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Studies in Female Friendships and the History of Romantic Entanglements

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When she gets home, she's just not in the mood. She slams the door hard enough to dislodge the hinges that have only recently been fixed, she kicks her boots off and doesn't care where they fly across the living room floor and she slams her bag down on the table just inside the door without looking, so the dish Annie uses for keys rattles around and only just escapes a damaging fall. Britta knows she's not the most considerate person anyway, but she steps up (or down, depending on which way you look at it) another level when a bad day at work and an unwanted phone call from her parents is added into the mix.

What she definitely doesn't need to see as she storms towards her room - or Abed's room; it still doesn't feel like hers just yet -, is Annie in Jeff's lap, her hands cupping around his face as his own slide around her waist, both of them continuing to gently moan in to each other's mouths, her entrance not quite being loud enough or intrusive enough to burst their bubble. She stops sharply, clenches her fists and glares at them before raising her voice. The added stamp of her foot as she speaks doesn't quite have the intended effect with her boots now discarded.

"Get! A! Room! You literally have one, Annie!" She jabs a finger at Annie's room before turning abruptly, cursing under her breath as she finally reaches her own room and shuts the door even harder than the front one, ignoring any kind of response Annie or Jeff have to offer.

They both stay silent, though. In fact, the only comfort she receives is from one of her cats which skids through the gap in the door behind her.

Annie pulls away and tentatively wipes her lips on the back of her palm, following Jeff's eyes up towards the ceiling fan which is swaying from side to side from the sheer force of Britta's door closing. When they look at each other though, Jeff's shoulders rise and he lets out a snigger which soon turns into a chuckle, his rosy cheeks becoming even rosier. Annie tries to bury her laugh but ends up allowing herself smile and roll her eyes, her hand landing on Jeff's chest as he continues to find it all very amusing.

It's not their first experience of being caught out; neither of them are really adverse to showing their affection in public, especially not behind the closed doors of a (shared) apartment, plus, Annie likes to think they deserve it after six years of holding themselves back so if anyone has a problem with it, it's quite simply that. It's their problem.

However, this time it doesn't sit right, at least not for Annie. It's not like the time in Jeff's classroom where he'd held a kiss for longer than she'd been expecting as a student walked in and it's not like the other time Britta walked in on them, asking to borrow her hairdryer to find Jeff tucked up under Annie's sheets, his underwear on the floor and his bare shoulders visible. The student had apologised for walking in early and Britta had apologised for not knocking.

When Jeff attempts to keep things going, pressing kisses to the underside of Annie's jaw, she sits back and slumps into the cushions of the couch.

"I feel bad."

"What? Why?" Jeff asks, sitting up himself, watching her shrug. "She didn't tell us she was coming home early. We were just makin' out." He pinches her hip and wiggles his eyebrows.

"I know."

He isn't quite sure what to say when she sighs in response so he goes with what he's recently learned works like a charm.

"Do you want some hot tea? I'll bring it to you in bed."

She bites her lip and tries not to blush before nodding happily and jumping to her feet.

Annie doesn't think about Britta again until Jeff's lightly snoring at her side, his feet hanging off the edge of the bed and his right hand slung over her hip. She hears the front door creak open and close, followed by the sound of footsteps down the creaky stairs in the hall. She searches for her phone on the nightstand in the darkness and checks the time once she has it in her grasp. She ends up in her text messages, tapping at the screen.

ANNIE: Where are you going?

BRITTA: I need some air

ANNIE: Can I join you?

BRITTA: Sure whatever I'm smoking tho

Annie nods to nobody before slipping her phone under her pillow and slowing manoeuvring Jeff's limp and heavy hand from on top of her. She watches his fluttering eyelashes for a moment, resisting the urge to press a kiss to the tip of his nose in case she wakes him. When she's out of bed, she finds her slippers in the corner of the room and tugs on her dressing gown which is hooked over the back of the door. It's past midnight so she'd probably be better off in a coat too but she hasn't got time so she wraps the fluffy fabric around her tightly and shuffles downstairs, her keys stuffed into her pocket.

She squints once she's outside, the brisk Colorado air biting at her face as she searches the dimly lit street. She finds Britta sat on the edge of the sidewalk, shoulders hunched over in her puffer jacket, cigarette in hand.

"Hey." Annie joins her, trying not to think of the ground she's sitting on with her pyjamas or the second-hand smoke she's inhaling from Britta.

"I'm fine, by the way."

"I wasn't gonna' ask if you were."

"Thanks."

Annie bobs her head.

"I was… actually, going to apologise. For earlier."

