Spoilers: Anything up to and including the season three finale, 'Introduction to Finality'. In fact, several of the scenes in that episode's final montage will find their way into this story as I provide my own events that lead up to them.
Disclaimer: I own nothing but the plot. If I had any claim on Community, Abed would be all mine.
A/N: Okay, so I totally wasn't going to focus on fanfiction anymore, since my friends and family always point out what a waste of time it is (never mind that I enjoy writing it), but this plot has been nagging at me to the point where I'm actually having a hard time sleeping because I keep thinking of scenes and dialogue. So, for my own peace of mind, I have to get this out. It's my first Community fic, so I'll try to keep everyone in character as best I can, allowing for character growth, of course. It should be noted that I love both the Annie/Abed and Annie/Jeff pairings, so there will be a lot of both in this story. I will also be using a 'Princess Bride', if you will, story framing device as a bit of an experiment in my writing. If any fandom is perfect for experimentation, it's Community. To cut down on confusion, I will label each segment of the story with when it occurs, and all framing sections will be headed by 'Study Room, Present Day'. Please read and review! Thanks!
Chapter One: The Starting Point
Annie Edison came to a halt in the study room door. Mouth gaping open slightly, she surveyed the scene in front of her. Taking in the positions of the rest of the study group members, her eyebrows rose nearly to her hairline. She had only been in the bathroom for five minutes at the very most. How had things slid, no - avalanched- downhill so quickly?
Britta was on the floor on top of what appeared to be Jeff, who had his hands up to cover his face. There was good reason for that, of course, because the blonde was raining blows down on the considerably larger man, and everyone knew that Jeff was extra protective of his looks. Since his face was hidden, it could have just as easily been Pierce on the receiving end of Britta's wrath, but he was still in his regular chair. Plus, his hair wasn't as perfectly mussed.
As surprising as it was, the sight of Britta beating up Jeff was hardly the most interesting one in the noisy room, Annie realized as her eyes slid over them to Shirley. The mother of three was standing above the pair on the ground, wielding her large purse as if it were a deadly weapon. Based on the loud shriek that Britta let out when she took a blow to the side, it was.
"Watch where you're aiming that thing!" the blonde yelled without taking her eyes off of Jeff.
"I wouldn't hit you if you'd move and give me a clear shot at Jeffrey," the other woman responded in her sternest tone.
"That wouldn't be as much fun," Britta got out between grunts at the effort of keeping the struggling Jeff on the floor.
"Get off of me, Britta!" Jeff yelled before again covering his face as protection from her renewed blows.
Extremely confused, Annie could only stare at the three for a moment. She had only been gone for five minutes! What could Jeff have possibly done in that time to drive the other two women to violence?
"I know people!"
Pierce's voice cut through the racket Britta, Shirley, and Jeff were making. Curious, Annie turned her gaze to the older man. He was glaring angrily in the direction of the other three.
"I have money and I know people who'll do things for it," he reiterated. "I don't care how gay you are."
Annie let out a small groan at the sheer inappropriateness of the comment, also a clear sign that Pierce's anger was aimed at Jeff.
The sound of sniffling caught her attention, and she looked toward the sound. Troy was standing next to Shirley's chair, a phone clutched, clearly forgotten, in his hand. Tears were running down his cheeks. Honestly, with the way the others were behaving, it was no surprise that Troy had started sobbing. It was pretty much his go-to reaction when their group fought (or when he was confused or happy or angry...).
"Oh, stop crying, you baby!" Pierce snapped when Troy let out a particularly loud wail.
"But I don't know whether to be happy or mad!" he howled.
Annie was officially thoroughly bewildered. Desperate to make sense of the situation, she turned to the last group member - the one who could almost always be counted on to act as the voice of reason or to at least know everything that was happening with everyone.
Of course, since she seriously need his help, Abed was gazing straight ahead in a catatonic state.
She stared in dismay at the pop culture genius before shaking her head. Okay, she was obviously the one who would have to get things back to normal. The first thing she needed to do was get their attention. Slipping two fingers into her mouth, she let out a loud whistle.
At the shrill sound, everyone else quieted down and focused on her. Nervous to find herself so suddenly the center of attention, Annie twisted her hands together.
"You broke Abed," she blurted out suddenly, gesturing at the man who still hadn't moved.
Britta climbed off of Jeff and pointed at Annie.
