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Snails See the Benefits

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Abed has had a lot of master plans in his life. (His most recent grand scheme was to become a monk, though he'd first have to convert to another religion because Muslims don't dig the whole monk thing, even though the documentary Abed watched on monasticism made it look totally cool. It was an awesome plan, too, until Jeff pointedly told him that the odds of him shutting up and denying a life of pop culture were more likely than Britta denouncing feminism, which earned him a punch in the arm and resulted in loud discussion around the table. Troy leaned over to Abed while everyone argued and said, "It's okay, I wouldn't want you to stop talking anyway. Who would I rap with?" and Abed made some rambling statement about TV to cover up his blush.) None, he feels, have prepared him for the newest task he wants to fulfill- seducing Troy.

He announces his plan to the group (The Breakfast Club, he still affectionately refers to them in his head) in the library one day, before Troy arrives. The reactions are immediate. Shirley says, "Oh, that's nice," while Annie blinks and looks down at the table. Jeff just looks as though he wants puke. "You can try my plan, Abed. Do you have five hundred bucks and access to a warehouse?" Pierce says, Britta scowls at him.

"Does anyone have any pertinent advice?" Abed asks, coughing loudly to disrupt the flurry of conversation.

"Yeah," Jeff says, "Give up this godforsaken, disgusting idea."

It doesn't seem like a godforsaken idea to Abed. It was clear to him that he and Troy shared unresolved sexual tension that would, if they were in a part of a TV series, cause fans to want them together. He could probably work that into one of his documentaries.

"Shut up, I think it's sweet," says Britta. "It's young love."

"Britta, I'm the same age as you," Abed points out, logically. "And besides, given your track record with Vaughn, are you really qualified to offer advice on techniques of seduction?"

Of course, Troy chooses that moment to walk- or, rather, stride- in through the door. "Who isn't qualified for what?" he asks, settling down in his usual seat with a nod in Abed's direction. Abed feels tempted to hide his face in the sleeves of his cardigan.

As they start to discuss the latest group problem that needs to be tackled (because their lives this semester have seemed thus far to be made up of random, uncomfotable situations), Abed finds himself watching Troy out of the corner of his eye.

His feelings for Troy aren't a recent development. Abed didn't make friends easily, but things were different with Troy. He hadn't expected that a former jock, the kind of guy that would have strung Abed by his underpants up the flagpole in high school, would pay attention to him. Despite social conventions, though, Troy studied Spanish with Abed, hung out in Abed's dormroom after classes to watch TV, walked him to class. It was normal, Abed rationalized, that after years of loneliness, he might reach out for the first person to show him any attention.

But Abed doesn't want to rationalize it, because if there's one thing he's learned from his extensive knowledge of television and film, it's that love (like, infatuation, crushes- any buzzword) isn't rational.

----

His first idea is sparked by something his father's new girlfriend says at the dinner that Abed is forced to attend.

"The way to a man's heart is through his stomach," she says, obviously playing nice, as she watches Abed's father scoop some food onto his plate.

It was an adage that Abed had obviously heard before, but at that moment, the statement seemed like the best piece of advice in the world. Rather than maintaining a distant and therefore uncomfortable conversation as he'd planned (he didn't really like her that much), Abed grins and asks her to pass back the rice for seconds.

The next day, before Spanish class, he carefully places a container full of cupcakes onto the Troy's usual desk. He'd taken meticulous care the night before to add a frosting heart to each cupcake and Abed felt pleased with the final outcome. As Abed sets the Tupperware down on Troy's desk, Senor Chang regards him with a suspicious upturn of his lip. Abed smiles blissfully, and takes his seat.

Annie turns up in the classroom before Troy, looking down at his desk with a forlorn little sigh. Since Abed revealed his plan to seduce Troy, she'd been giving him the silent treatment. Though she and Jeff clearly share unresolved sexual tension, she obviously isn't over her high school crush on Troy. Abed feels bad, really, but true love waits for no one.

Abed is rereading his notes, avoiding Jeff's scoffing and Annie's stares, when Troy enters the classroom. He notices his desk immediately, smiling down at the container. "Annie, did you make me cupcakes?" Troy asks as he lifts the lid, abandoning his bookbag to shove a mouthful of cupcake into his mouth.

"No," Annie answers, glumly, as though she's mad that after years of gifted baked goods going unnoticed, she can't even claim the credit for these.

Smiling tensely at Annie, Abed speaks up, "I did."

Troy pauses from unwrapping another cupcake, grinning with red teeth at Abed. "Thanks, man."

"If everyone is done stuffing their boca," Senor Chang hisses loudly from the front of the class, now perched with his legs crossed on top of his desk, "Can we learn some freaking Spanish?"

