The July sun is nearly blinding as they're walking to the car the next morning. Abed already has his sunglasses on. They had gotten to bed early the night before. There hadn't been much talking while getting ready this morning, but it didn’t feel tense. Abed found that they both seemed to enjoy the quiet of the morning. Soft smiles, hums, the odd eyebrow raise - was enough.
They've only been driving for a short time when Jeff gets tired of squinting and asks Abed to look for his sunglasses.
"I think they're in the glove compartment." Abed looks at the compartment in front of him. A beat, then -
"I think it's locked."
"Oh, right." He fishes his wallet out of his pocket and hands it to Abed.
"Key should be in there."
Abed finds the key and unlocks the compartment. He moves his hand around inside it for a moment.
"No glasses." Jeff sighs.
"But I got you some."
Jeff looks over at him.
"You did?" His voice is kind of high. Abed isn't sure what that means. He reaches down for the plastic bag he got at the gas station on the first day. He gets a pair of aviators out and hands them to Jeff.
"You .. got these for me?" Abed nods. Jeff has a look on his face Abed can't determine.
"Thanks." While Jeff puts them on and focuses on the road, Abed takes another look in the glove compartment.
"What's this?" He holds up a thin book with a grey cover.
Jeff looks over casually, then freezes. He slowly turns back to the road and doesn't say anything. Abed keeps looking at him. Eventually, without looking at Abed, he answers.
"It's a uh, book. Of poetry."
Abed looks at it, turns it over.
"I didn't know you liked poetry."
Jeff is quiet. He clears his throat.
"Well.. yeah, it's pretty embarrassing. I wouldn't talk about it."
Abed is confused. He turns his head to the side, and shifts his focus from the book to Jeff.
Jeff looks as confused as Abed feels. His brow furrowed.
"It's poetry.. it's inherently embarrassing." He says it slowly.
"Why?" And when he doesn't get a reply, "I've personally never read much but it doesn't seem that different from music."
Jeff is quiet. His brow furrowing further.
"I guess …" Unconvincingly. He shakes his head slightly. "But, no." He breathes out.
"Abed, in movies and on TV - who reads poetry?"
Abed thinks for a while. Eventually -
"Girls, goths, gay people." Abed starts listing off, letting the words sing a little.
"Yeah." Jeff interrupts. Abed isn't finished.
"And poets. People in period pieces." Jeff interrupts him again.
"This isn't a period piece."
"Yeah, I guess." He doesn't see how that's relevant to his answer.
"But this isn't a movie, Jeff."
Jeff finally looks over at him, with a raised eyebrow.
"Probably." Abed shrugs. Not to you , he means to say, but he doesn't want to detract from the conversation.
"Anyone can read poetry."
"Yeah.." Jeff seems unconvinced, he's making a face, a grimace.
"And also you are kind of gay." Abed adds. If giving Jeff categories to prove his point was supposed to exclude him, Abed didn't understand how that one would. But he sends him what he hopes is a playful smile, in the hope Jeff understands his intentions. They hadn't talked much about Jeff's coming out yesterday. Once Abed felt Jeff was comfortable again he didn't push the conversations. He didn't want Jeff to start panicking again. It seemed like it had been a lot for him, these past few days. Abed found it difficult too, to go from pushing down and ignoring his feelings for months to full on sober confessions and Real Conversations day and night. But he didn't think he was familiar with the panic that seemed to take over Jeff. He considers the book in his hand. Maybe it could wait. He wants to give Jeff an easier day. He thinks maybe a playful joke referencing Jeff coming out would help, but he worries it will backfire. Maybe "gay" is too far, the feelings too nuanced. To discuss Jeff's attraction to men separate from his attraction to women. He wants to talk about it. Wants to know where Jeff is at. But if he's been running from this for several decades-
Jeff turns to him and smiles back. It looks nervous, but bright. Okay, maybe it's cool. He looks back down at the book. "Crush" it says in large black letters.
He looks to Jeff, who's turned to the road.
"I can put it back."
"No it's.. it's fine." He sounds genuine. There's a nervousness in his voice though, Abed thinks.
"Why do you feel so embarrassed?" Abed has a lot of feelings, even as he struggles to communicate them at times. He's more used to feeling too overwhelmed to convey his feelings than experiencing a lack of them. But he admits embarrassment isn't one he has extended familiarity with. It intrigues him.
Jeff doesn’t speak at first. His voice is quieter when he eventually talks. The words coming out slow, like he's letting himself figure out what to say while he's talking.
