Over winter break, between fits of boredom, Britta had an epiphany of sorts while texting her ex-boyfriend (the punk rocker). If Jeff Winger, Ex-Lawyer Extraordinaire, had put her in his phone as "Hot Blonde, Spanish Class", there was really no reason for her not to return the favor, right?
(Okay, so it wasn't a huge epiphany, but it was winter break. Any thinking at all over winter break counts twice. That's just common knowledge.)
"Britta," says Abed, as she plunks her tray down and slides into their cafeteria booth one Tuesday morning, "you got a text while you were getting your breakfast."
"Really?" Britta reaches over to retrieve her phone, but of course Abed is already reading the message out loud. "Help, study room, ASAP. Who's 'Raging Douchebag?'"
Britta rolls her eyes. "Jeff."
"Ooh, that's not very nice," says Shirley.
"No, but it's very accurate. Can I have my cell phone back?"
"Sure." Abed hands it to her over Troy, who winces. "Hey, hey, watch the oatmeal."
"The oatmeal? Pierce, will you please stop trying to look down my top? I didn't even bend over that far this time."
"Most women," he says, indicating both of Britta's breasts with his fork (oh, my God), "would consider that a compliment."
Next to her, Troy is saying, "Seriously, this is the best oatmeal I have ever had. I'm not even joking; I would marry this oatmeal right now."
"Who would wear the veil?" asks Abed.
Pierce leans over the table. "You know, if you're serious, I am an ordained minister, Troy."
Britta coughs. "Cult!"
"Britta, for the last time, I am not in a cult."
She laughs. "You so are. Do these marriage ceremonies you perform involve blood sacrifice in any way?"
Pierce looks indignant. "Of course not! They're gifts, not sacrifices."
Britta snorts, digs her spoon into her Kashi flakes as she lets the conversation drift along without her for a couple of minutes.
It's nice, she thinks, watching Pierce explain the precise method of skinning a wedding rabbit to an increasingly horrified Shirley. She's never had a group of friends she could just be normal with. Not fake. Not pretending.
"Doesn't ASAP mean as soon as possible?" says Abed finally, and the booth goes quiet.
Britta looks up from her cereal to find everyone staring at her. "What?"
"Britta, sweetie," asks Shirley, "aren't you going to see if Jeff needs anything?"
"Why am I the designated Jeff wrangler around here? He's a big boy, I'm sure he can handle himself for a few minutes while I finish breakfast."
Troy snorts. "Handle himself."
"Also 'big boy'," Abed points out.
"Okay, accidental double-entendres aside, he'll be fine. Plus…"
"If this were a horror movie, Jeff would be getting murdered while we were having this conversation." says Abed.
"Plus, I have to wait for Annie. She wanted me to look over something for our poetry class." Britta looks around. "Where is she, anyway? It's not like her to be late for anything. Even breakfast."
"Maybe she's with Jeff," says Abed. Shirley and Troy make simultaneous and nearly identical high-pitched oooooohhhhh noises.
Britta shakes her head, her train of thought running slightly off the rails. "Wait. You all think Jeff and Annie are…"
Shirley nods vigorously. "They have chemistry."
"I agree with Shirley," says Abed. "At first I figured it was going to be you and Jeff, but you're both kind of vanilla. No offense."
"None taken." says Britta, frowning slightly. Everyone seems to take this on its face, but it's true, it's totally true, she thinks. She's in what her ex-boyfriend (the surfer) used to call "a really awesome place" right now, and part of that is being friends, friends, with Jeff.
All of this is true, she thinks, but the little twinge in her stomach right now? So is that.
"I doubt they're together right now," Abed says. "They'll probably drag it out for a while, go back and forth between liking each other and not liking each other, until we all get really bored with it."
"I'm personally shocked at the suggestion," says Pierce. "A girl Annie's age with a schmuck like Jeff. In my day, we had standards."
"No, in your day, you had sex in covered wagons," says Britta. She drops her spoon into her empty bowl. "C'mon, guys, let's go see what's up in el cuarto de estudio."
Annie's shriek of despair is so deafening she actually drowns out the loudspeaker.
"I'm sorry, I'm sorry!" Jeff is frantically saying when the group arrives. Shirley immediately goes to Annie and enfolds her in a hug. Annie clings to her desperately, whimpering. Britta immediately goes to Jeff, and jabs his chest with her index finger.
