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my shearer, crawford, hepburn, harlow, and my garbo

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She’s been looking forward to this all year. The most magical time at Greendale, the time when she stops being Annie Edison, uptight perfectionist, and becomes…

“What do you think the paintball theme will be this year?” she asks excitedly.

Abed tilts his head up. “So far we’ve had blockbuster action, western, and space opera. We’re looking at only genres with heavy gun or gun-like weapon usage. What about survival horror, zombies?”

Troy gets an odd look on his face. “That seems…familiar somehow.”

“Historical?” Annie suggests. “I could do an accent.”

“Futuristic!” Troy puts in, eyes gleaming.

“Classic gangsters?”

Abed, of course, is right.

 

Thankfully, she’d had the foresight to strap a paintball pistol holster to her leg before the suspiciously 30’s themed dance. Some mysterious assassin shoots Garrett in the middle of the floor and everybody scatters chaotically. She manages to grab a gun and some paintballs before slipping into a supply closet, chest heaving. Her hands shake with excitement as she loads the gun.

Knock knock-knock-knock-knock…knock knock knock-knock…

Troy or Abed. They hadn’t had time to teach the secret knock to the rest of the group. Holding her gun at the ready, she slides the door open.

It’s Troy, eyes wide under his trilby hat. “They got Abed.”

“Rats!” she gasps, closing the door quietly behind her. “That’s a curve. Hatchetmen from City College again?”

Annie’s a little more disappointed than she’d like to let on. She always had a lot of fun with Abed at these types of things, and after last year, especially. Not that she was expecting anything, but she’d been looking forward to maybe being his moll. She might have even had a few fantasies…him a dashing scoundrel, her a fiery dame, sort of a gangster-themed reprise of last year’s Star Wars adventure. Abed’s a good shot – she hadn’t anticipated City College to gum up the works.

Troy looks impressed. “Did you memorize all that slang just in case this turned into paintball?”

She shrugs, suddenly a little self-conscious.

He grins. “Aces. All I know is from movie marathons with Abed.”

“So those no-good torpedoes gave him a case of lead poisoning?”

“Actually, no. The glee club took him hostage, for some reason. Sorry, I don’t know how to say that in gangster slang,” he admits, giving her a half-smile.

She frowns. “I don’t either. We should look for the others, maybe they can give us the lowdown.”

They slink through the low-lit halls, peeking into classrooms as they go. After a minute, Troy pauses and gestures her across the hallway. She crosses cautiously and looks in the window. Britta (nonconformist as ever in a well-fitting suit) is sitting on the desk. When she catches her eye, the other woman’s face lights up and she motions them in.

“Troy!” she exclaims when they come in, hugging him impulsively. Annie tries to hide her smile. “I thought the glee club got you too! I saw you on the dance floor and then you were gone.”

“No, just Abed,” he says sadly. “Do you know where they took him?”

Britta shakes her head. “I’ve only seen Shirley. She was here with me a few minutes ago, but we barely had any ammo. I gave her almost all of mine and I’ve been waiting here for her to get back with more.”

Annie’s silent, an idea blossoming in her brain. Last summer she’d marathoned all the Star Wars movies in attempt to dissociate any lingering Han-feelings from her friendship with Abed. What would he call this? A callback? Continuity nod?

She has to find out.

“I have an idea. But I’m going to need your help.”

 

They drag her out to the quad, feet kicking. “Get outta here, canary,” Troy says loudly. “Too high hat to swing with us.”

“Yeah,” Britta interjects. “You…ritzy tomato.”

“You just want to ditch me so you can have your petting party in peace!” she shouts after them, then sinks down onto her heels. For all appearances, she’s helpless, although she still has her paintball pistol carefully concealed under her skirt. She summons up a tear and sniffles loudly for her audience.

Then, in a move she knows they can’t resist, she sings quietly, “Que sera, sera…whatever will be, will be…”

Movement out of the corner of her eye. She doesn’t turn, but she lets her hand drift toward the holster just in case. “The future’s not ours to see…”

“Annie Edison?” A gentle tenor voice from behind her. She sniffles and nods. “You’re coming with us.”

 

(“Okay, that’s awesome,” Troy breathed when she disclosed her plan.

“It is pretty badass, but what makes you so sure that they’ll accept you?” Britta asked.

