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But I Don't Know Nothing 'Bout Love

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Saturday morning brunch is about halfway done, which means that Troy has almost scraped the last of the pancake batter off the ceiling. He's gotten really good at angling the half-dry, half-sticky pieces to fall directly into the trashcan, though his skills at flipping pancakes haven't picked up in kind. His stomach rumbles at the smell of the eggs Annie's cooking.

"--and not that I don't appreciate a ceiling that gets dusted weekly, but maybe you should take Shirley up on her offer of cooking lessons," Annie says, dividing the scrambled eggs into three equal portions with a little flourish of her spatula. "Abed, are you allowed to pass me the salt, or is this a movie where you don't exist?" She shakes her head once, blinking. "I can't believe asking that question seems normal."

"No worries," Abed says, handing her the salt as he readjusts his grip on his video camera. "I'm documenting the documenter in his natural habitat. It's a post-post-postmodern thing."

"I have no idea what you just said, but I've got the OJ." Troy nudges the trashcan aside with his foot on the way to the fridge and pulls out the carton of orange juice. One, two, three, and the glasses are full, then come the crazy straws: pink for Annie, green for Abed, and blue for him. Troy puts the glasses down on the table and sits.

"End breakfast prep montage," Abed mutters, then extends the arm holding the camcorder. "Annie, would you mind?"

Annie gives a small shriek and drops her fork. "Oh my God, Abed, what's wrong? Are you dying? Where does it hurt? Troy, call 911!"

Unfortunately, Troy's leap into action causes his mouthful of eggs to go down the wrong way. Abed pounds him on the back as he coughs. "Annie, your comical overreaction highlights my general state of removal from what we define as 'normal life.' In this documentary, I intend to expose myself completely."

"Abed, you're going to do porn?" Annie gasps as Troy starts coughing again.

"My intention is not to titillate, but to explore... ate. The tag line needs some work. Please take the video camera."

It's weird that Annie is the one filming brunch, but Troy is used to the occasional video camera trained on his every move. "We haven't done a Troy and Abed in the Morning in a while," he says, scraping butter onto his toast. "Maybe we could interview that weird guy who stands outside the coffee shop with the sign. I asked Britta to explain what he's protesting and she said something about oil spills on nuclear reactors."

When Troy looks up, his hand stops halfway through bringing the toast up to his mouth. Abed is watching him, a purely Abed smile on his face, just a little turning up at the corners of his mouth that no one else would recognize as a smile. Troy grins back, worries about radioactive seabirds forgotten, and starts in on his toast.

"Abed, there's no resolution if you don't answer!" Annie hisses.

"The audience will draw its own conclusions. Right now we're trying to establish character as well as the central conflict. Troy, mention something that's bothering you."

"Wait, I thought the only documentaries with conflicts were about war. Am I gonna have to be a soldier because I don't want to be a plumber or an air conditioner guy?"

Abed flashes him a thumbs-up, then takes a sip of orange juice through his crazy straw.

"No, seriously, I don't want to be a soldier unless I'm also a cyborg."

"Would you have one robot arm or two?"

"I was thinking one robot arm, one robot leg."

"This is great stuff, guys," Annie gushes, taking the emergency beret off the hat rack, only to put it back when Abed shakes his head.

Troy and Abed spend the rest of brunch outlining the plot for GI Cyborg. Something feels a bit off, though, and Troy's pretty sure it's not how long they spend debating over whether GI Cyborg's arch-nemesis should be his long-lost twin or the long-lost other half of his robot body. Unhappiness is like an ice cube stuck to the back of his throat, sending cold trickling through the rest of his body. He doesn't finish his eggs.

*

The ice cube of sadness (as Troy calls the weird feeling in his head) pops up every now and again, but it's pretty much gone when he sits in front of the table and helps himself to some of Shirley's cookies. Jeff said the table wasn't magical, but it still holds their books up even after Jeff attacked it with an axe, so Troy is pretty sure he's wrong.

"For God's sake, Abed, we're between semesters. Shut that damn thing off," Jeff says.

"Correction: we're on hiatus, and this project is extracurricular."

"We're also not characters in a sitcom. I exist outside of Greendale, and right now I would like to exist at a bar in the company of the attractive brunette I met at the Apple store, rather than in a room full of people who think that looking at pictures of Britta's cats is an acceptable pastime."

