Disclaimer: I will be referencing a variety of pop culture/technology and am not motivated enough to cross check the dates to ensure they would be canonical given the show's run of 9/2009—6/2015.
My hope is to capture the story of Community through the eyes of Abed. Also, I'll be veering in the non-canon direction at some point in the interest of pairing up two lovely dorks. I plan to include a ton of direct quotes from the episodes, as well as some creative elaboration in the interest of artistic liberty and preventing some of the characters in a better light (like Britta). I hope you all enjoy.
Abed hummed "Daybreak" he strolled across the center plaza of Greendale. It was Thursday, September 17th, the beginning of his first semester here at Greendale. The humming of his song was drowned out by the hum of students chattering and laughing around him. He noticed the Dean standing on a small platform in the center of the plaza, and wondered briefly what he was doing. There was a small gathering of students in front of him. The Dean cleared his throat.
"Uhh, good morning!" Dean Pelton's clumsy, yet cheerful greeting echoed across the plaza. Although his mustard yellow short-sleeved button-down shirt was reminiscent of Dwight's from The Office, his sunshiny demeanor was anything but.
"Many of you are halfway through your first week here at Greendale, and uh, as your dean, I thought I would share a few thoughts of wisdom and inspiration. What is community college? Well, you've heard all kinds of things. You've heard it's 'loser college' for remedial teens, 20-something dropouts, middle-aged divorcees, and old people keeping their minds active as they circle the drain of eternity."
Abed noticed students around the plaza jerking to attention at the mention of some of the stereotypes. His head quirked to the side. Were they surprised these types of people would be attending community college? Or perhaps they found themselves identifying with one or more of these stereotypes? But in that case, wouldn't they already know that about themselves, therefore making the information not shocking? Then why were they surprised? Hmm.
"That's what you've heard! However…I wish you luck!"
Abed shook his head. It was the classic trope of a misplaced cue card. He found it rather disappointing to open the show with such a comically lackluster gag. Ah well. We can't all be lucky enough to be directed by Quentin Tarantino. Although, I'd take Guillermo Del Toro as a close second. Now that would make for an interesting college experience. So much symbolism in his movies… He began walking away from the edge of the gathering and towards his next class. He could faintly make out the Dean's frantic requests for help in finding the missing card.
A gruff voice coming from somewhere behind him interrupted his thoughts.
"Hey you, you're in Señor Chang's Spanish 101 class, right?"
Abed paused in his walk. Was he in trouble with the school bully? Was this his new best friend-to-be? Reunion with a distant relative? Potential love interest, or better yet love rival? So many possibilities, and all of them exciting. He blinked. Maybe this college experience wouldn't be so tedious after all. He turned around and saw a tall, slightly hulking man in sweatpants and a sports jacket.
"Are you talking to me?" Abed asked flatly. His dark, wide eyes settled on the man, who was now approaching him. Ah! He was a student named "Jeff" from Spanish class. Abed didn't have much data on him. He usually spent class playing Bejewled on his cell phone and ignoring others. Once, Abed could have sworn he heard him mutter, "Señor Lame" under his breath during a monologue from the professor.
"I am, actually," Jeff responded. "I wanted to ask you something."
Abed's mind whirred with possible outcomes, before settling on the most likely question from the man who might be the show's new lead. He seemed the handsome, haughty, self-absorbed white male archetype that had the potential for racism, so Abed decided to open with the most non-threatening exposé he could think of.
"Ah. You've probably noticed that I don't look like most other students attending Greendale. Let me explain. I'm only half Arabic, actually. My dad is Palestinian. He's a US citizen, he's not a threat to national security or anything, a lot of people wanna know that because he has an angry energy." Jeff's face quirked in a funny manner and he started walking away. Abed quickly matched his pace, not pausing for even a breath.
"But not like angry at America, just angry at my mom for leaving, although she did leave because he was angry, and he was angry because she's American. My name's Abed by the way," he rushed, sticking his hand in front of Jeff's chest awkwardly.
Upon noticing Abed's hand, a look of distaste spread across Jeff's face. He looked anywhere but Abed's earnest eyes.
"Abed," he repeated with a grimace. His face was scrunched rather comically, as if the morning sun was already too much. "Nice to know you, and then meet you—in that order." He met Abed's gaze for a moment and gingerly shook his hand, never breaking stride.
"Now about that question that I had?" he pressed.
"Oh, ahh." Abed glanced down at his wristwatch, tapping the glass a couple times in contemplation.
"Five after 11 when you asked."
Jeff held his arm out in front of Abed and slowed to a stop.
"Abed," he grunted. Abed followed his gaze to a pretty blonde sitting on the steps to the library. Her red scarf contrasted with her golden locks and curiously fierce blue eyes. "What's the deal with the hot girl from Spanish class? I can't find a road in there."
Abed's brow furrowed for a moment before rising slightly. Ah, he mused. The Betty Hofstadt to his Don Draper. Playing a wingman was not his specialty, but providing information? That he could certainly do. He took a breath.
"Well, I only talked to her once while she was borrowing a pencil, but…her name is Britta, she's 28, birthday in October, she has two older brothers, and one of them works with children who have a disorder I might want to look up. Oh, and she thinks she's gonna flunk tomorrow's test so she really needs to focus so she's sorry if that makes her seem cold."
