Title: Journalism Ethics
Summary: Rainy days are the best time for spreading tall tales.
Characters/Pairing: Ensemble, Troy and Abed (friendship), Jeff/Annie
Word Count: 2,602
Warning: Mild spoilers for Season 1 up through 1x18.
Previously in Part One:
Pierce has been spreading rumors about the group on his Twitter page...
Troy and Abed walk into the study room just as Britta slams her book down on the table. They glance at each other as if to say Another day at the office… and sit at their usual corner.
“Tell her that you made it up!” Britta demands, pointing an angry finger at Pierce. She turns to Shirley and sends her an exasperated, entreating look. “Shirley, sweetie, I’m not on drugs, okay?”
“Britta, I’m not going to sit here and enable you through your denial phase. Confronting the truth is the only way to help you. Right everybody?”
Britta widens her eyes and looks at the group, silently begging for help before she drops her face into her hands. Annie doesn’t notice as she’s slipped in ear phones to listen to something on her phone.
“Even if Britta was addicted to drugs, we wouldn’t be qualified to diagnose her,” Abed points out.
“She’s way too uptight and punctual to be on drugs,” Troy says, eyeing Britta. “Unless every time we see her, she’s dying for a fix. She does do this creepy twitch thing sometimes.”
“Yeah, I’ve seen that,” Abed concurs.
Britta groans, head now buried in her arms on top of the table.
“She sounds like she’s in pain. Maybe we should get her something to take the edge off…” Troy suggests.
“I don’t know any drug dealers. Well, maybe one,” Abed says.
“Okay, as hilarious as it is watching Britta squirm, it’s time for some damage control,” Jeff announces. “Pierce, set the record straight or I’ll have to divulge some secrets about your own sordid past.”
“Pff, you know nothing,” Pierce scoffs.
“Three words: Cowboy. Tutu. Chihuahua.”
Pierce cringes. “Alright, alright. I… might have misrepresented the facts. Apparently, Britta is not in fact popping pills. Which is actually more cause for concern because if anybody needs some form of mood stabilizer for her…” He points a finger at his head and twirls it around to signal to everyone he’s talking about Britta’s Flaming Crazy.
Britta raises her head and slumps back into her chair. Crossing her arms, she bares her teeth and glares at Pierce.
“See?” Pierce points at Britta. “Just look at that face.”
“So Britta doesn’t need an intervention?” Shirley asks hesitantly.
“No-o, though I for one am heartbroken you’ll have to cancel your intervention party,” Jeff says. “The music playlist alone would have made it a hoppin’ hootenanny to end all hoots and bring tears to the eyes of nannies from all walks of life.”
“Well, maybe we could still have the par—”
Shirley’s suggestion is cut off by Annie’s tortured sobs that sound like a cross between wailing and hiccups as she jumps up and runs from the room. Everyone watches in bewilderment. Shirley and Britta look at each other, concern etched on their faces. Pierce, Troy and Jeff look slightly paralyzed with fear at the sight of a woman’s tears. Abed opens his laptop and starts typing.
“Uhhh, what just happened?” Jeff asks.
“Annie must’ve really been looking forward to Britta’s intervention party,” Troy notes.
“Uh oh,” Abed says.
“What?” Britta and Jeff say at the same time.
“Vaughan’s updated his Twitter page with a message.” He turns his laptop towards Britta and Jeff sitting to his left.
Shirley, Troy and Pierce jump from their seats and form a huddle to better see the laptop screen. The first message on Vaughan<3Earth’s page reads: For Annie http://bit.ly/2pUswX
Abed clicks on the link which opens up a Youtube page. The video is titled: Break-up Song. Abed clicks play and Vaughan appears on the screen, shirtless and holding his guitar.
“So, truth. Truth is what we’re all looking for. All of us who are one with the flow of this wicked awesome planet.” Vaughan looks down, then glances up at the camera. He’s holding back tears. “You… you tried to keep the truth from me, Annie, but I see you now.”
Vaughan starts strumming his guitar and sings:
“You’re such a lyin’ B, Anniiiiie!
You’re such a two-timin’ B, Anniiiiie!
You’re such a lyiiiin’ and two-timiiiin’ Be-eeeeeeeee!”
He starts shaking his head as he sings:
“Oh, Annie! Oh, Annie! Oh, Anniiiiiiiiiiiiie!
Whyyyyyyyy you gotta be such a Be-eeeeeeeee?”
The camera zooms in on his face and, in a whispering style reminiscent of Enrique Iglesias, he sings, “You broke my heart. Again. Never fall in love with a Be-eeeeee…”
The video screen goes black.
“Ah, crap,” Jeff mutters.
Abed nods at Jeff. “Your duty is clear. You know what you have to do.”
“Oh, poor Annie,” Shirley says mournfully.
Britta’s cut off by the Dean’s voice announcing over the intercom: “Attention students! I want to remind you that Greendale is a drug-free campus and we have a zero tolerance policy for all you druggos. To celebrate living our lives drug free, stop by the rally in the quad this afternoon! In other unrelated news, Britta Perry, please report to the Dean’s office as you’ve won an all-expense paid trip to Jamaica! The wondrous land of reggae and dreadlocks! You should feel right at home there.”