 Annie bit her lip and looked down. “They’ve been trying to get me to join them all semester. Apparently they’re really short on women this year - pretty low retention rates after the whole evil director fiasco.”

“Oh, I can – ” Britta started to say.

“This is something that I need to do,” Annie said quickly.

Britta’s eyes narrowed suspiciously. “You just don’t think I can sing.”

“Hey, I like your voice, Britta!” Troy said genuinely. “Not sure about the glee club, though. But I think Annie really wants to do this.”

And for some reason, she really did.)

 

She feeds them more sob-story abandonment bull and they’re putty in her hands.

“We hate your friends, too,” an Alto 2 named Carmen says sympathetically, patting her back. “But you don’t have to worry about them now. They’re definitely not going to win.”

“How – how do you know?” she says, remembering almost too late to put a little hiccup in her voice.

“Oh, we’ve got a strategy,” chuckles Tim, the gangly tenor who’d brought her in. “That prize is as good as ours.”

“What’s the prize?”

Tim laughs uproariously. “What’s the prize, she asks! She just asked me what the prize is!” He leans in close to her face. His breath smells…refreshingly minty, which slightly detracts from the menace. “Exactly.”

“We’re the only ones who know,” Mitchell the baritone adds cheerfully. “And we’re gonna stay that way until we win this thing.”

“Oh…okay,” Annie says quickly, a little shaken. “I don’t care about the prize anyway. I just…want to belong.”

They all smile at her warmly.

 

She and Lisa (an S1 who won’t let you forget it) keep watch at the end of the hallway. A little sleight of hand, switching out some Sleepytime tea for Throat Coat, and she’s out like a light. “Mitt me, kid,” Annie murmurs to herself.

The cool slang just doesn’t have the same effect without an audience, though. She sighs and goes about finding Abed.

He’s in the third classroom she checks, bound and blindfolded to a chair. A gun sits on the table next to him, just out of his reach. She grins suddenly – he couldn’t have scripted it better.

“Who’s there?” he demands in his best gangster impression. Still committing to the character after whatever the glee club had put him through – she has to admire it. “You better spill, see? Who are you?”

Annie leans over him to loosen the blindfold and he stills. It’s dramatic, as planned, but she’s suddenly aware of their proximity. She’s almost in his lap, and her arms are wrapped around him like they’re about to start necking. But she’s come this far, so before she unties the blindfold she says softly, “Someone who loves you.”

“Annie?” Abed asks in his normal voice a second before the blindfold falls off. She’s already drawn back and started working on his wrist restraints, which appear to be made of the shimmering scarves the glee club wore for their cabaret night. He blinks at her curiously. “You Return of the Jedi’d me.”

She doesn’t look at him as she frees his hands. He rubs his wrists automatically, still staring at her. “I just thought, you know, since last year,” she says awkwardly, crouching down to free his legs.

“Cool callback,” he replies, sounding distracted.

“I mean, I’ve been doing the gangster thing too, you know.” They both stand. His eyes are still fixed on her as she continues to ramble, “It was probably a trip for biscuits learning so much slang, but - ”

Oh. Abed’s hand on her cheek. Warm. Those scarves probably didn’t cut off his circulation, which is…good. “Nice work, doll.” The old-timey voice is back but the hint of warmth in his eyes is all Abed. His hand dips under her chin, tilting it slightly up. “Cash or check?”

Kiss now or later? according to that 30’s slang website she'd all but memorized.

She looks at him, not sure what to say. She’s not really sure why she’s done any of this except that she likes the occasional vacation from being Annie Edison and she likes it best when he takes that trip with her. Annie doesn’t know what that means, but she does know that if nothing interrupts them they’re going to be kissing very soon, and she’s not sure that the in-character excuse will fly this time.

Then the door swings open and Annie yelps, “Better shake a leg!” Abed reaches for the gun and covers her back while they run, paintball bullets flying.

 

Other things happen before the last paintball of the day is fired. The glee club turn against each other. The study group is reunited. The dean sacrifices himself. They all walk away a little older, a lot sweatier, and with Chicago tickets nobody but the glee club really wanted.

“Hell of a clambake,” Abed says, echoing her thoughts as they walk to the car. Troy and Britta trail behind.

“You shred it, wheat,” she agrees.