Annie is crying.
Annie is crying and Troy isn’t home.
Abed doesn’t understand what happened, which isn’t that surprising to him, but is mildly annoying. He had been getting better at interpreting Annie’s emotions, even when she’s being difficult and doesn’t say what she means.
Having Troy helped immensely, because usually he could watch Troy’s reaction and mirror it.
When Annie had gotten sad and pushed her fries away at the restaurant, Troy hadn’t started eating them right away like Abed wanted to. Instead, he had pushed them back and told her she’s beautiful. Abed deduced the problem and quickly added “Statistically you’re 70% skinnier than the average McDonald’s customer”, which had made her laugh, even if it wasn’t completely true. Sometimes you have to fudge the numbers a little to make people feel better, which is stupid, but worth it.
Or when Annie came home ranting and mad at a professor for giving her an A-. Abed had looked at the work and figured out that it was just A- work, which isn’t really that big of a deal. But Troy had shushed him and said that professor must be crazy, which wasn’t completely unlikely giving Greendale’s hiring choices, so Abed nodded his head and stayed quiet.
But now Annie was crying and Abed doesn’t know why and Troy isn’t home.
Obviously he knew today was the start of Annie’s period, which meant she was more emotional. (He really didn’t mean to keep track of her period anymore, but the cycle was easy to remember, even when he wasn’t writing it down every month, and it had proved so helpful for understanding her.)
Since he knew she had started, he had gotten out the dark chocolate he bought just for this, and even put on a show she normally liked!
Project Runway isn’t something Abed particularly enjoys. There’s no plot, and the seasons all feel rather repetitive. But loving someone sometimes means making sacrifices, like when they let Troy watch Shark Week for the whole week, or when Annie and Troy agree to protest the American Inspector When the Movie at the theaters (even though it gets them banned from yet another movie theater).
He loves Annie, and Troy loves Annie, and they both love him, so he puts on stupid Project Runway and settles in for an afternoon of boredom. Everything is going fine up until the final reveals. The models are all lined up on the runway, when he hears the familiar Annie sniffle.
He looks over in alarm to see Annie crying. He quickly picks up the tissue box and holds it over to her. She takes a tissue and delicately blows her nose, then he offers her a piece of chocolate from the bag, which she takes.
He’s feeling pleased with himself for doing so well when she looks down at the chocolate and bursts into tears again. He can only stare in confusion when she throws aside the chocolate.
“Why are you crying?” He asks. Maybe if she explains it, he can help and this will be over faster.
“I’m sorry,” she sobs in lieu of an answer, burying her face in her hands. “I’m the worst, aren’t I?”
“No,” Abed answers, because she’s not.
“I am,” she insists. “I don’t know why you and Troy are even with me. I’m the worst, and I’m uptight, and I’m not even pretty!”
The last part is shouted as she gets up and runs into her room, slamming the door behind her.
And now Abed is standing outside, listening to her crying and feeling completely confused.
If only Troy were here…
Troy! That’s it, he can call Troy. Abed pulls his phone out of his pocket and takes a few steps away so Annie won’t hear. He hits the number 1 on his speed dial and waits as the phone rings.
“Hey Abed, what’s up?”
“Annie is crying and I don’t know why,” Abed says, forgoing a greeting. “Can you come home?”
There’s a beat of silence and he can hear some shuffling, then a door closing.
“I can’t come home yet, Nana will kill me,” Troy said.
In her old age Nana had decided that she would like at least one birthday party after all, and none of the family could refuse her without getting a severe spanking.
“Tell me what happened,” Troy continued.
“We were watching project runway and she started crying and then I gave her a tissue and a piece of chocolate but the chocolate made her cry more and she didn’t even eat it, then I asked why she was crying and she apologized for being the worst, even though she’s not, and then she lied and said that she was the worst and that’s she not pretty. She also said she’s uptight, which is true,” Abed rushed out in a monotone. Explaining things that they had already seen bored the audience, so he usually tried to get through it quickly.
There was a beat of silence from the other end of the line as Troy processed the rush of information.
“Also she started her period today,” Abed added.
“Ohhh. Okay, so she just needs some comfort. We’ve been working on this, just remember what we’ve practiced and you’ll be fine.”
“But what if it doesn’t work? What if I misread one of her cues and I can’t make her feel better?” Abed couldn’t help but feel a little anxious. If he couldn’t make her feel better, maybe Annie wouldn’t want to be with him anymore. Maybe Troy wouldn’t either.
“Hey, calm down,” Troy soothed. “You can do this. In fact, I think you might be exactly the right person to make her feel better right now.”
“Absolutely. Why don’t you go ask her why she lied?”
“People don’t usually like to explain why they lie because then they have to admit to lying,” Abed said, furrowing his brow.
“Just trust me on this. And remember, offering physical touch-“
“Can be more comforting than waiting for someone to take it, if I’m okay with being touched.”
“Right. Are you okay with being touched today?”
Sometimes he had days where anyone touching him made him feel claustrophobic and itchy, but he didn’t think that was going to be a problem today.
“Yes,” he answered shortly.
“Okay. I’ll be home in a few hours, and I’ll pick up ice cream on the way. I love you.”
