Fandom/Pairings: Community; Britta/Annie friendship; Annie/Abed romance in the background
Summary: Britta and Annie take tango lessons together. Wacky hijinks ensue.
Spoilers: Through 2.01
Word Count: ~6,700
Disclaimer: Community and the related characters are © 2010 Sony Pictures Television Inc. and Universal Media Studios
Notes: Written for the brittaanniethon for the_windowbird, who asked for, among other things, deadlines, a snow day, Britta teaching Annie how to dance, and maybe a background ship/friendship, and did not want to see Jeff/Annie or Slater. (Or smut, but I wouldn't have written that anyway.) Thanks to wr1t3rbl0ck3d for serving as sounding board during the plotting process, and to dearygirl for her usual outstanding job as a beta reader.
Britta was bored. A major snowstorm had hit the city, and although she lived within walking distance of her office, her job as a campus organizer for CoPIRG meant she spent most of her time visiting the campuses of the Denver-area colleges and universities, all of which were closed for the second consecutive day due to the storm. Having pretty much exhausted everything there was to do in her small apartment, she had decided the best possible solution to the problem was to start drinking heavily, and was on her way to the kitchen to fix herself an Irish coffee when her phone rang. She glanced at the Caller ID as she answered. "Annie, hi! Is boredom getting to you too?"
"Oh, I'm not bored at all! Having this much time to work on my thesis without having to stop for class or work is wonderful! I've gotten so much done!"
"I can't believe I'm about to say this," Britta said, "but being stuck here with nothing to do makes writing a thesis sound pretty good." A thought occurred to her. "You haven't spent all your time in front of your computer, have you? I hope you've taken some time to just, you know, goof off a little."
"Britta!" Annie said, scandalized. "I can't afford to slack off now! My future career depends on this. And I will have you know," she added, sounding a little defensive, "that I haven't spent the whole time working. That's why I'm calling, actually."
Britta was genuinely touched. "Aw, you chose me as your way to blow off work? Thanks, sweetie!"
"Well, no, not exactly. I just got off the phone with Abed ..."
"Oh. OK, I guess I can live with coming in second to your fiancé." Annie and Abed had started dating the summer before their third year at Greendale; he had proposed on their third anniversary, and they planned to marry at the end of the school year, after Annie completed her Master's degree in Counseling Psychology at University of Denver. "I was second, right?"
"Of course you were! There's no one else I could've called. It's a maid of— no, wait, it's a best woman thing."
Britta beamed. It was still a work in progress, but she was sure that before long, "best woman" would roll off Annie's tongue as easily as "maid of honor" had when she had asked Britta to stand up for her at her wedding. "Thanks, Annie. So what's up?"
"Abed has decided he wants our first dance to be a tango."
Britta blinked in surprise. "Really? That's ... interesting. When did he decide that?"
"After spending three days filming a tango competition in Río Gallegos." Abed was currently out of the country, having been invited by a local filmmaker to travel with him to Argentina, to assist in the making of a documentary about his attempts to reconnect with his ancestral roots. The opportunity was too good to pass up, even though it meant he would be out of the country for three months, returning to the United States just ten days before the wedding.
"Do you know how to tango?" Britta asked.
"Neither of us do. He thought we could take lessons together when he gets back from South America."
"Like hell you can!" Britta said heatedly. "Does he have any idea how busy we're going to be during those ten days?"
"No," Annie said. "The wedding's pretty much completely off his radar, except for when I bring it up."
"Pff. Of course. It was the same way when Shirley got remarried, and Isaiah didn't even have the excuse of being 6,000 miles away."
"Don't be silly! When we decided he should take the trip, I knew it would mean I'd be doing most of the wedding planning and preparation myself. I think it's sweet that he trusts me to put together a ceremony that he'll appreciate and enjoy."
"Britta," Annie said firmly. "It's. Sweet."
"Fine, it's sweet. It still won't work. The schedule's too tight to fit in dancing lessons."
