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[personal profile] wednesday_whimsy

"Hi," Annie said when the door to the first apartment opened. "I'm Annie. I live down the hall. We haven't met, but I've lost my cat. And my dog. Well they're not mine, but I was looking after them. Kind of. By any chance are they..."

The door slammed closed in her face.

"Hey," Annie shouted, banging on the door again. "Rude-o. Do you have my pets?"

"No," the guy shouted back. "Go away."

Annie restrained herself from stamping her foot, but it was a close thing. She turned around and knocked on the door opposite.

"Hi. I'm Annie. I live down the hall."

*

The street was busy for a Saturday morning, and Troy stared in horror at the road, looking for any sign of their wayward furry friends – but thankful, the only thing out of place on the gravel appeared to be a Starbucks cup.

He looked around the sidewalk instead. “If you were a dog,” Troy said slowly, “which way would you go?”

Abed tilted his head to the side, then nodded south. “That’s the way to the TV store where they keep all the TVs in the window. That’s the way I’d go.” He paused. “But did you mean if I was that dog? I’d follow my nose.”

Troy closed his eyes, sniffed the air, then opened his eyes and grinned. “I smell bacon!” he said, taking off in another direction.

*

It took them ten minutes to rule out every neighbor on the floor, mostly because one elderly woman kept forgetting what was being asked and making them start over. “Annie,” Jeff sighed, “even if she took them, she probably isn’t going to remember it.” He flashed the woman a smile. “Hello, ma’am.”

She smiled back at them as though she had never seen them before. “Oh! Hello there!”

He moved past her. “I’m with maintenance, and we need to check if you have any plumbing issues.”

“That’s nice, dear,” she said, patting his arm. But a quick look around confirmed that there were no dogs or cats inside.

Annie gave him a worried look when he returned empty-handed. “So what now? I haven’t heard from Troy and Abed.”

Jeff ran a hand through his hair. “Let’s go find them.” He leaned back against the wall of the elevator as they made their descent. “This is sort of all your fault,” he said after awhile.

"My fault?" Annie said. "How was it my fault? You were the one not paying attention to the animals. You were the one that agreed to look after them when you didn't even know what you were agreeing to. I'd say it was pretty obviously your fault."

"You were the one arguing and distracting me with all your feminine wily-ness."

"My what?" Annie said. "You can't blame me for you not listening. You never listen."

"I listen all the time," Jeff said, and Annie crossed her arms.

"So how did we get into this situation?"

"I do blame myself," Jeff said, glaring at her. "For making friends with a bunch of idiots who think I should be responsible for living things."

Annie nodded. "At least we both agree there."

"And for making friends who can't be responsible for living things themselves," Jeff continued. "Why couldn't you have kept hold of the damn cat?"

"Why did I have to be holding the cat?" Annie said. "You brought them here."

"I'm starting to think I should have just let them destroy my apartment. At least I wouldn't be arguing with octogenarians and spending my one relaxing day like this."

*

Troy sniffed at the air again, and they were close - they had to be, he could almost taste the bacon in the air. "This way," he said, turning left, and Abed trailed along behind him.

They stopped outside a diner, and as a patron stepped out, Troy had to bite back a moan. He suddenly couldn't remember the last time he was this hungry. "But there's no dog," Abed said, tilting his head to the side.

Troy opened his eyes to look around, and sure enough, the street was empty. "Dogs smell things different," he said after a minute, rubbing the back of his neck. "Want to check by the dumpster? Maybe old bacon smells better than new bacon to a dog."

"Maybe," Abed said, even as he stepped into the diner. He went over to a curly-haired waitress and put on his best Bogey. "Excuse me ma'am," he said, nodding back to Troy, "but my partner and I were wondering if you'd seen a couple of four legged fiends around here. Stub noses, one's tan and one's what the kids are calling calico, and they've both got eyes so big you could get lost in them."

The waitress stared back at Abed, bored. "Honey, you're wasting your time. Do you want food?"

"We really do," Troy said, appearing at Abed's shoulder. "We would love some bacon."

"What about the cat?" Abed said as Troy pulled him down into a booth. "Britta will be mad."

"That cat hates me," Troy said. "It's always going to hate me." He sighed. "Maybe Britta's right."

"Don't talk like that," Abed said. "Jeff's right. Britta keeps herself closed off emotionally and she's using Mr. Mittens to put up a barrier because she likes you."

Troy considered that for a long moment. “How do you know that?”

