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Title: The Law of Tangents, 10/11
Author: htbthomas
Fandom: Community
Pairing: Annie/Troy (begins Abed/Annie and Abed/Troy)
Word Count: entire fic: 26,588 words, this chapter: 3,603 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 | 2 | 3 | 4 | 5 | 6 | 7 | 8 | 9


(art by pennnys)



Chapter 10: Just Like That Time at Elitch Gardens


The drive back started out quietly. Troy stared out the window as dark shapes drifted past. There was just enough moon that the mountains’ outlines were visible, but definitely not enough to see anything on them.  Annie, who normally tended to be talkative when she was happy, or nervous, or irritated, or pretty much any emotion he was used to seeing… was silent.  She didn’t even have the radio on.

Troy’s iPod was still in his pocket. And he didn’t feel like talking, either. They’d accomplished their purpose – find Abed – only to fail at the main goal – get him to come back to Greendale. Not to mention the overarching goal of figuring out his, and Annie’s, relationship with Abed.  He’d seemed to forgive them for scaring him away, accept a return to friendship, and yet…?  Troy didn’t feel like saying much of anything.  Or doing anything except stare out the window.  Words didn’t help, actions didn’t help, what was left?

It gave him time alone with his thoughts, though. He really did love Abed, and he accepted him for everything he was and wasn’t.  So he had to accept that Abed didn’t want a romantic relationship with him.  He could be cool with that. Well, he had to be.

Annie, though… what would happen now? Would she go back to being just another part of the larger group? The girl who sometimes pulled them into psych studies or pen searches or anti-drug plays?  He hoped not. Now that they’d spent the whole summer together, despite all the rivalry, he kinda liked having her around.

He more than liked it.

Troy snuck a glance at Annie, driving with her eyes firmly straight ahead.  He couldn’t see any signs of sadness – no red-rimmed eyes, no shallow breathing – was she fine with going back to the way things were before?

He wasn’t. He would miss they times they spent together. He would miss… her.

Troy’s chest tightened. Abed was right. He had waited until Annie was all the way in the house before saying it, but Abed had looked him straight in the eyes and said, ‘Your tension. With Annie.’ Troy had been speechless for several moments. Then he had tried to deny there was anything but friendship there. But Abed had refused to break his steady stare. ‘Talk to her, Troy.’

He did have feelings for Annie that needed to be resolved. He did need to talk to her. But here they were, hours to go before Greendale, and he couldn’t make the words come out.

He never got the chance to even force them out. Cruella hit a rut in the road, before Annie could swerve to avoid the hole.  A terrible clunk sounded from somewhere under the hood.

“Oh, no!” Annie cried, fighting to control the car.

Troy grabbed onto the handle above his head with both hands, clutching it for dear life. “Oh god, this is just like that time at Elitch Gardens!”

Annie looked completely perplexed. “Wha–?”

He didn’t feel the need to explain. Bumper cars could be damn scary.

Annie kept her head long enough to pull over to the side of the highway, out of traffic. For a few moments, they sat stunned with shock, breathing heavily.

When he was calm enough release the plastic straps, he turned to Annie. Her eyes were wide and her hands seemed frozen to the steering wheel.  “Annie…” he said, touching her shoulder gently, “Annie… are you okay?”

She didn’t respond right away.  He gently rubbed her shoulder, and that broke the spell. She groaned, turned off the ignition and dropped her head to rest on the steering wheel.  “I knew this was going to happen. Looks like Cruella’s out of commission.”

“Poor girl,” he said, squeezing Annie’s shoulder. “Do you want me to check under the hood?”

She lifted her head slightly. “Do you know what to look for?”

He smiled awkwardly. “Uh, no. Unless plumbing and automotive repair are a lot alike. You want me to call Triple A?”

“No,” she said lowering her head again.  “I don’t have Triple A. Or any kind of roadside assistance. Costs too much.”

Troy checked his watch. It was about 9pm, not too late to call on someone. “Then what about Jeff? Or Shirley?” Britta was off traveling somewhere, Kerouacing, or whatever that meant. And of course, Pierce was no longer an option. “Or… or… our parents?”

They both cringed.  That was a last resort.  And that was it, since Abed was staying in Grand Junction.

He tried Jeff first.  It went to voicemail. He hung up before the message finished, and texted him instead.  “annie & me stuck on i-70. need tow. help! “If Jeff is blowing us off for some hottie, I’ll…”

“Punch him?” Annie asked.

“What? No!” Troy rubbed at his knuckles absently. “I’ll leave that to you.”

