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Advanced Hospitality & House Guest Etiquette

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            Jeff was in the middle of brushing his teeth when the bathroom door opened and Abed strode in.

            “Oh, Abed, hi,” Jeff said, his words muddled by his toothbrush.

            “Hey Jeff.” Abed waved as he made his way over to a urinal.

            Jeff rushed to spit out his toothpaste, glancing furtively at the back of Abed’s head several times as he made a show of rinsing his mouth.

            Abed hummed as he zipped his pants and joined Jeff at the sinks.

            “So, Abed, maybe you could… not tell the rest of the group that you saw me brushing my teeth at school this morning?”

            “Is there anything to tell?” Abed asked, meeting Jeff’s eye in the mirror.

            “No.”

            “Then I guess I won’t be telling them about it.” Abed raised his eyebrows.  

            For some reason, Jeff believed him. After six years at Greendale, he should probably know better.

            It only took ten seconds, once they sat down in the study room, for Abed to announce, “Jeff’s living out of his car again.”

            Several people said several things all at once—

            Annie: “He’s doing what?”

            Britta: “Is Greendale’s pay really that bad?”

            Frankie: “What do you mean ‘again?’”

            —while Jeff groaned loudly and shouted, “It’s not as bad as it sounds!”

            “Oh, I’m sure this will be good,” Annie muttered, crossing her arms and casting a knowing glance at Britta from across the table.

            “It’s just because of the storm this past weekend, you guys. Honestly. It messed up my building pretty bad. My landlord is taking care of it, but he needed us to clear out in the meantime. So I’ve slept in my office the past few nights.”

            “Well, I guess it… could be worse…” Britta said carefully. “When are you going to be able to move back in?”

            Jeff shrugged in an attempt to minimize the blow. “Three weeks or so.”

            “Three weeks?” Annie exclaimed.

            “Maybe a month.”

            “Living out of your car for that long sounds pretty ill-advised,” Frankie said, her brow furrowed. “Not least of which because I’ve told Dean Pelton that he needs to stop allowing teachers to sleep at Greendale.”

            “Right, okay, you all have plenty to say about it, but I dare you to come up with a better idea. My landlord’s too cheap to shell out the money for hotels, and Greendale sure as hell doesn’t pay enough for me to cover those costs myself.”

            The group murmured amongst themselves, all of them decidedly more apathetic, until Abed spoke up. “You could stay with us.”

            “Oh, Abed, that’s a great idea!” Annie exclaimed at the same moment that Britta said, “That is a terrible idea.”

            Britta put her hands on the table and looked between Abed and Annie, her eyes intense. “You guys don’t understand. I only slept with Jeff, I didn’t even actually live with him, and I can tell you that he sucks to live with. Do you have any idea how much time he takes to floss every night? And he needs to be alone in the bathroom to do it because he doesn’t want people to see that he gets food stuck between his teeth.”

            “Insulting my hygiene regimen is a low blow, Britta.” Jeff leaned to the side so that he could look past Britta to Abed. “And as much as I appreciate the offer, Abed, I don’t know whether that would be the best idea. Aren’t the three of you packed in there like sardines as it is?”

            “That’s part of the charm. It’ll be The Man Who Came to Dinner for a new generation—it might be horribly unpleasant, but we’ll all learn something from it in the end.”

            Jeff rolled his eyes and said, in monotone, “Color me convinced.”

            “Come on, Jeff, we all know that it makes sense.” Annie raised her eyebrows at Jeff when he twisted to look at her. “Britta’s only complaining because she knows it, too.”

            “I’m complaining because I don’t think Jeff should stay with three other people when Frankie hasn’t even given a half-assed explanation for why she can’t take him.”

            Frankie opened her mouth and closed it again once, then twice, before finally speaking. “I apologize, where are my manners? Jeff, as much as I’d like to take you in, I share a fairly small apartment with my developmentally disabled sister, and I’m reluctant to disrupt our household’s homeostasis. I hope you understand.”

            Britta stammered toward an apology as Jeff said, “Don’t worry about it, Frankie. Unlike some people in this room, I have a heart.”

            “Aren’t you guys going to ask why Jeff can’t stay with me?” Chang asked, looking around the table curiously.

            “Chang, I’d sleep under a bridge before I’d stay in whatever hole in the wall you currently call home.”

            “Fair enough,” Chang said.

            “So does this mean you’ll stay with us?” Abed asked.

            “Are you guys going to let this go if I say no?”

            “No.”

            Jeff rolled his eyes and leaned back in his chair, crossing his arms. “Then sure, why not.”

            “He hasn’t even come over yet and he’s already being an ungracious guest,” Britta stage-whispered, but her words were ignored as Frankie kicked the meeting into gear.

 

--

 

            Jeff had a faculty meeting at the end of the school day, so they arranged for him to pick up take-out on the way to the apartment. He spent nearly 20 minutes agonizing over which pizza toppings to get to keep everyone happy—why the fuck Britta refused to eat mushrooms, he’d never know.

            He knocked on the door of apartment 303 and Annie answered. “Hi Jeff. Abed and Britta both made last-minute plans, so it’s going to be just us for most of the evening.”

            “Oh.” Jeff glanced down at the boxes in his arms. “Why didn’t anyone text to tell me that before I bought them dinner?”

            “Britta said she was going to,” Annie said as she stepped back to allow Jeff in. “Maybe she forgot.”

            “Or maybe she’s still mad that I’m here,” Jeff muttered.

            Annie sighed. “I was trying to be generous, but yes, you’re probably right. You know what this means, right?”

