John Heaton (jheaton) wrote,
John Heaton
jheaton

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FIC: Scenes from a Mall

Title: Scenes from a Mall
Fandom/Pairing: Community; Britta/Annie, mention of past Annie/Jeff
Spoilers: Through 1.23 (and in fact specifically disregards parts of what comes after)
Rating/Warnings: PG-13
Word Count: ~3,800
Disclaimer: Community and the related characters are © 2010 Sony Pictures Television Inc. and Universal Media Studios.
Notes: For the Community Christmas Fic Exchange for a_shadow_there and inspired by her prompt "Annie/Britta; shopping, changing rooms." Thanks to dearygirl and htbthomas for looking it over, and thanks especially to the patient sales clerk who answered my questions about what could and could not be tried on at Victoria's Secret.


"I still don't see why you couldn't do this yourself," Britta said as Annie circled the parking lot of Greendale Town Center looking for a space close to the entrance to the mall.

"Because," Annie said with a weariness borne of having had this same discussion several times before, "the guests at our wedding will expect us to be registered somewhere. Because this is something that engaged couples do. And because you think my tastes in home décor are, quote, too girly."

"Why can't we just let people choose their own gifts? I like to use what I know about the couple to buy something truly special just for them instead of picking something off a list."

"And I'm sure that you always picked out something perfect that they loved," Annie said with a condescending smile. "But do you really want to leave it up to Pierce to choose a gift for us?"

Britta shuddered. "Good point. Let's just get it over with. Park somewhere already."

"I like to park as close to the door as possible."

"And I like to not ride around in circles all afternoon. We'd be inside by now if you'd taken the first spot we passed."

"Fine." Annie jerked the wheel to the right and pulled into a space at the end of the row they were currently in. "Does this meet with your satisfaction?"

Britta leaned over and gave Annie a kiss on the cheek. "It's perfect. C'mon, let's go submit to the embrace of the wedding-industrial complex."

As they walked toward the mall entrance, Britta asked, "So where do we go for this? Is there, like, a wedding store or something?"

Annie snorted and shook her head. "No. We're going to sit down with a consultant in Macy's weddings department."

"Sounds like a wedding store to me."

"And what we can't or don't want to register there," Annie continued, ignoring the interruption, "we'll register across the street at Target."

A thought occurred to Britta as they walked into the mall. "Wait, Macy's is all the way on the other side of the mall. Why were you looking for a space over here?" Taking note of the slightly sheepish expression on Annie's face, she looked around her, and spied the mall entrance to Barnes & Noble. "We are not registering at a bookstore."

"Come on, Britta," Annie said in wheedling tone. "You can't have too many books!"

"There are ten boxes of books in our storage unit that suggest otherwise."

"But when we close on the house, we'll have tons more room!" Annie said. "Besides, there's so much we don't know about home maintenance. Having a good selection of how-to books will be invaluable to us as new homeowners."

"The only book I need for home maintenance is the Yellow Pages."

"Some feminist you are."

"Feminism is about the freedom to make choices," Britta said, "and I choose to leave that sort of thing up to the professionals." Taking Annie's arm, she steered her past the bookstore and toward the other end of the mall.

They had gotten about halfway there when Annie stopped in front of a store. "Oh, we should stop in here!"

"Victoria's Secret has a bridal registry?" Britta said. "Do we really want to present Jeff with that kind of temptation?"

"It's not for the registry. Although," Annie added, "Jeff has awful taste in lingerie. We might be doing his future girlfriends a favor if we--"

"No."

"Anyway, I just thought maybe it'd be fun to get sexy nighties for the wedding night."

Britta looked doubtful. "Is that really worth the money? They're just going to end up on the floor."

"Why, Miss Perry!" Annie said with a fake gasp. "What a filthy mind you have. Come on, let's take a look around."

Britta allowed Annie to drag her into the store and amused herself watching Annie try to find something that was sexy but not too immodest for her reserved tastes. She finally selected a satiny chemise trimmed with fur, and held it up for approval. "This isn't real fur, is it?" Britta said, frowning slightly as she fingered the trim.

Annie looked at the tag. "Probably not at this price."

"Fine. Go try it on." She pushed her toward a changing room. After waiting for a couple of minutes, she called to Annie. "Well, how does it look?"

"It's nice."

"Let me see it!"

"Britta!" Annie said, shocked at the suggestion. "I'm not walking out there in my unmentionables for everyone to see!"

"Your 'unmentionables'?" Britta said, amused. "OK, Grandma. Unlock the door so I can come in to see it."

"OK, but make sure no one is able to see in when you open the door."

Britta rolled her eyes, but did as Annie asked. She looked her fiancée up and down appreciatively. "Well, what do you think?" Annie asked.