"Nuh-uh. You broke Abed," she rebutted, storming over to stand in front of Annie. "This whole thing is all your fault."
Annie took a step back.
"My fault? How can it be my fault? I wasn't even here when you all decided to lose your minds!" she protested.
"We know your secret!" Britta declared.
Annie snapped her mouth shut as that statement gave her pause. Which secret did they know? She was keeping so many at the moment and any one of them could have set the others off. If they knew her main secret and how it came to be, that would certainly explain both Jeff's beating and Abed's catatonia.
"You know?" she finally asked quietly.
As the others nodded, Annie felt like she was going to throw up. She took in the anger in Britta, Shirley, and Pierce's expressions, the tears still trailing down Troy's conflicted face. Jeff was paler than she'd ever seen him and nursing a rapidly bruising eye. Abed was still catatonic. Annie sighed.
"You should all sit down. I have a story to tell you," she announced.
"Ooh! Story time!" Troy said excitedly, tears clearing up instantly, before scrambling for his chair.
Annie and Britta shared a small smile at his enthusiasm before Britta's died and she took her seat. Shirley and Jeff were quick to follow her example.
"Is it a dirty story?" Pierce questioned.
"Pierce!" Annie called with exasperation.
"I was just asking," he grumbled at Troy, who was leaning forward eagerly, gaze focused on Annie.
Ignoring Pierce, Annie closed her eyes briefly. If she was going to tell this story, she would need help from the one person who was currently unreachable. Walking past Britta's chair, Annie bent down near Abed so that her face was level with his. Reaching out, she cupped his cheeks with her hands and gently turned his head to face her.
"Abed," she said in a soft voice. "Come on, Abed, it's time to wake up. I need you."
Stroking her right thumb along his cheekbone, she kept her eyes on his. She watched as the blankness bled out to be replaced by the intelligence that she was so used to seeing in them.
"Annie?" he asked. "When did you get back?"
She smiled at him. "I'm going to tell everyone a story, Abed. I might need your help."
Annie watched his eyes widen slightly in surprise before his expression settled into its usual neutrality.
"Right. This kind of plot revelation is usually reserved for sweeps, but then again..." he trailed off thoughtfully.
Now that Abed was back to normal, Annie straightened up and walked back to her own chair.
"As weird as that little interlude was," Jeff snarked, pulling his phone out of his pocket, "you mind getting to the point? Some of us would like to go home before graduation."
Annie narrowed her eyes at Jeff. "Fine." She gazed around the table at the other group members. "I'll try to hurry this along, but it's kind of a long story."
Sitting straight in her chair, Annie considered the best way to start.
Saturday, August 18, 2012
Once upon a time...
"Oh, come on, Annie," Jeff interrupted. "You can't start the story with 'once upon a time'."
Annie scowled. "Why not? It's a perfectly legitimate opening. It's been used in countless fairy tales."
"For one, we're at Greendale. That's hardly the right setting for a fairy tale," he explained.
Britta nodded. "He's right. If this were a fairy tale, we'd all be in a castle right now and Abed would be a wooden puppet that was made into a real boy."
"There are no castles in Pinocchio," Abed pointed out.
"Really not the point," Britta rebutted.
"Annie, sweetie, I think what they're trying to say is that you are not a princess even if you do have Disney princess eyes. So your story really shouldn't start with 'once upon a time'," Shirley elaborated in her sugary sweet voice.
"She has a tiara. Does that count?" Pierce asked.
"I gave that back to you," Annie reminded him.
Pierce waved her off. "It's still yours. It's even in my will."
Annie was stunned to hear that.
"Awe, Pierce," she cooed.
Sometimes he did sweet things like that and she forgot why everyone was so frequently annoyed with him.
"But you can't start your story with 'once upon a time'. Your boobs are too big to be a fairy tale princess," he continued.
Right. That was why.
The name was chorused around the table.
"Okay, fine. No 'once upon a time'. Umm..."
Saturday, August 18, 2012
It all started at...
"What is this? A class in the most cliche ways to start telling a story?" Jeff interrupted once again.
"Would you all be quiet? You're ruining story time!" Troy burst, finally breaking his patient silence.
Annie glared at Jeff. "Do you want to tell this story?"
He glared right back at her before finally ducking his head to check his phone again.
"I don't know the story," he muttered in defeat.