"I know that, I wrote the schedule. But this is the only thing Abed's asked for, so I really want to make it happen. And for your information," she continued in a lofty tone, "I already have a solution to the problem: we'll just take lessons separately. Once we both know how to tango, we'll only have to practice together a couple of times to get it down. Abed shouldn't have any trouble finding someone to teach him in Argentina, and—"
"I hope your plan isn't for me to teach you. I'm a pretty good dancer, but I don't know how to tango."
"No. My plan is for you to take the lessons with me." Without giving Britta a chance to respond to the suggestion, Annie launched into a breathless explanation of why there was really no other alternative. There were a lot of organizations that offered weekly tango classes at which individual dancers were welcome, she said, but given how little time she had and how inexperienced she was at ballroom dancing, she thought private lessons would be the way to go. The problem was, all the private instructors she had spoken to would only work with pairs, so she needed a partner. And what better partner than her best woman?
Britta couldn't argue with that, and she had to admit that she probably was the best choice for the job, even if she hadn't been Annie's best woman. Troy lived too far away, Jeff was too protective of his free time, Pierce was the worst dancer Britta had ever met, and Shirley would almost certainly rebel at being expected to lead. "OK, I'll do it." Annie squealed delightedly. "If," Britta continued, "you spend the next hour goofing off with me."
Annie gave a scandalized gasp. "Britta!"
"That's the deal, take it or leave it."
"Fine," Annie said with an exasperated huff. "Oh, I know! Let's play Scrabble on Facebook!"
Britta rolled her eyes—she should have known Annie would pick the most intellectual form of goofing off possible—but she agreed. It was better than nothing.
* * *
A week later, Britta sat in the waiting area of the Social Life Dance Center, a small storefront dance studio on the east side of town, knitting and wondering when she might finally be able to put down her needles and yarn and put on her dancing shoes. Things were not going smoothly. The dance instructor, Señora Corrientes, had arrived five minutes late, and when she finally did arrive, she informed them that their private lessons had become semi-private. They would be joined, for the first two weeks, by another couple, former clients who had contacted her on short notice in advance of a hastily planned trip to Argentina. The other couple would not, she explained, need much individual attention; the gentleman had learned to tango as a young man, and his wife was an experienced ballroom dancer who would in all likelihood be able to pick up the dance quickly. "So fear not, Miss Edison," the señora had concluded floridly, "their presence shall not stand in the way of my teaching you to tango in time for your nuptial day!"
Britta had been impressed by how calmly Annie had responded to the news. She had neither panicked, as she might have done in her younger days, nor flown into a rage, as Britta herself probably would have; instead, she had calmly but forcefully pointed out that as she had already signed a contract for private lessons, she should have been consulted about the change in advance rather than having it sprung on her, and insisted that before starting the lesson, they renegotiate the agreed-upon price in light of the changed circumstances. She and the instructor had retreated to an office in the rear to discuss the matter, leaving Britta alone in the front to sit and wait.
She was glad she'd thought to bring her knitting bag with her. She was not a patient woman, and without something to keep her occupied, she would have gone crazy by now. She put down her needles long enough to check the time on her phone, wondering how much longer she'd have to wait. She had just resumed her knitting when she heard the front door open. She looked up and saw a tall red-haired woman wearing sunglasses enter the studio, followed closely by a slightly shorter white-haired man.
The woman allowed the man to take her coat and looked around the small waiting area. She gave a little gasp and her hand flew to her chest as she caught sight of Britta sitting across the room. "Oh! I didn't realize anyone else—" She broke off suddenly and took a step closer. "Is that—" She removed her sunglasses, peering closely at Britta. "Britta Perry?"
Britta was at a loss. She didn't recognize the woman standing in front of her at all. "I'm sorry, have we ..." She trailed off. Something about her jawline was very familiar. There had been someone in high school with a prominent chin like that. She closed her eyes in thought, and snapped her fingers as a name came to her. "Mindy J. Leno."
Mindy's eyes flashed angrily. "Stallings," she said in a clipped tone. "I always hated that nickname."
Britta's eyes widened. "Oh, I'm sorry," she said, her voice dripping with sarcasm. "Maybe you should've thought of that before you called me 'Psycho Britta' every day for three fucking years."
"It still fits. You obviously haven't changed at all," Mindy said with a sneer.
