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Title: The Law of Tangents, 2/11
Author: htbthomas
Fandom: Community
Pairing: Annie/Troy (begins Abed/Annie and Abed/Troy)
Word Count: entire fic: 26,588 words, this chapter: 3,779 words
Rating/Warnings: PG-13 for mild language, kisses for all pairings, implied sex for main pairing
Betas: wr1t3rbl0ck3d, neigedens, foxtwin
Summary: Annie wants to date Abed – if learning all she can about his favorite things will help her do that, she will. Troy wants to date Abed  – he's ready to take their friendship to the next level, and no one knows Abed better than his best friend. Abed wants – well, neither Annie nor Troy know what he wants, because he up and disappears. Worried beyond belief, Annie and Troy put their rivalry aside to look for Abed. Guest starring Nathan Fillion as Professor Schloss.

Also at: Het Big Bang site | AO3

Previously: 1


(art by pennnys)



Chapter 2: A Weird Tingle in the Belly, and Not the Good Kind


Annie lifted her hand to knock on Abed’s dorm room door, hesitating for a moment.  Then she took a deep, cleansing breath and knocked firmly.  “Abed? Are you there?”

“Come in,” she heard through the wood.

Opening the door, she found Abed just where she hoped, sitting on his couch in front of the TV. “Hey, Abed.  What are you watching?”

He tilted his head. “Just some Buffy reruns.” He put down the remote and asked with disconcerting directness, “What do you need, Annie?”

She tried to be nonchalant. “Nothing.  I just want to hang out.”

“With me? Don’t you usually use the extra time during summer break to study for your fall classes?”

“Yeah,” she said. “But everyone needs a break now and then.” She was studying, just not for a future class.

“Okay.” He seemed to accept her answer without any more argument.  He wasn’t the arguing type.  It was one of the things she liked about him.

She watched the episode with him in companionable silence for a while, her eyes drifting around the room during the commercials.  She noted how many box sets he owned of what seemed like all the major science fiction movie and TV shows, as well as many more. Even Buffy, which he was watching on TV instead.  She smiled, noticing the Indiana Jones set she’d bought him a couple years ago. And right next to it were his Star Wars DVDs. More than one set of them. As she had learned any true fan would have – the first step in her research project had been to watch the whole series, in year order, not episode order. Original and extended versions.

But she had so much more research to do! She got up and squatted in front of the bookcase, running a finger lightly across the titles. Some of these she’d never seen, some of them she’d seen so long ago that she couldn’t remember what happened in them anymore. 

“Abed…”

“Hmm?” He gave her a curious look.

“I’ve been thinking about getting into sci-fi,” she said as casually as she could.  “What would you recommend?”

He set down his bowl and scooted forward with interest.  “TV or movies?”

“Doesn’t matter to me. Maybe something shorter to start with?”

He got up from the couch and squatted beside her. He was close enough that his sleeve brushed her arm.  She tried not to close her eyes at the enjoyable sensation. “Do you like hard or soft sci-fi?”

She grimaced, embarrassed.  “I don’t think I know the difference.”

“There’s actually a whole range of types between, but if you’re new to sci-fi, it’s a facile comparison.” He pointed to a DVD right in front of her.  “Blade Runner is hard sci-fi.  It focuses more on technology and world building, on ideas.”

“Ideas are good.” And she might learn something in the process. “And soft sci-fi is?”

Firefly is soft sci-fi.” His arm brushed closer as he pointed across her.  “It has a serial storyline, and focuses more on the relationships between the characters than the futuristic setting.”

Relationships? Now they were getting somewhere. She pulled the case from the shelf and studied the cover.  As she did, a light turned on.  “You and Troy really like that one, don’t you?”

“Yeah.  Brilliant but cancelled.”

“Do you mind if I borrow this?”

Abed hesitated.

“I promise to bring it back in perfect, no, better condition.”

He snatched it from her hands and stood, popping open the tray on the DVD player.  “Why don’t we just watch it here?”

Annie smiled.  Exactly what she’d hoped for.  “Sure.”

She settled herself in the middle of the couch as he fiddled with the menu. “Do you want to see it in airing order, or production order?”

“Whatever you think is the ‘correct’ way.”

“Production order, then. The storyline will make more sense.”

He sat down on her left side, leaving a few inches space. She could take care of that distance later, moving closer during any scary parts.  She hoped it had scary parts.

