Author's Note: This story is dedicated to reviewer Ksentos, who pushed me to write another one. And to those people who told me that they wanted a sequel. At first I was all like, "Eh, sequel? Not so much…" The whole point of Door Number Two was that I wanted to write a story, pretty much self contained, & wrap things up in a neat little bow.
But then I inevitably started to think about all the ways that I might turn it into a sequel. And off-hand comments from the lovely Celtic Quill and Batgirlfan made me think: what if everything wasn't so tidy? What if now Annie's trying to date Abed, and they actually have to deal with all the baggage and curveballs that life throws at them? Hence, a sequel is born. It also didn't hurt that I noticed people keep subscribing to my old story, which led me to believe, okay, maybe it feels unfinished.
Sidenote: I have a least another nine chapters written out at this point. They're just in dire need of editing which takes time. And then I'm not sure how many chapters will follow after that b/c I'm really writing this thing without an endgame. I'm letting the characters guide me. So far it's gone okay. I'll do my best to keep updates tight. Also, b/c I have so many chapters written out, please bear in mind that any potential parallels between my story & the rest of Season 3 are purely coincidental. I already spotted two. I'm gonna go back & try to change things but I can't change too much without affecting subsequent chapters so here goes.
Also, for those of you who caught Paley Fest, hearing Alison Brie say that she wants Annie to be with Abed, too, really excited me about writing this. Her first choice, however, was Britta, which just makes me wish I knew enough about lesbian relationships to write that particular story. Anyways, I'll let you guys be the judge of whether or not this one works.
Chapter 1: A Snag Here, A Snag There
"I don't understand. You're accusing me of trying to hog Abed?"
"No, no. Not accusing," Troy told me. "I'm just thinking we might wanna lay a few ground rules."
"There are no rules!" I set down the spatula I'd been using to fix my omelet and turned off the stove. "We've only been together less than twenty-four hours, and then the second he leaves the apartment I've got to deal with this crap?"
"I'm just saying," Troy continued, one eye on me and the other on the omelet, "that last night was the first time he didn't sleep on the bunk. And that's fine. I get it. You wanted him to yourself. But then this morning it's all, G'morning, Abed, Sayonara, Troy, because he ran out of here right after you said you wanted a donut!"
"Well, I wanted a donut, Troy!" I said, my voice rising to rival his. "What's so bad about that? I didn't ask him to get me one! I only mentioned that I kinda had a craving..."
"But that's how it starts!" Troy inched sideways, drawing closer to the countertop. "Girlfriends are needy. Before you know it there's gonna be no time for video games or cosplay or our ongoing attempt to break new Guiness-Book-Of-World-Records because he'll be too busy following you around, carrying your books, and, I dunno—taking you to get your nails done. I just don't think you've thought this through, Annie. And it's not just the people that live here that you're affecting. What about the rest of the group?"
My jaw dropped. I couldn't believe it. I just plain couldn't believe it.
"Who do you think I am exactly?" I said tightly. "Yoko Ono or Elle Woods?"
Troy shrugged. "If the boobs fit."
"I am not trying to break up your little bromance, Troy!" I said, giving his hand a resounding slap as it tried to sneak a mushroom off the frying pan. "You know, I don't even get where this is coming from. You were cool last night."
"I was weirded out last night," he admitted, massaging his hand. "I didn't know what to think."
"You said you were happy for us."
"I am happy for you guys. In theory. But you can't just, like, get together overnight. Jeff and Britta had months of sexual tension before they slept together. And when they were hooking up, they were smart enough to leave us out of it for the whole year. This," he gestured wildly, circling the space between us, "you and Abed—it's weird, Annie! I leave him alone with you for like three hours and then I come home and it's like you transformed him into a completely different person."
"Oh, really!" I huffed, hands at the waist. "And how was that exactly?"
I could see Troy racking his brain hard for an example. "Well for one thing he couldn't stop smiling."
My vision swam as a sharp pang hit me right between the temples. Great. Now I had a pain in my head to match the one in my neck. It was incredible how quickly Troy had managed to spoil things for me. The morning had started off so well. Waking up next to Abed. Remembering everything that had happened between us in one radiant, life-altering moment. I hadn't anticipated that the happiness of our fledgling relationship would be tested the moment he left the premises. But now Troy was attacking me for no good reason and I didn't know how to defend myself from what amounted to a whole lotta hot air. As far as I could tell, I'd done nothing objectionable. At least not yet. Troy was just being paranoid and oh my God, he was stealing a tomato now…
"Oh, just take it!" I shoved the pan his way and stormed out of the kitchen. "I lost my appetite."
