neigedens: shirley examining tiny nipples (abed/troy)
Where are the Snowdens of yesteryear? ([personal profile] neigedens) wrote2010-04-29 06:33 pm

COMMUNITY FIC: The High School After High School (3/3), Abed/Troy, 16,000 words

Title: The High School After High School (3/3)
Author: [personal profile] neigedens
Word Count: 7,200 this part; 16,278 total
Pairings/Characters: Abed/Troy, Annie, ensemble
Rating: Teen
Notes: See notes in Part One.

Part Two.

Troy had a dream that a rat was sitting in front of his face when he woke up, so when he actually did awake to an empty room and the sunlight streaming in right on his face, he was pleasantly surprised. He was still cold and hungry and had no way (or clue how, even) to make a fire, but he decided to get up and try to find the road again. Of course, it was probably just as likely that he would freeze to death, but he preferred the idea of freezing to death out there to staying here until the two men came and found him again. Drawing the quilt tightly around himself, he went outside and found the narrow, brambly path. After walking for about twenty minutes, the path joined with a wider one, which Troy considered an encouraging sign.

It was several hours later, when the sun was quite high in the sky, that Troy saw the signposts, two big metal ones. One was a notice from the Colorado State Parks Department that reminded hikers that ATVs, snowmobiles, and litter were not permitted on the trials. Troy was disappointed that it did not include a map or maybe even some note of where the hell he was, but he refused to be devastated until he had walked several yards further on and read the second one, which was a stark, brown "NO HUNTING" sign with several bullet holes shot through it.

After that Troy walked somewhat faster.


Despite the imminent threat of their Friday quiz and Señor Chang's boot, at Spanish study group that morning no one's mind was on their homework, but rather on Abed and Annie, both of whom hadn't slept much the night before but were very excited nonetheless. Annie, in particular, was practically glowing with her own importance, even though she had completely forgotten about getting the car back to her mother the night before and had been ignoring her cell phone for the past 12 hours. She didn't even seem to mind that Chang had dropped the boot right next to her ear when she dozed off earlier during class. She and Abed announced that they had discovered a solution to the Troy problem. Abed passed out a stapled packet of paper that Annie had had printed out early that morning in the campus's Duplicating room, and asked everyone to hold all questions until the end.

"Abed, what--" began Britta before Abed shushed her sharply.

"It's, um. It's very professional-looking," said Shirley.

"Thank you," said Annie, smiling and looking radiant despite the shadows beneath her eyes. "I never thought being a detective would be so fun! It's like being Sherlock Holmes or Lord Peter Wimsey--"

"Or Scooby Doo," said Abed.

"Exactly!" Annie beamed, but then her gaze landed on Jeff's empty chair. He hadn't been in Spanish class. "Do you think we should we wait for Jeff, or--"

"No-o-o," said Shirley, paging through the packet in disbelief. "No, I think you'd better start right away. Unless you have another packet of information explaining where Jeff is, too."

Annie shook her head. "No. Just for Troy." Her eyes widened and she said worriedly, "You don't think Jeff is--"

"I wouldn't worry about it," said Britta. "One at a time. Why don't you start with your, um, presentation?"

Annie took a deep breath and stood up. "All right. If you'll turn to page three, we'll start."

The article on page three was from City College's school newspaper, dated from a year ago, and was about the City College Goats' new football lineup. Annie began evenly. "As you can see, George Pluckenpole--all right, look, you can laugh at it now, but please refrain from laughing during the rest of the presentation."

"You'll make her nervous," said Abed, who also looked rather edgy.

"Thanks, Abed. As I was saying, George Pluckenpole was recruited by Troy last week, and he was not altogether honest about where he had played football before coming to Greendale. We have conjectures about why he left City College, which we'll go into later. At any rate, as you can see on page six, he retained ties to City College's football program." Pages sixes through ten were printouts of Facebook wall postings between George and several names from the coaching staff on page three.

"Now, according to a, um, witness, around campus" --Annie eyed Britta rather significantly-- "George used to sell marijuana at some earlier date. It's not exactly certain, of course, but I'm reasonably sure that that was perhaps the reason that he was expelled from City College. When he transferred to Greendale, he had probably learned his lesson and either didn't deal or kept his dealing off-campus." Annie looked stern and disapproving at this point. Britta rolled her eyes. "In fact, interviews with this same witness indicate that he may have been using his family's cabin up in the mountains as a secluded spot to grow marijuana plants, or Cannibis sativa. If you'll look on page eleven, you'll see an illustration as well as--"

"I think we all know what weed looks like, Annie."

