Jeff throws the shot back, and then his arm around Abed. He leans back, more into Abed than the back of the seat. With an encouraging face, he hopes, he looks at Abed. But Abed is mirroring Jeff's position. Relaxed into the seat. His head is leaned back, but just then rolls to fall on Jeff's shoulder. Jeff looks at the table in front of them. The two empty shot glasses shimmer in the lights. Abed's body feels warm against his. He can't tell who's leaning more on who. Eyes still on the glasses, he tries to remember what number they're on now. Some nights Britta will just leave a bottle on their table, but not tonight. Jeff's not quite sure whether she was bartending tonight. Probably. That's why they're here. To hang out, all of them. Everyone that's still- Jeff is interrupted in his thoughts by the slight noise Abed makes. A noncommittal sound, but their faces are so close together it feels enough like conversation.
"You wanna play a game of pool?" He says it quietly, almost directly into Abed's ear. Abed shakes his head, although Jeff isn't quite sure, what with the position of Abed's head.
Seems good enough though. He looks ever so slightly over to him, careful not to shake him off. He can just barely make out his expression. Abed looks up and meets Jeff's eyes, for a long time, in Abed terms. Jeff has on several occasions found himself comparing Abed to a cat. And so has Abed (so he feels less weird about it). He hasn't shared with Abed how this prolonged silent eye contact, which feels so comforting, these moments they usually have in similar setting to this, reminds Jeff of the way he's heard cats will slowly blink at you as a sign of affection. He doesn't mind that a majority of his daily conversations with Abed might never or barely contain eye contact. He has told Abed this too, after other people have commented on it. It usually seems more like just a note than a complaint, but he's seen Abed retreat ever so slightly at these times, can sense he feels he's done something wrong.
Jeff really doesn't mind. They communicate well in every other way they do. And Abed has mentioned to him how it's usually just something he forgets - not something he chooses to give or not give someone. But Jeff treasures these moments. Without necessarily having put it into words, even to himself. It always makes him feel like he's being allowed into Abed's mind, through his gaze, and he's letting Abed enter into his. Yeah, it feels like melting together.
Maybe, Jeff wonders, he just likes getting to look at Abed's eyes. He mentally shakes himself out of his thoughts. Abed is still resting on his shoulder.
"You know the time?"
"Mhm." Jeff opts to just glance at his own watch.
"Right.. I'm pretty tired. You wanna go home?"
Okay, Jeff gets to his feet, lifting Abed up with him. He's more stable than he'd thought, maybe he wasn't that drunk. Abed, on the other hand, definitely needs Jeff to support him.
"Alright, buddy, let's get you home. I'll just say goodnight to Britta first."
"Not working." Abed mumbles.
"What? Something not working?" Jeff casts a look around the interior.
"She's not working today. Britta."
"Oh. Right. I forgot. Alright, let's go."
Meeting at Britta's bar (or "the bar Britta works at" as Abed will usually correct him, as Britta's bar sounded too much like a Cheers themed spinoff and Abed had run the simulations - It wouldn't be good. Jeff believes him.) had been their new go to for meeting location, as soon as summer break started. They had acted like it was just like Study Room F. The study group meeting. The Greendale - what now? Which committee where they on now? He supposed none.
At the top of the break Britta had announced she would go back to bartending full time. She said she wasn't giving up on getting her degree, but conceded that maybe she should take some time to figure out if psych was the right major for her. Jeff had felt relieved, and a little vindicated, joining in with the others to joke about it. But a small part of him, way back in his brain, felt guilty that they might have just bullied her out of doing the thing she was passionate about. As transparently misguided as it might seem to everyone but her.
Shirley used the moment to let them know she would be leaving too, the entire state of Colorado actually, to go take care of her dad in Atlanta. Annie, then, probably figuring the whole abandonment band aid should be ripped off at once, announced she would be gone all summer at an internship for the FBI. They were all congratulating her, and it was only when Jeff drove her to the airport, a week later, that she told him, in the car, that she was considering getting her last credits at Quantico. If the internship went well, she added. Jeff knew what that meant. Annie wasn't coming back. There wasn't a world where she wouldn't ace that internship. And he got it. Their time as community college students was coming to an end - should be coming to an end for all of them. And he knew it wasn't realistic for all of them to become teachers. He knew this and yet he had to stop himself from trying to sell her on the idea.
