He's on his way back from the bathroom, absently scrolling through e-mails on his phone, when he glances up for a minute and spots her sitting on the steps outside.
The rest of the group is still in the study room, sipping from plastic wine glasses, laughing over cake, and dancing to a bad house music playlist that he would bet big money is from the Dean's iPod, so he hesitates for a minute. Her body language doesn't suggest any turmoil or crisis, but the fact that she's sitting out there without a coat in her little sleeveless dress doesn't exactly seem like one of Annie's usually level-headed decisions.
But she's grown up on the likes of "Gossip Girl," so it could be an orchestrated move, separating herself from the group where she hoped he'd find her so they could play out some sort of melodramatic moment that does no one any favors. The air between them may be still at the moment, but he knows full well that it certainly isn't clear – he's just not sure that this is the right time to open that can of worms. But then she tilts her head just a bit, so he can see her profile in the frosty light, the determined, little lift of her chin, and he's headed toward her just like that.
He refuses to analyze the why of it.
"What are you doing out here all by yourself?" he says as the door shuts behind him. "It's freaking freezing."
She nearly jumps at the sound of his voice, and her eyes are wide when she looks up at him, so she seems genuinely startled that he's come out after her.
"Just getting a little air," she says breezily. "And the sky is so clear! Look at all those stars."
He glances upward, where the sky is so full of pinprick stars that it looks like a bottle of her glitter paint has exploded above them. She leans back against the steps, stretching out with one leg crossed over the other, almost like she's at the beach catching rays instead of sitting on dirty stone step on a chilly night. One of her little black heels with the bow in the front dangles from her toes and he watches it swing back and forth for a second, mesmerized. It isn't until he's sitting down beside her that he spots the champagne at her side, and when she follows his gaze, she offers the bottle to him.
He takes a sip because it's his damn graduation after all. He should be celebrating.
"I love champagne," Annie says, out of nowhere. There's a wistful smile ghosting her lips. "The first time I ever got drunk, it was on really flat champagne."
"Oooh. That sounds juicy," he chuckles. "Let's hear it."
"I was about thirteen, and my parents were having this stupid cocktail party for some reason or another, and, predictably, they got into this massive screaming match before they could clean up. So I was able to snag three or four half-empty bottles that were scattered around the house and sneak them up to my room without them seeing me." She laughs, shaking her head as she takes the champagne back from him. "But then I guess they would have had to notice I was there in the first place to catch me so…"
She does this casual little shrug, her eyes darkening just a bit as she takes a sip of the bubbly, and he catches a glimpse of the world weariness that lurks beneath her perky optimism, careful planning, and purple pen addiction.
"I'd think with that association, you wouldn't like champagne all that much," he says, trying to sound neutral. He doesn't want to go poking around in her painful childhood if he's not wanted – he's not Britta, for God's sake.
She grins, though, in a sly, secret way that reminds him once again just how sexy she is. He really doesn't have much hope for the collective intelligence of Greendale's student body, not if the straight male population is any indication - because somewhere on this campus, there has to be a halfway decent, semi good-looking guy, right around Annie's age, who sees how beautiful and passionate she is and could catch her eye, take her on dates, bring her home to meet his mother. Why hasn't some lucky bastard snatched her up yet?
"But it made me feel so much better, Jeff," she practically purrs. "All light and fuzzy and sparkly."
He laughs, taking the bottle when she passes it back to him.
"I better take it easy then. I'm sparkly enough as is."
She sighs, and turns to watch him take a sip, her chin resting on her forearm. Her smile isn't so much adoring as it is soft and calm, but he still has to look away, staring at the pavement in front of him instead. He's not old enough for a mid-life crisis, he reminds himself – because mid-life crises are things that happen to married guys in their mid 40s with a couple of rugrats at home and a boring desk job as an accountant or a claims adjuster. He's nowhere near that hell yet – and the only excuse for looking at this pretty, little girl and thinking that he's in love with her is a mid-life crisis.
Of course, he loves her. Like he loves Shirley and Abed and Troy and Britta, and maybe, deep down, even Pierce. In a completely safe, completely platonic, brotherly way that isn't the least bit creepy. He would do things for her that he'd never dream of doing for another woman, but that's because she needs someone to look out for her and there's no one else around for the job.
And yeah, sure, he's also ridiculously attracted to her. He's jerked off to fantasies of her enough times to feel just a little bit guilty about it, and he could sketch every curve of her hot, little body, from her soft cheek to her perfect breasts to her tiny waist and firm ass, from memory alone. If her necklines get any lower, he's decided that he's just going to set up camp in her cleavage and never leave.
