Abed was looking at his phone instead of Inspector Spacetime. He was well aware that this was incredibly out of character for him. He could watch something hundreds of times and still refuse to tear his gaze away from the screen. There’s always another background detail to notice, another voice inflection to consider. He used to gather that information and analyze it all in his head, either because he was alone or his parents didn’t want to hear his constant commentary.
Troy never minded, though. Not to get ahead of himself, but Troy’s enthusiasm seemed to indicate that he actually enjoyed rewatches more when Abed piped in with fun facts. Which is why he was certain that Troy noticed his behaviour. That and the fact that he caught Troy looking at him before resolving to say nothing.
Abed wasn’t sure if he wanted him to say anything. If this were a show, Troy would have immediately commented on Abed’s lack of focus on the Inspector Spacetime Christmas Special. They’d only have 22 minutes to tell their story, so no time would be wasted on awkward silences unless it was for comedic effect. There was nothing funny about what happened today.
He supposed in hindsight tensions had been rising between him and Troy since the impersonators were in their apartment. He hadn’t really noticed until things had escalated out of control. An all out pillow war in Greendale was a fantastic premise, but it was hard to enjoy when he was stuck in the middle of it.
Now he couldn’t stop reading over the texts Troy had sent him.
hey dick, read your dumb email. really enjoyed it
you may have been my best friend, but we both know i was your first friend
and what i know but you don’t know because you have mental issues is that you’re never going to have another friend because NOBODY ELSE WILL EVER HAVE MY PATIENCE WITH YOU
The ringing in Abed’s ears got louder, tuning out the sound of the Inspector’s voice as he read the texts over and over. He didn’t know how much time had passed, but they were all he could see, the screen getting brighter the longer he stared. He was falling into his phone, submerged in the space between the letters on its screen. He felt like he did in the Dreamatorium, knowing only objectively that everything was in his head. It was all-consuming.
A hand on his arm literally shook him out of it. Troy.
“Abed? Buddy? You okay?”
He tore his eyes from his phone to look at his best friend. Troy drew his hand away quickly but he was still clearly concerned.
“I’m fine. Everything’s okay.”
“Okay.” Troy hesitated before turning back to the screen.
Abed knew that he wouldn’t inquire further. The fact that Troy was so tentative to touch him meant there was no way he’d make Abed talk if he didn’t want to. Jeff’s hats felt like a perfect solution at the time since they both loved to simply believe things into existence, but as soon as they stepped into the car he could already feel the magic wearing off. This wasn’t a show and today was not a normal day.
“I was reading your texts.” Now the ball was in Troy’s court. Again, Abed wasn’t sure what he wanted. He was used to knowing where he stood with Troy. There wasn’t exactly an imbalance between them now, but certainly a distance.
“Oh.” Troy paused. It was a little reassuring that he didn’t know what to say either.
“I’m not mad at you.”
“You’re not?” Troy raised his eyebrows. Abed supposed if he was Troy, he might not believe himself either. After all, he’d only decided just now.
“No, everything you said was true. It wouldn’t make sense for me to be upset. Sorry for not paying attention, I know you put this episode on because it’s our favourite.” He put his phone down with finality. Time to move on.
They watched as the Inspector and Reggie attempted to shatter a glass wall with their falsettos. Abed hoped that by resolving to not be upset with Troy, things would be normal again. Closure.
“Abed, I didn’t mean any of those things.”
“Yes you did. You wanted to hurt me because I hurt you. But now we have our hats on so it’s over.” Abed hoped the neutrality in his voice was disguising his desperation for this conversation to end. This was a mistake, this was what happens when characters make choices that they usually wouldn’t. It throws off the whole balance of the story.
“It’s not over, or you wouldn’t still be reading those texts.”
Abed ignored him and kept his eyes on the TV. Troy picked up the remote and paused it. Abed could watch a blurry Blorgon just the same.
“Abed, I can’t let you think those things are true. Talk to me, man.”
The pleading in Troy’s voice was obvious, and Abed knew that he didn’t worry about hiding it the same way that Abed did. It made him feel jealous.
“You said that you’re my first friend. That’s true. You said that no one else will ever have my patience with you. I’m not psychic, but based on previous data that is also true. The only lie is that you think I don’t know I’ll never have another friend. That’s just poor writing on your part, since you previously established I never had a friend until you. Unless you thought our friendship led me to believe that I could establish a similar relationship with other people. But I spent my whole life thinking I’d never have a friend. Until I got to Greendale and met you. So there’s a plot hole there--.”
“You’re looping,” Troy interrupted softly.
Abed didn’t realize how fast his breath was going and closed his eyes to focus on regulating it. He could feel Troy watching him. He hated feeling so exposed.
“I didn’t have any friends until you, either.”
