They’re about a quarter of a mile up the mountain when Jeff speaks, the first one of them to do so since they got out of the car.
“Sometimes I’m scared to talk to you.”
Abed pauses and his face wrinkles for a moment, trying to process what that means, then giving up entirely.
“I don’t understand what you mean.”
“Me neither.” Jeff shrugs.
It’s one out of character comment after another, and Abed has no clue where to go from there. He looks down at their feet on the dirt path. Abed has heard many times over that when people are walking and talking at the same time they fall into step. A natural rhythm, perfectly performed by billions every day.
Abed doesn’t work like that. He isn’t sure why, something about balance or spatial awareness means that he tends to walk into people, or things, or trip on his own feet. It’s a constant reminder that he’s somewhere he shouldn’t be, an alien crash-landed here, so unfamiliar with the planet’s customs that he can’t even walk in a straight line. He anticipates whatever mildly irritated look Jeff will flash when Abed inevitably knocks shoulders with him, one with cold eyes. Jeff’s eyes can get quite cold when he wants them to be. Abed wants to see Jeff’s eyes sparkle the way he knows they can, the way they do with something like pride when Abed delivers a perfectly-timed teasing dig in the car or at the study table. When the group is all sitting in their seats like it’s a family dinner and he catches Abed’s gaze.
“So why are you scared to talk to me?” Abed finally asks. It hasn’t been too long, at least he hopes not, a short enough distance that Abed could still turn and point to the spot where Jeff had first spoken just between the trees.
Jeff kicks a rock, sending it between the branches of a bush and clattering to the ground again.
“I don’t really know. It’s not your fault. But I can’t talk to you alone without thinking too much.”
“We don’t have to talk.” Abed offers. “I can just keep writing television and not say anything.”
“Well you weren’t talking, and I don’t know what to say, so I’ll just write some tv. In my head.”
Jeff is cautious, trying, always trying, to take a closer look at Abed’s mind without him shutting the door on him. He’s also trying not to get bitten by the bugs darting around his face.
He swats with a hand and pries a little further with his words. “Is that something you do often?”
“Well if I’m not talking, and I suppose sometimes when I am talking, I’m thinking about something more interesting than whatever’s happening. Usually that’s the show we’re all on, or Kickpuncher remakes, or Inspector Spacetime scenarios for the dreamatorium, I go over the plots of movies, too, because sometimes Troy likes it when I recite rom-com summaries to him like bedtime stories until he falls asleep.”
“Damn.” Jeff says, gently touching Abed’s arm to direct him towards the left side of a fork in the path. “When I get you to talk, you sure tell me a lot.”
“It’s just a matter of asking.” Abed tells him. “I’m an open book.”
“You’re scaring me again, Abed.” Jeff replies. His voice catches on Abed’s name in that way only he knows how to do.
“Just ask me anything, then.”
“Is it like daydreaming?”
“I guess. I think my daydreams go just a little too far. But who knows.”
“There are worse things to be than a daydreamer, Abed.”
Jeff doesn’t consider himself a daydreamer, aside from the occasional musical number.
“Maybe. At least our show is a good one. I don’t think I’d make it too long on The Big Bang Theory.”
“What makes our show better?” Jeff asks. “Not that it’s hard.”
Abed smiles in appreciation at the joke, then considers Jeff’s question. “Well you’re a good lead. And we’ve got a pretty strong ensemble. I like to think our setting has some magic to it as well, I guess.”
“Can’t you be the lead?” Jeff asks. “It is your show.”
“We need a human lead, Jeff.” Abed says, like it’s obvious. “Aliens are quirky supporting characters.”
“But you’re not an alien.”
“Maybe.” Abed replies. “But I’m not so sure. I’m not upset about it. I just know where I belong in the plot.”
“So when you’re bored, do you just think about this show? Our show?”
“I mean there are plenty of scenarios. But that’s the dominant one.”
“And I’m the lead?”
“Of course.” Abed tells him, easy as breathing.
“Do I play the lead in your show, or your life?” Jeff asks.
A flock of birds fly over their heads, above the treetops, and Abed looks up to watch them. He walks into Jeff for a second before he catches Abed’s arm and gently rights him. His eyes seem anything but cold as he does it.
“Well you play the lead on a show based on our lives. A show I write, direct, and produce. The ‘show’ and my ‘life’ are two concentric circles.” Abed explains with a few air quotes.
Jeff’s ducking to avoid a branch, but his reply is immediate. “Which one’s the smaller circle?”
Abed’s step falters for a second, because of Jeff’s words or a tree root. He raises an eyebrow at Jeff, but it’s the smile that looks new on his character.
“Huh.” He mutters. “No one else would ask that. I’m pretty sure that’s why I’m in love with you.”
Jeff thinks about it, for three steps, then three more, and Abed doesn’t seem bothered by that. He cares more about the fact that the sun’s hitting his eyes, bathing him in yellow light, and he starts looking for a shadow with his hand.
Then Jeff grabs his arm again, awkwardly, and chides himself for a moment over the fact that they’re always like this, uncomfortable and fumbling, tripping over each other’s feet. Then discards the thought entirely, along with all the casting directions and the Venn diagrams.
When Abed finally leans in and kisses Jeff, the sun’s still in his eyes and he’s playing the show’s theme song in his head. The lyrics are a bit sad, but once Jeff finds his footing he’s steady against Abed’s hand on his chest. They break away and Abed falls back onto his heels, sways like the trees, still close enough for Jeff to feel his breath.
Everything is still fumbling and awkward when Jeff kisses him again, and again, until they finally break past all their nerves and melt into each other.
“We’re not that far from the top, actually.” Abed says with a tilt of his head once they both need to pull away for air.
Jeff looks up and realizes Abed’s right, that the peak is just around the bend. Abed leads him to the overlook, and they both momentarily lose track of the conversation when the sky opens up around them.
“Did you really mean that?” Jeff asks, looking out at the fields and streams and buildings dotted below them. The patchwork seems like a little show in itself, and if it was a better time he would have brought the concept up to Abed.
Jeff’s also more scared of heights than he’d like to admit, but the view is preferable to looking over and seeing Abed's reaction to the question.
“All of it.” Abed answers. “I told you I’m an open book.”
“I imagine this is going to have an effect on the plot of your show.” Jeff points out, gesturing vaguely at the few inches of space between them.
“Definitely. Can we drop these off now?” Abed asks, pulling a folded paper from his pocket.
He walks over to the small metal mailbox a few feet from them and slips the paper inside.
“It’s kind of dumb that we did all this just to save like, $14 on gasoline.” Jeff laughs as he puts his own rebate through the slot.
“Mine was only eight dollars and seventy-five cents. I just wanted to walk with you.”
“You really do scare me a little.” Jeff says. “And I’m still a bit stuck on your whole Venn diagram thing.”
“I’ll explain it to you on the way back down.” Abed answers.
As they're walking, he finds that holding Jeff’s hand means he doesn’t walk into him once.