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Special Seminar in Romantic Comedy

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Abed realized he loved Troy when the two of them were standing in Shirley's kitchen. He was placing a precise line of candies across the top of a cupcake when it occurred to him that they were decorating six dozen of those cupcakes for a bake sale, to raise funds for a purpose that defied easy explanation, which was why Annie was in the next room making posters that lied about it.

He looked up from the cupcake and watched Troy take one of the tubes of decorative frosting and give himself a bright blue mustache. “Abed, check it out. I'm like the dude from Monopoly.”

It was a perfect romantic-comedy moment in a perfect romantic-comedy situation. Abed was playing the role of careful, uptight figure in need of learning about loosening up and having fun from the devil-may-care influence provided by Troy. Therefore, they were falling in love.

Abed smiled to himself and selected another candy. It was good when his life conformed to the plot.

THREE DAYS EARLIER

“All right,” Jeff said, placing his hands on the table. “I think now we've established that it is, in fact, impossible to answer a question about tool-making without a lot of 'tool' jokes. That's very interesting, and it retrospect, it probably should have been obvious, but we really do need to finish this assignment, you guys.”

“I wish Britta was here,” Annie said wistfully. “She would totally be able to answer this without making jokes.”

“I don't know why you don't like my suggestions,” Pierce muttered.

“Pierce, I swear to God, I have duct tape in my bag and I will absolutely use it. We already told you you're not allowed to speak for the rest of the afternoon.” Jeff rubbed at his temples and sighed. “And Britta has the flu, so she can't help us. Where's Abed? His sense of humor is remedial enough that he might be able to pull this off.”

Everyone's eyes went to Troy. “He's on his way. Stopped to check his mail on the way in. He's been expecting something special.”

“Like what?” Pierce asked. “Porn?”

Jeff rolled his eyes. “It's Abed. What would Abed consider special? It's probably vintage Spock ears or something like that.”

“He's more into McCoy,” Troy said. “Everyone always assumes it's going to be Spock, but no. And he doesn't like Data best on Next Generation, either. Picard all the way.”

“I think we can all agree that Picard is the best captain,” Jeff said, “by far, but--”

“Speak for yourself.” Annie sat up straighter. “I'm a Sisko girl.”

“Sisko? Are you kidding me?” Jeff threw his pencil at the wall. “All he did was sit on a space station! He didn't even do anything. And seriously? Not Janeway? Where's your feminist solidarity cred now, Annie?”

“Just because I'm a woman doesn't mean I have to like Janeway best. I don't see you assuming Troy will prefer Sisko!”

“I would like to not see any of you assuming that I watch these geek-ass shows,” Troy said.

Everyone looked at him again and Jeff's eyes narrowed slightly. “You like Archer, don't you.”

A muscle in Troy's jaw jumped. “I don't know who that is.”

Abed came in the door, and everyone's head swiveled toward him. “Abed,” Annie said. “Who's Troy's favorite Star Trek captain?”

“It's unfair to ask him to choose, because he loves each of them in their own way.” Abed placed his backpack carefully beside his chair. “What have I missed?”

“In theory? The review sheet for chapter three. In reality? Not much.” Jeff frowned and nodded at the envelope sticking out of the front of Abed's bag. “Is that the something special? Share with the group.”

Abed took the envelope out, removed the contents, and set them on the table. Everyone stared at the two slips of paper in silence for a moment.

“That's very nice,” Shirley said finally. “Maybe you could give us just a little bit of context after all.”

“I won the contest.” Abed sat down and touched the slips of paper lightly. “The TGS contest. I won the tickets.”

“It's like he's speaking in a made-up language,” Jeff said. “Or reading from our textbook.”

“TGS with Tracy Jordan,” Annie said. “The sketch show on NBC. They had a contest to give away two tickets to a filming, and Abed entered. And I guess he won!”

“See how easy this context thing is, kid?” Pierce asked, leaning across the table toward Abed. “You can bring everyone up to speed real quick, just like Dollface over there.”

Annie frowned and looked at Shirley. “Is Dollface good or bad?”

“That's the kind of question we need Britta for.”

“What did you have to do to win?” Pierce asked.

Abed tucked the tickets carefully back into his bag. “It was just a survey on their website. Filling it out entered you automatically.”

“Oh. That's easy enough.”

“I filled it out two hundred and nineteen times.” He shrugged. “I really wanted to go. Tracy Jordan's a comedic idol of mine.”

Shirley frowned. “Oh, Abed, I'm not sure Tracy Jordan's really the kind of role model you should be following. He is not a Christian man.”

