Barbara (htbthomas) wrote,

Riddle and Rhyme (The Yellow Brick Road remix)

Title: Riddle and Rhyme (The Yellow Brick Road remix)
Author: htbthomas
Characters: Britta, ensemble
Summary: Britta's life is a disaster - she's thinking of just hitting the road and never looking back. But this was not the road she had in mind.
Spoilers: Through 2.19, "Critical Film Studies"
Rating: PG
Word Count: 5,559 words
Betas: 0penhearts, foxtwin
Original work: Can't Tell the Reasons From the Riddle and the Rhyme by summerstorm

Notes: Written for torigates' Remix Fic Challenge! Also inspired by crackers4jenn's awesome Community manip.


“...and so make sure you come to the Pot of Gold dance!” the Dean’s voice rings cheerfully from the intercom. “You never know what you’ll find at the end of the rainbow! Now in other news, tuition for spring semester....”

Troy and Abed exchange a look, their special handshake and a nod. In unison, Shirley and Annie raise their eyebrows with interest. Jeff, who hasn’t been paying attention to anything but his cell phone, keeps tapping away.

Pierce says, “I know what you’d find at the end of that rainbow.”

Everyone tries to avoid eye contact, hoping he’ll leave it there.

“A flaming gay man, am I right?” He holds up his hand for a high five from Troy who is suddenly very interested in the spiral binding of his notebook. Pierce instead turns to Jeff. “You’ll be there, right?”

Jeff sets his cell phone on the table. “Only if you’re there,” Jeff returns in a faux-fawning voice. And it’s on. While the conversation pings back and forth around the table, Britta is a million miles away – she’d stopped listening to the group as soon as the Dean mentioned tuition.

Britta Perry has been on one of those ‘special’ types of payment plans. The kind where you pretend you never got the bill, and assure the bursar’s office that the check will be in on Monday. It’s similar to the one she has going with her landlord. The one that is working so well that she might be thrown out soon...

And now she’s out of work, too. When she looks at her life, the money troubles are only the latest problem in a pile she feels she can’t even see the top of. She’s wondered more than once whether she shouldn’t just cut and run. Leave Greendale far behind and never look back. Cut all ties before anyone has a chance to wonder what happened to her.

Greendale is just a pit stop on the road to life, right? Don’t set in roots, don’t set in friendships, because they’re only fleeting. But it’s too late. She loves these people around this table more than her own family now. How will she cope? Worse yet, how will she deal with their disappointment?

Britta stands suddenly, startling the conversation around the table to silence. “Uh, sorry, guys, I need to take off. I’ll see you...” She throws her bag over one shoulder and her jacket over her other arm. “...later?”

She’s out of the room and nearly out of the building when she hears Dean Pelton’s voice behind her. “Miss Perry? Britta?” How did he get to the library so fast? She can hear the sound of paper rustling (it sounds like a bill), and she doesn’t dare acknowledge him. If he can’t catch her, he can’t confront her. Ducking sideways between two rows of books, she zigzags away, dropping out of sight behind a low shelf.

“Britta?” she hears him call out faintly. “Where are you?”

She waits, keeping as still as possible. A couple of students at a table nearby give her an odd look. She glares back until they look away.

“You can’t hide from me forever, missy!” he says one last time, and she’s sure it’s more than a little gleeful. She sticks her tongue out in his general direction. But he never comes any closer to her hiding spot.

How long should she wait him out? Until closing? With her luck he would be right there waiting at the exit. She settles against the shelf, grabs a book at random, and pretends to read, nerves on edge.

One hour, two hours, three hours pass. In another hour, she has to leave. The library’s closing soon.

After too many long days looking for another job, too many all nighters to make up for the lost study time and too many lost nights of sleep worrying about her problems... her eyes start to close against her will.

Britta starts back awake. How long has she been asleep? No time to check. She stands, gathering her things to make a break for the exit, but she must stand up too quickly. What feels like an entire shelf of books rains down around her head. One smacks her in the temple hard, and she’s out cold.


When she opens her eyes again, her head is killing her. She is lying flat on her back, a bright light shining directly into her eyes. She blinks rapidly, trying to focus. A crowd of people are gathered around her, murmuring worriedly. One of them puts out his hand to help her up, and she takes it, gratefully.