Britta leaned forward, took Annie's face in her hands, and kissed her deeply. Annie's arms went around Britta's waist as she returned the kiss. One of Britta's hands slid around to the back of Annie's head, entangling itself in her hair; the other dropped down and pushed up the back of the chemise, coming to rest on the bare skin of the small of her back. They continued kissing for another minute or two before Annie pulled away. "We're going to be late for our appointment with the consultant."

Britta pouted, but stepped back to allow Annie the room to change back into her street clothes. "If you're going to wear anything under that," she said, "it should be something other than what you’ve got on now. Not that what you’re wearing isn't nice, but ..."

"But pink flowers don't look right under a sheer white nightie," Annie concluded. "I think the bra and panties I got to wear under the wedding dress would look good, if I wear anything."

"Let's try it tonight."

"That would defeat the purpose of getting it for the wedding night."

"You and your logic."

Once Annie was clothed, they exited the changing room, paid for the chemise, and resumed their walk toward Macy's. "You know," Annie said, "if that had been Jeff in there, he wouldn't have let me push him away like that."

"He wouldn't have let you?" Britta said. "Jeff can be a pig, but that doesn't sound like him."

"That's not really what I meant. He just ... moves pretty fast. He wouldn't have wasted much time just making out, and once we started he would have wanted to ... finish. "

"Oh, well then yes, I agree. It didn't take us long to move past kissing when we had paintball sex."

"If I'd decided to be formidable about it, he would've stopped." They walked a while in silence before Annie asked, "do you think it'll be weird for him? Being in the wedding?" They had asked Jeff to be their mutual best man.

"You mean because he's had sex with both of us? Not in the slightest," Britta said. "I'm sure he'll be telling everyone that we're marrying each other because after being with him, no other man could possibly measure up."

Annie frowned. "I'll have to talk to him about that," she said. "I don't want my past relationships overshadowing our special day."

They finally reached Macy's--though not without a complaint from Britta about not being allowed to stop at the Wilson's Leather shop they passed on the way--and made their way to the wedding department, where their consultant was waiting for them. Annie gave a gasp at the sight of him.

"Miss Edison! Miss Perry! What a delight to see both of you again!" Eustice Whitman said ebulliently. "I cried tears of joy when I saw your names on the schedule this morning and realized that I would have the honor of guiding you through the registration process!"

Annie was first to recover from the shock of seeing their old Accounting professor in such an unexpected location. "This is quite a surprise, Prof--"

"Please, call me Eustice."

"Eustice," Annie said, reluctance evident on her face. "Are you not at Greendale anymore?"

"On the contrary!" he said. "I still toil in the halls of academe, endeavoring to free the student body from the chains of conformity that weigh them down and prevent them from seizing the day as only the young and young-at-heart truly can!

"But I confess," he continued, "teaching has never been my first love. No, Greendale is merely a means to an end, a way to pay the bills while I pursue my true calling: wedding planning."

"Wedding planning?" Britta asked, straining to keep her incredulity from creeping into her tone. "Is that something you do a lot of, Pro-- Eustice?"

"Alas, no," he said. "While the world had proved itself ready for same-sex marriage, it seems that by and large society is still unable to accept a straight, male wedding planner. But this is a fair second choice, and of course I strive to make the most of it!"

"Of course," Annie said with a small smile. "Well, let's start by looking at china patterns."

"China patterns?" Britta said. "What do we need china for?"

"For fancy dinner parties."

"We're having fancy dinner parties?"

"Not without fine china."

"And silver flatware," Whitman added.

"Which reminds me," Annie said, turning to Whitman, "do you have a pattern-matching service? I inherited my grandmother's silver."

"Naturally. How many additional settings will you need?"

"Well, it's service for eight, so four more."

"Since when do we know ten people we'd want to invite to a fancy dinner party?" Britta asked.

"The rest of the study group," Annie said, "plus their significant others. That's ten."

"It's six, at most."

"What's that mean?"

"I think you and Slater ruined Jeff for serious relationships. He doesn't want to risk getting dumped a third time," Britta said. "Pierce probably isn't going to get married again, and if he does it probably won't last long enough for us to organize a dinner party. And Abed and Troy will be together."

"Oh, don't start with that again," Annie said, rolling her eyes. "They just haven't met the right people yet."

"I'm pretty sure they have."

"If I may, Miss Perry," Whitman said, "while your analysis of your group's interpersonal dynamics may well be accurate, my experience is that it's best to plan for the maximum, not the minimum." Annie nodded in assent.

"What happened to carpe diem, Whitman?" Britta said, annoyed at him taking Annie's side.

"There is a time and a place both for taking things as they come," he said, "and for organized planning. College is the last time most people have the freedom to truly seize the day, which is why I have always encouraged my students to take advantage of that freedom.

"But speaking as a man who has been very happily married for 25 years, building a successful marriage takes more than spontaneity and joie de vivre," he continued. "Make no mistake, those are part of it, important parts, but it also takes hard work and, yes, careful planning. And that starts now."

