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Title: The Law of Tangents, 9/11
Author: htbthomas
Fandom: Community
Pairing: Annie/Troy (begins Abed/Annie and Abed/Troy)
Word Count: entire fic: 26,588 words, this chapter: 3,354 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


(art by pennnys)



Chapter 9: I’ve Watched Enough Romantic Comedies to Know


Annie and Troy looked at each other in dismay. “Why?” Annie asked in a small voice. Troy handed the baby over numbly.

“He said, ‘I have removed myself from the situation,’” Abed’s mother repeated in a really good imitation of her son’s voice. “Or something like that.” She started walking toward the kitchen.  “If you’ll excuse me, I need to get dinner going.  In fact, stay for dinner. My husband’s out of town this week and I could do with some adult conversation.” She frowned, as if thinking that her own son wasn’t fitting that description right now. “If Abed wants to eat, he can join all of us.” 

~0~0~0~


Abed’s mom left the room, muttering about how Abed could ‘get over himself.’ Annie looked like she wasn’t sure whether they should stay. Troy wasn’t sure about anything anymore.

 “But if he doesn’t want us…?” Annie left the question hanging in the air.

“I know, right?” Troy said, slumping in defeat. “‘Removed himself’? What does that even mean?”

“Maybe he thinks we’ll stop fighting over him if he’s not around?”

“Tchyeah, likely.” Troy shook his head. “Abed is so smart most of the time that you forget he can be pretty stupid, too.”

“We all can. But what if…?”

“Yeah?”

“We went to him? Would he really run away from us?”

Troy pounded a fist into his palm. “I’d like to see him outrun me. Well, I mean, a second time.”

“We’ll have to be sneaky.”

“The sneakiest.”  Troy tiptoed toward the entryway to the kitchen, trying not to make a sound.

Annie cleared her throat behind him. “I don’t think we have to be that careful yet.”

He turned back to her, eyebrows rising. “But what if we do?”

She shrugged. “I guess it wouldn’t hurt.”

He stuck his head around the opening. Abed’s mom was stirring something in a pot.  The baby was in a bouncy seat on the floor, a safe distance from the stove.  “Excuse me, Abed’s mom?” he called in a voice just above a whisper.

She kept stirring. The baby turned toward him, though.  He made her another goofy face for her and she rewarded him with a big toothless grin.

Troy tried again, a little louder.  “Abed’s mom?”

Still nothing.  Annie tapped him on the back, whispering, “I think the fan over the stove is too loud for her to hear you.”

The baby was still watching him.  He waggled his fingers over his head and she giggled.

That made Abed’s mom look – at the baby, anyway.  “What’s got you so tickled, moja kochana?” She followed the baby’s gaze to Troy.  “Oh!” she said, loudly enough that Troy winced. “You can come in here, if you want.”

Troy sighed. If Abed was nearby, he would know they were coming anyway. He came in, Annie following. Abed wasn’t in the kitchen or dining room.  Maybe they were still good? Still using a low voice, he asked her, “We were just wondering… where is Abed right now? Is he…” He mouthed the next words. “…somewhere in the house?”

Abed’s mom looked at both of them blankly. Then she seemed to realize what Troy wanted.  “Abed’s not in the house at all.  He’s out in the backyard.  There’s a tree house back there, built by the previous owner. He’s even sleeping there.” She shook her head, clearly unhappy about it, but not forcing the issue.

“Is there a way to get back there without Abed noticing us?” Annie asked.

She set down her stirring spoon and thought a moment. “Not really. Maybe I could open the door and tell him how soon dinner will be ready…?”

Troy followed her thought with, “And we could slip out behind you?”

She nodded.  “It has a 50/50 chance of working.” She turned down the heat on the burner to low, then scooped up the baby again.  “Stay out of sight until I’m sure he’s not looking in your direction.”

There were curtains on either side of the sliding door, a perfect place to hide.  Abed’s mom opened the door and stepped out onto the patio with the baby in one arm.  “Abed?” she called.

Troy listened hard, but he didn’t hear any response.

“Abed, dinner’s going to be ready in twenty minutes.  If you want to eat out there, it’s fine with me.”

Annie frowned at Troy, but he held his hands up in a gesture of patience.

“But,” Abed’s mom continued, “you’re going to have to come in here and fix your own plate.”

Still no response that Troy could hear.  Wow. Abed was really upset with them, wasn’t he?

They could hear her sigh.  “You know, there’s avoiding confrontation and there’s being a hermit. Neither one of these is going to help.”

“Yes, Mom.” Troy slumped in relief just to hear Abed’s voice again. Annie had placed a trembling hand over her heart.