“It’s what Joey did to Pacey in Dawson’s Creek,” Abed said, then paused. “Though in that case, Dawson was the cat.”

*

“And you know what else?” Annie asked, voice raising as the elevator doors creaked open. “I had plans today too! And I dropped them to help you out!”

“Plans?” Jeff asked, snorting. “You said you were going to do homework. Those aren’t ‘plans’, Annie, those are things you do when you have absolutely nothing better to do.”

A man cleared his throat, causing both Jeff and Annie to look up. “What?” they snapped, in unison.

“I was just wondering if he could, um, get on?”

Annie turned a bright shade of red as she stepped off the elevator quickly, with Jeff behind her. He frowned as he surveyed the otherwise empty lobby. “Where did Troy and Abed go?”

"The door is open," Jeff said. "Damn it, what if they got out?" He pulled out his phone and tried calling Troy. "Voicemail," he muttered after a minute and then shouted "Where the hell are you? Call me back!"

"Nice," Annie said with a scowl. "You know it wouldn't hurt you to be pleasant sometimes."

"It might," Jeff snapped. "I'm surrounded by idiots. How hard is it to look after a cat?"

"Too hard for you, obviously," Annie said. "Come on. We should check outside." She stormed ahead out of the building and onto the street. She looked up and down the sidewalk and then set off to her right.

"What are you doing?" Jeff said, catching her arm. "Why not that way?"

"You go that way," Annie said, pulling herself free. "It'll save time."

"Damn it," Jeff said again, watching her go. He turned on his heel and headed off in the opposite direction. "Here, kitty, kitty, kitty."

Troy was halfway through their pancakes and the plate of bacon they’d ordered before he brought things back to the subject at hand. “Britta’s going to hate me, isn’t she?”

“She asked Jeff to watch the cat, not you,” Abed pointed out. “Which indicates that she’d be angry at him, not at you.”

Troy nodded, but didn’t look any happier. “We shouldn’t give up,” he said finally, looking up. “Maybe we could make signs. That’s what my neighbor did when his dog ran away.”

Abed nodded. “There’s a printer shop down the street.”

They smiled at each other across the table, but Troy still reached for another pancake. “We’ve got a little time though,” he said, picking up the syrup again.

*

“Thanks for your help anyway,” Annie sighed as she stepped away from the man having his lunch outside the café. No one had seen a dog or cat come through this street, but maybe they’d gone into an alley, or crossed the street, or were hiding in the dumpster back at the apartment… Maybe this whole day was designed to make her feel like a failure.

“Mr. Muggles!” she called again, trying to sound excited and happy. She’d had a dog growing up, but her mother’s Pomeranian wanted nothing to do with her. Still, she could remember that it was much more likely to not run away if she kept her voice soft and happy.

Jeff covered three blocks, looking for either of the animals before it started to rain.

"Are you freaking kidding me?" he asked the sky, ducking into a doorway. He tried calling Troy again, but it still diverted to voicemail. He called Annie.

She answered on the last ring, and Jeff tried not to question why he felt so grateful that she had picked up at all. “Jeff?” she asked. “Did you find them?”

He sighed and leaned his head back against the brick wall behind him, watching as people on the street hurried to get out their umbrellas or step out of the room. “No. I take it you didn’t either.”

“I haven’t seen Troy or Abed either,” she said, and he wondered where she was riding out the weather. Maybe she’d gone into a store, or she probably had an umbrella on her at all times, because she was Annie.

“I don’t know what to do,” he said finally, and Annie paused on the other end of the line. “Britta’s going to kill me. And Mr. Mittens is probably allergic to rain or something.”

She laughed, surprised. “Probably.”

"I shouldn't have yelled at you," he said which was as close to an apology as he was willing to give right then. "Where are you?"

"In Starbucks," Annie said. "I think everyone had the same idea as me though."

Jeff shivered and huddled further into the doorway. "At least you're warm. And there's coffee. I would love coffee."

"Where are you?" she asked, and Jeff had to turn around to see the sign. He cringed, stepping further away from the wall instantly.

"Cumon In."

Annie didn't laugh, thankfully. "That's not too far from my old place," she said, and Jeff paused at that, wondering again how she'd managed to live there for so long. How they'd let her. "I'll get the bus over there. And I'll bring coffee."

"You are a god," Jeff said. "Or, a goddess, I guess."

"Yes I am," Annie said and Jeff could hear the smile in her voice. "What do you want?"

