Annie Edison, like most people, has a list of her favorite sounds.
The sound of a new can of coffee being opened for the first time.
The sound of her cats purring softly.
The sound of a book's spine crackling as she opens it.
The sound of Troy Barnes' high-pitched, girly little sneeze. (She couldn't help it, it cracked her up.)
A few months ago, she added a new favorite sound: The sound of her heart pounding in her ears as Jeff Winger kissed her in the Quad outside the Transfer Formal (she refused to call it the "Tranny Dance"; that was just stupid).
She thought about that night often, and how she almost moved to Delaware - for a guy. A guy!
Vaughn was going on and on about how "totally radical Delaware's going to be, Mountain Flower!"
She hated it when Vaughn called her Mountain Flower. But she never told him that, because he was cute and he liked her and it just didn't seem worth it, you know?
"It's time to leave Greendale behind forever, babe." And that was when she realized: Leaving Greendale behind also meant leaving behind everything and everyone she'd ever known - especially the surrogate family she'd found in her Spanish study group.
No more Pierce being totally inappropriate. (Although that, maybe she COULD live without. But sometimes Pierce was kind of fun - like her crazy uncle Morty that she only sees around Hanukkah. Cracks her up sometimes, but at the end of the day she can get rid of him.) No more Shirley? No more Shirley! Shirley had become her second mother, she couldn't leave Shirley (and those amazing brownies)! No more Abed and Troy? How was she going to handle life in Delaware without those two doing something totally goofy to keep her mind of things? (Plus Abed had offered her a spot on Troy and Abed in the Morning's holiday special; what girl could resist the lure of being on TV?) No more Britta, Britta had become sort of her sister (whether either of them wanted to admit it or not). And no more Jeff. Snarky, smooth-talking, sexy Jeff.
She had, after all, kissed him that one time at the debate championship. Plus she saw him naked during that epic billiards battle with Coach Bogner (which set off a series of dreams she'd rather not discuss).
No more Study Group. She just could not handle that.
"I'm not going," she said.
Vaughn pulled into the closest parking space. "Say that again, Mountain Flower?"
"I'm not going," she repeated slowly, "and for the last time, please don't call me that."
"But... but why?"
"Because it makes me feel like a dirty hippie, that's why. I am not a dirty hippie, Vaughn, I am a person. I am a person with actual thoughts and feelings who showers on a daily basis and I hate the way patchouli smells and what is in those stupid hacky sacks anyway? And your friend Paco really creeps me out. I bet that's not even his real name, I bet it's something normal like Glen or..."
Vaughn turned off the car and they sat, in the dark. "Ssh. It's okay, Mount - I mean, Annie. But why can't you go?"
Annie smiled a tiny, sad smile. "I don't belong in Delaware. I belong in Greendale. I love you, don't get me wrong, I just... love my family too. I can't leave them."
"Oh, babe. I'm sorry," Vaughn said, having no idea which family she was talking about.
"Me too," she replied, deciding not to tell him.
"So... guess this is it for us, huh?"
"Yeah. Good luck in Delaware."
"Good luck...here. I'll keep in touch. We can still be friends, no worries."
"Yeah." She kissed him on the cheek, grabbed her bags, and walked off toward the Quad to try and find a ride home.
The conversation she and Jeff had was kind of a blur. She was still reeling from her breakup with Vaughn; he was reeling from the fact that two different women had publicly declared their love for him. (She did remember very clearly, though, that he had told her he was going to choose Britta, but he didn't know why.)
Next thing she knew, they were kissing. She memorized every detail: His hands wrapped around her waist, then moving up to her hair; the faint smell of cologne that probably cost more than her car; the delicious sound of her heart pounding in her ears; the way he tasted slightly of cookies and fruit punch. She kept that in her mind all summer.
She put the first thing Jeff said after they broke the kiss out of her mind: "We probably shouldn't have done that."
"You're probably right."
"I mean, you're close to half my age! This is bad!"
"I know. But felt pretty good, huh?"
"That it did. But... we can't tell anyone about this, okay?"
Now, today, several months later, she had a new favorite sound: The sound of her fist coming into sharp, sudden contact with Jeff Winger's perfect, pointy nose.
She wasn't sure if she'd broken it or not. And, honestly? She didn't care. How dare he sleep with Britta, and then kiss her? She felt... wronged somehow. Used. Sure, they didn't sleep together, but he and Britta did and that was inexplicably not right.
