Disclaimer: I do not in any way own anything involving Community, so please, no suing this poor college student.
I would like to give a HUGE thank you to the very lovely MC-Aitlyn, who provided moral support and some wonderful feedback. Thanks, darlin'!
"Okay okay, I'm coming!" screamed Troy, rounding the corner while pulling on his hoodie.
Britta was standing with her hip cocked, arms crossed. "You're gonna make us late for the vigil!" she whined.
"Worst. Date. Idea. Ever." muttered Troy to Annie as he passed her. Then he whirled around, an anxious expression on his face. "Make sure Abed doesn't drink too much special drink before he goes to bed, you know how he gets on too much sugar. Oh oh oh, and make sure to call me if anything goes wrong!"
Annie rolled her eyes and pushed him toward the door. "We'll be fine, don't worry. Have fun on your date!"
"It's not supposed to be fun, it's supposed to bring awareness about animal rights!" snapped Britta.
"Chocolate?" offered Abed.
"Yeah," said Britta absent-mindedly, snatching the Hershey's kiss off his palm. Abed winked at Annie, who giggled.
"Seriously you guys, just go!" said Annie, shooing them out of the apartment and shutting the door behind them. She turned and smiled at Abed. She was really looking forward to this evening. She and Abed had become much better friends since the day they had spent in the Dreamatorium. Troy and Britta's date nights had become great opportunities for them to hang out together. Annie had discovered that Abed, without Troy around, had an easier time with 'practicing empathy', as he called it. It wasn't that Abed was unpleasant around Troy, nothing like that. It was just that Abed seemed to make a special effort to display empathy when it was just him and Annie.
"So… you pick out the movie, I'll make the popcorn?" asked Annie, twisting her hands.
Abed considered this for a second, before shaking his head. He raised one finger. "I have a different idea for tonight."
"Oh?" Annie raised her eyebrows. Abed was suggesting something different than watching TV?
"You know that we disabled the Dreamatorium. Well, have you noticed the cardboard box that's in the blanket fort?"
"Yes Abed, I know that you made your own little Dreamatorium, I hear you making Blorgon noises in there all the time," Annie smiled affectionately.
The corner of Abed's mouth quirked upwards. "Well, Dreamatorium mark two is a little different from the original Dreamatorium, but if you'd like I could show you the ropes."
Annie's eyes widened. "Won't it be a bit of a… tight fit?"
"I checked, and the square footage allows for two people. It'll be tight, but that's how it was designed."
Annie nodded, and then smiled. However large or small the Dreamatorium was, she was touched that Abed was so keen to invite her into his universe. Annie really enjoyed whenever she got to see things from Abed's perspective; it was such an interesting and unique way to view the world. She couldn't understand how people could write Abed off as weird or robotic. To Annie it was remarkably obvious how much Abed did care about his friends, and now she was so proud that he was making an effort to demonstrate this by using empathy.
Whenever Annie experienced thoughts like this, she also experienced an overwhelming wish to hug Abed. Whenever he unexpectedly made dinner (almost always buttered noodles, but it was the thought that counted), whenever he made a point of asking what she wanted to watch, Annie had to literally clench her fists to stop herself from pulling him up against her and refusing to let go. Like a sloth. Or a leech. It was annoying and embarrassing, and she couldn't figure out where it was coming from.
Annie clenched her fists now as she followed Abed into the blanket fort. He was standing beside 'Dreamatorium mark two', as he apparently called it, and was holding open the cardboard door. Annie ducked inside. She straightened up and turned around. Abed stepped inside after her.
Ah, Annie thought. So when Abed said there was square footage for two people, he literally meant that the amount of square footage in the Dreamatorium was the same amount as two people. Annie and Abed were completely squashed up against each other, and completely in the dark. "Um, Abed?"
"Yes, Annie." His disembodied voice was right next to her ear.
"Are you sure this is a good idea? It is really tight in here."
"No other way to experience Dreamatorium mark two. Besides, we don't need to move around, like in the original Dreamatorium."
Well, that's not quite the point I was going for, Annie thought to herself. Taking a deep breath in, Annie was suddenly struck by how nice Abed smelled. She had never taken note of his smell before. He smelled like… soap, and something else. Sandalwood? Cinnamon? she thought dizzily.
