It takes Annie more than a little time to adjust to living full-time with Troy and Abed, though she happily trades out the blaring neon and the constantly screeching P.A. system of Dildopolis for hijinks, unpredictability, and many, many movie nights. She learns to relent when the boys go a little off-script during their weekly grocery trips and embraces one mystery dinner per weekend. And while the apartment space aside from her room is never quite as tidy as she'd like it to be, Abed and Troy take to her shared cleaning schedule quickly. They slowly start building up their cooking skills, too, helping to prep sides and even making main dishes themselves here and there, with feedback and help from Annie.

Living with the two of them draws out a playful side of her, one she wasn't really sure could exist outside of designated "fun" times like pep rallies, Halloween parties (of the non-zombie variety), or epic Wild West fights. She learns that it's okay to have strawberries and s'mores for dinner once in a while, that staying up until 1 AM to dissect old X-Files episodes is sometimes worth not getting her doctor-recommended eight hours of sleep. Annie's spent so long running away from her high school past, trying to block out anything that could possibly dredge up unwanted memories of "Little Annie Adderall," that she didn't realize she'd missed out on tons of harmlessly dumb teen adventures while she was sequestered away in her room or in the library. She's glad to realize that growing up, getting older, doesn't have to wear her down like the nubby tips of so many number two pencils she's used on Scantron tests over the years.

She's also glad that Britta's started coming over semi-regularly for dinner with the three of them.

It had started innocently enough, with Troy inviting her over one Friday when she'd complained about not really having any groceries at her place.

"That's not our problem," Annie had been about to say, because, well, it's not, but she'd held her tongue because Troy's offer was generous, and she was trying to get better about going with the flow.

On the other hand…

"Our apartment guidelines do mention we should provide each other at least twelve hours' advance notice for prepping for dinner guests," Annie had reminded Troy and Abed as they were leaving campus.

Troy had brightened up at that, oddly. "Hey, you finally called them guidelines, not rules. There's some progress! And I hardly think Britta counts as a guest," he'd continued. "In terms of expectations for atmosphere and whatnot."

"Besides, today's pizza Friday, so we can just order more," Abed had chimed in.

The four of them ended up having a fun night together—a better time than Annie had expected, honestly—and, soon after, Friday night dinners with Britta became a regular occurrence, every two or three weeks, depending on their collective schedules.

It's almost like a cultural event, at times, with Abed and Troy taking the lead on television, pop culture, and video games, Annie providing them with literature samplings—they've all taken well to the class drama and social trappings of The Age of Innocence—and Britta introducing them to some well-worn favorites from her extensive CD collection; she's gotten Annie on a Liz Phair kick recently.

The way they've formed a sort of secondary unit, outside of the confines of campus and the study group, warms Annie's heart more than she'd expected, and she's come to look forward to Fridays with Britta and the boys, as she calls their dinner soirees.

Or, at least, she usually does. On normal days, or what pass as normal days, for herself and her roommates.

This isn't one of them.

"Why would you have tacos on a Thursday? It's Taco Tuesday, not Taco Thursday!" Abed explains to Troy, again, his syllables growing more and more clipped.

"Abed. Chipotle was calling to me last night and I could not, would not, deny that call!" Troy answers with equal exasperation. "Hence why I'd prefer that we have the fresh berry and cucumber salad tonight."

"That does sound good. But I'd still also like tacos," Abed answers.

"Listen, we will find a way to compromise," Annie promises through semi-clenched teeth, in a tone that's a touch more threatening than unifying. Better that than becoming the mother figure and screaming that they'll have what she makes for dinner and like it, though.

"Just give me a minute," she says. "No, wait, five minutes," she corrects herself, knowing Abed's penchant for taking those types of remarks literally.

Annie's not always the best mediator—her stubbornness can get the best of her from time to time—and Jeff's unlikely to solve this particular food impasse, or care all that much about it. She texts Britta instead.

Dinner drama here. How do I get a compromise between a fresh berry and cucumber salad (Troy's pick, as we'd all discussed earlier this week) and tacos (which Abed now wants). Help if you can, please.