She gets to her feet with a groan. “What happened?” Then her eyes finally focus enough to take in her surroundings... and nothing makes sense.

She is outside, on a bright yellow street, and the hand grasping hers belongs to a man half her size. “Are you all right, miss... miss... I’m sorry, we do not know your name...” He lets go of her hand and bows to her. “...most powerful one.”

“B-Britta...” she answers, but she is distracted by noticing the outfit she has on. A bright blue checkered shirt and jeans, not the outfit she had been wearing. Her hand reaches up to touch her hair, which is in pigtails. When she gets over that shock enough to focus on the man before her, she realizes she is standing in a courtyard full of Technicolor houses and a crowd of tiny men and women who all look like... Chang.

The Chang-like people sigh in wonder at her voice. Britta shakes her head to clear it, but nothing changes. Then a musical voice drifts from over her shoulder. “Britta?”

Britta turns around in confusion. Floating before her is Annie, dressed head-to-knees in pink, a delicate crown on her head. “Wha–?” is all she manages to say.

Annie’s laughter sparkles through the air. “Welcome to Greendalia.”

Maybe she hit her head harder than she thought. Maybe she’s hallucinating from lack of food. And she’s more than a little freaked out at the way Annie is just hovering there in the air. “Uhhh, thanks?” Somehow the Chang-kins are more impressed by that response than the floating coed in a pink cardigan and matching skirt.

“Quite a mess you’ve made this time, haven’t you?”

“Hey!” Britta crosses her arms, and then finally notices the destruction around her. A pair of leather boots is sticking out from beneath the pile of rubble where Britta had woken up. Her annoyance quickly changes to alarm at what she must have done. “Oh, no!”

Annie floats downward in her – bubble – to step gracefully to the yellow cobblestones. “Do not worry, Britta. You’ve done us all a favor. You are seeing what remains of the Wicked Witch of East Greendalia.”

Britta is back to annoyed. “‘Wicked Witch?’ The entire concept of ‘witch’ is a bunch of fundamentalist nonsense. You should have celebrated her power and independence instead of reviling her for—”

Britta is drowned out by a hundred tiny moans, and at least one complains, “This one’s even worse.” Another one murmurs, “Forget the Welcome Song now.”

Annie breaks in and gently explains, “She was the sister of the Wicked Warlock of the West, Craig Pelton.”

“Oh!” Britta looks at the boots again. “She was real? I always thought he had all that women’s clothing for some…other…reason…”

“She was as real as anything you see around you.”

Britta’s lips twist. “You’re not making a very convincing case.”

“Pull off the boots. You will see a very real pair of feet.”

Britta is horrified. “What? No! I already killed her by accident. There’s no way I’m going to steal from the dead.”

She gestures over to the boots and sees that one of the Chang-kins is trying to tug the boots off.

“No, wait!” she yells, racing to pull him away before he can desecrate the body.

But the boots don’t budge. Britta sighs in relief.

Suddenly the air resounds with a piteous scream. “My sister!”

Dean Pelton, or at least, the Greendalian version of him, storms into the gathering wearing a tall, pointed black hat, and flowing black wizard’s robes. “What are you supposed to be? An extra in the Larry Potter films?” He really looks the part, except his face is bright green.

He comes close enough to recognize her and stops short. “Britta Perry! Did you do this?”

“No! I mean, it was an accident!”

He frowns, a terrifying sight in that getup. “Sure it was. Couldn’t find an already dead body to leave lying around the courtyard this time?” he spits, but then his face brightens. “At least her boots escaped damage.”

Britta tries to take advantage of Pelton’s lighter mood. “Here, take them!” She reaches down to try to gently remove them and zap! They are suddenly on Britta’s own feet.

“You–you–shameless hussy!” he sputters. “Take those off!” His head tilts. “Though they do look very cute on you...”

She drops down to try to pull them off but they won’t move. “I’m trying, I swear!”

“They will not come off until they are ready to,” Annie interrupts serenely.

Both Britta and Pelton look at Annie. “What is that supposed to mean?” Britta asks.