I went to my room and slammed the door behind me before he had the chance to apologize. Not that he was likely to. Troy was behaving so irrationally right now that I doubted he even realized how much he'd offended me. I was so mad at him I had half the mind to march right back out there and give him a piece of it, but then I was also worried I might say something that I'd regret. Glancing at my alarm clock I winced when I realized that all three of us had to be at school in less than an hour. My stomach made a gurgling sound, reminding me that there was a donut coming my way that I wouldn't even be able to enjoy on account of the guilt gut.
Why should I feel guilty, though? I thought. I have no problem with Troy spending time with Abed. I love Troy and Abed. They're a team. A dynamic duo. I would never try to interfere with their friendship. Abed spends one night in my bedroom and automatically Troy is worried that I'm going to, what, dismantle the blanket fort? What the hell's wrong with him anyway? Is it me? Do I give off some sort of sexy, threatening, homewrecker vibe or something?
I turned to the mirror on my vanity table and examined my face carefully, searching for some semblance of Angelina Jolie. But all I saw was a quivering lip and pair of flushed cheeks. Even the whites of my eyes were beginning to turn pink.
Oh, shit. Don't cry, Annie. Don't cry, don't cry, don't cry.
I waved my hands over my face, trying to affect a breeze that might cool my hot head. It was ironic, really. Troy Barnes had made me cry growing up too many times to count. But that was because he hadn't noticed me. Wasn't even aware of my existence. So many things had changed since then. Troy hadn't hurt my feelings in a long time. And even back in high school, I don't think he'd ever been deliberately unkind. Dense, yes, but not cruel. It wasn't in his nature. Maybe Troy was right to feel imposed upon. Maybe his fears about me and Abed cutting him out were, in fact, well founded…
I looked to the door, feeling a tad less indignant.
No! my inner voice said sharply. Do not give in on this, Annie Edison. Remember your resolution at the start of the school year. Things are going to be different. You are not going to let people walk all over you anymore, do you hear me? You are going to visualize what you want, and you are going to go after it. And if you want Abed, then you can have him. You don't have to explain yourself. Stop apologizing. Stop making sacrifices on behalf of other people who clearly don't care two licks about what you want in life. You're being a wuss. To hell with everybody else!
But even as I tried to rationalize it in my mind, I knew that I couldn't yet fully conform to what three years of soul-searching and extensive counseling had been building towards. The trouble was that I did care what Troy thought about me and Abed. And I wanted his blessing. I couldn't just enter this relationship pretending that there were no strings attached between the three of us. We were friends. We were roommates. Of course there'd be strings! And if Troy already had a problem with Abed and me dating, there was no telling what the rest of the group would think.
Maybe they'd say it was strange. Maybe they'd even find it funny. The way I'd doted on Troy and lusted after Jeff and now, by sheer process of elimination, had moved onto Abed. Sure, they'd smile when I told them how happy I was. They might even offer some lukewarm congratulations. But the moment my back was turned they'd start snickering.
They'd say, "Oh, there goes Annie again. Looking for attention wherever she can get it. She's such a child, isn't she? She hasn't changed one bit. Who is she gonna go after next? Is it Britta? Pierce?"
I shuddered, wrapping my arms around myself as I fought the impulse to tear up. That was silly. What a foolish thing to think. Nobody was going to mock me. These people were my friends. Shirley with her big heart and Britta with her bleeding one, why… they weren't catty at all. Of course, they'd be genuinely happy for me. And I was nowhere near the awkward, uptight, and insecure creature that I used to be, right?
I kicked the foot of the bed and hissed through my teeth, my big toe smarting. But no matter how hard I tried to get off of it, I couldn't help the train of thought that my mind had taken. Of course the gang would think it was weird. And what's worse, maybe people would start taking sides. Siding with Troy and then siding with me and Abed. There would be fighting. And splintering. And then two study groups as opposed to one. And we'd be the one stuck with Chang I just knew it!
And all because I'd listened to my libido instead of my brain.
Abed hadn't even wanted to sleep with me in the beginning, had he? I mean he had, but he also hadn't. He'd been smart enough to realize the risk. And I'd talked him into it. Was Troy right? Were things going to change now? Had I, on a flight of pure fancy, rent a hole in the fabric of our tightly knit group?
