"-ow," said Jeff. "There is no 'to be continued' sign hovering above us."
"Technically it wouldn't hover, it would…"
"Can we just get back to the real problem here?" said Britta, waving the transfer form around. "I want to know who the traitor is."
"Traitor?" said Shirley. "I think you're being a bit harsh there."
"Am I? … Interesting."
"Oh you did not just use your Psychology 101 tone on me, girl," said Shirley, arching an eyebrow. "They're not my papers. End of story."
"Well maybe I want to add an epilogue," said Britta, circling around the steel drum. "How do we know they're not your papers?"
"Britta, you're talking to the person who complimented the Greendale bathrooms before," said Jeff.
"Yeah, but Shirley's also been mentioning how tired she's been lately juggling kids and her schoolwork," Britta pointed out. "Maybe she wants to transfer to a college where there's a day care center on campus for Ben."
"Isn't there one here?" said Annie.
"Do you really want me to put my baby in a center where Garrett volunteers?" said Shirley. "That boy is more jittery than a Chihuahua."
"So it could be true then," said Britta.
Shirley tightened her grip around her purse strap. "I don't appreciate you implying I'd be a traitor to the group if I decided to put my child's wellbeing before mine."
"I… I wasn't saying that. OK, maybe traitor was too harsh of a word."
"That's exactly what I said in the first place!" Shirley shook her head and sat down on a crate. "I'm not leaving the school. How can I when it's clear you all still need my moral guidance?"
"You young folk should take note," agreed Pierce, squeezing one of his glove balloons like a stress ball.
"You're the one who needs it the most you damn fool."
"It would be a whole different dynamic without Shirley around," pondered Abed. "Just imagine…"
"OK, you're free to go." The cop unlocked the jail cell and waited for the six inhabitants to emerge.
Jeff walked out first, looking dishevelled in the previous night's clothes. "Happy 21st," he croaked at Annie, who followed him out.
She rubbed the mascara underneath her eyes. "I can't even remember it, everything's a blur." She screwed up her nose. "Was there something about a singing pirate?"
"You saw that too?" said Pierce in relief. "I thought I was hallucinating again."
Britta had one arm wrapped around Troy's neck and the other around Abed's as they helped her struggle out. "Everyone needs to quit yelling," she said in a slurred voice. "And tell that iguana in the corner to stop mocking me."
"Abed?" said Troy. "You know how we thought it'd be cool to have a drinking competition like the cowboys do in westerns?"
Abed nodded, putting a hand to his head when the motion made him dizzy.
"It turned out to be the opposite of cool."
"Maybe we should have just gone bowling," said Annie, holding on to Jeff's arm for support.
"Where's the fun in that?" said Jeff, wincing at the sudden bright light.
They reached the counter to collect their belongings while the cop gave them some forms to sign. "This is to state that you all acknowledge defacing private property belonging to one Mr Peter Fletcher."
Recognition dawned on Annie's face. "Otherwise known as the owner of Pirate Pete's Discount Treasures," she groaned.
"I think I know where I left my pants now," mumbled Troy.
Annie's cell buzzed with a new message. "It's from Shirley. She says she's sorry she couldn't make it to birthday bowling because her class ran late, but she hopes we all had good, clean fun without her." Annie looked at everyone in their various states of disarray and gulped. "I vote we never speak of this again."
"You better tell the iguana that," said Britta, staring at an empty chair. "It looks shifty."
"Why am I crazy drunk iguana lady in the story?" Britta protested.
"Did I get nice birthday presents?" said Annie, pausing when Shirley cleared her throat. "Right. Not the point."
"I think we can all agree that having a little Shirley in our lives is a good thing," said Abed.
"Oh, that's nice," Shirley smiled.
"No matter how overbearing she may be sometimes."
"Speaking of things that will get us back to talking about marshmallows," said Troy. "Can we have marshmallows now?"
"Troy we're trying to get to the bottom of this problem," said Britta. "Unless… maybe you're creating a diversion so we won't think it's you."
"It's not me."
"Spoken like a guilty man."
"Do you even know what the definition of guilty is, Britta?"