Abed hadn't been there when the trio of announcements were made. He'd been shooting something in the apartment and declined the invite to go to the bar for drinks. Jeff suspected Annie had tried to orchestrate a very well thought out plan on how to best give him the news - her internship, possibly staying in Virginia, Shirley leaving (which Jeff found out she'd known about) - but Abed called Jeff later that night and asked him straight out how many of them were "spinning off".
Jeff had been drunk enough to give Abed a full transcript of the evening, before he realized the implications that Abed had not known about Annie's departure. Of course, he had known. Nothing got past that man. After Jeff stopped speaking the line had gone quiet. Jeff cursed himself, and dreaded Annie's reaction. In the silence he also found himself wanting to ask Abed if he wanted to come over to his place. Maybe because he felt he had been left out of the end of term celebration. Or more likely a feeling he came to be very familiar with - worry about Abed. But he didn't. Abed thanked him for filling him in and hung up. Jeff had poured himself a glass of scotch and passed out before getting the chance to taste it.
He had made up for it not long after though. The day after Annie had left he suggested the remaining residents of Greendale County (and surrounding areas) meet at Britta's work. They'd do this every few days. Sometimes inviting Craig or even Chang (once), sometimes it was just Britta, Abed, and Jeff. The latter usually meant Abed and Jeff chatted with Britta for 20 minutes before the place got busier or her boss started yelling at her.
And then it was Jeff and Abed. Shooting pool, ranking the menu items - but mostly just hanging out in a booth in a corner, talking about movies and weird Greendale stuff they'd forgotten to share during the year. And drinking. Jeff meant to ask Abed if he drank all the time now - not like Jeff "all the time", but as opposed to just on the rare occasion of helping his friend or film out. But it never seemed to come up. Jeff never brought it up. And it was nice, or fun. He wasn't sure how to put it. It was both he supposed. Hanging out with Abed alone was different than with the rest. Abed was more or less the same as around the group. But Jeff suspected he was different when it was just the two of them.
Their taxi arrives quickly outside, they spend the ride mostly in silence. Once they arrive at Jeff's address he realizes he never gave Abed's, which was on the way. Abed had crashed here a few times before, but he hadn't thought as far as to ask what he wanted. "Hey, Abed, you okay with staying at mine tonight?"
Abed is already laying down on one side of Jeff's bed. Jeff hadn't yet settled on whether to offer the couch or his bed. He isn't sure how Abed knows to lay on the side of his bed he doesn't use. Does he know? Did he do it on purpose - leaving room for Jeff to lay down beside him? He's standing in the doorway, having gotten a glass of scotch for himself while Abed made his way to the bed. His thoughts were interrupted by Abed speaking, eyes fixed at the ceiling.
"It's like.. you choose to accept yourself, as different as you are, over conforming in order to receive love. And what you accept is that this means you won't get this love. That was me. Troy had chosen to accept that he couldn't be all of who he was because this meant he received love. And this means you accept that it will not be a complete love, and you will never be complete. And then we both discovered that there was another way. To be all of who you are and still be loved. That's... earth shattering."
It wasn't entirely unusual for their evenings to end with Abed talking about Troy. Jeff figured this was partly why he encouraged them. They didn't talk much about him otherwise. But it was rarely more than a few words. Abed mentioning some specific episode of Inspector Spacetime Troy had especially liked. Or recalling some hijink they'd done. Mumbled. Into Jeff's ear in the taxi. Said quietly while fumbling with his keys to open the door. While flung out on Jeff's couch, as Jeff put a glass of water down on the coffee table. Right before the alcohol knocked him out.
This was more than that. Abed had closed his eyes. He looks nauseous, Jeff thinks. He wonders how drunk Abed is. Where this is going. If he knows Jeff was standing there. But these aren't the questions that comes out.
"Which one am i?" He hadn't meant to wonder it aloud.
Abed sits up slightly. He looks a bit more sobered up. His tongue still loose, but no longer looks like he might throw up. His eyes are focused. Not on Jeff, just a spot on the wall opposite him.
"… You're more of what Troy were. But Troy didn't hate himself." He pauses. "He just didn't think he could be loved how he was. And thought that this was correct." He seems to consider this for a moment.
"Which I guess is what you do, too. Maybe you are a lot alike. But the big difference between you is that you're older." He stops abruptly. Looks quickly over at Jeff.
