"Under the Table and Dreaming"
Summary: Duncan receives devastating news
Written for Tumblr Community Appreciation Week 2017
Prompt: Favorite Character
A/N: Takes place S5-ish
"It was terrible! Flies everywhere!"
Duncan looked up from his perusal of MugScroll and took in the sight of a screeching Garrett who had, with his all too familiar intensity, stopped by his office about three minutes ago to update him on their latest experimental findings.
Duncan had initially murmured along and jotted down some vague points but hadn't really been concerned with the details, as he had been preoccupied. Despite Garrett's sputtering demeanor, he was actually a competent research assistant and tended to take meticulous notes.
But this latest exclamation snapped Duncan back.
"Excuse me, flies? When in bloody hell did flies enter into our study? You were supposed to be cataloguing your observations of how many times students stopped in front of the 'x' we placed near the cafeteria."
Garrett's arms swooped upward. "That's what I was just saying! The flies came out of the cafeteria! They were huge! Everyone was screaming, and I was almost trampled!"
Duncan gave a curt nod and opened his lower desk drawer. "Have a seat. I have just the thing for such moments."
Garrett regarded him suspiciously but then awkwardly plopped himself down on a chair. His eyes grew in wonder as he watched Duncan pour some amber liquid into a tumbler and slide it over to him.
At Garrett's hesitation, Duncan squinted in annoyance and proceeded to pour a matching glass for himself.
"Go ahead. It'll calm you down. Just make sure you don't drive."
"And stop shouting."
After Duncan had escorted a surprisingly cheerful Garrett out, he hadn't been quick enough to stop the Dean from wedging a foot over the doorstep.
"Well, look who's working late!"
Duncan let his eyes wander over to his computer but then quickly shifted them back to the Dean, who was continuing to stare at him with one of his oddly blank expressions. He wasn't sure if the Dean was suspicious of him or had a complete misunderstanding of the situation and wanted to pick this time of all possible horrible times to talk to him about something that was likely extremely inappropriate.
Who was he kidding - it was definitely a misreading of the mood.
He said quickly, "Righty, but I really have to get back to some urgent academic matters."
"Urgent? I thought we could have a chat." There was a bat of eyelashes and then a muttered, "I saw you had lunch with Jeffrey today…"
Feeling the situation called for desperate measures, Duncan interjected in his most authoritative tone, "Dean, I am about to crack the Bacardi Code."
Seemingly thrown off by this statement, it took the Dean a moment to respond. He blinked twice, placed his fingertips lightly on his chest, and then emitted a small gasp.
"Oh my. Is that like the Da Vinci Code?"
"Very much." He nodded vigorously as if the Dean were the most astute creature on the planet.
"Oooooh, well, you might make Greendale famous. I probably should let you get back to it." The Dean shrugged reluctantly and began a slight swivel to the right as if to depart.
"You are really the most understanding. I so appreciate it."
A gruff voice came from just outside the door. "Hey, Ian, I've got the information you wanted on that dame."
Hickey's eyes shifted as he took in the sight of the Dean standing awkwardly close to Duncan.
"Am I interrupting something?" He cracked the hint of a wry smile.
Duncan smiled politely and shook his head. "Not at all. Dean, it has been a pleasure, but as you can see Buzz is helping me with my research."
The Dean squinted. "On the Bacardi Code?"
Duncan wiggled his brows at Hickey, who merely rolled his eyes and let out a grunt before shoving himself down on the couch.
After Duncan shooed the Dean away, he carefully closed the door and walked over to Hickey. He reached into his pocket and took out a wad of cash and handed it to him before sitting down in his therapist chair.
Hickey proceeded to spend a few maddening moments counting the bills before he nodded in satisfaction and placed them to his side. He then turned over a thick manila file.
"You're not gonna like it."
Duncan nodded with a grimace. "She's dead then?"
Hickey groaned, a pained expression on his face. "Hell no. Nothing like that."
With a grunt, he replied, "Look in the damn file." He then picked up his money and stood, making his way toward the door.
With a tone of desperation, Duncan stammered, "Why don't you stay a while and have a drink with me?"
"That's the last thing I want to do."
"But I'm so terribly lonely. And you're the only one who knows about this. Please stay while I read through the file."
Hickey's eyes shifted to the left, noticing the crumpled wads of tissue scattered over the desk along with a bottle of liquor and two tumblers. He was going to make the tactful assumption the tissues were from a pathetic crying fit rather than porn.
Although there was a computer. He winced at the thought.
"I've got my son's play tonight. I can't miss it."
"Oh." Duncan's lip began to quiver as he caressed the manila file.
Hickey let out a wearied sigh. "You'll be fine. Like I said she ain't dead. But a word of advice; stop chasing this dream. Find a real live broad in your current life. Or don't. But stop living in the past."
Duncan hunched over slightly, clutching the file to his chest. "But she's so perfect. The times we had…"
"Oh, hell. Don't."
With another wince, Hickey opened the door. He glanced frantically around the hallway, seeming to exhaust his options before lamentably turning back to Duncan. "Just stay here. I'll be back."
Duncan nodded feebly as he opened the file. His eyes scanned the summary page.
Sold box of CDs. Fifth album title, "Under the Table and Dreaming."
He startled as he began to flip through the pages.
Exchanged "Crash" for "Mylo Xyloto."
His eyes went wide from sheer astonishment, his breath catching before he began to emit a series of desperate whimpers.
The door being ajar, a sarcastic voice could be heard halfway down the hall.