“Britta, you need to make a decision. The boots symbolize the journey you must take. Will you continue on your chosen path no matter how hard it will be, or will you abandon it?” She points behind Britta, and everyone turns.

There are two roads laid out before her. They are both yellow and stretch as far as she can see. “Which is which?”

“The one to your right leads to the Emerald College. The left, to places unknown. If you want to succeed, you must decide which is the correct path.”

“Who says I want some small town ideal of white-collar success?”

Annie smiles, uncannily calm. “I think you want to, but you’re afraid you’ll fail.”

“Failure isn’t exactly a new experience for me. But even if I did want to, how can I? I’m broke, and it’s only getting worse.”

“Britta, that’s only an excuse, and you know it. You’ve heard of the concept of long-term results, right?”

“I’ve heard of it.”

“Take one step at a time. The path is filled with challenges, but you’ll overcome them.”

“It’s not that easy, Annie. It’s not like a to-do list.”

“It’s exactly the same. You work on it little-by-little, check things off...”

“I don’t exactly have a fridge to stick it on.” Britta gestures around her. “Or hey, maybe since this seems to be all your idea, you can pop in here and there to remind me.”

Annie’s eyebrows draw down, but Britta turns and starts walking away before Annie can respond – down the unknown path. Go toward Emerald College? Forget that. She knows the Annie-of-her-concussion-fantasy is just trying to help, but if she’s been thinking of just taking off in the real world, why not try it first here?

“Hey!” Pelton calls out. “Where are you going with my boots!?


The next time she pulls herself from her thoughts and notices where she is, she’s in the middle of a cornfield. “Huh, I thought I was going the other way,” she says aloud. “So where’s my scarecrow, then?”

Someone clears their throat, not ten feet away. “You do have eyes, girl, don’t you?” Shirley clucks with disappointment. “I swear, even when I’m right there, no one notices me.”

And there she is, hanging from a wooden pole, her curly hair sticking up more stiffly than Britta has ever seen it. There’s even a huge burlap satchel over her straw-filled shoulder. Two black crows, one perched on each arm, caw as she comes closer.

“Hey, Shirley! Aw, at least your boys are with you in this crazy place.”

“These vermin?” Shirley growls. “Thanks for the side-order of racism with your hello.” Shirley whips her hair back and forth to scare the birds away. “Shoo!”

Britta bites her lip. “Sorry.” She waves her arms to help but the birds just settle in new spots. “So, what are you doing here?”

“It’s my job to protect these fields, though it’s as thankless as you’d expect.”

“Don’t you ever think about just—leaving it all behind? Start fresh somewhere else. A new life.”

“I have responsibilities, sweetie. I can’t just pack up and go. Besides,” her eyes shift from side to side, “if I leave, one of those Chang-kins will come in and take over the field. It’s happened before you know...”

It’s a pretty weird metaphor for what’s happening to Shirley in the real world, but Britta goes with it. “I know.”

“I swear, it feels like I don’t have the sense God gave me anymore.” Shirley’s face droops with sadness.

Britta can see that she’s not the only one who needs to explore her options. “Shirley,” Britta says, reaching up to grasp one straw-filled hand. “Come with me. Keep me company.” Shirley looks more cheerful. Britta continues, “Maybe you can find that brain you need along the way.”

Shirley immediately snaps, “Who said I was brainless, now?”

“I–I’m sorry, I just–”

“Forget it, you’re probably right. I need a change. Help me down from here.” She struggles in her restraints. “I’ll go with you.”


Of course, though they’re both doing their best to avoid walking in any particular direction, taking whichever fork in the road looks more interesting, they still end up in the forest looking up at rusted Tin Man Abed, complete with sharp-looking ax.

“See an oilcan around anywhere?” Britta asks Shirley.

Shirley just reaches into her satchel and produces a can. Britta shrugs and takes it, oiling Abed’s mouth first.

“You’re finally here,” is the first thing he says.

“Believe me, it wasn’t on purpose.” She oils his neck, then his shoulder. “No matter which path we take we keep getting closer to Emerald College anyway.”

“I see.” He nods, his neck creaking. She adds more oil. “No matter how many plot twists, the narrative thread remains the same?”