"Right. Sorry. Well, if you'll turn to the next page, then--that's page twelve, Pierce. The one after," she told him. He had still been studying the factual information Annie had printed about Cannibis sativa. "If you'll turn to that page, you'll see that the Pluckenpoles do, in fact, hold a very secluded property at the address indicated. It's a matter of public record," she added, smugly. Pages twelve and thirteen were composed of a printout of Mapquest directions from the Greendale campus parking lot to an address in a township up in the mountains, about two hours away.

"That's convenient," said Britta, who couldn't think of anything else to say.

"That's where Troy is right now," said Annie.

"But why--"

"No questions until the end, please."

"Thank you, Abed. On page fourteen, you'll see another report that I found from City College's newspaper." This one was about the uncommonly hard luck that the City College football team had fallen on during that season. Annie took them through all the articles, which detailed almost every kind of catastrophe that could befall a modest football program. There had been star players quitting or transferring to other schools, injuries, illnesses, firings, and, possibly the strangest of all, an unspecified scandal among several senior players involving a goat, a goose, and a folding chair.

"I think you'll agree," Annie went on, "that City College's football program was putting up a front. They were crumbling" --she pounded one of her palms with her fist-- "from the inside. Desperate as they were, they might have resorted to what one of our witnesses called 'competitive sabotage.' Something like, say, kidnapping the Human Beings's quarterback, which would leave the Greendale team in disarray. Or, well." Her professional facade faltered. "More disarray than usual, anyway. Enough disarray that even a diminished team like City College could beat them. All they needed to do was lure Troy out of his house in the evening with the phone they had stolen from Jeff, and they could take him away to the mountains until the game was over and done and their team had won," said Annie, finishing her speech with relish. Abed started clapping and everyone else, rather numbly, followed suit.

When Jeff walked in, the four of them were clapping heartily, and Annie still looked proud of herself. "Did I miss anyth.... What are you guys doing? You're not studying." Britta tapped the packet that Annie had set in front of his chair. "What the hell is this? Are there stem-changing boot verbs in it? Why am I reading it?" he asked as he sat down and paged through it.

"You missed Annie's presentation, Jeff," said Abed.

"And it was good," said Pierce. "Where the hell were you?"

Jeff, who had also been caught in the packet's description of Cannabis sativa, looked up. "I overslept. I usually use my phone as an alarm, and my clock radio's buzzer didn't work."

"That's the problem with your type, Jeff," said Pierce. "You lose your phone and your whole life falls apart. You can't wake up at the right time, you can't call people to tell them why you didn't wake up at the right time, you've got no place to conveniently play Tetris--"

"Look, just...shut up," said Jeff. He turned to Abed. "Do you really know where my phone is?"

Abed exchanged a look with Annie. "Most likely."

"Because if you do know where my phone is and you don't tell me, I will be forced to disown you."

Everybody ooh'ed, but Abed was unfazed. "I know where your phone is, Jeff. Plus, you can't disown me, we're not related."

"That won't stop me. Where is it?"

"Page twelve."

Jeff groaned. "This is a joke, right? You guys are all staging some elaborate hoax." Glaring at all of them, he turned to page twelve and read the instructions to the cabin in the mountains. He sighed. "I suppose you want me to drive, then."

"That would probably be easier," Abed admitted. "Lexuses are really roomy."


"I don't understand what you people have done to me," Jeff said five hours later to no one in particular, which was interesting since everyone was piled in his car. Everyone had been convinced to come with, Shirley and Britta because of their rather dazed fascination with the whole thing and Pierce because of his continuing curiosity in the Cannibis sativa plant.

"Take a right up here," said Abed, who was sharing the shotgun seat with Annie and was reading out from printed-out Mapquest instructions.

"You got it. What am I doing? It's a Wednesday night. I have five people in my car, and there's not much of a chance that I'll find my phone, is there, Abed?"

Abed looked up and stared at Jeff. "Of course there's a chance."

"Ha. Right. You just wanted my car."

"Of everyone in the group, they decided that they'd rather see you shell out for gas money," said Britta from the backseat.

"Actually, I chose Jeff's car because of the comfortable leather interiors," said Abed. "And also because I think you have to learn an important lesson about how friends are more valuable than your cell phone, Jeff."

