Summary: Jeff and Annie have a private moment during the Greendale Valentine's Day Dance.
Disclaimer: I don't own Community. That's why I have to write about it on the internet.
Jeff tossed a glance over his shoulder as he left the Greendale Valentine's Day Dance and made his way towards the study room. It looked like no one had seen him leave. A clean getaway. Well, not a getaway exactly. Jeff wasn't leaving the dance. He knew if he did, Annie would just track him down at some point and look at him with her Disney eyes. She didn't even have to say anything to him anymore; the eyes alone were enough to make him feel incredibly guilty about whatever it was he had done. And she knew it. He supposed that should bother him, but truthfully, he was more bothered by the amount of effort he now expended to make sure that she had no reason to look at him with such disappointment.
It was the reason he was even at the dance. He hadn't planned on going, but said yes after offering only a token resistance when Annie asked him. He tried to tell himself that agreeing so quickly was just a way of saving time and aggravation; he knew she would have kept after him until he relented. But he couldn't shake the idea that there was another reason he showed up.
Still, not even the threat of Annie's disapproval was enough to keep him in the cafeteria right now. Not when his head felt like it was going to split open from the overwhelming volume of the music. Apparently hearing loss was the Dean's idea of romantic. Jeff briefly worried that this might be a sign that he was getting older (next thing you know I'll be shouting at kids to get off my damn lawn…of course, I'd have to actually have a lawn first), but quickly shoved that fear away when he could still hear the music thudding behind him even with the library doors closed. He headed towards the quiet of the study room. It wasn't until he was almost to the couch that he saw her.
"Oh, cr – uh, I mean, hey, there you are. I was looking for you." Annie smirked at him and slowly sat up, sliding over to allow Jeff room to sit.
"You used to be a much better liar."
"Yeah, well, it's entirely your fault. So what are you doing in here anyway? I figured you'd be out there enjoying our last Greendale Valentine's dance."
"I was, I just…needed a break for a little bit."
"Hey, you don't need to explain that to me. I get needing a break every once in a while."
"It just feels weird this year, you know?"
"Annie, this is the most normal Valentine's Dance Greendale has ever had. Troy and Pierce aren't dancing in pantsuits with Chang, I'm actually here instead of having a fight with all of you on how awful Barenaked Ladies are, Pierce isn't on a park bench overdosing on drugs, Britta's not making out with some random chick who thinks she's a lesbian, and Greendale is actually open. I mean, yeah, it's still a freak show out there, but this is Greendale, after all. Frankly, this is the best it's gonna get."
"I know…it's just…this is the last Valentine's Day dance, and…you know what? Never mind. It's stupid."
Jeff didn't say anything; just looked at her. She met his eyes for a moment and sighed.
"Fine. It's just…without the crazy going on…I'm kind of noticing how alone I always seem to be on Valentine's. Especially this year. Britta and Troy are together now, and Andre's here with Shirley, and Abed's seeing that girl he met at the Inspector Spacetime convention. And you…well, you may not have brought anyone with you, but I bet as soon as the dance is over you'll be at the bar picking up some girl to spend the night with."
"Actually, I'll be going home and drinking heavily. I tend to avoid one night stands on Valentine's Day. Women alone on Valentine's Day are usually that way for a reason." He smirked to show Annie he was teasing her; she laughed, but still playfully smacked him in the shoulder. Jeff's smirk grew to a full-on grin; he couldn't help but smile whenever he made Annie laugh.
"You're seriously going home alone after this is over though? I can't imagine you spending Valentine's alone; not when there are so many lonely desperate women out at the bars tonight."
"First of all, I haven't done the one night stand thing in a while now. And honestly, Annie, the only thing more depressing than spending Valentine's Day alone is having a one night stand on it, okay?" Annie scoffed.
"Oh, come on, Jeff, like you even care that it's Valentine's Day! Valentine's is all about romance, and we both know you're incapable of that."
"Hey, I'm capable of it."
"Please, I remember when you were dating Professor Slater and she had to practically drag you to the dance."
"Well, that was more Slater than the actual dance itself, but you're right. I guess I don't really see the point of it, okay?"
