Annie curled up in her bed, hiccupping on her tears. She had been spending more time in this position over the past four weeks than she'd really care to admit, but she had no idea how much deeper she could hurt. She squeezed her pillow tighter and tried to take in a shaky breath. She had thought that Jeff was just setting up some terrible joke, but as the week since his announcement had passed, she became convinced that he really was dating that tiny little pixie with the unimpressive rack but big brown eyes that always looked at him like he was some sort of god. She was obnoxious, immature, and Annie couldn't be more jealous of her if she had a free ride to Yale and a puppy to boot.
No, she doesn't need a puppy. She has a pookie bear.
Annie shivered at the disgusting pet name that girl (she couldn't bear to even think her ridiculous name) had chosen for Jeff. Her Jeff. She groaned as a fresh batch of tears pushed past her eyelids. Why did she still feel like this? She had known it would hurt her to not be with him, and she had known that it would be awful when he was eventually with someone else. She didn't know how brutal it would be, though, when that someone else appeared less than a month after she had shut him down. She certainly didn't think that he'd actually get into an apparently committed relationship with someone even younger than Annie and seem so damn…content. Not happy, like he had said she made him, but just generally congenial.
There was a knock at the door, and Annie waited for the person to go away. She could hear muffled voices, but knew if she ignored them long enough they would leave her to wallow in peace.
"Annie? If you're in there, would you please let us in? The guy is 2F is making some weird hand motions that I don't even want to think about what they mean."
Annie sat up, debating what to do. She really didn't want company, and Hans had never shown any sign that he was actually dangerous, but she still wasn't convinced he was altogether safe either. She grabbed a tissue and cleaned most of the moisture off her face as she opened the door.
"Oh thank god! Whoa Annie….I mean…Hey! Annie! Hi!"
Troy recovered himself when Abed nudged him. The pair stood in her doorway, holding a stack of movies and a half-gallon of ice cream.
"Hey guys. What are you – "
"We came here to cheer you up. We had brownies, but Troy ate them on the way here."
"They were so tasty," he said, trying to defend himself.
"I really appreciate it guys, but I'm not in the mood for a movie night."
"Exactly. That's why we came over."
"Yeah, Annie, you've been acting really weird lately. All mopey and sad and un-Annie like. And you haven't been to a movie night in like, forever. I thought it was because you were under alien mind control, but you didn't start eating weird foods or taking your notes in a different languages or anything. So Abed just figured you were sad and so we should cheer you up. We've got all the Kickpuncher movies, and Firefly, and The Princess Bride, and Predator vs. Alien, all your favorites!"
"Uh, that's not one of my – " she started to object, but Troy had already made a beeline for her DVD player.
"Don't worry, Annie, I didn't tell him the real reason you were sad."
"I…I don't know what you're talking about Abed. I've just been feeling…under the weather."
"You don't have to lie, Annie. I know you're upset that Jeff started dating that girl after you told him you two were never going to happen."
Annie looked at him in shock, ignoring Troy's excited squeal about special features and director's cuts.
"How did…did Jeff tell you?"
"He didn't have to, Annie. It was really obvious. Luckily for you, the fact that Jeff has a girlfriend named Latrina is a big enough distraction that no one else has noticed."
Annie breathed a sigh of relief. She knew she wasn't doing a very good job of hiding her feelings, but she didn't really have the energy to keep up with her studies and put on a happy face.
"C'mon guys! It's starting!"
Troy was bouncing on the couch, waving them over, and Annie relented to the small part of her that had really been missing her movie nights with Troy and Abed. After a few hours, she actually started laughing at the movies and felt more animated than she had in weeks. Despite the fact that they had classes in the morning, they tried to make it through as many DVDs as possible, but half way through the second disc of Firefly Troy fell asleep. Annie debated whether she should give in and fall unconscious as well, when Abed gave her an odd look.
"What? Is there something on my face?"
"No, there isn't. Annie, why did you turn Jeff down?"
"What! I didn't…I mean…I only sort of," Annie flustered, trying to find the right excuse. Abed merely looked at her quizzically, his head slightly cocked until she let out an exasperated sigh.
"You know Jeff. He was only asking me out to do what he viewed as the 'noble thing', not because he really felt he should or could have a relationship with me. He's Jeff. He can't handle relationships."
"I think what you mean to say is he can't handle relationships with women at Greendale. Hence the Tranny Dance disaster. But he seems to be handling his relationship with Latrina well. They're a cute couple."