"Wow, that's a cool story, Abed. I'm sure I've already internalized whatever the message was supposed to be. Now, I'm going to predict something for you here. In about...20 minutes, we'll get to this guy's cabin--"

"In about 10 minutes, actually," said Abed. "And his name is Pluckenpole."

"Right and--why are you all laughing?"

"Jeff, just try to say Pluckenpole without laughing," said Shirley. "Go on, just try it."

"Plucken--okay, wow, you're right, I didn't even make it to the end of the word. Anyway, we're going to get to this cabin and nobody'll be there and I'll be able to say I told you so."

"We'll see," said Abed. "Take another right."


Troy thought he was going the wrong way. He had been walking all day and still hadn't gotten anywhere he wanted to be. He thought that he was heading in the direction away from the cabin, but with every step his sneaker dug more into the blister on the back of his heel and he became more unsure of himself. It was possible that during one of the nebulous childhood camping trips either his father or mother had taught him what to do in the event he found himself wandering in the mountains, but he was fucked if he could remember what they had said now. The sun was going down again, and his anxiety about freezing to death was increasing. He supposed there was nothing for it but to keep going forward; it was too late to turn back now.

That was when Troy heard the noise of a motor running. He froze and wondered if he had been walking parallel to the road the whole time and not realized it, but then figured that that was not possible; the trees weren't dense enough here to block a view of the road, but the sound had been close by. It was back in the direction he had come from, and from a smaller engine. Possibly it was an ATV or a snowmobile, which were technically illegal in this part of the trail, but right now the Colorado State Parks Department could go fuck themselves for all Troy cared. He ran, whooping with joy, towards the sound. It wasn't until he had got around a bend in the trees that he saw the bright red snowmobile, and not until he got a few steps closer that Troy recognized the driver.

It was the huge guy from back at the cabin, the one who had been on the phone when Troy had made his escape.


Jeff nearly drove past the cabin's long gravel driveway. Abed stopped him just in time and told them that the place was at the end of this road.

"Should we really up like this?" asked Shirley. The road was very narrow and the trees seemed to press up against the sides of the car, giving it a claustrophobic feel, and evening was falling.

"Yeah, isn't it legal to shoot people who trespass on your property up here in the boonies?" asked Britta.

"I don't think so."

"Well, that's good," said Pierce. "At least when they shoot us we'll know it was illegal."

"Look, kids," Jeff said, turning around. "Quit it back there. Don't make me turn this car around."

Everyone was silent, for once. The driveway wound around for what seemed like a mile, but finally the clearing drew into sight. There were two very small buildings: a one-story cabin and a separate building for the garage. There were no cars around. Jeff stopped the car and everyone got out, stretching their legs and looking around apprehensively.

"Where are they, Abed?" whispered Annie, but Abed was looking around and not paying attention. He followed Annie over to the garage. They looked through the grimy windows, but there was nothing and, more importantly, nobody inside.

"Oh, Abed, we were wrong," said Annie, looking crestfallen.

He shook his head. "What about the cabin?"

Jeff was at the front door, knocking furiously and receiving no response. "Is there anything over there, Annie?" he called to her, and she told him no, even though it was difficult to shout. She felt like she was about to cry.

"Oh my god!" shouted Britta from somewhere behind the house. Abed's eyes widened, and Annie could barely keep up with him as he darted towards her voice. Unfortunately, in the backyard there was nothing but Britta, an outhouse, and--

"Ho. Lee. Shit," said Britta, nearly cackling. "What a stash! So much for giving up dealing, huh, Annie? Maybe it was his personal supply or something."

"Oh," said Annie, her heart sinking, and she saw Abed stop dead beside her as he caught sight of all the weed, which was contained inside a strange little greenhouse structure to keep out the cold. "We thought--"

"Never mind," said Jeff. He looked angry. "There's no one here, and there's no one inside. That cabin's not hiding anything and I refuse to break in--"

"Hold on," said Abed. He ran back to the front door of the cabin. It was a rustic building but oddly ornate in specific ways; there was a large bay window with a seat looking out over the yard and a nice-looking door knocker that had Pluckenpole embossed upon it rather ridiculously. The yard itself wasn't landscaped, but there was a single bush planted underneath the bay window, surrounded by a semicircle of rocks. Abed got down on his knees and started digging them up.

"Abed," said Jeff irritably, "what are you--oh." Abed had unearthed a grimy copy of a house key.

"They must have put it back," said Abed, thoughtfully, as he unlocked the door.