"Maybe it's.. not so much who reads it as.." He pauses for longer. His voice goes even quieter, smaller. The kind of voice Abed imagines one uses in the dark, in a bedroom or a blanket fort. Not just a voice for secrets, but those confessions that have to exist in a space where the world and bodies and time doesn't exist. Not inside a bright, very real car someone is in control, the rays of sunshine hitting them so sharply it's almost too real to exist.
"It's so vulnerable.. It's vulnerability itself."
Abed thinks he likes the word vulnerable. Vulnerability. Likes it in the context of Jeff. But he doesn't get the feeling Jeff does.
"That's a bad thing?"
"It feels like it is." Jeff swallows.
"It feels.. terrifying."
"Not all scary things are bad." There are things Abed avoids because they scare him. Being abandoned, doctors, making bad movies. But he usually associates scary things with excitement. Horror movies, roller coasters, making good movies. But Jeff has talked about his anxiety before. Abed suspects it's a more present force in his life than Abed’s.
"Yeah..." It's not convincing.
Abed looks at the cover again. The picture is of someone with light stubble, cropped to only show the lower part of their face and their hand. Abed thinks it could be Jeff.
"You keep it in the car?"
"Yeah.. it.. it comforts me." The words hang in the air. Abed studies Jeff. He thinks he must be feeling this vulnerability right now. But the look on Jeff's face is hard to get a grip on. It's not pained, not exactly, maybe something slightly desperate.
Abed has never told Jeff that his face is probably - no, for sure - the face Abed knows the best. It didn’t happen on purpose. But he has spent 6 years studying him. First he told himself it was because Jeff was the lead. And that made sense. It was important to know what Jeff was thinking in a scene. But it was also because Jeff was interesting. Abed never got tired of trying to map his face. Of course, he had spent a lot of time looking at Troy's face as well. But Troy was never difficult to understand for Abed. They both got each other quickly. If Abed ever wondered what Troy was feeling he simply asked. And he knew Troy would tell him the truth. So while he would spend plenty of time looking at Troy, it wasn't so much to chart and file the information, but simply because he enjoyed doing it.
Jeff has a nice face as well, Abed recognized that. But that wasn't why he started, and it still didn't feel like the main reason. He could ask Jeff what he was thinking, but - and it wasn't that he thought Jeff would lie to him. As much as he wasn't sure Jeff would have access to the honest answer, even for himself. So studying, learning, and charting Jeff's face become a necessity. Necessity, and pleasure, he added to himself. He couldn't deny that. And yet, this look is unfamiliar.
And even though Abed doesn't respond, or urge him to continue in any way, Jeff does.
"A .. friend gave it to me awhile back." And Abed thinks he's going to elaborate further, but he doesn't. An anonymous friend, Abed thinks. He thought he knew about most of Jeff's life, at least over the last few years, and yet he can't think of many people in Jeff's life he doesn't know. And he doubts Jeff is talking about one of their mutual friends. Then again, if it's an anonymous friend Abed wouldn't know about them. He files the question away, he doesn't need to know the answer yet. He starts flipping through it. It feels worn, read. Warm, in a way.
"A lot of these are dogeared." More new information. He didn't know Jeff dogeared books. He tries to remember what Jeff's books at school used to look like, but reminds himself that Jeff would rarely read them and dogearing would probably show too much interest for his liking.
"Yeah..." The uncertainty is still there, in his voice. He doesn't look at Abed. Abed feels the uncertainty spread to him. He doesn't know what Jeff is going to say next either.
"Actually," Jeff swallows, "you might like some of them." He pauses. Abed thinks he can picture what Jeff is feeling. Like he's taking a leap off a diving board. "He writes a lot about movies." Splash.
"Oh, yeah?" He raises his eyebrows at Jeff, but Jeff doesn't look at him. Abed looks down at the pages, turned to one of the dogeared ones. Jeff looks over then, not at Abed's face, but at his hands, the pages open between them.
"Yeah. Like that one." He breathes out. Abed looks at the title. Planet of Love.
Jeff gives Abed's face a quick look once he sees him starting to read. There's a weird mix of feelings in his chest. Anxiety, though it's not panic. Something crawling and strange. Like butterflies if they didn't have wings. And had too many legs. That’s dumb though. Maybe something warm as well. It's nice, he suddenly thinks, it's maybe nice to share this with someone. With Abed.
