Title: Things We Do for Love (4/5)
Spoilers: Specifically 1x25, 2x12. Little details through 2x17.
Word Count: ~ 3100
Disclaimer: You know how this works. Don’t sue me
Notes: Ficcy Friday prompt from tilie12. Sequel to Things We Do For Money.
Summary: Greendale holds a bachelorette auction.
Part 1 | Part 2 | Part 3
“Anybody? One hundred. Anybody?” Dean Pelton’s amplified voice echoes through the walls. “Do I hear one hundred wampum?” A pause. “One hundred?” There’s a longer pause and the dean’s voice slips into desperation. “Come on people! This is the last one. Let’s just get this over with. How about fifty?”
Doing his best to tune out the deans pleas for bids, Jeff shakes his head as he stares at the ceiling. Immediately after his embarrassing loss to Vaughn, Jeff had left the gym. He should have gone home. Instead, he had wondered the halls until he found a place out of sight.
Jeff could come up with a hundred excuses for why he hadn’t gotten in his car and left, but at the moment, he doesn’t have the energy to lie even to himself. The plain and simple fact is that he’s alone in this room on this table because he hoped Annie would find him. It sort of became their thing... at least Jeff thought it had... until Annie didn’t hold up her end of the... thing.
At first, Jeff was going to wait just ten minutes. Ten turned into twenty. Twenty into thirty... into an hour. Now, he had waited too long. With the auction almost over, people would be filing out. He could no longer leave without being spotted and mocked on the way to his car.
Jeff runs a hand through his hair, angry that he made a complete fool of himself in front of the entire school. Granted, this wasn’t the first time he had been embarrassed before all of Greendale, but this was the first time he had no one to blame but himself. He’d acted like a love sick teenager or worse, a character from a cheesy romcom. He just hopes to God that it wasn’t one played by Ashton Kutcher.
This is why Jeff hates romantic comedies. Despite their cutesy, fairy tale endings, if you throw an ice cold bucket of reality on any of them, this is how they would really end.
Why had he left himself get carried away like that? Jeff wants to blame Abed for dragging him into yet another movie parody. Stupid Abed! If he hadn’t tricked Jeff into getting that fake money in the first place, he probably would have kept his mouth shut.
Jeff’s thoughts drift back to Annie’s flirty grin directed at the kid whom Jeff has decided to dub “poor man’s Johnny Depp”. Jeff’s stomach knots even though he knows Vaughn outbid the guy. That reminds Jeff of the even worse knots in his stomach after he’d seen Vaughn grinning and making a bee-line for Annie once he realized Jeff couldn’t pay up. Okay, Jeff realizes, maybe he wouldn’t have kept quiet, but somehow Abed still owes him for this.
“Please, people!” Dean Pelton’s words burst forth loud enough to interrupt Jeff’s thoughts. “It’s just fifty wampum.”
Jeff half wishes he were in the gym to see which poor bachelorette he should feel sorry for now.
He feels his phone vibrate. Pushing down the hope threatening to bubble to the surface, he scrambles to pull the phone from his pocket. Then he sees the text is not what he had wanted to receive. It’s just Britta asking where he’s gone. Jeff sighs as he lets his head sink back, and the phone slips out of his fingers onto the table.
He grinds his last slivers of optimism to dust. Annie isn’t going to come looking for him tonight. That’s just Jeff’s luck. He finally got the balls to admit that yes, he, Jeff Winger actually likes a girl -- not just to have sex with her -- only to find out she’s already given up on him. It leaves a shallow ache in his chest.
If Annie still felt about him the way he was finally willing to admit he did for her, she would have looked for him. Hell, she would at least call. Bitterly, Jeff admits to himself that he was right to keep her at a distance. He should never have put his feelings on display for everyone to see. Jeff doesn’t even care that he’s being melodramatic. Only the walls and himself are here to judge him right now, and the walls can screw themselves... or whatever the equivalent is for walls. This table is reserved for a pity party of one.
How arrogant is Jeff that he thought it was his choice? He assumed that because he had gotten past his hang-ups, Annie would be his. In his bidding frenzy, he hadn’t even considered that she might not want him anymore. Well, he’d considered it many times. Often, he’d even hoped for it, for her to move on. But deep down, Jeff had never really believed she would. Now, he’s alone in this dusty space, left to face the fact that he made an ass out of himself for her, and she didn’t come after him.
Jeff puts his hands under his head as he blinks away moisture, which is definitely not a tear threatening to form at the corner of his eye.
He lets out a sardonic chuckle. Well, he got what he deserved. Annie is rekindling her romance with her ex, and Jeff knows it’s the universe’s way of paying him back for screwing her over in the first place. It’s payback for all the women Jeff has wronged. That’s the classic narrative, right? The asshole heart-breaker finally gets his heart broken. For once, Jeff wishes he were Abed. Maybe he would have seen it coming.
Jeff isn’t sure what it will take live this embarrassment down, or how he’s going to explain his behavior to his friends. Maybe he’ll blame it on an overdose of some psychotropic drug. Maybe he can convince Abed to back him up if he claims he did it for one of the other man’s films. Maybe he’ll skip classes for a week or two and everyone will just forget the whole incident.
