Summary: "Vaughn writes a song about Jeff." A belated Ficcy Friday response to amtrak12.
Word Count: 7,710 (WHUT?!)
Rating: ummm. there be some swears, so... M? (I don't really know how this works.)
Spoilers: let's call it a nice even everything
Disclaimer: I own nothing. Not even Okkervil River, the band whose song I used for the title. (Sadness ensues.) Also a disclaimer? Hi, my first fic ever. Minus that one lil' abed/britta ficlet that one time. But yeah. You should probably expect some flinching moments.
A/N: So this supposed-to-be-comment-board piece began with Vaughn’s song alone. Then I thought, well I’ll just fill a few background words in… Twenty pages later and...
In hindsight, it was probably a good idea for Jeff to start avoiding the cafeteria in general. Nothing good ever came of that place and he’s not just talking about the everything-but-chicken-fingers food.
No, the caf had only ever given him unwanted introductions to hostile, imbecile high school dweebs (he’d call them Smitties, if he hadn’t already wiped the word from his vocabulary. Psh, like Jeff was going to do them the favor of pushing their lame term one step closer to urbandictionary acknowledgment. Let them fulfill their own dreams. Losers.), unwanted confrontations with testosterone hyped winter doodle obsessed douchebags (Jeff had no sympathy for anyone who messed with his friends or his face.), and, most recently, unwanted declarations of spotlighted, crowd present, microphone broadcast, totally unexpected nor prepared for love. Twice. If that wasn’t mentally scarring, Jeff didn't know what was. Effing cafeteria.
(There was a catch with that last example though. Because as painful as the love dilemma was? Kinda played a role in him getting together with Annie. And there’s no way he could ever look back on that and wish it didn’t happen. The whole experience taught him that sometimes you have to go through some downright uncomfortable things to figure out what you really want. He got that now, and now he’s got Annie. And this past summer was probably (definitely) the best one of his life.
And he was also a girl, and any moment now would burst into a rendition of Summer Lovin’ complete with choreography and black spandex, yeah, he knows, whatever, so Annie’s turned him into a sap. It was embarrassing, he’s accepted it, let’s move on.)
That’s right: effing cafeteria. Just because one tiny little great thing might have come in a round about way from one of these caf moments did not mean that Jeff was in any way willing to set it all aside and embrace the building with open arms. In fact, he should remind himself to constantly be on the defensive against other cafeteria induced nerve damaging occurrences just waiting to tack themselves onto the tally of “Things That Bothered Jeff”. In other words, he shouldn’t have stepped through those doors the first day back from what had been a nice, relaxing (amazing) summer.
God he wished he hadn’t.
Because as of now it seems he could add to the list: “reintroductions to his girlfriend’s supposed-to-be-in-Delaware hippie ex-boyfriend who has, judging from the vast number of oooh-let-me-stare-into-your-SOUL faced posters slung about, apparently changed his band’s name from Some Worries to So Many Worries, Not Cool.”
That couldn't be good.
As Vaughn and his renegade band of beatniks were setting up over in the rec corner, Jeff glanced over to their usual spot, where Annie was sitting with Shirley and, yuh-oh, Britta.
Here’s the thing. Just because he and Annie were happy didn't mean they were stupid enough to share this with the study group. You might have to go through some uncomfortable things to get what you want, but if the group found out that what he wanted was their nineteen-year-old princess, widely confirmed “baby” of the bunch? Things would get bumped from “uncomfortable” to “a whole new level of pain previously unfathomable” faster than Annie could whip out a Disney face in defense. (And that's saying something. Annie could pull those on pretty fast. Jeff was speaking from experience here.)
Anyway, he and Britta might be cool now (after the most awkward cup of coffee ever shared, about two weeks into the summer. Britta would barely look him in the eye and Jeff admittedly held a pretty intense staring contest with his latte foam for awhile there, but eventually what needed to be said got said, love proclamations got refuted, and Britta apologized, and Jeff apologized, and they hugged an uncomfortable goodbye filled with self-deprecating chuckles and shrugs, and went their separate ways) but Jeff wasn’t deluded enough to think Britta was anywhere near ready to hear that Jeff ran straight from her moment of feeling into Annie’s open arms. (Which was not technically what happened but, y’know. Try telling her that. If they told her. Which they wouldn't.)
And as for Shirley, well. She was more than likely to immediately start scanning the vicinity for the nearest jukebox. (Knowing his luck, the cafeteria probably had one.)
So yeah. Secret relationship. That was the plan and they were sticking with it and it was working just fine and would continue to do so. Positive thinking and all that crap. So with that mindset Jeff strode over, not too fast, keeping it chilled; cocking a nod at some imaginary acquaintance to the left, lifting a finger in some fake acknowledgment to the right, and finally sitting down at their table with an easy smile, the very image of cool, calm, not at all anxious at the situation or unnerved in the slightest by some shirtless no-named’s reappearance togetherness.
“That seemed contrived. Ten points for the slow mo entrance though. If you’d have let me know beforehand that that was the scene, I would have asked Silent Agnes if I could borrow her cooling fan and had it ready for you. I’m in with the cooks here. You seem tense Jeff. What’s stressing you?”
