Spoilers: Season 1, especially 1.23, "Modern Warfare"
Word Count: 3,517
Disclaimer: I do not own Community or any of its characters. Same goes for Edgar Allan Poe's "The Raven" and Casablanca.
Notes: This is for the "Modern Warfare" Jeff/Annie Rewrite milady_milord challenge. I tried to match the tone of the episode, hope I succeeded. :)
The day was May 9, 2010 when the Greendale Community College entered into war. Brothers against brothers. Sisters against sisters. BFFs against BFFs. Chess’ers against glee’ers. It was ugly; it was dirty. It was colorful. Here is the tale of that day. Some video footage remains, but the in-between, told from memory, is where things really got interesting.
As the lyric sunk in, Britta’s eyes rolled in disgust. “Oh brother!” Forgetting momentarily that they were at war, she stood up and faced the obnoxious singing. “That is SO uninspired!” As she spoke, splats of green and pink paint landed on her chest. She looked down, realizing her mistake and then glumly turned to leave. Jeff watched her walk away and then met Annie’s gaze as she slid closer to him.
“We have to shoot them down before they throw any more of us off with their melodies,” she cried out to him.
“Glee club!” Jeff hissed, gritting teeth and looking wildly around. His eyes widened. There! Just a few inches away lay a discarded jacket. Stretching his leg out, he pulled it to him.
“Jeff! A pogo stick!”
He looked over at Abed, who triumphantly held up his find and the two shared battle-worn grins of camaraderie.
Sticking the jacket over the pogo stick, Jeff looked at the rest of his remaining group. They all nodded in unison. Abed silently counted to three with his fingers. The clothed pogo stick rose high above their heads and with clockwork precision, the second after the singers struck, Abed, Annie and Shirley rose right after and tagged the glee’ers.
Shirley lowered her paintball gun and looked down at Pierce, lying in the fetal position. “You coward!” She spat. Hefting the gun over her shoulder, she turned and walked away. As Abed, Jeff and Annie walked by, they each shook their head at the bewildered Pierce.
“What?! Someone had to stay safe in case they got all the rest of us! I was doing it for the team!” He rose to his feet, grumbling under his breath. “These youngsters don’t understand the importance of their leader staying out of the line of fire.”
Annie sat down wearily at their regular table, while Jeff, Abed and Shirley stood to the side. Before deciding on strategy, the three took a moment to glare at Pierce as he entered the cafeteria. Blowing them off with a wave of his hand, he headed to the pile of snacks that Starburns had left on the floor when Pierce had turned on him.
Shirley shook her head in disgust. “That man,” she vented.
“It’s okay, Shirley. We can use him. Just stay cool. Pierce’s time will come.” Abed counseled her sagely. She held his gaze for a moment, and then nodded.
“What’s the plan now? I want that priority registration, but my kids need to eat. My sister is not going to be happy that I’m already two hours late. We need to end this thing, preferably with the three of us the last ones standing before the two of you kindly turn your guns on yourself out of respect for my life experience.”
Abed cocked his head, his brow furrowed as he pondered her words. Jeff glanced over at Annie and then back to Shirley. “Four of us. Annie’s with us. I’m not leaving her behind.”
“Jeff, look at her. She’s such an itty, little thing. She’s all wiped out.” She smiled comfortingly and laid a hand on his arm. “It would be a mercy killing.” Her fingers curved around his bicep. “Ooh, that’s nice.”
He backed off. “No. Annie’s with me—us until the end.” He stared Shirley down, and then faced Abed to repeat the glare. Abed nodded, his eyes widened and Jeff flicked his gaze between the two of them once more. “As long as we’re clear…” He waited, and when no argument was forthcoming, he nodded. “I’m going to go check on her, maybe grab her some water. Or orange juice. Say what you will about Greendale, but they buy the best OJ for their students.”
Abed watched him head over to Annie and kneel in front of her chair. Jeff laid a hand on her knee and smiled tenderly as she spoke to him. Abed turned to Shirley. “You know, Jeff and Britta were the obvious OTP,” he looked at Shirley, noting her confusion and explained, “one true pairing, of our little group, but with their lack of chemistry it feels forced. On the other hand, Jeff and Annie have clearly become the unpredicted couple that is fan-driven and more popular due to their unexpected chemistry and surprising compatibility best personified by Joey and Pacey on Dawson’s Creek.
