Word Count: 6745
Disclaimer: Not mine.
Description: Jeff gets a new roommate
Author’s Note: 0penhearts is the best beta-slash-person ever. Period. Your argument is invalid.
It’s a warm summer late afternoon and the sun hangs low in the sky over the line of trees surrounding the park as Abed shouts rapid-fire directions at his small and exhausted film crew who scurry about trying to get in the last shot of the day. He adjusts his baseball cap and sits back in his director’s chair, scrutinizing the scene before nodding confidently.
Nearby, Annie, Jeff and Britta lounge across a picnic table watching the proceedings with amusement. Annie sits cross-legged on the table, her half-eaten burger and fries arranged on a flattened take-out bag while Britta sprawls out next to her, feet resting on the bench next to where Jeff is sitting facing Annie. Earlier that day the trio had set out on a mini road trip to Uncle Rusty’s for hamburgers (or in Britta’s case, a garden burger), bringing back enough for Abed’s entire cast and crew, all of whom had accepted the offering of cold fast food gratefully. Abed had only sighed and reluctantly called for a ten minute break.
“Chad, there has to be something we can do. If we just talk to your father, maybe he’ll understand.”
“I’m sorry Victoria. What’s done is done. I’m leaving. This is goodbye.”
“Victoria” lets out a loud sob, grabbing onto the collar of “Chad’s” shirt just as Abed calls, “Cut!” in an exasperated voice and heads toward them with a script in his hand.
Britta’s lips twist together, “I thought this was supposed to be a comedy.” She keeps her voice low.
“It was…” Annie says slowly. “But Abed did say he wanted to add some emotional depth to his film.”
Jeff shakes his head, not looking up from the game on his phone. “Yeesh. Abed should to stick to what he knows.”
“Jeff!” both women scold him in unison and he looks up and glances between them with a frown.
“He understands emotion, Jeff. He just expresses it differently than we do. Like through his movie.” Annie follows this up with a french fry thrown at his head that he somehow manages to catch. He grins at her as he pops it in his mouth.
“So what’s with The Notebook: Greendale Edition over here then?”
“That’s easy,” Britta pipes up, throwing her hand up in the air. “Troy.”
“See.” Annie raises an eyebrow at Jeff, but he just tilts his head to the side and furrows his brow at her in amusement.
“Abed misses Troy more than he realizes and since he doesn’t know how to react to those feelings he’s projecting them onto his movie.” Britta flourishes her hand out in the direction of the film crew.
Annie nods furiously. “We should do something.”
“Or. You guys could drop it and not make a big deal about it.”
“We’re worried about him, Jeff.” Annie looks likes she’s gearing up for some serious eye fluttering and Jeff narrows his eyes at her and shakes his head slowly.
“It’s okay, Jeff. We don’t expect you to understand emotional depth either.” Britta’s voice drips with condescension as she reaches out and pats his arm.
“Maybe I’m just annoyed, Sigmund Freud.” There’s a pause and then his face lights up. He pumps his fist in victory as Annie laughs loudly and Britta rolls her eyes up toward the sky.
“How long have you been waiting to use that one?”
“Since you declared a major.”
Jeff and Britta continue sniping at each other, Annie glancing back and forth between them like she’s watching a tennis match until her phone buzzes with a text. She wipes her hands and reaches for it from the depths of her purse, laughing quietly as she reads the new message and types a quick reply.
“Oooohh, is that Bar Guy?” Britta sing-songs.
“No, it’s someone from work. One of our co-workers--”
“Bar Guy?” Jeff interrupts.
Annie slides her gaze over to him. “It’s nothing. Just this guy I met when I was out last week.”
Jeff frowns and Annie watches him carefully, trying to gage his expression as her fingers clench around the phone at the sudden memory of lying in bed in the middle of the night and flirting with him through the relative safety of text message and a closed bedroom door.
“Well he sounds fun, Annie. You should go for it.”
“She’s not you, Britta,” Jeff intones darkly and Britta arches an eyebrow, throwing her shoulders back like she’s winding up for a fight.
“Don’t, you guys. Really. It’s not worth even talking about. That’s why I didn’t bring it up.” Annie directs this last part to Jeff and he meets her eyes again. A faint smile flickers at his lips and Annie feels it low in her stomach.