"That's because it's my story," she emphasized. "So I will tell it how I want, but I'm not going to get anywhere if you keep interrupting me."
"Fine. Proceed," Jeff offered without taking his eyes off his phone.
"Ugh," Annie murmured in disgust at his arrogance before turning her attention to the others. "As I was saying..."
Saturday, August 18, 2012
It all started at the end of summer.
Annie was curled up in Abed's recliner in the living room, the course book for the upcoming year clutched in her hands. She was pouring over the class options. She was well aware that she was wasting her time, but she couldn't help herself. Her schedule was already set for her final year at Greendale; there was no changing it now. That didn't stop her from obsessing that she had chosen the wrong electives. What if Sociology wasn't beneficial to her future career in the health industry? What if The Effects of Pop Culture on Human Culture was the class that would finally tear the group apart? What if everyone found out that she was taking Intro to Psychology and started calling her Britta?
Luckily before the panic could set in fully, there was a loud bang of something heavy hitting the wall in the Dreamatorium. The noise dragged her out of her worries.
Despite the relative quiet of the apartment, Annie wasn't alone. Troy, who had been officially dating Britta since the end of July, hadn't come home the previous night. Since they'd gone out to dinner and a movie that night, it didn't take a genius to figure out where Troy had stayed. Abed had spent the night at home, rewatching season eight of Inspector Spacetime, while Annie scanned the internet for the best deals on school supplies. When they had woken up this morning to find that Troy still wasn't home, Abed had escaped to the Dreamatorium. He had been in there all morning.
Annie wasn't sure what he was doing in there, but she kept hearing the occasional thud as he or one of his props hit the wall, so she would put her money on some sort of superhero scenario. Or maybe Star Wars. If he was pretending to be Han right now, then did that mean he needed a Leia?
Blushing slightly at the way her heart sped up at the thought, Annie stared down at the book in her hands. Another thump drew her gaze to the Dreamatorium door. Even if he wasn't Han right now, whatever he was doing had to be much more interesting than reading through the curriculum book for the twentieth time. She had just set the book aside and stood up when the apartment door opened and Troy and Britta entered.
Annie jumped guiltily and then immediately chastised herself for the feeling. There was absolutely no reason why she should feel guilty for wanting to join Abed in the Dreamatorium. Pushing the thought aside, she smiled at her extremely happy-looking friends.
"Hi!" she greeted them perkily. "How was the movie?"
"It was awesome!" Troy enthused. "There were lots of explosions, guns, karate, and blood. Is Abed in the Dreamatorium?"
When Annie nodded, Troy ran off to join him. As soon as the door shut, Annie turned to Britta.
"So how was the movie, really?"
The blonde shook her head.
"A complete waste of money. It was your typical Hollywood misogynistic crap where the females are only there to serve as sex objects and props so the men can congratulate themselves for being the big, strong heroes that saved the weak, helpless women. Oh, how I've wanted to say that since we left the theater," Britta sighed out in relief before shrugging. "But Troy liked it, so..."
Annie smiled. "So you really like him, don't you?"
Britta nodded, a happy grin on her face. "I really do."
As a melancholy feeling settled over Annie in the face of her friend's joy, she curled back into Abed's recliner.
Although Annie didn't understand why, every time she was faced with Troy and Britta together, she couldn't help the sadness that washed over her. It made no sense. She hadn't had feelings for Troy in over two years, and she and Britta had long ago set aside any Jeff-caused tension between them. There simply wasn't any point to it anymore since Britta was with Troy and Annie's feelings for Jeff had cooled considerably. So, Annie didn't know why she felt this way. She had even set them up on their first date!
"Have you talked to Jeff since the final?" Britta asked, having clearly noticed the change in Annie's mood.
"Huh?" the brunette mumbled, looking up at her friend.
Britta settled into Troy's recliner.
"Have you talked to Jeff since the final?" she repeated.
"We've texted a few times. We ate lunch together once too, but that was only because we ran into each other at the restaurant."
"So, what's going on with you two? Things have seemed different ever since..." she trailed off.
"Ever since when?" Annie asked curiously.
"This is going to sound really conceited, Jeff conceited as a matter of fact, but you and Jeff have been different since my first date with Troy," she admitted.