"I just mean - you've lived like this a lot longer. Troy was 19 when we met. I've seen what you were like when you were 19, Jeff. I don't think you could've had all this-" he makes a vague motion with his hand. ".. self loathing and cynicism, to make that video. But now..." He pauses again, blinks fast a few times, like he's trying to wake himself up.
"Well. You didn't "get" what Troy got." He makes a lazy attempt at air quotes. Then grimaces slightly.
"I'm not sure if that makes you unlucky though." He quickly adds. "Clearly it wasn't.."
Jeff still feels confused about how to proceed, but his desire to comfort Abed takes over. He sits down on the side of the bed, his side. His feet still on the floor, but turned towards Abed. He tries to make his voice sound as careful as he can.
"What? It wasn't enough?"
".. I don't know." It sounds like all the air in him is leaving along with the words. He keeps staring straight ahead.
"Abed." Jeff decides to lay down next to him. Maybe he's a bit dizzy now. He stares up at the ceiling. "Troy didn't leave because of you. He left because he was still a kid, and he needed to discover who he wanted to be as a man. Which -" He pauses for a moment to take a deep breath. "I think we both know is often a lonely process. Maybe you and I didn't choose for it to be, but I think you learn a lot from it. And I don't think anyone can love somebody enough to have that, and only that, fuel their life." He casts a look over at Abed.
It doesn't seem to Jeff like his words are helping. Abed slides down to lay next to him, mirroring his position. But he's looking up at the ceiling.
"Fuck, Abed. I'm sorry, I don't know what to say.. for what it's worth.. " He closes his eyes briefly, before adding, quietly. "... That kind of love. It would've been enough for me."
Yes. He's definitely dizzy now. He wants to believe that he isn't certain of which words he's saying out loud. He keeps his eyes focused on the ceiling, but he thinks Abed is looking at him. He doesn't know if it's the alcohol causing the lump in his throat. Yes, Jeff Winger sometimes cries when he gets drunk. But that's when he's alone. And not very often. Still, he recognizes the feeling well.
"Thank you, Jeff." It's what Abed feels he should say. But his brain is running so fast now, the words barely makes it out. He senses Jeff is struggling in his effort to comfort him and yet he is resistant to give it to him. And while he thinks Jeff understands what Abed means he's not sure Jeff means what those words mean to Abed, when he says them like that. Abed is far away, trying to run likely scenarios in his head, but his head is swimming. He keeps loosing the thread when trying to pull out memories to factor in. He has almost forgotten where he is when he feels Jeff's hand on his arm. He doesn't jump. Just stiffens a bit in surprise.
Jeff looks as if he's about to say something. Abed wonders if he had said something already that he didn't hear. But they just make eye contact. Jeff's hand stays on Abed's arm. He relaxes. Jeff's mouth curves into a small smile. It feels like the kind of smile that's praying for the other person to return it, more than a genuine display of a happy emotion. Although Abed knows Jeff never expects him to be more expressive than he naturally is. Maybe he is actually happy that Abed seems more relaxed. He isn't though. He feels it. A wave of sadness washes over him, the heaviness pushing him down again. And he feels guilty.
"But, uh, I'm Sorry, Jeff." He watches Jeff's brow furrows and looks away. "I don't think I can be fixed with a Winger Speech." This time. He wants to add. He tries to not make the words sounds harsh. Hurtful. That is not his intention but he worries categorizing what may very well be a Real Conversation (though he stopped categorizing them as Real Conversations a few seasons ago, and they just became Their Conversations) as a capital W Winger speech will feel like it undermines Jeff's intention. That is not what Abed intends to do. And Jeff has never outright accused him of it. But maybe this goes under his Pop Culture Sci-Fi Crap and while Abed knows Jeff doesn't want him to be hurt, he is also aware of the effort Jeff puts in, a lot of the time, to not be annoyed by him. He think he can understand this as a kind of love, finally.
Jeff gets up from the bed, quickly. And it makes Abed fear he did hurt him, and worse, that maybe Jeff thinks that was his intention. Jeff sways a bit when he gets up, and Abed thinks maybe he's just gonna be sick. He realizes he's assumed people who drink as much as Jeff doesn't get sick anymore, but he doesn't have proof of this theory. He has only thrown up once after their nights out. Jeff standing outside the stall in the bathroom, to give him some space he assumed. But when he saw how shaken up Abed was he practically wrapped his whole body around him while guiding him to a cab and taking him home. As fuzzy as the night was he remembered the guilty look on Jeff's face when he put him to bed. Abed hadn't been able to understand it. Jeff had been so gentle that night. What had he to be guilty over. But now, thinking about Jeff's unacknowledged levels of alcohol consumption it occurs to him maybe Jeff saw this as him corrupting Abed. Abed himself has sometimes worried he was taking advantage of Jeff's relationship to alcohol to get away with their recent pastime.
