Title: Things We Do for Love (1/5)
Spoilers: Specifically 1x25, 2x12. Little details through 2x17.
Word Count: ~ 2500
Disclaimer: You know how this works. Don’t sue me.
Notes: Thanks to lady0fthesith for the beta. Ficcy Friday prompt from tilie12. Sequel to Things We Do For Money. (It’s not necessary to have read it for the first chapter, but its events are relevant to later chapters.)
Summary: Greendale holds a bachelorette auction.
Jeff strides across the quad, taking the longest route in order to avoid the throng of students lined up to participate in the dean’s latest misguided attempt to bolster school pride. Jeff exhales a sigh of relief when he makes it to his destination without a single quirky student or professor roping him into the chaos. As he pulls open the library doors, he isn’t surprised to hear the overhead speaker crackle to life with the sound of Dean Pelton’s voice ringing through the halls.
“Young men of Greendale! Don’t forget to stop by the quad and exchange your validated volunteer work certificates for Greendale greenbacks. We know you college students don’t have any real money, so only greenbacks will be accepted for bids on your favorite lady at this evening’s charity bachelorette auction--” The dean halts his announcement, seeming to confer with an unidentifiable second party. “Oh, how inconsiderate of me. Old men men are welcome to participate as well. What’s that?” After a few more seconds of muffled words, a surprised dean proclaims, “I forgot about lesbians.” A brief silence follows before the dean corrects, “All men and all women of Greendale, stop by the quad for your Greendale greenbacks! Don’t let another guy or gal -- Greendale doesn’t discriminate -- buy that lovely lady you’ve had your eye on.”
As Jeff pulls out his chair to join the three female members of the study group at their usual table, he mutters, “A Greendale bachelorette auction. I’d expect better prospects at singles night at a Wal-Mart.”
After a round of gasps, Jeff responds to the loudest, “Annie, you didn’t actually sign up for that freak show, did you?”
“Yes, Jeff! We all did.”
Jeff looks to his right. “Britta, not you, too? I was really looking forward to a bra burning protest against the exploitation of women.”
“Please, Jeff. It’s called being charitable. Something you clearly know nothing about.”
Jeff counters, “Hey, I’ve made charitable donations.”
“Donating sperm doesn’t count,” Britta prods.
Jeff smirks, “It’s harder work than you’d think.”
“Ew!” Annie interjects.
Shirley coos as she smiles and bats her eyes, “Jeffrey, since my ex-husband slash boyfriend can’t participate, because he isn’t a Greendale student, I was hoping you’d bid on me.” Shirley clutches her hands to her chest. “I wouldn’t feel right about going on a date with anyone but Andre.”
Jeff leans back in his seat as he prepares to inject a bit of reason into the conversation, “Shirley, I’d like to, but wouldn’t it be easier on us both if you just didn’t enter the auction?”
Shirley’s brow wrinkles. “How would that help charity?”
Jeff protests, “You guys, I read the fliers. Most of these ‘charities’ are just excuses for school employees not to do their jobs. We’re talking about grading papers for Duncan, not feeding starving children in Africa.”
“Jeff, stop making excuses,” Annie responds. “Some of the volunteer work is real. You could pick up trash from the highway. That’s worth five times as many greenbacks per hour as grading papers.”
Jeff tilts his head and squints one eye as as if thinking through a serious dilemma. “I considered that, but I don’t have anything in my wardrobe that goes with a reflective orange vest.”
“That is the kind of callous attitude that--”
Thankfully, Britta is interrupted by heavy breathing and the pounding of feet.
Troy comes to a halt inside the study room doors. He shouts, “Guys, you’ll never believe who we just saw outside!”
Further down the hallway, behind Troy, Jeff sees the doors open to reveal Pierce. Jeff notices the older man laughing with his arm slung around the shoulders of a much younger, uncomfortable-looking man.
Jeff feels a tightening in his chest as he hears Annie gasp.
As Troy leans against the door frame, Pierce and Abed arrive with an all-too-familiar douche bag hippie in tow.
“Hey. Hello. What’s up, guys?”
“Hey...” Jeff tries to force a smile. “Vaughn.”
Jeff glances at Annie, whose eyes are bigger than he has ever seen them. Vaughn bursts into a smile and rushes toward her.
“Hey!” Annie exclaims as she jumps out of her chair and takes a step toward Vaughn, who flings his arms around her.
