Anyways, here she is! :D
She spends the first month of her summer locked in her room, reading Diana Wynne Jones and listening to her voicemails.
After a while, it feels like she’s stuck in some nightmarish Groundhog Day loop. She gets up, dresses herself, and picks up (Fire and Hemlock, Howl’s Moving Castle, The Chronicles of Chrestomanci) and starts to read. She ventures downstairs only to eat, responds to text messages only from Abed or Shirley, and does not leave the house. She gets emails from Vaughn (which she deletes unread) and Pierce attempts to instant-message her from his cell phone (it never works) and she calls Troy every now and then (mostly to remind him that it’s perfectly acceptable to bring Pierce to court if he does something stupid, but they usually end up talking, too).
Once a week, she gets voicemails from both Britta and Jeff.
Britta’s is first (Annie, I know about what happened and I just want you to know that nothing’s changed between me and you. It’s fine, I’m fine, I know that we got into a fight about Vaughn, but everything will be okay, okay? Please call me back, Annie) and Jeff’s comes minutes after (Annie, hey. Look, about what happened… it’s not that you’re not a great girl or that I don’t like you, it’s just that I don’t think it’s… well, I don’t… I’m sorry, Annie. Call me).
They always come on the same day, at virtually the same time. Annie knows that they’re in the same place when they happen. Britta goes first to prove that it can be done and then she hovers over Jeff to make sure he does it right. They never say a word about each other or what’s happened since, but Annie knows. She knows that they forgive her (and she hates them for it, because she can’t bring herself to do the same). She knows that they care (and she wishes she didn’t). She knows that they want things to go back to the way they were (and she wants it, too, more badly than either of them).
She deletes the messages as soon as she’s heard them and does not respond.
The first day of July dawns and she rolls over in her bed, trying to hide from the fact that she’s awake. Today is a voicemail day and she just doesn’t want to hear it. If she has to listen to one more apology, one more plea to talk, one more offer of forgiveness, she may just drown herself in the bathtub. She lies with her eyes closed for what feels like forever, pretending she’s still asleep.
Her cell phone buzzes twice from under the pillow next to her. A text message. She slides her hand over, shuffling closer when she finds it out of reach, and doesn’t open her eyes until she’s got the phone in front of her face. The light hurts and she blinks. It’s from Abed.
What are your plans for today? he asks, as though he doesn’t know that she hardly leaves her room. She frowns, but responds with the necessary information. Her fingers are sluggish, as though each letter takes monumental effort. The message sends and she burrows down into the covers with the phone in her hand, prepared to go back to sleep.
It takes her several minutes to make herself read the message. When she does, she smiles.
There’s a difference, Annie realizes, in being alone with Abed and being with Abed in the group. It’s almost imperceptible (to her, at least), but it’s there. With everyone interacting and more people to observe, his attention is split. He’s watching six different people at once, cataloguing their dynamics, their mannerisms, their motivations. He doesn’t have much time to focus on one person. When they are alone, all of his attention—all of the genius that goes into his bizarrely predictive shows, that makes him a walking television encyclopedia—is focused on her.
It’s unnerving (rather like she’s being tested in an experiment for the Duncan Principle, waiting for him to do something that never quite happens), and flattering (when was the last time someone paid complete and total attention to her alone?), and it’s simply Abed. It’s so simply Abed and so simply welcome to her battered heart that it totally negates the first two feelings and leaves her feeling more at home than she ever did locked up in her room.
And so it comes to pass that Annie Edison spends the second month of her summer with Abed Nadir.
She soon realizes that it doesn’t matter where they are or what they’re doing. Abed always seems to be aware of her. Whenever she moves, whenever she sighs, whenever she turns a page in the book she’s reading, his eyes are on her, flicking over as though to make sure she’s still there before he continues with what he’s doing. She wonders if this is the way he behaves with everyone, or if she’s a special case (she never gets up the nerve to ask, though), and then wonders what would make her a special case, if she is.
It becomes obvious at the end of the first week of the second month of the summer. Britta and Jeff are early leaving her messages, catching her in the middle of an Indiana Jones marathon with Abed. Her phone, on the table in front of them, begins to buzz insistently and instinct warns her not to touch it. Abed gives her a look.
“Are you going to answer it?”