"I don't know, do you?"
"Gee, I don't know, do you?"
"Do either of you two know the definition of shut up?" yelled Jeff, earning disgruntled stares from the pair.
"Yeesh," said Pierce. "Way to make a scene, drama queen."
Jeff rolled his eyes. "Says the man fondling a cow udder."
"Let's just get back to the matter at hand," said Britta. "Troy? Why do you hate the school and want to leave?"
"I don't hate the school," he shrugged.
"Mouse!" she yelled, pointing to a dark corner.
"AAAARGHH!" Troy screamed, leaping up onto a crate. "DON'T LET IT EAT MY FACE!"
Britta smiled triumphantly. "I lied, I didn't see the mouse. I just wanted to prove that there is something you hate about Greendale."
"Who the heck is teaching you Psychology, Britta?" said Annie in bewilderment. "The clown from IT?"
"OH GOD NOW THERE'S CLOWNS?" Troy wailed.
Abed approached Troy and handed him a marshmallow from his satchel to try and calm him down. "I can't reveal my sources, but trust me when I say that if Troy were thinking about switching courses it'd be an inter-campus affair."
"What does that mean?" said Britta.
"Nothing you need to worry about right now." Abed gave Troy more food. "If you get down, Troy, you can have the whole packet."
Nervously gazing around, Troy slowly nodded and hopped off the crate.
"Is this where you pat him on the head and say 'good boy'?" asked Jeff.
"Laugh all you want Jeff, but I'd let him rub my belly too," said Troy through a mouthful of marshmallows. "He's my person."
"Troy would never separate himself from Abed," agreed Annie. "I don't even know why we're debating it. I mean can you imagine a school day without those two joined at the hip?"
Abed hid behind a study room desk dressed as Inspector Spacetime. "If we can reach the lunar station, Constable Reggie, I'm certain we can defeat the Blogons."
"Yeah, those baloney heads are going to eat some serious moon crap," said Pierce, accidentally twirling his baton into his face.
"That's what I said. Blong Gongs."
Abed stared at Pierce, unblinking, before taking off his bowler hat. "I don't think this is going to work."
"What are you talking about? My best friend audition is going awesome." He raised his eyebrows knowingly. "See? I said awesome. Legit gnarly awesome, yo."
"Oh come on. Detective Space is on the case!"
"This isn't going to work," said Abed in a robotic voice, ticking his head from side to side. "This isn't going to work. This isn't going to work."
"Guys?" Pierce yelled out to the library. "I think I broke Ay-bed again."
"I guess this means I'm out of the running too seeing as I'd be in the same situation as Troy," said Abed.
The rest of the group murmured their agreement, except for Britta. "Wait, hang on, that doesn't mean anything. Abed could just be playing mind tricks on us."
"Don't be ridiculous, Britta," said Troy. "Abed wouldn't think about leaving the school without telling me first – or at least sending me a Tweet about it. We're in this for the long haul."
"Hashtag six seasons and a movie," said Abed and Troy in unison, high-fiving one another.
"Here's a thought," said Jeff, turning towards Britta. "Maybe you're flinging around psychobabble to take the heat off yourself."
"Psychobabble?" said Britta indignantly. "I know way more than you jags."
"You keep telling yourself that Sigmund Fraud."
"Puns aside, Jeff may have a point, Britta," said Annie. "You have been pretty quick to throw judgement at everyone else. Why can't the papers be yours?"
"Because I've finally found something I want to do with my life and I don't want to add it to my long list of stuff-ups," she proclaimed, her cheeks burning red. "You guys can pick on me all you want, but I really like my Psych class here and I don't want to leave. I mean sure, Duncan smells like that creepy drunk, Spaghetti, who lives out the front of Annie's old apartment, but the guy knows his stuff. And after I graduate I'm going to open up my own practice." Her friends nodded encouragingly. "Maybe even branch out into pet psychology too."
Jeff bit his lip. "So many horse whisperer jokes right now," he said in a strained voice.
Shirley gently patted Britta's hand. "We're sorry we keep making fun, sweetie. We didn't realize you were so focused."
