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Title: The Law of Tangents, 6/11
Author: htbthomas
Fandom: Community
Pairing: Annie/Troy (begins Abed/Annie and Abed/Troy)
Word Count: entire fic: 26,588 words, this chapter: 2,356 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


(art by pennnys)



Chapter 6: Hey, We’re on the Same Team in This One


Annie took in the Nadirs’ falafel shop as they walked in, scrutinizing the menu. Everything looked pretty tasty.  Nothing she couldn’t eat, though she wasn’t a big fan of lamb…

They walked up to the counter. A college-aged kid stood at the register. His nametag read: Ahmed.  “Welcome to FaGood’s,” he said, sounding both bored and falsely cheerful at the same time. With dead eyes, he added, “Where it’s not fal-awful, it’s Fa-Good.”

That was one of the worst puns Annie had ever heard. She turned to Troy, mouth open to ask–

“Abed came up with it.” Troy shrugged. “Anything to improve how customers see them. Remember? 9/11 of the falafel business.”  Then Troy lowered his voice. “Mr. Nadir hates it, but he already printed out all the menus, and he hates wasting money even more.”

“Oh, hey, Troy,” Ahmed said, waking from his trance to recognize him. “Abed’s not here.”

Annie’s heart sank.  She mentally crossed another possibility off the list. “Have you seen him?”

“No. We don’t usually work on the same days, anyway.”

“I didn’t know he even worked here at all,” Annie said, surprised. “He never talks about it.”

“His dad said if he was ‘going to waste his time on all this film nonsense,’ Abed had better do something useful as well.”

A voice came from the back. “Why is there no order?” Mr. Nadir’s head popped through the window to the kitchen. His annoyance quickly deepened when he saw them. 

Troy lifted a hand to wave nervously. “Heeey, Mr. Nad–”

“Oh.  You.” He waved a hand in dismissal and went back out of sight.

“–ir,” Troy finished quietly.  “Nice to see you, too.”

Annie’s heart dropped a little further. She would have thought, of anyone, Mr. Nadir would be on good terms with Troy.  He was Abed’s very best friend.  If that was how he treated a best friend, how would he treat a girlfriend? Especially a non-Muslim one.  Mr. Nadir’s marriage to a non-Muslim had been a disaster…  For that matter, how would Mr. Nadir treat a boyfriend?

By the look on Troy’s face, he was thinking the same thing.  She was used to a lack of parental consent. Troy, not so much. Annie placed a consoling hand on his arm. He gave her a small smile.

“We don’t have to talk to him,” Annie said, pulling him a little ways from the counter. “If you don’t want to.”

“Really?” he said, his face filling with relief.  Then he deflated again. “No, I can’t be scared of him.  If I want to be with Abed, I have to deal with his dad.”

She smiled, shrugging. “Me too, right? C’mon, we’ll do it together.”

Troy nodded, clearly steeling himself for battle. “Cool.”

Annie turned back to Ahmed. “Do you think we could talk to Mr. Nadir?”

Ahmed frowned. “Why?”

Troy said, “It’s about Abed.”

“Okay…” he said dubiously. “I’ll ask.”  He walked to the opening between the cashier and the kitchen, and called in a loud voice, “Mr. Nadir? They want to talk to you.”

“What? Who?” Mr. Nadir shouted over the noise of the kitchen appliances.

“Abed’s friends!” Ahmed shouted a little louder.

“Abed what?” Mr. Nadir shouted, still not coming into view.

“His friends!”

Mr. Nadir finally came to the opening.  “What?” He was clearly annoyed.

Annie spoke up. “Can we ask you about Abed?”

“You’re still here?” He glanced at the cash register and counter.  “And you haven’t ordered anything?”

Ten minutes later Annie and Troy were sitting in a booth with a falafel wrap and a chicken shawerma.  Annie took a tentative taste.  The falafel was a little crunchy, a little spicy, and a little creamy, too.  It was pretty good! She wondered whether Abed was any good at preparing them. She’d never seen him eat anything other than cereal, cafeteria and restaurant food.

Troy was already chowing down.  “Told you it was good, didn’t I?” he said, noticing her surprise.

“You were right.” 

Mr. Nadir came out from the kitchen and bustled toward them.  In a completely different manner from before, he asked, “Is the food to your liking?”

“Great,” Troy said, his mouth full.

“It’s very good.” Annie put down her wrap.  “Can we ask you about Abed now?”

His pleasant demeanor vanished as quickly as it had appeared.  “Now? When you are eating?”  He gestured around the place.  “I’m too busy to be chatting about my son.”

Annie and Troy looked.  The place was just as empty as it had been when they came in. She raised an eyebrow at him.

He sighed.  “Okay. You have two minutes of my time.”

