It's Just Textbook Stuff
Summary: Jeff notices Annie acting strangely and takes a cavalier approach until he learns that she was attacked walking home.
Disclaimer: own nadda :)
Authors Notes: I pictured this happening towards the end of season four but with Annie still living in a rough neighbourhood.
Jeff thumbed the keys on his Blackberry pretending to be absorbed as the group rose up from their beloved study table.
He was taking his time deliberately, only half paying attention as their voices drifted out of the room behind him. A newly acquired 'lowest score' flashed on the screen plummeting his average and he became largely irked as an animation of a crying smiley face followed suit.
Frustration pulsed through his fingers as he clunkily jabbed the keys but the feeling waned, his ego recovering as Annie remained seated. As suspected she was in no rush to leave with the rest of the group and he kept his gaze firmly rooted as his peripheral vision caught her belated movement.
Something was up with her.
He'd figured it out about two seconds into their study session when he and the group had burst in to find her already seated. Although that in itself wasn't strange. She hadn't become a straight A student by reflecting tardiness and slacking off, she worked hard... sometimes too hard but again that was all normal.
What wasn't normal -a reaction he'd observed purely by accident- was how she'd flinched whilst dragging her chair in to let Shirley passed.
Ok, so maybe it wasn't a coincidence that he'd spotted the oddity.
Checking her out had become a sort of morning ritual which he justified by making it his one vice for the day. No catching himself in her alluring Disney eyes, no lingering touches, no getting lost in 'the Annie of it all'... just one harmless survey of her body that was usually acknowledged with a shy smile or faint blush.
Today she had been completely oblivious to their new way of saying 'hello' and from that moment on he'd known something was up.
Using his Blackberry as a guise he'd kept one eye on her as the group mucked about, growing concerned at her reserved participation. It wasn't surprising that she didn't vacate with the others and it was even less surprising when she remained seated for nearly a full three minutes after their departure.
No doubt she was hoping he'd leave first.
She gathered her books together and he sat stubbornly, resisting the urge to look up when she finally moved. He wanted to gauge her reaction but remained steadfast, fruitlessly trying to stack the right coloured shapes on top of one another until she went to step around him.
With a casual throw of his arm he knocked the folder out of her hands trying not to smirk at her protesting squeak.
"Jeff! What did you do that for!?"
He opted out of the game and sat the phone squarely down on the table as he glanced up, "cause I want to see you bend over in that skirt." As predicted she flustered and he raised an amused eyebrow, directing his attention to the pile of notes sprawled over the ground, "and I'm sure milady won't disappoint."
Despite her discomfort a flurry of butterflies caused a small smile to dance across her lips. Whenever he flirted with her she felt giddy, like her knees were going to give way and had she not been in an extraordinary amount of pain she might have even dared to oblige.
However in her current state all the request did was instil fear in her.
As soon as she tried to collect her things he would know... but then again leaving her hard work in tatters in the floor would also create suspicion. She had no other choice and clenched her jaw tightly as she modestly bent from the knees.
She tried to ignore his watchful gaze as her fingers closed around the mess but a stab of pain forced her to abandon the task. Forgetting everything she sprung up breathing heavily as she gripped the table for support. When the dizziness subsided, Jeff's penetrating gaze came into to focus and she hung her head in shame letting out a sigh, "...crap."
"Is what you say when you've been busted-" he filled in, pushing up from his chair, "but unless you hurt yourself dancing alone in the dark I'm not going to make fun of you... well, not as much anyway."
She flinched at the assumption not because it was right but because it couldn't be further from the truth. She wished the altercation had stemmed for pure clumsiness. Laughing she could handle. It was his potential anger that scared her and she knew revealing the cause of her injury would likely lead to that reaction. "If I tell you, you have to promise not to get mad."
She pressed her lips together in a pout, fixing him with her best 'I'm sorry' doe eyes and he immediately tensed. Her Disney face unequivocally meant he wasn't going to like whatever came next. Nothing good had ever come from her pleading gaze and he silently cursed himself for falling for it.
Just like in the past this was no exception and he reluctantly softened his stance, brushing his fingertips over her shoulder. "Annie you can tell me what happened, I promise I'm not going to get mad."
She drew in a deep breath accepting the deceleration as gospel as the memories from the previous night washed over her. "I was kinda sorta mugged yesterday... on my way home. I pretty much kicked his ass but well, he had the element of surprise and... I'm ok, really... he didn't take anything which is good cause I had all my notes for the quiz on Thursday and-"
"You were what?" It took him a few moments to decipher the babbling and he stared at her, jerking his hand back through his hair, "Annie how many times have I told you to get the hell out of that apartment?"
She flustered at his outburst digging her fingers into her hips stubbornly, "I'm fine, I proved I can take care of myself."