It's a long shot, but Annie doesn't see a clear way to skirt this disagreement, and Britta's response only confuses her further.

Mexican potatoes.

Annie gives a muted, frustrated groan and texts back, What?

Her phone buzzes with an incoming call from Britta a few minutes later. "Hello?" Annie picks up, still a bit confused over Britta's last text.

"Hey," Britta says quickly. "Mexican potatoes, explained. You got stuff for tacos? Shredded cheese, salsa, sour cream? And, of course, potatoes?"

Annie checks the fridge. "Yes to the taco ingredients, but we're a bit low on cheese. No potatoes to speak of, either."

"Alright, cool. I'll stop by the store and get the potatoes and cheese before I come over. You bake 'em and then top 'em with taco fixings, it's a nice little way to spice up baked potatoes," Britta assures her. "We can have them on the side with the salad so the boys both get something they want, and then we're not all gorging ourselves on popcorn or junk food later on in the evening. That should work, right?"

"Yeah. Yeah, definitely," Annie replies after a beat. "That's a really good idea, Britta."

"I know. Those do hit me from time to time," she answers, and Annie can hear the smile in her voice. "I'll be over a little bit earlier than usual, probably around 5, and I can help get dinner started since potatoes always take a while to bake."

"Oh, okay. Are you sure?" Annie frowns. "I wouldn't wanna inconvenience you."

"I'd be happy to, really," Britta insists, and Annie's not going to turn the act of kindness down, especially not when it gives her a bit of extra time to get started on homework in the late afternoon rather than going on a small grocery run.

"Cool, thank you! Alright, then, we'll see you around 5," Annie responds before ending the call.

True to her word, Britta rolls up to Annie, Abed, and Troy's shared apartment a few minutes after 5 with her reusable cloth grocery bag slung over her shoulder and a six pack of Blue Moon clutched tightly in her left hand.

Annie greets her with a warm smile. "Thanks again for helping with dinner, Britta."

"Don't mention it, babe," Britta answers briskly as she presses the six pack into Annie's arms. "If you could put the brews in the fridge, that would be great, and I'll get these potatoes prepped to go in the oven." She slides the bag off her shoulder onto the perpetually overcrowded kitchen island, retrieves a paper plate from the small cabinet next to the sink, and pops the potatoes onto it before grabbing a fork from the cutlery drawer. She neatly stabs near-identical dots into the top of each spud when she feels Annie practically staring through her.

Annie's not sure what's more surprising or more attractive to her: Britta calling her "babe" out of nowhere or being comfortable enough in what Annie's come to think of as "her" kitchen to know where damn near everything is without asking.

Annie takes an awkward side step toward the fridge—"great job drawing attention to the fact that you were frozen in place and gawking at her," she mutters to herself—before clearing her throat to say, "You…if you wrap the potatoes in damp paper towels and then microwave them, it helps them bake faster."

Britta shoots her a small smile and follows Annie's instructions. "Good to know."

Annie's typically not much of a drinker outside of parties or going out to bars, but her awkwardness drives her back to the fridge and she grabs a beer, taking a deep swig as Britta slides the potato plate into the microwave and sets it for five minutes.

"So, Abed and Troy actually disagreed about something?" Britta jokes.

Annie nods. "A rarity, but it does happen. They both thought this dinner idea sounds good, though."

Britta shakes her head ruefully and follows Annie's cue, cracking open a Blue Moon of her own. "How'd they survive before you moved in?"

Annie shrugs. "Cereal and the cafeteria, I guess."

"Well, if I may say so, you're good for them. You're all good for each other. This place is…nice. It's homier, with you here," Britta says quietly.

"Thanks," Annie murmurs softly, hesitating for a second before adding, "We've enjoyed having you around more. I've liked it. There's only so much comic book and film talk I can handle in a day."

Watching Britta's eyes dart to the floor and seeing a small smile break out on her face shouldn't be all it takes to resuscitate some of Annie's old feelings for the blonde. But it is. And she should probably be concerned about that. But she isn't.