“GUYS.” They look up at the sound of Garrett’s high-pitched, frantic voice to see him huffing and puffing his way toward them, arms already flailing around with emphasis. “Guys, you are being VERY distracting and Abed needs TOTAL silence.” His entire body seems to heave with each word. “So please. Just LEAVE,” he finishes with a shriek and turns away red-faced and muttering.
Annie, Britta and Jeff all wear similar looks of wide-eyed amusement but from across the stretch of lawn they can see Abed watching them with a deadpan stare that’s more than a little unnerving so they gather up their trash and back away towards Jeff’s car, giggling like reprimanded school children.
The moment they all shut their doors Jeff sniffs at the air and scowls. “My car smells like a fast food restaurant now. It’s going to take me weeks to air it out.”
Britta scoffs. “Oh chill out. It’s just a car. I think the smell gives it personality.”
“Says the woman whose car regularly smells like the inside of a shoe.”
Annie hums and nods in agreement, then turns to shrug at Britta apologetically.
“That’s my ‘new car’ scented air freshener. Because it’s all about mind over matter.” Britta touches a finger to her temple and then to the tabletop. “See, unlike you, Jeff, and your elite middle class materialism, I don’t need a new car to feel fancy. I can trick my old factory into thinking I’m in a new car.”
“Have you ever been in a new car, Britta?
“Yes?” Britta pauses and then sinks back into her seat with her arms folded over her chest. “Shut up. I hate you both.”
It’s dusky by the time they drop Britta off at her apartment, the first stars starting to twinkle up in the night sky. Jeff slides his sunglasses off and tucks them safely into the sun visor, glancing at Annie from the corner of his eye as he pulls back out onto the street towards home. She’s leaning her head against the passenger side window, eyes closed and humming along softly to the classic rock station that they’ve been listening to all day.
Jeff rolls his window down a crack, letting in a rush of cool air that feels refreshing after an entire day of driving down the highway with the warm summer sun beating in against his skin. He taps his thumb against the steering wheel to the beat of the music and leans back into his seat with a silent yawn. The light ahead of him turns yellow and he slows to a smooth stop, flicking on his blinker to make the left turn.
Next to him Annie sighs and shifts, her eyes fluttering open to peer at him with a slow smile. Jeff smiles back, reaching out to nudge her thigh with the back of his hand. Annie makes a soft giggling noise in her throat and her eyes close again but her mouth remains turned up at the corners as she curls back against the door.
Jeff almost misses it when the light turns green.
A few minutes later he’s turning into the apartment complex parking lot where his eyes are almost immediately drawn to a brand new BMW parked diagonally across two parking spots in the visitors section. He gazes at the sleek silver design appreciatively, and then realizes that he recognizes the plates.
“Hmm?” Annie startles awake and sits up, rubbing at her eyes. “What’s wrong?”
“What?” She looks around frantically as Jeff pulls into his spot and kills the engine. “Ew. Why?”
Jeff doesn’t answer, just glances down into his side mirror, watching as Alan gets out of his car and strides towards them.
“You could just drive away,” Annie offers.
“Or run him over.”
She considers this and gives him a short nod. “We can argue that it was an act of self-defense. I’ll be your witness.”
“No judge who ever met him would convict.”
Annie’s still laughing as they reluctantly exit the car and Alan comes up on the driver’s side with his arms spread wide.
“Winger! I was just about to give up on you.”
“Too bad.” Jeff mutters with a raise of his eyebrows.
Alan’s eyes drift towards Annie as she skirts around the edge of the car, lingering on her face and then dropping below her chin. A slow smile pulls at his lips at the sight of all the skin her tank-top reveals and Annie’s suddenly wishing she had splurged for that souvenir Uncle Rusty’s tee she had been contemplating earlier.
“Heeeeeeeey. I remember you.” His eyes don’t leave her chest.
“Um,” she answers shortly, walking a wide circle around him. “I’m going to wait over…” Annie waves her hand vaguely toward the entrance off the building and hurries away before finishing her sentence.
Jeff watches her leave and turns to Alan with feigned interest. ‘What’s up?”