“Yeah.” Britta smirks. “You’re even meta here?”

He tilts his head oddly. “What else?” He shakes his freshly oiled limbs out. “I suppose I’ll join you on your road trip movie now.”

“Sure! It’ll be great. Like when I followed Radiohead on tour. Haven’t you ever wanted to go on the road?”

“Not really. But I’m willing to do whatever furthers the story. Am I looking for a heart? Seems appropriate, since I never know what to feel.” He steps out of the trees and onto the yellow bricks. “Shall we?” He offers her his arm.

“Yes.” She holds out her other arm to Shirley and they set off at a lively pace. This is not what she pictured when she thought about leaving Greendale behind and going on the road again. Back when she was fresh out of high school, it was all about the new experiences and the future stretching out in front of her. Now, the road seems to have only one possible endpoint. But is this where she really wants to go?

The farther they walk into the forest, the darker it gets. Britta shivers despite herself. If she remembers the story right (she was six the last time she saw the movie), then they’re about to pick up one more companion. But who will it be? Jeff? Pierce? Troy?

A rustle comes from between the trees. “Ooh, what is that?” Shirley grips Britta’s arm a little tighter.

Abed hefts his ax lightly. “Don’t worry, I came prepared. This is a fantasy and not a horror flick?” He looks to Britta for confirmation.

Britta swallows. The fear in her heart is becoming real, even though her mind is telling her that nothing bad will happen. They’ll meet the Lion, they’ll go to Emerald College, probably see the Wizard…

The longer they walk, though, the less she’s sure. Why has her subconscious picked this warped metaphor, anyway? That’s a question for when she ever wakes up.

Next a thump comes from the woods – it sure doesn’t sound like a lion – and Britta holds onto Shirley and Abed tighter.

“What if it’s a werewolf?” Shirley asks her, her eyes wide.

“I don’t know, it could be... but it’s probably even scarier. Like Teapartiers.” Britta shivers.

“Or Charlie Sheen.”

Britta and Shirley both give Abed a sideways look.

“I was just thinking that it could be anything. It is your fantasy, Britta.”

“I guess that makes... sense...” Britta offers dubiously.

“Like turning into a baby doll makes sense,” Shirley grumbles under her breath. “At least this getup has some dignity.”

“Anyway... Werewolves and Teapartiers?”

“And Charlie Sheen,” Abed reminds her.

Shirley frowns. “Oh, my.” Then she adds brightly, “But he’s right, if this is your fantasy, can’t you control what it is?”

Britta stops in her tracks, her frustration bubbling up. “I can’t control anything about my life, why should this be any different!?”

A lion bounds into the road right in front of them. It’s Troy, head to toe in fur. “Who’s different now?”

Britta and Shirley scream with surprise. Troy screams as well, all his bravado suddenly gone. He then notices Abed and jumps backward with another shout. “What’s with the ax, man?”

Abed gestures with it, not really concerned. “It’s probably a prop.” He looks at it more closely. “I think.”

“Ohhhhkay.” Troy makes a point of staying on the other side of Abed, away from the ax. “Where you all headed?”

Britta sighs. “To Emerald College, I guess.”

“You don’t sound like you want to go.”

“I don’t really... but it doesn’t look like I have a choice.” Britta thinks for a moment, then an idea hits. “Wait, do you dance here?”

“Dance?” Troy does a somersault and break dancing backspin, his mane flying out around his head. He lands on his side, one hind leg crossed over the other. “Sometimes.”

“Forget Emerald College, let’s take this act of the road! We could be minstrels, or something. Shirley could sing, you and I could dance, Abed could…” She gives Abed a long, considering look. “…direct.” Britta claps her hands together. “It would be so much more fun than aimlessly studying for some future that I’m not even sure I want.”

“I don’t know,” Shirley says, while Troy adds, “You sure? No gigs in Chang-kin land; they’re mean drunks.” Abed is just cool, cool, cool.

“What did you say before? This is my fantasy? Then this is what we’re going to do.” Britta links arms with Troy and Shirley, and Abed takes Troy’s elbow. “We’re off to tour Greendalia!” she sings with out-of-tune enthusiasm.

