It's late, and Britta's drooping eyelids are rapidly winning a battle over her fading willpower to finish chapter nine of The Hunger Games. She places the upturned paperback by her leg on the bedspread and yawns. As the yawn turns into a stretch, Britta's knee nudges the book and it slides off the bed with a thud, snapping shut. Shit – she's lost her page. Now seems like a good time to call it a night.
Britta reaches across her double bed to switch off the lamp, before burrowing under the messily-made covers. Unlike her old apartment, which streamed with streetlight and sounds from the Mexican restaurant below, Troy, Abed and Annie's place is on the top floor of a quiet building in a subdued neighbourhood. The lack of noise, combined with the black walls of her ex-Dreamatorium bedroom, creates a silent, dark sleeping environment which Britta is still getting used to.
Just as she is dozing off, Britta's brain registers a knock. Ignoring it, she rolls over and buries her face in a pillow. There is a second, timid knock at her door. 'Britta?' whispers a high, girlish voice as the doorknob turns slowly. Britta groans, raising herself up on her elbows as the door swings open. 'Wassup, Annie?'
'I know it's late,' says Annie apologetically, her figure silhouetted against the doorframe so Britta can't see her face. 'But I was walking back from the bathroom a moment ago and I saw your light on...and...I just...' Annie's voice wavers as it trails off.
'Annie,' says Britta, more awake now as her voice softens with concern. 'What's wrong?'
'Can I ask you a favour?' Without waiting for a response, Annie continues. 'Can...Can I sleep in here with you tonight?'
'Um...sure, honey. C'mere'
Annie crosses the dark room and slides under the covers, deliberately positioning herself on the opposite edge of the bed to Britta. For a few minutes both women lie in silence, feeling slightly awkward at this unfamiliar sleeping arrangement. But Britta can tell by Annie's sniffly breathing that she's been crying, and any lingering annoyance about interrupted sleep gets replaced with pangs of concern. And lightly fluttering butterflies in her stomach from having Annie in her bed, which she immediately fights to suppress.
'Do you want to talk?' asks Britta gently, reaching over and resting a hand on Annie's arm.
The gesture is enough to break Annie's silence. 'I..I had a fight with my parents. Nothing out of the ordinary – just same old, same old. How I'm wasting my life at a community college...And I can't even mention rehab. My mom calls my Adderall addiction "that phase"...as in "Oh Annie, you could have gone to Yale if only you hadn't had that phase".'
Annie pauses and fidgets anxiously under the covers, brushing her toes against Britta's shin.
'It just really affected me this time. I feel like they're both so disappointed in me, and I don't know how to...how to make them love me for me.' Annie's voice cracks, and she bursts into tears.
'Oh sweetie...' Britta moves over and wraps her arms around the younger woman, drawing her to the centre of the bed. Annie buries her face in Britta's collarbone, and Britta smells peach-scented conditioner as long hair tickles her neck. She holds Annie against her own body and rubs soothing circles into her back while her lips mutter comforting words against Annie's forehead.
'Parents sometimes place expectations on their children that we can't, or won't, live up to. When we're little they have a picture in their heads about what sort of person we'll be when we grow up, and when we don't become that person...they might mourn the imaginary child they've lost. My mom didn't talk to me for a year when I left school to become a groupie...' Britta cringes involuntarily, remembering her wayward teens.
'Besides, when your real family sucks you've got your Greendale family to fall back on. And we think you're smart and funny and caring...and beautiful...and amazing.' Britta feels her cheeks flush warm with embarrassment, glad that Annie can't see her face in the darkness. Expressing feelings is something Britta doesn't really do, especially not in dark rooms with another girl clinging to her side. She's suddenly extremely self-conscious.
Britta doesn't quite know what happens next, but Annie goes still beside her. And then she's tilting her head up to meet Britta's, and her forehead is replaced by her mouth on Britta's lips. The kiss is soft and quick. Britta feels a warmth spread across her belly as Annie breaks the kiss and whispers "Thank you" against Britta's lips, before rolling onto her side. Britta's kind of shell-shocked for a few moments, but she mentally composes herself and reaches over to slide an arm around Annie's back, tucking her chin into Annie's shoulder. Annie sighs contentedly and relaxes against Britta, her breathing becoming steady and even as she drifts off to sleep. That night, Britta dreams of soft mouths and peaches.