The question she wants to ask—"why'd you call me 'babe' just now, Britta?"—hangs on the curve of her lips, but it drops back into her beer bottle as Abed and Troy come into the kitchen to say hello to Britta. Annie drinks her curiosity and swallows it down just before the microwave beeps.

"Ok, so, as I mentioned earlier, we're having Mexican potatoes as a side dish," Annie announces. "Those are still gonna take a while to bake, but if you two could help us with getting the salads together later by chopping up some of the fruits and vegetables, that would be awesome," Annie tells them.

"Sure," Abed and Troy answer together, their earlier quarrel seemingly behind them.

Britta gives both of them an appreciative nod. "Right answer. I'm totally here for deconstructing gender roles in the kitchen and subverting the patriarchal idea that domestic work is inherently feminine and, also, not to be valued as 'work' at all. Plus," she goes on as she and Annie start wrapping the potatoes in aluminum foil before placing them on the top rack of the oven, "it's so freeing, to not feel beholden to a takeout menu, speaking as someone who lived that life for way too long. And it can be really attractive to a potential partner."

"Are you looking for a partner, then?" Abed inquires in his usual, to-the-point tone.

Annie swears Britta's eyes widen and her cheeks flush pink before she downs some more of her Blue Moon.

"No, no, I'm just speaking hypothetically," she answers, but there's a tremor of uncertainty in her voice.

"Britta is ridiculously attractive," Annie reminds herself. "There's probably some new guy in her life or a hookup buddy or whatever, so don't even let yourself think about her that way."

It doesn't help matters when they all prep their dinners together, with Britta's indie mix—ranging from Dr. Dog and The Shins to Foster the People and MGMT—providing a lovely aural background to a surprisingly balmy, early November evening. It's the perfect backdrop for the light clatter of knives slicing through strawberries and cucumbers, of Troy and Abed dropping shredded cheese into their baked potatoes from ever more ridiculous heights, of Britta giving a delightful hum at the delicious taste of sweet blueberries, of Annie's little found family slowly but surely expanding from three members to four.

"So, the Mexican baked potatoes were a good idea, then?" Britta asks, a tad hesitantly, after everyone's had a few minutes to try everything.

"Doper than picking up a blue shell on the last lap of Mario Kart," Troy comments. Abed reaches across the table to fist bump Britta and adds, "Definitely a contender for our regular meal rotations."

Annie nods in agreement. "I totally agree. Easy to make and absolutely delicious. Great call, Britta."

Britta can feel herself smiling like a doofus at all of their compliments, but something about receiving praise from Annie, who has a bit more expertise in the kitchen, makes her grin extra wide, and she answers happily, with her palm out, "You're damn right it was. Gimme some fivesies!"

Annie puts down her fork, slaps her hand, and joins Britta in her infamous high five/snake combo dance.

"Look at you go, Annie, we got a double snake in the house! Python on the loose," Britta exclaims before lamenting, as Abed and Troy chuckle good-naturedly at the two of them, "God, when did I get so lame?"

She says it with a grin and a laugh of her own, though, even though this isn't how she pictured her early thirties at all. After all, she's supping with a neurotic, compassionate, studious, stubborn, and stunningly beautiful co-ed who makes her consider risks she absolutely shouldn't take (but then, those are the ones that Britta always yearns for the most). Sitting across from said co-ed's two nerdy but wonderful roommates in a college apartment that screams transience rather than some hip loft or a dive bar that's on the precipice of becoming too trendy for her to frequent much longer. Those are the types of places she'd figured would be regular fixtures in her life by now.

Britta's never been one for road maps or long-term plans, but she would've assumed she'd veered massively off course to end up at Greendale Community College. She's gotten lost—directionally, in guys, in booze, in weed, in music, in dubious causes, et cetera—so many times that she's entirely lost track of some of the more mundane incidents. But the feeling sticks with her, sewn tight across her ribcage and stapled in place, for good measure. The feeling of flying blind, chugging Red Bull in a 2003 Toyota Camry that's on its last legs with the music cranked loud enough to block out the fear and adrenaline that comes with accelerating too fast.