Aaaand when the hell had Abed gotten there. How had he missed that?
“Happy school’s start to you too, Abed. And in answer to your question, nothing. I must just be stiff with the joy of seeing you all once more. Shirley, Britta, Annie,” flashing a friendly smile to each (maybe taking extra care with the ‘friendly’ on that last one. With Abed at the table there was no such thing as ‘too cautious’.)
Annie didn’t seem to realize this if the beam she shot him back was anything to go by. Did the girl not know what she did to him? He would have to discuss this seriously with her at some later point.
Some soon later point... Maybe at his apartment… With demonstrations. Or the school could have a janitors’ closet…
Crap, Shirley was saying something and he completely missed it. Get your shit together, Winger. He was not some lovesick teenage boy who could afford to drift off into happy daydreams about fun things that happen in relationships when he should have been focusing on what really mattered. Pretending said relationship did not exist. He forced himself to pay attention to Shirley and her moving lips.
“-and by the time I realized it was body paint, Jordan was already head to toe purple so the motel gave us free mini bar access. It was nice! And how were your summers?” Shirley looked around the table with an inviting grin.
Britta launched into a story about some two-week trip to Acapulco complete with Mai Tais and a quintessential important cause (Teaching the natives to read or something. Jeff didn’t know, he’d been distracted by Annie playing with the condensation on her cup.) and Abed told tales of some film festival Jeff had never heard of before but would more than likely be able to list the entire chronological set to, complete with individual plot summaries by the end of the day.
He had missed these guys.
In the middle of that friendly warm feeling, Britta nudged Annie gently with a sympathetic big sister look. “How was your summer, Annie? I’m sorry Delaware fell through. Vaughn’s an idiot; you deserve way better than him.”
Jeff could read Britta’s face like a book. And this one’s title was a very open “We’re here for you”. Or “We care about you.” Or “We can cause him some pain if you need us to.” The thing with Britta was, she was a genuinely good person. Sure she could be a bit of a buzzkill, and a little bit hard-assed, and sometimes she struggled with social situations. But underneath all that, Britta was an undeniable softy with a big heart who loved her friends and would always go the extra mile for them.
It made lying to her about something like this really really hard.
By the look on Annie’s suddenly pale face, she seemed to agree. “Oh! No. No, no,” she flustered, shifting in her seat and making small waving motions with her hands, as if she hoped to shoo the whole awkward topic right out of the air. (That didn’t happen, but at least it brought some color back to her cheeks.) “Britta, thank you. That is,” a slight flinch here “…so sweet. But no, Vaughn was a really nice guy about everything. Our breaking up had nothing to do with him. It was actually all me. I just realized that, well. Greendale is where I belong right now. With you guys.” She met everyone’s eyes and gave each a smile.
And if, amongst the coos of “Awww, Aaannie,” and “Cool,” and “Oh that’s nice!”, she met Jeff’s eyes first… and then last…and held the gaze for maybe a second or so longer than with the other three? Well, he was sitting right across from her. You’ll obviously look more at someone right across from you then you would others. And any softness in either of their eyes could be explained away as the result of poor cafeteria lighting. Right?
Shit. Maybe not. Abed was giving them the squinted eye, like he’d get every time some piece of the puzzle was about to fall in place, and it was damned frightening. Jeff scrambled to think of some kind of distraction, and grasped at the first thing that came to mind. (That had been on his mind since the moment he stepped foot in the cafeteria.)
“So, speaking of MackaClangClang Jr.,” Jeff gestured over to where Vaughn was in the middle of a set, crooning out a gem that seemed to be titled ‘Skin Is What You’re Born In’. Yeah. “What’s brought him back to this fine institution. Did Delaware spit him out?”
Annie shot him a reproachful look and shook her head, but then glanced uneasily over her shoulder. When she’d seemingly convinced herself that Vaughn wouldn't be overhearing this next little disclosure (which, duh, he was obviously too busy rhyming things like ‘merit’ and ‘carpet’. Don’t ask), she leaned forward slightly. The rest of the table instantly followed suit (Shirley with the gleeful “Ooh!” of a true gossip hound.) and Annie began to speak with a hushed voice.
“I don't know actually. He seemed pretty okay on the night of the dan- of the breakup. He was upset, but he seemed like he understood. And he promised he’d write from Delaware! Actual letters. He said email was really the Man sucking you into his corporate scheme,” Annie scrunched her nose to show her thoughts on that line of thinking. “But then today when I came into the caf to wait for you guys, I saw him and was… well, I was going to say hi at least. But when I went up to him, he wouldn’t look at me. And he definitely saw me. He glared. I don't know.”
By the last few lines Annie’s voice had dropped to something small and unmistakably hurt. She was studying her hands with an intensity that Jeff had come to know meant she was reliving high school days. He felt himself growing increasingly upset as Britta and Shirley offered their cooing words for Annie and scorn for the douche.
‘Cause screw this asshole for putting her in that space. God, all he wanted to do was reach across the table and take Annie’s hand. He wanted to sling an arm around her and pull her close to him, where things were better. He wanted to kick Vaughn in the shins. He wanted to pull an Abed on his guitar.