Alan’s eyes get big as he nods towards Annie and makes an obscene humping motion with his hips. “Niiiiiiiice. And young. I like it. She must be so--”
“Did you need something?” Jeff interjects with a quick glance over his shoulder.
But Alan isn’t so easily thrown off course. “Man, are you shacking up with her?”
When Jeff doesn’t immediately deny it Alan lets out a loud barking laugh. “Woah-ho! It’s like I barely know you anymore.” He leans in and starts mock punching Jeff in the stomach. “Cause I thought you were saving yourself for me.” Fists still clenched, he shakes them up by his face, his voice going tight and high-pitched. “Ahh! I’m so jealous.”
Jeff only widens his eyes a little as he presses his lips together in a tight smile. Alan regains his composure and steps back, smoothing down his tie, “Seriously though. I thought you were going to the party tonight.” He looks Jeff up and down, eyeing the faded tee-shirt, jeans and white Vans.
“See, this is what happens. When we tie ourselves down to one woman. If you’re not careful your life will become weekly trips to tampon fairs and listening to Celine Dion while you cry yourself to sleep every night faster than you can say, ‘The View SUCKS.’”
Jeff grins crookedly at his. “You understand so much about women.”
From a few feet away Annie can just barely make out snippets of their conversation but the part that she can hear makes her grimace and shudder. She tries her best to tune it out until Jeff starts toward her, thankfully alone as Alan heads back to his car.
“Sorry about that. He’s…”
“That’s one word for it.” Jeff opens the door and gestures for her to go through first. “I forgot about this party at work tonight. I have to go.”
“You got big plans for the night?” Jeff asks from behind her a moment later.
“No. Pajamas and a movie probably. You’ll really be missing out.”
He mumbles something that she can’t hear but as she’s about to look over her shoulder to question him she feels her phone vibrate again from her purse. She waits until she reaches their floor and pushes open the door to the hallway before checking it, digging through her bag as she holds her body against the door so Jeff can walk past.
It’s a text from Shirley confirming plans to go shopping the next day and Annie’s fingers move quickly over the keypad in response, not paying attention as she walks slowly towards the apartment. When she looks up she’s startled to see Jeff watching her, his hand on the doorknob, key poised in front of the lock.
“Wha--” She starts before he interrupts her.
“You should come.”
“Do you want to come? To the party tonight?” Jeff looks away and finishes unlocking the door, shrugging like it’s no big deal.
“Why?” Annie follows him into the apartment where he flips on the light in the living room and heads into the kitchen, which he leaves dark as he rummages around.
“It’ll be fun. And it’ll save you from yet another boring night sitting at home watching one of your dumb girly movies.” He grabs two bottles of water from the fridge, sliding one across to her.
“My movies aren’t dumb. Or girly. They’re romantic.”
“Oh, like you’re one to talk. I’ve seen your DVD collection. I know you own a copy of Serendipity.”
“That is a bold faced lie.” Jeff takes a sip of water, eyes narrowed in thought. “And if you tell anyone, we won’t be friends anymore.”
Annie smiles then, pressing her palms against the counter and leaning forward.
“You didn’t really answer my question.”
“Look, Kate Beckinsale is hot. You can’t fault me for--”
“That’s not what I’m talking about.” She cocks her head to the side as she studies him.
“Is this one of those things where we have to pretend to be dating so you can impress your boss who’s really into family values, or something?”
“Not unless this is an episode of Friends. Why are you questioning it? You’re twenty-one. You’re supposed to be having fun.”
“And I can do that by going to a cocktail party with a bunch of stuffy lawyers?”
“Hey. I’m not stuffy.”
Annie makes a “meh” sound and shrugs her shoulders but she can’t keep a straight face for very long as he gapes at her in affront. She smiles slyly from under her eyelashes and Jeff snorts.
“Hey, if you don’t want to go. I just thought I’d ask.”
“No, I’ll go.” Annie nods quickly. “I’ll go.”
“Good.” They grin at each other across the counter as she backs away toward the bathroom. “It’ll be fun, I promise.”
Forty-five minutes later Jeff walks out of his room, his suit jacket draped over one arm as he buttons the cuffs of his sleeves.
“You ready?” He looks up and stops mid-step.