"You wish you had your own cats to put in sweaters," Britta snaps.

"Judge not, Jeffrey," Shirley says, holding up a hand before Jeff can say something else. "Have a baked good instead."

"Those are cats?" Pierce asks, squinting. "I thought they were your unshaven hipster friends."

"Give me that!" Britta says, snatching the photo out of his hands. "Just because you refuse to update your glasses prescription--and that's actually a picture of Beckett holding one of my cats. Never mind."

"Anyway, what we're really here for is course selection," Annie says, opening the Spring 2012 course brochure. "I'm glad they finally gave up on getting online registration to work and switched to paper. It's so much easier to color coordinate!"

"Annie, your addiction to gel pens is weird and creepily childlike," Jeff says, flipping through his own brochure and jabbing his finger at a random page. "There. Let's all sign up for... The Joy of Garbage."

"Or we could not," Troy says.

"Well, what do you want to sign up for, Troy?" Annie asks, purple gel pen poised over her notebook.

The ice cube of sadness is back again. Troy looks to Abed for assistance, but Abed has turned the video camera around to focus on his own face, and that just makes the ice cube even bigger and colder.

"Troy?" Shirley prompts, patting his hand.

"The weight of the decision has rendered him speechless," Abed says into the video camera. "It would be out of character for me to say something wise and comforting. What would Mr. Feeny say in this situation? In a world of misfits with no real mentor figure, am I destined to become one?"

Troy shakes his head, which dislodges about half of the ice cube. "We decided we're the stars of a buddy comedy, you know that."

"Is it really that simple anymore?"

"Ooookay," Jeff says into the silence. "While you two work out whatever problem your weird little relationship has aside from the obvious ones, I'm going to head out into my actual real life with the aforementioned brunette. See you all in The Joy of Garbage."

"More like the joy of your mom," Pierce says, raising his hand and looking around expectantly. Troy places a hand over his other hand to keep himself from high-fiving him out of habit.

"Guys, where are you going? We still haven't picked out courses yet!" Annie says.

"Pierce starting with the 'your mom' jokes means it's quittin' time," Britta says. "I mean, who likes someone who makes stupid jokes, am I right?"

"Of course, dear," Shirley says.

"I didn't want to take any stupid classes anyway!" Troy says, throwing his textbooks on the table, only to realize that the semester hasn't started yet and he just made a thrusting motion in the general direction of the floor. "Bam!" he adds, because Abed likes to say that it's not so much the action as the intent behind the act, which Troy is pretty sure means that he's won the argument once he figures out what it was about in the first place.

*

After a few minutes of deliberation, Troy adds another bend to the pipe cleaners for maximum tentacle effect. He rocks back on his heels, studying the results of the past few hours' work. This is definitely the most detailed replica of the Blorgon featured in Season 27, Episode 6 ever made, no matter how many photoshopped pictures DARSITboi365 posts on the Inspector Spacetime forums. All that remains is to press the red button.

"Augh!" Annie shrieks when the Blorgon hisses to life beside where she's been reading on the couch. "Troy, I didn't teach you how to use the iron so that you could turn it into a toy alien!"

"Alien robot," Troy corrects. "Robot alien? The lines between the two kind of overlap. We're gonna interview it on Troy and Abed in the Morning if you want to be a member of our live studio audience."

"First, how dare you sacrifice my iron to your fake TV show, and second, I can't wait to see your interview!"

"It's really scary how you smile when you're mad," Troy says, backing away in case Annie decides to bite him. "Uh, I think Abed's almost done with the Blorgon voice recording, so we should be free to start... any time now..." His voice trails off as Annie dials her smile up a notch, as if to say, Mad? Why would I be mad? He can even hear her saying it.

"Earth to Troy! Kayaclasch to Troy, I mean. Why would I be mad at you? I iron every Tuesday and today is Wednesday."

There's some funny saying about being paranoid that Troy can't think of right now, 'cause the inside of his head is out to kill him. This is more than an ice cube, this is a whole ice cave, like the one in that Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer Claymation special.

When Abed emerges from the fort, he barely looks at the Blorgon replica except to see that it's finished. "Great. All we need is a quick costume change and we're ready to begin filming. Annie, would you like to serve as props mistress before becoming an audience member?"

