Spoilers: Through 3x19 for Community
Word Count: 1,028 (of 18,470)
Disclaimer/Notes: See Prologue for disclaimer and general notes. Thanks again to dearygirl, without whose input this chapter literally would not exist.
Part VI: Greendale Community College, Year One
In which Jeff plays paintball
"Are you hit?"
Jeff looked down at his partner, who was holding her paintball gun in a two-handed grip and looking at him with worried eyes. "Nope. He didn't even get off a shot. Took 'em out right as he walked in."
Annie relaxed slightly, though she kept both hands on the handle. "Oh, thank God. Jeff, I am so sorry! I only looked away for a second…"
"It's fine." After agreeing to join forces, the study group had decided to make one last sweep of the building before moving out. They had managed to bar the double doors at the front and rear of the building with chairs through the crash bars, but the single door leading into the cafeteria couldn't be secured in that manner, so Jeff and Annie had been left behind as a rear guard while the other five swept the building looking for stragglers. "So much for Britta's 'we're the only ones left in the building' theory."
"How does someone coming into the building from outside disprove her theory?" Annie asked. Jeff frowned, but didn't respond. "And why have you been ragging on Britta so much lately anyway? I thought you liked her."
"I do like her! Well… I mean, I don't dislike her. It's just… she's really annoying sometimes, you know? More than usual, lately. And before you say it, it has nothing to do with unresolved sexual tension. I don't know why you were all so fixated on that earlier."
"Uh, because you were so fixated on it earlier in the year? We all know that's why you started the study group."
"Oh, please, that is so first semester. I'll admit her stubbornness was… aggravating, but we're friends now. To whatever limited extent I believe in friendship. The point is, I've moved on. Plenty of fish in the sea, and trust me, I can reel one in whenever I want."
"Is that all women are to you, fish? You expect us to come running the minute you drop your bait?"
"One, fish can't run, and two, of course not! But look, Annie, you and I see people in a fundamentally different way. To me, people are tools."
"You would know."
"Cute. What I mean is that when I see someone, I ask myself, is this a person who can be of use to me? And when it comes to beautiful women, the obvious answer is yes, because they can sleep with me."
"That's horrible! And so shallow! If you would just take time to get to know people better, you—"
"Why would I want that" Jeff asked. "Getting to know people better gets you hurt. I learned that a long time ago. And I just had it proved to me again a few weeks ago by a certain statistics professor."
"Not everyone is like Professor Slater," Annie said.
Jeff only shrugged in response, and for a while neither spoke. Finally, Annie said, "So what about the rest of us?"
Jeff glanced sideways at Annie. "The rest of who?"
"The study group. What kind of tools are we? You're not shy talking about who you want to… have relations with, so I know it's not that."
"I told you the first day I met you I didn't know how to study. You help me with that."
"So if we weren't in a class together, you'd just walk away? I suppose you might go play video games with Abed and Troy once in a while, but you certainly wouldn't have any reason to keep me around."
"No! You're— you're useful in other ways," Jeff said. "You helped me straighten out that situation with Amber."
Annie smiled. "I just told you what you already knew."
"But I needed to hear someone else say it."
"Sure. By the way, what was it you got out of that?" Before Jeff could respond, Annie swept ahead. "I can't see how standing up for Pierce was useful to you."
Jeff sighed. "What is it you want me to say, Annie?"
She thought about it for a moment. "For now, I just want you to say you'll stop bickering with Britta so much. I know she's not the easiest person to be around, but don't get so hung up on what she isn’t that you can't enjoy what she is." After a brief pause, she added, "And try to avoid fishing metaphors to describe your love life. It's creepy."
From down the hall, they heard a soft hoot of an owl; Annie hooted twice in return, the agreed-upon "all clear" signal. Jeff shook his head. "Why did we let Troy choose the signal again?"
"What? His owl impression is really good!"
"Yeah, but the point of a secret signal is for it to be inconspicuous," Jeff said. "Why would there be two owls hanging out inside in the middle of day?"
"Shush," Annie said as the rest of the study group entered the cafeteria. "Did you guys find anything?"
"We found one person holed up on the third floor," Britta said. Jeff opened his mouth, but Annie slapped his upper arm before he could say anything.
"It was that pretty girl we thought liked Abed," Shirley said. "She tried to use her feminine wiles on him, but he wasn't having any of it."
Abed said, "You could say— hold on. Shirley, do you have a pair of sunglasses in your bag?" Shirley rummaged through her purse and held out a pair of sunglasses with large round lenses and thick white plastic frames. Abed studied them with raised eyebrows before saying, "Well, these'll do, I guess. OK, starting over. You could say I took her down—" He put on the sunglasses. "—without prejudice."
Annie clapped her hands delightedly. "Because she was reading Pride and Prejudice!" Abed clicked his tongue and pointed at her.
"Are we gonna stand around here all day?" Pierce asked. "We've got a paintball game to win."
"And the other players aren't going to shoot themselves," Britta added.
"I agree with Britta," Jeff said, glancing sideways at Annie, who smiled at him. "Let's move out."
Prologue | Part I | Part II | Part III | Part IV | Part V | Part VI | Part VII | Part VIII | Epilogue