Of course, he didn't tell Abed why it was dogeared. Why he was quick to tell him that the subject of plenty of the poems in the book are about movies, filmmaking, directors. Or how that poem in particular (as well as too many others to think about) he had marked because it reminded him of Abed.
The thought makes him shift uncomfortably. He can't settle on whether he feels good about this or not. Then, Abed takes the decision out of his hands. He's only been reading for a few seconds when he puts the book down in his lap. He closes his eyes and leans back.
Jeff gets nervous. No, there's the panic. Rising in his stomach, chest. Not quite reaching his head, but getting there. Oh, he hated it. He thinks it's embarrassing and doesn't know how to tell Jeff. Jeff suddenly wants to get out of the car, needs to get out of the car, out of the situation. He sees the tank is low and uses the opportunity to stop when a gas station comes up. Since Abed still has his eyes closed he lets him know he has stopped for gas.
He exists quickly and goes inside to pay, and when he comes back out Abed is leaning on the hood. Eyes closed and breathing shallow.
Now Jeff notices that he doesn't look so good. He takes a chance and asks.
"You alright buddy?"
"Nauseous." Jeff panics a bit. Then realizes Abed isn't nauseous because of his poems. But then why?
Abed opens his eyes and sees the look on Jeff's face.
Abed points at the car.
"Car sick". Jeff breaths out. Ah.
"I'm better now. It's why I can't be on my phone in the car, reading is bad."
"Oh, I didn't know." Abed shrugs. I didn't tell you. Jeff thinks. Abed doesn't expect him to know things he hasn't told him, and yet he seems to know everything Jeff doesn't tell anyone.
"But maps are okay?" Abed nods.
"Yeah, they're different."
Jeff nods. Then the million dollar question hits him.
"Why... Why did you try to read then?"
"It seemed really important to you."
Abed has closed his eyes again and doesn't see the look that dawns on Jeff's face. If he had he would have had to create a new file for it. Maybe an entire new system.
Without opening his eyes, Abed holds up the book. Jeff hadn't realized he'd been holding it this entire time.
"I'd like to read the rest of the poem. Is it okay if we wait to get back on the road. I still feel a bit shaky."
"Sure". He goes to join Abed, leaning next to him on his car.
In a quieter voice Abed asks, once Jeff is close enough. Their sides touching.
"Actually, would you mind reading it aloud?" Jeff swallows loudly. The silence hangs heavy between them for several seconds.
"Because you're still nauseous?" Abed doesn't reply. He just holds the book up. Eventually Jeff takes it, he opens it where Abed had kept his finger in place. He starts reading it from the start. Tries to keep his voice steady, as hard as it is. When he's finished he looks at Abed. He's opened his eyes, he seems to be looking at somewhere in the distance.
"I like it. " Jeff smiles, but he feels shaky. Abed turns to look at him. Soft, Jeff thinks. Can a look be soft?
He holds the eye contact for a few seconds, but then he has to look away. Breathes deeply.
"We can keep driving now, if you want. I feel okay."
Jeff puts the book in his back pocket.
They get back in the car. They drive for a while.
Jeff asks Abed about his travel sickness. Childhood thing, Abed explains. It used to be worse. Now he just needs to keep himself from reading, and focus on the road if he starts feeling it.
The worst is boats, he adds. He doesn't mention Troy. Jeff can't tell if that's relevant. Abed says he would never get on a boat. He doesn't say whether this is new.
He tells Jeff about the time he was travelling to Detroit with his dad to see family, and he threw up once the second bus showed up. Without even getting on it.
Jeff asks him questions about where he has traveled before. Abed talks about visiting relatives on his dad's side in Detroit.
About going to Poland with his mother when he was young. How he doesn't remember much, except the cartoons they watched. He tells Jeff about the VHS tapes he brought back, how he still has them in the apartment. How he hasn't watched them in 5 years.
Jeff wants to ask him about his mother. He doesn't. Abed doesn't ask any questions in return. Not about the poems and not about Jeff's travelling, parents, childhood. They get a few hours on the road before Abed mentions it would be nice to stop soon, get some food. They haven't looked at the map since they started driving, but now Abed finds their location, as well as a little town they'll soon pass by. Jeff feels a twinge of anxiety in his gut. It feels easier on the long highways, the anonymous motels and gas stations. But Abed seems excited, as far as Jeff can tell, when they shift onto smaller roads. One of the first establishments they see appears to be a diner, but it's got a decent parking lot in front of it. They park there and enter the diner.