Annie’s head popped up and she frowned at him until she saw his smile. “Just say the word,” she joked. “Try Shirley.”  Annie stretched, switched the headlights to hazard lights and started rummaging in the arm rest for supplies. She pulled out a pen, a pad of paper, a small flashlight.

He was glad to see his teasing had snapped her out of her momentary funk.  “Will do,” he said, punching in the number.

As soon as the line was answered, Troy could hear baby Ben crying loudly in the background. “Hello?” It was Andre, and he didn’t sound happy.

Troy covered his mouth in embarrassment and didn’t speak.

“Who is it?” Shirley called from the background.  “I was just getting Ben to sleep…”

“I don’t know, some cell phone number…”

Troy jerked the phone from his ear and almost ended the call. Then he realized Shirley would still recognize the number on the caller ID… Sheepishly, he returned the phone to his ear and said, “Uh, I’m so sorry, it’s Troy.”

“Who?” Andre asked.  Ben’s crying was getting louder.

“Here, sweetie, take him,” Shirley said, and got on the line. “Troy, is that you? What’s wrong, honey?” Despite the crying baby, her voice was sweet and concerned.

“I–uh–we, me and Annie, we’re broken down on I-70 somewhere,” he said, feeling awful for bothering them. “We’re trying to find someone to come get us, maybe…” Troy cringed. “…help pay for a tow truck?”

“Oh, baby, what are you and Annie doing all the way out there at this time of night? Are you…” Her voice rose even higher, if that were possible. “Were you on a getaway… together?”

“Yes, I mean no, I mean…” Troy silently handed over the phone to Annie.

She took it with a shrug. “Hi, Shirley. Yes, we’re stuck out here.  Abed went home for a visit, and we were going to see him. We’re fine – it’s the interstate, not some back road. We’re somewhere between Glenwood Springs and Gypsum.  I can’t see a mile marker, so I’m not sure exactly where. Hang on.”

Annie lowered the phone and called up the maps program on Troy’s phone. From his angle, he could see that there was 3G reception. Thank god. She lifted the phone again. “It looks like it’s about… six miles west of Gypsum.  Tell them it’s a 1983 Honda Accord, license plate number 636-PLL.” She was silent, presumably so Shirley could write that information down.  “Got it? Just have them call this number if they can’t find us.” She was silent again, then she shook her head. “No! There’s nothing to tell, I promise.  I promise.”

Was Annie talking about them? She sounded so sure that there was nothing to tell, it gave him a sad pang.

“I’ll pay you back the next time I see you, okay? No, really I understand.” Then Annie turned away and spoke in a low tone.  “I will.  Thank you so much, Shirley.” She ended the call and handed the phone back. “She says she’ll try to find a place nearby here – hopefully it won’t be too long.”

What had made Annie turn away?  He was afraid to ask.  “Whatever the bill is, I’ll pay half.”

“No, you—” Troy’s look silenced her protest.  “All right, thanks.”

Neither of them said anything for a few minutes. Finally, Annie spoke. “You know, Troy…”

He felt nothing but relief that she was going to get the ball rolling. “What?”

“This is all your fault.”

He hadn’t expected that! “What?”

“You broke her.  When you smacked the dashboard. I told you that you had to be careful.”

He almost started apologizing, but noticed a sly grin on her face. “I guess I did Hulk-smash it after all.  I better put on the purple pants.”

“Not the purple pants!” she said with a laugh. “Though any pants would look good on you…” She bit her lip and stopped talking.

A little bit of hope came back.  “So…”

“So…”

“What do you wanna do while we wait?”

“We probably shouldn’t use up the battery, except for the hazard lights… and save our phones, too.” Oddly, she bit her lip before continuing. “So I don’t know. Talk. I guess?”

They did really need to talk. “Sure.” Suddenly the car seemed a bit too close for comfort.  “You wanna do it outside?”

“Do it?” She didn’t meet his eyes.

“You know, talk! If the weather’s nice enough.” Troy opened the car door and stepped out.  It felt just fine, maybe around seventy degrees, a nice summer nighttime temperature. “Come on out.”

She did, bringing the flashlight and a bottle of water with her.  She looked toward the west and squinted. “Are those storm clouds?”

He followed her gaze.  “Might be.  Do you want me to check my weather app?”

“No, that’s okay. If it starts raining, there’s nothing we can do about it except get back into the car.”

 “Yeah.” Well, they were talking, but it was just small talk.  Troy, his inner voice told him, do you really believe that Abed is always right? He usually was. Then talk to her. For Abed.

“For Abed,” he murmured.

“What?” Annie asked.

“Oh,” he said, covering, “I just said, ‘Abed.’ I wonder how he’s doing.”