“Thank–”

Shorter if I get any customers,” he warned, pulling over a chair to sit in.  “Now tell me.  What is so important?”

“Have you seen Abed in the last 24 hours?”

“In the last day?” He looked upward, as if trying to remember. He then looked back at Annie. “No.”

“What about in the last few days?” Troy asked.

“I saw him… on Thursday.  He came in and worked a shift. He’s scheduled again for tomorrow.”

“Really?” Annie felt hopeful again.  “Did he tell you what he was doing this weekend?”

“Abed?” Mr. Nadir scoffed.  “You must be joking. He never tells me anything.” He stood then, placing the chair he had been using back under a table. Annie looked out the window; a couple was approaching from the street.  “Of course, I don’t ask him anymore.  I don’t understand half the things he does.” He said that last statement with a disapproving look toward Troy.

Troy hunched a little in his seat, but didn’t cringe away.

With a polite nod, the ‘owner facade’ came back. “Enjoy your meal and come again.” He turned on his heel to greet the new customers at the door.

Shokran,” Annie called after him, thanking him in Arabic.

He gave her an odd little smile, both pleased and disconcerted, and said, “Afuwan.” Then he directed the couple to their table.

“Well, not all hope is lost, maybe he’ll show up to work tomorrow,” Annie said. 

“Maybe.” Troy didn’t seem so sure.

“And he has to sleep somewhere. I bet he comes back to the dorm tonight.” She took another bite of her wrap, chewing more quickly this time. This hope was all she had to go on, he had to come back tonight. All they had to do… was wait.

~0~0~0~


8:00

“Is this really what he usually watches on a Monday night?” Annie asked disbelievingly.

Switched At Birth’s title screen displayed on Abed’s TV.

Troy settled back against the cushions.  He wasn’t complaining. “His TV, his rules.”

9:00

“Are you sure you want to try this?”

Annie readjusted the video game controller in her hands.  “Yes.”

“Really.” Troy smirked.

“There are girl gamers, you know.  Are you some kind of misogynist?” She pressed START.

“Whatever, Britta,” he said and his character leapt ahead.

Her character managed to get killed in seconds.  “So, maybe I’m not that good.”

“Chyeah.”

“Yet!” She shifted into a more comfortable position. “I’m a quick study.  Just give me enough practice…”

10:00

Troy’s character exploded in a rain of limbs.  “Hey!” he shouted. “We’re on the same team in this one.”

“Sorry…”

11:00

Troy threw down his controller.  “How are you even doing that? Are you cheating or something?”

Annie chuckled just loud enough to hear. “Can I help it if my martial arts training gives me quick reflexes?”

12:00

“I don’t think staring at the door is going to make Abed come any faster, Troy.”

“Oh, and checking your watch every three minutes is?”

“We could play X-Box again…?”

 Troy harrumphed. “No.”

1:00

Annie stood. “He’s not coming. We should go, Troy.”  She slung her backpack over her shoulder and headed for the door.

Troy very deliberately put his feet up on the coffee table, crossing one leg over the other. “I’m staying.” He had waited this long, there was no reason for him to go home tonight.

“All night?”

“Yep,” he said, sounding the ‘p’ more forcefully than usual.

Annie glanced at the door for a moment, and then removed her backpack.  “Then I will, too.”

“You don’t have to. Only one of us needs to stay.”

“I want to,” she said with a touch of determination.

“Fine.” He picked up the remote. He could be just as coolly determined as Annie if he wanted to be. He switched it to the Disney channel – he could use cheering up.

2:00

“What are you doing, Simba? Don’t run away!” Troy cried at the screen. “Can’t you see how much your family will miss you?” All of the emotions Troy had been trying to control – worry, fear, jealousy, anger – came flooding out all at once. “Whatever happened, you can work it out!”

Annie tried to reach over and touch him gently on the shoulder, but he leapt up away from her.

“Don’t try to comfort me!  It’s your fault that this happened in the first place!”

Annie gasped, offended. “My fault? How can you even think that?”

He rubbed his forearm angrily across his eyes to clear the tears blurring his vision. “Abed and I have been hanging out for two years, and not once has he just disappeared like this! He always calls, or texts, or tells me…”

“I’ve been friends with him that long, too, Troy!”

“Not like this… this hanging around every single day…” He gestured wildly around the room. “…doing stuff.”

“I hardly think–”

He cut her off. “You scared him off! You told him you wanted to date him and he didn’t want to hurt your feelings!”

Annie jumped to her feet.  “Oh, it was just me who wanted to date him?  What about you?” She poked him in the chest with a finger, emphasizing each word. “You. Kissed. Him. Too.”