That made sense. That was the same day that she had gone into the Dreamatorium with Abed for the first time. She had taught him empathy and he had taught her that she had spent years chasing the idea of being loved by Jeff instead of actually chasing Jeff. She had finally had to face the fact that she didn't actually love Jeff like she had thought she did. While the revelation had been a bit of a relief because it meant she no longer had to worry about his constant rejection, she also felt like she had lost something that had made her life exciting. She didn't tell Britta any of that though.
"Please don't go all psych major on me," she pleaded instead.
Britta quickly hid the disappointment in her expression.
"I'm not just a psych major; I'm also your friend, Annie. You can talk to me."
Annie shook her head. "There's nothing going on with Jeff and I. I'm just growing up," she finished quietly.
Britta clearly wanted to talk about it more, but at that moment the Dreamatorium door was thrown open and the boys joined them.
"And the way that one henchman went down when you threw the Bat signal at him!" Troy was gushing. "That was awesome, man!"
Abed frowned slightly. "Yes, but now I have to buy a new Bat signal. That won't be cheap."
Annie let out a small giggle at how serious he looked. Sometimes she simply couldn't help but laugh at how invested Abed always got in his Dreamatorium scenarios. In response, he settled his unblinking gaze on her.
"Don't think I've forgotten that you still owe me for that blaster you broke," he admonished in a monotone before turning to Troy. "She thought she could take down a Blorgon by throwing the blaster at it."
As Troy started laughing, Annie blushed in embarrassment as she recalled her last visit to the Dreamatorium with Abed.
"I told you that I just panicked," she stated loudly over Troy's laughter. "I didn't actually think I could kill it by throwing the gun at it."
When Annie caught sight of Britta shaking her head in disbelief, she realized that she had once again let Abed drag her into his reality-ignoring world.
"Hmm," Abed hummed, staring at her unflinchingly in a way that silently stated he didn't believe her.
Britta cleared her throat. The noise made Annie break eye contact with Abed as they both faced the woman.
"Hi, Britta," Abed acknowledged her.
"Hi, Abed," she replied with a smile before turning serious. "Troy and I have something that we need to discuss with you and Annie."
When Britta's expression became thoughtful, as if searching for the correct words, Annie started to worry. What could be so serious that Britta would put so much consideration into it?
"We're moving in together!" Troy blurted out.
Annie's first reaction was, yes, that would be serious enough. Her second was to whip her head in Abed's direction to see how he was taking the announcement.
He hadn't gone catatonic so that was a good sign. Instead, his head was cocked to one side as he considered Troy's words. Maybe this would go more smoothly than Annie initially expected.
"Well, Britta," he finally uttered, "I suppose we could replace Annie's bed with a bunk bed for you."
Or maybe it really wouldn't.
"Um, Abed," Annie began hesitantly, "I kind of think that Troy and Britta plan to share a room."
And then the wailing started. Whenever he was especially freaked out, Abed would wail at the top of his lungs in a way that reminded her of air raid sirens. If they didn't stop him soon, he would fall into a catatonic state that would take hours to get him out of. Following the process that she had learned this spring when Daylight Savings Time began, she sprung out of her chair. She crossed in front of Britta so that she could push Abed into his recliner, and then she seated herself on the arm. Leaning over, she wrapped her own arms around his shoulders tightly and rested her cheek on top of his silky dark hair.
"It'll be okay," she whispered. "Abed, it'll be okay. If you just calm down, we can figure this out and fix it."
She didn't know if she was getting through to him. She still wasn't the expert on Abed freak-outs that Troy was. Unwilling to move her head just in case she was comforting him, she searched out Troy with her eyes. He was arguing with Britta, likely over the abrupt way in which he had made their announcement. That meant it was up to her to calm down Abed and her current approach wasn't working. Completely lost, she lifted her head and let go of him.
Deciding to try something different, Annie cupped his face and turned him toward her. She tried not to flinch at the loud howling coming out of his mouth so close to her own face.
"Abed, we need you to come back to us," she insisted over the noise. "Come on, Abed, come back to us."
It took another couple of minutes of reassurances, but Abed finally quieted down and focused his gaze on Annie.
"I'm okay," he promised her, raising an eyebrow.
It was only at that point that Annie realized that she was stroking her thumb along his cheekbone. Cheeks pink, she pulled her hands away from him and turned to Troy and Britta who were, thankfully, still arguing.
"Guys. Abed's back to normal and we're ready to discuss your exciting news."