Jeff sees a table and heads towards it. Abed follows, saying something in a quiet voice Jeff doesn't quite catch, like his observations often go. More to himself than to anyone else.
Still, Jeff asks.
"It's a pie diner." He says it like that should be significant, which it seems to be to him. Jeff simply nods. There does seem to be a decent number of people eating pie.
They get seated in one of the booths. The place is bright, warm. The sun shines in through about half the windows. There's several booths along the windows, a few simple tables, a long counter. There's a few couples, a family or two, in the booths, but most of the patrons sit along the counter. It's just around lunchtime, but it's not wildly busy. A nice buzz of people, but their voices are gentle and low. Jeff feels his heart settle a bit.
A waitress comes up to their table.
"Good afternoon! What can I get for you, gentlemen? We've got the pie of the day special, if that interests you. It's a marshmallow cream pie." Jeff blinks at her, a bit overwhelmed. That sounds very sweet. But he looks at Abed - who is smiling visibly.
Abed puts on his best southern accent to respond to the waitress.
"I don't need no baby. I don't want no trouble. I just wanna make pies, that's all I wanna do. Make. Pies."
Jeff is startled, then recognizes it. Not the line, but what Abed is doing. He grins at him. Happy he's quoting lines again. Abed meets Jeff's eyes and smiles back. He turns to the waitress.
"Thank you, yes. I'd like a slice of that, please."
Jeff asks to see the menu, and she gives him one.
"I'll be back with you boys later." She looks at Abed and winks "I like Waitress too."
Jeff waits until she has left.
"The movie I was quoting. You haven't seen it?"
Jeff shakes his head.
"I think you'd like it. We can watch it sometime."
Jeff thinks about how long it's been since they've watched movies together. Or at least an entire movie. A few times when they'd gotten drunk at the bar and ended up back at Jeff's afterwards, they had put on a movie. But inevitably one of them would pass out on the couch (it was always Abed, except that time Britta came along and it was both of them) and the other (Jeff) turned it off. He couldn't even name one title.
"Tell me about it."
Abed gives him a questioning look.
"It's fine, we can still watch it once we get back."
Abed goes quiet, he looks down at the table. After a few moments he looks up again, in Jeff's direction but not directly meeting his eyes.
"Keri Russell makes great pies but is married to a terrible man and she becomes pregnant with his baby. She also starts having sex with her doctor, played by Nathan Fillion. She keeps thinking about running away from her husband, but at the end she doesn't run away. Instead she finally accepts that she is worthy of happiness, stands up for herself, and creates a wonderful life for herself and her daughter. Without saying goodbye to the place or the people that do love and support her."
Jeff doesn’t immediately respond. He’s thinking about Abed’s description of the movie. Is he trying to communicate something? He’s not sure what to ask though.
He does wonder why Abed mentioned Nathan Fillion. He didn't seem relevant to the plot.
"Yeah, I kind of love that. He really only exists for the main character to sleep with and maybe fall in love with a little bit and then he stops being relevant. We watched it in my Gender Roles in Film class." He pauses.
"But I mentioned he was in it because I thought you might like Nathan Fillion." He pauses again, and when he talks his voice is a little quieter. "That he was your type."
Jeff is kind of taken aback. He wasn't expecting them to talk about guys yet, not concretely anyway. More than that though, he hasn't given the topic music thought. Or at least he didn’t think he had.
"Why did you think that?"
Abed is quiet while he thinks about it.
"Rich "Doc Pottery-Wood". I thought that whole thing was.. more about a crush than about him and Annie."
Jeff's eyes go wide, but he doesn't say anything.
"It wasn't?" Abed tilts his head to the side.
"I'm not.. sure."
Abed nods, looks down.
"I do like Nathan Fillion." Jeff muses. He remembers marathoning Firefly with Abed a few years back. "But I.. I haven't given my, uh, type a lot of thought. But I'm not sure I have one." He keeps looking at Abed. The way the sun hits the top of his head. The glow that shines on the side of his face. Highlighting all his features.
Abed looks up and sees Jeff staring at him. Tilts his head to the side. Jeff thinks it's the look of him filing something away.
The waitress arrives with Abed's slice of pie.
"Can I get you anything dear?" She looks at Jeff.
"Oh, I'm sorry. I didn't get a chance to look at the menu yet."
"I was telling him about Waitress," explains Abed.
She gives them a kind smile.
Jeff looks down at the menu, then promptly back up.
"I'm not really hungry, can I just get a cup of coffee?”