"Big surprise there. Let me guess; it's a fake holiday designed by florists, jewelers, candy makers, and greeting card companies to boost the economy and force upon women the idea that they need a man in their lives to be happy."
"I think you're confusing me with Britta."
"Sorry. I've been hearing that at least a dozen times a day for the last two weeks. It's kind of drilled into my mind at this point. Although she didn't seem too upset with the roses that Troy gave her earlier today." Jeff had to chuckle at that.
"Big surprise there."
Annie shifted her position on the couch, pulling her legs under her and turning to look more closely at Jeff, who lounged comfortably on the other side of the sofa.
"So what is it then? What is it about Valentine's Day that you don't like?"
Jeff shifted in his seat, clearly uncomfortable with the topic of conversation.
"It just seems like such a pointless holiday, because if you find someone that you're really in love with, someone who's really special to you, then you don't need a special holiday to celebrate that fact; you should be treating them like that every day that you're together. And if you don't feel that way, why bother pretending?"
Annie just stared at him in stunned silence for a moment.
"Jeff, that was…surprisingly romantic. Well, the first part anyway. The rest was just cynical bullcrap. But I didn't think you were capable of being even a cynical romantic."
Jeff shrugged. He really would rather be talking about almost anything else in the world right now, but Annie always seemed to be able to get him to open up about his feelings. And he would have been annoyed at her for it, but the worst part was that she did it without even trying.
"Maybe it's not romantic, but it's practical. Not everyone you date deserves your A game. Save that for when you find someone special, who really deserves it. If that makes me a cynical romantic, I'm fine with that."
"Alright then, what's the difference between a cynical romantic and a romantic?"
Jeff considered his answer. He wasn't sure how this conversation had ended up heading in this direction, but now that it had, he wanted to make sure that she understood his reasoning.
"Okay, you consider yourself a romantic, right?"
She nodded. "Absolutely."
"That means you believe in the idea of a soul mate, or true love – whatever you want to call it – you believe in the idea that somewhere out there is the one; that there is one person on this planet that you are meant to be with, that no one else can measure up to, right?" She nodded again. "Well, a cynical romantic believes in that too. But that's belief. The fact is that there are over six billion people on this planet, which means that there are three billion members of the opposite sex. Now say, half – hell, make it two-thirds – of them could be removed right off the bat for whatever reasons – too young, too old, whatever – that still leaves a billion different people out there, of which only one of them is your soul mate." Annie frowned, unsure where he was going with this.
"Now, different question. Do you believe in the idea of love at first sight? Or do you think that you can't fall in love with someone with knowing them, at least a little bit."
"Lust at first sight, maybe. Not love." Jeff nodded.
"Good, we're still in agreement. You need to get to know someone, at least for a little while, to see whether or not you're in love with them. But here's the thing – how many people does the average person get to know over the course of their life? Sure, you meet a bunch all at once in a new class at school, or at a new job once you've graduated, but other than that, how often does it happen? And even then…well, you've been here at Greendale nearly four years now. How many guys have you got to know, and I mean really got to know, since you came here?" Annie paused to consider it, then shrugged.
"And outside of Greendale?"
"See? Meeting new people is hard." Annie shook her head.
"But I've always been kind of shy and a loner until I met you guys. You're probably a better example of going out and meeting people."
"Not really. I was always about keeping things superficial. It was a lot easier to sleep with a woman if you weren't concerned with things like what she thought or, you know…her name."
"And even then, that's an extra one or two people a week. But say you go out of your way to constantly meet new people. You become the most friendly, outgoing person in the world. You devote your entire life to nothing but searching for the one. Now what's the absolute minimum amount of time to spend with someone where you would be comfortable eliminating them?"
"I don't know…twenty or thirty minutes, I guess."
"Okay, we'll split it and call it…two and a half people every hour. So if you spent all of your time doing nothing but meeting new people and getting to know them, minus eating and sleeping, that's…40 people a day. Times that by 365 days a year and you get…" Jeff pulled out his cell phone and opened a calculator app. "…14,600 people a year. Now do that for your entire life, say 70 years, and that means if you spent your entire life doing nothing but looking for your soul mate, you would meet…1,022,000 people."