Of course, what would be the point if he just does something stupid like that again?
If he’s going to hold on to even a tiny shred of his street cred or sanity, Jeff knows he needs to stop thinking about the certain young woman who’d made him temporarily lose his mind. He needs to take Shirley’s advice and put away the idea of being with Annie for good.
“Sold for ten wampum!” Dean Pelton’s voice erupts. “Finally!
Finally, Jeff’s repeats silently as he admits to himself that lying on this table has become torture. Despite the fact that he knows Annie isn’t coming and despite his attempts to quash them, those tiny particles of hope have still been floating around his head. He still hasn’t fully given up hope that he’ll hear the door creak open and her voice call, “Are you in here?”
Jeff sits up and swings his legs off the table. He reaches for his phone. Time to quit wallowing. After all, it won’t be too hard to explain the whole thing away. He’s Jeff Winger. He can explain away anything. He’ll dodge the issue, talk himself out of what he can’t dodge, put his feelings for Annie behind him, and everything will be back to normal.
* * *
Relatively sure that everyone has left Greendale for the night, Jeff walks through the empty quad. He’d spent the last fifteen minutes waiting them all out while playing his favorite pass time, Bejeweled.
As he reaches the parking lot, he sees a few cars remaining in the distance. He hopes they don’t belong to anyone he knows. If they do, he prays he’ll be able to make it the rest of the way without being seen. He needs lay low for a few days before having to face anyone from Greendale. That’ll make it easier to let the whole thing blow over.
As he nears his own car at the front of the lot, he notices a figure lying on the hood. His first thought is that Duncan passed out drunk again, and Jeff regrets not having fixed his alarm after Chang smashed up his car. Then, Jeff sees a pair of black heels and green fabric.
He stops and has to force his heart out of his throat and into a small, indifferent box.
She sits up. “Finally!” She lets her feet slide to the ground “I was looking for you. Where have you been hiding?”
Jeff starts to answer. Then he registers the first part of her statement, and he has to remind himself that he has very good reasons not to care that she looked for him. At the moment, none of them come to mind, but he’s certain he has them.
He smirks sarcastically. “For once, somewhere you couldn’t find me, and I’m not giving it away.” He crosses the distance, stopping a few feet in front of her. He looks her up and down, hardly able to believe she’s standing there. “I thought you had a date.”
A small laugh escapes her lips. “The dates are all tomorrow night in the cafeteria.”
He stuffs his hands in his pockets. “Really?”
“Yep. It said so on the fliers.”
“I must have missed that part.” His eyebrows raise for emphasis as he adds, “But it sounds very romantic.”
She smiles and nods. Jeff looks around the parking lot, expecting to find they have company.
As he studies Annie’s face, Jeff feels the hope he’s locked away attempt to force the lid off the box where he’d crammed it. “Yeah, but why aren’t you with him?”
She scoffs and seems mildly offended as she answers, “He won a date, Jeff. He didn’t win me.” She waves her hand as if to dismiss the topic. “We’re not getting back together.”
Jeff feels the hinges threatening to break.
“You’re not?” he asks before he slams the lid down again and wraps the whole damn thing in chains.
The only thing Jeff hates more than the plots of romantic comedies are their leading men. He’s not about to turn into that kind of sappy loser again. Less than thirty minutes ago, inside a dusty little room, he made a decision. He’s more determined than ever to finally stick to that decision.
“I asked for space, and instead, Vaughn bid on me to get a date,” Annie explains. “He wasn’t exactly respecting my boundaries.” She tilts her head and shrugs. “Besides... I think I was leaning that way anyway. That’s not really where my feelings are anymore, you know?”
“Hm,” Jeff grunts, hoping if doesn’t add to the conversation, she’ll let him leave before his own feelings learn to pick locks and cause him to do something really stupid.
Annie rocks onto her toes then tilts her head and smiles up at Jeff. “Thanks for bidding on me.”
He nods and forces himself to look only at the top of her head. “No problem.”
She remains silent as if waiting for him to continue. When he doesn’t she says, “Um... Why did you?”
“I...” He crosses his arms over his chest and glances at the ground, searching his brain for a good excuse. “I guess I got caught up in the auction.” He puts on his best casual smirk. “Same reason I never use eBay. I’m a compulsive bidder.”
Her smiles slips, and she gazes at him with hopeful eyes. “I thought there might be another reason.”
He shakes his head, fighting his impulse to confess. The chains are saying put. He’s keeping firm in his resolve. “Nope.”
“Oh.” She casts her eyes to the ground, and her saddened face almost rips away Jeff’s will power.
Then Jeff notices her shiver. She’s wearing a jacket over her dress, but the night air is cold, and if she’s been out here long, she’s probably chilled to the bone.
“How long have you been waiting for me?”
Her head bolts up. Her eyes are wide. “I wasn’t waiting for you!”
He smiles at her terribly adorable lie before casting a skeptical gaze toward her. “You were on my car.”
