Pairing: Annie/Troy (begins Abed/Annie and Abed/Troy)
Word Count: entire fic: 26,588 words, this chapter: 2,156 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
(art by pennnys)
Chapter 8: Driving a Barely-Controlled Beast
Annie gripped the steering wheel, trying to keep from obsessively checking the dashboard every few seconds. Instead, she glanced over at Troy, who was nodding in time to the music, singing under his breath, watching the road go by. If he could tell how nervous Annie was, he wasn’t showing it.
She’d never taken her car on a longer trip than across town. And now they had driven almost three hours down the interstate on what could very well be a wild goose chase. But Troy didn’t have a car, so…
They were lucky that Professor Duncan was not as difficult to ‘reason’ with as Professor Schloss. (Annie still wasn’t sure whether he knew her by name or by boobs.) Duncan still had his notes from Abed’s psychotic break this last Christmas – complete with a copy of the Christmas card and envelope from Abed’s mother.
So they had an address, but no name and no phone number. It would have to be enough.
She looked again at her dashboard, mentally calculating the number of miles they had driven with the number of gallons they’d put in the tank before leaving (the odometer worked but not the gas gauge). They should have a half a tank left, but highway driving was different than city driving, especially when you were trying to keep up with traffic…
“You okay, Annie?” Troy asked.
She realized she was biting her lip. “Yeah.” She unclenched her hands as well. “Mostly.”
“He’ll be there, Annie,” Troy said. He was trying to sound confident, but she could hear the tension in his voice.
“He will,” she agreed. “But I’m not sure we will.”
“This old boy?” Troy cracked a smile, slapping the dashboard with one hand. “He’ll get us there.”
“Troy!” She winced. “Careful!”
“What? Are you afraid I’ll… Hulk-SMASH it or something?”
He was immediately abashed. “Sorry.” He glided his fingers gently across the glove box this time. “Sorry to you, too, boy.”
“Cruella isn’t a boy,” Annie said quietly, a little embarrassed, keeping her eyes on the road.
“Cruella?” Troy asked. She could hear the amusement in his voice. “Like the dog-stealing lady?”
“Yes. She’s a real…” Annie blushed. “…bitch. Cruella.”
“That. Is hilarious.”
Now she felt defensive. “What? You’ve never named your car?”
“I’ve never had a car.”
“Okay, well, then, what about your computer?”
“You’ve named your computer.” It wasn’t a question.
“All Disney characters?” Troy straight out guffawed this time. “What else have you named? Your phone? Your iPod?”
“Your apartment? Like, Dick Tracy’s, or something?”
“No!” Then she made a face. “Ew.”
“Heh. I’ve never named any of my stuff. I mean, except…” He looked down at his crotch.
Annie lifted her hands to cover her ears for a moment before remembering she was driving a barely-controlled beast. “Don’t tell me!”
“So you haven’t named…” He glanced over at her chest. “The girls?”
Annie mentally crossed her arms over her breasts since she couldn’t do it physically. “What? No!” The fact that he was thinking about her body was making her very uncomfortable. It didn’t help that now she was thinking about his body, too.
An exit sign loomed ahead, and Annie started to slide over. “Oh, time for a fill-up,” she said, even though she had calculated that Cruella could make it another 100 miles yet.
“Cool,” Troy said, not questioning her at all. “I could go for a Yoo-hoo.”
“And I need a break from staring at the road,” And a break from thinking about Troy. She got out of the car as quickly as possible and started to fill the tank, willing herself to focus on the numbers on the digital readout slowly going higher.
Troy simply got out of the car and walked into the convenience store. As soon as he was away, she relaxed.
Why was she thinking so much about Troy? Sure, they had spent a lot of time alone together the last couple of days, out of their common need to find out what had happened to Abed. But slowly her worry for Abed was mixing with a nervous anticipation for what would happen when they really did find Abed. Because Abed would have to make a decision, and she was no longer sure what she wanted that decision to be.
Against her will, her eyes drifted away from the pump to looking toward the windows of the convenience store…
Damn, they didn’t have Yoo-hoo. Troy frowned and looked at the rest of the selection. Maybe a Coke? A Lemon Fresca? Maybe a Diet Squirt… Even though she hadn’t said anything, he wondered what Annie would like. He glanced out at the pumps, and for a brief moment, his eyes and Annie’s locked. She turned away quickly.
“Huh,” he said. What was that about? Annie had been acting strangely since the morning they’d woken up together in Abed’s bunk. She wasn’t meeting him square in the eyes, she wasn’t acting as confident as before. She was almost the way he remembered her from high school – no, he never really knew her in high school, to be honest – or more like the first days of the study group. A little uptight, a little tense. Maybe it wasn’t as bad, but it was still there.
Why? Was she acting this way because they were getting closer to Abed? He had to admit, as happy as he was that they finally had a lead to follow, he kept having to push down a thread of nervousness in his stomach. Who knew what they were going to find? If they found him at all.
Troy grabbed the Fresca and a Diet Sprite for Annie and went to the counter. Annie was back in the car by the time he returned. “Here you go.” He handed her the soda with a trying-to-be-cool nod.
“Oh, uh, thanks!” she said, twisting it open and placing it between her knees. ‘Cruella’ was too old for cup holders.
But he wished she’d put it anywhere else. Its placement called attention to her bare knees and short skirt. Looking away quickly, he held out his hand. “Uh, I can hold that while you drive, if you want.”