Jeff froze for a moment as his eyebrows shot up. Abed wasn't sure if that meant he appreciated the information or was eyeing him like BBC's Sherlock. It seemed to be the former. Or the latter. Or maybe both. Or neither. Hmm.
"Holy crap," Jeff whispered. Abed felt a warmth around his hand and looked down to see it engulfed in Jeff's larger ones. He was shaking his hand? He felt like Maggie in that scene with Abigail from Sound of My Voice, except he had no clue what the secret handshake was. Apparently, Jeff was pleased nonetheless.
"Abed…I see your value now."
Jeff's voice sounded positive, almost as if marveling. Was he reading this right? Was he being praised or mocked? Jeff locked eyes with him and gave a small smile, along with a slight waggle of his eyebrows. Was he…flirting? Abed didn't know what to make of it. Jeff turned and began to swagger away, whistling a few bars to what sounded like Dave Matthews' "Crash into Me." As the distance between them grew, though, Abed felt the urge to admit something. He hesitated another moment before calling out after him.
"That's the nicest thing anyone's ever said to me!"
Jeff's stride didn't change and he gave no indication that he'd heard, but it didn't matter. His fading whistle, the chatter of students, the noisy and unhurried footsteps, it all seemed to blend together into a single song. And that song was titled, "Pilot."
Abed stared at the bland lunch he'd gotten from the cafeteria. He didn't mind its lack of inspiration and mostly just appreciated the convenience of not having to make food himself. Food had never been a passion of his, and he saw eating as more of a necessity than a recreational activity. Despite growing up with flavorful Palestinian cuisine, he preferred simpler dishes like buttered noodles or macaroni. Quick dishes meant more time to focus on roleplaying or imagining scenarios, both of which held vastly more appeal than eating.
His phone began vibrating on the table. The rumbles shook his container of Jello and he paused mid-bite to observe it. Just like the glass of water in Jurassic Park, he mused. It was rare that anybody messaged him. Who could it be? His father? An Amber Alert? A notification that his family plan was out of data for the month?
He picked up his cell phone and flipped it open. The message was from Britta, another student in hi Spanish 101 class. It read: "Found a way to pass next week's test. Jeff is a Spanish tutor. Meet us in study room f in library at 4."
Abed felt a small smile tug at his lips.
"Cool. Cool cool cool."
Abed opened the door to the library and felt a rush of chilled air blow over him. It was a welcome change from the afternoon sun; even in September, the afternoons in this part of Colorado tended to be a bit on the warmer side.
He made his way through the library to the group study areas in the back. Most of them were full, but none with Britta. He counted the letters as he wandered down the strip of rooms. C, D, E, F…F! He moved a little more quickly towards the open doors. The sound of banter drifted out and he stopped a few feet shy of entering. The first words he could make out were the tail-end of what seemed to be some kind of romantic admission from Jeff.
"…and I want you to like me, so, uhh…" Jeff's voice trailed off. Abed watched a soft smile spread across Britta's face from where he stood, but couldn't see Jeff's expression. Really? So soon? He really is Don Draper.
"Wow, that's a very honest answer," Britta murmured. Then, as if solidifying some kind of internal resolution, she nodded. "All right. For now, I like you fine."
Abed still couldn't see Jeff's face, but based on the tone of his voice and shoulder movements, it seemed that he was genuinely surprised. "Really? Wow. You're easy."
"Hell yeah!" Britta laughed. This seemed to be the optimal time to interrupt before it became any more personal. Abed approached the doors at a brisk pace and was relieved when Britta noticed him immediately.
"Abed! In the house!" she crowed. She turned in her chair to face him fully, and he smiled slightly at the attention. He felt as though he were Lilith on an episode of Cheers, with Britta playing the part of bartender Norm. Speaking of Cheers…
"Whoo!" Her face had broken out in a smile as she pumped her arms in the air. Assuming this was some sort of new greeting between classmates he hadn't seen yet, Abed raised his hand and cheered back. She cheered, he cheered, she cheered, and Jeff cheered as well before a look of confusion spread across his face.
Abed cocked his head to the side while carrying over an extra chair to the table. Was Jeff asking why he was here? Was he confused about the cheering? No, he joined in on the cheering, so it had to be the former. Abed set the chair down between the two of them, excited to finally feel included.
"Britta invited me, is that cool?"
He wasn't very good at picking up on social cues, but it made sense that if Britta invited him, then it would be okay to be here. Jeff smiled.
"Ohh! I can't think of a single, logical reason why not," he responded, still smiling. It seemed like an odd response, with Paul- Rudd-vs-Steve-Carell-in-Dinner-for-Schmucks kind of vibes. Maybe it was more Christopher-Lloyd-vs-Michael-J-Fox-in-Back-to-the-Future kind of vibes? It was hard to say, though, so Abed decided to just smile back.
"There you go. Oh, hey, here. Put your info down right there." Jeff hastily shoved a wrinkled sheet in front of Abed, making no effort to smooth it out before dropping a pen on it. Abed picked up the pen and, after clicking it a few times, began mumbling "Cool, cool, cool" as he wrote his name and number. Britta smiled approvingly to his right. He set the pen down and glanced between the two of them with a smile.
"Hey, this is kind of like Breakfast Club, huh?"
"We are in a library!" she said.
"Yeah. I'm sure we've each got an issue balled up inside of us that would make us cry if we talked about it," Abed commented nonchalantly. Britta perked up.
