annie-dating conspiracy. I didn't learn that much about conspiracies from Professor Professorson," he tried to quip.
"But it could have proved why no one's asked me out for two years!" Annie revealed. At the least, it stunned Jeff into silence.
"Wait a minute. No one?" Jeff let escape. "I thought you hid your dates from us so we wouldn't drive them banana pants! At least the three you've been with since you came here," he risked referring to that….memorable detail from Annie's funeral rant.
"Those all happened years ago! Rich was the last guy I even came close to going out with!" Annie admitted. Before Jeff made another Rich joke, she added, "Even when I've asked guys out, they've turned me down!"
"Who turned you down, Annie?" Jeff couldn't stop from asking – for at least a few reasons he didn't want to think about.
"It doesn't matter, the point is they did. The point is no guy in Greendale wants to ask me to a date, or a dance, or anything! Now the only reason left for it is me. Because I'm just not dating material," Annie concluded.
"Annie, there's no need to go that far," Jeff said, relieved this was all he said.
"Why not? No one asked me out in high school, and guys I liked wanted nothing to do with me. They were too worried about their image to be seen with me. Or they weren't attracted to me. Or usually both. Maybe nothing's changed," Annie pouted a bit.
"Annie, just to be clear, you aren't trying to Disney me right? Even after you thought I was an Annie-crazy psycho, you still aren't trying to guilt me, right?" Jeff double checked.
"I didn't think it, I just wanted to rule it out!" Annie clarified. "And I'm not Disney-ing you, by the way."
"Okay, then why the hell else are you talking like that?" Jeff pressed on. "You know none of that crap's true!"
"How do I know, Jeff? No matter how much I've changed or grown, inside and out, guys don't notice any of it!" Annie shouted, but soon got a little calmer and sat down before continuing.
"I'm not being guy crazy again, Jeff. At least I'm trying not to be. School and having real friends and liking myself are still more important, I remember that!" she assured. "But it still sucks that no one wants to date me, even now. I don't know…. having someone think I'm interesting and attractive enough to spend that kind of time with….it's validating. Especially for someone who needs validation like I do."
Jeff barely stopped himself from saying how she didn't need it – for a number of reasons – before Annie continued. "But even that hasn't happened for me, then or now. Not even for looking like this, or being in the infamous study group! If it's not because of you, then I guess the problem is still me. Maybe it'll always be me."
Jeff stayed quiet and still, although inside, his logical side made a last stand to get him out of there. Yet despite the promise of a peaceful day and avoiding drama – among other things – that logical side took yet another beating. All it took, as usual, was Annie undervaluing herself for no logical reason.
As a result, Jeff stood up and offered his hand as his logic slipped into a coma. "Let's go for a walk," he started out. Annie looked confused, but got up and followed Jeff anyway. She followed him to the halls where more students were walking around.
"Stop when I find someone you wanted to dance with," Jeff stunned Annie by asking.
"What? Jeff, I said I'm not making you help me!" Annie repeated.
"Well, now we're going to find the real problem anyway. After you show me someone you wanted to go out with," Jeff insisted. Annie sighed and looked conflicted and suspicious, yet she soon looked around as Jeff wanted.
"Oh, there's someone," she pointed to a young man at his locked. "Danny Hartman, he's in my Advanced English class. I might have gone to the dance with him, if he'd asked me. He's single, so he could have, but he didn't."
"And you didn't ask him first?" Jeff checked.
"I didn't ask anyone. I wanted to see if someone would ask me first. Or at least noticed me enough to try and ask me. But as I've told you over and over…." Annie stopped before repeating herself again. That was enough for Jeff, as he went over to Danny' locker right as he closed it.
"Why don't you want to go out with Annie Edison?" Jeff started off the bat.
"What the hell?" Danny replied, which wasn't the right answer.
"Let's try again. Why are you dumb enough not to ask out Annie Edison?" Jeff kept on.
"I did not tell him to ask you that! Just so we're clear!" Annie got in.
"Did her bossiness break the deal?" Jeff ignored her. "I admit, they could for the uninitiated. But you've had classes with her for a month! That's long enough for that stuff not to matter! Not to those who aren't ignorant jackasses! Is that why you don't want to date her?"
"Why in the hell are you asking me that?" Danny shot back.
"Because she's too decent to do it herself!" Jeff countered. "Okay, so she's a pain in the ass sometimes. But her decency, brains, friendship, compassion, heart and hotness is worth a pain in five asses. So basically, Annie's the biggest catch in this entire school! The fact you and every other man doesn't see it just proves why Greendale is a toilet," he said, as his usual filters just weren't working.
