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Alternative Baking 101 (and Advanced Emotional Concealment) - Community ; Jeff/Annie ; 2,800 words ; Part 2 of 2. In which Annie grapples with the Jeff of it all, and Greendale grapples with achieving any level of normalcy.



2. Daylight

The next morning, Annie goes out into the kitchen to find a magical cupcake wonderland. All of the mangled abominations of cupcakes are gone, replaced by dozens of perfect frosted cupcakes. They even have the little multicolored star-shaped sprinkles that Annie picked out.

“Holy Julie and Julia,” she whispers wonderingly.

“He did it,” Abed says, awed (and very probably in-character as ... well, someone). “That magnificent son of a bitch made cupcakes.”

Britta sneaks one and bites into it.

“Britta!” Annie scolds, swatting her hand. “Those are for the bake sale!”

“Yeesh! Sorry!” Britta scowls at her.

“... are they disgusting?” Annie hates herself for asking, but she can’t quite help it.

Britta chews thoughtfully, then pronounces, “Jeff officially has three skills: perfectly disheveling his hair and pretending he just woke up like that, refusing to talk about his deep-seated daddy issues, and making gluten-free cupcakes.”

“Yay!” Annie claps her hands together; Abed and Britta join her. “Where is Jeff? Did he go home?”

Britta shakes her head grimly, then nods toward the living room couch.

Abed says, “We didn’t want to wake him just yet.”

Annie goes over to the couch. Jeff – or, to be more accurate, the leftover shell of what used to be Jeff – is stretched out on it. He’s dusted over with a layer of flour and frosting, and he’s got Abed’s I EAT BLORGONS FOR BREAKFAST apron tucked around him like the world’s saddest blanket. Annie just knows that he would be upset about the fact that his hair is really a mess, rather than carefully arranged to look like an attractive version of one.

It’s not Jeff Winger’s handsomest moment ever. Technically, she recognizes this.

Still, her heart does a fond little flip-flop at the sight of him.

“Wow,” Britta says, staring down at Jeff. “That is bleak.”

“It’s not his best look,” Abed says, “but it is his worst.”

“You guys!” Annie scolds.

Jeff groans and rolls from his side to his back. A string of drool oozes from his mouth to the couch cushion.

Abed and Britta grimace.

“And that has had his mitts on both of us,” Britta marvels grimly to Annie. “If that doesn’t make you believe the patriarchy’s all around us, seeping its filth into everything, then I don’t know what will.”

“Britta, be nice!” Annie orders.

“No way. That’s what the patriarchy wants.”

“Annie is blind to the full extent of Jeff’s outer hideousness because what matters to her is what’s in his heart,” Abed explains. “Which is to say, her.”

Annie freezes. “What?”

“He did it for you,” Abed says.

“He’d do anything for any of us,” Annie insists, her face peskily warm.

“That’s true,” Abed says, “but when it’s the rest of us, he usually only does it after he’s sulked a lot. You’re special.”

Annie looks down at Jeff.

“Far be it from me to recommend sex with Jeff,” Britta says gently, “but Annie, he’s totally stupid in love with you.”

“He is not,” Annie insists, Britta’s words sending a little dart of feeling through her.

Jeff groans and opens his eyes.

“Morninggg!” Annie says too brightly, beaming (and hoping that he didn’t hear any of that ... that crazy talk).

He smiles back groggily, looking happy to see her.

Aww.

Then he registers Britta and Abed behind her and reverts to typical Jeff mode. “What are you weirdos looking at?”

“Do yourself a favor,” Abed says. “Just jump into the shower. Don’t look into the mirror first. Trust me on this one.”

Jeff gives Annie and Britta a ‘what is this bozo talking about?’ look.

“It might not be the worst plan ever,” Annie says tactfully.

“You look like a bakery made you its bitch,” Britta says, less tactfully.

Jeff glares at them, then gets up and goes into the bathroom. The door slams shut behind him.

Annie, Britta, and Abed wait.

Then it comes: “AAAAAAAUGHHHHHH!”

“He looked,” Abed deduces.