"I'll get the mugs!" Annie says, scattering papers everywhere in her flight off the couch. She doesn't stop to pick them up, which makes Troy's panic subside for the time being. Annie is one of the most grown-up kids he knows, but even she needs a break from planning her future.

Fifteen minutes later, Troy and Abed are in suit jacket and sweater, respectively. Annie has the stools set up in the middle of the living room and is polishing them with a rag and some lemon-scented cleaner Troy didn't even know they owned. "I didn't fill your mugs with anything to avoid the usual dry-cleaning bills, but I put a pot of coffee on and there's tea in the cabinets. We go on in sixty."

"Affirmative," Abed says, taking a seat on the stool. "I've got the tape recorder hidden in my left pocket. You know what to do in the event of my death."

"Copy that," Troy says, moving the Blorgon into position.

"We're live in three, two, one!" Annie calls, then sits on the couch and starts applauding frantically.

"And we're back," Abed says, toasting an audience that for once isn't entirely imaginary. "Our next special guest on our science fiction special hails from a faraway planet whose name is the subject of much Internet speculation. Please welcome Blorgon, last of its kind several retcons ago!"

At this point, Annie's applauding so hard the palms of her hands are pink.

Troy hits the red button and the Blorgon produces a satisfying hiss of steam. "Welcome, welcome. Mr. Blorgon, I've heard a great deal about your species, not all of it complimentary, I'm afraid. For the sake of clearing up a few things for our audience, would you like to share a few of your hobbies?"

"ERADICATE," says the tape recorder in Abed's pocket.

"Shoulda seen that coming," Troy says, putting on his best "awkward TV host" smile. "What about your--"

"ERADICATE," Abed's pocket says again. "ERADICATE." Abed pretends to take a sip from his mug while discreetly slapping his pants. "ERADICATE."

"Cut to commercial!" Annie shouts. "What's going on?"

"The play button jammed," Abed says, reaching to remove the tape recorder from his pocket. Troy reaches over at the exact same moment for reasons that start at "we only have thirty more seconds off the air" and end at "pants." The result: two hands and one tape recorder in Abed's pocket.

"Troy, that's not the off button," Abed says, still deadpan to the average person, but with a slight hitch in his voice that's obvious to anyone who knows him.

"Oh my God!" Troy shrieks, attempting to free himself and knocking them both onto the floor in the process. His elbow hits the red button and the Blorgon hisses, steam filling the air. Rolling away from the hot iron puts him right on top of Abed. They're nose to nose, and the only words for what Troy's feeling are the exact opposite of the ice cube of sadness.

The bra hits Abed square in the cheek.

"Sorry!" Annie says, blushing. "It seemed like the right thing to do at the time! I'll throw myself out."

That breaks whatever freaky spell or science or whatever was happening on the floor. Troy rolls off Abed with a silent prayer of thanks to Annie's boobs. The actual boobs, not the monkey.

*

"I looked up what The Joy of Garbage is actually about, and it's supposed to help us turn green and recycle and stuff," Troy announces, ignoring the weird looks the other coffee shop patrons give him.

Jeff doesn't even look up from his phone. "Countdown to the Hulk reference in 3... 2... 1..."

"Does this mean we get to touch radioactive waste and turn into the Incredible Hulk?" Troy asks, then shakes his head. "Damn it! I know it's too good to be true, why did I have to ask?"

"Because ignorance is bliss, and humans are inclined to misery. For example, me being here with you, waiting for Pierce like I actually want to see either of you." Lines delivered, Jeff finally looks up from his phone, though it's kind of hard to tell, what with the sunglasses.

"How can you even see the screen with those on?"

"I can't, Troy. I link my mind directly to my phone service provider."

"Okay, as much as I would like to live in a world where that was true, I'm gonna call you out on that one." Troy removes a slightly mangled folder from his backpack. "So are we going to take the recycling class or what?"

"Who needs recycling when you have rivers?"

Jeff sighs. "Pierce, we're so thrilled to see you. Please, offer us another nugget of wisdom. I'm sure that's why Annie demanded we all meet to discuss courses."

"Actually, I'm here because she threw a twenty dollar bill at me and screamed something about not having time to make spreadsheets for everyone because she's working on a new project," Troy says. "Is she taking a secret class on how to be weirder than everyone else?"