“Neither is Abed,” Jeff pointed out. “Anyway. That's great, Abed. I'm glad you're going to get to go see the filming of a third-rate television show on a dying network, starring a man whose greatest contribution to cinema was Fat Bitch. But now, let's talk about--”

“Oh, I can't go.”

Silence fell for a moment. “Why not?” Annie asked.

“I don't have any way to get to New York.”

“Transportation should've been provided as part of the prize,” Jeff said.

“Nope. Just the tickets. Transportation is on me.” Abed shrugged. “So it's cool that I won, but I can't go.”

“Well, Abed, that's not fair.” Annie looked around the table. “You guys, that isn't fair at all, right?”

“It's totally unfair. And a really dick move for NBC to pull.” Jeff shook his head and opened his textbook again. “Abed, that was a scam. You got scammed. That sucks.”

“Jeff, it more than sucks,” Annie said. “It's wrong, and we should do something about it.”

“I dread to ask this, but what do you have in mind?”

“We should loan him the money to go.” She looked around the table and rolled her eyes. “Okay, tightasses, we should raise the money for him to go.”

“Annie, let's think for a minute.” Jeff steepled his fingers. “Do you really think that setting Abed loose in New York City is the best idea we've ever come up with at this table? No offense, Abed.”

“None taken.”

“He has two tickets,” Annie pointed out. “One of us will go with him. Probably Troy, because, well, let's just be honest, Troy and Abed are...Troy and Abed. They go together.”

“Then that's two plane tickets we have to fundraise for.”

“Are you being a doubting doubter, Jeffrey?”

“I've told you that it freaks me out when you talk to me like I'm a third-grader, right?”

Shirley frowned and leaned toward Abed. “What is this, when Britta's out of the room he has to turn his flirt-ray on the nearest object with female parts?”

“He's easily swayed by secondary sex characteristics,” Abed said. “And Annie's wearing a v-neck.”

“That just makes me miss my monkey.” Troy sighed and slouched lower in his chair.

Annie clapped her hands. “Getting back to the point. We should raise money for Troy and Abed to go to New York.”

“That's going to be expensive,” Jeff said. “I object on principle to buying expensive presents for anyone who isn't either me or going to be persuaded to have sex with me.”

“You're such a Grinch, Jeff.”

“It's January, Annie.”

“I'm tired of this already,” Pierce said. “Look, Dollface, if you can raise half the money, I'll match it, just to have a few days of babble-free peace and quiet.”

“Why don't you just pay for the whole thing, then?” Jeff demanded.

Pierce shrugged. “Have to teach kids these days about hard work and the value of a dollar somehow, Jeff.”

“How about the value of generosity and giving?” Shirley asked. “Not at all related to the fact that I need new tires on my car.”

Pierce stared at her for a minute and then shook his head slowly. “Nah, those are all overrated. But I'll still put up half for Troy and Abed if you guys can come up with the rest.”

“Okay!” Annie clapped her hands again and beamed at them. “We can do this!”

“How are you planning to raise that money?” Jeff asked, leaning back in his chair. “And after you answer, can we possibly get back to the studying that is theoretically the reason we gather in this godforsaken room in the first place?”

“Shirley?” Annie beamed across the table, putting her hands on her hips. “Are you thinking what I'm thinking?”

“Absolutely, honey,” Shirley replied, “but I'm going to need more papers.”

Troy and Pierce's eyes lit up in unison. Jeff snapped his fingers sharply. “Clarify.”

“Cupcake papers,” Shirley said, frowning at them. “You foul-minded delinquents.”

“I'm confused,” Troy said.

Abed patted him on the arm. “Bake sale,” he said quietly.

Annie threw her hands in the air. “Bake sale!”

NOW

“Troy,” Abed said as they stood at the sink, washing and drying every mixing bowl, measuring cup, and muffin tin that Shirley and Annie owned, “have you noticed anything today?”

“I've noticed that I've had way too much sugar and artificial color and I kind of think I'm going to puke.” Abed picked up one of the mixing bowls and held it under Troy's chin. “Oh, not quite yet. But when I finish those last couple messed up ones over there, then check again, okay?”

“Cool.” Abed returned the bowl to the sink and added filled it with water again. “But that isn't what I meant about something you might have noticed.”

“I've noticed that Shirley has a real thing for pictures of kittens with big eyes, and it's kind of creepy.”

“Kittens aren't creepy.”

“Kittens with eyes that take up more than half their heads are, and the fact that there are a dozen framed pictures of them in just the kitchen alone is like triple freak-out time creepy.” Troy took a spoon from the needs-to-be-washed stack, licked the frosting off it, and whimpered. “Oh shit.”