"Yeah, we're sorry, Britta," said Annie guiltily. "I guess it's like Pavlov's Bell. Once we hear you in therapist mode we're conditioned to become snarky."
Britta scrunched up her nose. "Pavlov's what now?"
Troy shoved another marshmallow in his mouth. "OK, so that only leaves Jeff, Pierce and Annie in the running to be a lame-ass traitor."
"Troy," Shirley scolded.
"Sorry. In the running to be a traitor."
"It can't be Pierce," said Abed. "We already touched on the storyline of him leaving the group. We know how that ends."
They all glanced at Pierce, who was crouched in the back corner of the room with sweat glistening on his forehead despite the chill.
"Are you OK, Pierce?" said Jeff.
"I would be if everyone stopped breathing and sucking the walls in closer," he grumbled. "If Annie didn't want to marry City College so much I wouldn't even be in this torture chamber."
Jeff frowned. "What?"
"What?" squawked Annie, as everyone's eyes fell upon her.
"It's you!" said Britta. "You want to go to a more prestigious college so you can feel smarter and talk to people about Pavlov's bugle or whatever."
"Ugh, Pavlov's bell, and no I don't!" Annie flung out her arms in frustration. "There's no way I'd transfer there, not after what they did to the paintball tournament."
"Then why did Pierce say their name then?" said Troy.
"I have no idea." She strode towards the old man and knelt down beside him. "Pierce? Why did you say I wanted to marry City College?"
"Because you do," he replied. "And because we made our flag a butthole."
"Wait… where do you think we are right now?"
"The space bus. Geez, what planet are you living on?"
Annie's eyes widened as Britta came closer to the pair. "He must be having post traumatic stress triggered by his claustrophobia," she said, using Abed's magnifying glass to get a better look at his face. "This is so interesting… and sad and awful and hopefully he'll snap out of it soon," she quickly added.
"Nice save," mocked Troy.
Jeff eyed Annie up as she joined the rest of them by the steel drum. "So, uh, just to clarify then… you're not transferring anywhere?"
"No," she smiled softly, "I'm not." She had a sudden horrible thought. "Wait, doesn't that mean you are?"
"You're the only one left and the papers have to belong to someone." Annie poked him hard in the chest. "You tell me right now where you're going, Jeff!"
"Ow! I'll be going to the hospital if you keep stabbing me," he said, swatting her hand away. "I'm not leaving Greendale."
"You have to admit, Jeff, there is a pretty good case stacked against you," said Abed. "You always talk about how crappy the place is."
"And you're always keen to take shortcuts in all your classes," Shirley added.
Jeff sighed. "Do I need to break out a Winger speech to convince you that I'm staying put?"
"That's another thing," said Troy. "All your big speeches, man. You say all this stuff like, 'Greendale's a craphole, but it's our craphole'. But then you turn around the next day and it's like you've already forgotten about the hole you crapped in, and then you crap on the school for real like an angry pigeon."
"That's eloquent, thank you."
Troy rubbed the back of his neck. "This is why we need you here, Jeff. No one else has the hang of speeches like you."
"Well I will give you all a master class in them because – I repeat – I am not going anywhere."
"I don't understand then," said Britta, picking up the forms from the crate she'd left them on. "How did these papers end up in here?" She scanned the front, which hadn't been filled in, before flipping over to the back. "Hang on… there's something written on here. It looks like a list."
Annie looked over Britta's shoulder. "Slap stomp," she read aloud. "Boot slam, Tickle Slap…"
"Wait, that's my list you're reading," cried Troy in surprise. He quickly searched through his backpack before awkwardly taking the paper from Britta. "Uh, hey, so guess what guys? There's this Kickpuncher competition me and Abed are entering where you get to think up a new villain for the next movie and those are some of my ideas." He forced out a laugh. "I didn't realize the scraps of paper I took from the library were transfer forms."
Britta pursed her lips. "So you mean to tell me we've been pointlessly arguing with each other for who knows how long because of a dumb movie?"
"Kickpuncher isn't dumb, Britta," said Abed. "He's a cultural icon. And let's face it, when does this group not argue about pointless things?"