The others, much better singers (thank god) pick up the tune: “The wonderful land of Greendalia!”

Britta beams as they start to skip along the road. “We hear it is a w—”

Suddenly her feet are no longer touching the ground. A pair of hairy arms is encircling her. Troy shrieks, Shirley wails, Abed quietly observes everything as they are carried off. “Hey! This isn’t supposed to happen yet!” Britta yells.

The monkey lifting her high into the air screeches, “Pop! Pop!” and keeps flying.


The monkeys drop them unceremoniously into the courtyard of the Wicked Dean’s castle. “Shocking Swerve,” Abed says, brushing himself off. He’s lost the ax during the flight, which makes their group basically helpless.

Pelton appears in a cloud of smoke to stand before them. “You thought you could run from me, did you? Thought that your friends could help you?”

“Look.” Britta takes a step forward, her friends cower behind her. “I told you before. Killing your sister was an accident!”

He waves dismissively. “Oh, I don’t care about that. She was a–” He leans forward and places a hand to the side of his mouth. “–B-I-T-C-H, if you catch my meaning.” He points dramatically at her feet. “What I really want are those boots!” In a lower voice, he complains, “She never let me wear them.”

“Of course you can have them. I never wanted them in the first place!” Britta squats right down and pulls at them. Just as before, they won’t move in the slightest. “If I can just... get them off...”

“Honey, why don’t you try a little soap? It always worked for me,” Shirley suggests, coming to one side of her. “Or butter?”

“Abed and I could each take a side and pull!” Troy says, coming to the other side. “Like a tug-of-war.”

“Or a wish bone,” Abed adds.

“‘Course you could always cut them off…” Shirley adds.

The Dean huffs in frustration. “Oh, just forget it. I’ll get them myself before you ruin them.” He reaches down to touch them, and a zap of electricity sparkles around his fingers. He jumps back with a yelp.

“Never mind...” squeals Troy and goes back to cowering behind Shirley.

“Did you do that?” The Dean asks Britta, blowing on his fingers.

“No! I don’t know why they...” Britta remembers Annie-as-Glinda telling her they were a symbol of her journey. “Wait. Maybe I do. I have to finish my stupid trip to Emerald College before they’ll come off.”

“So no tour?” Troy asks. His voice is muffled in Shirley’s hair.

“I guess not.” Britta plants her fists on her hips. “If you want these back, tell your monkeys to take us back to the road.”

Pelton frowns. “And you promise to return them after?”

This almost feels like her promises to pay her tuition bill. With as much sincerity as she can muster, she says, “I will.”

“Then my Magnificent Minions, take them to Emerald College!” he pronounces grandly, arms raised. “You know, this is the best part of my job.”


Troy shakes himself out as soon as they’ve landed in front of the gates. “Ugh, and I used to think having a monkey for a pet was cool.”

As grand as the place looked from the air, the gates look even more impressive close up. The four of them walk up to the massive doors, and pull the rope to ring the bell. It clangs with the strains of “Greendale’s the Way it Goes” before small door set in the side opens above them.

Leonard sticks his head out and gives the group a look of contempt. “What do you want.”

“To...” Now that they’re here, what is she supposed to do? “Um, see the Wizard, I guess?”

“You guess.”


“The Wizard doesn’t see weirdos.” He blows a raspberry at them and shuts the door.

“Hey!” Britta uses the knocker this time, banging loudly. “That’s discrimination against weirdos! And since when has this college turned away weirdos, anyway?!”

She can hear discussion behind the door. The door opens again and this time Star-Burns sticks his head out. He looks them over briefly, and settles his gaze on Britta for a little bit longer. “I like the pigtails, blondie,” he says with a leer.

“Uck, you’re disgusting.” The words are out of her mouth before she can stop them, and the door bangs shut again.

The little group around her moans in disappointment. “Great, Britta,” Troy says. “You couldn’t just, you know, use your girly parts on him?”

Shirley smacks his arm. Britta just gives him a look. She’s trying to cut back on stuff like that. She grabs the knocker again. “C’mon. Let us in! Annie, the White Witch, sent us!”

The door opens again in a flash. “Did you say... Annie?” Star-Burns asks.

“Yes! Yes!” Everyone nods furiously.