"Why did you get money?" Pierce asks, sounding insulted. "All she offered me was a delicious home-baked apple pie, like I have no one at home who cares enough about me to make my favorite desserts."

"He sounds almost human," Jeff says. "Return to status quo in 3... 2... 1..."

"Carlotta might only come by once a week, but she knows her way around the kitchen like the rest of her kind." At Jeff and Troy's looks, Pierce adds, "What? I'm talking about women, not Mexicans."

"Dude, Carlotta is Puerto Rican," Troy says. "What the hell does this even have to do with what classes we're gonna take next semester? Annie has like 17 majors, and Britta is all proud of finally picking psych, and Shirley and Abed have known what they want to do for forever--"

"--and you turned to the two most directionless members of the group for advice, congratulations," Jeff says. "Since you're the man with the money, I'll have a grande extra-hot soy regular, minus two sugars, and if that damn barista with the hair puts the sugar in anyway, shoot him."

"I'll have the same," Pierce says quickly.

"We know you have no idea what I just said. You're fooling no one. Get him a decaf latte, he's old."

Somehow Troy ends up being the one going up to the counter, most likely because he's the one with the money but also because the universe keeps throwing responsibility after responsibility at him. And feelings. Feelings and responsibility. When the barista with the awesome dreads asks Troy what he wants, Troy sobs, "I don't know!" and hands over the list Jeff wrote.

It's probably not the most grown-up he's ever been.

"Coffee's ready," the barista tells him. "If that guy with the hair bitches about the sugar, tell him sweets to the sweet. Plus I threw in a little extra for you."

There's a chocolate milkshake-looking drink with whipped cream and a cherry on top in the tray. Troy could kiss the barista, but the barista is busy blowing kisses to Jeff, who might be looking, it's hard to tell with the sunglasses. He carries the tray back to the table, where Pierce proclaims that he definitely knows what's in his drink, and Jeff takes one sip and scowls without further comment.

"Don't worry about picking classes," Jeff says before throwing a packet of Splenda in the direction of the barista. It glances off the espresso machine. "You managed the coffee order as well as you could, considering our friend behind the counter."

"Uh, Jeff, all I did was panic and say the first thing that came to my head."

"So what? Newsflash: that's how all people make their decisions, because people are ignorant creatures of impulse."

"I like to choose my courses by throwing darts," Pierce adds.

"Thank you for proving my point."

"I can tell you this much," Pierce says, ignoring Jeff. "What you major in doesn't have to mean a damn thing as far as what you end up doing with your life. Just do what you love. I picked up a degree in the visual arts because I love looking at pictures of large-breasted, naked women."

Troy finishes his milkshake-type thing, which might have caffeine in it, 'cause his mind starts jumping between descriptions of all these classes that sounded pretty cool but he wasn't sure he wanted to take. He takes out his course catalogue and for once feels okay looking through it without Annie right there to explain her four-year plan. Pierce peers over his shoulder and makes unhelpful comments on the "cool factor" of various courses. Jeff ignores them, draining his coffee dry so he can prove that there's sugar stuck to the bottom. What's stuck to the bottom turns out to be the barista's phone number.

On the way out, Troy tips him extra.

*

Thanks to Annie, Troy manages to order his textbook for The Joy of Garbage early enough that there are still new textbooks available, although he misses the awesome doodles of previous textbooks. In fact, he opens his book to start drawing evil goatees on the happy recycling couples. Annie lets out a wordless shriek and dives across the table, snatching the pen out of his hand before it even makes contact with the page.

"You draw in your books all the time," Britta says after a beat.

"It's called highlighting, Britta!"

"That's for hair."

"I still don't understand what we're studying before the beginning of the semester," Pierce says. "Are we planning to take down this hippie crap from the inside?"

"Yes, Pierce, we're secret anti-environmentalist terrorists," Jeff says, then gets a far-off look in his eyes as though he's actually considering it, or maybe just thinking about a tight pants sale.

Troy's got his list of classes for next semester in his hand, and it's starting to get gross and sweaty. The group finalizes their course selection together, like a tradition that's lasted three whole semesters, but this is the first time Troy's shown up with an actual list instead of forgetting his catalogue and buying a sandwich instead.

Of course, he loses the rest of his nervous time when Annie takes the paper out of his hand and lays it out on the table, right next to her color-coded one and Britta's tea-stained one and the one covered in Shirley's loopy handwriting. Abed bends his arm at an improbable angle so he can film himself setting his list next to Troy's.