"Oh, I'm sure he really needs my help solving the MacKellan Sequence."
"If the Dean asks, you're helping him with the Bacardi Code."
"Why would the Dean…?" Jeff's voice trailed off as Hickey pushed open the door.
"Voila. He's a mess."
Jeff took a moment to regard a completely demoralized Duncan, who was now splayed out on the floor and shoving bits and pieces of paper and photos in various directions.
Hickey shrugged and then patted Jeff on the back. "He's yours. I'm off to The Tempest."
Jeff squinted at him as he strolled out the door. With a sigh, he turned his attention back to Duncan. He didn't know what was wrong, but he was all too familiar with the whines of desperation. He closed the door and then walked over to the disheveled blob.
He squatted down and remarked dryly, "You seem to be having a day."
Duncan lifted his head and stared at him with wide brown eyes. "Jeffrey?"
"I'm so very glad to see you. I don't know what to do."
Jeff let his eyes wander over to the photos. He leaned over and picked up one and examined it.
"I'm going to regret this, but who is she?"
"The love of my life."
"You need to have the love of your life investigated?"
"We had good times."
He carefully placed the photo of the surprisingly attractive brunette on the side table before reaching over to gather the other documents. Although he didn't want to get involved, he figured the sooner he distracted Duncan from this, the better. The guy could put down an insane amount of liquor, and although Jeff was guilty of that more times than he'd care to admit, he couldn't bring himself to watch Duncan do it to himself.
Dammit, he was developing a conscience. It seemed to happen every year he was at Greendale but then he'd seem to forget all about it until another incident such as this would remind him of it. Abed probably would have something to say about that.
He turned back to Duncan and with a series of calm progressing to stricter utterances, managed to convince him to assist him to a seated position on the couch. He sat opposite and leaned forward, placing his elbows on his knees and his hands underneath his chin. He regarded a wobbly and sniffling Duncan with a mixture of annoyance and pity.
"I have an idea. Let's burn all of it and then do something else."
"I can't. She was my love."
"God." Jeff leaned back and draped his arm over the back of his chair, settling in for the typical Duncan lament. He was not disappointed.
"Patricia was so very lovely. The year was 1997. She went with me to see Dave." Duncan's sorrowful eyes bore into Jeff's conscience.
Jeff's eyes widened in realization.
Duncan cleared his throat and continued, his voice low and serious, "I met her during my student exchange program. I was at the University of Wisconsin, and it was bloody cold. But Dave warmed our spirits."
Jeff felt warmth spreading throughout his chest. "Yeah, he tended to have that effect on people."
Duncan smiled dreamily. "We went backstage and met the band."
Duncan waived a hand dismissively in the air. "Well, the band minus Dave, but it was special nonetheless. I have the picture up on my MugScroll. I was looking at it before Buzz came by."
After a few moments of reverent silence, Jeff remarked in an almost whisper, "I remember the first time I saw Dave. I never got backstage, but I swear a bead of his sweat almost hit me from the stage. It came right off his flannel."
Duncan looked toward the window. His voice cracked as he said, "Life was full of hope back then."
"Yeah." Jeff closed his eyes.
Turning back to him, Duncan added, "I still had hope for her. But err, apparently she's changed."
Jeff opened his eyes and shrugged. "Sorry."
"I have to let her go."
"I think you do, buddy."
Duncan nodded solemnly. "I still have hope, you know. In general."
Jeff cocked his head and took in Duncan's posture, noting he had begun to sit up straighter and was in the process of adjusting his bowtie. It never ceased to amaze him how, despite Duncan's tendency to wallow in alcohol, he could overall remain steadfast in his optimism, even if life kicked him down again and again.
"How do you always do that?"
Duncan shrugged. "Can't get much worse."
Jeff shook his head and stood, slapping his hand on the desk. "That's it. We're getting out of here."
Jeff looked up at the ceiling as he answered, "I will never in a million years admit this, but no. We're going to do something that's actually fun."
"Oooh. Interesting. What's fun?" Duncan started to rise from his seat.
"Neil and Vicky are hosting a D&D game at nine. If we hurry, we can make it."
"But we're professors. We can't associate with the students."
"Yes, we can. I do it every Wednesday. We just can't sleep with any of them."
"Now that makes it much less fun."
"None of them would sleep with you anyway."
"Oi! I thought you were trying to cheer me up! Don't point out the truth of my lack of sexual prowess, you incredible stud muffin!"
Jeff smirked at Duncan's indignation, knowing he was on the right track in getting him distracted from this whole fiasco.
Duncan grabbed his jacket, briefcase, and keys. He followed Jeff out the door, taking a quick moment to reach back to grab the manila file before shutting off the lights and locking up.
Jeff eyed the file and waited.
Duncan stared at it for some moments, muttered something about not having a good ale to throw over it, and then opened the door once again. He tossed the entire folder inside before slamming the office door shut.
He then turned toward Jeff, gave a grin, and proceeded to skip down the hallway.
Jeff cupped his hands and called out after him, "It's afterhours, but at least try to maintain some remote semblance of dignity!"
Duncan yelled over his shoulder, "Fuck off, Winger! Dignity is overrated! You could try worrying less about yours and just tell her you love her! I waited too long; don't make the same mistake!"
Jeff tensed, his eyes growing wide. He paused to calculate something, grew even more panicked, and promptly sprinted down the hallway after him.
Duncan shouted, "You may even get laid!"
"Shut the fuck up!"
"Try to stop me!"