But now, when Britta looks at Annie to drink in her smile and then glances at Troy and Abed, too, she realizes that the sensations of feeling lost and getting found? They're not so different.

The four of them have a pretty standard night together, discussing music, books, and movies for a while before the subject of video games is broached. Normally, Britta doesn't care for them that much—she'll play rounds Mario Kart or Super Smash Brothers here or there, even though she's an average player at best, and will only take ass-kickings in Mario Party if she's sufficiently stoned—but she perks up when she sees Annie, not Troy or Abed, dusting off the Xbox 360.

"Do you two mind if I play Dishonored for a bit?" she asks her roommates hopefully.

They both say yes and give her almost proud smiles, like dads do when their teenage sons ask if they want to toss a football around, Britta guesses, and the oddly familial scene makes her smile. She's not sure exactly how to describe the three of them and their unique bond, but they all bring each other degrees of happiness, in their own ways.

Right now, though, they separate. Due to the controller's limited cord length, Annie ends up settling on the smaller couch next to Britta, rather than the larger one that has room for herself and the boys.

Britta doesn't care about the game, at first. But Troy and Abed take her disinterest as almost a personal affront and grab her attention by painting a tangled narrative of revenge, ethics, morality, and class conflict.

"But the main character doesn't talk at all?" she asks the room at large as Annie starts working her way through her latest save point.

"Nope." Annie shakes her head.

"Dishonored lets you really imprint yourself on the game, since you know very little about Corvo Attano, the protagonist, outside of the introduction when you learn he's the Empress' personal bodyguard," Abed explains. "So you're dictating his character."

"You learn more about his surroundings as you interact with people and the environment at large, but, like Abed said, your choices really influence how others view you and what you represent in the city," Troy adds as Annie sneaks up on a guard, chokes him out from behind, tosses his body in a trash bin, and then scales a few boxes before…

"Did you just, like, teleport?" Britta asks quickly, leaning back into a more relaxed, disaffected pose when she realizes just how interested she sounds in the mechanics. She's invested in a video game that she's not even playing.

Annie's answer—a simple "Yes, it's called a Blink in this game. Corvo got magic powers, it's a long story"—doesn't reveal much. But then she cocks her head sideways at Britta, as if to say, "Yes, I know your secret."

Britta will admit, the game's premise sounds intriguing and the colorful artwork—steampunk meets the Industrial Revolution and old world excess—dazzles her, especially because she's more used to seeing her friends play older Mario games rather than new offerings. And the well-designed settings underscore the social class divisions that Troy had mentioned.

But what intrigues Britta the most is watching Annie play, studying how her hands are in perpetual motion, operating between a blend of smooth touches and quick-trigger precision. It seems like the character, Corvo, never just walks. Annie manipulates the controller flawlessly, making him crouch and creep through danger in some spots, then getting him to glide gracefully along rooftops and exposed sewer pipes in others, with liberal and effective use of blink interspersed throughout his travels.

She hears Abed mention to Troy at one point, "It's like when she's Catwoman," and, more to keep her brain from getting lost in dangerous daydreamy territory than anything else, Britta pipes up, "When has Annie ever been Catwoman? Like, for Halloween?"

All the air goes out of the room at her question. Annie's pulling a mana potion up in her inventory when she freezes and gasps, and Troy shoots Abed a thinly veiled look of irritation.

Sensing that the best thing to do here might be to back away, Britta comments, "Wait a minute," as she more closely inspects the powers and resources Annie's collected over the course of her gameplay, trying to wallpaper over the sense that she just accidentally invaded something private. "That blink thing is basically a mini-teleport, and you can freeze time and possess enemies. Plus, you've got a"—she squints at the screen—"spring razor, which looks like a shrapnel grenade, and a bunch of crossbow bolts. Why haven't you haven't rounded up some group of dumbass guards for a merciless slaughter yet, Annie?"

"Because I don't want to," Annie answers defensively, and just like that, the group's standard equilibrium is restored. "I like playing as more of a stealthy, sneaky assassin who goes unnoticed and ghosts through levels. Plus, the narrative and atmosphere gets even darker if you kill too many people, so I don't want to risk it."