“Bowl?”

“Close, but not quite yet.”

“Cool.” Abed added more dish soap to the sink. “The kittens aren't what I meant, either.”

“Then you're going to have to help me out again, man. I haven't noticed anything else today. Oh, wait, did you mean Annie's boobs?”

“The monkey or the actual body parts?”

“Body parts. Damn, I miss that monkey.”

“They do look very nice and perky today. But no, they aren't what I meant.”

Troy licked another spoon, made a face, and pushed all of the utensils into the water. “Help me out.”

Abed picked up the sponge and plunged his hands into the sink. “For a while now, we've simultaneously been in an ensemble comedy and a bromance.”

“Bromance?”

“New sub-genre, spun off from dude comedies, themselves a spinoff of the buddy comedy.”

“You and I have a sub-genre?”

“We occupy a sub-genre. We don't define it.”

“Who does define it?”

“The moviegoing public, theoretically. A handful of critics and the media elite, actually.” Abed scrubbed at the mixing bowl. “Anyway. We've been a bromantic subplot within the ensemble for some time now.”

“Is that good?”

“It's neutral. It is what it is.” Abed carefully lifted the bowl from the water and ran the sponge around the edge. “Today, though, I noticed distinct signs of a genre shift.”

“Into what? An action movie? Please tell me it's not horror, dude, I am not into that.”

Abed rinsed the bowl and carefully set it on the counter, then turned to face Troy. “We're a romantic comedy.”

Troy stared at him. “A what now?”

“Romantic comedy. You're quirky and embrace life. I'm detached, repressed, and a bit strange. You'll teach me to laugh and I'll teach you to care.” Abed shrugged. “It's a pretty basic plot. Fortunately we don't veer into the territory of manic pixie dream girl, because that one never ends well. Someone has to overdose like two-thirds of the time.”

“Abed?”

“Yeah?”

“I've got like no idea what any of that means past 'romantic comedy.'”

“Sorry.”

“You want to romance me?”

Abed tilted his head and considered. “I think we romance each other.”

Troy nodded slightly. “Bowl.”

“Oh.” Abed picked it up and held it at Troy's chin again. “That's a bad sign, I guess.”

“No,” Troy said, shaking his head and taking the dish towel from his shoulder. “I wanted to dry it before it dripped on the floor any more and Shirley kicks both our asses.”

“Why would I need to do that, Troy?” came Shirley's voice from the next room, clear and sweet and distinctly threatening.

“No reason! I'm cleaning it up!” Troy wiped the bowl dry carefully and then caught the drips from the edge of the counter. Abed watched him closely, frowning.

“You're not angry?”

“No.”

“You're not even surprised.”

“Well, I kinda was for a minute?” Troy went over to return the bowl to its cupboard. “But then I was like, oh, wait, I'm Troy Barnes. Of course dudes are into me. It was stupid to just write off half the population.” He stopped and thought for a minute. “Selfish, even, I guess. Damn.” He shrugged and came back to the sink. “Give me something to dry, we don't have all day.”

Abed handed him a spoon. “So you're okay with being in a romantic comedy?”

“I've got to tell you, I don't know a whole lot about romancing. I mean, usually I just have to kind of be me and everything falls in line.”

“I don't know anything about romancing, either.” Abed frowned and scrubbed another spoon. “I suppose we could watch some relevant examples of the genre together and take notes.”

“Yeah.” Troy lined the dry spoons up on the counter. “Or we could watch Die Hard and just make out whenever something awesome happens.”

“Is that romantic?”

“Abed, you need to keep in mind that nobody is actually watching our movie.”

Abed nodded slowly. “Just us.”

“So anything's romantic if we want it to be.”

Abed leaned in and kissed Troy on the mouth, soft and slow. When he pulled back, Troy's nose wrinkled a little, but then he started to smile.

“I like our movie,” Abed said.

Troy nodded. “Me too.”

ONE DAY EARLIER (THE B-PLOT)

Britta sniffled and rested her head on Jeff's shoulder. “Thank you for letting me copy your notes.”

“No problem.” Jeff petted her hair. “I make no promises about their accuracy or legibility.”

“I'm still tripping balls on over-the-counter drugs, Winger. Accuracy and legibility are like fairy tales to me right now.”

“Awesome.” Jeff gently helped her into a chair. “Anyway, you're lucky you weren't here, because you would've gotten sucked into this whole elaborate, bizarre thing with Troy and Abed.”