"Oh! Almost forgot!" Abed said suddenly, ducking back out of the little cardboard box. Annie immediately missed the warmth that his body had afforded her. She heard him shuffling around outside, before the sounds of an accordion began to play. He ducked back inside and closed the door.
"Now. Close your eyes," he commanded.
"Abed, I can't see anything anywa-"
"Shhh. It won't work unless you close your eyes." His monotone voice was impossible to read.
Annie closed her eyes, brow furrowed.
"Are your eyes closed?"
"Good." She could hear a note of humor in his voice now. He was silent for a few moments. Annie shifted impatiently.
"You are standing on a large cobblestone street. To each side are tall white buildings, with roofs made of tile shingles. The street is dotted with old fashioned street lamps, and there are hanging baskets of geraniums. Lining the street on each side are shop fronts, quaint boutiques, little cafes. It's late afternoon, and the restaurants and cafes are bustling with people enjoying an afternoon coffee or iced tea. In the distance, you hear the faint chime of the Cathedral of Notre-Dame—"
Annie gasped. "Paris!" she breathed excitedly. She didn't bother trying to stop herself from slipping her arms around Abed's waist (it's not like her arms had to move very far) and squeezing him tightly. She let her arms loosen, but did not let go. She had completely forgotten that she had mentioned to Abed that she would use the Dreamatorium to visit Paris on occasion. She had no idea that he would save that information for later! But of course, this being Abed, it did not totally surprise her.
"A bicycle whooshes past you," Abed continued, "and you move to the left side of the street. You accidentally bump into a tall older gentleman wearing a felt cap. 'Oh, pardonnez-moi, Mademoiselle,' he smiles, tipping his cap."
Annie smiled back at the old man, seeing him vividly in her mind's eye.
"You continue down the street. Suddenly, to your left, a bright storefront catches your eye. In the window, on a cloth mannequin, is a beautiful sun dress, covered in blue corn flowers."
Annie sighed at the beauty of the imagine sundress.
"As you push open the door to enter the shop, a little bell tinkles, alerting the shopkeeper to your presence. The shopkeeper is a smartly dressed woman in her early forties, her jet black hair pulled back in a bun. 'Bonjour, Mademoiselle. Qu'est-ce que je peux faire pour vous aujourd'hui?' You point towards the dress in the window. The shopkeeper senses that you don't speak French, but doesn't miss a beat. 'Ah Mademoiselle. This dress is from the town of Luberon, in Southern France. Oh, it would go perfectly with your eyes, Mademoiselle! Let me fetch it for you.' The shopkeeper disappears into the back of the shop, and returns back with the dress. She shows you to the curtained changing area in the back. You try the dress on, and it fits perfectly. The bodice fits your torso and the full skirt comes down to just below your knees. Looking in the mirror, you see that the shop keeper is right: the flowers on the dress perfectly match your eyes."
Annie imagined turning this way and that, looking at herself in the mirror. She was completely wrapped up in Abed's voice, seeing what he was describing as clearly as if it were reality itself. Without noticing, she rested her head on Abed's shoulder, and readjusted her arms around his waist. She was so completely and utterly happy. He was describing a day in Paris more perfect than something that she herself could imagine. This was maybe even better than being there for real, she thought dreamily.
"The shop keeper insists that you wear the dress out of the shop. 'Pour les garçons, n'est pas?' She winks at you. You exit the shop as a ray of sun emerges from behind the clouds, illuminating the beautiful street once again. As you reach the street corner, you hear music coming from your left. You peer up that street and see, tucked away, a courtyard where couples are dancing to an accordion."
It seemed that the accordion music, which had been playing in the background the whole time, swelled and grew slightly louder, although Annie thought dazedly that that was probably just in her imagination.
"You approach the courtyard, longing to join in with the dancers, but you're content to watch as the stylishly dressed men and women fox trot over the cobblestones. You shyly clasp your hands and tilt your head sideways—" Annie felt her head tipping sideways along with his words, "when suddenly your hand is clasped and you are whirled into the mix of dancers! You are dancing with a tall man, dark hair, dark eyes, who winks at you as he twirls you around the courtyard."
Annie swayed softly to the music, smiling at the imagined stranger. She was feeling so warm inside, so happy, and the touch of the handsome stranger was sending shivers down her spine. She smiled flirtatiously at him, feeling excitement boil in the pit of her stomach. He twirled her again, the late afternoon sunlight illuminating his golden skin. Annie was far past hearing the actual words that Abed was saying, she was so wrapped up in the fantasy he was creating. As the song ended, the stranger let go of Annie, and smirked at her, the corner of his mouth twitching upwards. She smiled and panted slightly, both from the exertion caused by the dance and from the excitement that this stranger elicited from her. They both turned to give the accordion player some polite applause, before facing each other again.