"Do you have something balled up inside of you?"
"Well, I get a little doozy in the chamber if things get emotional," he admitted. Their conversation was interrupted by the notification of an incoming text message on Abed's phone. Twice in one day? Wow!
"Hey, text message!" he said excitedly. He glanced conspiratorially at first Jeff, then Britta. "Let's give this bad boy a read."
Jeff immediately leaned over.
"That's probably, uh, probably just for yo—"
"'Say you have to pee. I need to talk to you.'"
Abed glanced at Jeff, then Britta. He brow furrowed as he reread the message.
"'Say you have to pee.'"
He showed his phone to Britta to look at the message.
"That is weird," Britta said, shaking her head. I don't get it, Abed thought. Jeff locked eyes with him intently.
"Do you have to pee?" he asked slowly.
"No. That's so weird."
"Hmm. Well. I'm stumped. That's very creepy." Jeff's phone suddenly rang.
"That makes two of us," Abed said, a look of confusion on his face. Jeff opened the message and began to grimace as he silently read it.
"What's that?" asked Britta. Abed leaned over.
"Does it say you have to pee?" Maybe this is a group prank?
"No," Jeff replied distantly. "It's just someone with a misguided grasp of abbreviation…I just need five minutes you guys, so, go ahead and study all the verbs." He stood up quickly and moved towards the door. He paused a moment.
"In, uh, Spanish," he finished hastily before leaving the room.
"In Spanish," Abed murmured. He turned back to Britta. "What do you think was going on with the text messages?"
Britta chuckled and waved her hand dismissively.
"Oh, I'm sure it was just a silly prank, Abed. Sometimes, when people are looking for attention, they don't stop to think about how their actions will affect others. I wouldn't think too much about it."
Abed stared at his phone a few moments in contemplation.
"Do you think we should invite some others from Spanish class?" he asked. Britta's face lit up.
"Abed, I think that's a wonderful idea. Let's do that."
Abed ducked his head slightly.
"Cool. Cool, cool, cool."
He flipped open his phone and started drafting a group text to a few other people he had met in Spanish 101 already: Shirley, Troy, and Pierce.
This is Abed. Britta and I are studying Spanish in study room F. Jeff is a Spanish tutor and is going to teach us like Mr. Miyagi from Karate Kid. You can join if you want.
"Sent," he announced. Britta reached over and rubbed his arm approvingly.
"Abed, that is so thoughtful of you to make sure others are included!" Britta beamed. "You're doing a great job."
Her praise gave him pause. She seemed very encouraging. It was nice not being made fun of, but Abed hoped she wasn't sizing him up for the leading role, or worse, the love interest. Something like that was better left to someone with a stronger personality and a sharper jawline—someone like Jeff.
As for himself, he much preferred the role of observer or, at most, sidekick. Those types of roles allowed more freedom of expression and had less chance of disappointing viewers, since people weren't really looking to them as role models anyway. Britta pulled out her phone and opened it. It was Abed's turn to perk up.
"What're you doing?"
"I'm checking on the Cholera Epidemic in Zimbabwe. Did you know they've had over 80,000 cases reported, with thousands of deaths? It is so tragic." She sighed, a frown tugging at the corners of her already slightly pouty lips. "People don't realize how good they have it here in the US. There's clean water, sanitary living, trash and sewage services, access to relevant news—the list goes on. These people in Zimbabwe don't have that. Their health care system is collapsing, the news and media are being politicized, there's an increase in human rights abuse, and the government is only encouraging it all…"
She scrolled down on her phone, presumably through various news sites. After a little while, she looked up at him.
"What do you think?" she asked. Abed tilted his head.
"Hm. Sounds awful. The leaders are like Hexxus from FernGully, feeding off of Cholera the way that Hexxus fed off of pollution. They must be fueled by hatred and greed to want to destroy so many innocent lives."
Her eyes widened, shining with enthusiasm.
"Abed, I have no idea what reference you're making, but from what it sounds like that's actually an amazing comparison. Are you by chance interested in political activism?" She grabbed his arm, nodding as she said the last sentence.
Abed looked down and stared briefly at her hand on his arm. He shook his head.
"Nah. It makes no sense to spend my time worrying about what's happening in other countries when there's already so much happening here. Besides, there's a bunch of other things I'd rather learn more about."
Britta's shoulders sagged.
Britta was interrupted by Shirley's greeting as she strolled cheerfully into the study room. Shirley made her way to a chair across from Abed and sat down.
"Oh hi, Shirley! Thanks so much for coming," Britta welcomed. Her face slightly upon seeing Pierce and Troy enter. "Oh, Pierce, you're here too?"
"Actually, I was invited," Pierce quipped, peering around the room before taking a seat at the table as well. "Sounded like Aybed needs my help studying?"
"Dude, we all got the text," Troy muttered. He took a seat next to Pierce. "And that's definitely not what it said."
"Well, we're all here now, it seems!" a bright voice interjected. Abed recognized the voice as someone from Spanish class, a girl named Annie. He didn't have her number, though, so one of the others must have invited her. Her bright green cardigan caught his eye. It was exceedingly colorful, making everyone else's clothing seem somewhat dull by comparison.
And her smile. Her smile seemed…what was the word…infectious? No, that sounded rather alarming. Contagious? No. Communicable? Even worse.