"Tall, no-fat, decaf, soy blend," Jeff rattled off. "With hazelnut."

"That's disgusting," Annie said. "Why even drink coffee if you're not going have caffeine? Or milk. Or actual coffee."

"Well what are you having?" Jeff asked. "No, wait, I know. Medium latte and a macaroon."

"You think you're so clever, don't you," Annie said. "I have to go now and order. I'll be there soon."

"I am so clever," Jeff said. "And thank you."

*

Troy pressed his face against the window of the print shop, watching the rain outside. "I want to go play in it," he said, but Abed shook his head.

"We've got signs. They'll get wet."

"Stupid signs," Troy sighed, looking down at the stack of flyers in his hand. They'd hand-drawn Mr. Mittens and Mr. Muggles onto the back of the children's menu back at the diner, and the black and white copies made Mr. Mittens look like every other cat. They were never going to find him, and Britta was going to hate him.

"It can't rain forever," Abed said, tilting his head to the side. "This isn't The Killing."

Troy made a face. "You said you'd never talk about that show again."

Abed looked up and down the street and then back down at the flyers.

"Cats don't like water," he said. "Mr. Mittens will be hiding."

"Is that supposed to be a good thing?" Troy said. "You and I have spent hours playing hide-and-seek with just two of us. And neither of us is a tiny evil cat."

“But if we were cats,” Abed said, looking out into the rain, “where would we want to go?”

“If I was a cat, I wouldn’t like the rain. All your hair would stick to you. I’d want to go home,” Troy said, and it took a moment, but then his eyes bugged out as he stared at Abed.

Abed nodded once, then stepped outside. “Let’s find an umbrella,” he said, “and then we’re going to Britta’s.”

By the time Annie reached Jeff he was shivering with cold and his teeth were chattering. He took the cup from her, giving a pleased whimper as it warmed his hands.

"Are you okay?" Annie asked, watching him take a sip.

"I'm cold, Annie," he said. "I'm probably going to get sick. These animals have made me sick. This day sucks."

“Drink your coffee,” she said, reaching to touch his arm lightly. His skin was cool to the touch, but it wasn’t anywhere near a dangerous level. She scanned the area before nodding to a book shop. “Let’s go try in there,” she said. “They at least should have some chairs to sit in, right?”

Jeff eyed the open expanse of space between them and the bookshop. “I don’t suppose you brought an umbrella.”

Annie gave him a small smile, but shook her head. “You’re going to have to get your hair wet. I know that’s very difficult for you.”

“You suck,” he sighed, and guzzled another mouthful of coffee, before taking off running toward the bookshop.

"I know," Annie said. "I really do." She kept her hand at his elbow as the crossed the street to the bookstore.

Inside was warm, if not quite cozy. It would do until the rain stopped, Jeff thought, sipping his coffee.

They settled into two oversized chairs near the Detective section, and Jeff picked up one and began flipping through it. Annie watched him for awhile before forcing herself to look away. “Do you want something to read?” Jeff asked after a minute, looking up at her. “We may be here awhile.”

“I’ll get something in a minute,” she said, tugging her legs up under her in the chair. “Do you think we’re going to find them?”

Jeff watched her for a long moment before sighing. “I don’t know.”

*

Their umbrella had Spiderman on it, which was possibly the coolest thing Troy had seen all day. “Britta’s apartment isn’t far,” Troy said, leading them down another road. Abed nodded and stayed close to avoid the rain still falling down around them.

They hurried through the streets to Britta's building. The rain only seemed to get worse and the huddled together under the umbrella.

"Mr. Mittens," Troy started to call when they were a block away. "Mr. Mittens can you hear me?"

They made it all the way to Britta's apartment with no sign of the cat or the dog. "What now?" Abed asked, looking around.

"There's a cat door," Troy said. "And I have a key."

Abed gave Troy his most surprised expression. "You have a key to Britta's place?"

"It's for emergencies," Troy said. "Like if she falls and can't get up. Or if her cat gets lost."

Abed blinked. "Wow."

"What?" Troy said as he let them inside.

"Nothing," Abed said. "Just wow."

Troy got the door unlocked and let Abed in first, pausing to shake the umbrella dry once they were both inside. “Mr. Mittens?” he called again, looking around.

“There’s water on the floor,” Abed said, bending to touch it as though it were evidence in a crime scene. He looked up at Troy. “And it smells like wet dog.”