"Ugh, you don't have to apologise."

"I don't?"

"No, I was in a bad mood earlier… I… I overreacted."

"Did you, though?"

Britta puffs out a cloud of smoke again, making Annie turn away momentarily before continuing.

"I guess… I haven't been the best… to you… with this kind of stuff… and… it's not like we've really spoken about it. Things have happened so fast with Jeff and me, and… he said you'd be okay but if you're not, it's okay, you don't have to be okay with it."

"Annie, you don't have to take pity on me."

"I'm not." She tilts her head sadly, "I'm trying to be a good friend. I don't want you to hate me… especially because of Vaughn and… now Jeff on more serious terms… I never want to make things worse so if I can avoid that, then I will. You've just gotta' tell me."

"God, Annie, don't be so hard on yourself. Plus, Vaughn was years ago. Sure, maybe I was pissed at the time but you guys were way better together. And… and Jeff? Ugh, god… it's not even…"

Annie watches her then, as Britta purposely avoids her before succumbing and crushing the stub of her cigarette under her shoe.

“Ugh, I don't know. I'm fine with you guys, honestly. I spent most of the summer making sure Jeff didn't give up on you but…" She rolls her eyes and lifts her hands in the air, trying to make things seem a little less dramatic, "…fine. I don't know. I guess… even if Jeff and I would have slit each other's throats after like, one full day of properly being together, it… I always clung on to this stupid idea that maybe he'd come back again eventually. Which was really fucking dumb because he loved you!”

“And I knew that and I knew one day it would come back to bite me and bite you even harder but… when you actually see it happen and you realise you weren't enough to like, I don't know, hold someone down, yeah, I'm enough of a person to admit that it stung. It hurt a little. But again, you guys are in love or whatever and it's my fucking fault if I get in the way of that, not you guys. And I've made-out in front of Jeff, plenty of times."

Before Annie can respond, Britta's speaking up again, not ready to stop.

"Although, Jeff can definitely apologise to the both of us because his timing is impeccably bad and yeah, I just used a five-dollar word at like one AM or some' shit."

Annie laughs out breathily before looking away, her emotions taking over. When she looks back, Britta's leaning her face into the palm of her hand, her hair cascading around her.

"Yeah, I get that. I do. Honestly, even though I was totally over him, I… I kind of felt that way with you and Troy for a while. It's like the door is finally closed on something even though you were never really going to fully open it."

Britta ruffles her hair into her face then responds.

"You did?"

"Yeah but it's fine. It's in the past now." Annie shakes her head before wrapping her gown a little closer, tightening the knot tied around her waist. "I just… I want us to be okay, you know? Out of all of the friendships in this messed up group of ours… it feels like we never really got along like everyone else. It's like there's always been something in the middle." She’s finished speaking so she watches Britta and tries not to let her eyes water but she soon realises she needs to clarify exactly what she’s saying. 

"And it's not just about tonight, that would be weird, I guess I've been wanting to say something for a while. I just don't want things with me and Jeff to ruin things forever."

"Oh, Annie…" Britta rolls her eyes and starts shuffling closer to her until she notices the mournful expression on Annie's face and the crease between her brow, "Oh… you're like, really serious."

She watches Annie wipe her face on one of her sleeves, her cheeks glossy from where she's started to let tears fall. She turns to look at Britta, shrugging up a shoulder.

"Can we start over? Like, properly? Put some real effort into this thing? I'm not expecting us to be perfect or anything but… we could try?"

Britta nods assertively, a tight smile on her face. Annie returns it before leaning forward, letting Britta reach out and pull her into a loose hug. They don't let go, they just continue to hold each other close, leaning on each other's shoulder.

"You're like the little sister I never had."

"You said something like that to me once but you were just us-."

"Hey, starting over, remember?"

Annie laughs under her breath, tilting her head.

"You're like the big sister I never had."

"And… we've both had Jeff inside of us."

Annie jumps back at that, disentangling herself from Britta whilst shaking her head.

"Oh okay, no. Even as a stranger, I wouldn't want you to say that, okay? That's always gonna' be weird."

"Yeah, I don't know why I said that."

"Actually, though…" Annie grimaces, "…I know… in the past, you've maybe not given Jeff the best… review… so… I'd really appreciate it if you didn't say anything about that again because… so far… it's been pretty great."

Britta snorts and scuffs her foot on the ground.

"What?"

"He wasn't that bad but… okay, whatever. I thought you didn't wanna' talk about that."

"I don't! I was… kind of saying that for Jeff's sake. I don't want him to get all up in his head about it."