"There are so many academic courses on your list, Troy!" Annie says, beaming.

"Go you!" Britta says, punching him on the arm. Troy lets out an undignified squeak that really doesn't help with the illusion that her skinny white fists don't hurt at all. "Have you picked a major? Is it dance? I think it should be dance."

"Zoom in on climactic moment," Abed murmurs in the background.

"Nah, dance is my hobby, like eating and having a lot of food," Troy says.

"Those are the same thing," Jeff says.

"Not when you've got a pantry the size of a stadium," Shirley replies. "Go on, Troy."

Everyone is staring at him, which is weird. Except for Abed staring at him, 'cause that's not weird at all, and it's been happening more and more these days, even when Abed's head is behind a video camera and technically it's the lens staring. Troy clears his throat and says, "So, the school plumber keeps trying to recruit me to a life of toilets, and I'm pretty sure the Vice Dean of Air Conditioning wants to wear my skin like a suit. But I started thinking about how cool it is to build stuff that works, even if the Blorgon caught on fire after I left it plugged in, and I looked up air conditioners on Wikipedia. Then I spent the next hour reading about chemical accidents. Did you guys know that inflammable means the same thing as flammable?"

"Most people figured that out years ago," Jeff says.

"Anyway, I decided that I'm going to be a mechanical engineer and build robots," Troy says, and just saying it is like watching ten Inspector Spacetime special in a row, it's that amazing. "Someone who's pretty stupid but is still probably smarter than me told me that being a grown-up doesn't have to suck."

Annie has total Disney face on right now, which is a little spooky and a lot hot. "Oh, Troy, you even did research! I'm so happy that I'm helping you!"

"Helping me? You and Abed disappeared into the Dreamatorium for like four hours last night." Which didn't bug Troy except for the part where it totally did. He even thought about short-sheeting Annie's bed, because that seemed like enough to make a point without actually being mean.

"I said nothing!" Annie says, miming zipping her lips shut.

"Spoilers," Abed says, frowning down at his video camera. He doesn't even seem that excited about Troy's big moment: no slight lift to the eyebrows, no half-smile, nothing that says he feels anything beyond faint irritation at the limitations of film as a medium. (He told Troy what some of those limitations were, once, and Troy doesn't remember any except the one about film failing to engage the rest of the senses. Food commercials you can taste would be pretty much the greatest invention ever.)

Damn, he could use a burger. Might be tough to swallow around the ice cube of sadness, though.

"I wouldn't sign up for that home ec course, though," Shirley says, scanning the rest of Troy's list. "That woman wouldn't know a perfect brownie if it sailed through her window, not that I would ever perform such an act of violence. You come on over one afternoon and I'll teach you how to bake."

"Can you teach me, too?" Britta asks. "Like, before the end of the week?"

"That would be nice!"

"Now that we've got Troy settled, what about me?" Pierce asks. "I've got my whole life ahead of me and no direction, no guidance, nothing!"

When the rest of the not-really-a-study-session devolves into bickering, Troy rolls his eyes at Abed. Abed doesn't notice, though, too busy reviewing his footage.

*

Shirley's kitchen is exactly like its owner: warm, earth-toned, and potentially lethal. Troy is afraid to touch any of the knives and ladles hanging above the sink. Shirley announces that they're going to start with baking chocolate chip cookies from scratch, which doesn't sound so scary.

"Cookies? I thought that we were doing brownies!" Britta protests, unwinding a skinny, brightly colored scarf from her neck. "Not that cookies aren't mm-mm delicious," she adds in response to Shirley's glare.

"I know exactly what you want to do with my brownie recipe. Consider this an attempt to save you from your drug-ridden ways, and Troy from being a boy child eating a boy child's cooking." Shirley opens a cabinet, removing a large yellow mixing bowl. "Now, this is one of my third best set, so if it gets broken, I'll show mercy when I end your lives. Troy, you set the dial on the oven to 350 degrees while I cue up the music."

"I didn't know you needed songs to bake," Troy says, turning the dial. So far, so good.

"I think the music is intended for my salvation," Britta says sourly. Shirley beams at her when "Jesus Is a Friend of Mine" blares from the radio.