"Sure, dear. Can I get you anything to drink?" Abed shakes his head.
"But thank you."
"No problem." She leaves.
"I like this place," Abed looks around.
Jeff keeps looking at Abed, as Abed is looking everywhere else.
"We could stay," The words are out of his mouth before he has time to think about them. But it feels right. "We don't have to keep driving if you'd like to stay here for a few hours." Abed looks at him wide eyed. "The town, I mean, not the diner." He adds. Though if he's being honest with himself he'd stay here all day if that's what Abed wanted.
"You're okay with that?"
They stay at the diner long enough for Abed to finish his pie. When they leave they also leave behind the car. Abed talks to their waitress before he meets Jeff outside, on the steps going up to the door. He tells Jeff about the few places he got told to check out, and assurances that leaving the car there wasn’t a bother.
Jeff already thinks small town life might not be so bad.
They start heading down the street towards the main square, but Abed spots a park, and they head in that direction. The park opens up into a small forest. It’s open and bright, a well lit footpath along the river. Neither of them brought shorts and Jeff is relieved the temperatures here aren’t unbearable in jeans. He still feels stupid when he wears shorts, an insecurity that never has seemed to go away. He realizes he can’t remember ever seeing Abed in shorts either. He looks over at Abed. He left his cardigan in the car, wearing only one of the white shirts Jeff bought him the first night. It’s strange seeing him in plain t-shirts, but that’s not the first thought Jeff has looking at him. He looks at him, how the sunlight through the trees create patterns on his chest, illuminating parts of his hair, and the only clear words in his head are Abed is beautiful .
He expects a panic to follow. Some overwhelming feeling covering them up, drowning them. But that doesn’t happen. It feels like his mind has gone blank. Someone erased everything on the blackboard and the only words left are Abed is beautiful . He wonders if this is meditation, if he has reached enlightenment.
Abed turns towards him, still walking along the river. He smiles at Jeff, Jeff smiling back. Gentle smiles.
They talk too. It’s lighter, easier than the past few days. Jeff’s not sure if it’s the forest, the sunshine, the lack of car, road, speed. Or maybe they’ve pushed past a certain point.
It’s not that the conversations don't still make Jeff tense up. Abed asks him if he feels okay about coming out. Jeff tries his best to answer honestly. And even though Abed is careful, gentle, Jeff still feels his heart speed up. Like it did at the diner when Abed asked about his type. He wonders if that’s ever going to go away. Or if he just has to walk around with this for the rest of his life.
He is happy he did it, he insists. Assures, when Abed says he feels he pressured Jeff into it. He admits he worries about how stressed it made Jeff. Jeff tries to explain that his panic doesn’t mean he’s not capable of talking about it.
Abed asks if he wants to talk more about it. Jeff doesn’t answer that, they just keep walking. They come past a small bridge crossing the river and they end up standing there, throwing rocks and sticks down into the water.
Jeff says they can talk about it, but he’s not sure what to say.
Abed leaves it. None of his questions are urgent.
They’re still at the bridge when Jeff brings up the book of poetry. He tells Abed about the friend who gave it to him. A few months before he came to Greendale.
“Before you were disbarred?” Abed asks. Jeff nods.
“Just before. He..” He stops. The pronoun suddenly feels heavy in his mouth.
“He worked at a bar I used to go to after winning a case. We got to know each other quite.. well. I.. would come by more often.” Jeff sighs. He bends down and spends longer looking for a good stone to throw. He throws it harder than he had expected. Abed looks at him, studies his face.
“He made a move on me once… I didn’t take it super well.” He looks over at Abed to check his reaction, but Abed’s face doesn’t betray much of what he’s thinking.
“But we kept hanging out. He would.. Talk about poetry, art, the places he wanted to travel. He was.. Unashamed about it.” Jeff stops talking. He doesn’t make a move to pick up anything to throw. Eventually Abed doubts he’s going to continue.
“Why have you never talked about him before? I, well, I thought I knew all your friends.”
Jeff looks over at him. There’s a familiarity in that statement. Abed is his family. And he’s right. He does know all his friends. Jeff looks away, focuses on the ripples in the river below them.
“He… he died.” Jeff can feel himself lose touch with his body. Nothing but the ripples feels real. “Just before I got disbarred.” He adds. “Just before..” He breathes out. Closes his eyes. Doesn’t finish the sentence.
Abed’s voice brings him back.