“People should listen to us more,” Britta says. “We know what we’re talking about.” She grins way too knowingly at Annie. “Wink wink, nudge nudge—”

“Ugh,” Annie says, flouncing away from the madness.

She seeks solace in the kitchen, resting her elbows on the counter and staring down at the cupcakes. The sprinkles are so evenly distributed. She smiles to herself, admiring the tiny stars.

Jeff comes out of the bathroom fifteen minutes later, looking – well, maybe not 100% on the Jeff Winger Handsomeness Scale, but at least a solid 78%. Annie has never been quite so okay with a C+ before.

He throws the I EAT BLORGONS FOR BREAKFAST apron at Abed, then puts on his sunglasses with flourish.

“Let’s do this,” he growls.

Annie feels a little thrill.


+


And so the Greendale Four(merly Seven) march proudly through the community college parking lot, each carrying a tray of magnificent cupcakes. Their victory march continues all the way to the quad ...

And then, well.

If life had a soundtrack, this would be the moment for the record scratch noise.

“... What is this?” Annie says, baffled.

“Greendale’s First Annual Fake Sale!” the Dean announces with great aplomb.

Sure enough, the banner draped proudly across the building boasts those very words.

The quad is covered in folding tables manned by different students, and on those tables is what Annie’s brain can only classify as heaps of distinctly non-edible old junk.

She glances around wildly. Removable mustaches. A peg leg. (A peg leg??) Handbags that say ‘COOCH’ on them instead of ‘COACH.’

“OFFENSIVE,” Britta thunders, pointing at the handbag table. “Why do you even have those, Star Burns?”

“I don’t judge your life,” Star Burns shoots back.

“Oh,” Annie says faintly, feeling that special kind of dizziness that accompanies unexpected failure. “Oh no.”

Jeff puts his hand lightly against the small of her back.

“Chang was right,” Abed mutters, aghast.

(Because, all right, yes: approximately twenty four hours ago, Chang burst into the study room and announced, “Greendale Fake Sale. Tomorrow. Be there or be GAAAAAYEEEEE.”

“That catchphrase has gotten really old,” Jeff said. “Like, Pierce levels of old, and Pierce is basically dead from old. And masturbation.”

Annie, Britta, and Abed all winced.

“Sorry,” Jeff said, wincing too. “It felt wrong as soon as I said it. We miss you, buddy,” he added to the ceiling.

“Chang, I think you mean ‘bake sale,’” Annie said delicately.

“Oh yeah?” Chang sneered. “What makes you think that, muchacha?”

“Uh, I dunno,” Jeff said, “maybe the fact that there’s no such thing as a fake sale.”

“I said what I said,” Chang declared. “Haters to the left. PEACE.” And with that, he sauntered on out.

“So Greendale’s having a bake sale,” Frankie discerned. “How ... normal. We must really be making a difference.”

Annie beamed, victorious.)

Now Annie feels like she might collapse in on herself. “What about the bake sale?”

“What’s a bake sale?” the Dean asks blankly.

Annie glances at Jeff, who looks more or less like she feels.

“Bo-ring!” the Dean finishes, tittering. “That’s what a bake sale is!”

“Yeah,” Jeff deadpans. “Who wants to eat delicious baked goods when they can buy stuff pretending to be other stuff?”

“Exactly!” the Dean says gleefully. “You so get me.”

Jeff shakes off the Dean’s appreciative arm stroke and looks at Annie. She shrugs helplessly.

“In all honesty,” the Dean adds in a confidential whisper, “I just had so many old wigs to get rid of. This felt like the right move.”

Sure enough, the Dean’s folding table is like one big fake hair extravaganza.

“Awesome,” Jeff says flatly.

“Can I interest you in a—”

“No,” Jeff says. “And for the record, it’s pretty hypocritical that you have a Cruella de Vil wig, considering that whole dalmatian thing that you seem to think you’re subtle about.”

“Darkness lurks in all of us, Jeffrey,” the Dean intones.

“Yeah,” Jeff agrees sharply. “Especially those of us who stayed up all night making cupcakes for a fake sale.”

“Mmmkay then; you kids have fun!” the Dean says, picking up on the less-than-happy vibes, and scampers off.

