Characters: Annie Edison/Abed Nadir
Word Count: ~1100
Summary: ...and she finds a small part of herself thinking, Caroline Decker would kiss him right now. (mid-/post-2x10)
A/N: There might be more to this story? I feel like there's so much more to write. Let me know how you feel about the possibility of more chapters.
Annie runs her fingertip around and around the edge of her glass, defeated. She’s not Caroline, not anymore – it’s late now; the accent has faded and the alcohol has set in. The clock has struck midnight, and Cinderella has lost her ball gown.
She feels the warmth of a hand on her back. When she turns, Troy is standing there, looking so much older and equally defeated. “I think we should go,” he says.
Annie sighs. “Probably, yeah.”
“Can you get Abed? I’m gonna try to round up those two.” He glances over his shoulder to the opposite side of the room, where Jeff and Britta are collapsed in a bickering mess on a well-worn sofa.
She nods. “Good luck.”
“Thanks. I’ll need it.”
After he turns away, she drops her forehead to the cool countertop for one brief, final moment of self-pity. She takes a deep breath and swallows what’s left of her drink before rising less than gracefully from the barstool. Standing requires more effort than she’d anticipated.
Annie makes her way around to Abed, who’s staring blankly at his half-empty beer. She puts her hand on his shoulder, partly for comfort and partly for her own balance. Something feels off. “Why are you wet?”
“Robert threw his drink in my face.”
“Who did what?”
“This guy started talking to me while I was playing Asteroids, and he liked Farscape, so I let him buy me a drink. But when he found out that all I wanted was to talk about Farscape he threw his drink in my face.”
“Oh. That… wasn’t very nice of him.”
Abed shrugs, taking a sip of his beer. Only when his arm moves under her fingers does she realize she’s still touching his shoulder.
She doesn’t lift her hand.
“I deserved it.”
“I knew he was flirting. Leading him on was inconsiderate.”
He opens his mouth as if to continue, but then clamps it shut. Even from her poor angle at his side, Annie can see his eyes darting back and forth, presumably looking for the right words (or, more likely, the right pop culture reference). She can feel him tense beneath her hand, and after another moment of silence decides that it’s time. “Troy’s getting Jeff and Britta. We’re leaving.”
They both glance over to where Troy is helping Britta up from the couch, a steadying arm around her waist. Annie only realizes that she’s tightened her hold on Abed’s shoulder when she catches him in her periphery, turning back to face her. She relaxes her grip as she meets his gaze, and she finds a small part of herself thinking, Caroline Decker would kiss him right now.
But despite three screwdrivers and the drawl still desperately clinging to her vowels, she’s just Annie now – pathetic, predictable, playing it safe. She finally lifts her hand, offering it to Abed. He cocks his head just the slightest bit, looking at her outstretched palm and considering it for a moment.
She swears she sees the ghost of a smile on his lips as he takes her hand in his, but that might just be the vodka. In any case, she’s glad to have him at her side to keep her steady as they follow what remains of their group out into the cold.
Despite the momentary comfort of Troy’s kind words, Annie doesn’t sleep well.
She has a terribly vivid dream: her, middle-aged, overworked and underpaid, surrounded by manila file folders and sweater-wearing cats in an otherwise empty studio apartment. No matter how many she sorts through, the pile of folders never grows any smaller and the cats won’t stop meowing.
When she wakes in a cold sweat, it’s only six a.m. Her pillowcase is smeared with the makeup she never washed off, and she’s still in last night’s clothes. It’s only when she stands that she realizes that she has a pounding headache, and her tongue feels like sandpaper in her mouth.
She takes an obscenely long shower, but no amount of hot water can completely wash away Caroline Decker. All Annie can think about is what the weather in Corpus Christi might be like and where she would put a mermaid tattoo.
And mostly: is Caroline happy? Happier than her, anyway?
It eats away at her, minute after minute, hour after hour. She has three cups of coffee, one for each textbook she tries to distract herself with, but to no avail. If anything, the caffeine only fuels her imagination: Where is Caroline now? Is she concerned about her credit score? Is she sleeping in a parked car, following a band on a cross-country tour?
When she cannot take it any longer, she grabs her backpack and keys and races out the door.
She’s at Greendale in just under fifteen minutes. It’s likely the first time she’s ever broken the speed limit (since kicking her pill addiction, anyway). The parking lot closest to the library is practically empty.
Annie checks her watch. 8:50.
The library’s only been open for twenty minutes. She sees just a handful of other students on her way to the privacy of the study room.
Her focus is so set on the computer in the corner that she’s halfway across the room before he catches her eye. She stops, startled, and nearly loses her grip on the strap of her bag.
“What are you doing here, Abed?”
“I like it here.” His head cocks to the side. “What are you doing here?”
“Research.” Motivation restored, she steps over to the desktop computer. She slides her backpack under the desk and sits down to get started.
“Research on what?”
“Who’s Caroline Decker?”
“The... the girl on the ID I used last night.” Annie’s fingers pause on the keyboard and she shakes her head, all of a sudden feeling altogether ridiculous. “I pretended to be her… crazy and spontaneous.” Biting her lip, she covers her eyes with one hand. “This is insane. I’m comple-”
“So she’s like your alter-ego?”
His voice is louder than she expected. He’s standing right behind her now, straight-faced.
Alter-egos are no joke. Not to Abed.
Her hand drops down to her lap, a smile finally forming.
“Yeah. Alter-ego. You could say that.”
He nods, quickly pulling up the closest chair and taking a seat.
Annie can’t help but grin now, seeing him there: leaned forward intently, brow furrowed, just as invested as she is in this bizarre plan. If she really is insane, at least she’s not alone.
Abed inches his chair up so it’s even with hers, and takes a deep breath.
“Let’s get to work.”