“I’m so sorry, Jeff.” Jeff opens his eyes. River, bridge, trees, sunlight, Abed.
“Thanks.” Jeff mumbles.
“How?” Jeff doesn’t look at his face. But he turns around, and sits down with his back against the railing. Abed joins him.
“Drug overdose. I think. I didn’t get a lot of information. Just someone at his work told me.” His voice is quiet, the words coming out in one long breath.
Abed’s hand is suddenly in his. Jeff thinks it’s the best thing in the entire world. He swallows. They both let the silence sit with them. They’ve got a perfect view of the sun between the leaves. Eventually Abed lays his head to rest on Jeff’s shoulder. He never lets go of Jeff’s hand.
Only once Jeff notices Abed’s light shiver do they get up, a little sore. Jeff lets go of Abed’s hand before they continue walking.
Soon enough they’re out of the forest. They walk along some old train tracks for a while, until they get back to streets with small shops and restaurants. They find a cafè, Abed gets some lemonade and Jeff a sandwich. The staff is just as lovely as they were at the diner, Jeff thinks.
He mentions it to Abed. How it seems like they’re in harmony with everyone here.
“I suppose.” When Jeff refocuses on his sandwich Abed keeps looking at him, tilting his head to the side.
Afterwards they keep walking through the streets, looking inside some shops but mostly just wandering around.
Abed comments on how nice this feels. It feels like a real vacation.
“It could continue to be like this.” Jeff isn’t quite sure where the words are coming from. It feels almost like someone else telling him. Abed looks at him for a long time. They don’t say anything else.
It starts to get darker and Jeff suggests they find the car and a motel to stay in. It takes them a while to figure out where the pie diner is, until they ask a few strangers who are happy to direct them.
Finding a motel turns out to be much easier. There’s one just down the road from the diner. They get a room, but before even going inside or getting their stuff from the car, Jeff admits he could really use a drink at the bar across the street. Abed gives him a quick once over. He thinks about the conversations they could be having. They can probably wait for another day. And he agrees it sounds nice.
The bar is way less seedy than they expected from the exterior. It’s pretty dark inside, but the crowd is pretty diverse. There’s no real dance floor, but the music is still upbeat. Synth? Jeff wonders. The bartender is friendly and chatty, getting them both their drinks with accompanying compliments. Jeff just blinks at the bartender when he tells him how cute his smile is. Abed drags Jeff over to a booth in the corner.
“You okay, Jeff?” Abed smiles at Jeff. Jeff smiles too, still a bit confused, shaking his head as he’s looking at his drink.
“You usually eat compliments right up.”
Jeff looks at Abed, a bit indignant. Then considers it and shrugs.
“Yeah.. I don’t know. I wasn’t expecting that. What about you - often get told you have sexy hands?” Abed grins but doesn’t answer.
Abed looks around the bar.
“Quite different from the bar Britta works at, huh?”
“Yeah.” They sit quietly for a while, sipping their drinks. They turn to each other at almost the exact same moment. Jeff is the first to speak.
“This isn’t a gay bar is it?” Abed laughs a little.
“I was about to say the same. But…” He continues to scan the room.
“I don’t think so.”
Jeff hums. He finishes his drink. He feels warm and relaxed. Maybe it had felt refreshing to be sober for a few days, but this was so comforting. Everything softened at the edges.
“I’m gonna get another one, you want anything?” Abed shakes his head.
Jeff returns with another scotch, slides down next to Abed.
“Definitely a flirty bartender.”
“What did he say this time?” Abed’s smiling softly at him. Jeff just smiles back and shakes his head.
“I think you’re right though. But it does seem very..” He doesn’t finish the sentence out loud. Friendly, he wants to say. Open. The entire town does actually. He wonders why it feels so different.
They have a few drinks. Talk. Abed goes on a long tangent about the roads in My Own Private Idaho that Jeff doesn’t quite follow. He thinks Abed is talking about where they should drive next, but he’s not sure if he’s just talking about River Phoenix’s clothes. Something about how Jeff could look like him if he grew out his sideburns, and Abed could be Keanu Reeves if he grew his hair out more. But it devolves into him talking about his haircut schedule and untimely deaths and Jeff looses track entirely. He’s gotten satisfyingly drunk, at least for this mood. He feels good. They’re talking about things that matter but that won’t matter if they forget in the morning. He’s laughing properly for the first time in a long time. Abed is leaning into him, warm and real. He thinks they might be okay.