But the love and the lust don't have anything to do with each other. They're two very separate feelings that he can compartmentalize to keep everything clean.
Sometimes, though, when she looks at him in just the right way, he feels blown apart inside, like there's barely anything holding him together, and for a moment, it seems like being in love with her is the only reasonable explanation.
"You're quiet," she says, nudging his thigh with her elbow.
He shrugs and takes another gulp of champagne.
"I'm a little tired. Must be all the excitement."
"Tired?" she repeats, with a skeptical, amused little smile. "Not thinking, maybe?"
For a minute, he wonders if she's somehow read his mind, followed his dirty train of thought. It's nothing that would totally shock her, he thinks, but it's enough to make everything between them complicated and messy again.
"Because I've been thinking," she declares. "I was just thinking about how we've only known each other for four years. Just four years."
"So?" he says with a smirk. "Isn't that like an entire third of your life?"
Teasing her about her age is his default move whenever things get a little dicey, and she predictably bumps her shoulder against his in a scolding way. The rasp of her bare skin against his jacket makes him he wonder again how she can stand to sit out here in that sleeveless little number.
"On one hand, it seems like so much longer than that," she continues. "And on the other, it feels like we just met yesterday. Like there's still so much…"
She trails off, her voice fading into a sigh, and there's something almost bemused about her expression.
"That's some heavy duty thinking," he says after a moment. "Getting a little air, my ass."
She laughs and bites at her lip, like she's been caught doing something naughty.
"Well, this is the kind of occasion that calls for introspection and reflection, right? I mean, that's what Abed would say."
"He'd also say that someone should be declaring their love for someone else or having a baby in an elevator or some cliched crap like that, so I'm not sure we should totally trust his judgment."
She tilts her head like she's trying to get a better look at him, and her serious, steady gaze makes him feel like he's being studied - until she gifts him with a smart, little grin that would take a lesser man out at the knees.
"You already had two women publicly declare their love for you. I think it'd be greedy to ask for anything more."
There's nothing challenging in her tone, but the reference alone is enough to conjure up memories of their ill-fated kiss outside that ridiculous dance and he wonders if she's throwing down some type of gauntlet.
If so, he's choosing to ignore it – that's the safest option.
"Have you met me, Annie? I'm walking, talking greed in a $3000 suit." He straightens the lapels of his jacket to emphasize his point. "Besides, I don't think it really counts if they only say it in some weird game of one upsmanship."
She lifts her shoulders thoughtfully, like she's seriously contemplating the in's and out's of public declarations.
"I guess not. Though my expertise in this area is admittedly limited."
"Please. You drove some poor guy to serenade you in the cheesiest way possible right there in that very spot." He gestures to the street in front of them with the champagne bottle. "I think you know plenty about grand romantic gestures."
She lowers her head, blushing slightly, but he can tell she's secretly pleased at the notion that she can inspire some sort of feverish devotion. He offers her the champagne again, though the bottle's nearly empty now. Her fingers brush his on the exchange, and her skin feels as cool and smooth as silk. He watches as she tips the bottle back and drains the rest of it in one long sip. When she leans in then to huddle against him and steal some of his warmth, her lips are wet and he can smell the sharp, sweet scent of the champagne on her breath. He hunches over just a bit, moving even closer, and feels himself gliding down on that slippery slope into something dark and dangerous.
Subject change, he thinks. Something light and frothy to pull him back from the edge.
"But you know, with my luck, if someone did declare their undying love for me tonight, it would be the Dean."
He exaggerates a grimace, and Annie giggles, vibrating against his side in a seriously distracting way.
"You can't really blame him, though, can you? You are irresistible."
He bobs his head in agreement.
"I'm glad people are finally starting to acknowledge that."
She taps a finger on his knee, and he looks down at the gray fabric of his pants, which seems to make her skin look even paler.
"Can I tell you a secret?" she whispers, sounding a little flirty and a little earnest. He wonders exactly how much she's had to drink. "You're my favorite. But don't tell Troy and Abed. It might break their hearts."
He smiles because really, there's no way he can make himself feel bad about that.
"Your secret's safe with me," he whispers conspiratorially. "As long as you don't tell anyone that you can bend me to your will just by fluttering those baby blues. I've got a reputation to protect."
She huffs out a little laugh and loops her arm through his. He can feel her breast against his elbow, but he tries his best to ignore it.
"This isn't the last time we'll see you, right?" she says. "You're not going to disappear on us?"
"Come on. You can't get rid of me that easy."