"How did he know that was there?" Jeff mumbled to himself, then turned to Shirley, who had come from behind the house. "How did he know that was there?"

"Magic eight-ball," said Shirley in a sing-song voice as she followed Abed into the cabin. "Aren't you coming in to look?"

"No. This whole thing is stupid. I don't know why I let you think you had talked me into it. I don't know why I let all of you ride in my car; that's definitely against the house rules."

"What house rules?"

"No free rides."

"Oh, Jeff--"

"Anyway, going in there is illegal," said Jeff.

Shirley turned around and stood in the door's entryway. "It's not breaking and entering. We didn't break anything to get in; we found the key."

"That doesn't--look, obviously you are not a lawyer."

"Neither are you," she pointed out, in that deceptive, sweet voice she used sometimes just to infuriate him. "Anymore."

"Oh, laugh it up," he muttered, but he couldn't resist following her into the house.

There were two rooms: a bedroom which had a bare mattress and nothing else, and a small living area with a little woodstove and couch. Troy wasn't anywhere to be found, and neither was Jeff's phone. In fact, the whole place seemed disconcertingly bare, as if it had been torn apart and stripped of all identifying objects even before they searched it.

Annie still looked like she wanted to cry. She turned to Abed, but his face was so blank that she couldn't even speak to him. Shirley came up behind her and put a hand on her shoulder. "I'm a horrible detective," she told her miserably.

"Oh, honey, no you're not. You both worked really hard, we could tell--"

"I'm no Peter Wimsey," said Annie suddenly, starting to cry. "I'm not even a Josie or a Pussycat."

"Now I'm sure that's not true," said Shirley, putting her arm around Annie.

Jeff, meanwhile, looked murderous. He wouldn't look at Abed or Annie as he said, "Come on. We're going."

"Oh, come on," said Britta, crawling out from under the moldy sofa.

"No! You know what, I think I've been a remarkably good sport about Annie and Abed's stupid little detective game. I listened to all the bullshit and and I let you guys use my car and you know what? I think I'm done. We've wasted a whole afternoon, we haven't found Troy or my phone and I've still missed Spanish and haven't done my homework and now Chang's going to throw the boot at my head, so I am done. Everybody better get into the car right now or they can walk home. Does anyone have a problem with that?"

Britta looked like she did, but when she turned to Abed for support all she saw was the same sullen, uncommunicative expression. Shirley looked stricken and serious even as she continued to comfort Annie, who was shaking and teary, and Pierce was outside still, inspecting the marijuana. Britta sighed and followed everyone else back out to the car without argument, drawing Abed aside as she did so. "We'll call Troy's parents when we get home," she told him. "If they still don't know where he is, we can call the cops, or they can. That's what we should have done in the first place. I'm sorry, Abed. I'm sure he's fine. Abed?"

Abed didn't say anything, or give any indication that he had heard her. Britta sighed again and climbed in the backseat. Shirley followed her.

"I hate road trips," Shirley said, closing the door. "There's always a fight. Or a shouting match. Or someone throwing a boot at someone's head."

"I'm glad that wasn't just my family," said Britta, but she didn't feel like speaking anymore and neither, thankfully, did Shirley.

Pierce had detached himself from the weed by this time and noticed everyone getting into the Lexus. He took in Shirley, Britta and Jeff's equally stony faces, Annie's tears, and Abed's complete blankness and got in the backseat. "Something wrong?" he asked as Jeff backed up the car and prepared to go back down the gravel driveway. Nobody, of course, answered him.


After awhile the exertion got pretty mindless. Troy was really tired, but he felt like he could run all day. It reminded him of the time he had gotten into an argument with one of the coaches during training and the coach had made him run laps for hours to prove a point Troy could no longer remember.

He wasn't thinking about the snow in his shoes, the quilt from the shack that he had shrugged off his shoulders as soon as he had started running (which was all right, in a way; he had been trying to ignore it, but he was pretty sure it had had bugs in it), or how he was stumbling over tree roots and branches. He went through the brambles, bushes, and even through a thicket of sharp pine trees in which he became entangled for what seemed like a whole minute. When he finally reached a small stream, he was nearly mad with panic. His common sense (such as it was) told him that, quarterback or no, there was no way he could outrun a snowmobile forever, and it was inevitable that the huge dude would track him down. Troy saw with a wince that he had been leaving very clear footprints in the flat, unblemished snow of the creek bank. He definitely wasn't going to test how thick the ice was on the creek; you didn't have to be an Eagle Scout to know that was a bad idea. On the other hand, he reasoned as the revving of the snowmobile's engine grew louder, the creek was probably less than six feet across at its narrowest point, and there weren't that many other options....