Before turning around to face the front of the class, Abed sticks his fist out, knowing it won't reach the distance to Troy's seat. Troy extends his own fist and though there is at least a foot between their hands, they share a simulated fist bump that leaves Abed smiling lamely as he swivels around in his seat.

----

Abed's plan, unfortunately, doesn't lead to Troy jumping into his arms (though Abed doubts he could even hold Troy if this were to happen), so he tries a myriad of other plans. He makes mix tapes, takes Troy out to the movies, lays on the compliments, but nothing seems to work. Troy just slings a friendly arm around Abed's shoulder and says, "You're a good friend, Abed. Now race you to the ice cream shop."

It's terribly frustrating, but Abed doesn't believe in giving up.

"Are you sure you can't offer any advice?" Abed asks Jeff one afternoon as they're walking to class. "You could pretend like you're not helping me win Troy's heart, if that would help."

Jeff stops walking, cutting off Abed's steps with a hand pressed to his chest. "Look, dude," he says, grimacing as though his words are causing him physical harm. "You and Troy- and if you tell Britta I told you this, I will stab you- have some kind of weird connection. Well, if connections consist of costumes and ill-conceived plans, but that's not the point."

Abed blinks, rapidly. "Jeff, is this your way of passing your blessing, because this is both unexpected and the second nicest thing you've said to me."

"Yeah, take it however you want, kid. Walk with me."

"We were already-"

"That doesn't matter, walk."

----

Initially, Abed doubts the veracity of Jeff's plan. "You're sure this will work?" he asks, eyebrow quirked.

"Yeah, totally. Movies are all about the grand gestures, aren't they?" Jeff asks, smoothing down Abed's collar with an eye roll.

"I guess." Jeff's bedded a lot of women, though he's in some sort of limbo with both Britta and Annie, but he must have some vague idea of what he's doing.

This explains how on Friday afternoon, as the Greendale Human Beings prepare for a game against the Morganton Community College Rams, Abed is sitting nervously in the stands, clutching a poster to his chest as he watches Troy stretch. His palms are sweating and he wipes them on his jeans.

"This is going to go horribly wrong," Abed says to Jeff, leaning over to whisper at him, though they're alone on the stands.

Jeff looks bored as he rolls his eyes and says, "Don't worry, people love grand gestures. I've seen Love Actually." Abed's seen Love Actually too, and based on every dramedy in the world, people do love romantic gestures, but that doesn't stop him from seeing that this idea is inheritently flawed.

The game starts with a dance from the Human Being and a few quiet claps now that a couple parents have filtered into the stands. Troy looks up to the bleachers, waving excitedly at Abed, before he dons his helmet and rushes across the field.

Wait until halftime, Jeff had told him before the game started. Abed tries to focus on the action (though there isn't much, it is Community College football after all), but his eyes pay more attention to the time on the scoreboard than the movement of the ball. The game seems to pass at a snail-like pace to Abed and to calm his nerves, he ends up ranting to Jeff about the last episode of Fringe.

And then, the moment is there, Abed's heart beating hard in his chest. "I can't do this," he says, panicked, to Jeff, who instead of giving him reassurance picks Abed up by his hood and forces him into a standing position.

"Troy!" Jeff yells down at the field. Troy pauses from chugging his Gatorade to look up, smiling at Jeff. Abed lifts his sign.

"Troy Barnes, will you date me?" the sign says, spelled out in thick, black letters that Abed had spent entirely too long perfecting. He feels like he's choking behind the sign, squinting down at the field to see Troy's eyes scanning the sign. "Troy, would you like to embark on a romantic relationship with me?" Abed yells down to the stands, aware that all eyes are now on him. "I like you."

Abed is not expecting it when Troy throws down his bottle and takes off running up to the stands. He's still not expecting it when Troy gently takes the sign out of Abed's hands, then puts both of his dirty hands on the side of Abed's face and pulls him in for a kiss.

"I tried to seduce you," Abed says when Troy pulls away, his usual shit-eating grin on his face. "It didn't really work."

Troy laughs, moving one hand to flick Abed's head lightly. "You're smart, dawg, but you apparently missed that I've been flirting with you for like a month. You want to get some Chinese after this?"

"Well, you know I'm not good at recognizing social cues," Abed says, and Abed kisses his forehead before running back to the field.

"You disgust me," Jeff says, but even he's smiling.

----

The next time their study group gets together, Abed and Troy hold hands under the table. Shirley claps her hands together in delight, Annie finally gives them an approving nod, Britta looks proud, Jeff is still pretending to gag, and Pierce seems completely oblivious. Abed wouldn't have it any other way.