"Okay, hold on," Professor Duncan said authoritatively, holding up a book. "I have a plan. I will pick an assignment out of this book, and you will do it by next week, allowing me to grade it, and giving you a grade."
"So our entire semester will hang on us doing well on this one project," Annie said, getting hysterical.
Professor Duncan ignored her. "#45," he read. "Each student is assigned a country, and they present a report while wearing the garb of that country."
A chorus of groans rang out and Professor Duncan flipped to the next page. "Ooh, how about pen pals with a sister school?"
Chang shot a spit wad at the back of his head, effectively distracting him long enough for Jeff to grab the book out of his hands. "Project Ideas for Fourth Graders?" he read incredulously. "Are you serious?"
Britta snatched it out of his hands, and began paging through it. "Time capsules, model government, egg babies, seriously, Duncan?"
"These are all appropriate ideas for Anthropology!" Professor Duncan defended himself. "What else is egg babies if not the study of man birthing man? Well, wait--" He trailed off uncertainly.
"We should do egg babies," Starburns said. Jeff and Britta whirled on him in unison, shooting derisive glares.
Abed joined the fray. "I think so too. Egg babies are a hilarious yet instructive plot choice to highlight people who never should be parents."
"Abed," Britta yelled. "This is not a sitcom where you are the star!"
"Of course not," Abed said, turning to look at her. "Sitcoms with just one main star are doomed to ratings failure, and not worth anyone's time. You need a big enough cast to keep any one person from being annoying."
"If I'm already a parent, do I get extra credit?" Shirley asked Professor Duncan.
"That's not in the book," Professor Duncan said, finally getting it back into his hands.
"That's because it's for fourth graders. Do they not have fourth grade in London?"
"Actually," Duncan said. "We have--"
"Excuse me," Annie interrupted. "Can we get back to the project that is going to determine our entire grade for the class? What if we made it a real Anthropology project by forming tribes, and then deciding among the tribe how to handle child raising? And then the tribes can decide which of the other tribes to intermarry with! We can have councils and make family trees!”
There was silence for a moment, and then Professor Duncan said “All in favor of picking names out of hats like the random one night trysts your future children will probably be born from?"
Everyone raised their hands except Annie and Shirley, who looked more offended than Abed thought she usually did.
"Wonderful," Professor Duncan said. "Class dismissed."
They filed out, and Shirley whispered to the no-longer-about-Spanish study group that no one was to mention anything about Pierce's new ear piercing. It was good to look after each other.
The following week brought Professor Duncan striding into the classroom with an obnoxiously colored sombrero and a dozen eggs clutched under one arm. "Time to choose your fellow comrade in parenting," he said cheerily. "Let us see who will be first, shall we?" He set down the carton of eggs, and brandished the sombrero with unholy glee.
"Our first parent is....Britta!" He tossed the piece of paper he had plucked out of the hat down, and reached in for another. "Her partner is....Pierce! Wow. Wow, that is special. What a lovely couple. Everyone say congratulations. Pierce and Britta. Wow. All right, all right. Let's keep this special day moving for everyone. Next is, ugh, Chang. Who would let that guy father their child, am I right? Hah! Well let's see, and his partner is....Oh Annie. Annie, I am sorry. What a blow. Terrible, just terrible. Well alright, chins up. Next is Jeffrey! Jeffrey, your partner will be...Starburns! Wow, unconventional but adoption is definitely a way of humanity!"
"Nope," Jeff said, rising from his seat.
"No on adoption?" Duncan says, startled from his monologue.
"No on Starburns," Jeff emphasizes. He throws the paper back in the hat, and Professor Duncan reaches in to pull again.
"Leonard?" he offers. Jeff scoffs. Duncan pulls again. "Shirley?
"Acceptable." Jeff pronounces.
"Oh how nice," Shirley beams, and makes room for him next to her.