"Can't say the same for you. I might have recognized you sooner if you still had your real nose. What's the matter, get tired of people asking where the lift to the top was?"
"I had a deviated septum!"
"I suppose that explains the dye job too?"
The white-haired man came up and stood beside Mindy. "Are you going to introduce me to your friend, darling?" Not waiting for an answer, he extended his hand to Britta. "Hi. Jim Lussier."
Britta stood to shake his hand. "Britta Perry. I work in the Lussier Building downtown. Any connection?"
He smiled. "Well, my father built it. It's no longer in the family, though."
"It's an interesting building," Britta said, picturing the harsh lines of the Brutalist building in her mind. "I know a lot of people don't like that style of architecture, but I'm glad they've preserved it, instead of, you know, making a lot of unnecessary cosmetic changes to make it superficially more attractive." She looked directly at Mindy as she spoke the last words.
Mindy's eyes narrowed. "So, Britta, is your husband going to be meeting you here? Oh, wait," she said, glancing down at Britta's right hand, "no ring. Can't say I'm shocked. You never could keep a man ... say, guess who I ran into the other day? Mike Summerfield! You remember Mike, don't you?"
"Vaguely." But seeing her old enemy had caused her high school memories, which she had kept buried for years, to come rushing back. She remembered Mike all too well; they had dated for one week before he dumped her for Laurie LaPaglia, a cheerleader and a friend of Mindy's. And even though she'd not thought of him for close to fifteen years, the memory still hurt a little. Worse, she could tell from the triumphant gleam in her eye that Mindy knew it. "Look, I could have sunk my hooks into the first rich old man who came along—no offense, Jim."
"Oh, none taken!" Jim said cheerfully. "I'm far too rich and old to care what people think of me."
"But some of us look beyond the bottom line," Britta continued.
"Spoken like a woman with no man in her life," Mindy said. "I know you, Britta. I'll bet you've gone out of your way to alienate anyone who's ever shown an interest in you. And here you are, 33 years old and alone, taking dance lessons by yourself so you can, I don't know, go back to your sad little apartment and dance with your cats."
"I only have one cat!" Britta snapped. "And unlike you, I don't need a man to make my life complete. I—" Out of the corner of her eye, she saw Señora Corrientes and Annie emerge from the office at the back of the studio. An idea occurred to her, and as Annie approached, she raised her chin and said, "as a matter of fact, I don't need a man, period." She looked at Annie, who was now standing alongside her. "Annie, this is Jim Lussier and his wife Mindy. Mindy and I went to high school together."
Britta had hoped Annie would remember some of Britta's high school horror stories and react appropriately, but instead she gave a bright, excited smile. "Oh! You're going to be dancing with us this week and next?"
Britta jumped in before they could respond. "They sure are! Mindy, Jim, this is Annie Edison. My fiancée." Annie gasped and spun to face Britta, her eyes wide. "Oh, Annie, calm down, we're among friends here! Mindy's no homophobe! She was well known at school for getting drunk at parties and making out with other girls."
"One of my grandsons is gay," Jim added. "We're funding his lawsuit against his school for not letting him take his boyfriend to the prom."
"That's great!" Britta said enthusiastically. "See, honey, I told you we didn't have anything to worry about." Annie still looked a little shell-shocked. "I'll bet Mindy and Jim would like to hear about how we met. Why don't you tell them about the study group while I go talk to Señora Corrientes for a second?"
The instructor was on the other side of the studio, fussing with a portable CD player. She flinched as Britta tapped her on the shoulder. "Oh, Miss Perry, you startled me. I—"
"Yeah yeah yeah," Britta said impatiently. "Look, I don't know what Annie told you about the situation, but whatever she said, forget it. The deal is, she and I are engaged, we're learning to tango for our wedding, and if Mindy asks that's what you're going to tell her. Capice?"
Señora Corrientes raised a single eyebrow. "You're asking me to lie to one of my best clients?"
Britta crossed her arms. "Twenty bucks."
"I wouldn't dream of doing it for less than fifty."
Britta's lips tightened. "Twenty-five up front, the rest next week."
"Deal. Please inform the others we're ready to begin."
