Jeff caught up with Troy a few feet away from the door to the study room. "Troy!" he said.
Abed said that was to let casual viewers know what all of their names were, in case it became important later for plot purposes, but Troy thought maybe with Jeff it was just a leftover from his fake-lawyer days, like the way he would sometimes forget himself and greet people with a firm handshake and a lot of eye contact, or the way he once got really drunk and tried to sell Pierce equity in Britta's mom.
"Jeff!" Troy said, in case Abed was right.
"You're still pathetically upset about that failed date you and Abed had two weeks ago," Jeff said firmly.
Troy had to think about this for a moment. Jeff sounded so sure. "No," he said, relieved, when he'd worked it out. "We talked about it, and now we're both fine and we don't mind at all." He smiled at Jeff, because it was nice that Jeff had been worried.
"Let me try that again," Jeff said. "You're still pathetically upset about that failed date you and Abed had two weeks ago."
Troy just shook his head.
"Right. Okay." Jeff didn't sound pleased. "What do friends do for each other?"
"Lend each other their Farscape DVDs even when they were planning a season four marathon?"
"Don't sigh wistfully and complain that they could be watching Critchen and Scorpius having to work together to save Moya right now if they hadn't lent someone their Farscape DVDs? Even if they could?"
"Better." Jeff took a breath, and then said in his most encouraging voice, "Friendship means lying--"
Ooh! Troy knew this one! "Friendship means lying about our feelings to make other people happy."
"And because we're friends," Jeff continued, "I'm going to need you to lie about your feelings to make me happy. Do you think you can do that?"
"Yes," Troy said. Then, "Wait, what?"
Everyone was in the study room when Jeff gave Troy a Nod.
No one seemed to notice.
Troy sighed again. "Abed," he said, because no one had said Abed's name yet this week, and it was important that the viewers knew who Abed was. "I'm sad about the date we had two weeks ago."
Abed looked at him. "Do you need a hug?" he said. He raised one hand and with two fingers beckoned for Annie to come over, then pointed at Troy. "I traded Annie two Milky Ways and a box of Peeps for all my physical contact duties this week," he explained.
"Yes," Troy said. Mmm, hug. Annie was so warm and sweet. It was like being wrapped in a blanket of elbows and love. "Thank you."
"You're welcome," Annie said. "I also accept Reese's Pieces."
"I needed that hug because I am so sad about that date," Troy said, because friendship meant lying to make Jeff happy.
Pierce gave him a suspicious look. "Now you're starting to sound like him," he said, nodding his head towards Abed. "Is it catching? Do I need to get a shot? I hate shots."
Troy made the corners of his mouth turn down. "I am so sad I can't even--"
"Enough!" Jeff yelled, slamming his hands on the table as he stood up. "Fine. You're sad. We get it."
Britta, Annie and Shirley all made disapproving noises at Jeff. They were so cool. Shirley even said, "Jeffrey!" in that tone that meant she was judging you because Jesus wouldn't.
"I can't take your pathetic whining any more."
The corners of Troy's mouth stayed down, and this time it was for real. "But you said--"
"Reading Rainbow!" Jeff snapped, and that was the last thing Troy remembered for a long while.
When Troy came to, Annie and Shirley were both giving him hugs, Britta was glaring at Pierce, and Abed had that look on his face that meant he was in his special running-through-lines-from-Ghostbusters-because-other-people's-feelings-are-confusing place.
"It's not funny," Britta snapped. It sounded like it wasn't the first time she'd said it.
"Oh ho ho," Pierce said in that way that made him sound like Creepy Santa, "I beg to differ."
"And I," Jeff said, re-entering the room followed by a girl, "beg to introduce you to Becca!"
"How long were you waiting outside for a feed line?" Britta switched her glare to Jeff.
"Three minutes?" the girl said, then looked terrified.
Britta smiled. "I think I like you."
The girl blinked. "Um."
"Troy, Abed," Jeff said. "This is Becca. Larry plays LERP with her. She's a warrior princess."
"What's LERP?" Pierce said. "Sounds like a skin disease."
Troy wanted to answer, but he was too busy watching Becca look at the floor. She was pretty, and warrior princesses were awesome.
"He's deliberately mispronouncing LARP to demonstrate how not geeky he is, and perhaps also for comic effect," Abed said. "It means Live Action Role Playing." He turned to Becca. "Hmm. What kind of warrior princess?"
Becca didn't answer. But there were a lot of people around, and sometimes talking in front of strangers could be hard.
"Using some of the money Pierce paid me not to beat him to a bloody pulp," Jeff continued, "I have given Becca $50 to go on three dates with the two of you. At no point will she express a preference between the two of you or treat either of you differently. Also, I am only doing this because Troy was being so annoying."
Troy's eyes widened. "You mean she won't say Abed's weird?"
"She might," Jeff said, "but then she would be contractually obliged to say you're weird, too."
Troy felt himself smile. Jeff was awesome. Not as awesome as a warrior princess, but close.
"You bought them a hooker?" Pierce's broke through Troy's haze of Jeff appreciation. "Why do you never buy me a hooker?"
"I believe the correct term is sex worker," Abed said.