The time to leave comes and Abed says he's going to the bathroom first. Jeff waits behind. He leans back in the seat, but he already feels the absence of Abed next to him. It only takes him a few minutes before he decides to follow Abed into the bathroom.
It’s small, only a few urinals and two stalls. Abed is the only one there, wiping his hands with a paper towel, and he turns to Jeff when he comes in. A beat. Neither can tell how long it lasts. Then Jeff lunges forward, and with one hand he braces himself on the sink, while the other grabs the back of Abed’s head, his mouth meeting Abed’s in a bruising kiss.
Abed doesn’t hesitate to return it, just shifts slightly under Jeff’s touch so the kiss can become deeper without crashing. Jeff responds well to Abed exploring his mouth. Abed feels, more than hears, him moan into his mouth. The hand at the back of his head quickly becomes gentler, the other one coming up to cradle the side of his face, his body now leaning more on Abed than the sink. Abed pushes his body forward to meet Jeff’s, one hand steadying them on the sink, the other holding onto Jeff’s bicep.
They stop when they run out of breath. They don’t let go of each other. Abed opens his mouth. But before he can say anything.
“I’m so sick of talking.” Jeff’s voice is so desperate it’s pleading. Abed shivers a little.
“You sure?” Jeff nods.
“Can we go back to the motel?” Jeff nods again. Maybe he has run out of words. Abed smiles coyly and drags him out of the bathroom.
“Well, that’s convenient.” It’s the first words either have said since leaving the bar. They’re standing in the motel room, looking at the one double bed. The only light is from the window at the end of the room, but the lights outside makes everything visible enough. Jeff still can’t get out any words. So Abed continues.
“You forgot to mention we wanted twin beds, huh?” He smiles at Jeff.
Jeff’s eyes widens.
“You want.. I’m sorry, I can try to fix it if you-”
“Jeff, we were just making out.”
He laughs. Jeff joins him.
“Speaking of..” Abed doesn’t let him finish. He leans forward and captures Jeff’s mouth in another deep kiss. Jeff tries to figure out what to do with his hands, they settle on Abed’s waist. Abed starts guiding them towards the bed, but they break apart before falling into it. Jeff is blinking rapidly at Abed, Abed staring intensely at him. He seems to consider something. He pulls Jeff down so they’re sitting on the bed.
“You sure about this?”
“Are you- how drunk are you?” Abed’s eyes narrows slightly, unsure. “I just.. I want to be sure you want this.”
A warm feeling engulfs Jeff. He thinks he might cry. But he worries it would send the wrong signals.
“I want this.” He shivers a little at the words. When was the last time he asked for anything he wanted?
“And I feel pretty sobered up already.” He pauses. “How about you?” He looks unsure. Do you want me? He doesn’t think he can ask that.
“I want to, Jeff.” Jeff swallows.
“And it’s not because you’re drunk?” Abed smiles.
“Jeff, I’ve wanted to sleep with you since the day we met.”
Jeff lets out a little gasp. His head spins slightly at the words. He opens and closes his mouth a few times.
“Wow.” He just lets out.
“And I feel fine.” He pauses. “Well, I feel great. Especially if we can get back to what we were doing.” He gives Jeff another coy smile and Jeff isn’t sure what to do with himself. Luckily, Abed has some ideas. He pushes Jeff back on the bed, their mouths meeting.
They continue making out, eventually removing their shirts, shoes, socks, pants. Jeff lets Abed lead them. He seems to know which positions are the most comfortable for both of them, his hands exploring Jeff’s body, then guiding Jeff’s hands to do the same to his own. It’s kind of awkward and clumsy, but also not. Jeff quickly realizes Abed knows what to do, and he tries to follow his lead. Responding and reciprocating his movements. They grind against each other for a long time, until Abed’s hands move towards Jeff’s underwear. He breaks apart from the kiss.
“Is this okay?” He looks down to emphasize it.
“Yeah. Very okay.” Jeff leans forward to kiss Abed, a touch gentler than before. Abed reciprocates, and matches the movement of his hands to the kiss. Taking Jeff in his hand, his other touching, rubbing, caressing, scratching everywhere else. Jeff gasps. He wants to give everything back to Abed that he’s doing to him, but he feels so overwhelmed. He tries to put everything into the kiss, his hands going where they want - sometimes grasping at Abed’s face, sometimes clings to his back, sometimes clutching, pounding, grasping at the mattress.