Britta climbed out of the recliner and the two of them came to stand in front of Abed and Annie.
"Okay," the blonde began cautiously, her eyes darting warily to Abed every two seconds. "Troy and I are moving in together, and I was hoping I could move in here, Abed. But Annie's right - Troy and I need our own room."
Annie could feel her heart sinking as she immediately understood the implications of that statement. She was going to be homeless. There was no way that Abed wouldn't give Troy and Britta her room if it meant keeping Troy around. While she waited for them to reach the obvious conclusion, Annie started mentally calculating how much she could afford to spend on an apartment. She frowned as she realized the answer was not a lot. She wondered if her old place above Dildopolis was still available.
"But the only bedroom is Annie's," Abed reminded them.
Annie waited for him to put it together and figure out the only solution to the problem, so she was shocked by the next words he muttered.
"But there's also the Dreamatorium."
Stunned, Annie stared down at him. She wasn't sure that the others had even heard him, but she had.
"What was that, Abed?" Britta questioned. She obviously hadn't understood his words.
For a couple of minutes the only sound in the apartment was Abed's indecipherable mumbling as he undoubtedly ran through all of the possible move-in scenarios. Annie's nerves were on edge so she fisted the extra fabric of her pajama pants. How long would it take for him to reach the only logical conclusion that didn't mean losing his precious Dreamatorium?
"I have considered all possible scenarios," he finally broke the silence, "and the only one that doesn't darken the timeline is the one where I take down the Dreamatorium."
Annie gasped for a breath she hadn't even realized she was missing. He wasn't going to kick her out?
"All of the other scenarios require either Troy or Annie to move out," he concluded.
"If I moved out, it would darken the timeline?" Annie couldn't help but ask.
"Yes," Abed answered seriously, looking up at her where she still perched on the arm of his recliner.
She grinned. "Awe, Abed."
"So you're really taking down the Dreamatorium?" Troy asked, disappointment in his tone.
Abed nodded. "It's the only acceptable way to move the story forward."
"And you're really okay with Britta moving in here?" he pressed further.
"I am," Abed agreed, standing up.
Annie was happy that she wouldn't have to move out, but as she watched Abed and Troy exchange their signature chest handshake, she was sure she saw a flash of sadness in his eyes.
"Whoa, whoa, whoa," Britta broke in when Annie paused in her story to get a drink of water. "You can't possibly blame your secret on me moving in."
"Wow, Britta," Jeff said with a smirk, his phone laying on the table forgotten as he listened to Annie's story. "You britta'd Annie's life. That's pretty bad even for you."
Annie frowned. "My life isn't britta'd. In fact, I'm really happy right now. Well, maybe not at this very moment..."
"You thought I would kick you out?" Abed asked, breaking the silence that had fallen when her voice faded away.
Ashamed, Annie nodded. "I never thought you'd choose to take down the Dreamatorium. You did try to move me into the blanket fort when I first moved in, after all, because you preferred the Dreamatorium to me."
"We tried to move you into the blanket fort because it's awesome," Troy argued. "Do you know how long we worked to set that up for you?"
Surprised, Annie considered that for a moment.
"I never really thought about it like that," she admitted.
"This story's boring. It needs more nudity," Pierce announced suddenly.
"Hush, Pierce," Shirley scolded before turning her attention to Annie. "I still don't understand what Britta living in sin with Troy has to do with your secret."
Annie still wasn't sure which secret everyone was talking about, but she knew that all of the ones she was currently keeping had sprung out of Britta's move-in and the destruction of the Dreamatorium.
She sighed. "I warned you that it was a long story."
A/N 2: I fully believe that Abed must have had an offscreen wailing breakdown when Troy had to move out after joining the AC school, so I had to include it here. Also, when Annie tells her story, you, the reader, see it as a flashback. The study group receives the same information in first person story format. There will be times when you, the reader, get considerably more detail than the study group receives due to the flashback format, but I'll try to make those sections clear in the following present day framing segment. Finally, I won't be putting a date on the present day segments until the very end of the story. I don't want to limit the length of time that Annie's story has to fit into. Just know that the present day sections are set sometime during their fourth year prior to May. Sorry for the super long A/N; there shouldn't be many as long as this one in the future now that the fic's format is established and, hopefully, sufficiently explained in a fairly clear way.