There was an ominous hiss behind them, then Mr. Mittens jumped from the wall unit onto Troy's back.

Troy shrieked. "Arrgh! Abed, Abed, get it off me! He's going to kill me."

Abed reached to pluck Mr. Mittens off Troy’s back, and held him out, eyeing the cat down. He was soaked – and he looked half the size that he had earlier. Mr. Mittens gave a pitiful meow.

“Why don’t you like Troy?” Abed asked after a moment, while Troy ran a hand through his hair and tried to recover gracefully. “Troy is the best friend a guy could want. Maybe cats want different things in best friends?” He kept eyeing the cat, until Troy finally reached out to take him, nervous.

“Don’t scratch me,” Troy said, and Mr. Mittens squirmed in his grasp, but gave up after a moment. He looked too tired and waterlogged to care.

“We need to get him to Jeff,” Troy said. He moved across the apartment to fetch a towel, drying the cat off quickly. “He hasn’t had any of his medication in the last few hours.”

Abed paused. “What about Mr. Muggles?”

There was a yap from the bedroom, followed by what sounded like a sneeze.

Troy wrapped Mr. Mittens in the towel and carried him, following Abed slowly towards the bedroom.

There were three pugs on the bed. One was sitting on a shredded pillow. One was half buried under the covers. The third was padding around in circles.

"Crap."

*

Annie had fallen asleep somewhere in the second chapter of her book, with her head on Jeff’s shoulder, but he couldn’t quite bring himself to push her off. There was no reason for her to be awake now – it was still raining, they were still no closer to finding Britta’s cat or the Dean’s dog.

She made a soft noise as he turned another page of his own book, but didn’t rouse. How they’d gotten into this mess, he still wasn’t certain. Who thought that he was capable of being responsible for living things? His friends, apparently, and something about that made him frown harder at the detective noir book in his lap, because he’d failed. He’d disappointed them.

This was why it was easier for no one to expect anything from you.

“You okay?” Annie asked, tired, and Jeff glanced down to find her head still on his shoulder, but she was watching him with a worried look on her face. There were even frown lines. “You look like you’re thinking too much.”

“I’m fine,” Jeff said, and shifted. Annie seemed to realize how she was leaning, and sat up straighter, blushing.

"We should probably go back to looking," Annie said. She straightened her skirt, and glanced at the window. "It stopped raining."

"Did it?" Jeff said, his eyes still on the faint flush on Annie's cheeks.

She looked back at him, and seemed to be about to say something, when her phone began ringing. She looked down at it, then back up at Jeff. “It’s Troy,” she murmured before answering. “Hello?”

They were sitting close enough that Jeff could hear Troy’s excitement coming through the other end. “We found them!” he said, and Annie closed her eyes in relief.

“I heard,” Jeff said, leaning back and feeling some of the tension leaving his shoulders.

“We found lots of them,” Troy amended after a moment, and Annie paused that, confused.

“Wait, what?”

"Annie, there are three of those squished up dogs here and I don't know which one is the Dean's squished dog and which ones are trespassing." Troy sounded upset and a little bit frantic.

"Okay," Annie said, taking a deep breath. "Okay. Where are you? We'll come and Jeff will be able to pick the right dog."

"What?" Jeff exclaimed, staring at her. "Annie, what the hell?"

She shushed him. "Troy, where are you?"

"At Britta's," Troy said. "Mr. Mittens and Mr. Muggles are here. At least, I assume one of them is Mr. Muggles. They all kind of look the same to me."

“Can Abed tell?” Annie asked, gathering her purse and umbrella, and motioning for Jeff to follow her.

“No.” Troy sounded on the verge of tears. “He said that they all bear a striking resemblance to the pug from Men in Black, but he can’t tell them apart either.”

Behind him, Abed nodded to one dog. “That one really looks like Frank. I don’t think he’s Mr. Muggles.” He tilted his head to the side. “Do you speak, Agent F?”

The dog crouched down, looking ready to pounce, but didn’t speak.

“We’ll be there soon,” Annie said, hanging up.

Jeff followed her out of the shop and down the street, but his forehead was creased in concern. “What the hell is going on? Did they find them or not?”

“Mr. Muggles apparently made some friends, and they can’t tell them apart.”

“Friends? What, did he go to a singles bar?”

She shook her head. “I don’t know, okay? Let’s just get over there and assess the damage. The important thing is, they found them.”

What they found when reached Britta's thirty minutes later, was total chaos.