Abed sighed. “Don’t lie to make me feel better.”
“Well, I had friends. But they weren’t real friends. They didn’t know me, they knew who I pretended to be. So I guess that was my fault, but it’s still true.”
“People want to be around you, though. Even if they weren’t real, you still had friends in high school when you were a jerk.”
“I wouldn’t say I was a jerk…”
They both glanced at Annie’s bedroom door behind them. Abed wondered if she could hear them. Probably. She left them alone as soon as they walked through the front door, presumably because she felt like she was intruding after the day’s events, but told them to let her know if they needed anything. He could picture her standing with her ear pressed to the door, itching to burst out and intervene.
“Yeah, you’re right,” Troy admitted. He looked down at his hands. “But sometimes I think I was better off then.”
“Your email was right. I’m so emotional now that it scares me sometimes. At least I knew no one could take advantage of me back then.”
His words hung in the air and sucked the oxygen out of the room. Abed wasn’t the only one still thinking about the cruel words that had transpired between them.
“I shouldn’t have called you insecure.”
“Yeah, that sucked.”
“You’re not unintelligent,” Abed insisted.
“I know I’m not a genius. But now I’m not just the dumb one, but I’m the weak one, too.” Troy's eyes were getting watery and he wiped them aggressively.
“When I said that you’re emotionally frail, I didn’t mean it as a bad thing.”
“Don’t lie to make me feel better,” Troy imitated with a wry smile and shaky voice.
“Yes, in a war, emotionality is not a useful trait. Commanders need to make quick decisions that are sometimes harsh but ultimately for the greater good. Like Helen Mirren in Eye in the Sky. But in regular life, it is a tool. Like Superman fitting in on Earth even though he was from Krypton. Being able to feel what people are experiencing so strongly is an asset, it helps you create connections. Even if the connection is with a little girl in a car commercial.”
“She left her bunny behind at the park! How was I supposed to know they were going to drive back and get it?” His voice was light even though he was clearly still fragile. Then Troy reached towards his head to take off his Friendship Hat.
“What are you doing?” Abed asked, probably a bit too quickly. He thought things were going well, better than he could have expected.
“I want to prove to you that I’m being honest, and the hats aren’t forcing us to be friends.” He placed it on his lap. “Abed, I’ve had more fun pretending with you in the Dreamatorium than at every high school party combined. And yeah, I didn’t lie when I said a lot of people don’t have enough patience for you. But there’s a whole study group that does. I mean, Annie wouldn’t live with us if she didn’t like us both.”
“It’s true!” called Annie’s muffled voice. Troy pursed his lips together to hold in his laughter and Abed could feel his own smile threatening to break out.
“Thanks, Annie,” Abed said.
“You’re welcome! Okay, carry on, I’m not listening.”
Troy finally broke and laughed. Even though their war only lasted a day, it felt like forever. Abed missed this. He decided to take a second to process Troy’s words, but then Troy kept going.
“You make my life better just by being in it, and people who don’t have enough patience are missing out. They don’t deserve for you to be their friend anyways.”
Abed didn’t know what to say. This wasn’t a show, but Troy had said exactly what an audience would want to hear at the conclusion of this arc. It was exactly what Abed needed to hear, too.
“That’s all,” Troy said. He seemed bashful, like he had revealed too much. He picked the remote up. “The big finale is next.”
The episode resumed. Abed managed to watch it for about five seconds.
Abed reached up for his own friendship hat and removed it. “I like the things about you that I wrote in the email even though I don’t understand them. I try to.”
A smile spread across Troy’s face. “Yeah, I know.”
“You’re my best friend and I didn’t mean to make you the sidekick. But you should know that secondary characters are often favoured by fanbases.”
Troy chuckled at that. “Oh, so all along it was a compliment?”
“Not on purpose. But the point is that from now on we’re equal leads, okay?”
“Awesome. Or we could combine to create a super lead!”
Abed considered this. “Between my left-brain analytical thinking and your right-brain intuitiveness, we’d be unstoppable.”
“We’d have a whole brain!”
“Would we fuse our consciousnesses together and place it into one of our bodies or create an entirely new form?”
“Definitely new form. I don’t want one of our bodies just lying around the apartment. Plus we could add a bunch of cool stuff to it!”
Abed realized that Troy didn’t just have patience for him, he wholeheartedly bought into everything Abed was about. That stirred up feelings within him so strong that he decided to put them aside for later. For now, they could plan their super lead.
“We can do that?!”
They talked right over the final musical number. If this were a show, the camera would dolly out as their voices faded and the music would swell while the credits rolled. But their conversation carried on for hours, and eventually Annie came to sit on Abed’s armrest and join in. This wasn’t a show and it was definitely not a normal day. But it didn’t feel like a bad one.