cover art by Opalsong
At Least It Was Here by The 88
cross posted at amplificathon, my journal, and AO3
Ten minutes after the study group was scheduled to meet, Jeff Winger walked into the study room like he owned the place.
"Feel free to thank me in advance, because I am about to share with you this semester's Jeff Winger Ultimate Blowoff Class."
"As I recall, your last 'ultimate blowoff class' involved a supply closet and an imaginary professor named 'Professorson'." Annie said.
"And this one's even better! It's a six week intensive with a guest lecturer called 'Psychics'. It's a class on being psychic."
"I don't know Jeffrey. The good Lord only blesses such special gifts on a rare few. Most are emissaries of Satan," Shirley pointed out sweetly.
"Have some faith, I've done my research. The professor only has an honorary degree, he got last week, from Greendale. And according to Greendale's over-the-top, all-inclusive platform, it is literally impossible for them to fail a student for not being psychic. The grade is for effort."
"That doesn't change the fact that no one here is psychic," Britta said.
"I am," Pierce interjected. The others ignored him.
"It would be cool to be psychic," Troy said. "Then I would know what TV shows are going to get cancelled, and I won't have my heart broken..." he choked back tears, "Again."
It was time for Jeff to take control of the situation. "Guys, there's no such thing as psychic powers. It's all just putting on a show and telling people what they want to hear." He paused for effect. "Basically, it's like being a lawyer. Stick with me, and you'll get an A. That's the Winger guarantee."
"I'm not sure I like this format," Abed said. "It's even harder to read your facial expressions when you don't have faces."
After the first class, the study group was gathered around their usual table.
"Wasn't that everything I promised it would be?" Jeff boasted.
"Uh, no," Troy said. "You promised the professor would be a fake psychic, not a totally legit awesome psychic. I can't believe Harry Potter lied to me all these years, he didn't need a single crystal ball."
"You didn't really buy that psychic act did you?" Jeff asked.
"I'm with Troy on this," Britta said.
"Not you too. Britta, do I have to remind you you're an atheist?"
"I might not believe in God, Jeff, but I fully believe in the human brain. For one thing, it's actually there."
"Excuse me?" Shirley's voice was dangerously low. "If anything, that young man's gifts are proof of a higher power. He knew that I'm making dinner for my in-laws tonight."
Jeff could feel his grip on the group slipping. "I don't believe this! Abed, you're an objective voice of reason; that was all just a con, right?"
"Don't look at me. I have no horse in this race."
"That's right," Annie chimed in. "Can we address the real issue here. Abed already has an A for the class."
Abed shrugged stiffly. "He said his partner's name was Andrew Clark. It was an obvious 'Breakfast Club' reference. It's not my fault you didn't catch it."
"It's not a class in obscure 80's references," Annie fumed.
"Obscure?" Abed nearly sounded offended. "The class is graded in effort, Annie. Try harder, watch a movie sometime."
"Oh, I'll try harder," Annie promised darkly. "I'm going to crush your A. See? I'm psychic already."
"So that's how you all see it?" Jeff said angrily. "You all believe the fraud. Pierce, you haven't said your no doubt ridiculous opinion yet."
"Well, according to my Neo-Buddhism church only a level seven laser lotus can see both the past and the future, and I haven't seen him at any of our hive meetings."
"See? I can't believe Pierce is the voice of reason. That's how messed up you're all being."
"He must go to a different chapter."
Jeff slammed his fist on the table. "Annie! Get your laptop. Look up our so-called professor. I'll bet you all a million dollars that the closest he's ever come a psychic vision is announcing a bingo prize."
After a few minutes of tense silence punctuated only by Annie typing she announced, "Wow! It's all here. Shawn Spencer, psychic consultant to Santa Barbara police department on over fifty cases. He even discovered a dinosaur skeleton."
"Ok, who votes our psychic professor officially the coolest guy at Greendale?" Troy announced. Six hands immediately went up.
Inside Jeff's soul a monster was born.
When school bus companies are done with their buses, they sell them to hippies and other semi-transients. When hippies and semi-transients are done with their buses, they sell them to Greendale Community College.
"Does this paisley curtain make me look taller?" Troy asked, mostly half joking.
"I don't know," Abed answered. "The author's not being very descriptive. The fic is mostly dialogue."
"Abed, sweetie, are you having another episode?" Britta asked, concerned.
"I guess. Though I find your use of 'episode' ironic in this case. But I wouldn't worry, dialogue based fics have limited sustainability."
"Oh. ... Good?"
"That was exciting," Shirley said, stepping onto the bus. "I've never been to a crime scene where someone actually committed a crime before."
Annie followed her. "I know! Only Greendale would let a professor send their class to an active murder scene for a 'practical credit' in our elective course on how to be psychic. Where's Jeff?"
Bitta peeked under the paisley curtain. "Striking out with the blond detective, looks like. No wait, here he comes."
Jeff stormed moodily onto the bus, then faced his classmates with a forced smile. "Wasn't that awesome, everyone? Our completely legitimately psychic professor letting us traipse around a corpse. I could practically feel the ethereal veil parting in front of my eyes."