“I mean...” She laces her fingers together in front of her. “I was waiting for you, but only because...” She swallows and looks at her feet as she rocks back and forth. “Because...” She looks up at Jeff with a spark in her eye. “My car won’t start!”
Jeff smirks as he replies, “I hope you don’t expect me to fix it.”
“No. I just...” She laughs nervously. “I um... I need to use your phone to... uh... to call a tow tr-- No, a taxi. It’s late. I’ll just call a taxi and worry about my car in the morning.”
Jeff’s eyes move between her and her car. “Where’s *your* phone?”
“My phone? Oh... um... I can’t use my phone... because...” She looks at her car then back at Jeff. “I left it at home.” She seems to be finished with the explanation until an instant later, her eyes twinkle as though she’s just had a revelation. Emphatically, she adds, “Earlier... when I went to change.” Looking directly at Jeff, she lifts her head with determination and smiles proudly. “Yep. That’s what I did! I went home to change and forgot my phone there.”
Jeff watches her, reminding himself not to find her “I’m making eye contact and I’m achieving results” stance adorable.
The proud determination in her shoulders melts off a bit, and her brows furrow. She seems to have momentarily forgotten Jeff’s presence as she asks herself, “Why didn’t I just use someone else’s phone?”
Jeff studies her as she silently gazes at the ground for a moment. Then, looking quite proud of herself again, she raises he her head to meet his gaze.
In her “what I’m about to say is completely one hundred percent true even though it’s not” voice she adds, “Everybody else was gone, because I stayed to take down decorations.”
“Oh.” Jeff squints at her, wondering what she’s hiding and whether he really wants to know.
She smiles and nods. Speaking quickly, she summarizes her whole story. “Yeah. They were all gone, and my car wouldn’t start. So, obviously without my phone or anyone else’s phone, I couldn’t call for help.” She nods toward Jeff’s Lexus. “Then I saw your car, and I came over here. That’s why I was waiting on your car.” She rocks onto her toes, looking very pleased with herself. “Yep. That’s why. No other reason.”
Without his permission, Jeff feels the corners of his mouth start to curve upward. Annie might be great at deception when the lie has been all planned out ahead of time, but she’s terrible on the spot.
Jeff decides he really doesn’t want to know why she went to the trouble to make up such a detailed fabrication or which parts of that fabrication are true. It’s probably best for them both if he just accepts the lie.
“Oh. Okay. Well...” He pulls his phone out of his pocket and hands it to her. “Here.”
She takes the phone, dials a number, and turns away as she talks to the person on the other end. While she places the taxi request, Jeff looks up at the sky and congratulates himself on finally sticking to his decision not to let Annie affect him.
“It’ll be here in twenty minutes,” she says as she hands him his phone. “You can go. I’ll wait by myself.”
Jeff steps toward his car, almost leaving her alone in a cold, dark, empty parking lot before he realizes that would be taking his resolution too far. His goal is to not have feelings for her, not be an asshole to her.
“No,” he counters. “You can wait in my car. I’ll turn the heater on.”
“Jeff, really, it’s fine. You can go.”
“Annie, I’m not going to leave you alone in a parking lot in the middle of the night.”
“I’ll be fine. I was before you got here.”
“You can argue all you want, but I’m not leaving. Despite the general consensus, I’m not a total jerk.”
She sighs. “Okay.”
Jeff unlocks the doors to his Lexus, and he and Annie climb inside. He turns on the engine and the heater, but cold air blows in. He quickly switches off the vents.
He pulls off his own jacket and hands it to her. “This will help until it gets warmed up.”
“Thanks,” she says as she takes it and places it over her legs.
He watches her gaze out the window, and he stops himself from asking what she’s thinking. After several minutes, she leans back, and her eyes slide shut. He pulls his eyes away from her and stares at the steering wheel. Twenty minutes. He only has to make it through twenty minutes, he reminds himself. And it’s probably closer to fifteen now. He’s been doing well so far. He can keep himself from doing or saying something stupid for another fifteen minutes. Jeff glances back at Annie. Her eyes remain closed, and her head is resting against the window. A lock of hair covers most of her face, and he resists the urge to tuck the hair behind her ear.
Jeff remembers to check the heat and turns up the vents enough to discover that the air has gotten warm, so he cranks them up higher.
“Mmm. That feels good,” Annie whispers, and Jeff has to shake away the image it conjures.
Annie’s eyes remain closed, and Jeff watches her in silence. She looks perfect, flawless. He would watch her all night if he could, if the taxi were not on its way to get her, if he hadn’t decided not to let her have any affect on him. Jeff starts to hate his own decision, but he knows it’s in both of their best interests. Although, he reasons, maybe if he can keep her just a bit longer tonight, the decision would seem a bit easier to handle in the days to come.
“I’m being a jerk,” he announces. “You don’t need to wait for a taxi. I can drive you home,” he says as he places the car in gear.
“No!” Her eyes snap open and she bolts upright. “The taxi’s coming,” she says through blinks. “I’m warm now. I can finish waiting in my car. Maybe it’ll start if I try again.”
“Too late. We’ve already left,” he says as they head out of the parking lot. He holds out his phone. “Here. Cancel the taxi.”