“I suppose we might as well ... enjoy the Fake Sale,” Britta says, wrinkling her nose.

“Oooh,” Abed says, “peg legs.”

The two of them take off to explore. Annie is about to follow them – maybe walking around will help to dispel her general sense of woe – but then Jeff sighs, and it makes her hang back. He leans against the folding table where they set their situationally inappropriate cupcakes down.

“I’m sorry,” Annie says, sinking down next to him.

“Don’t be. It’s not your fault. It’s ours ... for not listening to Chang.” He cringes. “Okay, that felt wrong to say.”

“But seriously.” She puts a hand on his shoulder. “You worked so hard, and I wish it could have been for something.”

“It was for you.” He gives her a small, lopsided smile. “That’s something, right?”

She becomes suddenly aware of her fingertips resting against him. “Jeff ...”

But then she glances at Abed and Britta across the quad, and both of them are looking at her with faces that are way too knowingly smug. Abed even does that weird eyebrow wriggling thing.

She stammers out, “It’s—it’s just a shame to waste all those cupcakes.”

“Annie. You really think these people are going to turn their backs on cupcakes?”

“But they’re gluten-free,” Annie reminds him wistfully.

And then Annie can practically see the lightbulb go off over Jeff’s head.

“Hey, Greendale!” he calls, standing up and going into full Jeff Winger Speech Stance. “You want fake? Oh, I’ll give you fake. These cupcakes are masquerading as the real deal. You bite into one of these bad boys, you’ll be convinced that what you’re experiencing is a classic, good old fashioned white-flour-induced mouthgasm. But these cupcakes ... are entirely ... gluten free.”

“Oh yeah?” squawks Garrett indignantly. “Prove it.

“Two bucks,” Jeff says.

And just like that, Greendale students are swarming around their table, waving dollar bills at Jeff like he’s a fancy stripper.

Jeff grins and mutters in Annie’s ear, “And that’s how you do that.”

Annie beams at him, proud.


+


The cupcakes turn out to be pretty popular. Even more popular than the basket full of plastic snakes (which seems like a given, but you never know at Greendale).

After the first rush of cupcake buyers dies down, Jeff leans over and mutters to Annie, “Hey. What do you say we take a break?”

“Why can’t we come?” Britta asks. Annie can’t help but notice that she sounds like she already knows the answer.

“Because you gave up like a bunch of babies when the cupcake going got hard,” Jeff says.

“That’s fair,” Abed says.

“Got hard?” snorts Chang, appearing from basically nowhere. “GAYYYYYYEEEEE!”

Jeff rolls his eyes and flees the scene, gesturing for Annie to follow him. They don’t stop until they’re in the secluded smaller courtyard. Jeff sits at a picnic table and pats the bench beside him. Annie takes a seat. Once she has, Jeff pulls two cupcakes out from behind his back with a magician’s flourish.

“Milady,” he says grandly, holding one out to her.

She laughs and takes it. “Milord.”

For a second, his expression seems to shift, turning serious and almost sad. It makes her breath catch in her throat.

She’s about to ask what’s wrong, but then it passes, and he looks like normal Jeff again.

Maybe it’s just cupcake-induced sleep deprivation.

She takes a bite of the cupcake. Britta wasn’t wrong. “Jeff! These are amazing.”

“Well, I am amazing,” he says fairly. “What choice did my cupcakes have but to live in my image? Especially once you got out of there and stopped interfering with my process.”

“Ha ha ha,” Annie says sarcastically, smacking his chest.

He chuckles, pleased.

“I’m proud of you,” she declares.

“For making cupcakes?”

“For not giving up. And ... for making the selfless choice for a friend.” She trips slightly over the word ‘friend,’ her thoughts drawn inconveniently back to what Abed said.

“Yeah, well.” Jeff shrugs. “All this time at Greendale has really changed me. For the worse, by the way,” he adds, knocking his shoulder lightly against hers. He smiles at her, that smile he pulls out whenever he knows he’s annoying her and totally delights in that fact.

What a dork.

“Has it?” Annie retorts knowingly. “Or has it just helped you stop worrying about being cool all the time and become more ... you?”

“More me how?”

“More willing to show that you care about us. That you’ve got a good heart in there somewhere.”