Annie laughed at herself – she was turning into a teenage boy, planning ways she could get closer to Abed without giving her intentions away.  Not that she would know what teenage boys really did – her high school years had been a romantic disaster – but she’d seen enough movies to guess.

The theme music started, a country-flavored tune that surprised her.  Images of cowboys and spaceships mixed together on the screen.  She turned toward him in confusion. “I thought you said this was sci-fi?”

Abed smiled knowingly.  “It’s a space western.  Don’t worry, you’ll like it.  It totally works.”

She suddenly remembered the way the paintball war had mixed western and Star Wars. She lightly patted his leg. “I think I will.”

He looked down at where she was touching him. His mouth opened–

But before he could speak, the door opened.  “Hey, Abed!” Troy said as he came in.  “What are we–?” He noticed Annie, sitting right beside Abed, hand on his leg.

Annie hurriedly removed her hand, tucking it beneath her own leg. 

“Uh, hi, Annie,” he said, his eyebrows drawing together. “I didn’t know you were going to be here.”

She shrugged. “I just dropped by.  It’s okay, right?” She gave him her best Ariel smile. Annie knew winning over Troy was the first step. The three of them could have tons of fun together – he just needed to get used to her being around.

“Yeah, sure, I guess,” he said with a shrug, sitting on her other side. She let out a tiny sigh of relief. Britta must have been exaggerating about how tough it was to get between them.

“Watch Firefly with us!” she said.

He agreed with a nod, but instead of settling back, he started digging in his backpack. Annie tried to focus on what was happening on screen.

“Do you want me to explain things as I go, or just let you experience it for the first time?” Abed asked, keeping his eyes on the screen.

“Hmm.” If he explained everything, she could get a feel for what characters he liked best. But if she waited, they could have a more in-depth discussion afterward.  She didn’t want him to think she needed to be spoonfed.  “After.”

“Cool. Cool cool cool.” He picked up his bowl and sat back again.

Annie was just getting into the first part of the story when Troy whispered behind the back of her head, “Hey, Abed, you wanna check out the new Green Lantern:  Rise of the Manhunters game I got after this?”

“Did you get the Wii version or the PlayStation?” Abed whispered back.

“X-Box 360, baby.”

“But I don’t have a–”

Troy pulled the device from his backpack with a proud grin.

They managed to do an ‘air’ version of their special handshake, despite Annie being between them.  She shifted awkwardly, losing the train of dialogue on the screen.

“In about…” Abed looked up at the clock, “…an hour and 15 minutes, we can try it out.”

“Oh, yeah, I forgot that this episode is a two-parter.”

“I did promise Annie we’d watch it…”

Annie snatched the remote control from the table and paused it. “Guys.”

“What?” they whispered in unison. 

“If you want to play, there’s no reason to wait.” She tamped down her disappointment. “I was the one who dropped by unannounced. I can borrow the DVDs and we can talk later.”

“Are you sure?” Troy asked hopefully. Abed waited for her answer.

“Of course.”

“Awesome.” Troy was up out of his seat and fiddling with the X-Box immediately. 

Surprisingly, Abed removed the DVD from the player and handed it to her. “Just play it in order from the DVD.” Then he went over to help Troy.

Annie watched them for a few minutes, happy that he trusted her with his DVDs. But as she watched, a thoughtful crease grew on her forehead. She knew Troy and Abed’s friendship would be an integral component to any relationship with Abed. But she hadn’t quite realized, as silly as it seemed to her, just how much. 

~0~0~0~


Troy absentmindedly waved goodbye to Annie as she left a few minutes later.  Abed was kicking his butt and he didn’t want to pause the game. More importantly, as soon as the game was over, he could bring up the roommates idea again. As much as he liked Annie, it was a topic he needed to discuss with Abed alone.

 “You think we should have invited her to play?” Abed asked, pausing the game for a second.

Troy looked down at his controller. “It’s not a multi-player game.”

“You’re right.” He unpaused the game and his character swiveled to attack.

“Abed,” Troy asked between salvos.  “Can I stay here again tonight?”

Abed fingers flew over the controller. “Sure.”

“Um…” He knew he needed to just come out and ask if he could live here this summer, and even next fall, but what if Abed said no? Again? He took a deep breath. “Would it be okay if I just–”

An animated explosion rocked the screen. “Woohoo!” Abed exclaimed quietly.  “Got you.  You really should keep your focus on the action, Troy.”

Troy shrugged. “Yeah, I know. I’ll get you next time,” he promised.

“If you can catch meeeee!” His character zoomed away.