"With china and flatware," Britta said, looking skeptical.

"With china and flatware, and the myriad other decisions you and Miss Edison have made and will make concerning your life together. Now then," he said, turning his attention to Annie, "do you have a sample of your grandmother's silver?"

Annie nodded, and pulled a small rolled bundle from her bag. "I wasn't sure what you would need," she said, unrolling the velvet cloth to reveal the silver within, "so I brought one entire place setting. And," she continued, extracting a second roll, "a few of the serving tools. Just a meat fork, a gravy ladle, and a butter server. I hope that's enough," she concluded, sounding worried.

"This is lovely service," Whitman said as he examined each item in turn. "Thank you for giving me the opportunity to see it." He grabbed a magnifying glass off his desk and peered closely at the butter knife. "Let me just enter this manufacturer's code into the computer, and ... ah yes, I thought so. We'll have no trouble at all assembling four more settings in this pattern."

Annie visibly relaxed. "Oh, thank goodness. I've been so worried. Thank you so much."

"It was my unalloyed delight, Miss Edison," Whitman said, and laughed. "Please forgive the pun. Now, shall we choose a china pattern?"

"That's Britta's department," Annie said as she carefully rebundled the silver and returned it to her bag.

"What?" Britta said, alarmed. "No, I--"

"Britta, we just talked about this in the parking lot. You don't want anything too girly, so you'll choose the pattern. Subject to my veto, of course, but I'm sure I'll love whatever you pick."

"Slide your chair over here, Miss Perry," Whitman said, "and I'll show you some of our less traditionally feminine designs."

To Britta's surprise, Whitman turned out to be very good at his job, knowing exactly what questions to ask to determine her tastes when it came to china patterns--a subject about which she had never given even a moment's thought--and demonstrating an impressive ability to recall the stock numbers of the patterns that he believed, correctly in almost every instance, would most appeal to her. The whole process was, she had to admit, actually somewhat enjoyable, enough so that she didn't protest when Whitman suggested they also look at crystal and table linens.

Once she made her final choices and Annie signed off on them, she found herself slightly disappointed it was over. "OK, that was pretty painless! What next?"

"Kitchenware," Annie said. "You can relax until it's time to look at bed linens."

Whitman pulled a binder off a shelf above his desk. "We carry the full Calphalon line," he said.

"Ooh, Calphalon!"

"What's Calphalon?" asked Britta, stumbling slightly over the unfamiliar word.

"Pots and pans."

"The finest pots and pans," Whitman said.

"We have pots and pans," Britta said.

"We have a pot," Annie said, "with a dented lid and half the non-stick coating flaked off, and a frying pan with a loose handle."

"It's not like we ever cook."

"We never cook because we don't have pots!"

"What do you mean we, white man?"

"Miss Perry, take it from a man who never used to cook," Whitman said, "you don't what a sheer delight cooking can be until you've worked with excellent cookware and high quality cutlery."

"Cutlery!” Annie said, dismay evident in her voice. “How could I forget about that!"

"Can't we just order some Ginsu from QVC and be done with it?"

"Those are terrible knives, Britta," Annie said disapprovingly.

"Well, excuse me for not knowing about knives!" Britta said, her irritation getting the best of her. "I'm gonna look around while you guys work out the details." She stood and stomped off.

As she wandered through the wedding department, she was alternately amused and appalled by what she saw. So many useless, overpriced geegaws! She was glad Annie had never expressed any interest in such things. She paused in front of a display of silver picture frames, pondering whether one might make an appropriate attendant's gift for Shirley, who was serving as their matron of honor. She found a selection of gifts for men and looked them over, wondering of any of them would be good for the guys. Pierce, who would walk Annie down the aisle, maybe; Jeff, probably not; Abed and Troy, who would serve as ushers, definitely not. She made a mental note to take a look at the full-season DVD sets when she and Annie went to Target later.

She was looking with no small degree of disgust at a sterling silver ceremonial cake server when Annie came to find her. "Annie! Come over here and look at this." She held up the cake server for her to see. "Can you believe this? They want to charge you a hundred bucks for something that you could pick up at Target for ten, if you thought you needed one at all, which you don't. The wedding business is such a racket." She returned it to the shelf and turned back to Annie, only then noticing the uncomfortable look on her face. "Please tell me we're not buying one of these."

"No. It's a frivolous expense," Annie said, sadly. "But ... we have one. The one my parents used for their wedding. My mom sneaked it out of the apartment and sent it to me. I-- I thought it'd be a way to sort of have them take part even though ..." She trailed off, looking utterly miserable.

"Oh, sweetie." Britta embraced Annie in a comforting hug, and stood holding her for several minutes while the younger woman cried quietly into her shoulder. She saw Whitman heading in their direction, and was gratified to see him turn on his heel and walk away when he spied what was happening.