He nearly didn't make it; he landed on his knees on the opposite bank and had to pull himself up by clawing for the dead reeds and cattails. Turning around, he saw the bright red of the snowmobile emerging from the trees.

"Ha!" he shouted in victory, his voice cracking because he had barely used it all day. "Motherfucker!" He turned and ran into the woods after this comparatively minimal amount of gloating, just in case the huge guy found some other way across the creek. Troy wasn't sure if snowmobiles could pull that Speed bus-clearing-the-bridge shit, but he wasn't waiting to find out.

He had been struggling through the woods for a short time, perhaps even less than ten minutes, when he had to blink to make sure his exhausted eyes weren't playing tricks on him. But no, those spots of yellow really were the luminescent lines of the highway and, he realized with another spike to his pulse, there was a car coming down it now.


The first twenty minutes of the ride passed in total silence. Jeff kept sneaking looks at Annie and Abed. Eventually the sound of Annie sniffling and the sight of Abed sitting so stiffly must have made him regret what he had said, or possibly the awkwardness had become too much for him.

"I know I said I would buy everyone ice cream if we actually found Troy," said Jeff. "I guess I could have at least left some time for you guys to steal that guy's pot or something. That was low of me, I know." This failed to break the silence. Both Annie and Abed refused to look at him, and in the rearview mirror he could see Britta roll her eyes. "Look, I'm sorry. I've been a little stressed out lately. There's this stem-changing boot thing--"

"Oh, sure," said Britta. "Blame it on the grammatical structures."

"Like they they didn't confuse the hell out of you, too," said Jeff. "That list of verbs he gave us was huge and he didn't even bother to organize them."

"They didn't confuse me because I, unlike you, can--"

"Look, I can't afford a new phone right now," said Jeff. "That's the long and short of it. And I know what you're going to say, Abed." Actually, Abed looked like he wouldn't ever say anything again; he was studying the trees and the side of the road. "You're going to say that I'm worrying about my material possessions more than a friend. That's completely untrue. I'm worried about Troy, too, but I definitely don't think we're going to find him here."

Abed finally spoke. "I'd stop the car if I were you."

Jeff sighed. "There was an outhouse back there, Abed, why didn't you use that?"

Annie had turned to look at what Abed had his eye on. She gave a small shriek. "Jeff, stop the car right now!"

"Are you--holy crap." He slammed on the brakes after he finally saw what Abed had apparently picked out among the lengthening shadows of the trees. Troy had come running out of the underbrush, but he had stumbled and landed on the narrow country road about ten feet away from where the car had stopped. As everyone stared in surprise, he picked himself up, dusted off his knees, and breathed in heavily a few times.

Shirley was the first to have a mildly sensible reaction. She opened her car door and shouted at him, "Where on Earth is your shirt? Are you insane?"

"I--was being--chased. By Nazis. Snowmobilers." He paused to catch his breath and seemed to realize that maybe his words weren't helping. He quickly got into the car as Pierce, Shirley, and Britta all scooted over to make room for him. "I'm not insane."

"He's drunk," said Pierce, looking rather harassed at being forced against the window.

"I'm not drunk."

"Smell his breath, make sure," said Jeff.

Britta leaned over and did so. "He smells okay."

"I smell fine! I'm not drunk, I got kidnapped."

"I knew it!"

"Shut it, Abed. What do you mean, kidnapped?"

"Who was it?" asked Annie excitedly. "Who grabbed you?"

Troy thought. "Well, I didn't really stick around long enough to learn their names. I think it was...Bill or Bob, or something. Then there was the guy who kicked me in the head."

Annie was disappointed. She turned to Abed and said, "You know, in mystery novels and things, the witnesses are always much better at remembering exactly what's happened to them and who they saw and what they looked like."

Britta grabbed Troy's chin. "That's a good point, Annie, but I think you've missed the bigger issue of Troy getting kicked in the head. Jesus Christ, are you all right?"

"I'm fine! Would you lay off?"

"Do you have a concussion?"

Troy rubbed his head and winced. "The guy said I didn't..."


Troy explained to them his theory. Annie shook her head. "No, Troy, it wasn't white supremacists. It was George Pluckenpole and the City College football team."