Annie looked down at her hand, which was stinging with pain. Her knuckles were covered in blood. She wasn't sure if it was hers or Jeff's, and wasn't sure if it really mattered.
Annie sat in the cafeteria, nursing a cup of coffee. It was 2pm, so most everyone was in class. Just her, and the cafeteria workers, and a couple of students scattered about. She thought she saw Starburns reading in the corner, but she wasn't sure.
That's the first sign you've got a lot on your mind - you can't tell Starburns apart from the other students.
She'd found out that some of the blood was hers - she'd gotten a cut on her hand that stretched across three knuckles, probably from Jeff's teeth or something. Not deep enough for stitches, which was good. She hadn't broken any bones, but the nurse mentioned something about how "that one guy from the dance that had two girls after him was in here just a few minutes ago with a broken nose, what an odd coincidence, Ms. Edison!"
So, to sum up: he broke her heart, she broke his nose. Seemed fair to her.
Feeling a stress headache coming on, she rested her head on the table in front of her. She was so focused on willing her headache away that she didn't even notice someone had taken a seat in the booth across the table.
After a few moments, that someone spoke. "Classic fight scene. Underdog wins against the favorite. But don't worry, you two will reconcile and everything will be back to normal again."
"Hey, Abed," Annie said, not moving her head.
"Hi. Everybody was checking on Jeff, to make sure he was okay. He'll be fine, just has a broken nose and a bruised ego, but nobody was checking on you so I figured I should find you."
Annie lifted her head and smiled sadly. "Thanks, Abed. That's sweet."
Abed shrugged. "You're not okay, are you?"
Annie cocked her head. "What do you mean? I'm... fine."
"Annie, you just broke Jeff's nose. Lots of people want to do it, maybe i've thought about it a couple of times. But you did it. And I know you, you don't do things like that unprovoked." Abed thought about this for a second. "This is about Jeff and Britta, isn't it?"
Annie sighed. You really couldn't get anything past this guy, could you?
"Maybe. I mean...yes."
"Well, I don't want to take sides but if anyone should feel wronged it should be Britta. He kissed you after she told him she loved him. That's a classic plot twist, but someone always gets hurt in the end. You and Jeff can't happen anyway, he's too old for you." He shrugged. "Hollywood double-standard: When a woman dates a younger guy she's seen as sexy; when a guy dates a younger woman everyone thinks he's creepy. Like Hugh Hefner."
Annie just stared at him. Say what you want about how socially awkward he is, but Abed has an innate inability to lie.
And, as they say, the truth will set you free.
Suddenly, Annie felt as though a huge weight had been lifted off her shoulders. He was right. She felt kind of silly, getting upset over all this. She was letting her schoolgirl crush get in the way of rational thought. Last time she did that, she ended up wandering the Quad in nothing but a hospital gown, trying to break up Troy's date. Totally embarrassing (although she will admit, the slight breeze felt sort of nice).
Abed was right - they couldn't happen. Jeff was exactly what Annie thought she had been looking for - tall, funny, sexy, smart (when he actually applied himself). His only problem was that he was about 15 years too old for her. Sure she was legally an adult, but it was kind of creepy.
Suddenly, Jeff (although still sexy) was kind of gross.
"Thank you, Abed. I feel so much better now."
Annie smiled, staring down at her hands. "Just out of curiosity, who do you see me with?"
Saying nothing, Abed reached across the table. He covered her non-injured hand with one of his own, gently rubbing a thumb across her knuckles.
For a moment, Annie thought he was just being nice. Just...being a friend.
She looked up from their hands, into his eyes. She'd never been looked at this way before. She had gotten her fair share of looks like poor little Annie Adderall or I think you're great, but not great enough to go out on a date with or try not to make me stay too late, I don't want to miss the news or two women just told me they love me and I'm feeling really vulnerable right now.
This was a look of I am so in love with you, please tell me you feel the same way.
"Oh, Abed. You don't have to tell me. But I want you to, I know how much you like monologuing."
"Well, when I was doing Don Draper that one time I really did want to kiss you," Abed said, without a moment's hesitation. "Would have done it too, if not for Shirley. Another classic plot device, someone inexplicably standing in the way of true love. Annie, I think you're great. You're smart, you're driven, you're incredibly organized, and you're really pretty. And you like me for who I really am, not for who I pretend to be. And I pretend to be a lot of people."