"So, does everyone here already know each other?" Annie asked. Britta shook her head.
"I don't think so, at least not well anyway. We should do introductions! I'm Britta, first year, my favorite hobby is knitting, I'm a political activis—"
Abed nodded distractedly, not fully present as his mind began wandering down another line of thinking. The chatter of Britta and the others faded into the background and his focus shifted to Annie. He noticed the way her eyes jumped from person to person, lingering longer on Troy than on the others. She seemed nervous.
His focus shifted to Shirley. She seemed like she could potentially become the mother hen of the group. She was eager to participate in conversation and seemed to have strong opinions.
He looked at Troy. Troy was talking animatedly, but Abed wasn't listening to the words. From his expression, he seemed like a self-conscious, yet cocky type. Almost like a Rocky Balboa—
"Abed? Earth to Abed?"
He blinked a few times, coming back to the present moment. He noticed the others staring at him and gathered it must be his turn to introduce himself. He smiled slightly.
"I'm Abed Nadir. I'm studying business."
"Oh, that's nice!" cooed Shirley.
Britta suddenly stood up.
"I have to uh…" she faltered a moment. "Uh, go take care of something. Right. I'll be right back!"
She slipped something into her pocket and quickly left. A silence hung over the group, as if nobody was sure where to pick up. Pierce leaned forward on the table towards Abed before leaning back in his chair. He smirked.
"You know, Aybed, I run a massively successful international business," he boasted, crossing his arms over his chest in what appeared to be an attempt at nonchalance. "If you ever want to talk to a real, live businessman, you don't want to miss an opportunity like this. You're lucky to have me around as a resource. Hell, I remember when I was around your age, I—"
"Wait, hold up," Troy interjected. "Are you about to give us one of those "when I was your age" stories, but then you just say awesome stuff about you to make yourself look good?" Pierce sputtered.
"Troy!" Shirley admonished. "That's no way to talk to your elders."
"Who are you calling 'elder?!'" Pierce demanded.
Annie's eyes grew large.
"Guys, guys, let's just take a step back and focus on our introductions!" she said, moving her hands in a placating gesture.
Abed tuned out the group's chatter as he noticed Jeff prowling back towards the study room.
Why does he seem irritated? Did he find the person who sent the text? Jeff entered the room.
"You guys aren't going to believe this but the rest of the group—" he pulled up short. He seemed taken aback by the number of people in the room now. His shoulders dropped slightly. "…is here."
The group around the table stopped talking and looked up expectantly. Abed tilted his head to the side. Then, the questions started rolling in.
"Are you the board-certified tutor?" Pierce demanded with a hint of impatience. Abed got the impression he saw himself as important and was seeking to establish himself as the leading role.
"That means you do my homework, right, Seacrest?" Troy. Hmm, another leading role hopeful?
"I need to call my babysitter if we gon' be later than ten," said Shirley.
"What board certifies a tutor?" Annie. Interesting. Spoken like a detective. Jeff glared at Abed.
"Where's Britta?" he asked quietly. Abed looked away.
"Not sure. I invited people from Spanish class, is that cool?" A hush fell over the room again. The group around the table looked expectantly at Jeff to voice his thoughts. Jeff's eyes narrowed as he seemed to fight a sour expression.
"It's the…coolest!" he said tightly. A strained smile spread across his face as he flashed the most awkward thumbs up Abed ever had the misfortune of seeing. Abed blinked before returning the gesture with a smile. I'll have to teach him how to give a better thumbs up. I'd always assumed it came naturally to people. I guess it's a good thing I'm here.
"I'm gonna go to the bathroom," said Jeff, "and bring my jacket, wallet, and uh keys with me…in case there's a fire."
After gathering his belongings, he promptly turned around and exited the room. The group looked amongst themselves, unsure of how to proceed.
"Should we go with him?" Shirley asked nervously. Troy and Pierce simultaneously shook their heads. Troy chucked his book towards Abed. It landed in front of him with a resounding thunk.
"Imma leave my homework with Slumdog Millionaire."
"That's borderline racist, Troy!" Shirley chastised. Abed fiddled with the edge of the book.
"Actually, I don't mind it. I like movie references. It's easier to relate to people using them," he said, glancing at Troy.
Troy scoffed. "Whatever. So, you doin' my homework then?"
"Troy!" Shirley scolded. "You're not gonna get far with that attitude!"
"Yeah, so the thing about being great at football is that it kinda doesn't matter how I do in my classes and whatnot."
"You know, Troy, football isn't everything," she said. "The academics are important as well and help round you as a person."
"You don't know me, so it's understandable that you're not aware of this already, but I'm a very well rounded person," Troy responded with a laugh. "Would I get nominated for prom king if I wasn't? Trust me, I'm doing just fine for myself."
Annie's face scrunched as she crossed her arms in clear irritation.
Their disagreement was interrupted by Jeff and Britta arriving back in the room. Britta took a seat at the table and rested her chin in her hand, starting intently at Jeff. He planted his hands on the table.
"Aaaaall right. Look at this crew!" he said appraisingly. "All ready to study all night."
Shirley muttered, "Well, I can stay at least till 10—"
"But who studies with strangers, right? My name is Jeff."
Pierce stood and leaned across the table while extending his hand. "Jeff, it's a pleasure. My name is Pierce Hawthorne, and yes, that is Hawthorne as in Hawthorne Wipes: the award-winning moist towelette."