He wraps his hand around her wrist, her pulse twanging against his thumb. She nods absently, but he doesn't think that she's really convinced. He wonders if she can honestly imagine that kind of future, one where he drifts out of their world like he'd never been there at all.
"Annie," he says, almost embarrassed at how tender his voice sounds. "I meant what I said earlier. I love you guys."
She looks up at him with her unbelievably wide eyes all bright and wet, and nods again, more firm and serious this time.
"When I came here," she whispers. "I never, ever thought I'd meet someone like you."
He doesn't know exactly what she means – what it is that she thinks he's like – but he knows that her telling him is important.
"Me either. You are …"
He trails off because, honestly, he doesn't know how to capture her in a single, stupid sentence. He's a guy who can always find the precise words to fit any occasion, sway any audience, achieve any goal, but there's something about her that he can't quite wrap his head around. Annie seems to understand what that means, and she smiles at him in a misty, yearning sort of way. He feels her warm breath on his cheek, which prompts him to pull her in for a twisted, awkward half-hug that leaves her small knees crushed between his. She shivers in his arms because, really, she must be frozen by now, but when she starts to pull away, he cups her cheek before she can get too far from him.
They seem to make the decision in the same moment, so they lean in and meet in the middle.
She sighs into his mouth, jumpstarting something needy and desperate inside him. She tastes even sweeter than the champagne, and he can't stop himself from pulling her body flush against his. She claws at his shoulders frantically, like some kind of wild animal, and he loses any semblance of control right then, pushing her back against the library steps like their fucking plane is going down and it's now or never. Her head bumps against the stone pillar behind them, but she doesn't seem to care, hooking a leg over his thigh to pull him even closer. Their frantic fumbling knocks over the empty champagne bottle, and it rolls off the steps, landing in the bushes with a thud.
It is pure fucking insanity.
He slides his mouth over her cheek and down to her neck, and she pants against his ear like she's just finished a marathon. Her skin is wonderfully cool against his burning face, and he flashes his teeth against side of neck, wanting just a taste of everything that she is. Annie's hands slip under his jacket so they're separated from his skin by nothing but the thin fabric of his shirt and her fingers dig into his back like she's afraid he might vanish into thin air.
"We can't…" she moans quietly, and though he doesn't stop licking and sucking at her throat, his first thought is, Thank God. Thank fucking God that she has the strength to stop this because he can't control himself enough to do it after nearly four full years of wanting to fuck this girl senseless. He's been a good, decent guy the whole time, keeping his hands to himself and pretending she's just a cute, kid sister type, and now he wants his Goddamn reward. Sure, he got the diploma for his trouble earlier, but he thinks he deserves a little something more.
He needs Annie to save him from that selfish, horny part of himself that is ready to literally fuck up everything that's good and right between them. He needs her to do the sensible thing.
Except she doesn't.
"…do this here," she finishes in a halting, breathless voice – and the emphasis is most certainly on "here," meaning she thinks that there is a place where it's perfectly fine to do it. He kisses her again, she grabs hold of his belt in a death grip, and spontaneous human combustion becomes a real possibility all of a sudden.
"Where's your car?" she demands, her teeth clicking against his, and he honestly can't remember where he parked the fucking thing. It was hours ago, when touching Annie hadn't crossed his mind yet.
(Well, that's not entirely true. In his delusional daydream, his evil alter ego seemed to be getting plenty from bad girl Annie so it's not like he can say the thought honestly didn't cross his mind today. But not in any kind of real world way. That distinction is important – he can't be responsible for his twisted, dirty subconscious.)
But she pushes him back and he tugs her to her feet and somehow, they're stumbling blindly toward his car. There's still plenty of time for one of them to come to their damn senses, but he's charging toward the parking lot pretty much on auto-pilot and Annie scurries behind him, clutching his hand as she tries to keep up with his quick pace. Her heels click against the pavement in a syncopated rhythm, and it's a fucking sexy sound that's right in time with the throbbing of his hard-on.
This is exactly what he wanted to do three years ago when he found himself unexpectedly kissing her outside that dance – fortunately, he'd had enough restraint to realize what a ridiculously bad idea it was then. Something's different now, though. Sure, his lust has been simmering on the back burner for years now as opposed to mere months, which definitely makes it harder to control, but there's something else at play too. He may not be saying goodbye, nothing may actually be coming to end with them, but his graduation makes the night feel like some kind of magic moment.
Jesus, he's been listening to Abed for too damn long.