And he couldn’t do any of these things because of the secret. Secret, secret, secret.
Jeff wanted to punch something.
“Huh. That’s interesting.” Abed observed, glancing from Jeff to Annie which was... Crap.
“Abed!” Shirley reprimanded. “That’s not what you say to a girl who’s hurting! Annie sweetie, later we’ll take that ass’s cell phone and flush it down the toilet.” Shirley patted her hand with a sympathetic smile. Then her voice dropped three decibels and the pat turned into a grip. “And do you know where he keeps his apartment keys.”
Annie’s eyes widened in (probably justified—you never know with Shirley) alarm and she seemed to shake herself out of it, stiltedly freeing her hand from Shirley’s clamp and waving it in a sweep of dismissal. “Guys, no. I’m being silly. Vaughn and I are over and I’m totally okay with that. I don't know why I’m being such a baby over one mean look. He’s probably just having a bad day. Maybe someone finally told him hacky sack isn’t actually a sport,” she joked with a smile to show how absolutely unaffected she was. Jeff laughed (Not even to make her feel better; it was funny) which made Annie’s smile even brighter. “Let’s just forget it and move on.”
Great. Jeff was definitely up for a topic change now.
Abed turned and peered at him. “So how was your summer Jeff?”
Okay, so that wasn’t exactly the change he was looking for.
“Oh mine? Great!” Yeeeah, that Minnie Mouse voice would have to go. Jeff cleared his throat. “Lazy. Bonded with the TV a bit. Just kinda chilled. Did some…lawyer things, you know, to keep the skills sharp. Oh hey, there’s Troy and Pierce!” Okay so it might be a tad pathetic but Jeff was willing to grasp at any straw he could to save him from Abed’s soul-seeing gaze.
And as it turns out, this was the perfect straw. Abed instantly dropped the inquisition and put on his eager eyes instead. Which, granted, didn’t look too different from his normal eyes. But Jeff could tell these things.
“YO YO Greendale, T-Bone is in the HOWWWSE,” Troy hip-hopped his way over to the table (Abed providing an impromptu beatbox theme) and sat down on a slung-backwards chair next to Abed, where the two did their patent chest-hand-secret-love-tap thing. Soon the group was chatting out a chorus of hellos and catching up.
Pierce, not to be outdone, sat down beside Jeff and loudly announced “Pierce, uh..P-Shizzle Dawg-Steak is inside the house too!” and then proceeded to inexplicably slap at Jeff’s pecs and knock over his water all in the same move.
“Haaaaaaaa!” Troy rocked back and slapped his thigh “Jeff looks like he peed his pants! It’s funny because he didn’t, but other people won’t know!”
“A classic scene of cafeteria humiliation. Now Jeff just needs to stand and trip onto his lunch tray. He should buy a chocolate milk first though. Troy.”
Jeff’s eyes closed in… yeah. That would be frustration. “Pierce. Aside from obviously not being content with the amount of water content in my pants, was there some reasonyou chose to greet me with a physical attack? Or was that just a partial seizure.”
“Oh Jeffrey, stop being such a square. Obviously that was our best bud secret hand greeting. You know, when I lived on the streets, which is of course where I got my lengthy moniker—they dole out the length according to the ‘you know what’ size, if you catch my drift.—Anyway, it was that intricate gang hand symbol that saved me from a life of prostitution! You know Jeffrey I always say-“
“UGHH,” Britta sat forward with a jolt, jerking her arms out in a frustrated gesture. “Pierce, do you realize how offensive what you’re saying is right now? Prostitution and gang-life is no joking matter. Did you know that 69 percent of prostitutes in the US have been diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder? These girls need-“
“Ohhh, save it Brittles. I have as much respect for call girls as any other. I dated one, remember?” Pierce rolled his eyes and put a splayed hand over his mouth, angling his head towards Jeff. “Guess vacay didn’t loosen the stick up her ass, huh.”
“Okay!” Jeff jumped in before Britta got stretched any closer to snapping point, “So I think we can all agree that it is just fantastic being reunited in the bonds of friendship here at this table again. And I think now would be just the perfect moment to-“ he was interrupted by Pierce screeching his chair back across the linoleum.
“Oooh, gonna have to cut you off there Jeffy. I’m being summoned.” Pierce chuckled abashedly and nodded over to where Vaughn was standing, mouth to mic, arm outstretched in a gesture to Pierce.
“Thank you audience, I appreciate it, it’s been real. For my last song I’m going to call up my old nemesis Pierce. We might be locked in an epic rap-off battle but we collabbed on this one and-” blah, blah, blah, Jeff tuned him out and turned his attention back to Pierce.
“Pierce. This is the guy who you used to fart on at every available opportunity.”—Annie gasped a shrill “What?!”—“Are you really part of his band again?”
“Jeff, I hear what you’re saying. And no, that little turd wishes I was a permanent member! But when he called over the summer asking, begging, for my assistance… Well as a music lover, I could hardly say no. Just listen up, Jeffrey. You might learn something.” With that, Pierce headed over to where Vaughn was stilltalking into the mic.