"Jeez, I'm glad I don't have to deal with his fragile ego."

"Okay… well, maybe we should just not talk about him at all?"

"Yeah, I could do that."

"Great."

They both laugh but Annie's morphs into a shiver, her breath visible in the air. 

"Oh shit, you must be freezing. We should get inside." Britta stands first, holding out a hand so Annie can stabilise herself. Inside, the usually cold stairway feels warm and toasty as they walk up, the apartment hitting them with even more heat, so much so that Britta immediately unzips her jacket and chucks it on the couch.

"Where d'ya go?"

They both jump back, not realising Jeff is standing in Annie's doorway, eyes half closed from sleep, his hair standing up in every direction and his t-shirt creased and crumpled. Annie glances at Britta who waves a hand and slumps off to her own room. 

"We were just talking outside. Sorry, I didn't want to wake you."

He rubs his eyes and waits for her to walk over, where she smooths a hand over his chest and holds the door open for him to close it once he's hit the mattress again. He's turned on the lamp on her nightstand since she's been gone so she clicks it off and settles under the sheets beside him.

"You 'kay?"

"Yeah." She whispers before pressing a kiss to his cheek as his eyes close.

They both wake up relatively early, standing around in the kitchen together to make pancakes before Britta makes her first and undoubtedly groggy appearance.

"Can you pass me the blueberries?" Annie asks as Jeff perches at the end of the counter, the all-important blueberry pack in his hands as he takes a few to pop in his mouth. She raises his eyebrows at him before he succumbs and slides it over to her so she can chop and scatter a few into the batter she's frying.

Jeff's scratching a hand on the inside of his sweatpants when Britta arises, receiving a groan to shake him out of what he's doing without realising.

"Ugh. For a moment, I forgot how gross guys are."

"What was he doing this time?"

"Nothing." Jeff answers, sticking his tongue out at Britta before turning around and standing over Annie, pressing a kiss to the exposed curve of her shoulder.

"Nearly ready?"

"Mhm. Can you sit down?"

He kisses her again and she can feel his lips twist into a pout against her skin before he walks away, passing Britta who is filling up her cats’ bowls with kibble. She joins him eventually, pouring herself a coffee from the pot on the table before kicking her feet up.

"What did you guys talk about last night?"

"None of your beeswax."

"Girl stuff." Annie answers, reaching over Jeff's shoulder with his plate of stacked pancakes before returning with the rest. The table is already set with syrup and cream so she gets to topping her own as soon as she's seated.

"You went outside at like 1 AM to talk about periods?"

"Wow, you have a really two-dimensional view of women if you think all we talk about is our uteruses."

"You can't take a joke when you've just woken up, huh?"

"Your face can't take a joke when you've just woken up."

"Okay, enough you two. Please eat your breakfast before it goes cold and you complain."

"Since when did Jeff eat carbs?" Britta asks in part sincerity as she squeezes syrup out of a bottle.

"Since I started dating someone who makes really good pancakes."

"Aww." Annie grins over her fork, nudging a foot up his calf underneath the table.

"And since I'm going to the gym, today."

 "Ow."

The conversation and the back-and-forth die down a bit then as their cutlery clinks against their plates. When Annie's almost finished with her first batch - there's still batter left over and she's ready to cook up more before Jeff leaves -, she sits back and watches them.

It's different in the apartment now; all of Abed's belongings have officially departed now that he's decided to stay in California indefinitely and Troy is nowhere to be seen ever since he left to join him too, so, the only other constant is Britta who has barely left a trace of her personality other than in the shoes and clothes thrown around the place. Jeff has a drawer in her room for spare t-shirts and sweatpants but it's practically untouched because it's a rarity that he's ever over for more than a few hours seeing as his own apartment is far easier to use as a base for sleeping over.

She likes it though, this newness and still rather unfamiliar routine. It's a reminder that although things have changed, that doesn't mean it can't be for the good. There are things - people - that she misses but there is also so much she's looking forward to.

Britta looks up and they smile at each other, leaving Jeff to watch them in confusion.

"What?"

Annie distracts him, standing up to pick up his empty plate.

"Want some more?"

"Hmm… I'll have one."

"Okay." She bends down to press a kiss to the top of his head, leaving him smirking and trailing his eyes over her. He yawns once she's in the kitchen, stretching his arms up into the air as Britta watches him with a squinted glare, unsure how to feel about seeing him so content.

"Today… is a good day." He exclaims to nobody.

Annie bites her lip as she heats up the pan again.

"Yeah. It is."