On Tuesday Britta says to him, snapping her fingers one by one: “I have three words for you:”
[A pause for dramatic effect, made of a scowl, dignified but soft enough to be perceived as in the process of melting into a knowing, self-righteous, ‘I’ll always be-dash-deserve better than you’ smirk.]
[STUDY ROOM (LIBRARY) INT/DAY]
It takes ten minutes. Ten tiny little minutes before the bang, before the crack, before the thud. He was counting—ten minutes. Unconsciously, maybe, but counting. He had no reason to suspect, no reason to believe anyone beside them knew (and by them he means: a) he and Britta about paintball sex on the study table, and b) he and Annie about kissing during Tranny Dance). Yet, he was (unconsciously) counting, so he is mentally prepared. Ready to deal with the consequences of a study group explosion. Of course he is. After all, if he has learned something in college it’s that things will always go as wrong as it’s humanly possible. Pun intended with humanly. As in: Go Human Beings! Go and fail epically on your very first day back at school for the new semester.
(Everything is Shirley’s fault. And Abed’s.)
Shirley—I’m-addicted-to-gossip-and-I-can’t-be-coy-though-I-have no problem-being-judgemental-of-every-one's-adrenaline-driven-bad-decisions-—Bennet just stands there after the massive group hug dissolves. She just stands there, staring at the table as if a bunch of puppies had just been murdered right on top of it and you could still see the blood slipping out. Of course, the shower of questions begins to pour immediately. Shirley, are you okay? What’s wrong, honey? Are you having a stroke? Ha! That’s funny, isn’t it? Isn’t it? You get it? Jeff’s eyes stare pointedly at Troy, who’s too busy yawning to throw any questions at Shirley. He nods when he catches Jeff’s eye, and then smacks Pierce over the head. Shut up, man. Satisfied, Jeff looks for Britta’s eyes—he does it almost without thinking, which, in fact, clearly proves the point that he’s not deliberately pretending that nothing weird is going on and there’s no reason to feel awkward around each other. He almost smirks then, smug, when all of a sudden he does find her terrified eyes. In that moment he knows. There’s a bang coming. There is a thud falling. There is a crack breaking.
Shirley can only take the pressure for so long.
“They had sex on the table. JeffandBrittahadsexonthetable. Onourstudytable. JeffandBrittahadsexonourstudytable. Oh, God! Why can’t I stop? Stop stop sto---Itwasduringpaintball! Theyhadsex. Onthetable. Duringpaintball. Oh, God! Oh, Britta! I’m sorry. I’m so sorry. I shouldn’t have. But you shouldn’t have, either! Onthetable. Theyhadsexonourtable!”
“Here she goes again.”
Abed (of course) is the first one to speak. He’s staring emptily at the table. He isn’t even frowning. His eyebrows remain frozen, as if his sleeping. Or dead. Everyone else is too shocked to say anything. Britta’s cringed expression looks painful from where Jeff is standing. He knows it’s taking all her will-power and mental empowering ‘you woman up, girl’ pep talks not to just crawl beneath the desecrated table and hide away from everybody’s accusatory glare. For a second, Jeff feels a rebellious smirk tugging at the corner of his smile. He knows it’s just his natural reluctance to deal with the very real and very impending consequences of Shirley’s revelation, but he still has to bite down his tongue not to make a rude comment about how she’d thought the Tranny Dance debacle had been embarrassing and awkward, right? If possible, Britta looks even more mortified when Troy squeaks in excitement. “Man... that’s hot.”
Pierce nods enthusiastically. “Plot twist, huh?”
Abed shakes his head slowly, still looking down at the table without as much as a blink. He raises a finger and waves it, as if shaking his head was physically impossible. “Jeff and Britta having sex was bound to happen sooner or later. The audience was expecting it. One might say it was even too expected. Anti-climatic I would say. In fact, Jeff and Britta’s sexcapade would only constitute a legitimate plot twist if it had taken place after Britta professed her loved for Jeff in front of the whole school, only to have Jeff run away and make out with Annie. It was pretty obvious from that moment that their relationship was doomed.”
Then, there is silence. Deafening, all-encompassing, terrifying silence.
It takes Jeff five whole seconds to realize what Abed just babbled out. Five seconds. One: idiotic pop-cult reference. Two: expected, his ass. Three: sexcapade? Really? Four: professed her love? You gotta be kidding. Why is it so hard to understand that Britta was simply high on woman’s crowning moment of being crowned to realize that the soap opera she was living in her mind was actually taking place in real life? Five: it was just a couple of innocent kisses! He didn’t really make out with... oh. Oh. Fuck.