His car comes into sight, and somehow he manages to thumb open the locks without dropping his keys. Annie practically shoves him into the backseat and his head thuds against the far window as he stumbles in, but it barely registers. He doesn't really fit in this kind of confined space, but he finds a way to make it work so she can close the door behind them. She's in his lap less than a second later, straddling his thighs so her dress rides up and he can see the silky shadow of her panties. He clutches at her hip with one hand and snakes the other through her hair to pull her down to his mouth again. She rocks against his erection with the kind of single-minded focus and determination that she usually reserves for all-night cram sessions and diorama-building, and he seriously cannot believe that this is sweet, innocent little Annie Edison in his arms, tugging at his tie and digging her nails into his shoulder like she's going to ride him until he can't walk straight for a week.
She pulls back, flinging his tie over his shoulder and plucking at the buttons in the middle of his shirt. Her hair falls in a dark curtain around her face, but he can see her biting her lip as she works, like this is the most important thing she's ever done. Her hips are still moving, and he's got very limited mobility but he pushes back against her and the friction between them is the greatest fucking tease in the world. Her hands slip into the opening between the halves of his shirt, her fingernails scratching against his ribs. It doesn't seem fair that she's under his clothes when he's still grabbing fistfuls of her dress, so he tries to tug the top of it down. It gets stuck somewhere near her armpits and she has to shimmy a little to help him get it down to her waist. Her lacy, little black strapless bra has plenty of appeal, particularly in the way it does little to actually contain her breasts, but it winds up tangled at her waist with the top of her dress all the same.
The sound she makes when he finally gets his hands on the rack he's been trying not to drool over for four years is somewhere between a breathy sigh and an agonized moan. Her hands cover his, like he might actually be stupid enough to take them away, and when she meets his gaze, the look in them is so hazy and dark that he would seriously think she was drunk if he didn't know any better. Just a few minutes ago outside, her skin felt like ice and now she's burning like a fever against him. She ducks down to kiss him again, and he feels her hands at his belt, blindly undoing the buckle, her wrist resting against his erection with just the smallest hint of pressure.
"Condom," he mutters against her mouth. "We need a…"
It's the first words that have been said since they got to car, and his voice sounds loud and hoarse in the small space. Her hands still, and he anchors an arm around her waist to keep her pressed to him while he scrambles toward the center console in the front seat for a condom. She's still kissing him as he gropes through the mess of pens, wrinkled napkins, spare sunglasses, breath mints and protein bar wrappers for the all-important strip of foil packets, which definitely complicates the search, but his fingers finally settle on the condoms and he nearly pumps a fist in victory.
Annie goes back to work on his pants, undoing the belt, button and fly in what feels like record time. Her hand slips inside his boxer briefs to take him out, and she runs her fingers along the length of him from root to tip almost experimentally. He clenches his jaw and wishes there was time for a good old-fashioned hand job and the main event, but they're pushing their luck as is, so he tears open one of the condoms with his teeth and slips it on. She rises to her knees above him to try to get her panties off, but there's not enough room for her to maneuver.
"It's okay," he says, brushing her hands away. "Just …"
He hooks a finger in the crotch of her underwear to move it aside, and then she sinks down on him and they groan together so loudly that the group must hear them all the way back in the damn study room. She wraps her arms around his neck and he clutches at her waist, but they stay still for a long second.
There's no going back now.
She shifts just a bit, wringing a moan out of him, and then starts to move in earnest, circling her hips like she was fucking born to do this. She balances herself on his shoulders and leans back just a bit, tossing her head back. Her breasts are bouncing in his face and she is so fucking tight around him, so he thinks that this must be another really vivid daydream, that he'll come back to himself to find that he's still sitting at the table in the study room, with Annie all prim and proper in her seat beside him.
The part of him that knows just how wrong this is doesn't have any clout anymore because this is no sweet, little girl in the back seat of his car. It is a woman that's rising and falling in his lap like a tidal wave, ready to blow his fucking mind. He's willing to go to hell if that's the price he has to pay in the end – it'd be worth it.
Her pace gets a little more frantic and he doesn't think he can hold back much longer, so he slips a hand inside her panties. She gasps when he finds the right spot and he keeps going until she rattles around him like a live wire and he's coming just a second later with an embarrassing grunt that he tries to muffle against her shoulder.
When he rouses a minute or so later, he's slumped back against the door, the arm rest digging into his back, and Annie is slumped against him, a boneless, breathless heap. He has no fucking clue what to say – he's pretty sure that he wouldn't be able to spell his own damn name at the moment – so he stays silent, trying to catch his breath. She lifts her head from his chest and she's never looked sexier, with her glassy eyes, flushed cheeks and a piece of sweaty hair plastered along her jaw.