Mindy and Annie both glared at Britta as she rejoined them, but Jim was all smiles. "I was just telling Annie here that we have a mutual friend," he said. "Hawthorne Wipes was one of my firm's audit clients."
"Huh, small world." Britta made a mental mote to call Pierce and let him in on the scam, just in case. "Señora Corrientes says she's ready for us." She offered her arm to Annie. "Milady?" Annie's glare intensified, and Britta winced a little as Annie took her arm and dug her nails into the soft flesh. It looked like it was going to be a long lesson.
The hour passed without Annie saying a single word. Britta spent the entire lesson trying to get her to open up, but her lips remained tightly pressed together in a horrible parody of a smile. Britta knew that when she finally did say something, it wasn't likely to be pretty.
When the lesson was over and Mindy and Jim had departed, Annie whirled on Britta and looked at her with fire in her eyes. "What the hell was that about, Britta? You run into an old friend and all of a sudden you're a lesbian, and I'm your lover?"
"Friend?" Britta spat. "I didn't have friends in high school, just people who weren't actively hostile toward me. And she definitely wasn't one of those! That bitch made my life hell for three years!"
"So she picked up right where she left off! She was making fun of me for not being married!"
Annie looked at Britta incredulously. "What?"
"And she said I was going to dance with my cat!"
"Britta, I've seen dance with your cat at least a dozen times. And you don't even want to get married! You told me that marriage was a scheme designed to force women to submit to the will of the patriarchy! At my engagement party!"
"Yeah, but I don't want her thinking I couldn't get married if I wanted to. Or running off and telling the other Cosmo Queens how pathetic Psycho Britta is."
"Well, she wouldn't be wrong. This actually is kind of pathetic."
Britta inhaled sharply. "I can't believe you're willing to let her win."
Annie threw up her hands. "Britta, if you're playing her stupid high school games, she's already won! You have a good life. Don't let her convince you otherwise!"
"Look, I'm sorry I dragged you into this, but it's too late to back down. I really need you to go along with this for one more week."
"I don't know," Annie said hesitantly. "This really doesn't seem like a good idea. Just because Mindy hasn't matured since high school doesn't mean you should regress to her level. That's not healthy, and I'm not sure I want any part of it."
Annie sighed. "Look. Just give me some time. I'm not really very happy with you right now. I'll call you, OK?" With that, she turned and strode out of the studio.
Britta watched her go, feeling utterly defeated. She felt a hand on her shoulder, and looked over to find Señora Corrientes looking at her sympathetically. "I'm sorry, dear," she said, "but I'm going to need the whole fifty up front."
* * *
Britta was relieved when, five days later, Annie called and agreed to pretend to be her fiancée for one more week. "But it's only because I don't think I can afford to take a week off," she had explained. "I was too mad last week to really concentrate on the lesson." Britta, grateful for the continued cooperation, suggested by way of apology that Annie come over to her apartment for dinner and to review what had been covered the previous week. Never one to turn down an opportunity for extra studying, Annie had agreed, and the night before their second lesson found them in Britta's apartment reviewing the basic steps and walking on the balls of their feet forward and backward in a counter-clockwise circle.
"Wow, you really were out of it last week," Britta said as Annie stumbled over her feet for the tenth time. She gently pushed Annie away. "Here, watch my feet." She stood with her feet together, then took a step back with her right foot, then her left, and brought the right foot back next to the left. "See how my weight is still on my left foot? I think you're shifting your weight to your right when you bring your feet back to the starting position. Let's try it again." They resumed their positions, and this time made a full circuit of the room without incident.
"I did it!" Annie said excitedly. "You're a really good teacher, Britta."
Britta blushed. "I don't know about that ... but thanks. I'm just glad I can make up for ruining last week's class for you. Let's keep going. Try to keep your right arm a little more stiff. That'll make it easier for you to feel my movements and follow my lead."
They made a few more circuits of the room, gradually increasing the pace. Annie stumbled a few more times, but by the time Britta decided they'd had enough for the night, her steps were smooth and fluid and she was following Britta's lead confidently. "Feel like a little wine before you go?" Britta asked as Annie collapsed onto the couch.