Britta tries to put her hands over her ears for the first part of Shirley's lesson, but then Shirley hands her a mixing spoon with one of those "don't mess with me, I've got kids and more anger than you could ever dream of" looks, and Britta takes the spoon. Troy's having a pretty good time measuring out all the ingredients and dumping them into the bowl for Britta to stir into the butter. Shirley calls it "creaming," which makes Britta snort with laughter and Troy think of Abed for some reason.

"I'm putting the baking soda in hot water to get it started. Anything with 'baking' in the title you want to be careful with, since the whole thing will go wrong if the chemistry's off. I think we're about ready to crack those eggs, Troy, and you keep stirring, Britta," Shirley says. The cookie dough that's forming smells so good Troy wants to stick his face in it. "No, next time tap the egg on the side of the bowl. Be sure to pick out that last piece of eggshell; we're going for soft, not crunchy."

Britta mumbles something about liking crunchy cookies, which makes Shirley turn her Christian radio station up louder. Troy puts in the vanilla extract, which smells like the lotion his mom uses, which makes him think of home, which makes him think of the apartment, which makes him think of Abed. Why is everything making him think of Abed? Is his relationship with him still a giant cookie, or is it something new and delicious that will dissolve the ice cube of sadness once and for all if he eats it?

He has got to stop asking himself such convoluted questions.

"You look like there's something on your mind," Shirley says gently, adding the flour, salt, and baking soda herself.

Britta says, "I'm worried that the one guy occupying Greendale will get tired of carrying so many signs" at the same time Troy says, "I can't figure out what's going on with me and Abed."

"You first," Britta concedes.

Troy sighs. "It's been a really great time having our apartment together. We've got all the pictures up and the blanket fort and the Dreamatorium and Annie's gone down to using the fire extinguisher like once a week. All this thinking about what I want to do with my life is making me confused, and that time I stuck my hand in his pants didn't help--"

"Oh, sweet baby Jesus," Shirley says, and looks up at the ceiling.

"--and I keep thinking that we're not a giant cookie anymore, but I don't know what we are, and now I'm really hungry and confused and hungry and the cookies have to bake for 10 minutes," Troy says. His stomach growls in punctuation, audible even over the sound of The Lord Is My Shepherd's Pie, Greendale's own Christian rock band.

Britta tilts her head, smiling at Troy like he's one of her cats. "Fear of commitment is a pretty grown-up thing, actually. From one phobic to another, though, can you really see yourself without Abed?"

Troy tries to picture it as he dumps in the chocolate chips. There would be no one to get him hooked on awesome stuff like comic books and British sci-fi and cosplay. There would be no one for him to watch random YouTube clips with him and hold his hand when it looks like the karate squirrel isn't going to make it. There would be no one to make random YouTube clips with him, to play pretend with him in ways that are way more real than monthly rent and electricity bills. It's impossible to picture, because they're meant for each other like peanut butter and chocolate, starring Troy as the chocolate and Abed as the peanut butter.

"Not peanut butter. Cookie dough," Troy breathes. Britta and Shirley give him funny looks. "Abed and me aren't a giant cookie anymore! We're a lot of little chocolate chip cookies, because you can eat them every day without getting sick of them as long as you don't try to eat all of them at once. And you can always make more in case you run out, except we'll never run out because it's a metaphor and... stuff. Does love always make you want to eat cookie dough?"

There's a pause, and then Shirley presses a hand over her heart. "Don't you dare put a finger in that dough. When we're done, why don't you take these cookies over to Abed and tell him what you just told us?"

"Wait, how did you make the whole gay romance thing fit with the Christian thing?" Britta asks.

"With the interests those boys have, I figure it's more like two kissing monks, and I can live with that. So if you two ever start doing the nasty, don't let me know."

"I will definitely not tell you, ever," Troy says, although even the mental images are making him feel too unclean for Shirley's kitchen.

Shirley takes the spoon away from Britta and walks them through the perfect method for spooning cookie dough onto baking sheets. Britta's first attempts are sloppy, but Shirley seems placated when she starts absent-mindedly humming along to the radio. Troy's heart is racing like he's just had another caffeine shake, and he feels like dancing around the kitchen.