            “What?” Jeff dropped the pizza onto the table and turned to look at her.

            “It means we should start by eating her pizza.”

            Jeff’s eyes lit up. “I like the way you think, Edison.” He handed over the top box on the stack.

            They sat at the table together, both grimacing slightly as they ate – Annie because she hated black olives and Jeff because he hated green peppers – but they were determined, and Jeff’s detailed description of the faculty meeting kept them both happy.

            “Oh, and you’ll love this,” Jeff said eagerly. “Garrity spent fifteen minutes arguing with the Dean about the amount of funding for the next play, and you’ll never guess how he tried to resolve it.”

            “No!” Annie exclaimed.

            “Arm wrestling,” Jeff said with a satisfied nod.

            “How does Garrity manage to challenge someone to an arm wrestling match at literally every meeting?”

            Jeff laughed. “I wish I knew. It’s so funny, though, you can always tell when he’s about to instigate it. He does this thing with his eyebrows…” Jeff made a face, imitating Garrity, and Annie laughed harder.

            “I can picture it. And then the Dean—”

            “—made the whole room uncomfortable by saying something that shouldn’t sound sexual, but coming out of his mouth, it did. Yeah.”

            Annie giggled. “I don’t know why you even bother to go to the faculty meetings anymore. They’re always so predictable.”

            “If I stopped going, you’d realize that it makes up about 90% of my material these days.”

            “That explains so much,” Annie murmured.

            “Yeah, keep track of the stuff I say at a committee meeting some time.”

            “All about the faculty meetings?”

            “Whenever humanly possible. Especially since I’ve started to figure out which faculty Frankie doesn’t like, because making fun of them has really gotten her to lighten up the past few weeks.”

            “Oh my God, you’re so right.” Annie’s eyes drifted toward the pizza box, where only one slice remained. “I think that one’s yours.”

            “Is not, I’ve already had six.”

            “No, I’ve had six. You must have lost count.”

            Jeff leaned his elbows on the table and looked at her sternly. “You don’t really think I’d lie about something stupid like slices of pizza, do you?”

            “Don’t make me answer that, Jeff. Just eat the pizza. Britta’s probably going to get home any minute, all ready to complain about her failed date.”

            They stared each other down for nearly fifteen seconds.

            Jeff ate the last slice.

 

--

 

            Even though it had been quite some time since Troy left, Abed had never gotten rid of the bunk bed, so that was where they encouraged Jeff to sleep that first night.

            And in theory, that should have been… well. Not ideal, but certainly better than sleeping in his desk chair at Greendale.

            Jeff would have been fine if he just had to fall asleep with the added light of Abed’s computer screen as he stayed up late watching TV.

            He probably could have eventually tuned out Abed humming along to the score.

            But what really got to him was Abed snacking on chips that Jeff couldn’t stop picturing crumbling all over the bed above him.

            “That’s it,” he announced, rolling out of the bed. “I need to sleep somewhere else.”

            Abed looked away from his screen briefly, not even bothering to pause his show as he took a bite of a chip. “Okay.”

            Wielding a pillow and blanket under his arm, Jeff padded out to the living room, which was blissfully dark. He squinted as he surveyed the room, trying to sort out where he could sleep. Britta was snoring away in her corner, so he had to steer clear of her… And he couldn’t be too close to Annie or Abed’s doors because he didn’t want to startle them if they got up in the middle of the night…

            Jeff curled up on the floor next to the kitchen, trying to decide whether this was better than sleeping in his office. His friends meant well, of course, but he was inching toward no.

            There was a creak on the other side of Annie’s door, and seconds later, her door creaked open, too. Jeff shut his eyes quickly, trying to feign sleep so that she wouldn’t try to talk to him.

            But he heard her walk toward the kitchen. She stopped near him and whispered, “Jeff.” When he didn’t answer, she sat on the floor next to him.

            “That’s not the face you make when you’re sleeping, Jeff.”

            Jeff kept his eyes shut, but he answered. “I’ve told you, I wasn’t napping last week, I was just resting my eyes.”

            “Sure, Jeff.”

            Annie allowed silence to linger between them for a few moments—Jeff couldn’t have guessed whether she was expecting him to speak, but he didn’t. Finally: “You know you probably could have asked Abed to stop whatever he was doing.”

            “I…” Jeff sighed and opened his eyes, but he stared at Annie’s knee, rather than looking up at her. “I didn’t want to disrupt his routine. You guys are already putting yourselves out enough to have me here.”

            “That might be true, but can you honestly tell me that you’d rather be sleeping on the floor next to our kitchen than in your office?”

            Jeff scoffed. “That’s not the point.”

            Annie hummed softly. “I don’t want you to fight me on what I’m going to say next, because it’s too late for us to stay up arguing.”

            “Never going to agree to that, but continue.”

            “Come stay in my bed. There’s plenty of room. We can figure out something else for tomorrow, but you shouldn’t be on the floor.”

            Jeff’s objections died on his lips when Annie snatched his pillow out from under his head.

            “Don’t make me repeat myself,” she whispered as she rose to her feet. “Now I’m going to do what I actually came out here for and get some water.”

            She stepped over Jeff, and he listened while she went into the dishwasher to get a clean glass, then while she filled the glass with water and drank it.

            Resigned and disgruntled, he was on his feet too by the time Annie turned around to go back to bed. Moreover, he was tired enough that, when she smiled gently at him, he smiled back.

            “Don’t hog the covers,” she told him as she led him back to her room.

            Jeff couldn’t remember the last time he fell asleep so quickly or slept so well.