"Just one glass, I have to drive home."
Britta poured two glasses and handed one to Annie before sitting down next to her and putting her feet up on the coffee table. "You're going to do great tomorrow. And thanks again for, you know, helping me out."
"I still don't think it's a very good idea," Annie said. "But like I said, I couldn't justify skipping the class."
"I'm glad. I don't think I could've faced Mindy alone."
"Why would you have been there if I wasn't?"
"Because ..." She stopped, momentarily stumped. "Because if we were getting married, I'd need to continue learning the dance."
"But we're not getting married."
"Mindy doesn't know that. If I wasn't there she'd probably assume we'd broken up or something."
Annie rolled her eyes. "So what? I can't believe you're letting her control you like this."
"I just hate her so much," Britta said vehemently. "Her and her stupid Barbie friends and everything they stand for. I spent years trying to forget everything they did to me. And I was so close! I couldn't ever remember her real name when I saw her last week, but now, bam! All those memories are right there, like I'm seventeen again. Well, this time I am not going to stand back and let her walk all over me!" She laughed a little as she noticed Annie's raised eyebrows. "I suppose you think I'm an idiot."
"A little bit," Annie said. "Look, I understand what you're going through here. I wasn't exactly Miss Popularity in high school either. There was this one girl, Adrienne Peach, who made every single day at Riverside a living hell for me. I saw her at the reunion last year, and she was just as big a bitch as she ever was. She and her old clique spent the whole night ragging on people. She left me alone at first because she didn't recognize me, but she finally figured it out and came over to start in on me. And you know what I did?"
"I'm guessing nothing, or else you wouldn't have brought it up."
Annie looked a little disgruntled at Britta's attempt to short-circuit her story, but pressed on. "That's right! I spent a lot of time before the reunion trying to think of the best way for me to get back at her, how I could rub her face in everything I've accomplished since I had to drop out, but when I saw her ... she hadn't changed at all, and it was just really sad. So I said hi, and told her I hoped she was having a good time, and went back to talking with the people I had been talking to when she interrupted us."
Britta thought about what Annie had said. "You should've told me that part of the story when we talked about the reunion last year, instead of telling me about Abed and Troy breaking into her car and hiding a piece of salmon from the buffet under the back seat."
"I didn't have anything to do with that!" Annie protested. "Troy decided to do that after she came up to him to ask why he was hanging out with a loser like me. But that sort of proves my point. She's the same person she was in high school. I'm not. I have great friends, I graduated summa cum laude, I'm at the top of my class in grad school, and I'm getting married in three months to a wonderful guy. She's the loser, not me!"
Annie reached over and took Britta's hand. "And that goes for you, too. The not being a loser part, I mean. Mindy tried to keep you down, and she failed. You won."
Britta smiled. "Thanks, Annie."
That sat in silence for a while, sipping their wine. Finally Annie said, "I think you should tell her. About us not being an us, I mean."
Britta looked at her skeptically. "That is such a terrible idea on so many levels I hardly know where to start."
"I'm serious!" Annie said insistently. "You're both too old to be playing these stupid high school games. And just because she wants to, that doesn't mean you have to play too. Break the cycle! Just tell her the truth, that you're helping me learn to dance while my fiancé is out of the country. That's a good story."
Britta thought about it for a moment. "How about this. At some point during the lesson, you can let it slip you've been cheating on me, and we'll call off the wedding."
Annie gave an offended gasp. "Britta! I would never cheat on you!"
"Jeez, chill out. It's just—"
"No. I'm ... not unwilling to continue this charade for one more night, but we're not going to complicate it with more lies." Annie drained her glass and stood to leave. "If you're going to be on campus tomorrow, we can ride to the studio together."
Britta also stood and walked with her to the door. "Yeah, sounds good."
"Cool, I'll call you." She gave Britta a warm hug. "Thanks for your help tonight." She turned to go, but paused in the doorway. "Seriously, think about telling Mindy the truth tomorrow."
"She'll just laugh at me," Britta said petulantly.