But no! It wasn't like that, I thought desperately. It wasn't some cheap hookup. It was… meaningful. It felt like it was always going to happen. And who knows, maybe it would've happened eventually anyways. But that doesn't mean that I want things to change. At least not like that. They have to know that about me, right? I'm not a troublemaker. And these people are the best friends I've ever had. I couldn't bear to lose any of them. It's not just Abed I care for. It's Shirley, and Pierce, and Britta, and…
My stomach dropped. How was it that I'd completely forgotten about Jeff? I thought back to what I'd wound up texting him late last night:
"You were right. I'm sorry I overreacted. Please don't worry about it because we're cool and we'll see each other tomorrow, okay? TTYL."
Honestly, I was half asleep when I'd finally remembered to do so. And it hadn't even occurred to me at the time to mention that part of the reason why Jeff had been right about us not having sex was the fact that I'd had such a good time in Abed's arms in place of his…
When you took the events of last night at face value, well, God only knew what Jeff would make of them. Abed and I had been planning to announce the fact that we were dating together and in front of the entire group. But now that I thought about it, it wasn't really fair of me to tell Jeff along with the others. I owed him more than that, didn't I? On account of our history, checkered though it may be. I couldn't just blindside the guy. But what would I even say to him, one-on-one? How could I explain what had happened without it coming off as strange and suspect?
"Hey, Jeff, remember when we made out last night and then you rejected me? Yeah, well, no biggie, but, after you left I decided to sleep with Abed instead and we're together now. By the way, I'm totally over you so don't worry."
Damn, that sounded cold.
I have to text him again. I have to give him a head's up. I have to talk to him and—
"Annie, will you please come out here?" I heard Troy call through the door.
My eyes narrowed and I tossed my cell back onto the bed. "Go away, Troy. I don't want to talk to you right now."
"No, listen. I know I was acting stupid. Will you let me apologize?"
I debated it. Part of me didn't want to let Troy off the hook so easily, but it would be extremely petty of me to not at least hear him out. Stalking over, I wrenched open the door so fast that Troy nearly fell in. He stood before me, more than a little squirmy and seeming so ill at ease he looked like a puppy dog that had just been kicked.
Don't you dare, I thought. Don't you dare make me out to be the bad guy here.
"I'm a jerk," he said, trying to butter me up with those warm brown eyes of his. "I was being really insensitive back there."
"Yeah, you were." I deliberately looked past him, unwilling to fall into the trap. "Did you eat my omelet?"
"Part of it," he said guiltily. I started to shut the door again but his right hand shot out and grabbed it mid-swing. "But I couldn't finish it! I swear. I kind of lost my appetite, too."
"Good," I bit back, but even as I said it, I knew I was already beginning to forgive him.
"Aw, Annie," he murmured in a sad voice. And then I looked at his face and I couldn't keep a straight one anymore.
I fell into his arms as quickly as Troy reached for me and crushed me against his chest. My eyes pressed wet spots into his hoodie and I struggled not to get any weepier as Troy continued to sputter over me. "I didn't mean to—I mean I know I was talking out of my ass but I never thought you'd cry and I'm, man, I'm such a jerk. I'm sorry, Annie. I'm really, really sorry."
"I'm not crying." I drew back and wiped at my eyes clumsily. "I mean, I'm not even sad, really. It's just… I get like this sometimes when a lot of things happen really quickly. Stuff like this weakens my defenses."
Troy nodded understandingly and let his arms hang at his sides, obviously unsure of what else to say. "Guess I kind of ruined your day, huh?"
"You didn't ruin it." I brushed my hands down my blouse, trying to maintain some picture of order even though my face was probably splotchy. "You had a right to be weirded out and maybe Abed and I didn't give you a chance last night. I'm sorry about that. But I guess I'm worried now about how the rest of the group is going to react…?"
"They'll be cool with it." Troy waved it off. "Nobody is going to care as much as me. And I didn't really mean any of what I said. I know you're not like that, Annie. You always care more about what other people think than yourself. Seriously, Abed's lucky to have you. And you're lucky, too, because Abed's… awesome."
I smiled, my heart a bit lighter. "I know he is. And I want you to know that even though I'm really excited I'm not about to get clingy, I promise. And I definitely won't try and tag along if you guys are doing your own thing, Troy. I'm not that kind of person—you do know that, right?"
"Sure I do."
"And he's not going to sleep in my room every night…"
Troy held out a hand. "Yeah, that might be a little TMI, Annie."
"Right," I said hastily, embarrassed. "Sorry."
The room grew quiet as we stood there on opposite sides of the door frame, mirroring one another in awkward stance. I wanted to hug Troy one more time for closure's sake but I also feared it would be overkill. Geez. Maybe I was needy…
Troy scratched his head ruefully. "I still can't believe I freaked out on you like that."