Troy hurried to catch up, laughing with exhilaration. The moment for questions was gone – he would have to ask another time.

~0~0~0~


As Annie walked toward the cafeteria, she double-checked that she had the Firefly DVDs in her backpack. She was surprised at how easy it was to marathon the whole series over a couple of days. Annie let out a sigh – who would Abed relate to best?

Would he identify best with Mal, the trickster captain? Jayne, the gruff softie? Wash, the loyal pilot? Simon, the cerebral doctor? Shepherd Book, the wise sage?  Honestly, she could see a little of him in every one of the main male characters in the show.

And beyond that, she wondered which of the female characters suited her best.  Kaylee’s sunny optimism, or Inara’s quiet confidence? Zoe’s strong badass or River’s deadly intensity? She hoped she had a little of the best of all those women within her.

If Abed went with Mal, could she pull off Inara’s allure? If he went with Wash, could she channel her paintball ace again and be Zoe for him?  If it turned out to be Simon, she was pretty sure she could out-smile Kaylee herself, but she had no aptitude as a mechanic.  And forget Jayne and Book, who didn’t really have a main romantic interest in the show.

Did it really matter? Did Abed always go for the established relationships on a show? Or was he more flexible? He had been the one who pointed out the incestuous nature of their study group last year…

Abed loved role play – who would he go for? She would just have to be prepared for anything.

As she arrived, Annie peeked into the cafeteria. Yes, Abed was sitting at his usual table, typing on his laptop between classes.  She walked in with what she hoped seemed like a jaunty air, and pretended to almost pass him before stopping with a shout of mild surprise.  “Abed!”

He looked up. “Annie!” he mimicked her unintentionally.

“I’m so glad I found you! I have your DVDs.” She slid in beside him, pulling a carefully wrapped package from her backpack. “It was awesome, by the way.  I loved it.”

“Knew you would,” he said with a small smile, taking the package from her. But instead of asking her what she thought, he continued typing away.

Annie frowned.  What had his attention this time? She leaned in to read. “A screenplay?”

“Yep.  For my summer elective. It’s Creative Writing 101. We can choose the format for the final project.”

She scooted closer, to see the screen better – and to get closer to Abed.  “What’s it about?”

“A story about friends.”

“Who go on adventures?”

“Of course.”

“In space?”

“Maybe. I haven’t completely decided on the setting yet.  It’s the kind of story that could work in a lot of different settings. I could set it in modern times, in the past, in–”

“Space?” she asked hopefully. She didn’t want all her research to be in vain.

“Yes. But each of them would change the plot just enough to make it a different story. Right now, I’m just getting the basic plotline down.  I can fill in details later.”

“I’ve never tried to write anything – well, not since high school.” There was some very bad poetry that she’d rather forget. “It seems like an interesting process.”

“It is. To me, anyway.” He started typing again.  “I hope you don’t mind.  I usually use this hour to work on the screenplay while Troy is in algebra class.”

As much as she loved Troy, she was here because she knew Troy was in class and couldn’t interrupt them.  “That’s okay.  Do you mind if I just sit and study right here?”

“Nope,” he said, typing away.

“Good.” As she pulled one of her textbooks from her backpack, her eyes drifted to Abed’s screen.  “By the way, ‘independent’ is spelled I-N-D-E-P-E-N-D-E-N-T.”

He highlighted and changed the word. “Thanks.”

“No problem.” Annie smiled and settled in to her Arabic textbook. Maybe role playing wasn’t necessary after all.  She just needed to make herself invaluable.

~0~0~0~


Troy stopped in the doorway to the cafeteria. Something seemed different.  Garrett by the ice cream machine, check. The sisters from his environmental science class two years ago were tapping away on their cell phones, check. Oh wait, Magnitude was sitting all by himself.  Troy frowned. The man was a one-man party, why was he all alone?

Then he looked closer and saw that Magnitude was eating hot chili popcorn.  That was more like it – that stuff was like a party in your mouth.

He turned toward his usual table, and realized the problem. For the third day in a row, Annie was sitting beside Abed.  Today she was leaning in, pointing at something on the laptop’s screen.

What were they doing? He wouldn’t usually mind Annie hanging around every single day, but it seemed so… unusual. He felt a weird tingle in his belly – and not the good kind.

As he watched them, he skirted the edge of the cafeteria and got himself a soda.  While he paid, he thought. Hard. He didn’t think it was Annie herself. Annie was cool. She was his friend, just like Abed, right? Sure, it wasn’t the same kind of friendship, hanging out and goofing off, and doing whatever came to mind, but it was still friendship.  He pushed down the feeling with a dry swallow and strode up to the table.