As Vaughn spins Annie in a much-too-lengthy embrace, Jeff’s eyes form a hardened glare. He does his best to retain his forced smile, gritting his teeth and telling himself he doesn’t care that some guy’s arms are around Annie. It doesn’t upset him at all that the possessor of said arms is her former boyfriend, and it doesn’t matter in the slightest that said arm possessor has probably even slept with her. It especially doesn’t bother Jeff that the asshole, whose arms are still around Annie, is obviously here to attempt to resume the aforementioned intercourse. Jeff’s smile drops at that visual. He shakes the thought away and pastes his grin on as he watches Vaughn return Annie to her feet.
Jeff continues smiling when the hacky sack-playing moron plants a kiss on Annie’s cheek, acting as he had never left, as if Annie had not broken up with him, as if nothing had ever happened between Jeff and Annie. Not that anything had happened, Jeff corrects himself. Nothing significant anyway.
Jeff continues to grit his teeth as his forced smile widens. Nope. He’s not even a little upset. In fact, he’s happy-- no, thrilled! Yes, he’s thrilled that Vaughn is back! Things can go back to the way they were. No more drama. No more punches in the nose. No more “either you want me or you don’t” conversations. No more catching himself staring before remembering that she’s too young and too good for him. No more waking up out of dreams of her naked in his arms.
“Hi, Vaughn,” Britta says, interrupting Jeff’s thoughts. “What are you doing here?”
“Just finished enrolling in a half-semester accounting class!” Vaughn announces.
“Um...” Annie tilts her head and her eyebrows knit. “That’s a long commute from Delaware.”
“Oh, right. I forgot. That’s the surprise.” He beams at Annie. “I moved back!” He raises his arms in the air. “I made the national hacky sack team. We train in Denver.” He wraps one arm around Annie’s shoulder and pulls her in tight as he asks, “Isn’t that great, mountain flower?”
Annie’s eyes connect with Jeff’s for a moment before she forces a smile and answers, “Yeah, that’s great.”
After a prolonged awkward silence, Abed states, “It’s time for class.”
Anthropology doesn’t start for another hour, but Annie seizes on Abed’s assertion as she pulls out of Vaughn’s grasp. “Yes, I have to go. Vaughn, let’s catch up later.”
“No, Annie,” Shirley chimes in. “Stay and talk. We’ll fill you in on anything you miss.”
“But--” Annie stammers as she looks around the room in desperation.
Jeff follows Annie’s gaze. Abed and Troy shrug in apology. Pierce, oblivious to the situation, pushes buttons and shakes his phone. Britta and Shirley offer encouraging smiles.
Annie’s eyes lock on Jeff’s. She silently pleads with him not to leave. Trapped in her doe-eyed gaze, Jeff forgets to be pleased at Vaughn’s return. The last thing he wants is that unbathed stoner’s hands all over Annie. Not because Jeff is jealous, but because Micro-Nipples still isn’t good enough for her.
“Jeffrey,” Shirley calls from the doorway. The others are behind her. “Are you coming?”
Annie’s eyes have Jeff pinned, obliterating his well-crafted excuses to remain indifferent. Despite any judgement from the others, he has every intention of helping her make a hasty escape from those hemp braceletted arms.
He glances at Vaughn, who’s looking at Annie with a goofy grin plastered on his face. Again Jeff’s thoughts begin to dwell on whether the douche bag has been with Annie in a way Jeff has literally only dreamt about. Okay, Jeff admits to himself, maybe he is a little jealous, because the thought of knocking that grin off his stupid, hippie face makes Jeff very happy.
Shirley’s voice goes deep. It carries the ominous warning of a mother. “Jeffrey?”
Her tone snaps Jeff out of his musings and reminds him that he’s not a kid. It occurs to him, however reluctantly, that he’s too old and too jaded to be jealous over a twenty year old girl. Even if he weren’t, he’d missed his chance to confront the real question of whether he wanted her or not. Now he isn’t entitled to his jealousy no matter how many hippies she ends up with.
Jeff pulls his gaze away from Annie. He gathers his books, offering her a half-hearted smile and a shrug as he follows the others out the door.
* * *
Jeff watches the projector screen roll upward, having once again escaped Professor Duncan’s attempts to lock it in place. Jeff is well aware of Annie sitting next to him, staring motionlessly at the chalk board with her chin resting on one hand.
After he’d left the study room, Jeff and the rest of the group had gone to the cafeteria for coffee. As images of Annie with Vaughn played in an endless loop in Jeff’s mind, he’d gradually torn his cup to shreds while assuring his friends that nothing was bothering him. Now, an hour later, he still can’t shake the thought of those hippie hands on Annie.
