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what brings us together today

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Jeff and Britta get married.

Everyone tells them this is a terrible idea. There are a lot of variations on, "Well, at least Jeff is a lawyer." Jeff gives up on correcting them after a while. (He was not big on family law; too much crying. He worked with drunk drivers usually. That was way easier.)

Annie tells Britta that she doesn't have to cling to Jeff in order to feel better about losing Greendale. Britta is so disgusted that Annie is trying to use psychology against her that they stop talking to each other.

At the end of the day, Britta and Jeff end up in Jeff's apartment, cuddling despondently on his couch. Jeff didn't even know that was a thing until today. He's been learning a lot lately.

"I guess I could apply to real college now," Britta says, sighing.

"Why bother?" Jeff says. He knows the sarcasm isn't helping, but he can't resist. "You have your MRS degree."

"My what?" Britta says, frowning, and then she gets it. She smacks him in the arm.

"Marrying you is a terrible idea," she says.

"I know," Jeff says. "You don't have to take my name. It'll make the divorce easier."

"Like I was even considering it," Britta shoots back. She buries her face in his chest and he says absolutely nothing when her shoulders shake, just a little.

*

The study group doesn't exactly come around, or become enthusiastic, but eventually they do what they do best: they fall in and support each other. Annie and Britta make up after a day that Abed describes as a "wacky sisterhood romp of epic proportions." Shirley agrees to make their cake if they quit living in sin. (They both quietly agree to lie to her; neither wants to sleep alone anymore.) Abed agrees to be Jeff's best man, and they all probably shouldn't be so surprised when they find out that Hickey is ordained. They try calling Troy, but he hasn't set up his voicemail. They mail him an invite to his last known address. He'd said he'd probably be out of touch for a while, but Britta finds herself really missing him as the date gets closer. Annie and Shirley only want to talk about the wedding, and Britta still isn't comfortable with the wedding industrial complex. The best thing about Troy was that he never demanded anything of her, but Britta is really beginning to realize that might not be what she needs right now.

Jeff is studying for the bar and he agrees to everything she says as soon as the word 'wedding' is mentioned. They have pizza every day for two weeks in a row before he realizes and protests.

"I hope you know our colors are orange and aqua," she says maliciously, "and we're going to invoke the Mother Goddess when we make our vows."

"Not a big Miami Dolphins fan," Jeff says, "but I think it could work. And whatever, as long as you don't expect me to speak Latin or something. That gives me terrible flashbacks to altar boy days."

Britta cannot remember when she has seen Jeff this calm and cool about something this serious. He had a nervous breakdown for his last birthday, after all. Jeff used to be cool and collected because he didn't care about anything. Now that he's admitted that he actually cares about stuff, he rarely falls back into those bad habits.

"What's wrong with you?" Britta asks. Jeff's face twists as he considers.

"I don't care," he says. "I'll wear purple if you want, whatever. The wedding isn't the point here, it's being married. Settling down. Finding my place in the world. Real estate law."

"We are so old," Britta says, "settling."

He kisses her temple and picks up his book, disappearing back into his home office. Britta folds another rosette. It's red; they both look good in red. Britta smiles a little.

She can't bring herself to wear the ugly ring he bought her, even after he admits that he bought conflict-free diamonds. She keeps it in her pocket instead.

That night they get Chinese and it's Jeff's turn to pay. Before the delivery comes, he asks her to grab his wallet, which he'd left on the bedside table. When she picks it up she sees that he's put a photo of her in it. It's not one of the ones from their carefully ironic engagement photos (big field of wildflowers, pushing Britta on a rusty swing, the tetanus shot that the photographer refused to take a picture of, only immortalized on Jeff's camera phone). It's a candid photo, a snap from the early days of the study group. Britta is laughing at something to the right of the camera, her nose scrunched up in that way she hates. The sun is gleaming off her hair. She has no idea who took the blurry photo, but she doesn't say anything about it when she hands the wallet to him.

*

They are both hungover for the wedding, and Jeff is pretty sure he's not wearing his own shoes. He hadn't even known Abed liked drinking or that he would take the bachelor party part of his duties so seriously. He shouldn't have been surprised; there were a lot of tropes associated with the night before the wedding, after all. He's probably lucky he made it more or less on time. Jeff and Britta hadn't slept together that last night. Annie had cajoled Britta into a sleepover but between truth and dare and a couple bottles of wine, sleeping hadn't been on the agenda until around six. She let Annie put something on her under-eye circles and asked the organist to keep the volume down.

The ceremony is short and nominally Unitarian. Jeff's dad comes. Britta's family doesn't; he doesn't ask why. Shirley cries and Abed has talked the minister into starting with the opening from the wedding in the Princess Bride. The minister is pretty good at impressions and everyone laughs. When Britta slides the ring onto Jeff's hand, their gazes catch. They stare at each other for a long moment. Once they'd nearly gotten married just to spite each other. This doesn't feel anywhere near as bitter. The ring is cold when he puts it on her finger.

