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do you love me (like i love you)

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1.

Annie is 8 when it first occurs to her that her mother doesn't love her like she's supposed to. It's Mother's Day and she's sitting in class listening to all the other students talk about all the little things their mothers do for them and she suddenly feels empty.

That day is also the first time she thinks something might be wrong with her. All her classmates have mothers who make breakfast and remember birthdays and allergies and say “I love you”. She's the only one whose mother doesn't seem to care.

So she starts trying harder and harder and harder and-

She finally crashes down.

Still in her hospital bed, stitches only starting to heal, she looks at her mother with wet eyes and asks in a small voice “Mommy, do you love me?”.

Her mother only scoffs, says “Oh honestly Annie!” and leaves the room.

2.

His father is always either too quiet or too loud.

Ever since mom left, he's mostly just been staring. With disapproval. With exasperation. Staring in anger until it all comes to a boil and then he erupts, yelling “Why can't you just be normal?” and “Are you stupid or deaf?”

Abed takes it all in and keeps going, sometimes trying to remember if things were better when mom was still there.

Sometimes, he wonders if his parents ever even loved each other.

If he ruined that.

And, most of all, if that is the reason his father hates him.

3.

Every time his mother visits for Christmas (until she stops coming), she seems to wait with baited breath, trying to figure out if he's somehow fixed now. He never is.

Eventually (but always too late), she slaps on a fake smile and does her best to act happy.

While he isn't that good at picking up on subtext, same patterns year after year start to hit home. He's never really certain if the Christmas joy is real but it feels good while it lasts and sometimes that is enough.

Sometimes it has to be enough. At least until she's out the door and he sees her crying in her car before she drives away.

4.

Annie used to think her dad was like that lady from Tom and Jerry cartoons. No face, no eye contact, occasionally walks by angrily, but hardly an active and recognisable character in her life.

She tells her Bubbe about it once and gets slapped. It's the only time a family member hits her and she stands there, shell shocked, as Bubbe spits out about not being an ungrateful brat and her father working hard, before she's sent to her room.

She lies on the bed crying for the rest of the day, and when Bubbe dies next year, that moment is the only one Annie remembers her by.

5.

After Troy leaves (for the second time) Abed crawls into Annie's bed and clings to her, night after night. Sometimes they speak, whispering about nothing in the dead of night, but mostly they just cuddle, his head on her chest, his arms around her waist, breathing in time.

And then months pass and Abed's bed hadn't been slept in for over six months.

Then it's a year and Britta moves in.

It doesn't even occur to either of them to discuss whatever their “thing” is with Britta. To be fair, it also takes Britta 3 months to figure it out (or at least assume she has).

When she does, she sits them down, talks in circles about “friends with benefits” and “secret relationships” and “friend groups” and “roommates”, going off on quite a few tangents about New York, her personal experiences, and, strangely enough, Jeff. By the end of it, even she is not sure what her original point was so, in a fit of embarrassment, she leaves the apartment (in her slippers), leaving them in a loaded silence.

Eventually, Annie turns to Abed. She opens her mouth, searching for words, and sees the same confusion on Abed's face.

It settles her down a bit so she finds it in herself to say “I- I love you. You know that, right? And maybe that's… enough? I hope that's enough.”

Abed slides his arms around her waist, hugging her close, and, face buried in her hair whispers “You're my best friend and I love you too.”

This is the moment Britta walks back in and Annie smiles at her, fingers playing with Abed's hair.