Characters: Angela, Jan, Michael, Dwight
Pairings: Angela/Jan (gen), Michael/Jan
Spoilers: Set during Boys and Girls
Word Count: 1,983
Summary: The paper industry is no place for a shameless femme fatale. That much should be obvious, and yet Angela can’t help suspecting that she’s the only one who sees it.
Author's Note: This one's weird, and honestly, I have no idea how I feel about it. Writing Angela is intimidating, just because . . . well, Angela's intimidating, and such a specific character. But I saw that nothing had been written yet for the Angela/Jan prompt on office_romances, and my mind ran away with me. Alas, this was much better in my head. Ain't that always the way?
Angela has perfectly nice legs. According to Dwight, they draw up thoughts of Hans Christian Andersen – little mermaids into maidens, skin snow-white and unblemished and fresh. She supposes he could be referencing the Disney film, but she doesn’t like to think so. Ariel is horribly brash, with her red hair, and it’s a wonder that she bothers to cover herself up at all, considering how little her top leaves to the imagination. Angela is sorely disappointed at Disney’s slow descent: she remembers watching Cinderella in childhood – one of the few films her parents had allowed her to indulge in – and thinking how lovely it all seemed in its mild blues and murmured love songs.
But that’s hardly the point. (She shudders to think of The Hunchback of Notre Dame – gypsy whores turned into role models for young girls? The current state of the world is a small wonder, really.)
However appealing her legs might be, Angela still wears sensible calf-length skirts in beiges and greys, and well-pressed slacks when it gets cold. It’s the appropriate way to behave; she staunchly upholds it, and is it really so much to ask to expect the people around her to return that simple courtesy?
Jan’s legs are very good – “legs up to here,” Phyllis whispers laughingly before they file into the conference room, and Angela purses her lips as she thinks of those old 40s pin-up girls – and she doesn’t seem to have any qualms at all about exposing them for all the world to see. Her skirts are short and black and tailored perfectly, and although all of the men in the office are terrified of her, it’s obvious they aren’t frightened enough to keep their eyes averted. Kevin practically drools. Oscar shows an admirable restraint on the outside, but Angela knows better than to think that displays any actual strength of character. They’re all the same; some are just better at hiding it than others.
When Dwight looks at Jan, Angela knows it’s only because it’s part of his job – namely to keep Michael’s best interest in mind first and foremost – but it doesn’t stop some dark, angry feeling from twisting her stomach. He’s very fond of her legs and therefore he has no business looking at Jan’s, no matter how deep his loyalty to Michael might run.
And the skirt isn’t the only problem. Angela isn’t right next to Jan – Pam sits in between them – but she’s close enough that it becomes impossible not to spot every gaudy detail. Her blouse might as well not have any top buttons at all; she hasn’t bothered to give them any attention. And even worse, there’s a delicate gold necklace hanging at the hollow of her throat, glinting dully against her skin. It’s no mystery where that’s meant to lead one’s focus. Angela finds few things more blatantly tawdry than perfume, and the fact that Jan’s doesn’t smell overwhelmingly, luridly sweet is all the more offensive: it seems almost natural, dark and elegant, and that’s a kind of deception all in itself. It certainly doesn’t slip past her. Angela has a very keen sense of smell.
She’s wearing far too much makeup. She certainly wasn’t stingy with the eye shadow; it shimmers slightly in the fluorescent light and strikes Angela as horribly bright, like the way snow looks in the sun. (At least the snow has an excuse. It doesn’t know any better.) Technically, her lipstick shade falls into the realm of pink, but it’s horribly dark, dangerously approaching red.
The paper industry is no place for a shameless femme fatale. That much should be obvious, and yet Angela can’t help suspecting that she’s the only one who sees it.
“Angela,” Jan says brightly, clasping her hands together in some hollow attempt at warmth and casualness. “Your turn. What are your dreams?” Her teeth are all white and even and there’s not a single trace of lipstick on them, but her smile is forced and frozen.
She’s every bit as hopeless as Michael, Angela decides. There’s a sort of savage satisfaction in the concept that she makes sure to stifle immediately.
Angela sets her mouth into a thin line and talks about maintaining financial responsibility and pursuing a future at Dunder Mifflin and remaining an invaluable member of her church community. She doesn’t mean to add the part about not minding the idea of a driven, levelheaded companion someday, but somehow it slips out of her mouth without her consent. To amend for it, she quickly adds that she would like more cats, too: two Persians and a calico, to make it an even six.
Jan’s smile falters slightly. Angela narrows her eyes at her. As though she has the right to judge any of them.
When they break for lunch, Jan stays in the conference room. Angela watches her disapprovingly through the blinds as she sighs and drums her fingernails against the table and finally just buries her face in one woefully graceful hand. (She’s quite sorely mistaken if she thinks she’s actually fooling anyone.) Michael sneaks upstairs to bring her coffee and a bag of Doritos from the vending machine.
“Michael, this really isn’t necessary,” she insists, sounding horribly tired. As if she hadn’t brought all this on herself.
“No, no, no,” Michael counters, eager as a schoolboy as he sinks down in the chair next to hers. “I insist. Even if we are at war, you’ve gotta eat. And caffeinate.”
Even from here, it’s apparent that her resolve is weakening. He prods the coffee mug forward with one finger, and after a moment’s hesitation, she reaches for it.