“They aren't quite there yet, but in current television, Jeff and Annie would equate to,” he paused, his brain ticking and then continued with a snap of his fingers. “Sheldon and Penny of The Big Bang Theory, or Damon and Elena of The Vampire Diaries. Two non-OTP couples who excite fans more than the main couple. Although, the latter may not count as the triangle between Elena and the two brothers is already established in the books the show is based on. I’ll have to think about that some more.”
Shirley nodded absently. “That’s ni—ABED!” He jerked his gun up, as Jeff and Annie jumped to their feet, weapons raised. “I saw movement, fast, very fast go by.”
Sexy Dreadlocks came hurtling through the door. Shirley rushed to him, but he cried out. “Run!” He turned to face the sound of running feet, his back a splatter of red, green and yellow paint. Shirley stood still in shock.
“I’ll save you, Shirley!” Pierce yelled and grabbed her arm, pulling her out the far door leaving Jeff, Annie and Abed at the mercy of the oncoming horde. Sexy Dreadlocks turned back to the trio, his eyes wide with panic. “Run, you fools, run!”
It wasn’t their study group room, but it would do. Someone had already lined chairs around the table, and Shirley and Pierce had found their mother-lode. Beneath that table were two plastic tubs full of paint. Unfortunately, they had no way to use it. They could hear the others coming after them.
“I hope that’s the rest of our group,” Shirley whispered.
“I’ll scout ahead,” Pierce offered. Stepping out of the room, he looked to his left and then right, and then back to his left and he saw them coming. It wasn’t their group. “Shirley! We gotta go!” He looked into the room, but she was at the other end; there was no way that she would make it out before the paint-mad poetry club reached them. Something inside of him arose; the need to be a hero. The hero. He rushed back into the room.
“Pierce, what are you doing? The two of us against …”
“I saw about ten. We can take ‘em!”
“But – how?” The muttered recitation of Edgar Allen Poe’s “The Raven” got louder.
“Here, under the table.” He pulled a chair out and crawled under. “Shirley, come on!” He called when she didn’t follow right away.
Shirley glanced towards the door that Pierce had inconveniently left open. “I’m gonna regret this,” she mumbled to herself and then let out a little yip as the first poet came into her sight line. Dropping to the floor, she crawled in after Pierce. He had pushed the two tubs to opposite ends of the table.
He grinned wildly at her. “I have a plan!”
“… I flung the shutter, when, with many a flirt and flutter,
In there stepped a stately raven of the saintly days of yore.”
“Well, make it quick, Pierce.” Her voice dropped to a whisper. “They’re in the room.”
“… obeisance made he; not a minute stopped or stayed he;
But, with mien of lord or lady, perched above my chamber door.”
“Yeah, I can hear them.” He spoke quietly, but quickly. There was a confidence in his voice born of battle and bravery. “They’re surrounding the table, and once we count twenty feet, we each knock over a tub of paint. It will happen so fast, they’ll get splattered and be out for the count.” He beamed expectantly at Shirley.
She looked from him to the two tubs of paint.
“… upon a bust of Pallas just above my chamber door -
Perched, and sat, and nothing more.”
“Pierce, we can’t control this. If we knock these tubs over, we’ll get paint on us. They’re too full, there’s too much. There’s no way we’ll escape clean.”
His smile faded and he looked down.
“… dreary, while I pondered weak and weary,
Over many a quaint and curious volume of forgotten lore,”
“I know. We have to sacrifice ourselves to take them out.” Shirley met his gaze, her eyes widening. “For the team,” Pierce concluded and held out his hand.
With a decisive nod, Shirley took it. “Forget the team, as long as it will shut them up yapping about that bird!”
“… nearly napping, suddenly there came a tapping,
As of some one gently rapping, rapping at my chamber door.”
They eyed the feet surrounding the table and both came to twenty. Their eyes met once more, and then with a mighty shove, they pushed both tubs over.
“… `'Tis some visitor,' I muttered, `tapping at my chamber door -
Only this, and nothing -- Aaaaahhhhh!”
Paint went flying over the floor, the chairs, the bottom of the table, flooding the room. Ten pairs of feet and legs were splattered with bright pink and green. Shirley and Pierce turned to look at one another, each eying the globs of paint coloring their clothes, and shared a grin.
“Pierce, we did it!”
He grinned. “We didn’t win, Shirley, but maybe one of our own will. Maybe one of our own will.” He leaned towards her, his eyes closed. “Now give me some sugar.”
Shirley pulled back, her eyes wide in disgust. She shoved him away. “I’m going home.”
“Maybe we’re it?” Annie asked as the trio reached the library steps. Jeff and Abed looked at her and then each other, a hairsbreadth away from raising their weapons, when … “LOOK!” Annie shouted.