He rose from his seat and slid into the booth next to her, draping an arm around her shoulders. "I won't lie to you, ever since that day I almost kissed you I've spent almost every night dreaming about what it would be like to do it for real. I say almost every night because one night I dreamt I was at the gas station buying shoes - strange - and the night after the Tranny Dance I dreamt that Troy got eaten by a giant cookie. Oh, and then there was the night I dreamt Jeff got stuck in Senor Chang's desk, and then we all had to - "
"Digressing, sorry. Anyway, I've wondered this whole time what it would be like to kiss you. But I never acted on it because you were with Vaughn and I was afraid he'd throw a Frisbee at me or write a humiliating song about me or something. Poor Britta. Although that song was pretty catchy, I loved the follow-up about Pierce. And I can understand if you think us dating would spoil our friendship - sure it worked out for Chandler and Monica, and Cory and Topanga, but it doesn't always work out for everyone. I mean, it almost destroyed Ross and Rachel, especially after he married that horrible British - "
Annie grinned shyly. "You're digressing again," she said softly.
"Sorry," Abed shrugged, the corners of his mouth tugging upward oh-so-slightly, before finally settling into a full-on smile.
And that's what did it.
If you asked Annie about the day she and Abed almost kissed, and she told you it had absolutely no effect on her whatsoever, she would have been lying. She, too, often wondered what it would be like to kiss him.
Sure, a lot of people thought Abed was weird. But then again, a lot of people thought she was weird. Besides, isn't everybody a little weird in a way?
Annie thought it was all part of his charm. He was funny, and tall (well, taller than her), and smart, and oddly sexy. She thought he was so handsome in that powder-blue tux he wore to the Transfer Formal (still can't call it the Tranny Dance!).
And! He already accepts her for who she is. Sure he thinks she's pretty, but he also likes her as is. And to Annie, whose type-A tendencies can have a negative effect on people (even Vaughn; every other sentence out of his mouth had the words "chill out" in it), having someone accept her warts and all is pretty important.
Abed didn't smile much. But there he was, smiling at her, and all of a sudden her heart skipped a beat. She felt for a moment like he thought she was the only other person on Earth. And she loved it.
"I've been wondering what it would be like too."
"Wondering what what would be like?"
Annie smiled. "This." She swallowed nervously, cupped his face in her hands, and kissed him softly. He seemed stunned for a moment, then kissed her back.
She was very pleasantly surprised by the whole experience, so far. His lips were softer than she'd imagined; his hands, warm and splayed across her back, were stronger and more protective than she'd ever dreamed. Mostly, she was amazed at how good at this he was.
And, she was amazed at herself for nearly ruining it when she moved to uncross her legs and whacked her kneecap on one of the table legs.
"Ow," she said, jerking away. "Darn table." She giggled a little bit, suddenly embarrassed and unable to look him in the eye. "I am so sorry, Abed, I - "
"No, it's okay." He stood up quickly, then helped her to a standing position. "Doesn't hurt too much, does it?"
"No, it's fine."
"Then," Abed said, tipping her chin up so she had no choice but to look at him, "where were we?"
Annie could feel her legs turn into dripping puddles of goo.
"Well," she replied, wrapping her arms around his neck, "why don't you tell me?"
Abed smiled at her again. "I think we were right around this area." He bent down to kiss her again, arms circling her waist.
As they kissed, she could hear her heart beating in her ears (sort of like the time she made out with Jeff). And she thought that was her favorite sound...
...until they parted for just a moment to catch their breaths, and Abed moaned slightly as their lips reconnected.
That was her new favorite sound.
Annie never wanted this moment to end. And, she never wanted to hear another sound ever again.
Abed backed away for a moment, much to Annie's chagrin. "Annie?"
"Do you want to have dinner with me tonight? And then we could go to a movie? I want to stay out of the dorms as much as possible, it's Pavel's boiled cabbage night. Pavel's a great guy, but the boiled cabbage smells like gym socks."
Annie smiled. "Okay. We could go to my place. I have some pizza coupons, and I just got the new Kickpuncher movie in my Netflix."
"I didn't know you liked Kickpuncher. I guess I have a lot to learn about you, don't I? Well, as your new boyfriend it's my duty to have fun learning." Abed's cheeks suddenly turned pinkish. "I am your new boyfriend, right? Because the last time I assumed something I ended up with my eyes full of pepper water."
"Of course you are," Annie replied, making a mental note to never ask about the pepper water. Probably involves Troy somehow.
"Great." He kissed her forehead. "So the real reason I came in here..."
"Abed? I'm fine." She wrapped her arms around his waist, settling her head on his shoulder. "I'm more than fine."