"Ew Abed! Gross! They're not cute at all. She's too…pookie bear…for him."
"Oh. You think he should be with someone more like Britta. Tough, cynical, with a hard exterior to conceal her insecurities."
"No! They would kill each other in five minutes if they actually tried to date. No, Jeff needs someone in between. Someone who will keep him from being too cynical, but will also snap his ego into shape when needed. Someone that can adore him, but also challenge him."
"So someone like you?"
"Yes. I mean, no! Not me. It can't be me."
"Abed please! It's been obvious for years that Jeff has been attracted to me, and I had to push him way past the limit for him to make a move on that. He's not going to ever be brave enough to actually be my boyfriend and commit to becoming an…an..'us'. He's just going to forever be cool guy Jeff Winger that never has to work and saves girls in his phone by their sexist description."
"But he does have a girlfriend. He did commit. So looks like you were wrong."
"Oh please! They've been dating for like what? A week? That doesn't even count."
"It's been almost a month. But because you expect him to fail you twist reality to match your theory. Instead of asking yourself why you blamed him for the reasons you couldn't be together, instead of blaming your own fears and insecurities."
"Oh that's so not…true."
Annie let Abed's words sink in and felt her stomach twist. She really had believed all the things she had said to Jeff, but now she was beginning to wonder if her issues had been the biggest problem all along. She couldn't believe that Jeff really could change for her, or that she really might be special enough for him to want to deal with criticism so that he could date her. She also didn't think she could keep him interested enough, or be mature enough to make a relationship between them work.
"Okay, well, let's just say, for the sake of argument, that you aren't totally wrong. What can I do now? He's dating Toile…Latrina."
"You have to break them up. You have to tell Jeff your true feelings and that you were wrong and the two of you belong together. You should probably wait till Wednesday though. It's supposed to rain then. Those scenes always happen in the rain."
"But, what if he doesn't want to be with me anymore? What if he really loves this…Latrina?"
"Then you'll become the tragic hero. Or supervillian. Either way, you'll be cooler."
Annie considered his advice as Troy twitched and muttered something about pony rides.
"Well, I guess I can't that much more miserable. Thanks Abed. I'm going to talk to Jeff tomorrow and, if nothing else, I can at least say I tried," Annie decided, feeling a little lighter than she had in weeks.
"Cool. Cool cool cool."
They sat for a few moments in silence, Annie reveling in her new feeling of something like hope.
"No! I don't wanna lick it! I don't like pony pudding pie!"
Annie looked to Abed, who merely cocked his head at the thrashing Troy.
"He normally doesn't have to lick it. But it's best to wake him up, just in case."
Annie took Abed's cue and, with his help, managed to wake up Troy and get him out the door, one of her pillows cuddled in his arms. Annie was exhausted enough that she didn't bother cleaning up, but went straight to bed, and for the first time in a month Annie slept restfully.
The next day seemed to offer her no opportunities to speak with Jeff privately. The following day was no better (it also didn't rain like Abed said it would), and by the time Thursday rolled around Annie was beginning to doubt she would ever get the chance to talk to him. Luckily, the study group was meeting and Jeff was too engrossed in whatever he was texting to notice when the rest of the group had filed out, leaving them by themselves. Annie nearly sighed she was so relieved to finally have the opportunity, but then realized she had no idea what she was going to say.
"Hey Annie! Guess what Latrina told me today? It's a really funny joke. There was this – "
"Jeff I want you."
Annie felt herself growing red at the way she had blurted out the first thought that came to mind.
"I mean…I want to have a relationship with you."
"I know, I know, I said all of those awful things. But I've realized that while I totally thought all that stuff was true, it was just an excuse. I was scared that if we did start dating, I wouldn't know what to do and you'd realize that the age difference really was too much. And then I was scared that I would be the one freaking out if someone called you my dad. And even though I don't even speak to my parents, I didn't want to hear from their friends that they were saying I was just going through some rebellious phase and would grow out of it and come to my senses, but wouldn't I be surprised that there wasn't some big inheritance waiting for me then. But really, most of all, I was just scared because I knew that if I let myself really fall for you, I wasn't sure if I was ever going to recover, and after that night I knew it was a lost cause so I had to push you away before I did something that made you break my heart. Which was really stupid, because when I pushed you away I broke my heart anyway, because I lo…st, lost my nerve."