"That's not the point!" He immediately rebutted the claim, his mind annoyingly latching onto the ridiculous notion of alternate timelines
No matter how stupid it was he couldn't help but play out the other variables and the most terrifying thing -aside from buying into Abed's craziness- was that very few endings reflected her walking away unscathed. "Jesus Annie... what if he'd had a gun or a knife? Or he'd broken your arm and you couldn't fight back? What if-"
"You promised you wouldn't get mad!" She stomped her foot, sucking in a sharp breath as the action sent another wave of pain hurtling through her side. She knew he still perceived her to be the baby of the group but in the very least she'd defended herself and that should have been worth something. "I'm not a kid any more, remember?"
Of course he remembered.
He was reminded of that fact every day but just because she was maturing into a fully functioning adult didn't mean she was impervious to the dangers lurking out in the world. Wanting to keep her safe and out of harms way wasn't a crime and more importantly it wasn't indicative of her age.
"Look-" he stepped forward trying a different approach, "you don't need to prove anything to me. I know how strong you are and how capable... but you're important to me. I don't want to see anything bad happen to you ever and that has nothing to do with age, trust me."
She felt her heart skip a beat at the admission and held onto his gaze. The concern she could read wasn't condescending like an overprotective father, in fact it ran so deep it might have even surpassed friendship but she was hesitant to consider the possibility. Even though the chemistry between them was palpable she had already put her heart on the line too many times. If he wanted something to develop between them he would have to be the one to initiate it.
He stared at her, his mouth going dry as they both absorbed the weight of his confession. He'd done it again. Wandered into this dangerous territory where she was able to wield complete control by innocently batting her eyelids.
He wasn't usually such a pushover.
The amount of women he'd kicked to the curb after a one night stand proved how honed and detached his desires were but for some reason his brain short circuited around Annie. She was more than a conquest. She came with moral obligations and his svelte charm repeatedly crumpled against her sweet and unguarded nature. It made him flappable and acting on the attraction between them could send him spiralling into a freefall.
He swallowed roughly forcing himself to take a step back. Maybe she was mature enough to handle another kiss but now definitely wasn't the right time. She had been attacked and what, he was going to start pawing all over her? She was hurt for god sakes!
"Did you call the police?" He asked, deliberately changing the subject.
She nodded feeling a wave of disappointment as he backed off but she refused to let it show. "They were very nice. One of them had just got back from leave, he was visiting his sister in Ohio who just had a baby girl. They named her Amber which is nice, I think that's nice."
The irrelevant information made him want to do a facepalm but he resisted the urge. "What about the guy, did they catch him?"
She titled her head drawing her lips together in another pout. Her area wasn't exactly renowned for neighbourhood watch and even if they did catch the assailant there were plenty more around to take his place but she wasn't overly worried. Sure she had been a little shaken last night but she had handled herself and in all honesty she was surprised she hadn't encountered a similar situation sooner. "No... but they did say they'd call if they found anything."
"Your tax dollars hard at work-" he muttered letting out a sigh. She didn't seem too scarred from the encounter -at least not mentally- but physically was another matter and the notion crawled sickly under his skin. "Did you at least go to the hospital and get checked out?"
She winced, the reaction betraying her answer. She had thought about it but that would have meant getting home even later and she didn't want to push her luck twice in one night.
"Annie..." he drew out her name, trying to contain his frustration. If she couldn't manage simple tasks like standing or bending it was obvious she had done some sort of damage and he thrust his finger pointedly towards the couch, "go lie down, I'm going to take a look at you."
"Oooh, doctor Jeff." She teased but his expression left no room for argument and she huffed, following his instruction as he dropped to collect her notes from the floor. By the time she got semi-comfortable he had already drawn the blinds and shut both doors.
"Where does it hurt?" He knelt beside her, watching her hands move across the lower part of her ribs.
He could do this, he could unbutton her shirt and still remain completely objective...
She sucked in a sharp breath as his fingers brushed over her stomach but the response had nothing to do with pain. Had she been hooked up to a heart monitor she was sure it would have sky rocketed and she prayed he couldn't see her pulse beating rapidly at the side of her neck.
He popped the first three buttons with relative ease but had to bite back a groan as he reached the last two straining over her chest. He didn't know if it was a good or a bad thing when the opening revealed a deep mottled bruise covering her ribs. On one hand it drew his attention away from the pink push up bra and immediately sobered his inappropriate thoughts but it also stirred a well of anger. He wanted to personally castrate the guy who'd hurt her and if the police had done their job properly he would have made sure he was the one prosecuting in court. Credentials or not he still had more than a few friends who owed him a favour.
Skimming his fingers around the discolouration he pressed down gently trying to feel for any obvious displacement.
Ok, so he wasn't a doctor... but he had taken a mandatory first aid course and the instructor -in his phone as 911 hottie- had given him an in-depth lesson of how the body should feel when uninjured. "Have you had any trouble breathing?"