Three glee’ers who had broken off from the pack came rushing at them, weapons firing. “We are the champions, my friends!” they sang at the top of their lungs. Jeff jumped in front of Annie, leaving Abed the main target as they rushed into the building.
Just past the doors, Jeff turned back to see Abed wearing a look of surprise on his face. “They got me, Jeff. You two go, get away from here. Save yourselves.” Jeff nodded and ran past the library’s protective doors. Abed stared at the spot where they had stood, and finished with a whisper. “We’ll always have Paris.”
Jeff poked his head out, “Paris? Abed, this has nothing to do with Casablanca.” A paint ball went whizzing by him. “Right, Paris. See ya, Bogey.”
Abed turned to see Troy across the quad. Raising his hand in greeting, he jogged over to where he was. “Where are the glee’ers going? Jeff and Annie went into the library.”
“Oh, Senor Chang is running around with some major artillery. They lost three to him about five minutes ago. He promised to finish them –“ Senor Chang, suited up and ready to go, ran by them. “Off. There he goes.”
“He’s not a student.”
“Yeah.” The two friends watched their Spanish teacher go until he was out of sight, and then Troy tapped Abed on the shoulder. “Hey, check this out!”
Annie paused just inside the library doors and leaned against the wall, waiting for Jeff. He reached her with a weary smile. “You okay?”
“Yeah, yeah, I just – Jeff, I can’t believe we’re all that’s left. There were seven of us strong and now it’s just us two.”
He reached out and held her shoulders. “We don’t know that. Shirley and Pierce could have made it!”
“Oh come on, Jeff, you’re just trying to make me feel better. They left us, turned and ran the other way. Even if they are still out there, they aren’t with us. Not anymore.” She peered up at him, her eyes, limpid pools.
He tightened his grip on her. “I won’t leave you, Annie.” They held gazes, the air growing tense between them, when Jeff stepped back. He laughed lightly and dropped his hands, looked away from her. And then he froze.
“What? What about the pain—? Oh no!“
“Abed has the extra paint cartridges!” Jeff cried out. He reached out and grabbed her shoulders again. “Annie, I’m sorry, but,” he paused, his head dropping in frustration. “I have to leave you.”
“I have to get the paint from Abed. You stay here. No, run! Go to our study room. Be careful, stay clear of them.” She began to protest, and Jeff shook her, his voice rising. “You stay alive no matter what occurs. I will find you. No matter how long it takes, no matter how far. I will find you!”
Jeff released her and cocked his head to the left slightly. He lowered his voice. “I know where our group meets. It’s just down the hall. So, yeah, no problem.”
Annie nodded and offered him a weak smile. Jeff held her gaze for a moment longer and then pivoted away. He stopped. His fists clenched and he spun back to face her, striding forward. “Jeff --" she began, but his lips were on hers. They were soft and insistent, his tongue flicking out, then licking at her upper lip, tasting her. Annie’s hands moved up his arms; she reached up, stretching her small form as much as she could. She clutched at him, sculpting the shape of the muscles on his arms. One of his hands swam up her back, nestling in the dusky strands of her hair. Cupping her head in his hand, his fingers massaged the nape of her neck. A whimper escaped her. Jeff broke from their kiss, his breath as ragged as hers.
He rested his forehead against her for a moment and then with a heavy sigh, pulled back and headed once more into the fray.
When Jeff entered their study room, Annie was sitting on the table, her weapon at the ready. Seeing him, she rushed forward, and then froze, blushing as her gaze dropped to the floor. Hands twisting, she looked up at him and began to speak. "Jeff, I – I mean, what happened – "
He interrupted her. "Annie, it's okay. This is a war zone. What happens here, stays here. It has nothing to do with the real world." Her eyes still downcast, she nodded. “Annie,” he said her name softly and she looked up at him. Their eyes met. Jeff began to take a step forward. She jumped slightly and he eased back. Nervously, they glanced away from the other.
Silence reigned before Annie at last spoke, her voice extra cheery. “So, did you get the paint from Abed?”
Jeff opened his mouth to answer, paused, and then continued, grit in his voice. "Those bastards stripped his corpse clean before I could get to him."
Annie looked crestfallen, her eyes wide in shock when her brow furrowed as reality briefly asserted itself. "Jeff, he was shot with paint."
He shrugged. "Yeah, I know, but that sounded better than saying by the time I got out there, he and Troy were moonwalking across the quad."