Annie’s standing at the counter, her hand braced on one of the barstools as she leans down to slip on a pair of strappy heels. She’s wearing a simple black fitted dress that reveals the faintest hint of cleavage and falls just above her knees. Her hair is pulled back and off her neck into a smooth twist, her make-up is darker than normal and the entire effect is stunning to be sure but Jeff can’t help but feel slightly discomfited at how un-Annie she looks.
“What?” She lets out a nervous laugh as she straightens and smoothes her palms down the front of her dress.
“Nothing.” Jeff shakes himself out of it and shrugs on his coat. “You look nice.”
“Thanks,” she beams. “So do you.”
Jeff bites back a resounding “duh” and grins as he grabs his wallet and keys from the counter. “We don’t have to stay long. If you’re bored. Or Alan gets too handsy.”
Annie’s eyes widen conspiratorially. “Should we have a signal or something? Like I’ll tug on my ear if I’m ready to leave and you’ll cough twice or play with your tie?”
“Sure. Or I could say, ‘Annie, let’s get the fuck out of here.’”
“You’d make a terrible spy,” she sighs out her disappointment as she follows him out the door.
Jeff laughs. “Just promise me you won’t chloroform anyone this time.”
Annie giggles, taking his arm as he offers it to her. “I guess we’ll have to see how the night goes.”
The party’s already in full swing when Jeff and Annie walk in through the large double doors, the latter biting her lip and looking around nervously, curling her fingers a little tighter around Jeff’s arm. He looks down at her with a questioning frown.
“Are you sure I look okay?” Annie eyes a tall, leggy blonde woman who walks by them in a blue halter dress and six inch heels.
“You look fine. What’s--”
“Jeff!” Ted calls out to him cheerfully, winding through the crowd to meet them. “Glad you could come.”
“Wouldn’t miss it.” Jeff turns to Annie, resting his hand lightly on her mid-back. “Ted, this is my friend Annie.”
“Annie! Good to meet you.” He reaches out to shake her hand and Annie’s eyes widen a little at the strange hollow popping sound when their hands meet. “Jeff’s told me a lot about you.”
“Oh.” She looks up at Jeff in surprise. He looks startled and his eyes slide over to her for just a second before he looks away, his cheeks slightly pink. “Well, likewise. I know he loves working here.”
“We’re lucky to have him. And since this is a celebration,” Ted looks around and snags two champagne glasses from a nearby table, hands them to Jeff and Annie and then grabs one for himself. “Cheers.”
“And good riddance,” Jeff adds with a smirk before taking a sip.
Ted laughs jovially, clapping him on the back and telling them both to have a good time before he moves on to mingle with the next group of people who just walked in the door.
Annie raises her eyebrow in question, “Good riddance?”
Jeff nods and points with his glass to an older gentleman with salt and pepper hair standing near a large gold banner that reads, “Congratulations Bill!”
“Bill Jacobson. He’s retiring.”
“Yeah, no. He’s huge a dick. He was the one that told me I was fired. Pretty much laughed in my face.” His jaw clenches at the memory and he quickly drains half of his champagne. “See his wife there?”
Standing next to Bill is a woman about his own age in a long silver dress, her graying hair cut in a short bob and her lips pinched into a permanent sour face. “He’s leaving her to move to Tahiti with his thirty-year-old girlfriend.”
Annie gasps. “That’s terrible. Does she know?”
“Yup. All of this is just for show. She keeps quiet and she walks away with money.” There’s a fairly detectable level of disdain in his voice that makes Annie peer up at him curiously through her eyelashes. He shrugs. “That’s not even the worst of it.”
Annie frowns, glancing around the room. The loud buzz of conversation and clanking glasses mingles with the sounds of classical piano music being piped in through the speakers as waiters in black and white uniforms make their rounds with trays of mostly untouched hors d’oeuvres. Out of the corner of her eye she sees a couple approach Bill, offering their congratulations, and he smiles wide and takes his wife’s hand, patting the back of it while she smiles stiffly.
“Tell me more.”