Troy blinked. "Really?" He looked disappointed.

"White supremacists probably would have made more sense," muttered Jeff, but Annie ignored him. She started explaining to Troy how they had figured it out.

"What you thought was a sheep was probably City College's mascot," Abed pointed out.


"Since they always referred to it as a 'he,' I'm guessing so. Sheep are always female."

"Wow," said Troy. "I can't believe you guys figured that all out."

"You're all wonderful detectives," said Shirley, beaming at Annie.

"Yeah," said Pierce. "Real Lord Steven Flimsys."

"Yeah," said Troy, but he looked confused. "Good call on that sheep, too."

Jeff looked like he'd had enough. "Look, we probably should--"

"What about your shirt?" Britta asked, cutting him off and obviously trying to hide a grin and failing pretty miserably.

"Oh my goodness," said Annie, turning to Abed. "We were right; it was partly because of sexual favors!"

Troy shook his head. "I think I lost it when I was running through a bunch of trees."

"Your shirt got torn off?" Britta did laugh now. "I'm sorry, I thought that only happened in action movies and, like, porno flicks."

"No one's in a porno flick!" Jeff massaged his forehead for a second. "OK, so--"

"I think I was promised ice cream," said Pierce suddenly.

"Yeah, and I think you owe Abed an apology," said Shirley.

"Look, I was being facetious about the ice--oh, all right. Abed, I'm sorry I ever doubted you. Obviously Troy having been kidnapped was the only sensible conclusion I could have drawn from everything. Now, Troy, I think we'll just take you back to your parents now, because I'm sure--"

"Forget it," said Troy, sitting back suddenly and folding his arms. "I'm not going home. Never again."

"Oh, Troy," said Shirley. "Where else are you going to live?"

"I'm gonna--I'm." He looked at Abed, who had been staring at him rather triumphantly, but whose expression was now unreadable again. "I--."

"Well, you think about where you want me to drop you off. You've got awhile to think about it," said Jeff. "It's a long ride back."


Two hours later, Jeff's conscience was apparently hurting him just enough that he ended up buying dinner for Troy and ice cream for everyone else, as he had promised. Although since Troy was still not wearing a shirt, they had to use Dairy Queen's drive-through.

Jeff finally pulled into Greendale's student parking lot at about ten. Everyone wished Troy good night and piled out and went to their own cars, except for Abed and Annie, who had left her bag in Abed's dorm room.

"Gosh, we were there all night. I completely forgot to get my mom her car back last night!" said Annie as she handed Jeff the Dilly bar she had been holding for him. She tittered nervously, but there was a slightly hysterical edge to it.

"Hey, come on," said Jeff, who correctly guessed that Annie had never taken her parents' car without permission before. "Do you think Sherlock Holmes ever let a case get unsolved just because his mom needed the car in the morning?"

"They didn't have cars back then."

"Carriages. Whatever. And I bet Steven Flimsy--"

"It's Peter Wimsey."


Annie, making a valiant effort at looking serene, smiled at him. "Good night, Jeff." She closed the car door and followed Abed to the dorm entrance.

Troy still hadn't moved. Jeff assumed this was because he had fallen asleep, but it turned out that Troy was still in the backseat, staring at the hamburger Jeff had bought him. "Troy," began Jeff slowly. From the corner of his eye he could see that Abed had gotten halfway to the doors before turning around to stare intently at them, and Annie was standing at the doors, waiting for Abed to let her in and taking in the whole scene with an anxious look on her face. "Do you want me to drive you home?"

Troy shook his head. He looked as if he were in a trance, staring at the bag of food.

"Aren't you hungry?"

"No," which was the exact opposite of the truth. He opened the bag a little bit more and peeked in. "Damn."


"Pierce stole my chicken nuggets. That bastard."

Jeff looked at Troy, then out the window at Abed. "Look, Troy, is there something that you should be telling me? About--." He nodded towards the window. "Because he's been acting...weird. Weirder. Not just in general, but weird specifically about you."

Troy shrugged. "It was--we're just. We've been--." He took a deep breath. "Me and Abed--"

Jeff held up his hand. "Before you go on, I just want to point out that you're sitting in my car without a shirt and covered in French fry grease. Obviously I'll offer my full support in any case, and it's fine if this is how you want to come out to me, but just consider that you really only get to do this once."

Troy rubbed his eyes and suddenly looked very tired. "I'm going to stay here tonight. Thanks, Jeff."