Annie pulled her backpack off the floor and started to collect her things. “So, as much fun as it’s been learning that the guy I used to kiss spent a good amount of that time doused in,” she made a face, “ Pierce outgassing. Anthropology starts in thirty minutes and I want to head over and get a good seat. Say sorry to Pierce for me?”
Jeff cocked an eyebrow. “Annie. You do realize this is Greendale and that the day someone fights you for a seat in the first row is the day I willingly become lead groupie to Chang’s keytar band.”
Annie huffed. “Jeff, first impressions are important. And what if someone gets there before me and takes the spot best for optimal learning? My entire future in the class could change. My impression could be lessened.”
Seeing that Jeff was biting back a grin, Annie stuck her nose in the air and looked at him sternly. (Probably only he could recognize her teasing eyes. And probably only he was being driven crazy by them.) “Besides, don’t make promises you can’t follow through. I have it on good authority that the incoming frosh class is particularly eager this year. And Chang would love to get you in a woman’s suit.”
Jeff shuddered. “Okay, well. I had been planning on eating, but looks like you fixed that,” he shot her a fake glare.
Annie giggled and shook her head at him. “You brought that on yourself. I take zero responsibility for any nausea and/or future nightmares.”
“Zero? Really? I can’t get rid of the image of me in a pink slender ladies’ and you take zero responsibility.”
“Agh, fine, fine!” she did this adorable little bounce as she shuffled in place. “You’re a big, strong manly man and Chang would shatter his delicate-in-comparison fingers should he even attempt to feminize you, happy?” she raised her eyebrows, head cocked to the side, and smiled at him,
“Hmmmm yep. That about did it.” Jeff rolled his shoulders in a stretch and started to push his chair out. “But since my appetite is still stuck cowering in terror somewhere, why don’t I just go with you. I’ll help you fight off the hoards of rabid freshmen lying in wait for your seat.”
“Jeff!” Annie hopped backwards a few steps, shaking her head. “You can’t leave. Pierce won’t care if I miss it, but he’ll be crushed if you’re not here. You know how he lives to impress you. You have to stay.“
“Blaaaaaaaaaaah,” Jeff groaned and slumped back down in his seat.
Annie shook her head at him gently, gave a small girly laugh through her nose, and scolded. “Don’t whine.” Her voice was a little soft and a lot affectionate. Jeff glanced up and felt his lips quirk into a-
“A-hem,” Abed said.
Both Annie and Jeff turned to look at him. It didn’t seem like he had something to say though. He was already staring off into the distance (at a ceiling fan or something.)
“Abed?” Jeff prompted.
“Hm?” Abed turned his attention back to Jeff.
“What was that.”
“What was what?”
Jeff shot Annie a quick weirded look and tried again. “What was the ‘A-hem’.”
“Oh. Nothing. It’s just we’d reached the point in the scene where the bantering couple typically gets interrupted by an unexpected noise, reminding them of their in-public state and adding a layer of awkwardness and tension once they become hyper-aware of their audience.” He looked back and forth between them. “But I suppose I might have overshot. If you want to go back to your private chat while we all sit here and observe you, that’d be cool. In thirty seconds I could cough.” Abed smiled, pleased to be helpful.
Jeff blinked. Abed had used the word ‘couple’. Jeff’s mind wasn't working.
Annie however seemed to have retained brain function (even if her eyes were a little wide and dare-he-say frantic.). “No! That’s okay!” She perkily (shrilly) turned down Abed’s offer and pivoted on a foot to wave to the group as a whole. “I’m just going to go now. I’ll see you all in class.” Shirley nodded smiling but with an underlying uneasiness in her gaze. Britta was also raising an eyebrow. Annie smiled even brighter-- “Bye!”—and left.
They might have to start avoiding Abed.
“So,” Britta turned to him, eyebrow still voicing her skeptic opinions. “You and Annie seem close.” Her voice was vaguely hesitant, but not accusing or anything.
Jeff went on the defensive anyway. “No closer than we always are. Abed’s running commentary just tricks us into forgetting that—Sorry, Abed—our lives are not TV. If they were, then Shirley would be Troy’s mother, just separated at birth and with amnesia; Pierce would be my father, Abed would have an evil twin, and I would be locked into a passionate love triangle with Britta, Annie, and Silent Agnes. And as awesome slash horrifying as that all sounds, I frankly prefer reality and would like to continue living in it. Now who’s with me?”
Shirley clapped and oohed, utterly convinced. Britta rolled her eyes, but still smiled. Abed tilted his head in consideration.
“Yeah, but our genre isn-“
Jeff had no qualms whatsoever about cutting him off there. “So! Now that that’s settled, I say we sit back and give Pierce and his band of hippies the attention they so totally deserve.”
Ha. Yeah. That was a line of bullshit. He watched idly as Vaughn still went on up there. Probably about God being in the butterflies or something. Jeff stretched, leaned back, and prepared to mentally check out. There was really nothing that could get him to pay any attention to whatever train wreck was about to happen up there.
“So ladies and dudes, I give you So Many Worries, Not Cool’s latest: Jeff Wiener--in parenthesis--Is a B.”