“I love you too,” Abed said, feeling a little calmer. He quickly hung up, then turned on his heel and walked to Annie’s door.
He paused to listen for a moment before knocking, not hearing crying anymore.
“Annie, can I come in?” he asked. Annie didn’t like being walked in on without knocking, even though they had all seen each other naked at this point, so he didn’t see a reason for privacy.
There was a quiet sniffle, then some rustling. “Okay, you can come in.”
Abed opened the door and walked in, pausing for a moment in the doorway.
“Door open or closed?”
“Doesn’t matter,” Annie said miserably from the bed. She was sat against the headboard, hugging a pillow to her chest.
“…Door open or closed?” Abed said again, uncomfortable with the vague answer.
“Closed,” Annie said with a sigh, leaning her head back to look at the ceiling.
Abed shut the door before walking over to the edge of her bed. “Can I sit by you?”
“Sure,” she answered without looking.
He crawled up onto the bed and sat next to her. He always liked sitting on beds because it made for a good shot with everyone facing the same way. It meant the camera would be able to capture their reactions better.
Remembering his conversation with Troy, he cleared his throat and opened his arms towards her.
Annie blinked and looked over at him, not moving.
“I am making the universal sign to offer a hug,” Abed said helpfully.
“I know you are, but you don’t have to do that if you don’t want to. I wouldn’t want to touch me, I’m…” she cut herself off with a shake of her head, tears welling up in her eyes.
“I want to,” Abed said quickly, not wanting to make her cry again somehow.
She looked up at him, eyes shining with unshed tears, and he maintained eye contact, a clear sign that he was telling the truth. Finally, she leaned in and rested her head on his shoulder, letting him close his arms around her shoulders.
“Is the pressure sufficient?” He asked, letting his head rest on top of hers.
“Its good, Abed,” she said with a watery chuckle.
They sat like that for a while, Abed occasionally running a hand up and down Annie’s back to increase comfort.
“Thanks Abed,” she murmured after a while, leaning back and drying her eyes on the back of one hand.
“You’re welcome,” he said, watching her. “Do you feel better?”
“Mostly,” She said with a smile, so he smiled back. He had no way of knowing if the smile was “right” or not, and for the billionth time wished people would just say what they were feeling instead of making facial expressions.
“I don’t understand something you did earlier,” he said.
“Yeah, I know. I was just crying because I was upset, I started my period today.”
“I know,” He said, then quickly continued in case she got mad he knew about her period. “I mean when you lied.”
“What?” Annie asked, furrowing her brow.
“You lied. You said you were the worst, which I assume was hyperbole, but you also said you weren’t pretty. Usually in a movie a girl will only lie about that to get compliments and therefore validation, but you ran away from me so I would be unable to compliment you. What was the purpose of the lie?”
Annie stared at him for a moment and then laughed lowly and looked down at her hands. “I wasn’t lying Abed…”
“What do you mean?” He asked, not comprehending.
“I’m not pretty,” she said quietly.
“But you are,” he responded.
Slowly she turned her head to look at him, up through her lashes in a way that made something funny happen in Abed’s stomach. “You think I’m pretty?”
“Of course,” he said, like it was obvious, because it is. “Do you not think you’re pretty?”
She looked away bashfully, and he couldn’t help but stare a little.
“Do you really not think you’re pretty?” He asked, completely confused. “But you’re smart. How can you not see that? You’re pretty enough to be a love interest in a romance comedy, and those girls are pretty much paid to be beautiful.”
“But I don’t look like a model,” she said, staring straight ahead, her voice turning sad again. “All those models on Project Runway… Wouldn’t you rather be dating one of them?”
“No, I want to date you and Troy,” he said. “Besides, I’ve always thought models were overrated. They’re usually so emotionless, most of them make terrible actors. I can count on one hand the movies that have models or former models in them that are actually good.”
“So…” Annie said slowly, turning to look at him again. “You would rather be with me than a model?”
“I thought that was obvious,” Abed said with a shrug. “I would rather be with you and Troy than anyone else. I don’t think a model would fit in very well with our cast anyway. We would have to make all of the frames higher, which would make the rest of us look pretty short, and Jeff wouldn’t like it if a girl is as tall as him, or taller.”
“Abed, can I hug you?”
“Sure,” he responded, going to open his arms again, but she was already leaning over and wrapping her arms around his shoulders, up on her knees.
He wrapped his arms around her waist and held her close, breathing in the comforting smell of her vanilla body lotion.
It wasn’t until later, after Troy had returned home with the promised ice cream, and they all curled up on the loveseat that he realized.
“I did it,” he said, a small smile on his face. “I made Annie feel better.”
Annie looked over from where she was sat on Troy’s lap and smiled. This one definitely has to be the “right” smile.
“Heck yeah you did,” Troy grins, offering a hand for a high five.
Abed high fives him, and then scoots closer to rest his head on Troy’s shoulder. They all settle in for a nice quiet night, and Abed can’t help but feel pleased with himself for maintaining not one, but two good relationships. Now to make sure they stay the b-plot in the show, otherwise a breakup might be in the cards for the season finale, and that just won’t do at all.