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It happens slowly enough for Abed to get used to the idea.

It begins gradually, in the warm safety provided by the blanket fort, in the forced intimacy of three people and two armchairs (someone always leaning close, almost in someone else's lap, sitting on the arm of the chair). Abed gets used to Troy's slow breathing, to Annie's restlessness, to the way his own body feels brushing up against these others. It seems like Troy and Annie get used to the idea over time as well, because after two months of cohabitation they stop apologizing for accidentally touching each other, or for touching Abed, and they start leaning in to one another rather than holding themselves politely apart.

The rules change, but at such a pace that Abed can see them shifting and keep up. He likes that.

Eventually it gets to the point where they seek out contact, actively and unashamedly; this makes more sense than holding yourself apart. Abed takes Annie's hand and holds it during all-night horror movie marathons, rubs easy absent circles on Troy's back after shadow-puppet plays. These gestures are in return for others, which Abed has carefully observed and logged: Annie running her hand through his hair, Troy hooking a leg over Abed's in the blanket fort, crossing their ankles together.

Annie takes to kissing them both goodnight when she leaves for her bedroom, before she shuts the door behind her. Just on the cheek, like she's their mom or they're her interracial gay dads, sweet and familiar and not really sexual, not really. It's startling the first time but not entirely unexpected, and by the fourth or fifth time Abed comes to anticipate it, leans his face up towards Annie's and accepts her warm breath and soft lips against his skin. Troy starts kissing back, kissing Annie's cheek at the same time that she kisses Troy's, sometimes without even taking his eyes off the tv or his football playbook or the costume he's making for the Dreamatorium.

Those goodnight kisses become easy, just another part of their routine, so Abed shouldn't be surprised when he and Troy start kissing goodnight. He is surprised, though, the first time, and from Troy's wide eyes and raised eyebrows he's surprised too, like he didn't mean to lean over casually and kiss Abed's cheek, glancing and gentle.

Abed doesn't like for Troy to feel upset and he's been enjoying the goodnight kisses with Annie, so he decides to give this a try. He offers Troy a smile, pretends that the rules for male best friends include friendly kisses, and tells Troy goodnight. Troy's eyebrows go down and he smiles back, so it must be okay. The next night Abed moves first, kisses Troy first so that Troy doesn't have to wonder whether he should do it or not, and then after that it becomes commonplace, too.

Troy really likes hugs, so sometimes Annie and Abed sit on either side of him while they're watching a movie, just hug him from either side so that he feels enclosed, comfortable, like a swaddled baby. Annie likes hugs too, and will sit on the floor in front of one of them and draw their arms up around her, lean back against their chest and sigh contentedly. Annie when she does this to Abed is good-smelling, warm like a blanket, relaxed against Abed's arms. Abed doesn't really care one way or another about hugs in themselves but he likes the way he feels when Troy's arms wrap carefully and confidently around him, or when Annie squeezes his waist and breathes against his neck. Like he's trusted to hold them.

More and more, they end their nights tangled up together exchanging slow touches, casual closed-mouthed kisses. Troy gives amazing, gentle, thorough back massages that just go on and on, which he says he learned how to do because his mom has a bad back and he was the oldest so he learned how to take care of people. Annie says she's the youngest, so she only learned how to be taken care of, and they laugh, and Abed wonders what this means for him, an only child. Maybe that he was waiting for this, for people close to him, like siblings, to touch him this way. To snuggle in next to him and absently stroke his arm, or hold him from behind and kiss him on the top of his head, or relax against him, trust him to take care of them.

At some point, and Abed is less sure of this part, it all hits critical mass. Or maybe it just takes the next baby step forward. Annie's the first, the brave one, who moves a kiss to Abed's cheek just two inches to the right and kisses his mouth instead; in shock, Abed opens for her and then it's a kiss that's not at all similar to a kiss between parents and children or brothers and sisters or friends who share and apartment and care about each other. Abed's mind races as he tries to find a love/romance paradigm to fit this in, and it gets to the point where he's considering queer independent festival film as script after script is tossed out as inappropriate.

This is, maybe, something new.