“There was elaborate bizarre Troy and Abed stuff? Why didn't you call me? I was lying on my couch watching soap operas and hallucinating, that would've been way more fun.”

“It's mostly just stupid. Abed won these tickets to go to New York and see this awful NBC sketch show film, but they didn't give him transportation costs, so Annie went off on this whole thing about fundraising to send him and Troy, and long story short, they're all having a bake sale on Monday and I am supposed to be going door to door at local businesses to get sponsorships.” Jeff sat down next to her and opened his textbook. “As you can see, that is not actually going to happen.”

Britta blinked a few times and frowned. “Wait. Wait. Why didn't they pay for transportation? They're supposed to, aren't they?”

“Yeah, it's kind of a rip-off. Abed needs to learn to read the fine print. Anyway, here's Tuesday's notes, and--”

“Jeff, that isn't fair.”

Jeff looked up. “Britta, life isn't fair. We've covered this before. That's pretty much...human existence 101.”

“But them not paying for Abed to go just because he's Arab-American and traveling with Troy...oh my God, they wouldn't pay because they think he and Troy are a couple, right? Oh my God, that's double discrimination. They are going for double discrimination points, blocking an interracial same-sex couple from their show.”

“Britta, none of that is correct at all.”

She got to her feet and glared at him, pointing sort of in his direction and sort of at Starburns through the window. Starburns frowned and pointed at himself, mouthing “Me?” Britta, under the influence of nearly as many chemicals as she was on the night of her high-school graduation, ignored him.

“Jeff,” she declared, pointing again, “this is wrong and I am going to do something.”

“Britta,” he said, pointing back at her, “you are completely misunderstanding the entire sequence of events and I...don't care at all, actually, have a good time.”

“Oh I will,” she said, stumbling toward the door. “I will, Jeff Winger, and then we'll see who is flushed with the glory of...righteousness and...no, Starburns, I don't want a hug, ew, get away from me.”

Jeff rolled his eyes and started reading the next chapter. No reason this day had to be a complete waste of time.

Forty-five minutes later, Britta stumbled back in and returned to her chair. Her face was distinctly flushed with fever. Jeff took a bottle of flu medicine out of his pocket and counted out two pills for her, handing them over with the bottle of water from his bag.

“Thank you,” she said. “Also, I fixed it.”

“Fixed what?”

“Abed's trip.”

Jeff frowned. “How did you do that?”

Britta shrugged and swallowed the pills. “Who's the one person who has a better reason to feud with NBC than anyone else right now?”

“I don't pay attention to this kind of petty pop-cultural...oh my God, did you call Conan O'Brien?”

She smiled broadly from behind the bottle and took a drink. “I did.”

“You called Conan...how did you even...”

“I have my ways, Winger, I have my ways.” She rested her head in both hands and peered at him from under her bangs. “He was all over it. Apparently he has some kind of long-time beef with somebody on that show? He started yelling about lemons, and I'm kinda out of it, so I didn't really follow. But the upside is, he's all over fixing this injustice, and he's going to film an episode of his new show here next week.”

Jeff got up and walked out of the room. Britta put her head down on the table.

A minute later, Jeff came back. “Sorry, I just had to...reset my life there, for a minute. What do you mean he's filming an episode of his show here?”

“At Greendale,” Britta mumbled into the table top. “I gave him the Dean and Abed's phone numbers and he was going to get the whole thing set up. So he can fight the lemons.”

“Britta Perry, what are you?”

She giggled helplessly and peeked up at him again. “Really, really high. Can you help me back to my car?”

TWO DAYS LATER. OR ONE DAY AFTER THE “NOW.” THE DAY AFTER THE CUPCAKE-BAKING, OKAY?

“This is all very intense,” Abed said, clasping his hands in his lap.

“Abed,” Britta said earnestly, leaning across the table and sticking her hands out toward him, “I helped you!”

“She's still a little high,” Jeff murmured to Annie.

“What did you give her?” Annie asked, eying Britta dubiously.

“The kind of stuff you have to sign and show ID for.” Jeff paused. “In Canada.”

Annie's eyes got wide. “I'll call my sponsor and see if she can come to one of my meetings.”

“Oh, it's not that bad.”

“She's petting Abed's face.”

“He doesn't seem to mind.”

“Abed,” Britta said, even more earnestly, “I knew they were just discriminating against you because you're a gay nonwhite American. Conan will publicly shame them and make them pay.”

“I'm not sure how that could be the problem,” Abed said slowly, “given that they hadn't seen a picture of me, and Troy and I weren't dating at that point.”