Starburns, apparently missing the sarcasm, cheered. Then he paused, "Wait, what's 'traipse?"
"Ew. Jeff, sit down," Annie chided. "You're taking this way too seriously. It's a blowoff class, remember?"
"Right, Annie. How many 80's movies did you watch last week?" Jeff retorted.
"Six," Annie announced proudly.
"Sloppy," Abed said. "I watch between eight and twelve movies a week."
"Well. Some of us have extracurricular activities and take the extra time to colour code our study notes for all our classes."
"Hey, the last guy to owned this bus left a bag of oregano under the seat," Pierce announced.
"That's not..." Britta began, then stopped suddenly. "Actually, I'm making... pasta... tonight. I'll take that."
Troy and Abed had abandoned their chairs around the study room table. Trying to meld psyches apparently required a full range of motion.
"MAGIC HEAD!" They shouted in unison, hands clasped and foreheads touching.
"What am I thinking?" Troy asked.
"No," Troy sighed. "It was the colour yellow. What are we doing wrong?"
"Turkey sandwiches can be yellow," Annie pointed out helpfully. "I think you're getting closer."
"Maybe try a phrase that's more personal to the two of you," Britta suggested. "'Magic head' is pretty generic."
After only a second of eye contact, they chanted "Troy and Abed being psychic!" (to the tune of 'Troy and Abed in the morning)
Annie applauded. "You did it!"
"Britta, what should our psychic phrase be?" Shirley asked sweetly.
Britta shrugged. "I don't know. How about 'women forever'?"
"I get it!" Pierce said. "Because you're a lesbian! Doesn't that leave out Shirley?"
"I think it's exciting, getting into each other's minds," Shirley said. "Maybe I can leave behind a positive influence."
"Excuse me?" Britta looked ready to start an argument.
Annie intervened. "At least you're not stuck with other Annie. I bet she's never seen ANY Howard Hughes movies."
"You mean John Hughes," Abed corrected. "That was a big mistake. I'm embarrassed for you."
"I don't have to get into Jeff's head to know what he's thinking," Pierce said.
"Say 'gay sex' and I will murder you," Jeff said, texting furiously.
"Who are you texting anyway?" Troy asked. "You've been even more attached to your phone than usual lately."
"Well, unlike the rest of you, I'm not going to let myself be conned by a two-bit showman. I'm texting a Judge contact from my lawyer days. See if I can get a search warrant issued for this fraud. I bet there's lots of evidence at his house."
"Don't you have to be police to use a search warrant?" Annie asked.
"And doesn't there have to be a crime?" Britta added.
"At least I'm trying something to expose this guy. I have better things to do than try, and fail, to get inside Pierce's addled brain." Jeff stood up to leave."Now, if you'll excuse me, I have three bags of garbage to comb through."
"Should we be worried?" Troy asked. "What do you think, Abed?"
"Why are you asking me... out loud?"
"Troy and Abed being psychic!" They sang.
"I can't believe you Jeffrey," said the dean, pacing back and forth across his office. "Can you imagine what it would do to Greendale's reputation if you had been caught? You're lucky I came along to act out my shirtless paint montage fantasy."
"If anyone cared about Greendale's reputation, it wouldn't have any students," Jeff retorted. "What kind of school lets its professors send their students to paint their father's fence instead of teaching anything?"
"You broke into Professor Spencer's house. Not even his house, his father's house. And that is not acceptable."
"I need proof," Jeff said with passion that was flirting lustily with madness. "He grew up in that house, there has to be something."
The dean put a hand on Jeff's shoulder. "You’re just tired, Jeffrey. A little jealous and possibly sunburned. Let me get my bottle of Aloe Vera."
"Jealous! I'm not jealous of that faker. I pretended to be a lawyer for years and I know one when I see one. I was caught and now I'll catch him."
The dean adjusted his glasses. "Well, maybe he's just better at it than you."
"And that is why he must be destroyed."
Gather round and hearken close to a tail of wits, envy and betrayal.
It began with a simple game of hide-and-seek. No one could have foreseen the toll it would take.
The game's rules were few: each player but one was given a token and told to hide. The sole unhidden was the first searcher. Each of the hidden, when found would give their token to the searcher who found them, and become a searcher themselves. At the end of the game, so it was promised, there would be two winners. The last hidden, still possessing their token, and the searcher with the most tokens claimed from others.
The players turned on each other almost immediately.
Searchers began raiding other searchers for tokens, instead of finding hidden themselves. The hidden, desperate, found deeper and cleverer places to hide. They found ways of passing information to each other: who was still hidden, who had been found, which searchers were getting close. All without revealing their locations to the others, for who knows when an ally in hiding would be found, and become enemy. Misinformation was spread as often as the truth, even when the truth was known.
The game encompassed the entire school and all those inside. It lasted five days.