When Annie had regained her composure, she said, "I'm sorry. I thought I was over it by now."

"Don't apologize. It's hard."

Annie took a deep breath and wiped her eyes on the sleeve of her shirt. "I shouldn't have been so surprised. I always knew my dad was a little bit racist, so of course he'd have a problem with me marrying another woman."

"It sounds like your mom may be coming around a little bit, though," Britta said.

"Maybe. I hope so. But you know what?" A steely look came into her eyes. "If not, that's her problem. You and the group are all the family I need."

Britta was touched. "I feel the same way, sweetie." She leaned forward and kissed Annie again, less hungrily than in the changing room but with no less passion behind it.

When they broke apart, Annie straightened up and squared her shoulders. "OK. Enough self-pity. Let's go find Professor Whitman."

"You mean Eustice."

Annie made a face. "I'll call him that to his face since he insisted on it, but I just can't think of him like that."

"I know. 'Eustice.' What an awful name."

"He can't help the name he was given, Britta."

"Of course he can. People change their names all the time."

"I just don't think it's appropriate to call a professor by his first name."

Britta scoffed. "He hasn't been our professor for five years, Annie."

"Two years. He was my debate coach, remember?"

"Indeed I do remember, Miss Edison!" Both women jumped in alarm; they had failed to notice Whitman come up behind them. "I cannot begin to tell you what a great joy it was to have you on the team. I'll never forget your first debate against City College."

"We see Jeremy Simmons every so often," Annie said. "He shops at Britta's favorite organic food co-op. He still gives me a dirty look every time he sees me."

When they reached Whitman's work station, Britta noticed a box of tissues at the edge of the desk that hadn't been there before, and was again impressed by the man's professionalism and discretion. "OK, Eustice," she said, "show me some sheets!"

"Nothing would make me happier, Miss Perry! I have some ideas based on what you told me when we picked your china, so we'll start with those. And if they fail to tickle your fancy, we can look further afield."

"What do you have in high thread-count Egyptian cotton?" Annie asked.

Britta rolled her eyes. "Ugh. I knew it was a mistake letting you date Jeff."

"Letting me?" Annie said, her eyes flashing dangerously.

"Say, Eustice," Britta continued, ignoring Annie, "after this can you show us some hand-crafted Italian faucets? Or maybe some platinum doorknobs?"

"Well, I'm sorry," Annie said, "but they're really comfy. You wouldn’t even believe."

"Fine. But I want to see some flannel ones too."

"I'm certain we can find items that will appeal to both your tastes," Whitman said with a placating gesture. "As it happens, I did have a set of very nice flannel sheets in mind, so let's take a look at those." True to his word, he helped them select bed linens that satisfied them both, and guided them through the rest of the process without further acrimony. Before long they had registered everything on Annie's list.

Once the final item had been selected and added to the registry, Whitman stood and kissed both Annie and Britta on the hand. "Ladies," he said, "I am unable to put into words what a pleasure and a privilege it has been to work with you today. I hope that you will be as happy as my darling Emmaline and I have been."

"Thank you, Eustice," Annie said. "You made it all so easy."

"Yeah, thanks," Britta added. "It was kind of fun."

Before leaving, Annie took down Whitman's address and promised to send him an invitation to the wedding, an offer that reduced him to tears. ("Of happiness, I assure you!") As they left the store, Britta said, "it was nice of you to invite him to the wedding."

"You don't mind, do you?" Annie asked, looking a little worried. "He's such a nice man, and he really was helpful. And there really aren't that many people coming from Greendale."

Britta raised her eyebrows at that. "The entire wedding party is from Greendale."

Annie waved her hand dismissively. "We don't count. The study group transcends Greendale."

"True dat. So," Britta asked, "do we have an appointment at Target?"

"No, we just go to customer service and they just give us a hand scanner we use to pick the items we want added to the registry. Why?"

"I want to stop at Wilson's."

Annie shook her head in amusement. "'This isn't real fur, is it?'" she said in a surprisingly accurate impersonation of Britta.

"That's different," Britta said. "They're killing cows for meat anyway, better they should use the whole animal instead of skinning a poor little chinchilla and throwing away the carcass."

"Fine. Then Barnes & Noble."

Britta took Annie's hand. "Of course. Like Whitman said, a successful relationship isn't just about hard work and careful planning, it's also about having fun together. And if two women can't have fun going to our favorite stores at the mall, where can we?"

Annie laughed. "If Jeff said something that sexist, you'd never let him hear the end of it."

"I know. Which is why," Britta said, squeezing Annie's hand, "you're not going to tell him I said it."

"Mm. I'll consider it."

"Keep your mouth shut and maybe later we can finish what we started at Victoria's Secret."

Annie looked at Britta and smiled. "Deal."
 
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