"Probably," Annie conceded. "You can't stop her from being a bitch. But you can stop yourself. I'll see you tomorrow." She left, leaving Britta to ponder the wisdom of her words.
She still hadn't decided what to do when she and Annie arrived at the dance studio the following evening. Mindy and Jim were already there, and Annie gave Britta a significant look before approaching Jim and striking up a conversation about his gay grandson and what, if any, in-school counseling was available to him and his peers. Britta and Mindy, meanwhile, stood near their respective partners, giving each other the stink-eye.
Mindy finally broke their silence. "I couldn't help notice," she said, a slight edge to her voice, "that you're not wearing an engagement ring."
This was her chance. She took a deep breath, and was gratified to feel Annie take her hand and give it a comforting squeeze. "Well, you see ..." She hesitated, and the moment passed. "I was the one who proposed, so I gave her a ring." She suppressed a flinch as Annie jerked her hand away. "She wanted to get one for me too, but I talked her out of it. She's still in grad school, you know."
"Robbing the cradle?" Mindy said with a raised eyebrow.
"You would know."
"Trust me," Annie said, looking somewhat disgruntled, "she may be older, but I'm a lot more mature than her."
Before anyone could say anything further, Señora Corrientes swept through the door and demanded they take their places on the dance floor. As Mindy and Jim turned away, Annie punched Britta in the arm and under her breath said, "coward."
Once Britta and Annie demonstrated their mastery of the basic techniques discussed at their first lesson, Señora Corrientes started them working on slightly more advanced moves. By the midway point of the lesson, Britta had decided when it came to Annie at least, she was a good dance teacher, better than the señora at any rate.
Mindy and Jim, meanwhile, were literally dancing circles around them. As Señora Corrientes had predicted, they had needed little individual instruction, though she did spent a bit of time with them, observing their technique and occasionally demonstrating some advanced moves. And it seemed to Britta that Mindy was going out of her way to flaunt her skills. Every time she and Jim executed some particularly dramatic maneuver, she always seemed to have her eyes locked on Britta's, giving the impression that she was mocking her for not being as good a dancer. It was infuriating, and that it didn't seem to bother Annie at all made it even more so.
She finally broke after Mindy hooked her leg around Jim's and leaned backward in a deep dip. Despite being upside-down and backwards, Mindy managed to look Britta in the eye and smirk. Something about that upside-down smirk threw Britta into ultra-competitive overdrive. As Jim raised Mindy from the dip, Britta guided Annie toward the edge of the dance floor, joining the other couple in circling the perimeter. She felt a surge of pride as Annie followed her lead without a hitch. She kept a close watch on Mindy and Jim, and when she was certain Mindy's eyes were on her, she murmured, "hold on," and spun Annie away from her. Rolling her back in, she positioned herself so Annie's right leg ended up between her own. Placing her right hand on Annie's lower back and cradling her shoulders with her left arm, Britta bent her knees and dipped Annie low to the floor. To her great delight, she saw Mindy's eyebrows shoot up in surprise.
But Britta wasn't done yet. Rather than immediately raising Annie, as Jim had Mindy, Britta made sure she had a firm hold of the younger woman, and leaned in and kissed her on the mouth. It was, by any standard, a chaste kiss, but the look on Mindy's face made it as thrilling, if not more so, than any other kiss in her life. She felt a surge of triumph sweep through her as a grudgingly impressed look settled on her rival's face.
The feeling of triumph evaporated as she heard a very familiar, very unexpected voice behind her. "Britta, why are you kissing my fiancée?"
Five heads turned as one toward the front of the studio. Standing there, his head tilted to one side, was Abed. Britta looked back at Annie, whose face had turned bright red: possibly from shame, possibly from anger, possibly because she was still being held parallel to the floor. As Britta lifted Annie out of the dip, she glanced over at Mindy and Jim. Jim had a small, amused smile on his face. Mindy was also smiling, a horrible smile of malicious glee. She looked back at Annie, whose eyes were cast downward, and at Abed, who was still watching the scene with a blank expression on his face. No one spoke for several long moments.
All eyes turned to Annie as she cleared her throat. She stood up straight and squared her shoulders, and looked Britta in the eye. "I think," she said with as much dignity as she could muster given the circumstances, "that we should consider calling off our wedding."