“Probably sleeping like a baby.”

“Better than Shirley’s baby, I hope.”

“Or Abed’s sister.” She shifted awkwardly and then asked.  “What did Abed talk to you about?”

“Um…” It was Troy’s turn to shift. “Mostly that I needed to talk to you.” He left out the particulars.

“Huh,” she said.  “He told me the same thing.” What was she leaving out?

Troy took a deep breath, and went for it.  “There’s more. He told me that I should talk to you about… us.”

“Us?”  She didn’t sound surprised, which was good.

Us us. He thinks we have…” He turned to face her. “…tension.”

She turned to face him as well, her chin tilted down, eyes focused upward at him.”Tension?”

“Are you just gonna repeat everything I say?” he teased.

A grin that barely touched the corners of her mouth formed. She opened her mouth, then shook her head.

His heart started to pound like a basketball on the court, seeing her look up at him that way. In that moment, he didn’t see the adoration of a crush, or the simple acceptance of a friend. It was a spark of something that he had never seen in Annie’s eyes before – something intriguing. And he wanted to know more.  “Annie, do you…?”

“…feel it?” She watched another car go by. “Yes. I don’t know how it happened.”

The tone of her voice told him she did know. And he did, too. They’d spent a great deal of time alone together, weathering this storm of emotions, and they’d come out the other side. Still… “We tried to do this before.”

“Well, the first time it was just me who liked you.”

“And the second time it was just me.”

“Is the third time the charm?” She took a step closer.

“No,” he said. She frowned at him in confusion. But before her confusion could turn to hurt, he closed the distance between them. “This,” he cupped her jaw with one hand, “is the first time.”

Their lips brushed, and he felt her intake of breath. If she felt surprise, she quickly overcame it and pressed her lips more firmly to his. After a moment, her mouth opened to him with a small sigh. Her tongue, soft but insistent, touched his, and he felt the world spin.

He didn’t care that they were standing by the side of the road out in the middle of nowhere. He didn’t care that the tow truck could show up any minute now. This was not Abed, this was not even Britta or any of the other girls he’d kissed in his lifetime. This was Annie he was kissing under the dark clouds – all their history combined to give him such a feeling of peace and homecoming.

As he pulled her closer, Troy could vaguely feel the wind pick up around them. Annie’s hair blew around his face, tendrils gently slapping against his closed eyelids. A rumble of thunder sounded in the distance. They both ignored it.

Annie shifted her weight against him, pressing him back against the car door. Her bare knee threaded between his denim-clad legs, her thigh molding against his. All blood rushed from his head to his groin, and a groan escaped.

She responded with a soft hum of triumph, her hands going to encircle his waist. A car zoomed by, tapping the horn in a playful cadence. Annie didn’t seem to care, she hooked her thumbs through his belt loops and tugged gently. And just then, the first fat raindrops began to fall, striking his forehead and nose. He broke from her, breathing heavily.

“Inside?” she asked.

They were out of the rain, and into the back seat without Troy registering that they’d moved.  All he could focus on were Annie’s roving hands, her soft skin, the way her breasts rubbed across his chest as she kissed his neck. And all the while, the clock was ticking.

He pulled her down on top of him, out of the view of the windows. She smiled, slow and sexy. Somehow it was all Annie, and yet no Annie he’d ever known before. Then they were kissing again with more passion than before. He pulled at her clothing, she explored below his waistband…

“Oh my god,” he breathed, not really believing they were doing this. “Annie…” His mind seemed to fill with a strange sort of radiance, growing ever brighter. He thought he was going to burst with it…

All at once, he realized why. “Oh my god, Annie!” he shouted, pulling her hand out of his pants. He ducked down and pointed at the rear window. Pulling up behind the car was the tow truck, its headlamps flooding the windows with light.

She squeaked and began straightening her clothing. He did the same, positioning his untucked shirt to hide the… obvious.

Annie scrambled into the front seat just before the tow truck driver knocked on the window. She looked mostly pulled together when she cranked down the window. “You came so fast! Thank you.”

“Everyone okay?” The man looked into the car, noticing Troy in the back seat.

“Yeah, man,” Troy said, trying to keep his voice normal-sounding and mostly succeeding. “We’re cool.”

The man gave Troy a wink. “Maybe I shouldn’t have been quite so fast, huh?” Both Troy and Annie sputtered, but he kept on talking. “I’ll hook you right up, and we’ll be on our way.” He banged twice on the roof of the car, and headed back to his truck to pull it in front.

~0~0~0~


“Here?” the driver asked, looking doubtfully at Annie and the location of her apartment in turns.  The street was mostly deserted, except for a loiterer a couple doors now.