Annie stops kissing him, after a few seconds, and then starts kissing Troy the same way: gentle but not at all maternal, her tongue slipping between Troy's lips. Abed wants to touch her, so while she kisses Troy he rests a tentative hand on her knee.

When she stops kissing Troy, Troy glances immediately at Abed, then quickly looks away again, which makes Abed wonder, makes him intellectually curious in addition to being sexually interested and emotionally invested, so he takes Troy's chin in his hands, turns his head, kisses him with the same kiss that Annie gave them, the exact same. Troy responds eagerly, kissing him back like it's what he's been waiting for, and Abed feels satisfaction to know this, to know that Troy wants this too.

They don't have sex that night but they do kiss a lot, touch a lot, press warm and trusting up against each other. When they finally go to bed that night Abed has an erection, but he doesn't mind. He and Troy lay in their bunk beds and have bunk bed conversations about umbrellas and pineapples and it's comforting to know that wherever this is going they'll still have this, still have these scripts to fall back on.

When they do have sex, it's just the same: slow, easy, evolving naturally from the touching that evolved from the kissing that evolved from the petting. As Troy kisses his mouth Abed finds himself touching Troy's chest, his belly, and then his hand slips down into Troy's pajamas and wraps around his dick, pumping in a steady rhythm. He pulls back, watches Troy's face. Troy looks up at him and that feels good, as good as the sensation of Troy's dick hot and hard against his hand. Troy comes with his eyes open, his arms and legs thrown back against the blankets, his breathing harsh and uncontrolled. Annie leans over then and kisses Abed briefly, kisses Troy's open mouth too and runs her hands lightly over Troy's shoulders, over Abed's hand where it rests now on Troy's belly.

More kissing, more touching, more slow peeling back of clothing, and Troy is working his way up Annie's newly-bared thighs, mouthing the skin and breathing in her scent. Abed lies next to them and watches, just watches everything, Annie's arching gasps and the movement of Troy's arm as he fingers her, the glow of sweat on her forehead, the beautiful curve of his neck as he bends to lick inside her. Their movement together, building slowly, each one moving in a slow rhythm against the other. After a few minutes Annie starts to twist against the blankets, her body going tense, so Abed moves up behind her, cradling her head in his lap, and she opens her eyes then to look up at him. They smile at each other upside-down and Annie says hi and Abed says hi back and kisses her. She slows against his kiss, relaxes, and a moment later she's moaning into Abed's mouth, a low drawn-out sound that goes on and on as Troy, beneath them, keeps licking gently, keeps rubbing two fingers inside of Annie.

Annie gets bold after that, rolling over and putting her lips to Abed's bare navel, slipping her fingers under his pajamas and pulling them down, down, down. She doesn't hesitate before she starts licking him, sucking him, taking him in her mouth and holding him on her tongue. She raises her eyes to look at him every few seconds, checking in, and he nods at her, grips the blankets with two fists and tries to remember to breathe. Troy comes around to sit behind him, like Abed did for Annie, giving him something to brace himself against while Annie's delicate hands run over his thighs, his balls, the base of his dick. Troy holds him in strong arms and whispers soft things in his ear. Abed thinks he might be making funny noises but no one seems to mind. He can feel Troy's whole body against him, hard again against Abed's lower back. Abed wonders if Troy would like to fuck him, and resolves to ask later. He's never done that. He wants to try.

When he comes he's pressing back into Troy's arms and forward into Annie's, suspended between two people and able to close his eyes, able to trust them to hold onto him until he comes back to himself.

They don't really talk about it, but Abed suspects that's not out of any inherent embarrassment or suppression so much as because there's nothing to say. Everything they are to each other has been built up gradually over time, and it just makes sense now that Troy should brush kisses against Abed's neck or that Annie should laugh and blow raspberries on Troy's belly, that sometimes their intimacy and trust should reach a tipping point and they should rub each other off, suck each other off, fuck each other gently and easily, speeding up and slowing down together, listening to one another, holding one another. Abed wants Annie and Troy to feel good, to be happy, and he wants them to know about his affection for them. So he touches them, lets himself be touched, curls up with them in Annie's bed, and sleeps without dreaming.