Pierce took that in his stride. "You bought them a sex hooker?"
Annie frowned. "Does that make you their pimp?"
"No, Annie," Shirley said, which was good, because Troy couldn't remember if anyone had said Annie's name yet today. "That would be if they paid him to-- I mean, I'm sure I wouldn't know."
Britta snapped at them, "How can you guys be so disgusting? Poor Becca is just--"
But when they turned to look, Becca had gone.
"Now see what you've done," Britta said, glaring at all of them in turn.
Date One: Ice Cream===
Troy and Abed came up with some non-negotiable rules for Becca:
1) She couldn't call Abed weird even if she then called Troy weird.
(That was Troy's rule. Abed had let him put it first, even though Abed had already started writing the list when he told Troy about it. That was how awesome Abed was.)
2) If she wanted to kiss them she had to kiss Troy first so Abed would know what to expect.
(That was one of Abed's rules.)
3) No trash-talking The Barenaked Ladies, individually or collectively.
(That was both of theirs.)
4) If Enterprise was her favourite Star Trek series, they would refund Jeff his $50 and never speak of this again.
(That was Abed's. He would give Troy a signal before explaining this one to Becca so Troy could block his ears and not think about Star Trek or any of the actors who had ever been on the show ever.)
5) If either of them began to fear she was coming between their friendship, they would make a noise like a kestrel sighting a sparrow and pretend this whole episode had never happened.
(That was both of theirs, too.)
In return, Becca said:
1) "Sometimes people call me weird, too." She gave them a little smile, like maybe she didn't think it was such a bad thing. "But if I can't call you weird --" She paused, then sat up straighter. "-- then you can't call me-- You can't say anything about how I look."
Troy was confused. "But you're pretty," he said before Abed could stop him. Damn. Two minutes into their date and already he had broken one of Becca's rules. He was the worst co-dater ever.
But Becca smiled bigger, like maybe that wasn't such a bad thing, either, and Troy and Abed did a double high-five with a three quarters twist and two underclaps. So that was okay.
2) "Um." And then she nodded quickly.
3) "But they won seven Juno awards. Why would I trash-talk them?'
Troy and Abed did their special BNL high-five, and afterwards Troy held his hand up for Becca to high-five him too. She just looked at him, and for a moment he felt really dumb, but then she said, "I think Abed needs to high-five me too," and they did -- it was just a standard simultaneous high-five, but it still felt pretty good.
4) Troy didn't know what she said about (4), but Abed gave him three nods when they'd stopped talking about it, which meant they didn't have to abort the mission.
5) "Um." And then she did that thing again where she sat up straighter. "Isn't a kestrel silent when it sees a sparrow? Otherwise it would scare it away."
"Good point," Abed said. "Hmm."
"I could teach you how to do a Western Screech Owl," she said. "My friend Will taught me -- it's really easy."
So that was okay, too, even if the other people at the ice cream parlor gave them a Look when Troy and Abed started practising.
By the time they'd got the owl call right, Becca was giggling into her hand. She didn't look embarrassed, though, just happy.
"Um," she said.
Troy stopped screeching.
"I have a rule, too."
Abed and Troy conferred briefly.
"That seems more than fair," Abed said. "And while technically you already gave us the 'Not talking about your appearance' rule, that still leaves you with another four at your own discretion."
Becca nodded. "I just want one more." This time she didn't sit up straighter, just fixed each of them with a look that made her seem much older and a little bit tired. "My best friend said it was okay to tell you that she's transgender. Because if you have a problem with that, you have a problem with me."
"Cool," Abed said.
So that was okay, too.
Date Two: Pizza===
"-- further homoerotic subtext," Abed concluded, putting down the knife and salt shaker he'd been using to illustrate what Lt Col Sheppard and Dr McKay had been doing between season two and season three of Stargate: Atlantis.
"Wow," Troy said, because wow, that totally changed the meaning of that bit at the end of The Siege (Part Three). He looked to Becca for confirmation, but she was resting her head on the table and snoring gently.
"Shh," Abed said.
Troy nodded seriously. "Do you think she wants the rest of her pizza?" he whispered, doing his best not to wake her in case she did.
Abed considered this. "If she asks, we'll say aliens took it."
That seemed fair.
"I like her," Troy whispered.
"Cool," Abed whispered back. "Do you think she'll give us a discount if we want to buy another three dates?"
Troy's mouth was too full of delicious, delicious pizza to answer.
"Mrflgh," Becca said, sitting up. Then, "Um."
Troy tried to hide the pizza behind his back. "Mm," he said, keeping his mouth closed.
"Aliens took it," Abed said quickly.
Becca just blinked at them. "I'm, um, I'm really sorry." She looked kind of upset. "I never do that. I can't fall asleep in public. Not since camp, when I did and some girls--" She stopped. "They were mean."
Abed nodded. "I am familiar with this scenario."
Troy wanted to hunt down some mean girls and-- and not be very nice to them.
"Sorry," Becca said again. "I'm really sorry. Do you want me to refund Jeff for half a date?"
Troy and Abed conferred.
"You could owe us half a date?" Troy said.