Britta snorts. "How many people have you murdered so far? I bet you can take out a few guards and it'll be fine."

"S-so many! Tons! I'm totally on the edge of going bad in Dishonored," she insists, her voice sliding up in pitch at the end of her warning.

Britta can't resist rolling her eyes at that. Annie's never been a particularly good liar, so Britta turns to face her roommates, staring down Abed and Troy to see if they'll corroborate her non-existent story. "Lemme guess. She's committed, like, five murders, right? And she's already pretty far along in the game, you said," she argues.

Troy wilts under Britta's gaze first. "Maybe seven, tops?"

Annie glares at him and mutters "traitor" under her breath as she inches Corvo toward an open window, glancing around the level for some clandestine higher ground to reduce the chances of being spotted by a cluster of four guards inside.

"C'mon, you're telling me it wouldn't be fun to splatter their virtual blood and bones everywhere?" Britta wheedles. "Could you at least do it for the audience members who are tired of watching you just slink around, avoiding conflict at all costs?" She can't say for sure why she's doing this—she likes how Annie plays this game, really, being sly and unobtrusive. But Britta's always been a natural-born troublemaker. And if she's going to bother paying attention to a video game, she wants to see some action, at least.

Annie huffs and rolls her eyes. "Fine. Just this once so you'll stop bothering me about it." But she doesn't sound all that perturbed; in fact, judging by how she bites the corner of her lower lip and gives a little smirk before she leaps into action, Britta would say Annie enjoyed the challenge and their little back-and-forth.

She goes into her inventory, flicking around items for a couple of beats before she selects an empty whiskey bottle to throw. Annie takes a breath and holds it for a second, then tosses it through the open window, toward the huddled crowd of enemies, and blinks in after it before quickly selecting Corvo's Freeze Time power. It makes the screen go black and white, turning enemies into statues as an eerie, dismembered voice whispers ancient incantations.

"Cool, cool, cool," Abed murmurs appreciatively, and though she's hardly a video game connoisseur, Britta can't help but agree with him. She admires how well the game captures the looks of surprise on the guards' faces, how some of them are caught reaching halfway for pistols and swords while others are ducking from the projectile.

Annie equips a spring razor and attaches it to the bottom of the bottle, which is in the middle of a flip and might just smack one of the guards in the face when she unfreezes time. She quickly scurries out of the room and ducks for cover on the landing, but keeps the camera trained on the scene inside the building.

Britta swears that Annie makes a Joker reference by whispering, "And here. we. go," in a rough, throaty voice that thrills her more than it should just before she stops using the freeze time power.

The onslaught's volcanic, immediate, and Britta loves it.

Shrapnel bursts forth from the spring razor, erupting into two guards' guts and blowing them apart, instantly making a massive mess of intestines on the floor. One avoids the worst of the spring razor's attack, but the broken glass from the bottle slashes his throat to ribbons. The fourth has his left arm and his right leg blasted clean off, leaving him to collapse, face-first, into his fellow guards' innards.

The cacophony of noise draws one last guard into the room. He stops dead, nearly trembling at the carnage. Annie takes advantage of his stunned state to decapitate him with a well-aimed crossbow bolt.

She turns back to Britta with a smug look. "Was that enough action for you?"

For once, she doesn't have anything to say.

After a second, Abed turns to Annie and gives a deep nod of satisfaction. "Brutal killing spree," he notes reverently.

Troy, for his part, glances back and forth between Annie and the grisly scene in the game multiple times as if he's playing ping-pong, stuttering incoherently for a second before saying, with a look that lands halfway between exasperation and awe, "Ok, first of all, yeah, that was sick. Simple, but still creative, and well-executed. Second, what the hell?" he asks, his voice rising with both frustration and excitement. "We've been trying to get you to do that kind of cool shit for ages and you always tell us no!"

Annie gives one of her shy smiles, full of false modesty. "It was fun to lose control and take out some aggression for once, I guess, as a little break from how I usually play Dishonored."