“Hey, guys!” He sat down across from them and set his drink on the table.

“Hi, Troy,” they said, almost in unison. Neither one looked up. Annie pointed at something on the screen. Abed nodded and tapped away on his keyboard.

“What are you guys up to?”

“Working on my screenplay for class,” Abed said.

Annie said, “I’m helping him proofread it.”

“She’s surprisingly good at catching typos and formatting mistakes.”

Annie – Troy couldn’t believe it – blushed. “Thanks, Abed. That’s nice of you to say.”

“Why wouldn’t I say it? It’s true.”

Annie smiled shyly.

Troy’s forehead began to wrinkle.  He knew that look – she used to direct that at him, not Abed.  When she used to be…

Oh my god!

Suddenly Abed and Annie were both looking at him worriedly.

“Did I… say that out loud?”

They nodded.

“I–I just realized something.”

He must have looked panicked, because Annie reached a hand across the table and placed it on his arm with concern.  “What is it?”

He searched his shocked brain for something to say. What would Annie believe? “Uh–um, I forgot my homework, and it’s due at my next class…” He moaned dramatically. 

That acting class had paid off – she squeezed his arm.  “Oh no.  Do you have time to go get it?”

“Yes.” He stood up from the table quickly, banging his knee underneath, and nearly tripping to get out of the seat.  “I–I gotta hurry though. See you later!”

He was away from them without even hearing their goodbyes.  He had to think about this.  Annie was – he couldn’t wrap his mind around it – in love with Abed!

What had happened to her crush on Jeff? Rich? And then there was Vaughn, and even Troy himself. Damn, that girl went through a lot of crushes.

But he couldn’t believe she was on to Abed.  Abed was… Abed! Sure he was cool, hilarious, smart, thoughtful, observant, fun…

Oh my god!

He checked to see if he had said it out loud that time.  But no one was giving him any strange looks, so he was probably fine.

Abed was totally the perfect boyfriend.  He should be a total chick magnet, but so far, he’d managed to stay single.

But Annie wouldn’t stop trying. Not the Annie that Troy knew from this last year.

The old Annie would have stayed at a distance, crushing on a guy from afar.  Troy certainly had no idea about her crush on him until it was long over. And even kissing Jeff wasn’t enough to start dating him, apparently.

The new Annie? She was committed one hundred percent to anything she did.  The funny feeling in his stomach came back twice as strong.  Troy fought to keep from doubling over.  What was wrong with him? Then he realized.

Oh my god.

It came out as a whisper this time. Troy straightened up slowly and turned back toward the cafeteria he had fled. 

He didn’t want Abed to date any girl… because Troy wanted Abed for himself. He was jealous.

And Annie was competition.

~0~0~0~


Troy was suddenly back at their table, looking sheepish.  Annie commented with surprise, “That was fast.”

Troy rubbed at his head with the back of his hand. “Yeah, uh, turns out I was thinking of the wrong day.  It’s not due until tomorrow.” He laughed awkwardly. “Silly me.”

“It’s done, though?” she asked, truly concerned. Annie could think of nothing worse than being unprepared for class.

Troy nodded. Then he sat with a thump, and picked up his earlier-abandoned drink.

Troy was acting a bit odd, but with Troy, you never knew what he was thinking until he said it aloud. He said his thoughts aloud all the time, actually.  She mentally shrugged. 

Annie turned her attention back to Abed’s screen.  She wished Troy weren’t here, but she was determined to make this work. “Have you thought about adding a…” She trailed off, suddenly feeling shy.  Swallowing, she went on, “…a—a love interest right here for your lead?”

Troy coughed loudly, and soda sprayed all over the table. 

Instantly, Annie was grabbing napkins to help clean up the mess. “Are you all right, Troy?” Thankfully, none of it had gotten on the computer or her book.

“Fine,” he said, his voice hoarse, wiping at his mouth.  “Wrong pipe.”

Abed was staring at his screen with concentration. “I don’t think having a love interest would add anything to the plot, Annie.”

“What plot is this?” Troy asked, his voice still a little raw-sounding.

“It’s the one with the detective and his partners.”

“Oh, the one set in space?”

“You see? Even Troy thinks it should be set in space,” Annie said.

Troy nodded.

“Fine.  He’s a space detective, specialty, planetology.”

Troy rubbed at his chin.  “Nah, I don’t think a love interest fits that story at all.”