“Yes.” Annie nodded. Why should she apologize?

The driver looked to Troy, silently asking his permission.  Annie wanted to smack the guy. He had spent the entire drive peppering his conversation with double-entendres, and thinly veiled comments about mixed couples.

Troy simply answered, “Why are you looking at me? She told you this is the place.”

Now Annie wanted to kiss Troy. A lot. For a goodly amount of time.

The driver shrugged, doubts gone. “Are you both getting out here?”

At the same time, Annie began to shake her head, Troy began to nod. She caught a split second of sadness from him before taking his hand in hers. She nodded firmly, and he nodded with a wide smile.

“All right. Sign here, please…”

When he was finally gone, Annie and Troy stood there holding hands outside Dildopolis, both at a loss for words.

It was past midnight, and she was sure that campus security wouldn’t bother with a stakeout over something as trivial as a stolen screenplay. Her apartment was as safe as anywhere, that is, behind the multiple locks. Tomorrow, they would both have to face the music, but for now, they only faced each other.

“So…” Troy said.

“So…” Annie cut her eyes toward the stairwell.

Troy cut his eyes to the windows of Dildopolis. “You ever shop here?”

Annie half-laughed, half-cringed. “I’ve never even been in there. Some of the display items scare me. The customers scare me even more.”

Troy looked disappointed. “No?” He leaned forward toward the store, up on his tiptoes.  “It looks like some kind of magical… Sex Toys R Us.”

The loiterer, who turned out to be one of her semi-homeless neighbors, ambled toward them. “I could show you my magic wand, if you want…”

And this was why they needed to get behind all those locks, pronto.  “No, thank you, Harry,” she said, yanking Troy after her. “Have a good night!”

As they flew up the stairs, Troy whimpered, “Ten points from Gryffindor.”

~0~0~0~


For the second morning in a row, Annie woke up with Troy curled around her.  Only this time there were a lot fewer clothes. Annie shifted slightly, wriggling into him, and she smiled as Troy sleepily adjusted his hand splayed across her stomach.

She glanced at the bedside clock – 5:45am.  Of course, she would wake up at the crack of dawn, since her body was conditioned to. But her class wasn’t until nine, and she really didn’t want to leave the comfort of Troy’s arms.  Her boyfriend’s arms. That was a nice thought, especially considering it had been her dream in high school. But she wouldn’t trade the way this happened for a relationship back then. This was… perfect. She snuggled into his arms a bit more.

Troy moaned in his sleep and mumbled, “Yes, I’ll have the woolly mammoth, please,” and snorted once before becoming quiet again.

She wondered what that dream was about. She’d have to ask him later, if he remembered. She had a lot of things to ask him about later, actually - his thoughts, his hopes, his dreams.  How wonderful to have that to look forward to.

She suddenly needed to see his face. Slowly, carefully, she swiveled toward him.  In the faint dawn light, she studied his unfurrowed brow, his slightly open mouth, his other arm tucked up below his ear.  It was almost child-like, the way he looked while he slept.

She wanted to stroke her way down his arm, the curve of his jaw, every place the light touched, and several where it didn’t… but then she would wake him. And why was she awake anyway? Staying beneath the covers with him sounded a whole lot better than getting up to get ready.

She closed her eyes and was just starting to drift off when Troy abruptly called out in his sleep, “Bubbles!”

She woke, startled – she was going to have to get used to his sleep talking! – and her movement was just enough to awaken him, too.

He groaned. “Annie?” His eyes opened and he seemed to realize again where they were.  “Annie,” he said again, breaking into a grin.

She smiled back. “Morning.” She took advantage of his wakefulness and stroked his upper arm. “Sleep well?”

“When I slept,” he answered, winking a double entendre.

She eased over and kissed him lightly.  “Good,” she said, and kissed him again. “Breakfast?”  She immediately regretted it.  She had no desire to get out of the covers. Darn her natural tendencies.

“We could go to Dennys.  The one near school is awesome – they put extra Moons over My Hammy.”

“No, no.” Annie started to shift her way to a sitting position. She couldn’t back out now, that would make her a bad host. “I’ve got milk and cereal, eggs, I think there’s turkey bacon…”

“You’d cook?”

She shrugged. “If you’re hungry.” She slid her feet off the edge of the bed and reached for her robe.

Troy caught her other wrist. “I am.” Annie turned to give him a questioning glance.  He went on, “But not for eggs and turkey bacon.”

She was all too happy to let herself be pulled back under the covers.

Final Chapter: Chapter 11: It IS Greendale - It Could Be Anything

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