(While Shirley spouts out stolen secrets and Britta wishes for an invisibility cloak and Abed babbles and stares at the table and Pierce frowns only half turned-off, but mostly curious and a bit turned-on, and Troy grins and looks much too pensive and concentrated for anyone to feel comfortable—even if he’s started to yawn again—and Jeff eyes fly from one to the other… nobody notices Annie. And among all that not-noticing, only Jeff does it on purpose. The rest simply is too preoccupied somewhere else to take notice on how Annie pushes her chair a few inches back, carefully enough to avoid all screeching sounds, or how she refuses to touch the table at all while she remains smiling all the time, a fake doll-y smile plastered on her pale so-strained-it-is-scary face. Nobody notices how she slowly picks up her multi-coloured highlighters, how she folds her notebook closed and how, slowly, quietly, she stands up.
By the time Second Number Five catches up with Jeff and he turns around to check on her, she’s already gone.
Nobody has noticed.)
Somewhere far away, somewhere far beyond the big black clouds piling up inside Jeff’s brain, thundering deafly and muffling down all other sounds, he thinks he catches Britta’s batty shriek.
“What the what?”
The glass door is already swinging behind Jeff when Abed’s lighter tone filters through. “You’d make an impressive Liz Lemon, Britta. Your taste and luck with men is remarkably similar, don’t you think?”
“Shut up, Abed.”
[STUDY ROOM (LIBRARY) INT/DAY]
(Britta says it as if she doesn’t care beyond the snappy joke in her words.) Hands on hips even when she’s sitting down, eyes wide open in a scolding stare. Then, Jeff frowns, pretends confusion and nonchalance and ‘I really can turn this around with my quick and smooth sarcasm and court-room eyelash-flashing but I don’t feel like making that much of an effort’. The truth and nothing but the truth: he’s only half-bothered—the heavy uncomfortable weight in his stomach is easy to ignore, gets muffled beneath Pierce’s Ha, good one, Brittles, and his inappropriate laugh and yet again, This does qualify as a plot twist, right, Abed?
Jeff replies mentally. Yes, it does qualify as a plot twist. Then he extends his arms over the table and sinks his head between them. Yesterday, things had started out quite differently. A different plot had been twisted. Pierce’s realization comes one whole day and twenty explanations from Abed’s too late.
Abed, tireless as ever, nods methodically, raises a pointed finger to the corner of his mouth, as if trying to impose a look of concentration that will keep at bay the awkward smile quivering behind his tight-closed lips. Jeff crooks his neck from the table, rests his left cheek on the wood and frowns curiously, looking from Britta’s mock indignation to Abed’s inquisitive stare.
“You could be right, Pierce.” Abed’s eyes are fixed on Britta, but relaxed, mildly cheerful as if he was really overexcited about the twists and turns of their weekly storyline. “But you’re not. This is an entirely different plot. Actually, it’s not. It’s the same old plot. Only we got distracted by a red herring. Jeff and Britta’s paintball sex was a red herring.” His eyes don’t move an inch, but his eyebrows wiggle clumsily. For a second, Jeff recognizes what seems like a look of uncertainty crossing Abed’s features. “Or maybe... No. Can’t be. Is this an instance of retcon? I hate retcon. Retconning paint-ball sex would be cheap. I hope I’m wrong.”
To Jeff’s left, on the spot where physics laws make it absolutely impossible for him to look at, a small tiny throaty gasp is heard. It’s the customary post-someone-says-’paintball-sex’ Annie gasp. Jeff doesn’t bother feeling ashamed of himself this time. After all, he’s trying to melt into the fake-looking wood of a study table and not making any effort to hide it because his former love interest, now retconned into a red-herring, just called him a ‘creepy cradle robber’ in front of everyone for kissing a teenager. He can’t see it, but he knows Shirley’s arm is circled around Annie’s shoulders, dropping a casual ‘oh-sweetie’ from time to time and staring at him as if he was the Boston-Legal version of the Anti-Christ. Everyone is talking at the same time after Annie’s gasp. What are you talking about? You evil, evil man. I can’t believe I didn’t see this coming. You’re such a creep. I can’t believe they would mislead the audience like this. What? What fish? You dirty old man, Jeffrey.