"What. Did. You. Do."
"Nothing! I swear to God, nothing!" He lowers his voice, guides her to the doorway. "She has writer's block. And all I said was, it wouldn't be the end of the world if she handed in an assignment late for once in her perfect, Stepford student life. That's all."
Annie lets out another wail.
"And you thought that would help?"
"I didn't think I get the Biblical floods, no." Jeff runs a hand backwards through his hair, which is looking less hey-Britta-check-out-my-artfully-mussed-hair than oh-hey-Britta-I-just-woke-up-in-this-trash-can-good-morning! He looks….distressed. Worried. Concerned.
Britta squints at Jeff's face. "How long have you been trying to help her with this?"
"I don't know. I lost track about dawn o'clock."
"All night? Seriously, all night? I thought you were good with words, Winger."
Jeff sighs. "Britta. I'm good with words that get people to do things. Poetry is words that make people feel things. Completely different." As he's saying this, his gaze keeps drifting back over to Annie. "And after a while, it was less about the poetry and more about the suicide prevention."
Britta swallows. "Um."
"Is that all you were doing?"
Jeff's eyes go very, very wide, and he's about to say something indignant and probably very high-pitched when Shirley and Pierce brush past them.
"Oh, Jeffrey," says Shirley, turning around. "I just want you to know, I completely support you and Annie being together."
"Oh, that word did not need air quotes," says Britta.
A strangled sound escapes from Jeff's throat.
"But," she continues, her expression turning thunderous, "if you hurt that girl, I will come down on you with the fury of the vengeful God that neither of you believe in."
"Uh," says Jeff.
Shirley smiles. "Good, good. We've got class, but you and the others can help Annie, right?"
Britta nods so hard she thinks her head might pop off. "Absolutely."
"Good!" Shirley pats Jeff on the shoulder and sweeps away to catch up with Pierce. Jeff trails them with his eyes, and then slowly turns back around to face Britta.
"You didn't answer my question," she says.
Jeff looks down. "We didn't..."
"But you want to," says Britta, with just the slightest edge in her voice. "Right? That's why everyone's been picking up weird vibes between the two of you, isn't it? I mean, I really hope this isn't about you finally realizing that you're never going to get into my pants and just moving on to the next eligible prospect like we're some interchangeable machine parts or something, because, Jeff," she pokes him in the chest again, "if that's true, then you and me are not friends, and I need to go get someone to punch you in the face again. Or I could do it myself. Your choice, really."
She manages to take a breath. Jeff gently pulls her hand away and hangs on to it loosely, thinking. "I like her," he says finally. "I like her, and I don't really know what to do about it. There. Honesty." He lets go of her hand, and Britta raises an eyebrow at him.
"You're really freaked out by this whole having actual human emotions thing, aren't you? I mean, look at your face. It's like watching some chimpanzee learn how to use tools for the first time."
Britta sighs. "Okay, look. One. Annie is a good person, and I want her to be happy. All right?"
"Two. The same applies to you, got that?"
He hits her with that laser-beam smile he has, the bastard, and she feels that little twinge in her stomach again. "Okay," he says.
She bites her lip. "I just…I don't want things to be weird, you know? Can we try and have things not be weird?"
"You realize what building we're standing in now, right?"
Britta rolls her eyes, but smiles. "I'm good with staying at the cat-sitting level if you are, is all I'm saying."
He nods. "Deal. Although, I think we've progressed to the 'steals Italian faucets for each other' level. Just so we're clear."
"You've never stolen Italian faucets for me."
"Did you want me to?"
"And have you risk your sparkling reputation? I don't think that's a very good idea."
He laughs. "We're cool?"
A shriek escapes from the study room. "But nothing rhymes with orange!"
Jeff tilts his head towards the open door. "Uh, speaking of faucets, there's a leaky one in there I could use some help with?"
Britta smiles. "Lead on, lover boy."
He sighs. "Oh, God, my life is ridiculous."
"Join the club."
"That's not a word."
"That's not a word."
"That's not a word."
"Abed, seriously, how long are you going to be doing this?"
Troy sighs and flips his Chemistry book shut. "Lozenge."
"Lozenge. I'm taking a nap."