The accordion started up once more, this time a tango. Annie eagerly entered the stranger's arms, as they struck a dramatic pose. She felt his hand on the small of her back, as their hips moved together to the music. Her arm curled around his neck as his hand slid down to her thigh, then up the side of her body. When his hand reached her waist, the stranger spun Annie out, and then twirled her back in. As their bodies collided, it was the most natural thing in the world for their lips to collide as well.
The stranger's lips were so soft and inviting, and yet they were insistent. There was a clash of heat as Annie and the stranger's mouths opened for each other. Annie flung both her arms around his neck, as he caught her lower lip between his teeth lightly. His hand moved below her lower back, pulling her flush against him. Annie gasped into his mouth at the feel of his arousal against her.
This kiss was more potent than any she had ever experienced, well, except maybe the one from paintball last year…
Oh my god, paintball. Abed! She was kissing Abed! Annie's eyes snapped open, as she realized that the sensations she was feeling were physically happening, here, in the Dreamatorium, with her good friend Abed. Her mind raced frantically, trying to piece together how and why this was happening.
And then her mind went blissfully blank as Abed's hand moved underneath the back of her shirt, his fingertips tracing patterns against the skin of her lower back. She renewed her enthusiasm, one hand coming around from Abed's neck to cradle his cheek. Both of his hands were under her shirt now, one hand rising up to cup her right breast. She arched into his hand, as his thumb brushed against her. She gasped lightly, as Abed's mouth travelled from her mouth to her neck, then down to where her neck met her shoulder.
But a voice was needling at the back of Annie's mind now. This is Abed playing a role, just like he did with Don Draper, just like he did with Han Solo, the voice was saying. Annie tried to push it away, but a feeling of dread was growing in the pit of her stomach.
"Abed…" his name slipped from her lips, and it was hard to tell if it was from arousal or from concern.
Abed immediately froze, his hands and mouth stilling on her body. And then he let go of her completely, stepping back. "Annie," he said, and his voice was monotone, same as always. He sounded completely unaffected. Annie couldn't see his face, as they were completely engulfed in the dark, but she was sure his facial expression was stoic too.
Annie wanted to scream in frustration. Why was he doing this? Why was he doing any of this?! She blindly fumbled against the cardboard walls of the Dreamatorium until she found the door, and bashed it open, stumbling out and away.
"Annie!" Abed climbed out quickly after her, catching her wrist in his hand. Annie stilled, turning around to look where his hand was clutching her wrist. She knew she couldn't look into his eyes. But looking at his hand only reminded her of what his hands had been doing just a moment ago, and so she yanked her wrist out of his grip. She ran across the floor to her bedroom, slamming the door behind her.
Inside, Annie paced backwards and forwards, grabbing her hair with both hands. Her heart was racing, and her lips still tingled from Abed's kisses. What was Abed doing? she thought frantically. Was that really some role play?! Because it had felt pretty damn real to her. But of course, Abed is Abed, the voice in her head said sarcastically. Maybe he's monitoring your heart rate under different situations, maybe he's practicing a new character. Who could it be this time, Johnny Castle? Pierre Dulaine? Annie slammed her hand into the wall, yelping from the pain and from the confusion.
She sat down in her desk chair dejectedly, massaging her hand. Why did she always have to kiss Abed when he was playing a character?! Didn't he like her enough to kiss her as himself? She closed her eyes, thinking again of the feel of his lips against hers, the touch of his hands against her skin.
Annie took a deep, shuddering, calming breath. She would just have to tell Abed that he was not allowed to role play with her like that. And then she would just have to crush these feelings she was having. She knew she could do it, she had done it before with Jeff. Annie stood up resolutely, and pushed open her bedroom door.
Abed was standing in the middle of the apartment, facing her. He had been standing outside of her bedroom, staring at the door, probably for however long Annie had been inside. Annie approached him cautiously.
"Did you figure it out?" asked Abed calmly.
Annie's brow furrowed. "Figure what out?"
The corner of his mouth twitched upward. "That you're attracted to me."
Annie opened and closed her mouth in shock. What was… was that the experiment?