Britta continues. “She’s my best fr—” Shirley elbows her in the side. “—Uh, one of my best friends!”

Star-Burns’ face changes to delight. “Oh, well, that’s a babe of a different color! Come on in!”

The doors swing wide. Inside, the streets are decorated so colorfully that they stand star-struck for a few moments. Star-Burns takes the opportunity to sidle up close to Britta and murmur, “You will put in a good word for me with her, won’t you?”

Britta nods. “Which way to the Wizard?”

He cheerfully points down a street,. They pass many familiar faces dressed Greendalia-style. There’s Slater the shop owner, Whitman the orator, Duncan the barkeep, Garrett the groomsman, Pavel the food seller, and the Human Being… well, Britta can’t tell what he’s doing there. Looking uncomfortable as always.

It’s with a wistful shake of her head that they pass the hair salon. She can remember being insanely jealous of Dorothy’s curly locks even at six, but she’d rather get this whole thing over with. Once she’s done here, will she finally wake up? Or will she really start on the life of adventure she’s been missing?

And which one does she want in the end?

The number of people on the street grows fewer and fewer until they are standing in front of the Wizard’s palace. As if by magic, the giant doors open to reveal a huge... courtroom.

Floating above the oversized judge’s chair is an enormous head. It looks like Pierce. “Who dares disturb the great and powerful Wizard!” his voice booms, but it only sounds like a caricature of the man.

“We do!” Britta, Shirley and Abed proclaim with varying degrees of confidence.

“Not me!” Troy whimpers, this time holding onto Abed for support.

“What do you want?!”

Britta rolls her eyes. “Oh, please. Enough with this...” She stamps over to the side door of the courtroom and yanks it open. “…Jeff.”

He’s standing there, hands on the controls, looking better than anyone has a right to in a green tailored suit. “Heyyyyy,” he says sheepishly.

“So,” she demands. “I’m here. I just wanna go on with my life. How do I get these stupid boots off?”

Jeff’s eyes go wide with disbelief. “You… came all the way here… just to ask me that?”

Britta just folds her arms.

“I can tell you the name of a great shoe-shiner, and the best place to buy Italian leather, but I’m afraid that’s the extent of my shoe knowledge.”

“Great. Just great.” She turns and sees a door to the courtyard, stalks over to yank it open and goes outside. “Annie!” she yells into the air. “Where the hell are you?!”

The rest follow her out into the courtyard. “Sweetie,” Shirley says, placing her hand on Britta’s shoulder. “What are you doing...?”

“Trying to get Annie the Perfect’s butt down here. Annie!”

Annie appears in a bubble of pink only moments later. “Geez, Britta, I think they heard you in Narnia.” She glides toward them gracefully. “Now what did you need?”

“To get these boots off. I’m here, I saw the Wizard, what other crap do I have to deal with?”

“You’re in such a hurry to leave?” Annie asks, sympathy lacing her voice. “I thought you were trying to escape your problems.”

Britta sits heavily on a stone bench, the weight of all her real-world cares crashing down again. “I was. But not here.” She sighs. “Here the Yellow Brick Road just seems to loop back in on itself, like the snake eating its own tail.”

“Ouroboros,” Abed says with a nod.

“Burritos?” Troy asks with a confused frown.

“At least at Greendale, even if I was spinning my wheels, the road was leading somewhere. I just didn’t know where that was yet.” She closes her eyes. “I’d rather be there.”

Now that her memories of the movie are syncing up with her dream, she clicks her heels together three times. It can’t hurt after all. “There’s no place like Greendale... there’s no place like Greendale... there’s no place like Greendale...”

Her feet immediately feel lighter, and she opens her eyes, hoping to see the library again. But no, she’s still in the courtyard, still surrounded by fantasy versions of her friends. However, the boots are off, sitting neatly beside her on the bench.

“Huh,” she says.

There is a rush of wind and a green hand plucks the boots from the bench. “I’ll just be taking these...” They all look up to see Pelton streaking across the sky on his broom, boots acquired. They faintly hear as he disappears, “Hee hee, have I got plans for you, my pretties...”

She looks back up at Annie. “So now what?”

