Jeff has been staying with Abed in his dorm for almost a week, and he seems to be steadily deteriorating.
Abed thinks that maybe his attempt at a brief Winger Speech about knowing what you want has somehow backfired. Each morning Jeff gets up, doesn’t get dressed, doesn’t brush his teeth, and eats Lucky Charms on the couch. It’s all downhill from there.
He seems to be losing all of his motivation, and his spark, too. Like he’s regressing somehow, but not from a hotshot lawyer to a bright-eyed student. He’s turning into more of a deadbeat, and he’s definitely not the ideal roommate.
“Jeff,” Abed finally says late one night while they’re watching infomercials. “Should I be worried about you? Are you going to start wearing all black and read a sad poem out loud to the whole school?”
“I’m no Darlene, Abed,” Jeff replies, sounding annoyed.
“Good,” Abed says, rolling his eyes. “Not that Darlene wasn’t an integral part of the cast of Roseanne, but I definitely never daydreamed about living with her.”
They go back to their infomercials, and Abed smiles to himself, thinking about how quickly Jeff got his reference.
No one ever seems to get his references.
The news about Jeff’s high cholesterol seems to hit him hard, and he starts to get a little crazy. Abed watches as he becomes more and more consumed with what he’s eating, hell-bent on living as long as possible. It makes him a little nervous, and he doesn’t really have time for that, not when he's busy wondering whether or not he got the hottest girl on campus pregnant.
“Jeff, I’m just concerned,” Abed says at lunch. “You’re one bottle of caffeine pills away from a Jessie Spano breakdown.”
“I’m so excited,” Jeff deadpans.
“Huh. You didn’t strike me as the type to watch Saved by the Bell,” Abed murmurs happily.
“You’d be surprised what a person will watch when there’s nothing else on,” Jeff says. “Also, it’s...not terrible.”
“Just don’t get to the I’m so scared part, okay? I need you to be healthy.”
“Why?” Jeff asks, looking genuinely curious.
Abed tilts his head and blinks.
“Because you’re my friend,” he says.
The puppet show ends, and Annie, Troy, and Abed take a peek to see what Britta and Jeff thought.
Britta looks relatively nonplussed, but Abed is surprised to see that Jeff is crying into his beer over the loss of Horse-Bot 3000. He watches him for a few seconds, wonders if this is a Significant Moment for Jeff.
He steps out from behind the sheet and sits down on the floor next to the couch.
"You were bigger and brighter and wider than snow,” Abed quotes, “and you screamed at the make-believe, screamed at the sky, and you finally found all your courage to let it all go.”
“Okay, calm down, Robert Smith,” Jeff says, sniffling. Abed can tell he’s trying to sound irritated, but his voice is still shaky, and he's smiling a little. "Don't go breaking any pictures of me or anything."
"The Cure?" Britta asks, raising an eyebrow.
“Don’t try to pretend you’re cooler than us, Britta,” Abed says. “I’ve heard Friday I’m in Love playing in your car a bunch of times.”
Britta doesn’t say anything, just glances down and busies herself with her cell phone.
Annie and Troy emerge from the fort and herd everyone to the living room, and Abed turns on the happiest episode of Inspector Spacetime that he can think of to try to cheer Jeff up.
When Jeff and Britta leave at the end of the night, Abed slips his copy of The Cure’s Disintegration into Jeff’s hand.
“You have a CD player in your Lexus, right?” he asks, and Jeff nods. “Cool. You should listen to Pictures of You on the way home. I bet it’ll be cathartic.”
Jeff stares at him.
"Because of Horse-Bot 3000," Abed clarifies.
"Right. Because of Horse-Bot 3000."
The Study Group Plus Dean Thanksgiving is perfect in every way, and it turns the whole holiday around. Abed was worried after hearing about Jeff’s experience with his father, but he seems happier now, more at peace. Abed thinks maybe found family really is the best family.
He raises his glass. “I’m very thankful that all your Thanksgivings sucked,” he says loudly to everyone.