Britta knows Annie better than that, knows that she probably wants to lose control in the game more often. She can see the glint in her eye, the one that appears during paintball or any competition, really. It's starting to fade out now as Annie reverts back to her standard play-style. It should be unnerving, how easily she can flip that switch within herself, but if anything, Britta admires it.

Britta doesn't know what possesses her to comment, "Guess I'm a better bad influence on Annie than you two, then," with a smirk. Doesn't know why the words come out so sensually (because she's definitely not flirting). Doesn't know why she brushes her shoulder against Annie's as she gives an exaggerated shrug.

That's what she tells herself, anyway, for plausible deniability.

Annie saves her game shortly after that, not wanting to completely monopolize their evening with her single-player game, and they all end up watching a couple of Seinfeld reruns. It's a few minutes after 11 when Abed and Troy announce they're both going to call it a night and the three of them share their now-standard group hug.

Normally, she'd follow suit, but…oh, fuck it, she doesn't want Britta to leave yet.

So she's pouring them the world's weakest cherry lemonade and vodkas to keep her around. Annie knows the blonde is almost never one to turn down a mixed drink, but she wants to stay totally sober, or close to it. She never wants her sight to go blurry when she's gazing at Britta, even in the dim, mismatched lighting of the messy living room.

"Thanks," Britta murmurs as Annie brings over her beverage, and if she's displeased with the minimal kick of alcohol, she doesn't show it. She takes a sip and then says slowly, "You're…you're really good at that game. At Dishonored."

"Thanks," Annie parrots her, appreciative that Britta even remembered the title. She expects that'll be all when Britta adds, almost talking into the glass, "I liked watching you play. It was really elegant." She puts down her drink and mimics using an Xbox controller so badly that Annie nearly chokes on her cherry lemonade. "How d'you do it?"

After coughing, Annie replies, "How do I do what?"

"Control your character so well," Britta answers. "You have little elf paws, Edison. I don't get how you press all the buttons and stuff."

Annie gives a huff of indignation. "I do not have little elf paws!"

Britta's grin is unfocused, mostly because she's tired, but she fixates on Annie's pout. "Yeah, you do. C'mon, c'mere, lemme see 'em." She pats the cushion next to her and Annie scoots closer. Britta takes her hands in her own, grinning down shyly. "I told you," she insists. "I'm only, what, like an inch or two taller than you, but your hands are so tiny compared to mine!"

Annie's about to retort that maybe Britta just has big man hands when her brain plants a massive stop sign in front of the idea. Because it hits her that Britta Perry's flirting with her, using possibly the oldest, lamest, most outrageously obvious trick in the book. But she's flirting with her, nonetheless. And Anniewill not fuck this up.

So she asks, with all the nonchalant charm she can muster, "Hey, I'm just curious—why'd you call me 'babe' earlier when you came in with the groceries?"

Britta takes one hand away from Annie's to grab her drink. She takes a gulp, coughs, and answers, "I could say that it was to co-opt a cat-call into a womanly term of endearment. But that was like, 3 percent of why I did it."

Annie prompts her, almost praying that she's not going to look like an idiot. "And the other 97 percent?"

Britta puts her glass back down, gathers both of Annie's hands up again, and sighs. "The other 97 percent is that I like you. A lot."

Annie's on the verge of answering, but Britta keeps talking, because she's Britta, and she feels like her affection should always come with a disclaimer, or eight, so she goes on, "And I'm sorry for that. I'm sorry for putting you in this weird position. I mean, fuck," she sighs again and the sound rips through Annie like a hurricane, "I don't even know if you're into girls, Annie. And I'm a bad influence, and a shitty role model."

For once, Annie's stubbornness is an asset, clearing her mind in pursuit of her goal. "First of all," she murmurs, weaving her hands into Britta's hair, "I'm majorly into girls. More specifically, you."

She dips her head toward Britta's, keeping steady eye contact—of all the times for debate to come in handy—as she says, layering her voice as herself, not Caroline Decker, "Second, how about I get to decide if you're a bad influence. Can I…?"