"Wow," she says, sounding a little surprised. He's almost offended – didn't she imagine that they'd have fantastic, brain-melting sex? Every ridiculous, frantic fight they've ever had certainly indicated that there'd be fireworks if they ever got each other's clothes off. "Um… wow," she repeats again, laughing this time.
"That's kind of an understatement."
He reaches up to brush the hair away from her jaw, and she turns into his hand, nuzzling his fingers. Then she's sliding off of him, onto the seat between his legs, and pulling her bra back into place. He grabs a crumpled napkin from the floor to get rid of the condom and clean himself up. The windows are all foggy, and he leaves a hand print in the condensation when he braces himself against the glass to sit up straighter. He watches Annie right her clothing as he buttons himself back up, and she seems strangely calm. He is a pile of jangly nerves, even if every muscle in his body feels as if he's just had the most amazing massage ever.
She senses him watching after a minute and looks up at him with those big, unflinching eyes of hers.
"I didn't plan this," she declares, almost defiantly. "If you're thinking that—"
He shakes his head.
"I'm not thinking anything, actually. My mind's kind of blown at the moment."
She grins, looking as pleased as if he just handed her a shiny, little gold star for her collection.
Yes, Annie, he thinks. You get an A+ for this. No grade grubbing necessary.
She crawls back over him and kisses him, softer than their earlier kisses but just as determined. He loves the sultry look in her eyes and her messy hair when she pulls back. He rubs his thumb over her lips and she brushes her tongue against it, and just like that, he's thinking about round two.
But that's just craziness, so he nods in the general direction of the library.
"We should probably get back before… you know."
Outside the car, Annie straightens her dress and runs her hands through her hair to smooth it.
"Okay?" she asks.
It is impossible to look at her now and not think that she looks well and thoroughly fucked, but that's probably more in his own head than anything else so he nods and offers an encouraging smile. They fall into step together and start back toward the library. On a whim, he throws an arm around her shoulders and she winds hers around his waist.
It's fine, he tells himself, because it's something they would have done before she rode him like bucking bronco in the backseat of his car and none of their friends would think anything of seeing them walk together like this.
Back in the study room, the party's still in full swing and a karaoke machine has somehow found its way into the mix. Shirley is belting out "Respect," while Britta dances in the background and Abed films it all with his phone.
"Where have you guys been?" Troy asks as they slink in. "We saw you sitting outside and then when we went to get you for karaoke, you were gone."
Annie drops her eyes to the floor, like her shoes have suddenly become the most fascinating objects in the room. Fortunately, he knows how to play it cool.
"I wanted to take a walk around campus," he lies comfortably. "For old time's sake."
Troy nods, looking very somber. The Dean flutters over and clutches at Jeff's arm.
"Jeffrey! I thought we'd lost you. Now, tell me… what would it take to get you to sing another little duet with me?"
He grits his teeth, shaking his head slowly.
"There isn't enough champagne in the world."
The Dean pouts in a frightening way, and Jeff looks over at Annie, who somehow has become even tempting now that he's satisfied nearly four years of sexual curiosity. It doesn't make any sense, but she smiles at him in a secret, naughty little way and he wants to throw her down on the nearest flat surface and go to town.
Later, when she's giggling her way through "(I've Had) The Time of My Life" with Abed, he angles his chair at the table toward the scene so he can watch her. He doesn't know what the hell to do about any of this – his fantasies never quite make it to the morning-after stage – and there is the very real potential that this is going to blow up in his face big time.
But then, Annie does a little twirl across the room, her dress fluttering around her, and he thinks that there's more than enough time to worry about the fallout later. Britta comes over, boosting herself up onto the table beside him.
"You okay?" she asks, squinting. "You look a little…"
She gestures with her hand like she's trying to pull the right word out of the air. He panics for a minute because she knows well enough what his post-coital face looks like and for all he knows, there's a trace of it still in his expression. He lifts his plastic champagne glass from the table and hoists it in her direction.
"Been hitting the good stuff," he says, and Britta nods sagely.
They both look across the room, where Abed is fighting a losing battle to convince Annie to reenact Johnny and Baby's climatic lift and the Dean is trying to dirty dance all by himself. Jeff and Britta look at one another and laugh.
"I'm going to go out on a limb here," she says smartly. "But I bet this is not how you ever imagined you'd be celebrating your graduation when you first showed up at Greendale."
He looks over at Annie, who's kicking off her shoes so she can dance without stumbling. Their eyes meet suddenly, like she senses his gaze, and the smile that she gives him is equal parts nervous, sexy, and giddy.
"No," he says. "I never imagined this."