Despite knowing he should mind his own business, Jeff casually leans forward to pick up his pen. He tilts his head toward Annie as he whispers, “So Vaughn’s back.”
Still gazing ahead, she nods. “Yeah.”
Jeff’s fingers tighten around his pen as he pulls off the cap. Realizing Annie isn’t going to respond further, he prompts, “Quite a surprise.”
She nods again, staring at the front of the room where Duncan continues struggling and muttering colorful British euphemisms at the screen.
Jeff aims to keep his voice nonchalant as he scribbles nonsense into his notebook. “What did you talk about?”
She shrugs. “Nothing really.”
Jeff nods and watches Duncan’s strife for a few seconds. “So... ” Jeff scratches the pen frantically against the page, writing nothing but a thick, haphazard, black line. “Are you... I don’t know... Are you getting back together or anything?”
Jeff stops writing when Annie turns toward him. Her cheek rests on her palm, and a smile plays at the corner of her lips as she asks, “Jeff, do you actually care about my love life?”
“I uh...” Jeff stammers as he leans back in his seat. He shrugs and opens his mouth to plead complete indifference. Just as he’s about to announce his lack of interest, he halts at the thought of Vaughn’s filthy, hemp-stained fingers on Annie’s naked skin. He exhales and tilts his head back before deciding to finally man up and confess that yes, he cares. He cares so much he hasn’t thought about anything else for the last hour.
He leans forward, prepared to finally own up to his jealousy. He meets Annie’s eyes, Annie’s sweet, hopeful, innocent eyes and with a sinking feeling in his stomach, he realizes he can’t go through with it. She deserves better than Jeff. As much as Vaughn is completely unworthy of Annie, so is Jeff. At least Vaughn is willing to give her the relationship she deserves.
He looks at his notebook and says instead, “I’m willing to listen.”
She smiles, nods, and opens her Anthropology textbook. She flips through several pages before she says, “He told me I was his inspiration for making the national team.”
“Oh,” Jeff mutters as he makes an effort to write random anthropology terms in his notebook rather than let himself get carried away again.
She continues looking at her textbook as she adds, “He came back for me.”
“That’s... uh... that’s...” His pen rapidly scratches the page once again. He takes a deep breath and stills his hand before he puts on a smile. “Congratulations.”
She shrugs one shoulder and casts her eyes toward him. “Thanks, but I told him I need to think about it.”
“Oh!” Jeff responds.
The question “why” rings through Jeff’s head, but uncertain whether it’s best for either of them to hear the answer, he hesitates to ask.
“Hey, guys,” Jeff hears from his right. He looks up to see Rich sliding into the seat in front of him. “Jeff, you look terrible. Are you feeling all right?”
* * *
As Jeff leaves his final class and heads toward his car, he sees a football sailing through the air on the opposite side of the quad. Not unusual. What Jeff finds odd is the crowd standing nearby erupting in cheers when the ball is successfully caught.
Drawing closer to the scene, Jeff isn’t surprised to discover Abed, Pavel, and Garrett behind cameras following the action. Scanning the crowd, Jeff spots a familiar blond figure and navigates his way toward her.
As he approaches, he asks, “What are they doing?”
Britta glances over her shoulder at him. “Promotional video.”
“The school. It’s their volunteer work.”
Jeff watches as Troy draws his arm back to launch the football through the air yet again. Looking down the “field”, Jeff notices the receiver is none other than Doc Potterywood. And though he can’t be sure it isn’t just a reflection, Jeff thinks the football is blinking.
“Why is Rich in it?”
Britta rolls her eyes and replies, “Don’t ask me. I wasn’t in charge of casting. He has the acting skills of Dane Cook.”
Jeff narrows his eyes in suspicion at Britta’s bitterness. “Why are you still here?”
She grins. “I’m the female lead.”
“What? Britta, why? You don’t need to do this phony charity stuff for phony money. You’re in the auction.”
“This is like the hundredth film Abed has asked me to be in. I felt bad turning him down again. You should have heard his speech about how it’s inconsistent for ‘my character’ to refuse to be in any of his films when I encouraged him to follow his dream at the beginning of last ‘season’. Whatever that means.” Britta shrugs. “Plus, he promised to make my role empowering to women.”
As Rich walks back toward Troy with the ball, Jeff notices a flicker of light coming off of it once again. “Is that football blinking?”
“Britta!” Rich waves in their direction. “We’re ready for you,” he calls out.
“Well, I’ve got to go diffuse a bomb,” Britta says as she jogs toward the cameras.