"Alright," Professor Duncan announces. "Let's continue. Our next partners are Abed and....Troy. Wow. Shocking. That's a real surprise right there. Let’s not pretend anyone else in the class matters, all right?" He tossed the hat to someone in the first row. "The rest of you can pick for yourselves. Remember, next week everyone turns in a paper on what they have learned. Also the egg, unbroken. The cafeteria wants these back."
"Will you stop suggesting porn star names?” Britta snapped. “I didn’t realize Pierce was suggestive of…"
"Britta!" Shirley scolded.
"Pierce Hawthorne is a regal name," Pierce defended himself. "And so is Richard Muffdiver. I’d be naming him after my grandmother’s third lover. I don’t see you making any suggestions."
"I don’t think we should name her after anyone." Britta said. "Let’s let her make her own history."
"Children, children," Jeff chided, sliding into his seat. "Can’t you fight about something I care about more? Like say, anything else in the world? Seriously, anything. Anything at all."
Britta turned her furious gaze on Jeff. "Oh yeah? What’s your big plan for your egg?"
"I don’t need a plan," Jeff said smugly. "I have Shirley. "
“Oh no,” Shirley said. "I ain’t goin down that road again. You are taking half the responsibility, buddy."
"What?" Jeff said incredulously.
Shirley nodded decisively. "Yes sir, none of that one week in the summer and one Saturday a month. You’re gonna take half of everything, including getting up for half the midnight feedings, and no pretending you didn’t hear anything when I know damn well you heard your damn phone from two rooms away when that hussy was text messaging you!"
"It’s an egg!" Jeff exclaimed, his voice getting higher and higher. "It doesn’t have midnight feedings!"
"Hello," Annie said, waving her hands. "Can we talk about me? Professor Chang took our egg, and left. He said not to worry about it and he’d let me know if he needed anything. What am I supposed to do?"
"Uh," Troy said meaningfully. "Not worry about it? It means you get a free project grade."
Annie looked at him like he was speaking a foreign language. "I don’t get free grades! I’m the one who does all the work and lets other people share the credit! I even prepared an hour by hour schedule of when we should trade off the egg and he didn’t even look at it!"
"Actually," Abed said, reaching across the table. "If you’re not going to use that, can me and Troy use it?"
He and Troy stared at the schedule for a minute, and then Troy pointed to Wednesday. "I have football practice 'til 5."
Abed carefully wrote that in. "I think that’s the only time we’re apart this week," he said musingly.
He laid the pen down. Everyone was looking at them.
"This is disgusting," Jeff said. "I can’t believe you two are winning this project."
Troy and Abed high-fived.
After Pierce had rolled off to bed that night, Troy and Abed migrated to the floor of his home theater room and watched part of Hellboy before Troy made Abed turn it off because the Sammael's face on the big screen was freaking him the hell out.
Abed opened his mouth to ask Troy what superpower he’d want, if he got to choose. "X-ray vision," Troy said, before he got a syllable out. "So I could see under people’s clothes and skin and stuff."
"Emergency rooms would be insane," Abed said.
Troy’s mouth fell open. "So much butt stuff," he breathed. They were silent in their contemplation for a moment, and then Troy yawned, reached up, and dragged a blanket and two pillows off the couch. Abed pulled the blanket over them, and up over their heads in a miniature of the blanket city they had built.
"Mine would be mind reading," he said, breathing in the familiar hot stale blanket air.
Troy thought about this. "I wish you could read my mind right now," he said.
Abed didn’t say anything. That was mostly why he picked it as his power to begin with.
It wasn't that he was oblivious, or didn't recognize the implications of what they were doing. If this was a TV show, he was pretty sure that they had way more on screen tension than Jeff had with any of his combinations.
If this were television, it would be obvious that they had to try for more and, depending on if the viewers were into it, they would have one solid season before things would get awful, and then better, and then awful.
You can always trust tv like that--no one is ever in misery for long.
Abed added it to his mental exhaustive list of why television was so much better than reality.
"Okay," Annie said authoritatively. "I am going to write my paper on custody laws to explain why I didn't get to see my egg at all this week. Do you think that will work?"