She lets the unspoken question hang in the narrow space between them, hoping Britta knows what it is and thinking stupidly that asking it as a fragment will dull some of the pain when she says no.

Britta whispers "Please, Annie," and Annie's brain, for once, is blissfully empty as she closes the distance between their lips. And good God,does she ever owe the universe big time for getting to discover the gift of Britta Perry's kiss, tart and sweet from the cherry lemonade and insistent and relaxed all at once.

For Annie, it's not like any kiss she's ever gotten in college. Vaughn's kisses were sweet, but they were empty calories. Kissing Jeff felt like starring on the front cover of her old, treasured romance novels, like yielding to an inevitability and, rather than discovering bliss and contentment, finding that you were crushed under its weight.

Britta's kisses start off soft, gentle, and just the tiny bit hesitant. There's no swell of string music, no exploding fireworks. Just them. It feels right. And as Britta has one hand cupped on her cheek and the other running through her hair, Annie whispers to herself, "I could stay like this for ages."

Britta's happy to oblige. For the first time in a long time, she's with someone who isn't just kissing her for fun or as a precursor to getting in her pants. She feels wanted in a way that says, "I've been looking for you, Britta Perry," not "I've been looking to get laid and any woman with a pulse will do."

She blinks her eyes open as she pulls back from Annie for a second, taking the sight of her in, and it's really not fair that a woman who'd gotten changed into pajamas an hour ago can still steal her breath. She's always tried so hard not to stare, but she thinks she's earned the right now. Annie's sparkling blue eyes hold a tint of glossy lust and her lips are stained red from the lemonade, swollen from their kisses, and Britta can't keep herself from angling her head, batting her eyelashes, baiting Annie into parting those lips a bit more. She finally, finally, gets to fulfill that little fantasy she had back when they'd gotten ice cream at Dairy Queen and swipes her tongue into Annie's mouth. Annie breathes out, "Britta," as they break apart, her chest heaving. She's staring through Britta like she wants to set her on fire with the heat of her gaze, and that's the exact moment Britta Perry knows she's fully, wonderfully doomed to keep falling for Annie Edison.

Annie's not sure how exactly it happens, if Britta pulls her down or if she pushes her back, but either way, they end up horizontal on the couch and Annie's reward for biting and sucking on Britta's lower lip is to get a close-up of her eyes rolling back in her head, to hear Britta moan her name into her ear. Annie later refers to these phenomena as exhibits A and B for providing ironclad, incontrovertible proof that she is absolutely, undoubtedly, a lesbian.

She eventually sits up as their kisses turn soft, lazy, easy, reluctantly letting Britta up because it's late and as much as she wants Britta to stay the night with her, it's definitely too soon and she doesn't want to seem clingy.

But the way Britta smiles at her makes her light up, and she says hesitantly, "You know…I think I told you this at the Valentine's Day dance last year, but I don't think you're a bad role model at all. I mean, you're honest, you stand up for your ideals more than the average person. Having ideals, at all, in today's world is pretty rare."

Britta's smile flashes even brighter at that. "Thanks, Annie. I'm...I'm trying to get better at the whole liking and loving myself deal. It's hard, but…" she gives Annie's hand a squeeze. "I've got some good reasons to try."

The question slips out before Annie can catch it. "Are you saying you want this," she gestures between the two of them, "to go somewhere?"

"A great question to ask someone who's terminally afraid of commitment after all of one makeout sesh, Annie," she berates herself.

"I…uh…" Britta gives her head a shake and takes a deep breath. "Honestly?"

The moment stretches and Annie's prepared to feel her heart sink into it.

Britta continues, her voice a little shaky, "Yeah. I do. I'm not exactly sure how that works, or what it will look like, but the idea of being with someone who, ya know, actually likes me instead of getting with someone that makes me hate myself even more sounds pretty good?" Annie answers her half-question with a breathy laugh of relief.

"I don't want this to just be a one-time thing," Britta clarifies, falters for a second, and then asks, "Do you want something similar?"

Annie nods quickly, feeling a bit like a bobblehead, and murmurs, as she leans back into Britta for another kiss, "Fuck yeah, I do."