Becca smiled. She looked down quickly, then looked up again, still smiling. "Okay."
Date Three: LARP===
Becca's warrior princess was called Arachidamia and she led an army of wasp people. Her second in command was Athena, who was one of the cat people but wore a necklace that let her talk to the wasp people, and who was even better at swinging a LARP-safe sword than Arachidamia. Her real name was Ali, and she was Becca's best friend.
Troy and Abed were travelling bards who were just passing through. Abed had made their characters -- he was playing Lillith, keeper of secrets and teller of lies, and Troy was playing Orac the unstoppable.
Lillith was a vampire bard, so Abed got to do that thing where he put his arms up and hissed like an angry swan. Orac was a spider bard, because at Halloween Abed had got to be the alien and this time Troy wanted to get to wear the crash helmet of sinister awesomeness.
Lillith, Orac, Arachidamia, Athena and the rest of their band were just about to enter a nearby village to see if there were any potions for sale when there was a terrible noise from the trees.
Abed-Lillith raised her hands above her head and hissed vampirically. "Lillithhh sensessss evil," she said.
Troy-Orac gripped his sword. There was danger all around, and he was just a devilishly handsome, brave and strong bard with a big sword.
Then the NPC zombies attacked.
Troy-Orac swung at them with his sword, and Abed-Lillith jabbed at them with her dramatically ironic stake, but there were too many of them, and they were coming too hard and too fast. Troy-Orac let out a manly scream.
"Be brave, my friend," Abed-Lillith hissed. "We meet our end as true bardssss." She took Troy-Orac's free hand in her own.
Like avenging angels, Becca-Arachidamia and Ali-Athena cut their way through the zombies, stabbing and slashing with strength and skill.
"You would ssssave usss?" Abed-Lillith asked. "But we are mere bardssss."
"We are sworn to protect you by our hive-oathes," Becca-Arachidamia said. Her voice sounded different, like Jeff when he was teaching them a valuable lesson about the meaning of friendship. "And there is nothing 'mere' about you."
"Quick," Ali-Athena added, swinging her sword above her head to block a LARP-safe throwing dart. "We must find cover."
Date Three and a Half: Pizza Again===
"-- further homoerotic subtext," Abed concluded, putting down the three forks and hair dryer he'd been using to illustrate the end of Star Trek VII: Generations.
"Wow," Troy said, because wow, that totally changed the meaning of that bit with Jonathan Frakes and Le-- and Le-- andLeVarBurton, he thought all in a rush, but nothing went blank and when he looked around, no time had passed.
His heart was beating too fast, though, and Abed was looking at him curiously.
"Do you want to run through some lines from Ghostbusters?" Abed offered.
Troy nodded, not sure he could manage words just yet.
"Ray," Abed said, "when someone asks you if you're a god --"
"-- you say yes," they chorused.
Becca let out another snore.
This time, Abed had brought her a pillow and a blanket, because that was the kind of awesome person Abed was.
Date Three and Three-Quarters: Buffy Marathon===
"Grrr," they all said when the little monster appeared. "Argh."
Troy totally wasn't crying. He'd just got something in his eye. Destiny sucked.
"I used to think I was Willow," Becca said, reaching for the carrot sticks.
Troy nodded. "I used to think I was adopted."
"I used to think I was a robot," Abed agreed.
"Oooh, cool," Troy said. "What kind? Did you have lasers?"
"I wanted lasers," Abed said easily, "but I never got the right upgrade."
"Damn," Troy said. "Lasers would kick ass."
"Or a trash-compactor belly, so I could eat everything I didn't understand."
Troy nodded in sympathy. "I didn't understand my shoe laces. I thought maybe I was adopted from a family that just used velcro."
"Cool," Abed said.
Becca had started giggling again, but quietly, like she didn't want to disturb them.
Abed frowned at her. "You're not annoyed."
"Um?" Becca said.
"Statistically, you should be annoyed by now. I have it from several independent sources that Troy and I are very annoying."
"Um," Becca said. "Oh. No. See, like I said, I used to think I was Willow, on the outside looking in. I had this friend, Chloe, and she-- And then I had this friend, Will, and-- I used to think I was Willow. But then Willow gets all--"
"Spoilers!" Abed shouted.
Becca frowned. "But you said you'd seen it?"
Abed nodded towards the fourth wall. "We have to protect the viewers."
"Okay. So, I'm not Willow. I'm not any of them." She did the sitting-up-straighter thing. "I'm a fan."
"Ooh," Abed said approvingly. "Meta."
"I like you guys," Becca continued, and she held out her left hand so Troy and Abed could do their a reverse flip high-five with two overcuts and a loop. It was much easier with five hands. "You don't stare at me and expect me to say things, but mainly you listen when I talk and you bring me blankets and you don't mind that sometimes I just want to be quiet and sometimes I want to be a warrior princess with an army of wasp people."
Troy felt his heart do that thing it did when Abed explained about the stunt doubles in Star Wars.
"Um," Becca said. "Rule Two?"
Troy blinked. Rule Two?
Abed nodded. "Rule Two," he said firmly.
And then Becca was kissing Troy, and next she'd kiss Abed, and this was the best Buffy marathon ever.