"No problem. I'm glad you're all right, Troy." Jeff watched the three of them go up to the dorm together and then drove away.


In Abed's dorm room, Troy found the packet Annie and Abed had made for everyone earlier that morning. She watched him read it while he ate a French fry and she gathered up her bag.

"What do you think?" she asked, finally.

At first he was almost shocked to see her and sounded very drowsy and disoriented even to his own ears. "It's...good. I mean, I can't believe you guys figured all this out." He paused. "How--"

"It was mostly Abed," said Annie. "And, Googled." And abused her copier privileges at the newspaper, but Troy didn't need to know that. She blushed. Like many acts of heroism, it all seemed a little dumb in retrospect.

"Fourteen pages..." he said.

"We wanted to dispel...any question." She trailed off. "I guess it was all a little--"

"No, no. Dude, you did it all like it was a school project or something."

Annie smiled again. This was exactly the sort of comparison she had been hoping to inspire, in fact. "Well, you might as well stick with what you know." When Troy, seized with that type of drowsiness that inspires immense affection, suddenly hugged her, she was at first surprised and then just a little bemused, not amazed or pleased or terrified, as she would have been if a shirtless Troy had embraced her even three months ago. "Are you really going to move out?" she asked him after a suitable interval.

He stiffened in her arms. "I guess."

"What are you going to do about George?"

"Well, I don't know," said Troy. He let go of her. "What am I supposed to do? Kick him off the team, I guess." He started pacing, then, the way he had been pacing earlier that week when he had been worrying Abed initially about the new guy. "Where'd Abed go, anyway?"

"He said he had to get something downstairs." Annie had been about to leave, but for a few seconds she watched his pacing with increasing consternation. "Why are you so nervous about moving in with Abed? Abed lets lots of people move in with him." This was true. Abed had let Jeff when Jeff had lost his apartment, and he would have given the bottom bunk to a homeless man he met in the quad once if Shirley and Annie hadn't been there to talk him out of it. (The homeless man had eventually been cast as Vaughn in Abed's film, leaving everyone happy except Annie herself.)

"It might be a bit...different than that. If you know what I mean."

"Oh," she said, although the look of sudden enlightenment on her face was partly put on for his benefit. "Well, good. I'm happy for you."

"Yeah." Troy looked sleepily pensive for a second. "I suppose you're a little...jealous. And stuff."

"No, not really."

"What, not even a little?"

She shook her head. "Good night, Troy. If you need help on the stem-changing boot verb quiz on Friday, just let me know, all right?"

"Thanks," said Troy, and it wasn't until several minutes later, when he was nearly asleep and Abed was still absent on his mysterious errand, that he said out loud, "Wait, stem-changing what??"


When Abed finally came back to the room, he found Troy asleep. He tried to quietly set down the muffins, which he had managed to recover from the girls down the hall, but Troy sat up, blinking, almost immediately.

"Wazzat? Oh." He rubbed his eyes. "Sorry."

"It's okay. Are you hungry?"

"Yeah. Holy shit, yes." Troy dove into the muffin basket. Sleeping for even a very short while had apparently reminded him just how hungry he was. "Where did you even get this?"

Abed shrugged. "I had to call in a favor, actually. It's all right, I figured you were hungry." He paused. "I usually turn on the TV before I go to bed. Is that all right?"

Troy nodded and moved over to make room for Abed on the futon. "I was reading yours and Annie' thingy."

"I thought she did a good job."

"Sure. But she said you were the one who figured everything out. I mean, that you were the one who had all the hunches and stuff, originally."

Abed shrugged and grabbed a muffin.

"But how?" asked Troy.

"It seemed obvious, I guess."

"What did?"

"Usually in movies or something," began Abed, addressing his muffin, "when one person disappears, it's because something beyond their power has happened to them, like they've been kidnapped or--"

"This is real life, Abed, it's not a movie or something."

"And usually," said Abed, still resolutely examining the muffin, "that person disappears before the other person gets to tell them that they love them."

Troy paused to let that sink in. When Abed finally looked at him, his face was a curious mixture of emotion: first he looked a little confused, then hesitant, and finally his face got a faraway look before finally breaking into an almost boastful smile. "That's really, um. I guess I never even thought of that." Just a few moments before, Troy had been only just barely sleeping; his half-awake mind had been preoccupied with thoughts of his father and football and irregular grammatical structures, but Abed's words seemed to open up a serene, unworried plain in his mind. "You know, fuck it," Troy said. Abed tilted his head and stared at him as Troy grabbed the remote and turned the TV off. "I don't feel like watching Fresh Prince reruns."