*

Important life realizations should wait at least 15 minutes until the cookies come out of the oven, in Troy's opinion. He's got his burned fingers jammed in his mouth as he carries the Tupperware container of cookies in the other hand. He's kind of nervous that Abed is going to take one look at the cookies and tell him that this bromance is not ready to lose the b, even if chocolate chip cookies are delicious. Okay, so he's terrified, and the idea seems worse with each passing stair.

He all but knocks Annie over in his determination to outrun the fear. "Sorry," Troy mutters.

Annie giggles, which makes him wonder whether she hit her head when he bumped into her. "No worries, Troy! I just want you to know that I'll be out of the apartment for the next several hours because I have an errand to run. Lots of errands, I mean. Definitely more than one errand. Seven at the last count! Pierce and Jeff are helping me! Bye!"

After all the deep thought of the past few days, Troy doesn't have any brain cells to spare on her weirdness, so he just calls out, "Have fun!" over his shoulder as he sprints up the last few stairs.

When he opens the door, it's to discover that Abed has turned the living room into a movie theater, complete with a projector and... candles? The candles are definitely new. Abed gives him a tiny wave, just an opening and closing of his hand, as he lights the last of what seems like a hundred candles. The whole apartment looks really cool, soft and dark like something out of a horror movie where the chainsaw guy doesn't kill anybody because he just needed a hug and some hot chocolate.

It actually looks like something out of a romantic movie.

"I have, um. Some cookies," Troy says, and his voice definitely does not crack on the last word like he's fourteen and asking Chastity Jones to the eighth grade formal. "They mean things. Important things. I have a thing to tell you. I have a lot of things. Stop saying things!"

"It appears our narratives have been running along a similar trajectory," Abed says, fiddling with the bowtie that's usually reserved for Troy and Abed in the Morning. Something is definitely up, because Abed doesn't fiddle. "The projector is all set up. Have a seat and we'll eat the cookies while we watch my vid."

"Look, Abed, you know I love your videos, but--"

"Vid," Abed corrects. "It's a genre usually reserved for fictional characters, but I think that you'll find this one says everything I want to say and you want to hear."

Troy sits on the couch and opens the cookie box, because trying to stop Abed when he has a vision to share with the world is like a cross between telling Batman he's not allowed to capture criminals and stepping on a puppy. "I'm prepared to have my world rocked, but you better get ready for these cookies. Also the words that go along with these cookies."

"Cue video," Abed says, and sits down next to him.

At first, Troy thinks that this "vid" is another one of Abed's documentaries. The footage starts with a close-up of Abed saying, "Hi, Troy. This is an analysis of us, presented from the somewhat but not really neutral perspective of the documenter. Thanks to Annie for helping me select the clips."

"Annie's been helping you make a present for me?" Troy asks, grinning so hard he feels like his face is going to crack open. Abed makes a shushing motion at him, but smiles back.

Troy has never been the brightest color in the paintbox or however the saying goes, but when the music starts singing about being accidentally in love over a bunch of videos he and Abed have made in the two and a half years they've known each other, he's pretty sure he gets it. His heart swells with the music when the footage cuts to a short from a few months ago, where he and Abed are smiling at each other like it's just the two of them and not an audience of 200 hits on YouTube. This is the missing piece to the rest of Troy's college plans, the goofy costumes and the TV shows and everything that's underneath that, the warmth that could melt a hundred ice cubes of sadness.

"You were right," Troy says as the credits scroll. "It says everything that has to be said."

Abed swallows his mouthful of chocolate chip cookie. "These are amazing."

"It's 'cause we are," Troy says, and kisses Abed. The kiss is perfect, Abed's lips chapped despite all chapstick efforts, his mouth tasting like cookies, the last little bit of melted chocolate on his tongue, the smell of smoke in the air--

"I think the curtains are on fire," Troy says, only his tongue gets tangled up in Abed's when he says it, so it sounds more like, "Mm hmm hm hmmsuh hm huh." He pushes Abed away regretfully, then sprints to the kitchen to pull out the fire extinguisher from the sink.

"I guess straight-up romance isn't quite our thing," Abed says as Troy attacks the flames with a whoop.

"Just pretend like we're on gay Ghostbusters!" Troy calls out, giddy.

"Can do," Abed says, and uses a pillow to help smother the flames.

When the fire goes out, Troy reads the cue without Abed having to say a word. "Who you gonna call?" they ask, and then the finish: "Troy and Abed!"