Jeff also leaned across the table to shake Pierce's hand. However, Pierce retracted his before Jeff could reach and sat down. A look of annoyance flashed across Jeff's face as he awkwardly slid off the table and took a seat.
"I was just gonna ask."
"I'm also a toastmaster, so perhaps I should do the introductions?" Pierce suggested boldly.
Jeff's eye visibly twitched. "Definitely!"
Pierce gestured towards Britta.
"You know Brittles."
"Britta," she corrected.
"Eh, Ay-bed! Ay-bed the Ay-rab! Is that inappropriate?"
"Sure," responded Abed.
Pierce clasped the shoulder of Troy. "Roy, Roy, the wonder boy-"
"Troy." Troy's lifeless stare at the table said all that he needed to.
"Little Princess Elizabe—"
"And finally, this beautiful creature is named Shirley." Jeff's forehead creased.
"Is that even close?" he asked. Shirley only nodded with a pained expression. Pierce seemed proud to have remembered her name correctly and grinned. Annie huffed.
"I'd like to know why I had to find out about this group on accident?" she demanded. Her expressive eyes darted to the right as she drummed the table with her fingertips. Abed heard a note of indignation in her tone, along with uncertainty. She's upset. He filed the information away for later.
"Oh, this is getting way more like Breakfast Club now…" Abed murmured. Pierce perked up.
Britta made a face.
"Okay, um, maybe we should get started—"
"You know," Jeff interrupted, "I've been a part of a lot of study groups that fell apart because of unresolved tension. Shouldn't we address Annie's concern? Did we not invite her?"
Abed frowned. Generally, suppression of tension was key to ensuring that different types of characters were able to focus on a singular objective. Exposing tension could be divisive, running the risk of fostering resentment, aggression, and pointless filler episodes. Or worse, a Captain America: Civil War situation, pitting the group's members against one another.
Glancing at Annie guiltily, Shirley tried to explain. "Well Annie, sweetie, it's not behind your back. We jus—" Annie's hands shot up.
"Can we STOP with the pumpkins and the sweeties?" she shouted. "Being younger does not make me inferior. If anything, your age indicates that you've made…bad life decisions!" Shirley's eyes widened, her cheeks puffing with indignity. Uh oh, Abed thought. A quiet sound escaped Shirley's pursed lips and she turned away from Annie. Jeff wasn't ready to let her hold her tongue, though.
"Shirley has a response!" he called out, pointing to her. She shook her head violently.
"No, no, no, I don't…"
"It looks like you do."
"Shirley, go ahead!"
"No, I shouldn't—"
Abed watched the scene intently, the tension palpable as the group began loudly talking over each other. This wasn't boding well for group harmony. Shirley's voice rang over the others as her resolve caved.
"Okay, okay," began Shirley, "I'm sure, I've made some bad life decisions." Her eyes darted around the group. "And maybe…Annie's decisions will be better. But, I think she needs to decide whether she wants to be considered a child or an adult, because children get pity, but not respect; and adults," her voice deepened, "they get respect, but they also get the back of their head grabbed and their face pushed through jukeboxes!"
Everyone's eyes widened at that. Seems like she's on the Iron Man side.
"O-kay, why don't we try learning 'jukebox' in Spanish?" Britta suggested. Abed noticed the way she clasped and unclasped her hands. It seemed she wasn't comfortable with what was happening, and was trying to redirect them back to studying. Before she could do so, yet another disruption occurred.
"WHAT ARE YOU DOING?" Shirley shrieked. Abed looked towards her and noticed Pierce quickly withdrawing his hand from her hair. Shirley's face was all kinds of furious as she glared daggers at him. Jeff honed in on the new conflict like a bloodhound.
"Pierce. Let's discuss this creepiness."
"Pardon you?" said Pierce.
"What are you doing?" Britta hissed to Jeff.
"I'm certified," he assured her. Abed wasn't sure that being certified by a tutoring board qualified him for what he was doing. Come to think of it, Annie's earlier question about tutoring board certification made him question the legitimacy of the claim altogether, too.
"Are you unaware that Shirley finds your advances inappropriate?"
"You have been sexually harassing me since the very first day of class," Shirley muttered resentfully.
"Sexually harassing!" he sputtered. "Wha-? That makes no sense to me. Why would I harass somebody who turns me on?"
Troy slapped his notebook down on the table. "Sayin' she turns you on is the harassment, dude!"
A look of disbelief spread across Pierce's face.
"Hey. I am a prominent business leader and a highly sought-after dinner guest, and I will not take courting advice from some teenage boy!"
Abed's eyes slid over to Annie, noticing that her gaze was focused only on Troy. Her expression was difficult to make out, but it seemed to be troubled. She fiddled with her fingers.
"Well, this teenage boy is a quarterback and a prom king!"
"You're not prom king anymore, Troy," Annie said with an air of forced dismissiveness. "This isn't Riverside High."
His eyes narrowed.
"How'd you know I went there?"
She was momentarily stunned into silence, her mouth working to form words.
"Be-Because…yo-you're still…wearing your stupid letter jacket—"
A look of recognition flashed across his face.
"Were you that girl that got hooked on pills and dropped out?"
Abed blinked. Hooked on pills?