He moved her hand away and started to pace. “This is exactly the same thing that happened with that sexy librarian.  Mariah. Abed and me swore we’d never let a girl get between us again.”  Swiveling to point at Annie this time, he accused, “And you did!”

Annie crossed her arms. “Abed didn’t seem to mind!” More quietly, she added, “Until he left.”

“Uh huh.” Troy crossed his arms as well.

“Why didn’t he just tell us which one of us he preferred?  I could have handled it.”

“Me too,” Troy said, but he didn’t feel as sure as he tried to sound.

“Or neither! If he just wanted to stay friends with both of us, he could have said that.”

“Yeah.”

“Neither of us is at fault here…” She nodded firmly.

“Right.” Then Troy sat down on the sofa, overwhelmed with defeat. “Then why do I feel so wrong…?”

“I don’t know.” Annie sat beside him. “But I do, too.”

3:00

Troy blinked himself awake, and looked around the room. The television was flickering away, unwatched. Annie was curled up on the opposite end of the sofa. He got up quietly and turned off the TV, then went to the closet to get the extra blankets.  She stirred slightly as he was covering her, mumbling something unintelligible. 

Troy walked over to the bunk beds. Slipping off his shoes, he crawled into the bottom bunk, his usual spot when he slept over.  The springs squeaked, a little too loudly.

“Abed?” Annie said in a scratchy voice, lifting her head from the arm of the sofa.

“Just me,” Troy said, “Go back to sleep.”

Annie stretched and yawned. She dragged the blanket with her as she approached the bunk bed ladder.

“No!” Troy whispered fiercely.

“What?”

“That’s–”

“–Abed’s bunk. Oh. I get it.”  She turned around and went back to the sofa without further argument.

4:00

Annie opened her eyes, unable to sleep, even though her body desperately needed it. The sofa was comfortable enough – for a sofa – and the room was quiet enough – for a dorm room. But her mind was still churning from the events of the day.

Was Abed gone because he was hurt? If so, none of the hospitals in town knew it. Was he gone because he was planning something? If so, why hadn’t he told anyone? Annie could only think of one other reason: Abed was gone because he needed to escape.

And that meant he had to escape them. To escape her.

So far, she had kept it together, damming up her sadness and rejection by focusing on her worry over Abed’s whereabouts.  But here, in Abed’s room in the early hours of the morning, that wave broke through and filled her.  The tears leaked down her face, an unstoppable river, and she let them.  She tried to keep quiet, knowing that she might wake Troy.  He was just as tired as she was.  One of them needed to be alert for the search tomorrow. But try as she might, a sob escaped before she could stop it.  She covered her face with the blanket and listened carefully to see if Troy had stirred.

In the still, quiet pre-dawn, barely audible over the hum of Abed’s mini-fridge, was the sound of Troy crying softly from the bunk beds.  Suddenly her tears seemed insignificant. As hard as this was hard on her, it was probably harder on Troy.

She pulled back her blankets and crept over to the bottom bunk. It was empty. She looked up – and smiled sadly. Troy had moved from his usual spot to Abed’s.

Without speaking, Annie climbed the ladder. Gently pulling back the covers, she slipped in beside him.

“Annie?” he asked, his voice hoarse.

“Shh,” was all she said, putting her arm around him and pulling him close.  He nodded and settled into her arms.  They cried quietly together for a while, finally succumbing to their mutual exhaustion before the sun rose.

Next: Chapter 7: He's Fast for an Old Dude

Comments

( 2 comments — Leave a comment )
screeching_stop
Oct. 17th, 2011 03:41 am (UTC)
This story, gahhh (excuse my lack of eloquence for the remainder of this post), is just brilliant.

I love your meticulous attention to detail and research as demonstrated by your use of "Shokran" and "Fa-Good" (that's the canon name of the restaurant right? I'm a little ashamed to ask. If it isn't, well by Zeus, it should be because - TOTALLY catchy - haha).

As sad as I am about Abed's absence, it's really nice to see TA deal with this shared pain together. I think you've done a great job establishing a push-and-pull dynamic between the two. Awesome!

Also, I'll have you know that your story inspired me to tweet Dan Harmon; I begged him for an intense ATA video game session this season.
htbthomas
Oct. 17th, 2011 03:21 pm (UTC)
Aw, thank you! :) I'm so happy when a new person comments, or really anyone at all. ♥

I lived in Egypt for a couple of years, so I come by "shokran" honestly. foxtwin is responsible for the awesomely punny "FaGood's" name. They haven't named the restaurant in the show! I'll surely have to go back and change this fic if they ever do.

Oo, wouldn't an ATA videogame session be amazing? I hope they do that somehow during the ATA as roomies storyline.
( 2 comments — Leave a comment )

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