* * *
Britta sat slumped on a bench down the street from the dance studio, her head in her hands. Horribly embarrassed by what had happened, she had fled the studio, only to realize once she was outside that she had left her bag, containing both her phone and wallet, inside. She didn't want to go back in, so she found a bench down the street where she could wait for Annie to come find her.
She heard approaching footsteps, felt someone sit down next to her on her bench. "You can save the 'I told you so,' Annie," she said without raising her head. "You were right. About everything.
"I don't know why I always do this. I get caught up in these silly games with people I don't want anything to do with over things I don't even want. And it's not like Mindy was going to suddenly start liking me if I really did get married." She sat up straight as a half-forgotten memory from almost five years ago sprang to mind. "Oh God, Jeff was right, I do get high on my own drama. Don't tell him—" She broke off as she glanced to her left and saw who had taken the seat next to her.
"Why did you call me Mindy J. Leno last week?" Mindy asked. When Britta didn't respond, she continued, "I mean, I just assumed it was a dig, but ..."
Britta found her voice. "I spent the better part of the last fifteen years trying to forget everything about Riverside High. I called you that because it was the name I remembered. If I'd had more time to think about it, I might have come up with your actual last name, but I doubt it."
"That's what Annie said. Well, yelled." She laughed. "I heard her say to Jim she's studying to be a school counselor?" Britta nodded. "I probably could have used someone yelling at me like that back at Riverside. All the teachers there knew how we treated people, but hardly anyone ever called us on it. Remember Mr. Corey?"
"He was one of the guidance counselors. Totally worthless, if you ask me. He was always trying this passive-aggressive bullshit on us to try to keep us in line ..." Mindy stopped, seemingly lost in the memory. "You know, at the last reunion, at least a dozen people called me Mindy J. Leno, and it didn't faze me at all. I don't know why I assumed you were making fun of me."
"Because you knew I had good reason to?"
"Could be," Mindy admitted. "Look. This is all my fault. It's embarrassing. I thought I had put that side of my personality behind me when I went off to college and found out that being a queen bee at Riverside High doesn't mean jack at CU."
Britta sighed. She wanted to agree, but ... "Let's say mostly your fault. I mean, I'm not gonna lie, none of it would have happened if you hadn't been such a bitch in high school. But ... well, forgive the pun, but it takes two to tangle." Mindy chuckled. "I meant what I said when I thought you were Annie," Britta continued. "I do this sort of thing all the time. You should've seen some of the stupid competitions I got myself into when I was in college. You'd think I would've learned by now."
"I guess neither of us came out of this covered in glory."
"Yeah." The two women looked at each other. "How about," Britta said slowly, "we agree to just pretend this never happened."
"Deal. In fact ..." Mindy stood and held out her hand. "Hi. Mindy S. Lussier."
Britta gave her a small smile, stood, and shook her hand. "Britta Perry."
"Come on," Mindy said. "Let's get back to the studio. Jim was trying to talk Annie into letting him pay for your dance lessons, and if I'm not there to keep an eye on him he'll probably end up paying for the whole damn wedding." They started walking. "He'll probably want to buy you all dinner too."
"I could eat." A question occurred to Britta. "By the way, did you really just see Mike Summerfield?"
"No. We're friends on Facebook though. He goes by Megan now." As they reached the studio, Mindy looked through the large front window and gasped. "Oh God, he's got the checkbook out. Excuse me," she said, hurrying inside.
Britta followed and found Abed sitting in the waiting area, leafing through a magazine. "Hey, Abed," she said sheepishly. "Sorry I kissed Annie."
"It's OK, I get it. She was your beard. It's a classic TV trope," he said. He tilted his head thoughtfully. "I hardly ever experience wacky, sitcom-style hijinks anymore. I miss that about Greendale."
"Speaking of which, what are you doing here anyway?" Britta asked, sitting down next to him. "Shouldn't you be in Argentina instead of up here foiling my schemes?"
"The director abandoned the project after he fell in with a group of MILFs."
Britta scoffed. "Isn't that just like a man."