"You're little Annie Adderall!" Troy crowed, laughing as though it was the best joke he'd heard all day. Annie's eyes shone brightly with the beginnings of tears and she looked down. Her mouth trembled slightly as she tried to find words.
"An-And you are a…a stupid jock who lost his scholarship by dislocating both shoulders in a keg stand!"
"Keg flip," he corrected angrily. "They're very hard to pull off."
"Don't talk to me," she spat.
"You don't know—I'm a legend!"
Annie, Troy, Shirley, and Pierce began arguing at once until they reached a fever pitch. Abed silently glanced around at their animated faces, studying their individual outrage. It was hard to understand how it had escalated so quickly. It seemed that most of this group had some deep-seated issues lurking just beneath the surface. Yup. Definitely Breakfast Club, he thought.
SMACK. He slapped his books and leaned forward, startling the others into silence.
"You know what I got for Christmas?" he ground out, affecting the voice of Bender from The Breakfast Club. "It was a banner year at the Bender family. I got a carton of cigarettes." He scoffed and shook his head. A wry smirk tugged at his mouth. "The old man grabbed me. He said, 'Heyyy, smoke up, Johnny!"'
The group watched him cautiously, their expressions altogether unnerved. Abed jabbed his finger in the air towards some unseen antagonist.
He shouted, "NO, DAD, WHAT ABOUT YOU?!" Then, his expression relaxed and a grin flashed across his face. He looked over to meet Jeff's eyes for approval.
"Well, that…that actually was from The Breakfast Club," Jeff acknowledged.
Abed leaned back. "Nobody puts baby in a corner."
Jeff's phone started ringing and he paused before answering it to mutter, "Dirty Dancing," to which Abed once again grinned.
Apparently, the person on the other line sounded unusual, because Jeff furrowed his brow and asked, "What's wrong with your voice?" After a short pause, he pulled the phone away from his ear and stared at it. He tucked it into his pocket.
"Ah, I'll be right back," he said. "But while I'm gone, you guys need to hash this stuff out. No stone unturned. Go." With that, he turned and left the study room. The group eyes each other warily.
"I'M THE BARACK OBAMA OF THIS ROOM!" shouted Troy.
Abed sighed. Breakfast Club. -
Jeff and Britta opened the door and slipped into the room once more. This time, nobody else seemed to notice their arrival but Abed. It was impossible to make out what was being said by who at this point, but Abed didn't need to understand the words to recognize the anger and frustration etched into each of the group members' faces. Jeff suddenly slammed a yellow package down on the table, startling each person out of their argument.
"Aaaaall right, everybody!" he shouted. "I wanna say something. Sit. Down."
"Well, you don't have to yell," muttered Shirley a bit resentfully. Even so, she followed the others' example in taking her seat once more. Some folded their arms, others glared sullenly at Jeff, but nobody dared speak.
"You know what makes humans different from other animals?" Jeff asked.
"Feet!" Troy gestured with his hands.
Pierce snorted softly. "No, no, come on. Bears have feet," he said, as if it were the most obvious thing in the world. Jeff ignored them both and continued on.
"We're the only species on earth that observes 'Shark Week.' Sharks don't even observe 'Shark Week,' but we do. For the same reason I can pick up this pencil." He grabbed a pencil. "Tell you its name is Steve, and go like this—" He snapped the pencil in half.
A soft "Oh!" escaped Abed's lips.
"And part of you dies just a little bit on the inside. Because people can connect with anything." He tossed the pencil towards Abed. "We can sympathize with a pencil, we can forgive a shark, and we can give Ben Affleck an Academy Award for screenwriting."
"Big mistake," Pierce grumbled.
"People," Jeff carried on, "can find the good in just about anything but themselves. Look at me. It's clear to all of you that I am awesome. But I could never admit that because that would make me an ass. But what I can do is see what makes Annie awesome."
Abed's gaze shifted to Annie. She was watching Jeff like a proud puppy, pleased to receive attention and praise. Annie. Likes positive affirmation.
"She's driven. We need driven people, or the lights go out and the ice cream melts. And Pierce." He gestured to the older man, who smiled a bit. He likes it, too. "We need guys like Pierce. This guy has wisdom to offer." Pierce opened his mouth.
"The Dalai Lama and I—"
"We should listen to him sometime!" Jeff interrupted. "We wouldn't regret it."
He circled around the table to stand beside Shirley.
"And Shirley, Shirley has earned our respect, not as a wife, not as a mother, but as a woman." A pleased smile broke out across her face. Jeff turned around. "And don't test her on that, because that thing about the jukebox was way too specific to be improvised." Shirley shrugged and nodded.
"And Troy! Who cares if Troy thinks he's all that? Maybe he is."
Jeff circled around to Abed and smiled. Abed stared back, fiddling with the two broken halves of "Steve."
"And Abed." Jeff chuckled, spreading his arms. Abed nodded and looked down. He continued trying to fit the two halves of Steve back together. He was surprised that Jeff mentioned him, he hadn't expected that. He acknowledged that that was probably all he had to say, though. He recognized that his character was a bit of an enigma to most.
"Abed's a shaman."
His hands paused.
"You ask him to pass the salt, he gives you a bowl of soup, because you know what? Soup is better. Abed is better." Jeff smiled again at him and Abed's face went completely blank.
He didn't know what face to make. The word tasted foreign in his mouth.
