“You just... reminded me of my dad!”
Jeff could have punched a wall in that moment.
The night continued in the same bitter tone once the pizza arrived. Shirley and Britta had glared quietly at one another from across the table; Pierce and Troy occasionally spitting barbed jabs in the other’s direction while Abed acted oblivious. For his part Jeff tried to keep the peace, at least as long as Annie wasn’t looking at him, but the evening was soured.
She kept glancing at him, he could feel her eyes burning in to his cheeks- but then he always could when she looked his way- but he stubbornly refused to look back at her. Not while the twisted pain in his gut refused to go away. As the evening wore on it lessened slightly, but it never quite disappeared.
Britta’s slinking off to the bathroom to get more high was far less subtle than she presumably imagined and eventually Shirley slammed her bag on the table, said a curt goodbye, and stormed out. Pierce took his chance to leave behind her and then there were only four of them left around the table.
“I’m sorry we ruined your house warming,” Annie said finally, her voice small. This time when she looked at him he returned her gaze, offered her a small smile and nodded in agreement.
“It’s okay guys,” Troy shrugged, “I’d say we should call it a night but Annie, isn’t Britta your ride?”
Annie cast a concerned glance at the bathroom hallway, where Britta’s mewl- like singing could be heard, and sighed.
“Guess I’m getting a cab, can she stay here?”
Jeff shifted uncomfortably in his seat. Angry as he was with her- and if he was honest with himself he wasn’t nearly as angry with her as he was with himself for the incident in the kitchen earlier- the idea of her going out in to the night on her own wasn’t one he relished.
“I’ll share the cab.” She whipped round to look at him and he gave her what he hoped was a reassuring smile, although how do you reassure someone about the same thing you’re in turmoil about? “I don’t want you alone this late in your neighbourhood, Annie.”
“Jeff, I’ll be fine. I’ve lived there over two years. Besides, your apartment is in the complete wrong direction! You’d have to go back on yourself,” she insisted, but her tone wasn’t as forceful as he expected.
“It’s fine.” He stood, donned his jacket and stalked out the front door.
The cab ride to her apartment was spent in silence, neither one of them keen on breaking the delicate truce they’d navigated themselves in to. Her apartment wasn’t far enough to be considered a major detour- the earlier protest had only been half right- and it wasn’t long before they were pulling up outside her building. Out in the gloom Jeff was distracted by a movement amongst the cars and he gripped her wrist before she could open the cab door.
“Annie, there’s a man out there. I don’t like this.”
“Oh that’s just Spaghetti! He’s harmless,” she replied breezily, but Jeff shook his head.
“No, I’m walking you up. Can you keep the meter running?” He leaned round to the cab driver who raised his eyebrow.
“Man, that guy’s pissing on all the cars! No way I’m hanging about.”
“Fine.” Jeff pushed the cab door open and fished in his wallet for enough to cover the fare. “Come on Annie.”