Jeff laughs, his eyes lighting up at the chance to gossip. He leans close and spends the next ten minutes entertaining her with stories about some of the other well documented bad behavior happening in and around the law firm. There’s Harvey who’s being audited for tax fraud, Connie who left her husband for her nanny, Brad who’s was caught in flagrante with his secretary in the elevator just last week…
“And then there’s--”
“Did I hear my name?” a voice says from behind them. They both turn as one to see Alan eying them coyly, his shoulders shrugged up and his hands clasped in front of his chest. “Are you guys talking about me? Only terrible things I hope.”
Once again his eyes zero in on Annie’s chest. “Wouldn’t want your new girlfriend getting the wrong idea and feeling safe around me, Winger. I’m liable to swoop right in and steal her away.”
“I wouldn’t worry about that,” Annie pipes up, raising her glass and downing half of it in one gulp as Jeff tries to cover a laugh behind his closed fist.
Alan throws her a brief narrow eyed-glare like he’s trying to figure her out before quickly shaking it off and stepping up to tug on the lapels of Jeff’s jacket. “Now this is more like it. You’re dressed like a real man, Pinocchio, doesn’t that feel better?”
Jeff lets out a loud, fake laugh and swats his hand away.
“Pinocchio?” Annie scrunches her nose up in confusion.
“Disney, baby. Look it up.” He points his finger at her, cocks it like a gun and makes a little pew noise.
“My name’s Annie,” she retorts.
Alan backs away laughing, hands held out in front of him. “See. Careful, Winger. She’s already trying to throw herself at me.” He sighs out a laugh and shakes his head, disappearing into the crowd.
Jeff taps his glass against his pursed lips. “Are we having fun yet?”
Next to him Annie vigorously tugs on her ear.
They walk around the party making small talk with different co-workers that Jeff introduces her to and Annie listens as he engages in work banter, only half understanding what he’s talking about and making a mental note to research legal jargon for future use.
At one point they get caught up in a conversation about an on-going sexual harassment case in which the firm is defending the accused and Jeff has to quickly extract Annie when he notices her squaring up her shoulders and going almost short of breath in pure indignation at the derogatory language being thrown around.
“Those guys are jerks,” she breathes out as they walk away. “How can you even work here?”
“Oh please. You were never that bad.”
After her second glass of champagne Annie excuses herself to the bathroom but when she returns Jeff’s nowhere in sight. She frowns, popping up on her toes and scanning above the crowd, turning slowly. As she circles back around suddenly Alan is standing right there in front of her.
“Oh!” She takes a step back, pressing her hand to her chest. “Have you seen Jeff?”
“Noooo,” his mouth turns down in exaggerated concern. “He didn’t leave you here to fend for yourself did he? Ugh. So typical of that guy. Always moving on to the next best thing.”
Annie rolls her eyes, “Thanks for the help.”
“Heeeey. No need to worry.” He reaches out and rubs his thumb against her elbow. “I can take care of you.”
“No thanks.” Annie flinches away. “I really don’t need anyone to take care of me.” She spins around and retreats to the bar, trying to
hold back a shudder.
Alan follows her. “Hey baby, I get it--”
“—You’re an independent woman. I like that. Fiesty.” He punctuates this with a lascivious grin, his hands held up like claws. “Me-ow.”
She gives him an incredulous look. There’s a tray of stuffed mushrooms sitting on the bar next to her and she grabs one and shoves it in her mouth to try and avoid talking to him any longer, pointing to her mouth as she chews, miming an apology.
“How about you and I go upstairs and I show you how a real lawyer works.”
Annie freezes, her fists clenching at her sides as she glares at him and continues chewing slowly, confidence washing over her as she makes a quick decision. When she swallows she dabs at her mouth with a napkin from the bar and takes a deep breath.
“I thought Jeff was your friend.”
“You and I can be friends. Good friends. He won’t mind.”
Annie nods calmly. “You know what? I think he would mind. And I think he’d also mind if he ever found out who it was who was responsible for getting him fired.”
Alan’s smile falters as he takes a surprised step back. He laughs nervously and reaches his hand up to straighten his tie, glancing around the room. “Uh yeah, I already told him it was Thompson.”
“But we both know that was a lie don’t we?” Annie arches an eyebrow, a delicious surge of adrenaline running through her veins. “It was you. You wrote that email.”
“You couldn’t possibly know that.”