“Ah, crap,” Britta mutters. “And why does he think I’m smoking pot?”
“The rumors are morphing. They’re evolving,” Abed says.
“Yeah, mon!” Troy grins.
“Excuse me, guys, I’ve gotta go get expelled,” Britta snarks.
“Deny everything,” Jeff advises.
“Pretty much my plan,” Britta says, before turning to leave.
“Somebody should go and find Annie. She shouldn’t be alone right now.” Shirley says.
“Shirley, go find Annie and do the comforting cry-on-my-shoulder girl thing. Troy and Abed, work on shutting down this internet rumor mill.”
“I don’t think that’s possible, Jeff,” Abed says as Shirley leaves to look for Annie.
“It’s possible if you make it possible,” Jeff returns, giving him a steady You Can Do It, Man look.
“Mission received and accepted,” Abed says, with a nod.
“Internet’s going down!” Troy proclaims, pounding Abed’s fist. With his free hand, Abed grabs his laptop and leaves with Troy.
“And you,” Jeff says, glaring at Pierce. “I’ll deal with you later.”
“Hey, where you prancing off to?” Pierce shouts at Jeff marching towards the door.
Jeff stops. “I’ve got my own solo mission.” He whips his head to the side and says over his shoulder, “To find a shirtless, barefoot hippie-wannabe abusing his guitar, the hearts of innocent women and the ears of humanity with the shameless cruelty of Uncle Kracker remixing his ‘Follow Me’ single for re-release in 2010. I’m gonna find him and show him the error of his ways if it’s the last thing I do.”
“…can I come?”
But Jeff’s already gone and Pierce is left to wallow in lonely, guilt-ridden defeat.
The sun is peaking out from behind the clearing clouds when Jeff steps outside the library. A group of students rush past wearing yellow t-shirts that say Drug Free ‘n Living the High Life.
Jeff shakes his head. “God, I hope that’s ironic.”
Another group of students wearing similar but much cooler yellow t-shirts run past. Their t-shirts say Free Drugs ‘n Live the High Life.
Jeff blinks. “Ah.”
A large crowd is congregating for the anti-drug event. Jeff notices Vaughan’s band setting up to play music and heads straight for them. He walks past Troy and Abed chatting up a group of students dressed in standard nerd gear—Jeff’s idly amused to discover that pocket protectors still exist.
Abed waves. “Jeff, we’re working on creating a worm that will destroy targeted datastreams. Hypothetically possible, but potentially disastrous on an apocalyptic scale.”
Troy adds, “Yeah, I’m not sure we should do this if it’s gonna set off nuclear weapons.”
Jeff raises his hand to give a brisk wave back, “No plan’s perfect,” and walks on. He jolts to a halt when Britta and the Dean cut him off.
“Dean Pelton, you gotta believe me,” Britta insists. “I’m clean. I’ll take a drug test. Right now. Just give me a cup—I’m ready!”
“Not now, Ms. Perry. I’ve got an anti-drug rally to MC and the show must go on,” the Dean says, maneuvering threw the crowd towards a small stage with a microphone. “You can make your case with a pee-pee cup after my rousing speech.”
The thrumming of a guitar draws Jeff forward and he hears Vaughan singing.
“Not listening, Anniiiiie! Can’t hear you over my song, na na na na! Never gonna listen to a Be-eeeeeee!”
“Vaughan, please!” Annie begs, her face still wet with tears. Shirley stands at her side, patting her shoulder.
“Hey, knock it off, Earthfare!” Jeff orders, stepping between Vaughan and Annie.
“Well, look who’s here?” Vaughan says. Thrumming his guitar again, he sings, “Sunny days chase the rain away, but have no fear, the Golden Shower King’s here! Oh yeah, he’ll rain down on you!”
“Hey! That’s slander!” Jeff rips the guitar out of Vaughan’s arms. “Don’t make me lawyer your ass!”
“Assault! Theft!” Vaughan calls out to the crowd. “Can I get a witness? I need a witness!”
A shrill screech from the microphone has everyone turning towards the stage.
Pierce taps the microphone again, making everyone wince. “Uh, is this thing on? Testing? Testing? One, two, three?” He coughs to clear his throat. “Well, I’m sure many of you are wondering who is this dashing stranger.” He chuckles briefly then continues in a more somber tone. “My name is Pierce Hawthorne and I’m addicted.”
The crowd gasps.
“Get off the stage!” Señor Cheng shouts. “Boo!”
The Dean shakes his head and waves at Pierce to continue his testimonial.
“That’s right. I’m addicted… to gossip. Many of you already know me by my Twitter name: Pierce Rocks. Ever since my friend showed me how to download apps to my iPhone and then spent weeks teaching me how to use them—thanks, Ay-bed—I’ve discovered a neverending source of status updates on friends and acquaintances’ lives.”