"You mean," she approached him slowly, until their noses were almost touching, "this was all planned to see if I was attracted to you?"
Abed nodded slowly.
Rage boiled inside of Annie. All the resolutions she had just formed about calmly explaining things to Abed flew out the window. "Abed!" she barked, "you cannot just toy with people's emotions like that!" She walked away from him, raising her hands in the air in frustration. "I mean," she began to pace back and forth, "you kiss me at paintball, but then you're just being Han Solo. Then you want to kiss me again, but you're just playing the character of Jeff. I can't take it any more, Abed!" She whirled to face him, he blue eyes blazing. "Okay yes, I'm attracted to you. But can we be done now? Do you have enough DATA?!" she shrieked the last word.
Abed had been standing calmly throughout her whole rant, head cocked to the side. Silence hung between them. "Classic rom com misunderstanding," he finally declared. "Time to invoke the Third Act revelation trope—"
"Abed." said Annie, her voice low and menacing. "Do NOT reduce this conversation to tv tropes."
Abed blinked slowly. "I'm sorry Annie, I'm not trying to trivialize what you're saying. It's just how I make sense of the world." He paused. "You're confusing my motives for rendering that scenario in the Dreamatorium. Yes, it was an experiment to see if you were attracted to me. But you're not asking the right question. You're not asking the question of why I wanted to know."
Annie huffed, crossing her arms. "I know why you wanted to know. Oh, I'm Abed," she mimicked, "I'm above emotions, I don't care if Annie's all hot and bothered now from our little Dreamatorium make-out session—"
She was interrupted by Abed's lips on hers. His hands roamed over her body as he tilted her head back to gain better access to her mouth, kissing her deeply. Annie couldn't tell how long that kiss lasted, but it was over as abruptly as it began. Abed stepped back, leaving Annie panting slightly, a rosy flush coloring her cheeks.
Abed took a moment to consider his words. "I noticed that you seemed to enjoy the occasions when we're romantically paired together. That information led to the revelation that I enjoyed them too. But then I also noticed that those circumstances always involved me LARPing."
"LARPing?" inquired Annie.
"Live action role playing. Anyway, I wanted to make sure that it wasn't just the characters I was portraying that you were attracted to. So I created what my simulations told me would be your ideal setting, and inserted myself into the scene."
Annie, thinking back to the Parisian fantasy, realized that the face of the stranger she had been dancing with had indeed been Abed's. She stared at Abed in a mixture of shock and awe. "Shirley's right to call you a witch."
"I am merely a study of human character," said Abed confidently, walking slowly towards her and taking her hands in his.
Annie looked at their intertwining fingers. "You simulations were pretty spot on about my ideal setting," she said softly, raising her eyes to his. "It was lovely, Abed."
Abed let go of her hands in order to reach into his pocket, pulling out a remote control. As he pressed a button, accordion music once more flooded the apartment.
Abed offered Annie a hand. "Shall we dance?" he asked, waggling his eyebrows.
Annie giggled, and placed her hand in his. "Thank you, kind sir," she smiled demurely, curtseying.
He pulled her into his arms, and they began to dance slowly to the music.
"Do you know what I liked best about that last kiss?" Annie finally asked. Abed looked down at her. She smiled up at him softly. "It was just Annie and Abed. No fantasies, no characters, just us."
He nodded. "Although playing characters is obviously fun, with you I'd rather just be me." He paused his movements, and Annie stilled as well. "Although there was a 68% chance that you would feel the same way as me, that still left a pretty big chance that you would reject me." He paused. "I'm really glad you didn't." Abed's normally monotone voice contained a hint of relief, which told Annie just how relieved he was. Her heart swelled, and she placed her hand on the back of his neck to drag his lips down to hers.
Eventually Annie pulled away, and placed her cheek against Abed's chest, nuzzling close and wrapping her arms around him. They began to sway to the music once more.
"So have we moved from Chandler and Phoebe to Chandler and Monica?"
Annie chuckled into Abed's shirt. "Abed, are you asking me to be your girlfriend?" She looked up at him.
He smiled down at her sheepishly. "Yeah, I guess."
Annie felt a grin spread across her face. "Yes, Abed, I'll be the Monica to your Chandler. I'll be the Pam to your Jim. I'll be the Lily to your Marsh—"
And yet again, Abed interrupted Annie by pulling her in for a kiss.