Jeff staggered out the bedroom now, and Abed thought he could hear him enter the bathroom. Okay, he was gonna throw up. Maybe Abed should go out there and support him, return the favor. But then he didn't hear any sounds.
Jeff is leaning against the sink. He looks into the mirror. Tried to read the words written there, but he can't make them out in the clear reflection. He does know where they are supposed to be, and tries to make himself see them. His eyes are stinging. He closes them. He wasn't hurt by Abed calling his attempt at comforting his friend a Winger Speech. Most of the time Abed's tv tropes-ing of their lives doesn't even register anymore. But Abed apologizing for Jeff not being able to help him.. Abed thinking that Jeff thinks he could be fixed with just a few simple words.. that Jeff ever thinks of Abed as something to be fixed. He hears Abed walk up to the open bathroom door.
Jeff opens his eyes when he hears him.
"Oh-" His reflection shows him tears running from his eyes.
"I thought you'd gone to throw up."
Jeff turns to Abed, then quickly remembers why he'd had to get out of the bedroom. He tries to wipe his face quickly, but he knows Abed has already seen.
Abed shifts his weight from one foot to another. He looks as if he doesn't know whether to take a step towards Jeff or walk away. He opens and closed his mouth a few times. Then finally, in a rush.
"Did I do that?" The look on his face is so painful to witness. Jeff lowers his head, lets out a breath. Then he turns around and sits down on the bathroom tile. It's cold. Soothing. He wants to say whatever is needed dissipate all of Abed's fears, but he feels too overwhelmed by all the things he could say. He tries to focus on the tile. Tries to quiet his brain. When he speaks it comes out much more tired than he plans.
"I know I can't just make everything better with a speech. And I know it probably seems like I think I can. I still act like I can talk my way out of anything. As if I haven't learned a thing. But it's not just words, Abed. I'm not just trying to wrap up the episode. I just.. want to be there for you. I want to help you." He paused to take a breath in.
"Not fix you." He quickly adds, and looks up at Abed. "You don't need to be fixed. I'm just worried about you, Abed."
Abed is staring at Jeff. Still standing at the door, before he seems to make his decision. He comes to join Jeff on the floor. Sitting close, but keeping a small amount of space between their bodies.
"Oh." It comes out like he'd been holding his breath.
"You knew that, right? That I've been worried about you? We all have." Jeff keeps looking at him.
Abed is quiet for a several seconds. Then, a small voice comes out.
""We"?" He's looking at his hands. Jeff nods.
"Yeah. Britta, Craig. Shirley and Annie. It's almost all we've talked about when they call. Especially once you stopped taking their calls..."
"I didn't think there was a "we" anymore. Not the study group we. Not a Greendale we."
Jeff doesn't want to cry again, but he can feel his heart breaking.
"Your family doesn't stop being your family just because they're further away."
They both go quiet. Abed still cant make sense of everything inside of him. He doesn't know if he wants them to worry about him or not. He knows he feels guilty. About his pain spilling out into their lives. Finally, he can only think to say one thing.
"Can we go to bed now?"
It surprises Jeff. But he feels exhausted too. Suddenly all he can think of is sinking into his bed.
"Sure.. I .. I can take the couch if you want the bed."
Maybe Abed hears the hesitancy in his voice.
"It's a big bed, Jeff, we can share it. If I'm not overstepping some boundary here."
"No, that's fine with me."
He gets up, and reaches a hand down to Jeff, not so much to help him up (he's sure he'd tumble to the titles if Jeff put his weight onto it). Jeff takes it and uses his other hand to push himself off. He lets go of Abed's hand.
"I'll be there in a second." Abed nods and leaves Jeff alone in the bathroom. He takes a last look in the mirror. His eyes are still red. It's futile, but he throws some water in his face in an attempt to wash it out. He finds himself just staring into his own eyes. He's not sure why, but he nods at himself. A resolute nod. Then he turns out the lights and goes to join Abed.