She doesn’t hesitate. “No.”
“…Can I?” The question is unexpected and she looks over at him. His face is set in a neutral expression, but his eyes seem to be trying to communicate… something to her. She finally turns her gaze back to the movie and shrugs casually (she hopes).
“If you want.”
He answers it. It’s Britta. They chat for a moment and he holds out the phone to Annie, as though to invite her to talk. She takes it from his hand, closes it, and puts it back on the table. It starts buzzing again almost immediately, but this time neither move to answer it. When Annie realizes that she’s having trouble seeing the screen because she’s crying, Abed’s arm winds around her shoulders and draws her unresisting form to his.
She realizes then that it doesn’t matter why she’s a special case. She’s just glad that she is.
Seven weeks into the summer.
She and Abed are sitting on the couch. A very battered copy of The House of Many Ways is open on her lap. She heard the click of the camera fifteen minutes ago, knows that Abed is probably filming her, and yet she doesn’t mind. (She pretends she doesn’t know why, but she rather thinks she does.) She marvels that he still shows such an intense interest in her, really. Most people have gotten bored by now. (Sometimes she just feels like shaking him and asking why he doesn’t hate her yet.)
She feels fingers gently brushing her face and she looks up. Abed is there, camera in hand, watching her through the viewfinder. His arm is outstretched and he lowers it slowly, almost reluctantly. She gives him a warm smile, looking directly into the lens. His mouth quirks in response. Then, suddenly, he puts the camera down. (Annie would say that she’s confused, but everything about Abed confuses her, to be honest.)
Later, she asks him why he did it. He tells her that some things can’t be experienced through a lens.
“So, did the doe eyes really affect you or were you just trying to put on a good show?”
It happens in the middle of an episode of Cheers (during commercials, of course. Annie knows that Abed still mourns the loss of his Cheers box set). Abed turns to look at her, seemingly confused, and she looks down at the folded hands in her lap. Her hair, loose and needing a wash, swings down like a curtain between them. She doesn’t have the courage to push it away so that she can see his expression.
“I don’t know. Do it again and we’ll see,” he says.
Her head snaps up and she half expects to see him wiggling his eyebrows at her. He’s not. His face is as neutral as ever and if she hadn’t spent the past three weeks sitting on this couch, she may have thought he was being serious. Still, there’s that something in his eyes (that has nothing to do with mysterious and gentle) that makes a shiver run down her spine. She stammers as she asks him to forget it and turns her attention back to the screen.
The television goes off, but she doesn’t look away until she hears Abed say, “Annie.” She turns her head and he’s startlingly close, but she can’t seem to move away. “I was more affected by your doe eyes than I thought I could be. At first I thought it was because I underestimated the subversive power of Disney, but later study showed that I didn’t react nearly as much to the actual Disney face as I did to you.”
It takes a moment for what he’s saying to sink in.
“You watched Disney movies to make sure my effect on you was genuine?” she says blankly. He nods. “That’s… wow.”
“In watching those movies I came across a common theme. It seems that when a person is able to connect with another person on a level that no one else can, it means that they’re supposed to have some kind of a relationship,” he tells her. There’s no inflection in his voice to tell her what he’s trying to say with this, nor is there an expression on his face to give her any kind of clue. But she thinks she knows.
“Disney movies aren’t the best source to turn to for tips on relationships,” she finds herself saying. “But there are a lot of TV shows that support your hypothesis.”
He nods again, remaining silent. After a moment, he cocks his head at her as if in curiosity. “I wanted to time this perfectly and I can’t think of a reference where what I’m about to do has gone over exceedingly well, but I’m going to do it anyway.”
Before she can open her mouth to ask what he’s talking about, he leans forward and kisses her. It is short and surprisingly passionate, but then hasn’t she been saying something about Abed being surprising? Or maybe it was confusing. She’s kind of having trouble concentrating on anything beyond his lips on hers, his hands on her face, the warmth of his nose brushing across her own. Later, Abed will tell her that it lasted only seconds, but she will always think it felt like forever.
When he pulls away she asks, “Are you going to put that in Community College Chronicles?”
“No,” he says with a smile. She pouts. “I only cover what happens during the school year.”