He slowly lowered the newly reunited halves of Steve down to the table. It rolled ever so slightly after he placed it. Nobody said something like that about him, much less to him, and especially not in front of anyone else. Nobody. He stared unblinkingly at Jeff for a moment before dropping his gaze down to Steve. Something about hearing Jeff's words and seeing Steve whole again made him feel a pressure in his chest.
Jeff really was a leading man.
"You are all better than you think you are!" Jeff continued. He gestured animatedly with his hands. "You are just designed not to believe it when you hear it from yourself."
The way Jeff spoke…it sparked something inside him. It's not that he didn't like himself—he had made peace with who he was long ago. No, the truth was simply that knew he didn't fit in with others. He knew he wasn't wanted by others. The way Jeff spoke, though…it made him wonder if it might be different here.
"Soup?" questioned Pierce.
"I want you to look to the person to your left. Sorry, look at the person sitting next to you. I want you to extend to that person the same compassion you extend to sharks, pencils, and Ben Affleck. I want you to say to that person, 'I forgive you.'"
The members of the group turned to face each other, and a chorus of "I forgive you"s rang out, marred by a single "you little twerp."
"Pierce," Jeff said pointedly, "I'd like you to say 'I forgive you.'"
Pierce made a face and grumbled, "I forgive you," to Troy. Troy eyed him warily.
"You've just stopped being a study group. You have become something unstoppable. I hereby pronounce you…a community." Smiles broke out among the group. Abed felt one breaking out on his own face, as well.
"Oh, that's nice!" said Shirley. The group started clapping.
"This isn't like Breakfast Club anymore," Abed observed. "Now it's like Stripes or Meatballs. Anything with Bill Murray, really."
"I agree with Abed that tonight has been very special. And now, if you'll excuse me, I have a dinner engagement with Britta." Jeff nodded towards her with a wide smile. "Britta?"
She smiled back.
"I lied," she said cheerily. The smile slipped from Jeff's face. "Thanks for calming everyone down, but since you're not a Spanish tutor, just a lying creep who purposely upset everyone in an attempt to get with me, I'd appreciate it if you left and stopped wasting all of our time."
Jeff seemed unsure of how to react. He stood in stunned silence. Britta turned back towards the group.
"Everybody ready?" she asked. Jeff's eyebrows furrowed angrily.
"Fine," he ground out.
If we had a narrator, this is definitely where they'd say "It was not fine," Abed thought. Jeff smirked as he eyed the group.
"And I'm happy to report that one of the benefits of being a lying creep is having all the answers to tomorrow's test. And I'm happy to share them with anyone whose time I wasted more than they've wasted mine."
He shook a yellow packet covered in duct tape and glared at Britta, who returned the glare with equal vigor. Pierce frowned.
"Uh, Jeff? If you have all the answers, why the hell did you start this study group?"
"I don't have a study group, Pierce. I made it up."
"What about the speech?" Annie asked tearfully.
"Made it up! That's what I do. I make things up, and I got paid a lot of money to do it before I came to this school-shaped toilet. I was a lawyer!"
He turned to leave and a collective groan echoed in the room. Abed thought for a moment. This was definitely a disappointing turn.
"You know, I thought you were like Bill Murray in any of his films, but you're more like Michael Douglas in any of his films," he observed. Jeff paused in his opening of the door and snorted.
"Yeah? Well, you have Asperger's."
As he left the room, a look of confusion came over Abed's face. What is that? "Ass burgers?" "Assburgers?"
"What does that mean?" he asked Britta. She avoided eye contact. He leaned over the table slightly to catch her gaze and she turned towards the door.
"Heh heh, ass burger," Troy chuckled. Anne and Shirley gave him a stern look.
"It's a serious disorder," Annie said quietly.
"It really is," chimed Shirley. Pierce scoffed.
"If it's so serious, why don't they call it meningitis?"
Troy began laughing again.
"Ass burger!" laughed Pierce.
"Burger for your ass!" said Troy.
Their laughter bounced off the walls around them. Abed frowned slightly. He realized he was being excluded again, and noticed the heavy feeling in his chest that sometimes happened in times like this.
"I cannot believe how insensitive the two of you are!" shouted Shirley. "You're two grown man for God's sake. Can't you find some manners?"
"Manners? Oh right, I guess I can go get some of those at the Lame-O store!" Pierce retorted, holding his hand up to Troy. Troy high-fived him.
"Oh man, that's a good one!" Troy laughed.
Abed looked over to Annie and noticed her eyes were still watery.
"C'mon Troy, what say you and me get out of here?" Pierce crowed. "We could go grab a hamburger or something. We can go to one of those sports bars that's so popular with your people. I know one that serves fried chicken!"
Both Troy's and Shirley's eyes narrowed. Troy opened his mouth, then closed it. He shook his head and stood up, grabbing his notebook from the table.
"Yeah…Y'know, it's gettin' kinda late…I think Imma head out."
"What? Come on! We were just starting to get along. What, because I'm not Jeff you think I'm too lame to hang with? I can give a speech twice as good as his. Hell, ten times as good!" Troy looked at him with exasperation.
"Honestly? Whatever this is, it kinda blows now. Jeff may be a jerk, but he's right about one thing: he is awesome. I'm goin' home." Troy began walking towards the door.
"Troy wait!" Pierce called out, grabbing his books as well. Shirley and Annie followed suit as Britta stood angrily.