On the fourth day, psychic professor Shawn Spencer and his associate Andrew Clark, sometimes called 'Gus' entered the play, having not been informed of the game, they foolishly believed classes were still being taught. It was the beginning of the end.
Gus immediately hid himself so ingeniously that some claim he is still somewhere in the school walls to this day. He was found nowhere, because he could have hidden anywhere. Or possibly everywhere. Throughout all time and space: he is hidden.
Spencer instead became a searcher and he used his psychic abilities to break the tentative balance of power within the school. He was so adept at seeking out the hidden that he soon amassed such a number of tokens. But in doing so he made himself the largest threat, and the largest target, to the token hunters.
A group of students, the Greendale Seven, though they called themselves only The Study Group, stood together to protect him. For they, though they had no small collection of tokens themselves, were still worried about their Psychics final, scheduled to take place the following week.
But not all of the seven had Spencer's interests at heart. Or even their own. For a soul bent on destroying another is doomed to destroy itself.
One man within the group, the one called Jeff, tried to feed Spencer false information about the hidden, to slyly steal his tokens, and most of all, observe his psychic techniques to find their weakness. But it was to no avail. For every token his stole, Spencer found two more. For every falsity, there was another truth. Where seeking any weakness, Jeff found only strength.
Until, it seemed without warning, the game was over.
Every hidden was found. All but one. But, and here is the first tragedy, for though he was never found, Gus had no token and could not receive his prize.
This tale of woe is near its end, but the second, final, and greatest tragedy still remains.
Each searcher was asked to set their tokens on a table to be counted. One pile was, it seemed, greater than all the others. But without a proper counting the truth could never be known, and the prize never claimed.
It was then, with the tokens on the table, and the game finally near its glorious conclusion that Jeff...
No, it is too terrible to say.
But the story must be known.
Jeff flipped the table.
For a beautiful instant the tokens hung in the air like so many promises of free ice cream. But then the moment was lost, the tokens scattered to the four winds, some slid as far as the women's washroom doors, and the ice cream melted.
Five days, two prizes, and countless dreams were lost that day.
So let us never forget, never forgive the treachery of Jeffrey Winger.
The final class of Psychics was the final exam, each student being asked to make a psychic demonstration in front of the class.
Troy and Abed opted to do the exam together. Though not strictly speaking psychic, it had lots of speaking in unison and a synchronized dance portion.
Abed finished the class with an A+.
Troy finished the class with a B+.
Britta's presentation started out as a prediction of what was happening to the civil rights movements around the world, but ended up just being a generic soap box protestation speech.
Britta finished the class with a C+.
Annie's final was fifteen minutes of wall to wall 80's movie references, delivered with the deranged enthusiasm of someone who'd slept 10 hours in the last 3 days.
Annie finished the class with an A.
Pierce didn't so much present psychic powers as he told his personal life story in excruciating detail.
Pierce finished the class with a C.
Shirley, having been extremely nervous for the final exam, recounted the vivid and psychedelic dream she'd had the night before, fully believing it to be a vision from God.
Shirley finished the class with an A.
Jeff was the very last person to make the slow walk to the front of the class to present his psychic prowess for the class. He was met with a roomful of hostile stares. His betrayal during hide-and-seek the week before still fresh in everyone's hearts and minds. It was time for a Jeff Winger Inspirational SpeechÔ.
"I know I'm not anyone's favourite person right now, I don't need to read a single mind to know that's the case. The truth is, I don't believe in psychic powers; I believe that humans are not meant to look into each other's thoughts. There's a lot of things in my head that I wouldn't wish on anyone, and I can't be the only person who feels that way. But there are other ways to make connections, if we just listen to each other. More importantly, we need to listen to ourselves. I'm used to being the coolest guy on campus with the very best hair, I couldn't stand the idea of a professor beating me in both categories. And because I couldn't look inwards to see the problem, I turned outwards and everyone suffered the consequences. So maybe we don't need psychic powers to make the world a better place, maybe all we need is to quiet the chatter in our minds for five minutes and look at each other with a little imagination. I might not believe in mind reading, or the ability to predict the future or speak to spirits, but there's nothing supernatural about empathy. We just have to listen."
Jeff finished the class with a C+. Mostly for the complement about Shawn's hair.
"Troy and Abed in the Morning!"
Troy smiled cheerily into the imaginary cameras. "First off, let's welcome our very special guests, Psychic Professor Shawn Spencer and his partner, Andrew 'Gus/Magic Head' Clark!"
"Hello," said Shawn.
"Nice to be here," said Gus.
"Crazy couple of weeks, huh?" asked Abed. "The fic is almost done, how do you two feel about having been off page for the whole thing?"
"I also have a question," said Troy. "How do you smell both smell so nice? It's like a bouquet of sunshine every time you're in the room."
"Lavender oil," said Gus proudly.
"Hypoallergenic, moisturizing pineapple soap," Shawn answered. "I have to order it online with Gus's credit card, but it's worth every penny."
"Very informative," said Troy nodding. "Well, that's all the time we have for today."
"Troy and Abed in the Morning!"