Jeff sat like he’d been slapped. Slapped by the girly hand of totally unexpected, how is this even happening, hippie insult.
And judging by the wide eyes he was getting from, oh, every person in the immediate vicinity up to and including Silent Agnes, he was apparently once again the public spectacle of the cafeteria.
Vaughn nodded to the Rastafarian chick, cueing her to start plucking out the opening notes, and then turned to the audience, strummed his guitar, closed his eyes (god, what a douche) and began.
There is good inside all people
Mother nature bleeds pure blood
The zen of peace surrounds us
And loveshine fights Hate Floods
And the sap of all this pureness
To mankind, see it stick
Except to one! In this case:
This dude’s just a dick.
Okay, what the fuck. Since when did Vaughn hate him?
Well. There was that whole first poem mocking incident thing, but they had gotten past that. Not to the point of liking each other or anything. (Jeff had wanted to bust his guitar up just moments ago. And now was wishing he’d followed through with that urge. If not for the sake of his damaged pride, than because ~no one~ should have ever had to hear the word “Loveshine” in any kind of serious sentence.), but they were still relatively cool. Gave the three hellos and everything. (Loveshine. Seriously.)
In the background, Vaughn continued with his musical genius.
He’s a dang son of a B
Keep givin’ second chances,
But the bro takes more than three-
“Sorry it took so long.” Troy finally returned to collapse at the table, arms full of a multitude of… stuff. Whatever, forgive Jeff for being a tad distracted. “They were out of chocolate milk,” Troy began to the group, mostly addressing Abed. “So I was like, I’ll fix this sad with cookies. But then I thought, ho damn, I should buy some normal milk to go with the cookies! And I was gonna come back after that, but it hit me like: snap! We’re gonna need a straw to drink this milk. And I’ve got your napkins right here, cause we both know how I spill things...” He trailed off, finally registering the slack-jaw expressions on his friends’ faces. “What is it? Oh god, do I have a milk mustache?? I swore never again! Britta, lend me a mirror!!”
“SHH!” Troy got hushed from five different directions. Three of them not even at this table.
“Troy sit down and zip your mouth Vaughn is singin’ bout Jeff,” Shirley let out in one stern breath, fluttering a hand in a down motion hurriedly, full focus still on McShirtless.
Jeff glared at Shirley and Britta (the remaining Shh’er). “Hey, thanks guys. No really. It’s great to know you’ve got my back.”
He’s got no saving grace.
And it’s high time someone step up
And put him in his place)
Britta paused a second from her rapt attention to roll her eyes towards Jeff and smirk. “Oh I’m sorry, Jeff. Is Vaughny hurting you’re feeeeeeelings? Should we go tell the Dean he’s calling naaaames?”
“No need! I’m already here!” Dean Pelton leaped over to join their table. “And heeere is the man of the hour!” he turned enthusiastically to Jeff and squeezed his shoulder. “Ooh! Muscley. Tell me, is there something special you do for that, Jeffrey that a hypothetical person who wanted to bench press, say, a life size stuffed animal,” he paused to glance around the group “which is not too uncommon, might be able to, ah, attempt.”
At Jeff’s silent stare, the Dean backtracked. “No? No, of course not. These are all just,” another squeeze, “good genes and I’ll let my friend—well not my friend; a friend’sfriend—be sure to know. And OH! Just, wow.” The Dean paused in the midst of his painful-for-everyone-involved ramble to bow his head and close his eyes in obvious bliss. He raised a hand to his chest. “Just listen to that chorus. Stunning. Jeffrey you should feel truly honored to have this class of musical gradient in homage to you. And about the,” air-quotes “name-calling well, I know teasing when I hear it! We’re all friends here. In fact speaking of, Britta would you mind if I-” he reached out to pluck Britta’s lighter from where it’d been sticking out her purse pocket, “Iiiii”ll return it. Now if you’ll excuse me, I’m going to go get a better spot.”
The Dean, who had been backing up slowly through that last sentence, turned with a skip and proceeded to push his way through the (steadily increasing. Damn it.) crowd, letting out high-pitched “Oop! Exsqueeze me!”s and “Don’t want to step on any toesies!” until he finally got a space right up by the stage.
Aaaaand yep. There was Britta’s lighter. The Dean was swaying it like this was some kind of Zeppelin homage and not what it really was: a bottom-of-the-barrel stoner (or at least, he was pretty sure. It would explain a lot.) band singing a crappy, so ridiculous it’s not even insulting song.
Well okay. It was still kinda insulting. And also apparently never-ending.
So here’s my public service!
Here’s where I give em’ proof
And count out all the many ways
“COUNT’EM ONE!” Pierce finally chimed in with an enthusiastic backup role. Vaughn slung his guitar round on his back and gripped the mic free from its stand, all too ready to hit this next part,--
In the compost bin of friendships
he’s the wrong kind of manure
--cuing Pierce with a pointed finger--
In the hacky sack circle of life,
he’s a dropped kick in the sewer
In the coffee line of freedom
He’s the shirt they make you wear
In the tousled locks of liberty
He’s the corporate gel in hair
“HE’S A F- GAAAAAAAAAAAY.”