Troy sneaked a peek outside.  He could see the tree house, and a flickering light through the windows. But not Abed.  There was a good chance that if they couldn’t see him, he couldn’t see them. Troy waved Annie forward, and started forward in a crouched position.

True to the plan, Abed’s mom didn’t react.  The baby cooed as Troy passed by, but was otherwise quiet. The grass between the patio and the tree crunched beneath his shoes but he couldn’t hear Annie’s footfalls behind him, so he felt safe.

“Okay, well.  I’ll call you again when dinner’s ready.” Abed’s mom slid the door shut behind her, just as Troy reached the base of the tree. He made sure to stay out of sight of the opening at the top of a set of hammered-in wooden steps.

Annie came to the other side of the steps, taking care to stay out of sight as well. Placing a finger to his lips, and receiving a nod from Annie in return, he placed one foot gently on the first nailed-in step.

“You don’t have to sneak around; I know you want to come up,” Abed said from above. 

Troy stifled a yelp; Annie gasped.

“I should have known you wouldn’t listen to my mom. You’re both too stubborn.”

“That’s right,” Annie called up to him, hands on her hips.  “You think we would ever stop until we found you?”

“No.”

“Then why…?” Troy asked. “Why, man?  I thought we were best friends!” His hurt started to bubble up, but this was one situation where his anger overpowered it.

“We are. But I could see that things were going to change, and…” He trailed off, his voice getting quieter, breaking slightly.  This was not like him.

Troy gave Annie a worried glance and then started up the steps.  “We’re coming up.”

When he popped his head over the floorboards, Abed was sitting crosslegged on a blanket in the light of a camp lantern, hands folded serenely in his lap.  There was no sign of the emotion that had crept out a moment ago.  Abed regarded him for a moment, then waved. “Hello.”

Troy frowned in frustration. “Hi.” Then he hefted himself into the tree house and sat to Abed’s left, facing him.

Annie was inside a few minutes later, sitting to his right. “Abed,” she said gently, touching his leg.  “What’s wrong? Why did you run away from us?”

He looked at her, then at Troy, then down at his hands. “I didn’t run away from you.”

Troy laughed in shock. “I think you did, buddy.”

“I ran away from the situation. From the inevitable conclusion.”

Annie said, “No conclusion is inevitable, Abed.” She squeezed his leg. “We’re both your friends, Abed.  You could have talked to us.”

“We’re talking now.” He looked up, then, and met each of their eyes in the dim light with a sort of half-smile.

“Yes, we are.” Annie took one of Abed’s hands and then shifted closer to Troy, taking one of his as well. Abed followed the movement of her hands with his eyes. “Abed, you know we never meant to scare you away.”

Troy took Abed’s other hand to close the circle. Abed followed that as well. “Definitely not. Especially not after what happened with Mariah.”

They both waited for Abed to speak.

He took an audible breath, eyes closing. “I know. You wouldn’t want to let anything get in the way of our friendship.”

“Exactly,” Annie said, while Troy put in, “Never, man.”

He opened his eyes. “But I could see if one of you started dating me, that instead of being friends with both of you, you would stop being friends with each other. Maybe not right away. But it would happen.”

“No…” Annie protested; Troy shook his head. But they caught each other’s eyes. Abed might be right.

“I’ve watched enough romantic comedies, and enough sitcoms to know – love triangles never end well. Not for everyone. Not for the one left out.”

That time, neither of them had a response.

“I couldn’t do that to either one of you.”

They sat for a moment in silence.  Annie broke it first.  “Then…” She swallowed, and he could see her steel herself. “…I won’t do it to you either. As much as I want something romantic between us, I want our friendship even more.”

Troy should have been overjoyed, but instead these words tumbled out, “Me too! If it’s going to be like this, I don’t think I could take it! Let’s go back to the way it was.”

Annie squeezed his hand in gratitude, her eyes glimmering with unshed tears. Troy found that her reaction was all he needed to feel closure. He smiled widely, feeling completely happy for the first time in days.

“I don’t think we can,” Abed said.

They both whipped their heads back to Abed. “What?” Annie asked, hurt. “Don’t you believe us?” Troy’s voice cracked.

“There’s still some unresolved tension to work out. Can I talk to each of you alone?”

“I… guess so.” Annie straightened out her legs and swung them into the opening in the floorboards.  “You go first, Troy.” She was starting down the steps before he could protest.

Through the tree house windows (it was no wonder they hadn’t been able to sneak up on him), they silently watched her go back into the house.