“But I do. I happen to have a printout of said email.” She shakes her head and tsks. “You know, if you’re going to send incriminating emails you should really learn to delete them off your hard drive. That’s poor planning,”
“Okay fine,” Alan steps in close, lowering his voice, his eyes taking on a cold hard glint. “Obviously Jeff doesn’t know.”
“Not yet.” Annie smiles.
“So what do you want? Money?”
Annie pauses to consider, suddenly realizing that she’s not sure exactly what she wants to accomplish with this other than putting Alan in his place. “I… will have to get back to you on… that.” She stands up taller and sticks her chin out confidently. “And you can rest assured that I will get back to you.”
With a snort, Alan turns and walks away but Annie’s almost positive that he looks a little shaken, glancing this way and that before making his way outside. She giggles and does a little bouncing shimmy, looking around for Jeff with renewed interest.
He finds her at the bar a couple minutes later staring into space, her chin cupped in one hand as the other plays idly with the stem of her champagne glass. When he sidles up to her she straightens up, smiling widely.
“There you are.” She reaches out to push playfully at his arm, “Where have you been?”
“Sorry about that. Dan just bought a Porsche - god, it’s beautiful. Silver, leather interior, sunroof, steering wheel warmers. Steering wheel warmers, Annie. You should see it; you’ll fall in love.” He closes his eyes for a moment, savoring the memory and Annie raises an eyebrow in amusement.
“Anyway. I didn’t think it’d take so long.”
Annie shakes her head. “It’s okay. Besides.” She steps closer and looks around, lowering her voice. “Something happened.”
“Yeah?” Jeff takes the glass from her hand and finishes it off, grinning down at her. As she explains what happened with Alan though his smile falters.
“Wait. You told him I know?” He blows out a puff of air and rubs his hand over the back of his neck in agitation but Annie shakes her head and reaches up to tug on his wrist, bringing his hand down to clasp between hers.
“No. Of course not. I only told him that I know. He still doesn’t know that you know. And he doesn’t want you to know. So.” She raises her eyebrows pointedly.
Jeff’s lips part as understanding dawns. “Annie,” he breathes out in awe. “You devious little--”
“I know, right?” She giggles and bounces up on her toes into him. “It’s like he’s our own personal puppet.” Her eyes gleam. “What should we make him do first?”
“Who are you?”
Annie drops a little curtsey, curling her chin down to her shoulder and Jeff laughs and then looks around until he spots a full bottle of champagne sitting in a bucket of ice on a nearby table. “C’mon.” He grabs Annie’s hand and tugs her after him, swiping the champagne as he passes.
“Where are we going? Jeff?”
“I want to show you something.” He pulls her around the corner toward a bank of elevators where he jabs his thumb against the up button. The doors to their right slide open almost immediately and they step in, still holding hands.
“What are we doing? Is this about the Alan thing? You’re not upset are you? Because--”
“Annie. This has nothing to do with Alan.”
They arrive at the forth floor with a tiny ping of the elevator and Jeff lets go of her hand and nods his head at her to follow as he steps into the hallway and rounds the corner to the right.
Annie bites her lip and hurries after him.
“I really shouldn’t be seen up here. The statute of limitations on criminal trespassing is three years and if the same janitor is working and he recognizes me--”
Jeff stops suddenly and looks back at her incredulously. “Did you seriously look that up?” Annie shrugs and Jeff rolls his eyes and continues down the hall. “Remember what I said about having fun?”
“I don’t consider possible prison time to be fun, Jeff.”
“You’re not gonna go to prison. Besides.” Jeff stops and turns around to face her. The janitor you chloroformed doesn’t work here anymore. He quit last year.”
Annie gasps and swats at his shoulder. “Why didn’t you tell me that in the first place, you jerk?”
“Cause it’s fun to see you get so worked up.” He grabs at her wrist to hold her off, laughing and holding on loosely as she halfheartedly tries to tug away.
“You’re mean,” she whispers.
“Sorry,” he whispers back and nods toward the door they’re standing in front of. “This is what I wanted to show you.” He tries the handle and it swings open, unlocked.
“Are we supposed to be in here?” Annie checks the placard in the hallway, which reads: James Weyman, Attorney at Law.