The minister says, "You can now kiss." (Britta has rewritten large parts of the standard ceremony to remove any references to female subjugation; she felt like she'd done a pretty good job and posted it on her Tumblr later in case anyone else wanted to use it.) Jeff leans down and Britta leans up and they kiss for a long time, clutching each other's hands.

Jeff and Britta have a quickie in the vestibule before the reception and show up with their hair mussed and after taking Shirley's emergency aspirin. Troy crashes the party as a surprise halfway before the wedding is over, and Britta is pretty sure that he and Abed hook up in the same vestibule, but she is absolutely not going to ask.

The Dean catches the bouquet.

*

By Christmas they've given up on the whole ironic marital bliss thing and have returned to being themselves, which is much more comfortable. Jeff does the laundry and Britta takes out the trash and occasionally bakes things. They argue over whose turn it is to do the dishes and why Britta can never throw anything in the laundry hamper first try and a million other tiny things.

Britta puts up a two-foot Christmas tree that their cat immediately knocks down. (The cat's name is Pierce, which seemed appropriate given his refusal to listen to instructions and his skill at butting into everything.) They talk about hosting a get-together, but since Greendale closed the study group members have completed an exodus away from the college. Annie is at Yale getting her forensics degree, Abed and Troy have moved to L.A. to do sketch comedy, and Hickey has moved to Florida for his retirement. Shirley is still living nearby, but they don't want to be part of another one of her holiday celebrations; one was plenty. Their friends send them cards, which Jeff props up carefully on their coffee table.

So it's just the two of them and the cat and the Our First Christmas ornament the cat hasn't managed to shatter. Jeff isn't working for the next couple of weeks; there aren't many people in need of real estate law around the holidays. For Britta, the semester is over. She's been subbing fairly regularly at a local elementary school and trying to decide if she wants to switch her major again when she goes back to school. Shaping the lives of the future residents of this country seems like it could be up her alley.

They have a huge fight. Jeff doesn't even know how it started but it ends with him slamming the front door behind him and getting in his car. Britta opens the front door and then slams it again in his direction for spite.

He ends up in a sad bar and some old drunk tries to tell him to appreciate his wife while he has her. A manic street preacher tells him divorce is a sin, but Jeff tells him that he's already in hell. Jeff drinks too much eggnog in the parking lot of the Wal-Mart and ends up getting a cab home. Britta is asleep on the couch, but she sits up, eyes half-lidded, when he lets himself back in.

"I'm sorry," Jeff says.

"I'm sorry," Britta says.

They both mean it. It is not the only moment of genuine emotion they have shared over the past few months, but it is probably the most difficult. They are both crying.

They go to bed and talk quietly in the dark until they fall asleep. Jeff is the little spoon.

*

Annie is the one who organizes the Greendale reunion. Of course the study group has stayed in contact through the years, and spent together when they could. But that has been less and less often over the years.

Shirley's older boys are in college now; not at Greendale, but she says that they seem happy anyway. Her sandwich business is doing great. Annie has a lucrative career, a doting husband, and twin girls. Abed and Troy's first sitcom pilot is premiering in two weeks and everyone promises to watch it.

"It's about a ragtag group of people who go to community college to learn who they are," Abed says. Jeff tells him it doesn't sound funny. Abed tells him that he'll be pleasantly surprised. Jeff is pretty sure that there will be a fast-talking former lawyer on the show, but he doesn't mind too much. They'll never find someone as handsome as he is.

Britta is late. Jeff lets everyone make their own conclusions. He makes jokes and shakes hands with people he doesn't remember. He's missed them, even the ones whose names don't come immediately to mind. Not school itself -- he was done with that a long time before it ended -- but the people, and the things he learned about himself.

When Britta finally makes it, she's dragging a heavy roll of cloth behind her. Jeff helps her unfurl it and tape it up in the gym. (It's a local high school gym; no one wanted to meet at the school that had previously been theirs.) SAVE GREENDALE, the banner says, in Annie's careful print. Jeff is amazed that they'd been able to find it; he had been sure it was lost in their second move, but Britta found it underneath their Christmas decorations.

He kisses Britta under the banner. Shirley and Annie share a high-pitched, "Aww!" Jeff steals the microphone from the terrible DJ and turns it on. He gives a speech about how they really didn't need to save Greendale, because Greendale is here, in their hearts. And then he tells the assembled Greendale alumni that the building is for sale again, and that they should bring it back.

The mixed message takes, to Jeff's relief. The donation drive starts that night, and it's pretty successful.

Jeff and Britta go home that night and collapse onto their bed, worn out. They stare lazily at the popcorn ceiling; Jeff keeps saying that he's going to tear it out and replace it, but Britta likes pretending that the bumps are stars and constellations.

"Once they make me dean I am so going to divorce you," Britta says. She is wearing her wedding ring today and it is smooth under Jeff's fingers.

"You'd better," Jeff says, leaning up on an elbow to kiss her and grinning. She smiles back.