Annie opens her mouth to answer, but she’s distracted by Jeff walking back in from the courtroom with a big black bag. “I never got a chance to give you your gifts.”

“Oh, goodie!” Troy claps his paws together.

“First, for Shirley, a deed for your land. If those bastard Chang-kins try to mess with it again, sue their asses.”

Shirley looks highly pleased, and tucks it carefully in her bag.

“For Abed, a heart locket. To remind you that whether you feel it or not, you are loved.”

He gazes at it in his silvery palm. “But it’s only half of a heart.”

“The other half goes to Troy.” Jeff hands the second necklace to the lion. “You may not feel very brave, but with Abed by your side, you’ll be the bravest there is.”

“And now, Britta…” It takes him a while to pull his last gift from the bag, and when he does it is a huge cage. Inside is…

“A snake?”

Troy’s already running the other way. “I’ll catch up with you later, Abed…!”

Annie comes close to the cage, leans down to take a closer look, and coos at it. Girl’s got guts.

“How did you even get it in the bag?” Britta asks Jeff.

Jeff just looks at her, in that way that seems to imply do you even have to ask? Britta concedes his point in the same manner.

“Why a snake?”

“This is a wild snake. You can take care of it, feed it... and then if you ever feel like cutting and running again, you can release it into the wild.”

“So... I’m a snake? A little scary, a little dangerous...?”

“A little wild.” Jeff smirks. “Do you want it, or not?”

“I’ll take it,” she says sharply. “Give me that. Who knows what you’d do with it...”

She sets the cage on her knees and looks into the snake’s eyes. They’re so calm; it’s as if even though the snake knows it’s trapped for now, it also knows it will one day be free.

The world around her begins to spin slightly, Britta and the snake at the center of the whirlwind. She blinks rapidly, and she finds herself in a hospital bed. Instead of a cage, there’s a blanket.

And her head is killing her.

Her pocketbook is going to be hurting, too.

“Oh, so you’re awake now,” a friendly male voice says. She looks up to see Nurse Jackie smiling over her. She didn’t know he worked at the hospital, as well as the school’s medical center. “How does your head feel?

She groans. “Like a house fell on me.”

He laughs jovially. “Just an entire bookshelf. So close.” He makes a couple of notes on a chart. “I’ll give you some pain medicine. You feeling up to visitors? Your friends are in the waiting room.”

“Send them in.” She should have realized they’d be here. That’s what their group did – they visited Jeff, they took care of Pierce...

“Britta!” Shirley squeals, sweeping into the room. “Are you okay?”

“Wow, that is some shiner,” Jeff comments with a cringe. “You know ‘hitting the books’ is just a metaphor, right?”

She punches him in the arm, then winces in pain. It’s not just her head that hurts.

“We were so worried about you,” Annie says. “You’ve been unconscious for hours.”

“Yeah, Abed and I found you under that pile of books - we were messing around in the study room and heard the crash. The way the shelf just collapsed? It was awes—awful.” Abed nods in agreement.

“Don’t worry about the bill, either,” Pierce says. “I got it this time.”

Everyone gives her a sympathetic look.

“Wait.” She frowns. Even that hurts. “I don’t need any help with the bill.”

“Britta...” Annie chides her quietly.

“Yes, honey.” Shirley pats her arm. “When were you going to tell us?”

“The Dean came by, looking for you,” Abed explains. “He wanted us to give you this.”

He hands her an envelope. It’s open.

“It was boring in the waiting room…” Troy doesn’t sound as apologetic as he looks.

And then they are tumbling over each other, offering her a place to stay, help finding a job, a no-interest loan, so much that she has to shout over them to be heard. “If it’s that important to you, I’ll stay!” she grouses, and then smiles. She was never going anywhere, not after her trippy dream, and certainly not after seeing how much these people are willing to do to help her stay. Like it or not, Greendale is her home now. And there’s no place like… well, you know.

Just before they leave her alone for the night, Shirley places a bag on the chair. “I brought you a change of clothes for when you check out tomorrow. Sleep tight.”

As she closes her eyes, she sees Shirley’s included a pair of boots. Those things are so going to Goodwill tomorrow.
Tags: community, fanfiction

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