Annie pursed her lips and sat beside Abed again. “I disagree. Jeraigor is plagued with loneliness. I think if he made a connection with someone – or at least tried to – it would help the audience root for him more.”

“So who should he connect with? One of the two partners?” Troy challenged.

“Maybe. Why not?” Annie asked.  Why was Troy being so difficult all of a sudden?

“Which one?”

“What do you mean, which one?” Annie’s eyes narrowed. “Naturally, it would be Senjala. Broymon is a—”

Troy’s eyes narrowed to match hers. “Is a what?”

Troy waited for her answer with an unusually fierce tenseness, and Annie refused to look away. She had been about to say ‘a guy’ but immediately felt bad. She was trying to be more open-minded, especially after what happened with Britta and Paige.

Was Troy just trying to block this idea because he could see Annie’s feelings for Abed, and was jealous? Neither of them had had a steady girlfriend since they’d become friends. It would be an adjustment for both of them if Annie suddenly was involved in Abed’s life as his girlfriend – but she knew she could make them see it would be an adjustment for the better.  Unless…

Her eyes widened, though she didn’t break the staring contest with Troy.  Unless it was more than that? Troy wasn’t just a third wheel; he wasn’t just the best friend to win over.

He was competition.

Troy’s eyes had widened in time with hers, and she kept her gaze fixed on his as she forged ahead. “Broymon is totally wrong for him. Their personalities don’t complement each other.”

Abed, who had been watching his friends’ argument like a tennis match, cut in.  “Actually, Annie, you’re right. Jeraigor really needs an emotional connection to the audience, and a love interest would be a good way to do it.”

“You’re welcome.” She nodded, vindicated. Troy slumped.

“I was thinking at first that he could hook up with a random alien female, a la Captain Kirk, but having it be someone he’s close to raises the stakes,” Abed continued. “So thanks, Troy. Making the love interest one of his partners is a great idea.”

Troy straightened. “Any time, man.”

Abed tapped a finger to his mouth. “The question is, which one?”

At the same tempo, Annie and Troy folded their arms and leaned back in their seats, saying, “Indeed.”

The challenge was on.

Next: Chapter 3: Curse Your Sudden But Inevitable Betrayal

Comments

( 8 comments — Leave a comment )
oneoffour111
Oct. 2nd, 2011 10:35 pm (UTC)
Yes! This is so good so far. I love that even though it's focused on just Annie, Abed, and Troy, you still manage to include the rest of the study group by mentioning them every now and then. You're doing such a great job - I can't wait to keep reading!
htbthomas
Oct. 2nd, 2011 10:49 pm (UTC)
In some ways, I wish I could have done more than just mention everyone, but I decided to narrow my focus. Glad it worked!

Thanks so much for coming to read. I got too impatient to wait a whole week, so you'll probably see a new chapter every few days. :)
flyingpigs_live
Oct. 2nd, 2011 11:44 pm (UTC)
Oh, I adore this. I love the parallel between the possible love lives of the characters in Abed's screenplay, and the 3 of them. Also love Abed's obliviousness to the tension between Troy and Annie. This is fantastic! :)
htbthomas
Oct. 2nd, 2011 11:50 pm (UTC)
I had a lot of fun with that screenplay! :) At first I toyed with using pretend bits of it as section breaks, but then I decided I didn't really need to write two separate stories. :D

Thanks for reviewing again! I love that. *hugs*
greenpekoe
Oct. 4th, 2011 06:47 am (UTC)
Yes ... YES! A new, well-written, multi-chaptered Troy/Abed fic ... YOU ARE MY FREAKING HERO!! I am really enjoying it so far; so I think I'll try to digest it in chunks, and get myself to bed.

...Who am I kidding. Sleep can wait.

Thank you! This is obviously going to help build up the ship! <3 GREAT WORK!
greenpekoe
Oct. 4th, 2011 07:19 am (UTC)
(I should note, I recognize this is an Annie/Troy fic, but the dynamic you're building with ALL the relationships is all sorts of dramatic awesomeness)
htbthomas
Oct. 4th, 2011 11:18 am (UTC)
Thanks for clarifying, I was hoping that wouldn't put you off later on the story! <3
htbthomas
Oct. 4th, 2011 11:15 am (UTC)
Wow, thank you! You don't know how happy I am that you like the Troy/Abed in this story! I really tried to respect all pairings, as I ship all combos of these three. :) I'll post more on Wed!
( 8 comments — Leave a comment )

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