"Annie," Britta said pleadingly. "Just accept that you get to float through this assignment with minimal work."
"Yeah, live the dream," Jeff said bitterly, wearing a sling on his chest to carry his and Shirley's egg in. Britta laughed obnoxiously at him.
"Me time!" Annie said, redirecting. "I'm not like you slackers, I can't just accept someone else's work as my own."
"Why don't you just talk to Chang, and ask him to let you see the paper before he hands it in?" Shirley advised.
"Like guided mediation?" Annie asked, perking up.
"Well," Shirley hedged. Jeff let his head fall to the table with a bang.
Later, when everyone had given up and scattered, Abed and Troy sprawled out on the couch. "We really lucked out, huh?" Troy said, tossing the egg up in the air.
"Yep," Abed agreed.
"Starburns and Leonard were fighting in the cafeteria over whether they were going to let their egg go to boarding school or home school. It's good we already agree on everything important."
Abed could feel Troy looking at him. He thought about saying the thing about their TV tension and the one solid season of good. He didn't though, because he wasn't sure if it was one of those things that was awkward when it came out of his head.
"Yeah," he said, and pressed his knee against Troy's.
"Okay, thank you for that bizarrely contradictory presentation from Britta and Pierce. Up next is Jeff and Shirley. Annie? What are you doing?"
"I married Jeff and joined Shirley as a sisterwife," Annie said, supremely confident. "After the failure of my first partnership..."
Chang stood up, clutching the egg which was wearing a tiny felt tuxedo. "We don't need you! We don't need anyone."
"Okay, wow." Duncan said. "Clearly, I did not see this coming. Everyone sit down, and put your reports on my desk at the end of the class. I think we all need to watch more laughing babies on youtube, yeah? A lot of feelings have come up, a lot of childhood trauma. A weirdly fundamentalist Mormon streak, but we don't judge in this class. Judgment-free zone."
After he let them go, Troy followed Abed up to his dorm room and they collapsed on his futon. "This room feels so empty since the loss of Emperor Eggbert."
"Yeah," Abed said. "Maybe he'll visit though, after fighter pilot school." Troy had wanted to put in the report that Eggbert could fly, but Abed had bargained him down to Eggbert wanted to learn to fly.
Troy turned to him. "You think so?"
"Obviously," Abed said. "He'll meet a pre-scientology Tom Cruise and be his wingman while he gets over the death of his best friend after a risky maneuver condemned by all his instructors."
"Awesome," Troy breathed.
"Yeah," Abed said. "And then he'll fly us to places in the jet he stole from HQ. Maybe the government won't realize it's Eggbert and they'll try and shoot us down but Eggbert is too good at evading, and he takes us to an island he saw on a map somewhere."
"That wasn't in Top Gun," Troy objected.
"No, I just made it up," Abed said.
Troy looked over at him for a minute, and Abed returned the grin. Then, before Abed could react, Troy stopped smiling and leaned up and kissed him.
It was nice. As longtime love interests building up for season that culminated in an unexpected kisses go, it was very nice, and Abed liked the setting although the conversation preceding it could have been cleaner. He drew back for a second to tell Troy the thing about only getting one season of good, when Troy cut him off and said, "Abed, we're not on television."
"Oh yeah," Abed said, tilting his head to think about this. And then he kissed Troy back.
"Troy was a heck of a looker," Abed mused, standing up and stroking his chin. "I didn't know if I could trust him, but if the story was true? It was a helluva case and a good way to stay close to the new guy."
Troy puffed on his cigar. "Say," he said. "You gonna help me figure out who killed my old bird or what?"
"You can't smoke in here," Dean Pelton said, appearing from around the corner. Abed's vision of black and white dropped instantly.
"You can play the bartender in the next scene," Abed said. "Jeff flirts with you to find out if you know anything about the murder. Annie was supposed to play that role, but I really doubt her ability to keep a straight face.
"Oh my," Dean Pelton said, intrigued.
Abed looked towards the camera again. "I decided to take the job." He tilted his fedora in a salute.