Annie pondered this. "We did spend most of Biology class debating what the best superhero power was instead of planning our assignment… which is precisely why we're stuck down here arguing about something else entirely pointless."
"I really hate us sometimes," said Troy quietly.
"We all hate us sometimes," said Jeff. "That's why we're a good fit. And that's why we need to do this…" He took the forms from Britta and tore off the back page for Troy before grabbing the lighter and setting the rest of the pages on fire. The group watched the flickering orange glow in silence before Jeff dropped the papers into the drum, where they went up in a whoosh of flames.
"I'd just like to say one more thing," said Jeff, facing Troy. "Slap tickle? Is this the porno version of Kickpuncher?"
"I know," sighed Troy. "I'm usually awesome at naming things."
Annie scoffed. "Uh, Annie's Boobs?"
"If anyone sleep walks, talks or has night terrors you're going to get banished to the top of the stairs," said Jeff. "Understood?"
"What about sleep farting?" asked Pierce. "Just out of curiosity and all."
"And here I thought we'd already hit rock bottom by having to sleep on rock bottom."
After the fire had been reduced to embers, the study group decided to try and settle in for the night, realizing no one was coming to their rescue until morning. They laid out a Transfer Dance poster they'd found rolled up under the stairs to protect them from the dirty ground, but it was barely long enough to fit them all on. So they were currently bunched together on the floor like sardines in a tin, huddling close for body warmth. Shirley, Britta, Troy, Jeff, Annie, Abed and Pierce were all lined up with various coats and jackets strewn over them to try and keep the chill away.
The only person who wasn't entirely trembling was Troy, who had been convinced by Britta that if he wore the Human Being costume over his regular clothes he'd be protected from mouse bites.
Jeff shifted his head around on Annie's backpack that she had offered to share with him as a pillow. He could hear most of his friends' breathing patterns change as they fell into a restless sleep. Or in Pierce's case, a restless sleep accompanied by a small orchestra coming out of his nose.
"Are you awake, Jeff?" whispered Annie.
Jeff opened his eyes to find Annie watching him. "How can I sleep when Pierce seems to have inhaled a baby elephant?" he whispered back.
She wriggled around. "I don't think I've ever been more uncomfortable in my life. And I used to wear a back brace."
"I know. I can't believe I wasn't more popular at school either." She tilted her head up to face him properly. "Jeff?"
"I'm really glad those transfer papers weren't yours," she murmured.
Jeff gazed at her. "Same." Noticing her shiver when a fresh burst of air breezed in through the broken window, he carefully moved his arm so that it was curled around her waist. Annie scooted in closer to him resting her hands on his chest.
"Much more comfortable now," she said, her breath tickling his face.
Suddenly reckless about where they were, and whom they were with, Jeff decided to lean forward and kiss her. He could feel her smile before she began to kiss him back, slowly, teasingly, making him wish they were anywhere but in the middle of an awkward seven-some. Jeff stroked the side of her stomach while Annie traced her hand along his jaw and down his neck. They broke apart with regret when Pierce snorted, startling them.
"I think it might be for the best that we quit while we're ahead," Jeff whispered.
"You're probably right," Annie breathily agreed.
"This is a great milestone for you two," Abed's voice piped up. "It's a shame the rest of the group is missing it."
"OhmyGod," Annie groaned in embarrassment, burying her face into Jeff's chest and feeling it vibrate when he chuckled.
"Well, isn't this the most pathetic excuse for an orgy you've ever seen."
The study group woke up to find Professor Duncan leering at them from the bottom of the staircase. There was a collective crackling of joints as they all tried to sit up from their crippled positions on the hard floor. Jeff couldn't feel one of his arms after Annie had been lying across it the whole night and temporarily freaked out at the weird loss of sensation.
"So go on then," said Duncan, moving closer. "What'd you all get up to? Don't leave out any details. Details are my favorite."
"Here's a detail – go away," Jeff grumbled.
"Now, now, is that any way to treat the person who, I'm assuming, is the only one to come to your rescue?" He jerked his thumb back. "Couldn't help but notice that door shouldn't have been closed."