Nodding in understanding, she leaned back to perch upon the table when they heard a noise. Annie stood up as Jeff turned around to see Senor Chang, clad in a beige suit and holding the mother of all paintball guns. Jeff and Annie dove behind the turned-over couch and chairs as Chang splattered the room with paint, the ricochet of their colorful pellets filling the air.
"Buenos Dias, children. You'll be happy to know that you made it all the way to the end." More paint hit the walls.
Brow furrowed in angry confusion, Jeff glanced over at an equally confused Annie. "You're not even a student!" He called out to him.
"Wrong." Chang replied immediately, and unseen by them, pulled out proof of studentship. "Critical media literacy and politics of gender, beeyotch!" Accepting his words, Jeff raised his weapon over his head and spread some paint. In response, Chang let loose another ricochet of paintball power.
Annie slid over to Jeff’s side, her face pinched with worry. Shaking his head in frustration, he whispered to her urgently. “I don’t know what to do. We’re toast, Annie! We can't beat him! Even though it's two against one, we can't take him. He's a monster. Did you see the size of that thing?!”
Closing her eyes, Annie took a deep breath, and then met his gaze. “Jeff, I have a plan. One of us needs to sacrifice ourselves and rise up to bring him down. While Chang is shooting that person, the other will finish him off and win the prize.”
“Annie, you’re not suggesting that you be the sacrificial lamb? I can’t let you do that.”
She nodded, “Jeff, you need that priority registration more than me. Most of my non-required classes nobody else wants to take anyway. You helped protect me when the others wanted to leave me behind.” A strand of hair fell in front of her face, and she ducked her gaze down shyly behind it. “I heard you talking to Shirley and Abed. This is me returning the favor.”
“Annie, no. I won’t let you. It’s not right, you’re young, you have so much left in you – “
“Jeff!” She interrupted him. “Let me do this.” Leaning forward, she grabbed his face between her hands as Chang continued to paint the walls above them. Pressing her mouth to his, she urged him to give in, and let her give up. Dropping his weapon, Jeff wrapped his arms around her and pulled her tightly to him as he returned her kiss in shared intensity and passion.
“Hello? My little friend is getting lonely,” Chang called out and then cackled evilly.
Annie pulled back, her eyes meeting Jeff’s. "I'm taking one for the team.” Grabbing her weapon, she rose to her feet like a magnificent Valkyrie of yore, paint flying. Jeff stared at her in wonder and then stood up, twisting to meet Chang face to face. But Annie’s plan worked, their teacher was focused solely on her, pellets flying to and fro between them. Bringing his paintball gun up, Jeff took careful aim and notched one directly where Chang’s heart would be if he had one.
Staggering back, Chang dropped his weapon and looked in horror at a paint-free Jeff Winger.
Jeff turned to Annie. She clapped her hands, a bright smile spread across her face. “You won, Jeff.
His gaze softened. “No, we won.”
Chang coughed wretchedly, and Jeff looked away from Annie’s shining eyes to see the man sprawled upon a chair.
Reaching up, Dean Pelton wiped at the paint on his forehead, a slightly aggrieved note in his voice. “I can't do that. There must be something else that will make you happy.”
Jeff looked around the room, frustration and disgust mingled on his face. He paused, his eye caught by something. He faced the Dean once more. “No.” Walking over, he grabbed the paint-splattered remote-controlled DVD player from the desk. Hefting it under his shoulder, he looked at Pelton. “This is a start.”
Jeff turned and walked out of the Dean’s office. He was sweaty. He was dirty. And he was alone … but he was free of paint.
The next morning the Greendale staff was working double-time to get the school back in shape, and Jeff sidestepped a few of those workers as he headed to the study group.
When Annie bumped into him.
“Hey,” he said.
“I’m sorry. I wasn’t looking where I was going. Wow, what a clean-up, huh? Hi.” She rambled, her voice overly bright.
“Yeah, hey.” She smiled, a blush lighting her face.
“Annie –“ he began, but she held out a hand to stop him.
“Back in the real world, huh?” Her gaze flitted to and away from his.
“Yeah,” Jeff nodded, and tried a smile out, but could only manage a grimace. They stood in silence for a few seconds before Jeff let out a heavy sigh. Anne looked up at him and their eyes met. And held.
The seconds continued ticking by. Jeff took a slight step forward, Annie’s lips parted. He took a step back, and sighed again. Annie offered up a wistful smile and nodded. Inclining her head just a bit, she looked upward. Jeff’s lips drew together in a tight smile of understanding and he nodded as well.
Extending his arm, he reached out and patted her on the head. And then they both turned around and walked in the opposite direction.