As soon as the door was shut behind her, Troy laid into Abed. “Look what you did, Abed! She’s probably devastated, thinking you don’t believe her.” He was feeling much the same, but Annie’s feelings seemed more in danger. 

“Oh, I believe her.”

“Then… Gorram it! Is it me then?”

“No, I know you mean it.”

“Damn straight I do.” He pounded a fist on his leg for emphasis. “Then what…? What tension are you talking about?” He was more confused than ever. 

“Your tension.” He looked over at the house and then back to Troy before saying, “With Annie.”

~0~0~0~


Abed’s mother looked up from the stove as Annie came in. “No luck?”

Annie shook her head. “Well… he talked to us at least.”

“Troy is still out there?”

“Yes. He wants to talk to us separately now.”

Abed’s mother smiled. “Then I wouldn’t worry.”

 Annie should have felt relieved. This was the woman who knew Abed better than anyone, right? Except that she’d left Abed when he was six, and Annie’s own mother, who’d raised her, didn’t know her at all. So Annie kept her response to a short, “Hmm.”

Abed’s mother set down the stirring spoon and placed a hand on Annie’s shoulder. “Moja droga, it will be fine.  I’ve never seen Abed so worked up about something before.”

“And that’s a good thing?”

“Yes.”

The baby started to fuss again, and she gave the stove a worried look before lifting her daughter from the bouncy seat.

“I can stir that for you,” Annie offered. She gave her hands a quick wash at the sink and picked up the stirring spoon.

“Thanks.” She slowly twisted back and forth with the baby in her arms. “It’s a good thing because Abed doesn’t usually react strongly to anything.” She tilted her head down and gave Annie a wry look. “But you should already know that.”

Annie nodded. Maybe this woman knew Abed better than she thought.

“He must really care about you two to have a reaction this strong.” She took a step closer. “And when Abed cares about something… it means everything to him.”

Annie felt a blush creep over her face just as the sauce started to boil. “Turn the heat down?” Annie asked, covering her emotional reaction.

“No, just take it off the heat. I’ve got to add it to the casserole dish. It–”

Behind them, the sliding door opened. Annie quickly switched off the heat and set the pot on the other burner. “Troy?”

He walked into the kitchen, hands in his pockets. “Your turn.”

“What did he say?” she asked, her curiosity getting the best of her.

“You’ll…” Troy couldn’t meet her eyes. “It’s best if you go talk to him.”

Annie frowned. “Um. Okay.”  She washed her hands again, and then passed him to head outside. She heard Troy’s voice rise in pitch as he started talking to the baby.

Shutting the door behind her, she walked across the patio and the grass. “It’s me,” she called. Her nervousness from before had dissipated somewhat after talking to Abed’s mother, but a flutter started up again as she climbed the steps.

He was waiting in exactly the same spot, almost like a guru at the top of a mountain. Just what wisdom would he dispense?

She decided not to wait and find out. “Abed, just what is it that you couldn’t tell me in front of Troy?”

He tilted his head. “Could you talk about Troy in front of Troy?”

Annie did a double take. “About… Troy?” What did that mean?

“Well, you both told me that you wanted to go back to the way things were before. To resume our friendship as if nothing ever happened this summer.”

Annie tilted her head to match his. “Yes?”

“But you know, and I know, and Troy knows, that we can’t. It happened. There’s no taking it back, no matter how much we try.”

“So… you don’t want to be friends anymore?” A lump started forming in her throat. She didn’t want to hear this answer.

“I do. I want to be friends with you more than anything.” He turned his gaze out the window, toward the house. “But I don’t think that’s all that Troy really wants. And…” He turned back to Annie. “…I don’t think that’s all that you really want.”

“But I said–”

“I know what you said. And I believe you.”

“Then…?”

“Instead of talking with me, you need to talk to Troy.” He unfolded his legs and scooted toward the entrance. “It’s dinner time. Coming?”

Annie sat there, open-mouthed, until Abed was all the way down to the bottom of the steps. All she’d been doing for the last couple of days was talk to Troy.  What in the world?

She scrambled down the steps and caught up with him just as he was opening the door.  “Okay, I’ll talk to Troy. I don’t know what a–”

“Good,” he said, and smiled. Then he took a seat at the dining room table.

“All settled then?” Abed’s mother asked, setting the casserole dish in the center of the table.

Annie and Troy, hovering at opposite sides of the table, looked at each other with uncertainty.  Abed simply said, “Yep.” The baby giggled.

Abed’s mother seemed satisfied. “Let’s eat.”