“Nope.” Jeff feels along the wall to flick the light switch on and then steps into the room, spinning back around to face Annie.
“This. Was my office.”
Annie’s mouth snaps shut. Jeff holds her gaze with a faint smile and then looks around, nodding to himself.
“Oh.” Annie bites her lip, still half-standing in the hallway, her hand braced on the doorframe. It’s a spacious room - built in bookshelves stacked end to end with law books, boxes of files piled up here and there, a table and a couple of chairs in one corner, and small leather sofa where Jeff drops himself and takes a long swig of champagne.
Annie steps in tentatively, moving toward the large mahogany desk and running her fingers along the smooth surface. Almost every inch is covered in papers and files and yellow post-it notes and she’s careful not to disturb anything as she steadies herself with one palm and slips her heels off one at a time. The carpet feels soft against her bare feet and she wiggles her toes a little before taking a seat in the high back desk chair. With one foot against the floor she pushes herself around, letting the chair spin a couple complete circles before coming to a stop, facing Jeff, with her hands grasping the edge of the desk.
Jeff leans his elbow on the armrest, his chin cupped in his hand as he watches her.
Annie lets out a quiet sigh, looking over the desk again. There are a couple framed pictures amongst the mess – a wedding photo of a young couple and then that same couple with an infant in front of a Christmas tree.
“Who is he?”
“Don’t know. Some guy they hired after I left.”
She nods, trying to imagine a slightly younger, cockier Jeff Winger at this desk, his feet propped up as he talks on the phone, barking orders at some poor paralegal, working long into the night on a difficult case, waking up to the early dawn on the couch in a rumpled suit.
“Do you miss it?”
Jeff takes another pull of champagne and leans forward to rest his forearms on his thighs. “Yeah.” His voice is low and a little raspy.
Annie nods slowly. “You really like it. Being a lawyer.” It’s not so much a question as a statement. Like it’s just occurring to her.
“Sorry. I don’t know. I never really thought about it.”
Jeff grins. “Thought I just liked the title? The ability to manipulate people for money?”
“Maybe?” Annie winces.
“Trust me, I never would have set foot in Greendale if it was about that. I’d have just chosen another career to lie my way into.”
“Like Wall Street or something?”
“Well, greed is good.”
“Nevermind.” Jeff leans back, stretching his legs out in front of him, crossed at the ankles. He smoothes his hand along his tie, flipping up the tapered end, glaring at it and then shaking his head and resting his arm up along the back of the sofa. “So, why are you dressed like a librarian tonight?”
Annie frowns and touches the back of her hair lightly. “I thought it would make me look older.” Jeff raises an eyebrow and she sighs heavily, “I didn’t think you’d want to walk in here with someone who looks like a teenager on your arm.”
She meets his eyes, a little surprised when he doesn’t laugh or flash his trademark smirk. Instead, he blinks slowly and squints at her so that the creases at the corners of his eyes crinkle. Annie pauses before reaching up and carefully slipping the handful of bobby pins from her neat bun, letting her hair tumble down to her shoulders in waves. She closes her eyes and runs her fingers through the slightly tangled strands, the citrusy scent of hair product wafting around her.
“Now you look more like you,” Jeff says, his voice low.
Annie drops her hands back flat on the desk. “Are you drunk?”
She quirks an eyebrow. “Liar.” But she’s already getting to her feet and moving back around the desk. “You wouldn’t have brought me up here if you were sober.”
Jeff frowns, “How do you know?”
“I know you.” Annie drops down at his side, under his arm, and tucks her legs up underneath her. She wiggles a little and tugs at the bottom of her dress to keep it at a respectable length.
“And yet you keep hanging around.”
Annie smiles and turns into him a bit. She grabs the champagne from him and takes a tiny sip, then cradles the bottle against her chest and closes her eyes. A moment later she feels him shift and then his fingers are combing gently through her hair.
“I can’t stop thinking about that car,” he murmurs suddenly.
“Seriously?” she laughs. “What it is with you and cars?”
“Hmmm.” Jeff tugs the champagne out of her hand. He’s quiet as he takes a long pull. “They’re sexy, Annie. What more is there to know?”
“And that’s all it takes to be attracted to something? Sex?”