When it ends (Jeff first and he’s so out of it he’s not sure what events follow but going by the look on Abed’s face he was a breath behind) they stay wrapped up in each other for several minutes, just breathing, looking, taking each other in. Eventually Abed rolls off Jeff and lays down next to him. They stay there, their breathing matching up. Until Abed squeezes Jeff’s arm and sits up. He leaves and returns with a damp hand towel. He wipes Jeff gently down, before he leans in and plants a light peck on his lips. Jeff doesn’t think his smile has ever covered this much of his face. Abed leaves again, then returns to his place on the bed. Jeff looks over at him, and moves closer. He doesn’t want any part of his body to not be touching Abed.
They fall asleep without talking. That is, just before they both pass out, Jeff turns to Abed. The room is dark, but the light from outside still makes their faces visible to each other.
“I never want to stop talking to you.” It’s a whisper. Barely audible.
“I was addicted to saying things and having them matter to someone.” Abed replies, same whisper. No southern accent this time, but Jeff thinks it’s a line. He falls asleep before he can ask.
It’s late morning when Jeff wakes up. He only spends a few seconds blinking the sleep out of his eyes, before scanning the room for Abed. He finds him perched in a chair, fully dressed, watching the TV with the sound on low. Abed turns at the sound of Jeff ruffling the sheets.
Abed looks serious, his whole face far more emotive than usual. It worries Jeff.
“We should talk.”
Oh. Jeff looks from Abed to the empty bed beside him. He thinks Abed will join him, but he stays in his chair. He doesn’t turn off the TV. But he does turn towards Jeff.
“About last night.”
“I’m not saying it was bad - or I regret it - but it, we, should probably not do that again.” He doesn’t look at Jeff, focusing his eyes on the bathroom door at the other end of the room.
Jeff’s stomach feels full of stones. Is he still asleep? His eyes shift, looking everywhere, trying to make sense of it.
“I .. I thought you wanted to.”
“I did.” He says it very quickly.
“But you.. Don’t.”
Abed finally meets Jeff’s eyes and Jeff thinks he almost recognizes panic in them.
“Okay-” He gets out of the chair and starts pacing around the room.
“I tried to rehearse this. Okay. It was good. I’m just worried, Jeff. I don’t know if this is the right time. Where we’re both at.” He stops pacing and looks towards Jeff. Jeff quickly tries to shape his expression into something.. Less. Less heartbroken, less confused. Assurance he can accept whatever comes.
“Think it’s a bad time.”
Jeff doesn’t respond. Abed comes to sit beside him on the bed. Jeff is sitting up now, half covered in the sheet. Abed positions himself on top of the sheet, he stares straight ahead.
“I don’t just want to have sex to further the plot.”
“How does.. How does this further the plot?”
“Like Nathan Fillion.”
Jeff goes quiet. He tries to swallow down some of the emotion threatening to take over his voice.
“Abed.. which one of us do you think is Keri Russell?”
Abed looks at him, his brow furrowed slightly.
“I am.” Jeff's eyes grow big.
“Oh. I thought.. You were implying I was.”
Abed just looks at him.
Jeff thinks If I was Keri Russell I would be more than a little bit in love with you.
Abed thinks If you thought you were Keri Russell that means you think I’m Nathan Fillion.
Jeff thinks I am in love with Abed.
Abed thinks Jeff hasn’t even seen the movie. He doesn’t know what he’s talking about.
Jeff thinks I can’t be in love with Abed. Maybe he’s right. It’s just emotional turmoil and repressed feelings and being away from home.
Abed thinks It’s just sex. He just came out for the first time and I’m the only guy around. But I can’t take advantage of that.
They look at each other.
They don’t hear each other’s hearts breaking.
It’s already more than I deserve , Jeff thinks.
It’s already more than I could’ve hoped for , Abed thinks.
“I have to go to the bathroom.” Abed turns to Jeff when he says it, watches him fumble out from under the sheets. He grabs his shirt and underwear on the way.
Abed stays still on the bed. Jeff opening the bathroom door shakes him out of it. He leaps out of the bed, and crosses the room to Jeff. He looks much the same, his fringe is slightly wet from where he splashed his face with water. Abed pulls him into a hug. He’s never sure how to initiate it without it looking awkward, but he doesn’t care. He tries to make himself feel bigger, so he can cover Jeff entirely in his arms. Jeff freezes for a moment. Then he melts into it.
Abed thinks about the movie.
He thinks about Nathan Fillion hugging Keri Russell for 20 minutes.
He doesn’t let go for 21.