Troy was standing on the sofa in the living room, trying to coax Mr. Mittens down from the top of a stupidly oversized, fake ficus tree. Abed was sitting on the coffee table, while three yapping pugs raced around him in circles. The armchair was overturned, as were the barstools next to the kitchen counter. One set of blinds had fallen down, as had two framed prints, which had been hanging over the computer desk. The computer itself was making a shrill beeping noise and there was smoke rising ominously from the printer.

"What the hell happened?" Jeff yelled once he'd taken it all in, but found himself suddenly surrounded by the pugs, who jumped up against his legs.

"Awww," Annie said, kneeling down in the middle of them. "You're adorable. Aren't you? Aren't you adorable."

“You said that before,” Troy said, though he didn’t take his eyes off the cat, who just swished his tail at him. “And you’re wrong. They’re all evil.”

Jeff picked up one of the pugs, who squirmed in his arms. “I actually think I agree with Troy.”

“Boys are stupid,” Annie murmured, as one of the pugs jumped into her lap and began to lick at her face. “They don’t know what they’re talking about, ignore them.”

“I think we’re ignoring the larger issue,” Jeff said.

Abed tilted his head to the side. “That Britta’s apartment is ruined and she’s going to blame Jeff?”

Jeff sighed. “No. That we don’t know which one is the Dean’s, or where these other two dogs came from.”

"Well this one has a brown ear," Annie said, picking up one dog. "And yours has freckles all over." The third dog crawled into Annie's lap and licked her face. "And this one... I think I might keep this one."

"No," Jeff said. "You're not keeping someone else's dog."

"This is kind of dog-napping," Abed said. "We could be arrested."

"They came in of their own free will," Jeff said "and they'll be going back out, just as soon as we work out which one is the Dean's."

"He gave you toys," Annie said. "So we just need to go home and show them the banana and whichever one likes the banana is the right dog."

"It's the best we have," Jeff sighed. "Troy, can you stop playing with Mr. Mittens and focus?"

“I’m not playing,” Troy insisted, stretching his arm out again to try and reach the cat, who just swished his tail again.

*

It took $80 for a taxi to drive them the six blocks back to the apartment, because no one seemed to want to take four water-logged humans, three snub-nosed dogs, and a cat that hissed at the first driver who stopped. Jeff tipped generously.

They each carried an animal, and once they made their way inside, everyone but Troy carefully set theirs on the ground. The dogs, at least, seemed tired now from their earlier mischief, as they sniffed around curiously, but didn’t wreak actual havoc. Jeff leaned back against the doorframe, closing his eyes. “No one is going to open this door again, is that understood?”

“Until when?” Abed asked, tilting his head to the side.

“And when are the Dean and Britta getting back?” Annie asked, moving into the kitchen to wring some of the water from her hair out into the kitchen sink.

"Um," Jeff said, edging around the outside of the room. "Um..."

Annie narrowed her eyes at him. "Jeff?"

"Well, technically tomorrow," Jeff said, holding up his hands. "It's not my fault."

"Oh it's your fault alright," Annie said, folding her arms. "Why didn't you tell us?"

"You wouldn't have helped me," Jeff said and then glanced at the three dogs and angry cat. "Maybe that would have been better."

“It’ll be okay, guys,” Troy said, sounding oddly calm as he sat down on the sofa. He was still holding Mr. Mittens, and shooed at the pugs as they tried to jump on him and the sofa, one by one. “We found the animals, Britta isn’t going to hate us anymore.”

“Mr. Mittens isn’t trying to attack you,” Abed said, tilting his head to the side. “Maybe he finally likes you.”

Troy looked down at the cat and smiled. “You think so?”

The cat hissed at him in return.

“Guys,” Annie insisted, “let’s just get back to the matter at hand. We’ve got three pugs, and we don’t know which is the Dean’s.” She nodded to Jeff. “Go get the banana.”

Jeff dutifully went to fetch the banana.

They collectively held their breath as he held out to the three panting pugs. The dogs all remained still, watching.

"Hey guys," Jeff said in what he thought was an excited tone. "Look. Your banana."

None of them moved.

"Uh," said Troy, "are they broken?"

"Maybe none of them is the right one," Abed said. "They we definitely kidnapped three dogs."

"We haven't kidnapped anything," Jeff snapped. "They're just tired." He waved the banana again. "Come on buddy. Look at your banana."