He heard her laugh awkwardly. “Oh, yeah, okay. Thanks.” He didn’t turn back until the cold bottle was back in his hand.
They pulled out of the gas station and back onto the interstate without talking. Strangely, instead of that being a good thing, Troy found himself thinking back on all the other odd moments he was finding Annie attractive again.
The cute way her messy hair looked when she woke up this morning, the way he had to force his eyes away from her boobs in Professor Schloss’ office, the way his glance kept drifting over to her knees, her calves…
He mentally shook himself. Make up your mind! his inner voice shouted. Is it Abed you want or not? You can’t have it both ways.
No, Abed deserved better than that. Annie deserved better than that. A smaller voice added, But is what they deserve really you?
Troy frowned. He didn’t know. Could anyone ever know?
They passed a sign – sixty miles to Grand Junction. “So we’ll be there in about an hour?”
Annie lifted a hand carefully off the steering wheel to stroke the dash. “If all goes well. I can’t take her much over sixty miles per hour.”
Troy looked at his watch. “That should put us there around…”
Annie gave him a quick, knowing nod. “Dinner.”
Annie double checked the address. It looked like the right place, though there was nothing to distinguish it. Just another tract house in a neighborhood that seemed to stretch endlessly, but the numbers were correct. There was a four-door sedan in the driveway and a lamp on inside, visible through the open curtains. Someone was home. Hopefully someone who knew where Abed was.
“So…” Annie rubbed her hands nervously against her thighs. “Do we just… go up and ring the doorbell?”
“What else?” Troy said. “Unless you wanna go all private detective and watch the house until we see the suspect…”
She laughed. “You really like your mystery shows, don’t you?”
He shrugged, unapologetic. “Doesn’t everyone? Dey da bomb.”
She punched him jokingly on the leg, in what she hoped was a friendly way, but even that brief contact made her knuckles tingle.
Suddenly she couldn’t be out of the car fast enough. “No sense waiting.” She opened the car door and got to her feet, taking a deep breath of fresh air to clear her muddled thoughts. Then she closed the door and strode toward the front door without waiting to see if Troy would follow her.
The doorbell played a deep, sonorous Westchester chime. There was silence for a moment… and then a piercing baby’s cry. Too late, Annie saw a hand-printed note taped above the button. Please knock – doorbell wakes the baby.
Annie cringed. She almost felt like bolting right then and there but she stayed put. The sound of crying came closer and closer and then the door opened to reveal a harried-looking woman carrying the wailing infant.
“I’m so so so so sorry!” Annie held up her hands in apology. “I didn’t see the sign until too late…”
The woman sighed. “No one ever does,” she answered with a slight Polish accent. She bounced the baby in her arms and cooed soothingly, but it wasn’t seeming to help. “Can I help you?”
“My name is Annie Edison, and this is Troy Barnes. We’re…” She swallowed and started over. “Is Abed here?”
The woman’s tiredness turned to surprise. “Abed?”
She hadn’t denied it, so Annie pressed on. “We’ve come to find him.”
The woman – who Annie was now sure was Abed’s mother – frowned. “To find him? All the way from… Greendale?”
“Yes, ma’am,” Troy answered. “We’re really worried about him. Is he here?”
The baby took that moment to wail a little louder. Shushing her, Abed’s mother beckoned them inside. “Yes, he’s here. Come in!”
Annie felt tremendous relief, and judging by Troy’s expression, he might be even more overjoyed.
She took a step toward the threshold, then stopped. “But you don’t know us. Are you sure?”
“You came all this way to see my son? My son who never had a friend in the world until college?” She started to sway back and forth with the child. “Of course you can!” She waved them in and shut the door behind them. She gestured toward the sofa. “Sit, sit! I’ll go get him for you.”
The baby wailed again, and Annie suppressed another wince. The little girl had some lungs on her!
“Mrs… um, Abed’s mom?” Troy called out before she had left the room.
She turned toward him, less frustrated than she had a right to be, and raised her eyebrows.
“I could… you know…” Troy held out his arms. “…hold her. While you go.”
Without protest, she said, “Oh, okay.” Shifting the baby into Troy’s arms, she pointed toward the back of the house. “I’ll be right back.”
The baby whined at being separated from her mother but as soon as she caught Troy’s eyes, she settled. He slowly widened his eyelids until the whites showed all around, and the pursed his lips like a fish.
The baby stilled completely, her eyes widening as well. Then she giggled.
Troy burst into a wide grin in response. She thought that was even funnier.
“Wow,” Annie said. “She loves you.” Annie was impressed – she didn’t think she could have calmed a baby as quickly as that, even with her years of babysitting experience.
“And I love her, too, yes I do!” Troy cooed to the baby in a high-pitched voice. He turned to Annie and continued in the same register, “I really love–” He cleared his throat and dropped his voice an octave. “I love kids. I always had a lot of little cousins around growing up.”
“Did you?” Annie asked. She didn’t really know much about Troy’s family, other than the fact that his dad had a girlfriend their age, and his grandmother was a holy terror.
He placed the baby on his knees and started to bounce her up and down. Once again, she loved it, squealing with delight. “What about you?” he asked Annie.
“I really didn’t–” Annie began, but Abed’s mother came back into the room just then.
“I’m sorry…” She held out her arms for her child as she talked. “…he won’t come.”
Next: I've Watched Enough Romantic Comedies to Know