Carefully, slowly, one question at a time and one outraged insult at a time, Jeff begins to sit up. The table is not going to take him in—he knows this now. He’d better just man up and put an end to the nightmarish B. S. Inhales. Exhales. Zips his fingers as to zip their mouths. And then speaks:
“Pierce. Enough. You get it. Cool. We get that you get it. You’re cool. That’s in itself a cool plot twist.” Eyes ten degrees to his right. Then back to Pierce. “Now wake up Troy, please, so he can laugh at your only barely self-referential dirty-old-man joke. What’s with him sleeping nonstop, anyway?” Thirty degrees to the right. Confused frown lands on Abed. Rises eyebrows in question; Abed shrugs, as if saying post-summer blues. Jeff breathes in, shakes his head. “There’s nothing wrong with retconning in real life, by the way.” Fifteen degrees to the right. Then to the left. Eyes flickering between Abed and Britta. “People make mistakes and then they fix them. Look at the bright side. You were right. Me and Britta aren’t Ross and Rachel. I mean,” snorts, “Mr. Swimmers wish.” Shrugs. He obviously is no nerdy palaeontologist. Inhales again. Exahes agan. One hundred and forty degrees to the left. “Shirley. Stop it, okay? You encouraged Britta to diva off Michele without any regards to my feelings on the matter, so stop guilt-tripping everyone.” Ten degrees to the left. Big blue Bambi eyes. A sigh. “We talked, right?” A nod. “Are we good?” Another nod. A timid tight smile.
their talk went like this:
[CAFETERIA - INT/DAY]
When he finally catches up with her she’s already in the cafeteria, sitting on a table drinking diet coke with a straw. He doesn’t even stop to wonder how she manages to move that fast. Instead, he sits in front of her, folds his hands and bends his neck. “Should you be drinking that?”
Her hands are shaking violently around the coke can, but nothing else in her body moves. Not even her hair. She’s rigid as a statue, but he can feel the crooked nerves and fizzing wires vibrating all around her. After a few seconds, she nods vigorously. “Slows me down.”
He nods. “Okay.” He doesn’t think caffeine is meant to slow anything down, but he’s not the one with the long-term romance with performance pills, so what does he know?
“I’m going to tell Britta. I’m going to tell everyone. Secrets aren’t good.”
He nods again, takes the punch with as much grace as he can gather without losing the smile. He gets it. He didn’t tell her he had slept with Britta—they didn’t tell anyone. The secret came out unexpectedly. People got hurt. He gets it—doesn’t make much of a difference that she’s completely missing the point (their secret’s exploded out already). She isn’t angry at him for paintball sex secret keeping because she fears that might make her a hypocrite. Okay. She’s also scared. Okay. She’s terrified she’ll end up alone among a bunch of unaware, lied-to-for-too-long morons, carrying too much on her plate and breathing shallowly, ten seconds away from crashing through a glass wall. Okay. He nods again. Okay. He nods stupidly. He nods non-stop. She frowns. He shrugs. “I think you should have waited ten more seconds to leave the study room.”
“Abed told Britta. Abed told everyone.”
“Everyone knows. Abed knew.”
“How? Did he see us?”
“Don’t think so. Probably you and me kissing qualifies as a classic season finale curve-ball.”
This time she nods, sipping more coke in what he imagines is a desperate and terribly misplaced effort to slow down the quivering of her fingers. She doesn’t blink once. She drinks and drinks and drinks (for a moment, the thought that she might just want to keep her lips occupied does cross his mind) and stares at him with big round blue eyes for at least five minutes. Or so. Then, when there is no more diet coke left, she leaves the can on the table and sighs. “How did they take it?”
“Britta was making a very impressive Liz Lemon impersonation when I left.”
Annie’s big blue eyes narrow into a painful frown. “Who?”
Jeff mirrors her expression. “What?”
Annie rolls her eyes, sighs again. “I shouldn’t have done it.”
Jeff insists. “What?”
Annie frowns again, only this time she looks more outraged than confused. Her hands are still shaking—the coke, as he predicted, failed. Now even her head is shaking. “Britta’s my friend, Jeff. She said she loved you. And I kissed you.”
“No more than I kissed you.”
For a couple of seconds, Annie stares down at her empty coke, as if wishing with her entire being that the can refills again so she can start not calming herself some more. Her head is still shaking, but the frantic pace of a few seconds before has been reduced to the quiet waves of resignation and pretending to be older than she really is and will be in what Jeff considers to be an overwhelming amount of years. Her voice is tiny and shaky when she speaks again, still not looking at him. “Britta won’t understand.”
What he hears is something else: I don’t understand. God—he wishes he had a diet coke to match hers. His fingers begin drumming against the table without him even noticing. “Look, An-… Annie, look—” God, is he stuttering? Damn it! “Annie,” he tries again, one syllable at a time. “I’m not sorry, okay?” Immediately her eyes flash upwards to meet his, half-puzzled, half-furious. Contrary to what some might believe, he gets Annie. He knows saying he isn’t sorry for making out with someone five minutes after another someone told him she loved him (liar, liar) is definitely not okay in her book. However, he’s sure lying is even more not okay. He is not sorry—not really. “Britta will understand. Give her time, okay?” He doesn’t know if he’s speaking to her or to himself. You will understand. I will understand. Give yourself time. Give us time.
Annie is smiling. Timidly, yes. She still looks kind of terrified and now her hair is trembling alright but she is smiling.
“Okay,” she nods.
He nods. “Okay.”