“Wow.” He leans his head back and stares up at the ceiling. “Your ability to twist words around rivals… well, my own. I’d feel proud but I get the feeling you’ve always been this way.” His fingers trail from her hair, down her arm, smoothing fingertips to her elbow and back up. Annie curls into him more, resting her hand against his chest and fingering a button on his shirt.
“Yup. I just didn’t realize it.”
“And now you’ve learned how to harness your powers. We’re all doomed.”
Annie giggles and tilts her head up so that her forehead nudges against his chin and they stay quiet like that for a long moment until she feels him move under her and then his lips are brushing along her hairline and his arm tightens around her, tucking her in closer.
His heart beats out a quickening tempo under her ear, matching her own but she still just feels warm and relaxed from the several glasses of champagne she had downstairs. She presses up higher so that he can mouth a trail down the side of her temple to her cheekbone where he nuzzles his nose and brushes a soft kiss.
Annie slides her hand up, scratching gently at his skin as she curls her fingers around the back of his neck and into his hair. Jeff makes a sound low in his throat and Annie feels it vibrate through her as the corners of their mouths brush. They both inhale sharply through their noses and in the next moment their lips are sliding together.
Jeff cups the back of her head, bringing her in closer and Annie parts her lips, changing the angle and sighing into his mouth when he does the same. They both sink into the kiss, keeping it light and soft until suddenly Jeff’s breaking away and leaning back.
A surge of annoyance rushes through Annie and she growls out, “If you apologize for kissing me I’ll punch you in the nose again,” before she can stop herself.
Jeff freezes, one eyebrow slowly arching up before he continues leaning down to set the bottle of champagne on the ground.
When he straightens up he’s smirking and Annie rolls her eyes at him as she curls her hand around his neck to bring in and kiss him again, harder and a little more frantically this time.
Jeff wraps both arms around her and Annie maneuvers to her knees as their tongues slide together, wanting to get as close to him as possible. She tries to swing one leg around him to straddle his lap but her skirt’s too tight and she makes a tiny noise of frustration as Jeff starts kissing down her jaw line and under her ear where he sucks lightly at the sensitive skin. He laughs against her and then curls one arm under her knees, pulling both of her legs up over his.
“Good?” he mutters.
“Hmmm.” Annie slides her hands up his chest under his jacket, stopping to curl her fingers into the muscle at his shoulders before pushing at the jacket and trying to slide it off. Jeff takes the hint and stops kissing her long enough to lean forward so they can both maneuver it down his arms. Once it’s loose Annie takes it and lays it neatly over the armrest of the couch, giving him a little smirk that makes him laugh.
She loops her arms around his neck and leans back, pulling him with her until she’s lying on her back and he’s hovered over her. Jeff continues sliding his lips down her throat, along her collarbone to the neckline of her dress where he nuzzles his nose and then kisses the swell of each breast. Annie arches into him, sighing, and tugging on his hair to bring him back up for another kiss.
Her hands move down the curve of his low back and her fingers hook into his belt loops momentarily before sliding back up so she can start yanking his shirt loose from his pants and then smooth her fingers up underneath the material to press her palms against the warm skin of his back.
Jeff feels her fingers trailing up and down his spine like she’s trying to map out his body and it’s innocent and erotic and suddenly really fucking terrifying. His entire body shudders involuntarily and he buries his face against her neck. Her hands still, pressing flat against him.
“Jeff,” she whispers. He huffs out a laugh and kisses the side of her neck, nodding and leaning up to meet her eyes. Annie flushes as she slides her hands out from under his shirt and then around to rest on his hips.
“Is this?” Jeff starts before he realizes he doesn’t exactly know where he’s going with that question. He purses his lips and exhales loudly.
Annie shrugs. “I think.” She measures out her words carefully. “It doesn’t have to be a big deal. Maybe we can agree that sometimes friends kiss. And it doesn’t have to mean anything else.
Jeff squints down at her, eyes roaming over her face. He shifts his weight to one arm and reaches up to palm back hair from her forehead.
She nods, eyes widening hopefully as her hands move up to his waist and grasp at him a little tighter. Jeff smiles softly and leans back down to kiss her once. Twice. Three times.