"That's a lot of people."
"True, but remember, that's out of a billion people. Over 70 years, you've gone through…0.1022% of all the potential soul mates out there. That's justover one out of every thousand. That means you can spend your entire life doing nothing but looking for true love, and at best, it's a thousand-to-one shot of ever finding it."
Jeff lowered his eyes. He didn't want to look at Annie at that moment. He just realized he'd inadvertently wandered into something he'd always been afraid of. The one reason, more than anything else, that had prevented him from acting on his feelings for Annie over the past four years, ever since she had kissed him during the debate freshman year and shook him to the point that every kiss he received since then was immediately compared to it and found to be severely lacking, with the one exception being his other kiss with Annie at the end of the Tranny Dance. It wasn't the age difference; that was something that had bothered him initially but lessened when Annie turned 21. Instead, it was the nagging idea that one of the things that he loved most about Annie, her boundless optimism, her ability to always see the positive side even when things were absolutely at their worst, would be destroyed by the bitterness and cynicism that he was sometimes consumed with. He feared any relationship with her would end with him screwing everything up and making her just as messed up and cynical as he was, and he wasn't about to do that to her. She deserved better than that. And now, with his rant about the absolute futility of true love (on Valentine's Day no less), he worried that he may have done it anyway, and without the benefit of even getting to date her first.
"Thousand-to-one odds?" Her voice was oddly flat, and he finally glanced over at her. Her face was carefully blank, devoid of any emotion. Normally he could read Annie's emotional state in the tiniest twitch at the corner of her lips, or the pitch of her voice, or the shine in her eyes. Usually frustration, occasionally amusement, and once in a while that look – that look that made him feel like they were the only two people in the room, no matter what was going on at the time. Like he was goddamn Superman. That look that terrified him more than anything ever had in his entire life. Now there was nothing.
"Pretty much, yeah." He shrugged helplessly, trying to ignore his feelings of guilt, wondering if she'd ever look at him like that again.
"Well, that's reason enough to keep looking, right?" Annie said, a soft smile breaking across her face. Jeff practically sighed in relief. Of course Annie wouldn't let something stupid he said stop her. She was one the smartest, strongest women he'd ever known. She'd have to be. This was the woman who'd gone through rehab to battle an Adderall addiction before she even graduated high school. The woman who had been disowned by her parents and survived on her own in a neighborhood that he would have been terrified to live in. He should have known not to underestimate her, because whenever he did, she proved him wrong time and time again.
"Yeah, I guess it is." He said, unable to stop the grin that was trying to stretch across his face.
"See? I know you're not as cynical as you think." He didn't say anything to that. He merely stood up from the couch, offering his hand to Annie.
"Come on, let's get back to the dance before the group sends out a search and rescue team." She took his hand and he pulled her to her feet, ignoring (or pretending to) the fact that they were still holding hands while they walked to the study room door. The music, which had receded to a dull thud in the background through the closed doors, hit them both at full blast when he opened the door. He didn't think it was possible, but Annie's smile grew even wider.
"Oh, I love this song." Jeff knew he was going to feel foolish about what he did next, but he figured a little potential embarrassment might be worth it in the long run.
"Milord." He pulled her close to him, closer than he normally would have before tonight, and they gently swayed back and forth to the music, their arms wrapped around each other. The song ended, and a new one began, but they continued as though they hadn't noticed. Jeff heard Annie give a small sigh of contentment as her cheek was pressed against his chest. He leaned down to whisper in her ear.
"So after the party is over…would you like to go to dinner?" She looked up at him, that look on her face, and he couldn't remember why he had ever found it so scary.
"I'd love to."
Author's Note: Hopefully this didn't come across too OOC - the idea/theory of someone being a cynical romantic is something I dug out of an old writing notebook that was either late high school/early college, so it wasn't initially written for Jeff and Annie. Also, I apologize for any errors I may have missed - this went through fewer drafts than the rest of my writing to ensure that it would be posted for Valentine's Day.