“Now, you be careful,” he instructs jokingly. “That’s my favourite mug.”
Jan frowns slightly as she inspects it. “Who gave you this?”
“What do you mean?” he asks blankly.
“Well, it says ‘world’s best boss,’” she points out, and it only illuminates just how hopeless he is against her feminine wiles. (Dwight had tried to touch the mug once. He has nightmares about it on occasion, kicking wildly underneath the sheets. Sometimes when this happens, his feet brush hers.) “I just assumed that—”
“Don’t remember,” he cuts in quickly. “Heh, you know how it is – when they love you, they love you. I get . . . presents like that all the time. From everybody. Like Phyllis hooked me up with this really sweet oven mitt awhile back. It’s just a regular thing here. Giving me presents. Showing the love.”
Surely she can’t actually be attracted to him. It’s disgusting, the way she uses him for her own devices. Michael is relatively incompetent and more or less completely unprofessional, but that’s no excuse to use him mercilessly. It’s appallingly unchristian, but Angela supposes she shouldn’t be surprised. Jan is probably an atheist. Or a Catholic.
“Oh,” Jan says wearily.
“But the point is,” he soldiers on pitifully, “I figured I’d let you use it. After all, you’re doing such a good job today with my ladies. Ya-ya girl power, and all that jazz. And, well,” he lowers his tone and leans in closer, “You’re certainly my favourite boss.”
“Michael, not today,” Jan implores, fingers fluttering up to her left temple. “Please.”
“So some other day?”
And it’s perfectly clear that she would be content to go on toying with him all day, but Dwight happens to burst in. Angela studies him out of the corner of her eye as he strides deliberately across the room, thinking that perhaps he’ll turn to acknowledge her (subtly, of course; a split-second’s partial eye contact; no need to be brazen about it), but he flies straight to the conference room.
“Michael!” he barks. “You said you were going to the bathroom, not fraternizing with the enemy.”
“The enemy!” Michael scoffs. “Jeez. She’s my boss, Dwight. I have to keep an eye on her.”
“You really don’t, Michael,” Jan says.
“But she’s a woman,” Dwight points out, mystified.
“Tend to her every need—” Michael prattles on.
“Michael!” Jan interjects, and the edge in her voice is swift and sharp. If it were anyone else, Angela might have found herself almost impressed. “Go with Dwight. Please.”
Michael’s face falls.
“You sure?” he asks quietly, and leans in to rest a hand on her knee.
Jan has the nerve to jump slightly and swat his hand back, as though she hasn’t been asking for it all day.
“Michael,” she hisses through clenched teeth, “Get. Out.”
Michael stares at her for a moment, as though trying to decide whether she’s telling the truth, before letting out a heavy sigh and standing up. “Fine. Fine. I’ll just . . . see you later, then.”
“Just focus on whatever you’re doing in the warehouse,” Jan instructs. “I’ll probably leave before you’re done, so . . . I’ll call you in a few days to check up on the branch and fill you in on the details of the February 14th meeting.”
Not even the slightest attempt to be clandestine. Angela shouldn’t be surprised.
“Right,” Michael says sullenly. He walks away, pausing once at the doorframe to add, “Don’t chip my mug.”
Dwight is immediately at Michael’s side.
“She is the enemy, Michael,” he intones with his fiercely quiet intensity as they rush through the office. Neither of them so much as spares a glance her way. “The enemy.”
“Oh, shut up,” Michael snaps, and although she can’t see his face, Angela knows that Dwight is stung by the remark. Michael may be a lesser man than Dwight, but he’s always had the excellent sense to rely on him. The idea that temptation and matters of the flesh could sever a bond so true . . . it's sickening, that's what it is.
Angela’s heard stories about Chili’s and kissing and cheap hotel rooms. She shudders to imagine what number of depraved things Jan must have done to get Michael to answer to her this way.
Deciding that this has been quite enough seediness for one day, Angela prepares to join the others in the break room when suddenly, Jan catches her eye through the glass of the window. They just stare at one another for a moment; Angela is onto her and has half a mind to tell her so. To her credit, Jan doesn’t offer a lofty “hello” or false, perfect smile; she just looks at Angela, as though she’s too tired to muster up her customary wanton faux professionalism. Her eyes are blue and almost sad, and Angela fleetingly wonders what she would look like without the makeup.
But then her gaze wavers and falls, strangely awkward. Fragile. It reminds Angela of the way paper looks when it flutters to the floor. Jan laughs to herself then – dark and rich and hopeless – and takes a sip of the coffee Michael brought to her. The action holds an odd quality, like surrender.
Something about it is more irksome than the short skirt and the neglected blouse buttons. Without considering it further, Angela turns and heads for the break room.
When Jan slips into the bathroom ten minutes later, Angela comes back to collect the empty chips bag and the coffee mug. She suspects Michael would be pleased to find out that she’d eaten the chips, but pleasing Michael certainly isn’t one of Angela’s concerns. She flattens the bag out and folds it into neat fourths before reaching for the mug. Traces of dark pink lipstick linger around its rim. It looks less red somehow against the ivory of the cup. Angela can only imagine Michael’s reaction to this, echoes of her mouth – he’d probably never wash it again, which is disgusting – and she reaches the conclusion that that was probably Jan’s intention in the first place.
Still, she takes the mug into the break room and washes it. Angela’s not in the habit of leaving messes unattended to.