(Pierce had cut off with a sudden alarmed glance at the Dean in the middle there… Three guesses why.)
In the fluffy clouds of joyness
He’s the one with acid rain Yeah,
there’s nothing cool with this man
And one more time his naaaaaaaaaaaaaaame
(If it was really just one more time, Jeff would eat his Blackberry.)
Is JEEEEEEEFF ~WIIIIIIIIIEEEEENER~
Even his name says he’s a dick!
(“Oh my god,” from Troy. “How did I not see it before?!”)
Can’t keep his hands off other’s chicks-
Jeff felt everyone at the table’s eyes shift to him. Huh. …Where was that Blackberry? Because choking was starting to sound like a not-too-bad means out of this.
Okay, still staring at him. Okay.
Jeff (and he complimented himself for this) did not falter. Much. Instead he pulled a “Psh, what’s this dim-watt talking about” face, complete with the patent Winger Eyebrows of Skepticism. Better not to say anything; let the face do his talking for him. Let them draw their own face-guided conclusions.
Shirley obliged. “You know something Jeff, that poor boy probably heard about you and Britta. Looks like there were still some feelings there. Mmm.” Shirley shook her head and hummed in…sympathy? He didn’t know, but he was jumping on it.
“You know what, Shirley, you’re right.”
“What??” Britta pulled a face. “There’s no waa-“
“No Britta, Shirley definitely has something there,” Jeff cut her off with his I’m serious and know what I’m talking about-- Submit voice. “You-“
Then Vaughn, who had repositioned the mic in its stand some point along the line, rocked forward with both hands clutching it close to his mouth, eyes clenched, and sang:
He takes a mountain flower
Plucks her with his poweeeeeeer
Silence. Jeff trailed off as those last two verses fully sank into the minds of the group.
Maybe he could--? Or mountain flower could be a metaphor for--
Yeah. Nope. He had nothing.
A very pointed cough from Shirley broke the silence, and Jeff’s gaze fell to focus on the table, his hands, the floor. Anything but his absolute frozen friends.
“Wait.” Troy was wearing his brain-wrinkled face. “So Vaughn called Britta Mountain Flower too? Like my version of Sugarbear?” He turned to reassure the group, “It’s for everyone.”
Jeff could physically feel Shirley stiffen from across the table. Britta offered a slow, dangerous “No, Troy.”
“Just Annie.” Abed added helpfully, flicking a single finger of emphasis as he contentedly nibbled a cookie. Meanwhile Vaughn was finishing up Jeff’s personal hell.
A douche, a liar, a girlfriend thief
This dude is so not cool with me
And this is how I say to he
JEFF WINGER’S SUCH AB.
“Thank you, thanks, bless you all.” Vaughn bowed with a flourish to numerous cheers and applause. (Really? Jeff counted this as further evidence towards the “95% of Greendale students are idiots” suspicion.) In the midst of all these triple-repeat-thank-you’s and gag-inducing “modesty”, there was a loud and sudden clash. Pierce had lurched forward from his place behind the keyboard, stumbling into a stray cymbal and practically knocking Rasta Girl off the stage in the process.
“PENIS MIND. GAY INCLINED. STREEETS BEHINNNNNNNND.” He shout sang into his mic, waving his hands to get noticed.
Like he could draw more attention to himself than he already had.
Also, no, seriously. Why was he Pierce’s friend again?
“Pierce,” Vaughn managed to hassle the mic out of Pierce’s grip, ignoring his squawk of indignation. “I told you those lame lines were scrapped, dude. Accept that. You’re being pathetic!”
“I’m pathetic?! You wouldn’t know talent if it came up and bit you in the hockey sacks! I quit your band. Again.” Pierce thrust his head towards where Vaughn was holding the mics. “P-Diddy Steak Dawg, OUT!”
“Get off my stage!”
Pierce made his way back to the table and sat down with a huff. “That jackass is lucky I skipped my morning burrito today.”
Jeff noted the change in his companion’s expressions from “Death Threat!” to “Pierce Nausea- Level Three” and could tell a chance when he saw one.
Slowly easing his chair out (hitching his butt up, thus lessening the pressure of metal legs to floor, thus preventing a loud screech, thus drawing as little attention to himself as possible) Jeff began his great escape. “I’lllllll be right… just gonna go…Vaughn...” He was up and gesturing hazily to the stage, the door, whatever; just five strides away from freedom- screw complete sentences, thank god for long legs.
He bolted. Jeff registered a surprised “Hey!” of indignation from Britta, first to catch on that he was totally ditching them. He called a “Talk to you guys later!” behind his back and that was it. Two more steps and he was safe.
Jeeeeeeesus. This fucking cafeteria. (Yeah, Jeff was kinda past the point of mentally censoring himself. Fucking cafeteria.)
Vaughn was behind him, and getting grabby with his arm. As in, he was touching him.
Could Jeff reasonably punch him for this or would that kind of thing be frowned upon? (…and it wasn’t the Dean’s frown he was thinking about.)