It's the best sounding curse Britta's ever heard as she and Annie sink into one more kiss before she finally gets off the couch and remembers the other thing she wanted to ask.

"Hey, when you said you're majorly into girls..." she prompts Annie as she heads for the door. "Do you mind sharing exactly what that means?"

Annie nods proudly. "Sure. I'm a lesbian. And you're the first woman I've kissed and it was pretty great, if I do say so myself."

Britta pulls her into a tight hug. "Thank you for sharing that with me, Annie. I'm so glad you felt comfortable enough to do it. And fuck yeah, it was," Britta grins as she brushes her messy hair back. Annie's looking at her with a hint of a smirk, trying to put it away the way she does when she's repressing some sass, so Britta asks, "Penny for your thoughts?"

"Even if they're petty?"

Britta's grin grows bigger. "Do you know me? Especially if they're petty."

Annie blurts out, "You're a way better kisser than Jeff," before slapping her hands over her mouth.

"First of all, it's not a competition, but I'm glad to hear that," Britta answers between laughs as she trots down the front steps. "And you are, too."

Annie slips a pair of sneakers on and follows her out. She doesn't know protocol for this situation, exactly, having exactly zero prior experience with kissing women, but she wants to see Britta off.

"Oh, and full disclosure, since you shared…I'm bi," Britta tells her as they walk toward her car, parked a little ways down the street.

"Aww, Britta, thank you for trusting me with that," Annie smiles.

"Well, since I'm now saying bye to any other guy or gal who may be interested in me, I figured I should tell you," Britta winks.

Annie groans at the terrible joke as Britta gets into her car, her driver side door still open. "I cannot believe I'm gonna go on a date with such a dork in the near future."

"Oh, please," Britta scoffs, but her chest warms at the comment. "Even if I'm a dork, I'm still a catch. You're so totally gonna fantasize about me the next time you masturbate."

Annie freezes and turns beet red at the comment, and Britta berates herself for a second, her doubts swirling around her mind, muttering, "You're too crass, too broken, you're gonna wreck whatever this is before it even starts…"

But then Annie's pulling her into a gentle kiss, out of her head, and she whispers, "I kinda wanna get some more explicit material between us before I do that."

Britta feels her jaw drop because she should really know by now that Annie's always full of surprises. She closes the door, finally, but rolls the window down to say, "Night, Annie."

"Night, Britta. Drive safe, text me when you get home."

They share one last kiss, and for Britta, kisses are nearly always grounded in the present. But she tastes something like the future, a promise of more affection, more laughs, more book talks, more everything, on Annie's lips, and she thinks Annie knows it, too, as she gives a little wave in her rearview mirror.

Annie walks the short distance back to the apartment, gathers up the little remaining evidence of her and Britta's late night, of the prelude to their first kiss, and washes out the glasses when Troy stumbles into the kitchen for some water.

"Annie?" he mumbles. "Whatcha still doing up?"

"Oh, Britta just left," she answers as she deposits the cups into the dishwasher. "We had some cherry lemonade mixers. Or, well, mostly cherry lemonade."

Troy frowns. "Did you try to eat the lemonade mix? You've got red stuff all over…" he gestures in the general direction of her lips and Annie hopes she's not blushing too furiously. Troy doesn't seem to notice anything amiss as he takes a long drink of water.

"Oh!" Annie gasps as she realizes what else had seemed a bit odd about his appearance. He's wearing one of Abed's hoodies.

"Sup?" Troy asks as they turn out the lights in the kitchen and the living room.

"N-nothing," she mutters, trying to hide the small smile. She knows all about secret affection; if anything's happening between her two best friends, she'll let them share it with her in their own time.

She checks her phone when it buzzes a bit after midnight.

Britta: At home, safe and sound. Thanks for an amazing night, Annie.

She grins and replies, Any time! Within reason and with some prior planning, of course.

For once, Annie's not overthinking every moment, every conversation, every reaction between her and the (successfully pursued) object of her affection. She lets memories of the night, of Britta, wash over her and guide her gently to sleep.