“Your name is pretty distinctive,” Jeff said, “and wait, back that sentence up, you weren't dating at that point?”

“Oh, yeah.” Troy nodded and swung his feet up onto the table. “We are dating now. It's pretty cool.”

The others stared at him in mutual, stunned, six-way silence.

“When did this happen?” Annie finally managed to say, her voice high.

“Yesterday.” Abed put his hand on Troy's shoulder. Troy reached up and covered it with his own, smiling. “We consummated our intention to have a relationship in Shirley's kitchen.”

“Oh my goodness,” Shirley said faintly.

“I don't think consummated is the word you wanted there,” Troy said quietly to Abed. “Consummated is what we did in your dorm room during Die Hard 2.”

“Oh, yeah.” Abed nodded. “Sorry about that. Anyway, that was just yesterday, so there's really no way NBC could've known.”

“So...do we have to call the whole thing off?” Pierce asked. “Because I'm really looking forward to meeting Conan. I have a bone or two to pick with that tall, Irish bastard.”

“Oh, no, he'd already made most of the arrangements before he got me on the phone,” Abed said. “I was kind of busy.”

Troy nodded and smiled some more. “Consummating.”

Shirley closed her eyes tightly. “Oh my goodness.”

“So he's just going to go ahead and do the show and be vague about the exact details.” Abed shrugged. “Apparently he has some kind of massive feud with the head writer of TGS, and it goes back a long time. He talked about it a lot but I didn't really listen.”

Troy nodded again. “He was thinking about consummating. Because I'm awesome.”

“Troy, don't be cocky,” Jeff said.

“No, he's right, that's what I was thinking about.”

“All right then!” Annie clapped her hands.

“You've got to stop doing that,” Jeff told her. “The whole feeling like a third-grader thing is happening again.”

“But it works. It gets everyone's attention.”

“Yes, but it's...” Jeff sighed and looked at Abed again. “So we're still getting Conan?”

Abed nodded. “The crew arrives Thursday morning. They're setting up in the gym. Should be pretty great.”

“I...can't believe this is happening.” Jeff looked around and then braced both hands on the table, lowering his head. “I think I need to lie down.”

There was a moment of awkward silence. “Nobody's going to help you,” Pierce said finally. “You're young and strong and kind of unlikable, get your own damn self to the couch.”

Jeff lifted his head, glared, and then moved over to the couch. “Abed,” he said once he was settled, “who's the musical guest?”

Abed rested his head on Troy's shoulder and smiled. “Cobra Starship.”

Jeff sat up and glared at him over the back of the couch. “Cobra Starship? That's not a real band.”

“That's what Conan told me. Personally.”

“I hate you,” Jeff said, and lay back down.

VERY, VERY LATE ON THURSDAY

Troy put his head on Abed's shoulder, paused, and then shifted around to place it in Abed's lap instead. “That was the weirdest day ever.”

“I didn't know Chang could scream like that,” Annie said, curling up smaller next to Britta on the couch.

“I didn't know Conan could cry like that.” Jeff shivered and tugged his jacket closer around him. “That's going to haunt my dreams.”

“Who was that woman?” Shirley whispered. “She was terrible.”

“Liz Lemon,” Abed said, petting Troy's hair. “Head writer of TGS with Tracy Jordan.”

“I wanna be her,” Britta said dreamily.

Jeff made a small choking noise. “I want to see her caged for the good of all society.”

“On the plus side.” Abed reached into his pocket and pulled out two envelopes, waving them around. “All-expenses-paid trip to New York and a TGS filming for me and Troy. We're staying at the Four Seasons. That's good, right?”

“That's very good, Abed,” Jeff said heavily. “The lengths that NBC will go to to punish Conan are something else.”

“I don't think this was NBC,” Troy said. “I think this was just Mrs. Lemon.”

“Ms. Lemon,” Abed corrected quietly.

“She's a feminist,” Britta said even more dreamily. “I want her to be my mentor.”

“Are you still on drugs?” Annie asked suspiciously.

“I want to wear her skin like a coat.”

“No, that's just Britta,” Jeff said.

Abed petted Troy's head again. “When we get to New York,” he said quietly, “you know what we should do?”

“What's that?”

“Kiss on top of the Empire State Building. It would be a real romantic-comedy moment.”

“That just sounds romantic to me. What's the comedy?”

“Good point.” Abed frowned. “I guess we have to provide that ourselves.”

Troy took his hand and grinned. “Let's be wearing clown suits.”

“Awesome,” Abed said, and sealed it with a kiss.