Abed smiled. "The Malvinas Islands Liberation Front. In Spanish the acronym is FLIM, but it's funnier my way."
"He wanted to reconnect with his relatives," Abed said, "and his relatives turned out to be deeply involved with a fringe group devoted to seizing control of the Falkland Islands from the British. They didn't really seem all that serious about it to me—they don't even have a boat, and the Falklands are 250 nautical miles away—but he was so eager to be part of the family that he sold all his equipment to help fund the cause. No camera, no movie, so I came home."
"Wow. Talk about wacky."
"Yeah. After that I really should have expected something like this would happen."
Annie came bounding up and seated herself on Abed's lap. "Hi, handsome," she said, kissing him deeply. She looked at Britta with a mischievous gleam in her eye. "No offense, but Abed's a much better kisser than you."
Britta laughed lightly under her breath and shook her head ruefully. "Annie, I am so sorry. I had no right to do that. And you were right, about everything. I wish— well, the point is, I'm an idiot, and you have every right to be pissed at me."
Annie looked at Abed. "Memorize what she just said." Turning back to Britta, she said, "Britta, I get it. I do. If I'd run into Adrienne Peach and Abed and Troy hadn't been there to help me keep things in perspective, I don't know what I would've done." She paused. "You're right, though, you were acting like an idiot. Both of you were."
"Yeah. Did you really yell at Mindy?"
She nodded. "I saw how she was taunting you. I was hoping you'd follow my lead and ignore it, but ..." She shrugged. "At first she tried to blame it on you, for using that nickname, but I told her what you'd told me, that it was the only name you could remember."
"And her husband pointed out that half the people who signed her yearbook called her that too," Abed added.
"Basically, I said everything I said to you yesterday about being too old to play stupid high school games and not being a bitch just because someone's being a bitch to you. Just, louder and less politely."
"I kind of wish I'd been here to see it," Britta said. "But I suppose if I had, you would've been yelling at me too."
"Yes," Annie said simply. "And I may still later, if I feel like it."
Britta smiled. "Fair enough. I deserve it."
Jim came over, with Mindy following close behind. "Mindy and I are going to L'Etoile for dinner," he said. "We'd like you three to join us, if you're interested. Our treat, of course."
"Sounds good to me," Britta said, standing. "Guys?" Annie and Abed agreed, and as they stood and discussed whose car they should take, Britta looked at Mindy. "Good call on the meal."
Mindy smiled, looking fondly at Jim. "I know my husband. Despite what you may think, it's not about the money. I really do love him."
"Good," Britta said. "So, how about Annie and I fill you in over dinner about life at the bottom of the Riverside High social ladder?"
"Absolutely not," Annie said emphatically, joining them and handing her car keys to Britta. "I think we've all had more than enough high school flashbacks these last couple of weeks. We're all adults here. We'll find something to talk about."
Mindy laughed and left with Jim. Britta looked at Annie. "I take it you're going with Abed?"
"Yeah. You took the bus to work, right?" Britta nodded. "OK. Leave my car parked in one of the visitor spaces at your apartment. I don't know where we'll end up tonight, but either way I'll have Abed take me by your place tomorrow to pick it up." Britta tried, mostly unsuccessfully, to waggle her eyebrows lasciviously at the implications of Annie's statement. "Stop that, you're terrible at it."
Abed spoke up. "Come on, let's go. Not to sound like a bad Comedy Central special, but the food on the plane was terrible."
As they left the studio, Annie said, "You know, maybe it's good all this happened. Dealing with all this high school drama was good practice for me."
"Mindy told me she could've used a counselor like you back in the day," Britta said.
"Really?" Annie said happily.
"Yeah, she said the guidance counselor we had was useless. His name was—" She groped for the name. "—Mr. Corey."
"Oh yeah! He was still there for my freshman year," Annie said. "She's right, he was terrible. My mom was putting all this pressure on me, and I was having the worst time dealing with it, so I went in and—"
"Hey, what happened to absolutely no high school flashbacks?" Britta said teasingly.
"Quiet, you," Annie said a little irritably. "I still haven't decided whether to yell at you or not."
- Fin -