Pierce removes the microphone from the stand and starts pacing up and down the stage. “I wanted to contribute, to be a part of this wonderful community. But I had nothing interesting to post. Nothing except reports about my friends. The ups and downs of their love lives. The calamity and drama of their successes and failures. I got carried away by the rush of… of being followed. Of people listing me. And the demand to entertain you all, all of you followers, it pushed me on. I started embellishing and exaggerating and eventually just downright making up hogwash. I’m sorry. I’m sorry for the lies I’ve told you. For deceiving you. But most of all, I’m sorry for hurting my friends.”
Pierce turns to look at the Dean. “Dean Pelton, Britta’s not a drug addict. She’s too judgmental to ever loosen up and take a hit.” Pierce then looks at Vaughan in the crowd. “Vaughan, Annie’s a fine young woman who’d never cheat on someone she cared for. And she genuinely cares for you, even if we’re all baffled by her strange attachment.”
Pierce catches sight of Professor Slater walking past the crowd headed towards the parking lot and calls out, “Professor Slater, I’m sorry for saying you dumped Jeff because he likes to pee on people. We all know you dumped him because he refused to watch Glee with you.”
Watching Professor Slater scurry out of sight, her expression aghast and embarrassed, Pierce sighs. “And finally, there’s one more person I need to apologize to—Jeff Winger. Jeff, where are ya, buddy?”
The crowd parts around Jeff.
“Hey there, old pal,” Pierce says fondly.
Jeff gives a stiff wave to the crowd staring at him, smiling with discomfort. “Hi.”
“Jeff, I just want you to know that you’re not alone. You understand? You’re not the only one. I should never have judged you. And I hope you can find it in you to forgive me.”
“Oh, dear God,” Jeff mutters through gritted teeth.
“And I, uh, guess that’s it. Go Greendale!” Pierce shouts and the crowd erupts into applause, cheering him as he walks off stage.
“Annie?” Vaughan says, approaching her with guilt written across his face. “I’m sorry. I should’ve listened to you. I… I take back my song. My song was wrong. It was a wrong song. Forgive me?”
“I forgive you,” Annie whispers. She steps away from Shirley and, jaw firm, continues, “I forgive you because it’s mean to hold grudges, but I’ll never forget what you did. We’re over, Vaughan. I don’t wanna be with a person who thinks I could be… a person who doesn’t know the real me. Who’d just believe a lying rumor and then make such a hurtful song.”
“Annie, please…” Vaughan steps forward, moving to grasp her by the hand.
Jeff raises the guitar, hitting Vaughan square in the chest and holding him at bay. “I think it’s time for you and your guitar to get outta Dodge.”
“Yeah, hit the road, tiny nipple man,” Shirley says, shooing him off.
Grasping the guitar, Vaughan hangs his head low and shambles off. Shirley follows him, continuing to shoo him back into the crowd.
“You did the right thing,” Jeff says, looking at Annie continue to watch the spot where Vaughan disappeared into the crowd. “You deserve better than some two-bit jerk who doesn’t know how to treat you with respect.”
“I know.” Annie looks up at Jeff, eyes vulnerable. “It just… well, it sucks being alone.” She drops her chin and sniffles.
“Aw, don’t do that. Don’t cry. Again.” Jeff looks over his shoulder, hoping to find Shirley, but she’s nowhere in sight.
Annie tosses herself at him, hiding her face in his chest, hiccupping into the buttons of his dress shirt. He raises his arms to give her an awkward hug, patting her on the back.
Giving in to the inevitable, he sighs, rests his cheek against her hair and says, “Hey, you’re not alone. You’ve got…" He hesitates. "You’ve got all of us. You’ve got friends who care about you.” He leans back and brushes away the hair sticking to her cheeks. He gives her an encouraging grin. “You gotta look on the bright side—Troy and Abed almost detonated a nuclear weapon for you. You know you’re important when you’ve got friends willing to plunge the world into a nuclear holocaust.”
“Really?” Annie wipes away the tears on her cheeks with shaking hands.
“Yeah, really,” Jeff says, pulling her back into a hug. It's easier hugging her than having to look into her eyes. “So quit it with the waterworks already. And you owe me a dry cleaning bill for this shirt.”
Annie laughs and hugs him back.
“So if I hit this button…” Troy’s voice trails off, his hand hovering over the keyboard of Abed’s laptop.
“The world is plunged into eternal darkness, yes,” Abed says.
“Whoa. That’s trippy.”
“Agreed. It’s too much power for any one man to possess.”
“Or is it?” Troy hits the button. The screen counts down as the file is uploaded online, then…
Follow me. Yo, everything is alright. I’ll be the one to tuck you in at night.
Troy shudders. “Uncle Kracker should not be rapping.”
“That’s supposed to be breakdancing? I thought he was having a seizure.”
“I think if you tilt your head and squint, it kinda looks like breakdancing.”
They both tilt their heads to the side and squint at the screen.
“Nah, it really doesn’t,” Troy says.
“I can’t look away. The seizure dancing is oddly mesmerizing.” The video ends. “We should watch that again.” Abed hits play.
“Abed? Abed?” Troy snaps his fingers in front of Abed’s face, but his friend is lost in the video. He grasps Abed by the shoulders. “Oh god, what have I done to you? No! Abed!” Troy rests his forehead against Abed's shoulder and whimpers, "Forgive me."