They way his hands moved over her skin compacted the air in her lungs and she swallowed dryly wondering if now counted. "A little..."
He didn't miss the blush that spread over her cheeks and smirked realising the effect he was having on her. Even though he really should have known better he couldn't help himself. "Does it get better or worse when I do this-"
A high pitched squeal caught in her throat as he bent over pressing his lips below the bruised area. Again it had nothing to do with pain and she gasped, tying to form words but failing miserably.
It was meant to be a joke but as soon as he tasted her skin his cockiness evaporated into thin air.
The contact left him wanting more, so much more... and he ignored the alarm bells screaming at him to stop as he wistfully dragged his fingers down to her exposed thigh. She responded with a soft moan as he massaged the muscle, parting her legs in silent invitation and he stared captivated by the rapid rise and fall of her chest. She was like putty in his hands, ready and willing to follow his lead, all he had to do was...
He sprung from the ground, heart hammering furiously as he tried to come to terms with what they'd... what he'd nearly been about to do. If she hadn't wanted to engage it wasn't like she could just get up and walk away. She could barely move without flinching, what if it was easier for her to just lie there and take it?
The hurt look flashing in her eyes told him she wanted it just as much as he did, but that didn't make it any more right.
"You should go see the school nurse, I should... I should just go-" he stammered, averting his eyes as he moved away but he only made it a few steps before she called him back.
If he wanted to run there was nothing she could do about it. She wasn't exactly in peek condition to be chasing after him but he hesitated, slowly turning towards her. She'd managed to get her shirt buttoned up which was something but he still didn't feel in control as she eased herself up and stepped towards him.
"Jeff, your freaking out-" she made the observation, ignoring the twinge in her side as she came to a stop in front of him. "Have you thought about why you're freaking out."
"Annie we can't... in a few years maybe but not now-" he finished, swallowing the lump in his throat. He expected her to get angry, lash out at the continuous age barrier he kept throwing between them but instead she just smiled which was unnerving and honestly, a little bit creepy.
"Maybe you're freaking out because you're treating this all wrong..." she accused, squaring her hands over her hips, "you know I'm not just going to sleep with you when it's convenient and that scares you."
She was right, except it didn't just scare him it terrified him. "Annie, I don't do relationships... I'm sorry but I'm not that guy."
"Really?" She tilted her head regarding him with a critical eye. Maybe four years ago he hadn't been 'that guy' but now she wasn't so sure. "When was the last time you went out looking to hook up with somebody just for fun? Someone who didn't just fall into your lap?"
He winced at the bad pun trying to hide from the truth buried beneath it.
So he hadn't been hitting the clubbing scene as much lately, he was prepping to be a lawyer -again- which took commitment... and so what if the last few women he'd slept with just happened to be here on campus, it was convenient. He didn't need to go out every weekend just to feel some sort of self-gratification or any other kind of-
When the hell had he adopted that attitude!?
"Kiss me..." she breathed gently, taking a step towards him, "but not because you want to get into my pants... kiss me like you care about me."
It was a ridiculous notion because to him the two were one and the same but as he cupped her cheek his confidence wavered. The electricity from earlier had fizzled -no doubt due the mention of commitment- but he still wanted to taste her, to crush her lips beneath his and prove her wrong.
The second he captured her mouth he instantly accepted defeat. The heated desire was still there, laden under the surface but it wouldn't rear up against his thoughts of her and how much he really did care. In fact for the first time ever he actually wanted to move slowly, he wanted to savour every second and-
Damn it to hell.
He pulled back grimacing at her knowing smile. He didn't know why she was so happy, this only proved that they were both totally screwed... and again he winced at the pun. "You realise that I could probably win an award for being the worlds worst boyfriend."
Her smile grew tenfold as she tried to conceal a small squeal of excitement. If not for the dull thud reminding her of last nights events she'd almost swear she was dreaming. "Does that mean you want to be my boyfriend?"
The associations that came with the term made him somewhat uneasy but the general gist was a yes, or in the very least a 'heading in that direction' kind of deal. "It means we should take things slowly, very slowly. Kind of idle with a few bunny hops until we're out of the drive."
"So you want me to be your car?" she titled her head with a playful smile. It didn't matter what he wanted to call it so long as he was finally ready to acknowledge the connection developing between them.
"How about for now you just be milday?" He extended his arm watching the approval flicker in her gaze as she accepted the gesture. Once he got her to the school nurse and she was feeling better then they could hash out the who's, why's and where's of how they were going to approach this.
Maybe even sooner if she agreed to his next request.
"So..." he asked, leading them to the door, "you're not actually going back to your apartment right?"
She rolled her eyes at him. "I do still live there you know."
He flicked open the lock, taking a deep breath.
"Yeah, about that..."