~0~0~0~


Troy reached for the serving spoon before realizing his manners.  “May I have some more, please? This is good.”

Abed’s mom laughed.  “Sure, Troy. Have as much as you want.”

Across from him, Annie set down her fork. She never did eat much - probably to watch her weight. But he bet she would look good even if she didn’t watch it. Besides, that glossy brown hair and those intense blue eyes were some of her best–

Whoa. He reached for his soda glass and took a swig to cover his reaction. Where did that come from? Is Abed, like, sending me vibes or something?

He turned his attention back to his best friend, who, eerily, was watching him.  Troy smiled and nodded, trying to be smooth.  “Your mom’s a great cook, man.”

“You should try her moussaka.” He lifted another forkful to his mouth.

“Moussaka?” Annie asked.

“Like an eggplant casserole with meat and cheese,” Abed’s mom answered.  “It’s Abed’s favorite.”

“The cafeteria at Greendale doesn’t make it like you do, Mom.”

“Like, they don’t make it at all,” Troy said before realizing it was a joke.  Abed was cool about it and only nodded agreement.

“So…” Abed’s mom said after a couple of minutes. “Will you guys be needing a place to stay? We’ve got a spare room and the couch is pretty comfortable.” Then she leaned forward and added conspiratorially, “Unless you only need one room.”

Annie gasped, and her hands actually fluttered. Troy gave an awkward laugh combined with a choke. “Naw, we’re not together, ma’am.”

“Oh? Sorry, I didn’t mean to assume. There’s plenty of room for everyone to have their own space.”

“Didn’t…” Annie looked really confused. “Didn’t Abed say why we were here?”

Abed’s mom shrugged. “Nope. Just that you three were having a disagreement and he needed time to think.”

“Huh,” Troy said, looking at Abed.  He kept chewing his food, eyes on his plate.

“Not really any of my business, so…” She wiped her baby’s chin with her bib. “Are you staying?”

“We–we thought we’d…” Annie began.

“We thought we’d bring Abed back with us.” Troy finished.

Abed’s head popped up. “Oh, I’m not going back yet.”

“What?” Troy and Annie asked in unison, for the second time that night.

“But…” Troy didn’t know what Abed wanted anymore. He was sure his pain was written all over his face.

“Isn’t everything more or less… resolved?” Annie looked even more upset than he felt.

“Not really.” Abed stood suddenly, dabbed at his mouth with a napkin and walked to the sink with his dishes.  “Thank you, Mom, for dinner.  I think I’ll turn in now.” Only after he said that did he make a show of stretching and yawning.  And then he was gone.

Annie and Troy just stared at each other in disbelief.

“I’m sorry,” Abed’s mom said gently as she cleared the table. “He can sometimes be…” She stopped and chuckled to herself. “… well, I think you both know how he can be.  If you want to stay, that’s great, and maybe you can convince him to go back with you in the morning.  But I have the feeling…” She looked toward the hallway where he had gone.

Troy sighed. “No, ma’am, we can’t stay.  I have class tomorrow. And I need the participation credit.”

Annie nodded. “Me, too. I guess he’ll come back when he’s ready.  We’ve both said everything we needed to say.” She turned to look at Troy, an unsaid question in her eyes. “Right?”

Everything they needed to say to Abed at any rate. He held her eyes for a moment before answering, “Right.”

Next: Chapter 10: Just Like That Time At Elitch Gardens

Comments

( 6 comments — Leave a comment )
flyingpigs_live
Oct. 27th, 2011 02:06 am (UTC)
Oh my god, I am LOVING this! I love Troy and Annie working together (needs to happen on the show), and I love that Abed is showing that he DOES care about them, even though it's not in a "normal" way. Can't wait to read the rest of this!
htbthomas
Oct. 27th, 2011 04:27 pm (UTC)
I'm so glad you're loving it! (Sometimes it feels like I'm posting just for you, anyway. :D ) Only two more to go!
JehanK
Oct. 29th, 2011 06:33 am (UTC)
When are the final two chapters coming out?!?!
htbthomas
Oct. 29th, 2011 01:44 pm (UTC)
Soon! I'm posting Ch. 10 on Sunday, and Ch. 11 on the next Wednesday. Though... *psst* if you're antsy to read the rest, go to the AO3 or Het Big Bang links above - the entire story is posted in those two places. :)

Thanks for commenting! :)
JehanK
Oct. 30th, 2011 03:39 am (UTC)
Thank you! You're a superb writer! Keep at it :)
htbthomas
Oct. 30th, 2011 02:26 pm (UTC)
I will. ♥
( 6 comments — Leave a comment )

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