Okay, so Annie would probs vote a no to the violence. So… Jeff turned around and faced Vaughn, rubbing his eyebrows with a sharp inhale. He was so going to have a major stress headache by the end of this thing. That wasn’t even a guess.
“What, Vaughn. What do you want. What more could you possibly have to say to me. That has to be said here, in this cafeteria, in front of God, and my friends, and sure-to-be countless low-view youtube accounts,” Jeff waved an arm at the many phones and hand-helds raised and capturing the moment for posterity.
“Jeff, I know about you and Annie. I saw you at the Tranny Dance.”
“Really.” Jeff flat-toned with his very best sarcastic voice. “I totally hadn’t figured that out.”
Jeff actually hadn’t figured that out. In all his panic over his friends finding out about him and Annie, he had kinda forgotten to question how Vaughn himself had known.
“Yeah, I realized like, a block after I dropped her off that Annie forgot her special flower hacky sack with my hair in it-”
“-so I was going to return it. Because I cared, man. I cared. But she was already kissing you.”
Was Jeff actually going to feel bad about this?
“I guess she was just a slut.”
That would be a no.
So Jeff hauled off and punched him, the way he’d been wanting to all morning. The way he’d never punched someone before. With feeling. Vaughn hit the floor, knocking into someone’s lunch tray as he fell. Jeff shook out his tightened fingers and looked down at him.
“Don't talk about my girlfriend.” With that, he turned away and pushed through the cafeteria doors into the hallway.
Vaughn, still on the floor, shouted after him “You and me?? We’re not cool!!”
“Yeah, I think that was a lyric in your song!”
Three minutes later and Jeff had made it to the Anthropology classroom. There were people milling about, waiting for class to start, chatting and laughing and acting like this hadn’t just been the most stressful twenty minutes to ever occur in their lives.
How Jeff envied them.
They weren’t who Jeff wanted to see though.
Annie was sitting, as predicted (fated. creeded.) in the front row, writing something down in a notebook with all her pens and pencils and erasers forming a neat rank before her. It was simultaneously adorable and impressive. These desks were small.
Jeff slid into the spot right next to Annie’s and shifted so he was facing her. She glanced up, her startled expression instantly blossoming into a smile, and opened her mouth to give some kind of greeting. Jeff cut in.
“So they know.”
“Hi- Wait. What?”
“All of them?”
Annie frowned at her notebook as she thought this over. “…was it the Abed thing?” she asked, glancing hesitantly (adorably) up at him. “Sorry I kind of...left in a hurry.”
“Psh, no,” he dismissed. “Have you no faith in me at all? The Abed thing was cake. It was actually Vaughn.”
“Wrote a song.” Jeff deadpanned.
Annie looked at him incredulously. “…a what now?”
“Ye-hah. Listen carefully Annie. Do these words ring any bells?” Jeff cleared his throat and jumped a few octaves. “‘Oh no Jeff, you can’t accompany me to our joint class that doesn’t start for half-an-hour giving us the chance to stop for many interesting breaks in closets or hallway nooks, or even if we don’t do that just enjoy each others’ company. Nooo. You have to stay and listen to Pierce. Because he luuuuuuuubs you.’ Do you remember this?”
She frowned. “I don't sound like that.”
“Well,” Jeff bypassed. “Loving Pierce chose to show this affection by co-writing a song that equated me to a wiener and a B. In the same sentence. Which also happened to be the title.”
Annie blinked. Then quickly scrunched her eyebrows into what was obviously an attempt at a grave expression. But her lips were doing that pursing thing and the eyebrows kept slipping.
“Ugh, fine. Laugh.”
Her face instantly split in a grin and she shook with quiet giggles. “Jeff, I’m sorry! It’s just.” She smiled at him with pink cheeks. “Well, it’s kind of funny, you’ve got to admit.”
“Oh do I?” He faced her with a cock of the head and a raised eyebrow, skeptical Jeff at full force. “You’re just lucky I like you.”
Annie paused, the grin on her face turning into something softer. She looked at him quietly for a moment.
Jeff glanced at her with a confused smile. “What?”
“I am lucky.”
Oh. “Annie.” He groaned, strangely embarrassed. “I didn’t mean it like that.”
“I know.” She stuck her chin out at him. “But it’s true all the same.”
“No. Look.” Jeff stared down at his desk. “If anyone’s lucky here…” He hesitated but finally met her eyes. “…it’s me.”
He felt the blush the instant the words left his lips, and cringed, closing his eyes in a maybe-if-I-can’t-see-it-it-can’t-see-me attempt. “Wait. That was really, really cheesy. Let’s strike that from the record and I’ll re-do, and we’ll never speak of it again.”
Annie reached out and grabbed his hand, threading their fingers with individual focus and a smile that practically gave off light. “First of all, cheesy? Can be good,” she beamed. “And second of all. That line isn’t going anywhere. It will remain forever on the record, and when our friends inevitably ask what kind of boyfriend you are…” she paused-- “Once they accept us,”--and put on her formidable face. “Which they will--well, I’ll have something to pull out and quote-word-for-word now, won’t I.” She finished with a sweet smile and swung their clasped hands between them.
“Yeah…That’s what I was afraid of.”