"So before I go back to dreaming about my triumphant flush out of here, tell me this. How are all of you too oblivious, stupid and plain old scared to date her? One jackass I get, but all of you? Why aren't any of you smart enough to date this awesome woman?!" he demanded.
"Because you're dating her!" Danny exclaimed.
"Oh, like that's remotely good enough! Just like you could never be good enough for someone like – WHAT?!" Jeff finally registered.
"That's why I don't understand! You're going out with her, everyone knows that! So why are you asking me to date her?" Danny asked Jeff, then asked Annie, "Did you guys break up?"
"We never, what?!" Annie echoed Jeff. "Who gave you that idea?" she asked before gasping and frowning at Jeff. "Did you? Is that how you made them back off?! If it was you?"
"No! And I didn't pay him to deny it either, just so you know now!" Jeff tied up, then went back to Danny. "Okay, now that I tied up one plot hole, why don't you tie up the 'everyone around here knows we're dating' one? You really mean that everyone's lying, or doesn't know anything!"
"No, I don't!" Danny groaned, then sighed and went on. "Look, we all know you two and your long looks, stolen glances, and your 'will they, might they' drama. But it's clear you're dating by now. We assumed you didn't come out because you're hiding it from your friends. Or some other contrived excuse."
"That's why you and everyone else didn't ask me out?" Annie checked. "It's not because no one was interested in me?"
"Now you're talking nonsense too? God, you two do belong together!" Danny exclaimed. "Look, you're smart and you're really hot and you're pretty cool too. When you're not answering every single question in class," he joked. "But everyone knows you're off limits because you're Winger's girl."
"Everyone?" Jeff finally joined back in. "We're not dating, but everyone thinks we are?"
"Of course. Come on, I see how you two talk to each other before class. And if I see it, your friends probably do too. So don't worry, I won't give your secret away to them, okay?" Danny smiled. After a pause, he asked, "So I can go now, right?" and Jeff and Annie's silence gave him the cue to leave.
The two stayed quiet for several moments, until Annie broke it with, "Okay. So you knew people thought we were dating, and you didn't correct them so they wouldn't ask me out. That's the last way this could be your fault."
"That's not it, because I didn't know until yesterday!" Jeff blurted out, then groaned and laid his forehead against the locker.
"You knew at any time? How did that happen, Jeff?" Annie zeroed in. But Jeff didn't move his head or his mouth in response. When he finally took his head off the locker before his skin got damaged, he still didn't move his mouth. He just fidgeted from Annie's formidable stare, then looked around.
"Please let her walk by, please let her…." Jeff stopped when he saw a redhead around his age walk by. "Yes! Real life is an Abed movie after all!" he cheered before running to the woman.
"Jeff, there's gonna be enough movie parodies tonight! Um, at least I just think there will be," Annie covered up. But by then, they'd both caught up to Jeff's redheaded acquaintance, who didn't look happy to see them.
"Cathy, I asked you out to the dance yesterday, right?" Jeff started.
"Yeah, and I called you a jerk for asking me. You know this already! Or did I slap you too hard?" Cathy commented.
"My skin tone survived, by the way, thank you for caring. Now why did you try to ruin it in the first place?" Jeff questioned.
"Because you asked me out even though you had a girlfriend," Cathy cleared up before she saw Annie, then frowned deeper. "And now you're admitting it to her! Well, at least now she knows what a jackass she's dating."
"I know he's a jackass at times, but we're not dating!" Annie cleared up.
"Not anymore? Good for you!' Cathy cheered. "Let him seduce some other girl with those long looks and stolen glances!"
"Does this school have any thesauruses at all?"Jeff sighed in frustration. "But first, tell Annie what you said when I asked about me and her dating!"
"What, that every girl knew you were Edison's guy? Or that they'd have to seduce you into cheating on her? Well, I guess it's not cheating now, is it?" Cathy believed.
"And it doesn't matter that there's no evidence I've dated Annie?" Jeff asked to clarify.
"Come on, we all see how you talk to her! We figured you were badly hiding it from your friends! Is that why you wanted to get some strange?" Cathy accused. "Well, good luck with that! And don't worry, Annie, I'm sure Troy would dump that awful blonde and get with you in a second!" she assured before storming off.
Jeff and Annie were left in silence, as Annie struggled with this new info. "So every single person here thinks we're…." she left hanging.
"I thought it was just the women after yesterday. That was hard enough without hearing it from the guys," Jeff added. "I guess our friends are the only ones who know the truth. But I guess they've done nothing to expose it, haven't they?"
When Annie said nothing, Jeff stayed quiet as well, hoping one of them would leave and pat each other on the head by now. But unlike all those other times, no one was budging or saying kiddo or anything.