The second month of summer is ending and Jeff and Britta are still calling her. Annie would be surprised at their persistence, but the way Abed explains it puts things into perspective. To them, she’s kind of like Rose from The Golden Girls. Dorothy and Blanche don’t appreciate her much because on the surface (again, he stresses to them), she’s a trifle annoying. But when she’s angry with them—really, truly angry—they find they can’t deal with life without her.
After he’s done, she smirks and asks, “Who are you in this analogy?”
“Miles,” he says without a beat, “except I’m not such a penny-pincher and I would rather stay in and watch Becker than go out to a cheap restaurant.”
Although she laughs, her mind is churning what Abed told her over and over. Blanche and Dorothy never got together, she knows, but she wonders if maybe Sleepless in Seattle would be a better reference than The Golden Girls. If she’s the Walter to Jeff’s Annie Reed, it makes sense that she would have to step down. After all, Sam and Annie were inevitable—they managed to twist fate backwards and meet over extraordinary circumstances. Jeff and Britta’s circumstances aren’t half as extraordinary, but they managed to make it over the summer hurdle, which Annie can’t remember ever happening with her friends. Maybe the fact that they managed to get together after everything that happened means something. It may even mean more than Annie’s Disney face giving Abed pause.
Of all the people she talks to, it’s Pierce who finds out first.
He’s resorted to instant messaging from his computer and they’re having a discussion, oddly enough, about his most recent relationship. Annie has to remind him dozens of times that she doesn’t need to hear more intimate details and somehow she ends up bringing up her and Abed. (Okay, more like she tells him that she doesn’t tell him about what she and Abed get up to, and he has a fit.) She makes him promise not to tell anyone or post it on his Twitter account.
She thinks that she’s safe… until Shirley calls.
“Annie, I know that you’re not a bad girl and that you’d never purposely toy with a person’s feelings, but I want to make sure you and Abed are getting together for the right reasons,” she starts, before Annie can even say hello. When Annie makes an indignant noise, she continues, “I’m just thinking about the Don Draper act from earlier in the year. Maybe he pulled it on you because he knew you liked it, but—”
“I will have you know that Don Draper has never been involved in this relationship,” Annie says. “He didn’t even play a crucial part in starting it.”
“But does he play a crucial part in your interest in Abed?”
The question makes her pause. Not because Don Draper was an influence on her—he honestly wasn’t. But she realizes then that her feelings are really, truly genuine. It’s… different than it was with Jeff. She was put at ease by his smile and charmed by his wit, but the person he turned out to be wasn’t… enough. She needed—still needs… well, she doesn’t know what she needs, but Abed is providing it. Just being there, being himself, makes her feel worlds better than she remembers ever feeling before.
Annie smiles a dreamy little smile, “No, he doesn’t. Abed is what I need right now, not Don Draper or Jeff. I think he’s what I needed all along.”
When her phone rings on July the thirtieth, she gets a foreboding feeling in her gut. It’s been a week since the last voicemails and she knows who has to be on the other end. She picks it up and stares at the flashing phone icon and the name underneath for three whole seconds before she flips it open.
“Hello?” she says as pleasantly as she can. There’s the slightest tremor in her voice.
“Annie?” She can hear the shock plainly in Britta’s tone, but she finds it almost a relief that the other woman is as shaky as she is. “Hey, Annie, it’s Britta. I’m so glad you picked up.”
She smiles a wobbly smile and squeezes the hand that Abed has slipped into her own. “Yeah, I… I’m sorry that I haven’t been replying. Or answering. I’m…” She blows out a breath. “It’s been a trying summer.”
There’s a laugh on the other end.
“I’ll bet,” Britta says. She pauses. “So, um… we have some things to talk about. Do you want to get some coffee with me?”
Her heart lurches and she freezes. She shouldn’t have done this, shouldn’t have answered. She’s not ready, she should have known better, this is going to be too much for her. But Abed presses a kiss to her temple and she snaps out of the doubt spiral. “I… yeah, that sounds great.”
a/n: I KNOW THIS IS AU. xD Just wanna throw that out there. I've seen the previews, so I know. Okay? HOPE YOU ENJOYED! :D
NEARLY FORGOT!! jheaton was a huge, HUGE help in making this happen. :D He edited this story like a FIEND and it was his first time. :) Thanks so, so, SOOOOO much, John!