“Oh Jeff, when will you admit that, OH my god, what happened to your hand?!” Annie, suddenly noticing his braised knuckles mid sentence, instantly stopped swinging and clutched the hand up to her for closer examination.
“Ah. About that,” he started, flinching a bit at her prodding, “I might have punched Vaughn.”
She gave a shrill laugh. “Might?”
“So I definitely punched Vaughn.”
“Annie, I’m not sorry. He had it coming.”
“Jeff, I know the song thing is obnoxious and frankly juvenile but go easy on him okay? He’s going through a tough time. I heard in the hall coming here that he played so poorly at Delaware’s hacky team practices, they rescinded their offer.”
“Heh. Well that’s probably our fault. He saw us at the dance in the midst of trying to give you his hair. Wasn’t exactly happy about it.” Jeff’s expression darkened. “He said some things.”
Annie sensed the change in his demeanor and gave a guess. “…About me?”
Jeff didn't answer but his shoulders tensed and a muscle jumped in his jaw. That was all the confirmation Annie needed.
“Oh.” Her face fell a little and Jeff felt like he could go back and knock the punk out all over again and it wouldn't be enough. But just as he thought that, a small light sparked in Annie’s eyes, something dawning in her expression, and she turned to him enquiringly.
“Jeff. Did you punch Vaughn because of me?”
He blinked at her. “Maybe.”
Annie ghosted her fingers over his swollen knuckles, looking down at his hand cupped in hers. She played with his fingers.
“No one’s ever defended me before.” Her voice was thick. Jeff watched her with an expression that any one of the students filing in would probably call schmoopy. He didn’t care.
Very gently, Annie lifted his hand in both of hers and kissed it.
Jeff couldn't help but smile. “Isn’t this situation usually reversed? Milady?”
Annie stood and offered a hand grandly. “Come on. Let’s go get you some ice. Milord.”
His eyebrows shot up. “But class starts any minute. What about your optimal learning seat? What about your good impression?”
She gave a small shrug of her shoulders. “I’m pretty smart. And I’m pretty nice too. I guess a middle seat won’t kill me.”
Jeff grinned. “You forgot to mention modest.” He stood and offered her his arm, which she took with a giggle. They turned, preparing to exit.
And instead came face to face with the group.
The pair went rigid, arms still linked, frozen before this encounter (that they really should have expected. Hi, yeah. Joint class.). Annie’s eyes went wide, but she thrust her chin up and held eye contact. Jeff felt her straighten to her full potential height, like how a cat arches when threatened. Jeff just stood his ground. He was past trying to hide how he felt. Funny to think that just an hour ago his mindset was so emphatically different.
They both stood silently and waited for a reaction.
Surprisingly enough, it was Britta that stepped forward.
“So, just because you guys are like, sickeningly cute does not mean we’re cool with this yet.”
Abed piped up. “I’m cool with it.”
“It’s weird but not a bad weird? You just expect it to be bad, but then it turns out good and you’re like: damn! Like butt stuff. That’s you guys.”
“Jeffrey, I’d like to offer up my services as a mid-coitus erotic photographer. I think that if we combine our efforts, we can make that no-nipples cry. Let me give you my card-”
“Okay!” Britta thankfully cut off before things got any more traumatizing than they already had. “So: does not mean we’re all cool with it.” Shirley gave a curt nod of her head. Britta continued “And we will be continuing this discussion in study group.” She pointed a finger of no-refusing at Jeff then Annie then back and forth again.
Annie, who had briefly faltered at all the butt stuff/coitus talk, shook herself out of it and nodded resolutely. “We’re going to get Jeff some ice.”
Abed nodded too. “Yup, we heard.”
“Oh.” Annie didn’t seem to know what else to say, so she just gave another firm nod. As did Abed. And then Annie again. Obviously Jeff had to do something or else risk becoming locked in a never-ending nod-off. It seemed the kind of thing Abed would take seriously.
“So!” He slipped his arm down so it was no longer supporting Annie’s and instead took her hand. Annie looked up at him, having to crane her neck adorably just to fully meet his eyes. The smile she gave him was full of emotions Jeff had been avoiding the majority of his life.
They didn’t seem too bad, at the moment.
Breaking the eye contact, he turned back to the group. “We’ll just go and get that ice so my hand doesn’t freeze up.” He considered this. “Ironically.” He squeezed Annie’s hand gently and they headed to the door.
“Hey Annie?” Britta called after them. They paused in their leaving and turned to look at her. “Save you a seat?” Britta asked with a slight smile, sliding her bag into Annie’s vacated front row desk.
“Britta…” Annie started but choked off with emotion. Instead she settled with beaming and nodded emphatically, squeezing Jeff’s hand and shaking it a little. The girl was practically vibrating with happy energy and, well. If some of that didn’t rub off on Jeff, he’d have no soul right?
So maybe he was grinning like a fool. And maybe when Annie bounced out the door, tugging him behind her, he might have been laughing.
And maybe when they pushed through the doors of the caf to ask Silent Agnes for some ice, Jeff didn’t even flinch.
After all, the cafeteria wasn’t so bad.