“Abed!” screech Annie and Shirley at the same time.
“Here’s to a lousy Christmas,” Jeff says in response, raising his own glass and delighting Abed, probably without even realizing it.
“And a crappy new year,” Abed finishes, and leans over so they can clink their glasses.
Everyone around the table is silent for a moment.
“It’s a reference, you guys,” Troy pipes up in explanation. “From Friends. Do you guys not marathon those every year on Thanksgiving?”
“Oh,” says the Dean.
“Of course,” say Shirley and Annie.
“I knew that,” says Pierce.
Abed can’t stop looking at Jeff.
Can’t stop smiling.
It’s rough for Abed, when Troy leaves. He doesn’t go crazy, there are no hallucinations or anything, not this time. He’s not in danger.
But he’s sad.
He’s really, really sad, and lonely, even though he knows he has other friends. He feels like he lost a part of himself, the part that knows how to find joy, and to smile, and laugh, and even cry. He feels empty.
Jeff comes over to distract him, and Abed isn’t very optimistic, but it turns out Jeff is pretty good at this. They watch TV and cook some lunch and even talk a little, and it feels good to let his feelings out, which is something he hasn’t been able to do with anyone else.
When they run out of things to do, they do nothing, but Jeff doesn’t leave, he just keeps Abed company. Eventually Annie gets home, and then it’s the three of them hanging out, and it's nice, and it's comfortable, and Abed appreciates both of them so much.
He zones out in front of his DVD shelf for a little while, then sees Troy’s small stack of board games in the corner. He turns to Jeff.
“Shall we play a game?” he asks in a robotic voice.
“Love to,” Jeff replies. “How about Global Thermonuclear War?”
Annie raises an eyebrow.
“WarGames,” Jeff and Abed say at the same time, and Abed shoots a couple of finger guns.
Then they have to show Annie WarGames, and Jeff and Abed sit next to each other on the couch, and when Abed starts to feel tired, he lets his head drop down to rest on Jeff’s shoulder, and Jeff lets him.
Jeff is driving home when he sees Abed walking in the direction of his condo. The plan was to meet there after school. He stops and rolls down the passenger window of his Lexus.
“Get in,” Jeff says, grinning, and Abed does.
“I left you a message,” Abed says. “Letting you know I was just going to walk over.”
"I guess it worked out anyway," Jeff replies. "I must have missed the call because I was driving."
When they get to Jeff’s condo, he pulls out his phone to listen to the message.
“You don’t have to play it,” Abed insists. “I’m right here.”
He can hear his own voice through the tiny speaker: “Hey, Jeff, it’s Abed.”
“You always say your name, like I wouldn’t know it’s you,” Jeff murmurs.
“At my most beautiful?” Abed asks, finishing the quote. It’s Jeff’s favorite REM song.
Jeff hangs up. “You know, I always idolized Michael Stipe growing up.”
“Somehow that doesn’t surprise me,” Abed says, flashing him their secret smile.
It shouldn’t surprise you, Jeff thinks, remembering the first time he heard his favorite singer state explicitly that he had relationships with both men and women, and the way it made Jeff feel: like a new set of possibilities had been opened up for him, like he maybe wasn’t broken after all. Like he wasn’t alone.
He’d listened to nothing but REM for months after that, allowing himself to admit for the first time that maybe he had a giant crush on Michael Stipe, that maybe his voice was more than a little bit sexy. That maybe it wasn't the end of the world to feel that way, to have those kinds of thoughts.
“He showed me what I could be,” Jeff says softly. “What I could have.”
“You can have anything you want, Jeff,” Abed says, his voice rough. “Anything.” He moves half an inch closer.
A small voice in the back of Jeff’s head worries about him misreading the situation, but he doesn’t listen to it, he just leans forward and kisses Abed full on the mouth. The voice disappears completely as Abed kisses back, swift and practiced.
This is only the second time they’ve done this. It’s still new. It’s still scary.
It’s still the best thing that’s ever happened to Jeff.