Finally, Annie switched topics by saying, "For what it's worth, I'm really sorry I thought you scared away men, Jeff."
"For not saying that in front of Pierce, I accept your apology," Jeff tried to brighten the mood. It did earn a little giggle from Annie, though.
"Really, Jeff, I'm sorry. I didn't believe it, but I never should have thought it. Maybe it was too much work for you, maybe you trust me to make my own choices now, I don't know. But I do know you're not the kind of guy you were when you went crazy over Rich. I just got too depressed to remember for a second. So I'm sorry I underestimated you," Annie repeated.
With that, Annie found an opening and stated, "Well, at least now I feel better about not having a date. So I'll head home, get dressed, pack a spare helmet and see you there."
Jeff had spent 24 hours running Cathy's comments through his brain, and spent the last 10 minutes replaying Danny's. Combined with his 3 ½ years of Annie archives – and just now realizing all the things he said to Danny about her – it made him blurt out the first thing in his head. "How about I pick you up?"
"How about you huh?" Annie stopped in her tracks.
Jeff cursed himself for not getting his Annie filters up again. But those things were pretty much in tatters even before today, or yesterday for that matter. And now that one very big obstacle was no longer in his way, maybe he could keep them down for a little while. It's not like he hadn't been building up to it anyway.
So he elaborated by asking, "How about you do all that stuff at home, then I pick you up and take you to the dance? And stay by your side for a little while? Like until I have to drive you home, or something?"
"Jeff, are you asking me out?" Annie wondered. "Wait, if you're doing this because of my sad speech…."
"No, not just that!" Jeff realized. "Everyone seems to think we're a good idea. Everyone but me. But it's not like that's why I didn't…." he refrained from finishing.
But he still made himself continue, "Anyway, maybe they're on to something. And maybe I feel like spending real time with an interesting, attractive woman who deserves to be validated. So, with that in mind….Annie, will you share the rest of VD with me? At least the dance part?"
Jeff hoped his joke wasn't too gross for Annie, although the Dean used the VD term wrongly first. He could have gone without joking and asked her sincerely, but he wasn't that evolved yet – or stable enough to not need jokes as a crutch. Yet since he finally gave Annie what she wanted, maybe it didn't matter as much.
But after she smiled her usual adoring smile, it faded away for some reason. "Wait a minute. Now you're asking me because everyone approves of us? Because no one's calling you a dirty old pervert after all?" Annie questioned.
"Well, it's a nice thing to avoid," Jeff reminded her.
"I didn't care either way! But you did," Annie reminded back. "If you really wanted me, you wouldn't have waited until you knew strangers wouldn't mock you, or make you think you were creepy!" She sadly added, "Otherwise you wouldn't have asked someone else yesterday instead of me. Or made me your second choice when I became 'acceptable' after all."
"Huh? Wait, so you wanting other people to ask you doesn't count?" Jeff scrambled to respond.
"You wouldn't have asked until you were safe from cradle robbing jokes. So why shouldn't I have kept my options open?" Annie inquired. Jeff looked for another argument before he could concede her point.
"But you wanted someone to ask you out, I'm doing it now!" Jeff settled on.
"I wanted someone to notice me and want to go out with me. But I didn't say I would automatically say yes," Annie illuminated.
Jeff saw Annie fidget a bit, as she had for much of her answer. It was clear although she was resolute in rejecting him, she was struggling not to just give in and say yes. Yet she was overcoming it, standing on her principles – and Jeff sadly knew she was more than right to do it.
He couldn't argue with that, or stop himself from being kind of proud of her. At least before the drinking and self-pity began later tonight.
Yet after a few more seconds, Annie added, "Still, you did ask me, even after I wrongfully accused you. And you are new at caring more about happiness than how you look…..so am I, technically. Plus that speech you gave to Danny really helped too."
After seeing Jeff look a bit more hopeful, Annie finished, "Maybe we're not ready – at least not tonight. But if you're not too cool to save me a dance, like on our first Halloween…..it might be a good first step."
"Well, I can't step on your toes on metaphorical first steps," Jeff somehow thought up, as his anxiety got manageable again. Annie smiled again, so that helped as well.
Jeff then forced himself to be sincere and added, "All right. It's a non-date. I'm looking forward to finally not dating you." But that was still a bit too jokey, so Jeff took a breath and told her, "I really am. So thank you."
"You too," Annie shared. "So I'll see you on the dance floor. Troy and Abed willing," she warned before shyly heading off.
So Jeff would actually have to dance in public, on Valentine's, to start proving himself to Annie. Well, since everyone thought she was Winger's girl, he did have a reputation to uphold. Even if it was an inaccurate one.
But hopefully not for that much longer.