"Then what--oh." Troy had pinned him down in one quick movement, and Abed's breath hitched in his throat as Troy pinned his wrists down. "I think this was a good choice," said Abed between kisses. "I didn't like that episode." Troy had moved onto his neck and was nibbling Abed's ear when he said that.

Troy mumbled something that sounded like agreement before returning to Abed's neck. It was notoriously hard to get Abed to lose his train of thought, but Troy seemed to enjoy trying.

"I mean," Abed went on when Troy kissed his sternum and moved down to his stomach, "I definitely would have turned it off anyway."

"Definitely," said Troy as he drew Abed's T-shirt up for him.

"Even if it had been a really good episode," said Abed, an uncontrollable tremor entering his voice as Troy's hands traveled back up his torso. "Even if it had been that episode of Cheers where Sam goes on vacation and leaves Woody in charge of the bar."

"Mhmm," murmured Troy into his abdomen, and the nice thing about Troy was that occasionally he was very good at hearing the sentiment behind the words rather than the words themselves. "I know, Abed," he said, even though Abed knew for a fact that he had never even seen an episode of Cheers. Just the words were enough to distract Abed from what he had been saying. Troy's voice wasn't deep, but it was throaty and raspy and almost syrupy in a way, which was the only thing Abed could think of even as Troy unzipped his fly for him and took Abed's cock into his mouth.

"Oh," he said, his own voice sounding cracked and high-pitched, but he was past caring. Troy responded by pumping the base of Abed's cock with his hand, and it occurred to him that Troy was pretty good at this, too. He was still thinking this even as he came, surprising himself but not Troy, apparently. "Thank you," was all he could think to say, and it felt pretty dumb.

"'S no problem," Troy muttered, obviously not caring because he sounded half-asleep. His expression was heavy-lidded but happy. He curled against Abed's side and rested his head on Abed's shoulder.

Part of Abed wanted to get up, maybe take his jeans the rest of the way off, but another part of him, a part that was still drowsy from his orgasm and was rapidly developing a better sense for these sort of things, made him never want to move again. It made him want to lay there with Troy wrapped around him like the blanket they didn't have and would probably miss if they were going to spend the night like this.

"Troy," he said. "Come here. We can sleep on the bed."

"I'm all right," he mumbled, briefly drawing both arms around Abed and squeezing. "It's okay."

"I know," said Abed, and with some complicated wriggling he was able to get his jeans all of the way off without disturbing Troy. With his foot he poked around under the futon and found some of his mother's old caftans that he had taken because he knew his father wouldn't miss them or even acknowledge their existence. He pulled them up and carefully draped them over himself and Troy. They fell asleep and both were awoken early the next morning by the girl down the hall, who was looking for Abed to return her muffin basket.


The next two days were eventful, even in comparison with the last two. George Pluckenpole quit the football team early Thursday morning, after he found Troy in the dorm room eating cereal. He gave his resignation in quiet, stilted words, and set down both Troy and Jeff's cell phones on the desk before Troy could even process that he was there. Pluckenpole apologized and left the room, and Troy never saw him again.

Britta, acting on a tip from Abed, returned to the Pluckenpole cabin sometime later that day. When two Colorado State Troopers, acting on an anonymous tip, raided the cabin later the next week, about half of the plentiful crop that Abed and the others had discovered there was gone, and Britta, noticeably, never had to ask Vaughn to deal her anything again.

Thanks to Annie's helpfully color-coded notes, Troy got a B minus on the stem-changing verb quiz on Friday, and everyone managed to avoid getting the boot to the head. That evening the Human Beings pulled off a surprising and not completely unsatisfying victory against the City College Goats, upsetting most expectations and marking their third win of the whole season. In the midst of the bravado the win inspired, Troy finally returned to his parents' house to tell them he was moving into the dorm. It went both better and worse than he expected; in the end, he received a wordless grunt from his father, which had to pass for a blessing in this case, and a care package from his mother, which included some of her own caftans and a few liters of the Squirt he was pretty sure she had bought at a Sam's Club in his sophomore year and had been trying to foist off on him ever since. He returned home in a daze, perhaps because he knew that from now on he could think of this smelly little dorm room as home.

His mother did give him her blessing, in her own way, and if she knew somehow or other that one of the bunks usually went unused every night, she didn't let on.

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