"Thank you for letting us out," said Shirley, jumping when Pierce bolted past her and up the stairs yelling, "FREEDOM!"
"Damn," said Troy, lifting off the headpiece of the Human Being costume. "Who knew Pierce had moves like Jagger?"
"Not that we're not happy to escape," said Jeff. "But why are you even down here in the first place, Duncan?" He checked his watch. "At seven-thirty in the morning?"
"No reason," Duncan replied, inching towards the space under the stairs where the last steel drum was. "Just, uh, came down to check on something unimportant. Carry on with your escape."
Abed eyed the professor curiously. "What's in the container?"
"Your mom," said Duncan defensively, before panicking. "No, I take that back. Last time I mentioned your mom you all murdered a Christmas song while bludgeoning me to death with stationery. I do not want to re-visit that head wound."
"Move over," said Jeff, walking towards Duncan. He opened up the lid of the drum and raised his eyebrows. "Are you keeping vats of home-brewed alcohol down here?"
"Maybe…" He fidgeted. "As your hero and superior I command you all not to breathe a word of this to the Dean."
"And as captain of the ship 'SS We Don't Care', I say enjoy your paint thinner," said Jeff, saluting him.
They collected their things and traipsed up the stairs leaving Duncan to fill up several flasks with his contraband liquid. Britta and Shirley exited first, gossiping about Duncan (making Britta happy she wasn't the one under scrutiny for once). Troy and Abed followed, discussing how someone in a Human Being costume would be the perfect Kickpuncher foe.
Annie turned and smiled impishly at Jeff. "So… last night wound up more fun than I initially expected."
"It definitely had its moments," he coyly replied.
She smoothed down her crinkled skirt. "We should do it again sometime. Minus the getting locked in a gross basement part of course."
"And here's me thinking you enjoyed the ambiance of black mold and killer rats."
"You know what?" she mused. "Maybe I sort of do."
"Did you get into Duncan's stash while no one was looking?"
"It's just Greendale, I guess," she said with a laugh. "It's you, it's me… it's us. It's where we belong."
Jeff took in her smile, losing himself in a memory from a few days earlier.
"That's all for this session, Jeff," said his therapist. "You're making some nice progress. But I'd like you to really think about what we've discussed today in terms of your co-dependency with your study group. Whether you accept it or not, you've got a stronghold over each other's lives, which can often be quite taxing on a person's wellbeing."
"But they're my friends," Jeff said, for what he was sure was the tenth time that hour.
"I'm not saying to cut the ties completely. Not at all. I'm just suggesting you could give yourself more room to breathe."
"By going to another school?"
"It's only an idea, Jeff. You could regain some of your focus for your career and still see your friends in a social capacity in your spare time. Just think about it." She pressed the college transfer forms she'd picked up from Greendale into his hands. "Remember, the decision is completely up to you."
Jeff returned to school, the transfer forms tucked away in his folder. As he walked towards the study room he watched his friends through the window, hearing them arguing about the best flavor of ice-cream. He couldn't help but smile at the way Shirley and Britta were bickering with one another across the table while Abed and Troy tried to explain to Pierce that Phish Food wasn't really fish food. Jeff's gaze finally fell to Annie, who was calmly jotting down notes in her purple notepad. He just knew she was patiently waiting to debate the crap out of them all, but as she stopped to ponder her next point she lifted her head and saw him through the window. Grinning, Annie waved at him and beckoned him inside. Jeff smiled and lifted his hand in return, motioning that he'd be in soon.
Making his mind up, Jeff took the transfer form out of his folder and dumped it in the recycling tray before heading into the study room.
"Are you OK, Jeff?" said Annie, resting her hand on his shoulder. "You went quiet and stared into thin air for a while."
"Me? I'm fine." Annie linked their arms together as they started walking down the hall. "We better go and check on Pierce, though. Make sure he hasn't smashed any more miniature windows."
"Or thrown fake cow udders at passing students."
"Our friends are weird."
"This school is weird."
"Yep," said Annie. "Some things are worth the weirdness, though."
The corner of Jeff's mouth curled up into a smile. "Yes they are."