“Hey.” He points at her. “I thought we agreed you weren’t going to accuse me of having a heart.”

“Then maybe you shouldn’t be so sweet,” Annie teases.

She doesn’t mean for it to come out quite so flirty. Flirting and googly eyes and holding hands on wacky Greendale adventures ... aren’t they supposed to be past that by now?

(She looks down at the bench so she doesn’t have to deal with his face. Traces the ‘VICKIE RULEZ’ indentation etched into the wood.)

She’s grown up a lot in the past few years, but apparently not enough to want to be past it.

She’s not sure if she’ll ever want to be past it. Not if it means losing that thing that’s always crackled between them. Keeping them on their toes. Making them better.

And so she looks up, expecting Jeff to be staring awkwardly into the distance too.

He’s not. He’s looking right at her.

Britta’s words echo in her head. He’s totally stupid in love with you.

Right now, it’s not so hard to believe at all.

Annie leans forward, ever so slightly. Jeff does too. The distance between them starts to feel ... not so distant.

Then the PA system crackles to life. The Dean’s voice pours out. “Attention, Greendale: the fake snakes are real! I repeat, THE FAKE SNAKES ARE REAL!!!!”

Annie jumps, surprised.

“Snakes on a campus,” Abed intones, rushing over.

“Don’t hurt them!” Britta cries, trailing after him. “Snakes are people too! No – snakes are better than people! Has a snake ever started a war???”

“Everybody just needs to remain calm,” Frankie says, last in line. “There’s no reason to panic. There are more of us than there are of them, and humans are smarter than snakes.”

“How dare you!” Britta snarls at Frankie. “Humanist!”

“That’s not what ‘humanist’ means,” says Frankie.

“Spoken like a true human,” Britta sneers.

The three of them scamper off to misadventure.

“I guess we should go deal with that ... situation,” Jeff says, staring after them.

“Just another day at Greendale,” Annie says, laughing weakly.

Now would be the time to get up and move.

Both of them keep sitting still.

“Jeff?” Annie says.

“Yeah?” Jeff says, turning to face her.

Annie decides, all at once, to follow her heart.

She takes his face in her hands and kisses him, swift and sure. He nearly topples off the bench in surprise.

She wrenches him back up.

“Are you okay??” she asks, laughing.

“Yeah, yeah,” he says, dazed. He furrows his eyebrows. “... Are you?”

“Why?”

“Annie. You just kissed me.”

“Yes.”

“Deliberately.”

“Yes.”

“And we’re not debating anyone, and it’s not an end-of-the-school-year dance with a bunch of emotionally manipulative fairy lights in the trees.”

“I know.”

“And—and this is what you want?” He looks at her unsurely. It’s so un-Jeff Winger. Or, to be more accurate, it’s so the Jeff Winger that he tries so hard not to let anyone see.

“Well, yeah,” she says warmly. “Why do you sound so surprised?”

“It’s just—and don’t take this the wrong way, because I’m fully aware that I’m God’s gift to most women—don’t you think you can do better? You’ve grown up into a really spectacular person.”

She shrugs, smiling at him. “So have you.”

After a moment, he smiles back, and leans in to kiss her.

“Get a room, ya yuppie cupcake peddlers!” shouts Leonard, waddling by.

“Shut up, Leonard!” Jeff retorts. “You ...”

But for once, he’s got nothing. He just stares at Annie, dazed and admiring, like nothing matters quite as much as she does. Not even hurling insults at his geriatric nemesis.

Which is, okay, pretty romantic.

By Greendale standards, at least.

“Sucker,” scoffs Leonard, and shuffles along.

“Can you pretend that you didn’t just witness me getting owned by a one hundred and fifty year old man?” Jeff asks her.

“I think I can manage to forget, just this once,” Annie replies playfully.

“Thanks. Now, where were we?” Jeff teases, and pulls her close.


+


The snakes do infiltrate the picnic table ten minutes later, which forces the kissing to a halt for a little while.

It’s not a total disaster. In fact, they rise to the snake-wrangling occasion pretty admirably.

After all, Jeff Winger and Annie Edison have always made an incredible team.




The End

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