"Troy!" Britta shouted. "I cannot believe you are siding with him. We can study just fine on our own! We do not need some arrogant, self-absorbed prick like him to manipulate our feelings or tell us lies! Screw him and his power trip. Do you not remember that he deliberately made us fight just so that he could turn us against each other? We don't need him!"
Abed turned towards Britta with a thoughtful expression on his face.
"I dunno Britta," he said. "One way of looking at it is that he was lying to us so he could get what he wants—clearly a date with you. To be honest though, I feel like this group has a lot of potential. I'm interested to see where we go, with Jeff if possible."
Britta shook her head. "Abed, I'm disappointed in you. What happened to thinking about others? Jeff doesn't think about us, this "community," or study group, or whatever name you wanna slap on it. He just riles us up to get what he wants. He doesn't belong with us."
"I think he doesn't know any differently. He said he was a lawyer, so that's technically what he got paid to do."
"Exactly! We don't need that in this group!"
"Britta, I think that without Jeff…there is no group."
Britta suddenly noticed how silent it was. Everyone had left the study room. She looked down at her books on the table with a funny expression on her face.
Abed studied her. It was hard to tell what she was thinking. Her lips tightened and she grabbed her books.
"Maybe it's better that way."
"You don't mean that."
"Look, Abed, you don't really know me, or anyone here for that matter. I know that understanding this might be hard for you, but we're not all meant to be together. Would it have been cool? Yeah! But is it gonna happen? No! This isn't a TV show. This is our life."
"But TV is based on real life, on reality. There's even a whole genre of TV called "reality TV" that admittedly isn't all that captivating and to be honest is pretty lame plot wise, but—"
Britta started walking towards the door. Abed grabbed his books and trailed after her.
"—but you have to admit, it does focus on real life to some degree. I mean, there are real people acting in real houses or on real islands for lots of real money and they hold popularity contests to determine each other's worth based on social criteria that's never fully explained—"
"Abed," Britta said tiredly. Their footsteps echoed in the empty library as they headed for the exit. "Look. I don't want to disappoint you, but it's over. The study group isn't happening. The sooner you accept that, the sooner we all can get on with our boring lives."
"I don't want to accept that, though. I still think we could have a cool story together. We're a diverse cast of characters for starters: we have the charismatic yet lazy smartass, the all-American jock, the academic, the activist—practically a director's dream right there—we have a mutual goal, and now we all just faced a divisive conflict. The only thing left is for us to reunite because of our common goal again."
"Abed! How many times do I have to tell you that it doesn't work that way in real life!"
"I think it will, though."
Britta threw her hands in the air. They were almost out of the library and just about to round the final corner.
"Oh right, like we're gonna walk out of this place and find Jeff sitting on the steps outside waiting for us, and then we're all magically gonna decide to be a study group again. And we all live happily ever after. Big, fat chance that'll ha—"
Britta pulled up just short of bumping into Annie and Shirley. Pierce and Troy were sitting outside on the library steps with none other than Jeff.
Abed smiled. Just like in a movie.
Britta furrowed her brow and tapped Shirley's shoulder. She turned, shrugged, and began walking toward the steps. Annie and Britta followed close behind. Abed hung back a moment, watching the scene unfold. Britta came to a stop behind Jeff.
"Shouldn't you be rolling around on a bed covered in test answers?" she commented snarkily.
Jeff didn't look at her. He pulled the yellow packet and started removing sheets of blank paper.
"I don't…have any of the answers. I'm gonna flunk the test."
None of the answers? Abed thought. It was a bluff? He wanted to ask if Jeff had been too prideful or too ashamed to admit that he needed help. Either way, the commitment to his bit was impressive. He walked over and sat on the steps near Jeff. He drew his knees up and wrapped his arms around them thoughtfully.
"If you just, like, study for half an hour, it's not that hard," Troy said. "You seem pretty smart; you've got a sports coat!"
Jeff smiled wryly.
"Well, the funny thing about being smart is that you can get through most of life without ever having to do any work, so…I'm not really sure how to do that."
A silence fell over the group.
Here it is, our make-or-break moment, Abed thought. What would be best for the plot at this point would be if the group forgave Jeff and welcomed him back. But would they? Abed turned around to look at the others. Apart from Jeff, they seemed to be speaking rather energetically, except for some reason he couldn't hear what they were saying. Did my hearing just go? He kept watching in hopes that he'd been only been thinking too hard, but he still couldn't hear anything. A sense of panic overtook him.
"What's going on?" he asked. "Can you guys hear me? Am I deaf? Can you hear me talking right now?"
After a few moments pause, Britta answered, "Yes."
Relief flooded through him.
"That's good," he replied, calm again.
Britta turned towards Jeff. "You know what, Jeff?" she said. "Actually…we didn't get that far without you. So, if you wanna come back upstairs…" Jeff's forehead creased. "Really?" he asked. Britta sighed. "Well, it is your study group, so…" "C'mon, let's study," said Shirley cheerfully. "Sounds good," said Pierce.
The others started walking back towards the library. Abed stood and adjusted the strap on his messenger bag. He looked at Jeff.
"I'm sorry I called you Michael Douglas, and I see your value now." Abed nodded again and walked past Jeff up the stairs.
As he opened the door to the library, he heard Jeff say to himself, "That's the…nicest thing anyone's ever said to me."
Abed smiled softly and let the door fall closed behind him.