Annie forced herself to stop talking, for fear of what else she would say. She was fine with making this confession, but she was only willing to sake so big a risk. She looked Jeff in the eyes as much as she could, but quickly found her eyes were focused on his thumb, drumming on the table.
"God, Annie really? You want to confess all this now? It's a bit late you know? I mean, I have a girlfriend."
"Jeff I've seen you dump girls because you think they might smell better than you do! Are you really going to pretend that this girl is any more precious to you?"
"Yes, Annie. Because otherwise I just prove to you that I can't handle a real relationship. If I just dump her because something better came along, then I'm no better than you accused me of being!"
"But Jeff! You just admitted I am better!"
They were both standing now, his hands on his hips and Annie's arms crossed over her chest.
"You are! But I can't just dump Latrina because I have feelings for you. That would be wrong."
"No it wouldn't! It would only be wrong if you acted on those feelings. As long as you break up with her before you do that, then it's okay."
"Oh, is that so Annie?"
"Yes! It is! Because harboring feelings for someone while you're dating someone else is way worse than breaking up with some bimbo to date someone you really care about."
"Yes!" Annie said, stomping her foot. She didn't know why she had to explain all these rules to him, especially since he had never before been inclined to follow dating etiquette.
He picked up his phone and immediately started typing. Suddenly, Annie realized what he was doing and felt a kick of guilt.
"No! Jeff! Not a text!"
Without thinking she snatched the phone out of his hands.
"Hey! Annie – "
"You can't just send her a break up text Jeff! That's awful!"
"And dumping her for you isn't?"
Annie wasn't really sure how to respond. She looked down at the phone, thinking about how directly she was ruining the other girl's relationship and what a huge bitch she would call herself if she wasn't in the situation, when she noticed the text he had sent a girl saved in the phone as just "Trina".
Jeff: Mission accomplished. I owe you one.
"Annie, don't – "
"'Mission accomplished'?" She asked, growing more suspicious when she caught the guilty look in Jeff's eyes.
"Annie, I can explain."
"This oughta be good."
"Look, Annie, I may or may not have made up my relationship with Trina."
It took a moment for the words to sink in, but when they did Annie nearly exploded.
"You did what?"
"I wanted to prove you wrong. To show you that I could be in a relationship, and deal with the ridicule and judgment for dating someone so much younger than me."
"So you faked a relationship? Oh yeah, Jeff, a fake girlfriend totally proves you can handle being in a real relationship."
"Okay, maybe it doesn't, but I didn't get scared by the judgment did I? And that was real…no one else knew that I wasn't really dating her. Well, except Abed."
"That doesn't matter! You didn't have to be scared of being judged because you knew that you weren't really dating her and didn't have any emotions invested…wait. Did you say Abed knew?"
"Well, yeah I didn't have any emotions invested, but that didn't make it any easier to…what? Oh, yeah. Abed. He figured out the plan when I introduced her to you guys. He actually punched me in the parking lot."
"Seriously? That's how you got that black eye?"
"Yeah. You should know my sex doesn't get that kinky."
He gave her one of those intimate, warm looks that momentarily distracted her. She briefly wondered just how kinky he was willing to go, when she shook her head and refocused on the subject.
"Wait, so if Abed knew it was all a set up, why did he come to my apartment with Troy and tell me that I needed to tell you to break up with her?"
As soon as the question was out of her mouth she realized the answer. Abed was her friend. He was also Jeff's friend, and he was going along with Jeff's plan to make Annie change her mind about things. She couldn't believe he had deceived her, but she also couldn't really believe that he had given Jeff a shiner. Clearly, he was invested in making sure they worked out whatever was going on between them.
"Annie, look at me."
She looked up, realizing she had been staring intently at a spot on the table for a while. Suddenly Jeff moved closer and cupped her face, before leaning down and giving her a soft kiss that made her heart soar. The sweetness of the kiss couldn't last, for their arms wrapped around each other and the kiss deepened into something that communicated the pent up need they had both experienced over the past month. Finally Jeff pulled away, resting his forehead against hers and Annie found she was having a hard time making her lungs take in enough oxygen to keep her vision from blurring.
"God I've missed that. I've missed you," he whispered, making her squirm with want.
"I've missed you too. I haven't slept very well."
"Neither have I. Look, Annie, I get that this whole convoluted plan might not have been the best idea. But the fact that I was willing to go along with one of Abed's schemes even though I knew how stupid it probably was should just show you how desperate I am. You're the one who is supposed to let me know when I'm being a jerk, and so when you aren't speaking to me I do really dumb things to try to get you to talk to me again."