"Oh, it's okay."
"No, it's not okay. It was really messed up. Maybe I needed to vent, I don't know, it's just…" he pressed his lips together and blew out a sharp breath, "you guys totally surprised me, Annie. Abed never even mentioned he liked you that way. And isn't that something you'd want to tell your best friend?"
"Well, I don't think he believed anything between us was ever gonna happen. I didn't even know he liked me until last night. And I didn't realize that I liked him that way until it just… happened."
"Yeah." Troy scuffed his foot on the ground and looked thoughtful. "I don't like being kept out of the loop though. Guess now I know how Pierce feels."
"But Troy," I protested, "you were literally the first person that we told!"
"Out of necessity," he pointed out. "We live together. Abed couldn't just start sneaking into your room after I fell asleep. Well, maybe he could. He's been practicing in the Dreamatorium. Getting stealthy as hell…"
"But it wasn't out of necessity!" I exclaimed. "We told you that we're going to tell everybody else today. Abed doesn't like secrets and considering the group's history you can understand why. I mean, would you rather we acted like Jeff and Britta? Leave you 'out of it'?"
Troy stepped back. "Damn, I'm doing it again, huh?"
I sighed. "Might as well get it all out now. Before Abed comes home."
"No, not with you." Troy shook his head decidedly and rolled his shoulders, as if trying to work out the tension. "I've done enough."
"You didn't do anything." I found myself unable to stay mad at him no matter how little sense he was making. "I'm fine now. I was probably just getting a little cranky because I haven't had my caffeine yet. But I still don't get it, Troy. You're all over the place. Do you even know what's really bothering you?"
Troy stared at me a long time, his face stricken with something that looked a lot like worry. "Just… promise me you'll be gentle with him, okay?"
"Gentle?" I repeated, confused. "With Abed?"
"Yes. Look, I know it seems like Abed's got a good head on his shoulders when it comes to the emotional stuff. Like he's not as affected by things as the rest of us are, and, yeah, that's probably true. But he's different, Annie."
"Well, I know he's different," I said, feeling a flush of heat crawl up my neck. "But I like that he's different. And that doesn't mean that he's completely inaccessible. That doesn't mean he can't be in a relationship or anything—"
"I'm not saying that," Troy interrupted, drawing closer and casting a shadow over me. "Of course he can be in a relationship. I don't want to baby him, but Abed, he's… he's a lot more sensitive than he looks. Only in different ways. He gets used to things. He counts on people. And when they let him down, it's just… it's bad. I know him better than anyone, and believe me when I'm telling you that he can get hurt."
"What are you trying to say?" I was suddenly a hell of a lot more perturbed than I'd been in the kitchen. "You know me, Troy. You know that I would never hurt Abed."
"Yeah, not intentionally. I know it may seem ideal, Annie, because you are the nicest girl in the world. I'm not trying to take that away from you. You are, okay? For real. But Abed really cares about you. I mean, seriously. I saw it, Annie! I totally saw it last night."
I blushed furiously, unsure of what to make of Troy's speech and growing all the more uncomfortable when he reached out and took me by the shoulders. "Just… tread carefully, okay?" he said quietly. "Not just for him, but for you, too. Can you promise me that?"
"I promise," I breathed out, itching to get away from a conversation that had spun so quickly out of control and constraint.
Troy gave a quick nod and let go of me, right at the exact time we both heard the door knob turn.
I was struck with an eerie sense of déjà vu as Troy and I moved a respectable distance away from one another and Abed came strolling in, awkwardly balancing a tray of coffee over a pink cardboard box.
"Sorry I'm late," Abed said. "Long line."
"Wow. You brought a bunch!" Troy was already leaping across the room. Our heated discussion clearly forgotten in his mind.
"Yuh-huh. I figured we could bring the rest to school for the group and leave them in the car in the meanwhile. Glazed custard is for you. Powdered sugar's for Annie."
"You're the best!" Troy said, his mouth half full as he took the rest of the pastries out of Abed's hands.
"Where's Annie?" Abed said, scanning the room.
"I'm here," I said weakly. I stepped out from behind the door frame and walked over to them, trying to affect a steady gait. Abed handed me my coffee and I sipped at it immediately, uncaring that it burned my tongue so long as it kept me from having to say anything.
"Is something wrong?" he asked.
"Nothing's wrong." I shook my head and smiled at him, my face aching with the effort. "Everything's perfect."