One of the pugs got to its feet and Jeff breathed a sigh of relief as it stretched then shuffled forward and grabbed one end of the banana.

"Great," he said. "See? Easy. That's the Dean's. Let's just put the other two outside..."

"We can't do that," Annie argued, folding her arms. "I can't believe you'd do something so cruel."

"Uh guys..."

"What are we supposed to do, Annie? We don't know where they came from."

"Guys," Abed said again, louder this time to stop them arguing. He pointed at the banana and the three dogs all wrestling over it.

"Crap," Jeff sighed.

“It’ll be fine,” Annie said, though she looked less certain. “The Dean will know which one is his. We’ll just tell him that we… had a play date with the neighbor’s dogs or something.”

“With the anarchists down the hall, or the Russian prostitute?” Troy asked.

Abed pointed a finger at Troy. “The anarchists. Veronika is allergic to animals.”

“You’re all insane,” Jeff sighed, sinking down to the sofa. Mr. Mittens jumped into his lap and began rubbing himself against Jeff’s chest until he relented, and reached to rub behind the cat’s ears. “So what do we do after the Dean gets his dog?”

“We keep them!” Troy said, bending to pick up one. “I always wanted a dog.”

“They could be someone’s pet,” Annie said, though she was eyeing the other two dogs fondly.

"We could take them to the pound," Jeff said and received three scathing looks in return. "Or a rescue. Whatever. Someone who could put up flyers or something."

Annie went to grab her laptop and do some research. Troy and Abed knelt down beside the dogs and were immediately pounced upon. Jeff continued to stroke Mr. Mittens. He felt rather like a James Bond villain.

Mr. Mittens gave a feeble meow and then sneezed. Or whatever it was cats did that sounded scarily like a sneeze. Jeff lifted the cat and went to fetch its medicine. "You're probably hungry huh, fella? Let's get you fed and watered and then hopefully asleep."

It took two hours for everything to quiet down. Mr. Mittens fell asleep rather easily, but the pugs kept staring at him like he was an alien and barking, which would rouse him again. Troy and Abed chased the dogs around to try and wear them out, but they wound up passing out on the sofa first, curled up against each other. The pugs fell asleep soon after, and for the first time all day, Jeff felt like he could breath.

"Here," Annie said behind him, and he turned from his position in the doorway to take the cup of tea from her. She shrugged at his look. "I know it's not coffee. But you need to sleep."

"Where? I'm assuming I don't get to go home."

"God, no. This is your mess. But Troy and Abed aren't going to move for awhile," she said, sipping her own cup slowly. "You can take one of their beds. I recommend Troy's, because Abed freaks out when people move his pillow, and he always knows."

Jeff sipped his tea and tried not to make a face. "Thanks, Annie. For... more than just that."

"Yeah, you should be thanking me," Annie said. "All of us, in fact."

"I'll make it up to you, I swear," he said. "Whatever you want."

Annie shook her head. "That's not the point. Just try to be a little more considerate. This all happened because you agreed to do something for Britta and the Dean, without even paying attention to what and when. You need to start taking responsibility for your actions, or this is just going to keep happening. And it's not fair on the rest of us, Jeff."

Jeff nodded, but Annie wasn't sure he'd paid any attentions to what she'd just said.

"You're right," he said, and leaned down to kiss her cheek. "You're the best."

Annie hated that she blushed, but she hid it with a well-timed sip of her tea. "It wasn't all bad though," she said after a moment.

"Oh? You had fun running around in the rain and thinking you'd broken our best friend's heart by losing her cat?"

"I didn't lose anything," Annie said, smiling a little more. "This was definitely all your fault."

Jeff's smile back said that he agreed, even if he'd never admit it.

"Well, I'm going to bed," Annie said, taking a few steps closer to her room. "Use whatever you want. We're pretty laidback here."

Jeff raised an eyebrow at her.

"Okay, Troy and Abed are pretty laidback and it's their stuff you'll be using, so..."

"Oh, I see how it is," Jeff laughed.

"Shut up," Annie said, laughing herself. "I'm going to bed. I suggest you do too."

Jeff stood there long after she'd closed the door to her bedroom, and some strange part of him almost wanted to go after her, or wished he'd asked her to stay up and talk to him a bit later. Instead, the exhaustion of the day hit him all at once, and the next step he took toward Troy and Abed's bedroom (if it could really be called a bedroom) made every muscle ache. Sleep was going to be great.

Part 3
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November 2012

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