"And to sleep with you again."
"Okay, yes, and to sleep with me again. But Annie, you have to know by now that I do not go to this much effort just to get laid. I only do stupid, hurtful and elaborate things to try to prove a point in the most pigheaded way possible."
"Jeff...are you trying to apologize?" She couldn't help but smile as he babbled, then brushed his hand through her hair and kissed the top of her head.
"Yes, yes I am. I'm sorry, Annie."
She gave him a hard look, searching his eyes for any sign that he was being anything less than 100% sincere. Finally, she smiled and gave a slight nod.
"So…does that mean you've forgiven me?"
"And does that mean that you're willing to deal with the inevitable awkwardness of becoming a couple?"
"Jeff, you know we're probably making a huge mistake," she argued, even though the hopeful look he was giving her made her insides feel squishy.
"You might be right. But could we really be any worse off than we are right now? Miserably trying to not to need one another? And really Annie, don't we owe it to Abed to do the appropriate thing and ride off into the sunset, rolling the credits before anyone has time to figure out there are flaws in the perfect, epic romance that has been created?"
"I think that might be going a bit far," she said, Jeff's face falling until she smiled. "But I think I just may want to try it out anyway."
"Well then, milady, would you care to join me in my chariot and spend the night in my castle? And possibly every night until we all live happily ever after?"
"Do you promise to drive over the speed limit the entire way to your apartment?"
"Absolutely," he said with a hungry smile that made her toes curl and the area between her thighs tingle.
"Good. Because otherwise you're going to be coming in my mouth before we ever make it to your apartment."
Jeff looked shocked for a moment, then a darker mirth quirked his lips.
"Annie, try not to get us killed the first day we're dating, okay?"
She just nodded at him, a thrill that had nothing to do with desire running through her as she grabbed her bag, took his hand and followed him to his car, finally content to trust herself with him completely.
Jeff burst into the study room, ready to go to war. He was confused, however, when he saw Annie sitting on a stool next to Troy and Abed. Slowly, realization dawned on him.
"Oh n – "
"Troy and Abed in the morning!" they sang in unison, looking at some invisible point on the opposite wall.
"I'm sorry! I didn't know what else to do!"
"Today, we are joined by two special guests. Troy would you care to do the introductions?"
"Why thank you Abed! Today we have – "
"No you do not have! Dammit you two, how many times do we have to go over this? There are no cameras! There is no audience! There is no 'Troy and Abed in the morning'! And Annie! Why the hell did you text me that you needed help in the study room, life or death?"
"I…they ambushed me! They wanted to interview me about…things."
After all the time they'd been together, she still had the decency to blush.
"Ugh! This is ridiculous. Annie, come on. You guys are not fake interviewing us for your fake TV show."
Troy and Abed quietly watched as Annie snatched her book bag and went trotting after Jeff, hesitating at the door.
"Huh. Well, that's unfortunate."
"Yeah, apologies folks at home. Looks like our special guests had other engagements to attend to."
"That's all right, Troy. We've segued together footage of the couple that was specially filmed by members of our crew. Let's cut to that."
"Wait what?" Annie and Jeff asked in unison as Troy pulled down a projection screen and Abed hit a button on his remote control. Suddenly a montage of moments between Jeff and Annie appeared on the screen, and the couple slid back into the room to watch.
"Wait, Jeff, isn't that your living room?"
"Yeah, when did they….oh…no!"
By the time they realized what was on the film it was too late to stop the video. Jeff reacted quickly, moving to tear down the screen, but Troy stepped in front while Abed paused.
"Dude, what is your problem? You can't just freak out on the equipment!"
"And you can't have that video! How did you even get that?"
"What? You two were just hanging out in the apartment? What's wrong with that?"
"Troy…look down at your chest," Jeff said quietly. Troy did, not understanding the image projected on him for a moment.
"What? I don't see what….OH MY GOD ANNIE'S BOOBS!"
"Troy and Abed in the morning!"
A/N: Well guys, there you have it! Hopefully, if you enjoyed it, you'll drop me a review or PM, but feel free to just send me mental warm fuzzies to indicate you like it! Also PLEASE feel free to critique to your little heart's content because I do loves me some constructive criticism! It may bolster me to post some other fics I have lingering in my documents folder...