Characters/Pairings: Ensemble, with Ryan/Kelly, Dwight/Angela, Michael/Jan, Pam missing Jim, and Michael/Ryan. Sort of.
Spoilers: Set after 3x05 - "Initiation"
Word Count: 5,723
Summary: It's Halloween at the office, and, drawing his costume inspiration from a certain Ledger-and-Gyllenhaal flick, Michael wishes he knew how to quit Ryan. Everyone else just wishes they knew how to quit. Featuring Dwight's Lost obsession, increasingly pissed-off!Jan, and a paper mâché head!
Author's Note: Oh, man, this was fun. These characters bring me far more joy and entertainment than can possibly be healthy.
Michael tips his cowboy hat at the camera.
“So, the time is among us again. Halloween. Halloweeeen. Heh, spooky. Anyway, it’s looking like this year’s going to be a blast, because this time I don’t have to, you know, fire anybody. Which is always nice, because Halloween? Halloween’s about fun. Scary, crazy-ass fun. And firing people just . . . isn’t that. This year’s gonna be different. This year, I’m not gonna let corporate rain on my parade.”
Dwight is wearing a white lab coat.
“I’m Dr. Martin Candle,” he offers by way of explanation when Pam asks, looking at her like there’s no hope for her in the world at all because she hadn’t been able to figure that out on her own. He’s quiet for just long enough to fixate that eerie Dwight stare on her before slyly amending, “Or am I Dr. Mark Wickmund?”
“Um,” Pam says. “Okay.”
Dwight narrows his eyes at her. “I thought you watched Lost.”
“I do,” she says slowly, and then it occurs to her. “Oh! You’re the guy in the video. I get it.”
“‘The guy in the video,’” Dwight scoffs. “And you call yourself a fan.” He crosses his arms in front of his chest and rests his elbows on her desk. “You’re probably one of those people who only tunes in to see whether Kate picks Jack or Sawyer.”
“No,” Pam says casually. “I like the polar bears, too.”
Dwight snorts in disgust. “You’re so naive. Kate shouldn’t be with Jack or Sawyer. If Kate had any sense at all, she’d choose Locke. Locke has the direct connection to the island. The island likes him. If it decides to start killing people, being Locke’s woman will grant her security against its wrath. The island doesn’t care one way or another about Sawyer or Jack.”
“Isn’t Locke a little old for Kate?” Pam asks, wrinkling her nose.
“Age is meaningless,” Dwight pronounces tersely. “My great grandfather Schrute was twenty-seven years older than his bride. She was seventeen and he was forty-four, and she bore him nine – wait, eight sturdy, well-built children. Little Jimmy doesn’t count. He lacked character and suffered from severe asthma.” He shakes his head in distaste before seeming to recall his original point. “But still. Theirs was a loyal, fruitful coupling. They were buried in the same funeral plot. Right on top of each other.”
And Pam knows that it’s Halloween and everything, but this is a little too freaky for her.
“I kind of like Kate with Sawyer,” she says, because a subject change is seriously in order. “It seems like Jack could have something with that doctor lady.”
“Juliet,” Dwight says fiercely, and then his expression seems to soften. He stares off into space a little dreamily, and Pam realizes all at once that maybe it’s not smart to bring up authoritative blondes in his presence.
“I’m Little Red Riding Hood,” Pam says pointedly, hoping he’ll snap out of it.
Dwight’s eyes sharpen again, and he scowls at her. “So?”
He marches back to his desk, lab coat rustling quietly, and she really, really wishes Jim was here to see this. Maybe she’ll tell him about it sometime, but it seems like one of those “guess you had to be there” things. And, well, he’s not. Here.
Kevin is Garfield. He’s wearing all orange and he’s got a tail and everything. Stacey helped him with the face paint this morning.
Angela raises her eyes, very slowly, to meet his. “What?”
“We’re both cats,” he points out slyly.
Angela eyes him disdainfully. “So?”
“If Oscar was here, and he was a cat, we’d be three cats.” A pleased, lazy smile slowly lights up his face at the idea.
Angela sighs and returns her attention to her computer screen.
Michael laughs into the camera.
“What? No! What do you mean, ‘Are you a cowboy’? I mean,” he amends, and looks thoughtful for a moment, “I guess, yeah, technically, I’m a cowboy. But that’s not really the point, you know? That’s not what I was going for. It’s more . . . okay, seriously, you can’t figure out what I’m supposed to be? Here, here, maybe this’ll help.”
He reaches for a plastic bag at his feet and pulls something out of it – a button-up plaid shirt covered in what appears to be cranberry juice stains.
Michael stares rather significantly into the camera before closing his eyes and pressing the shirt to his face, sniffing it with indecent desperation. He exhales shakily, cradling it to his face. He stays like this long enough for it to be undisputedly awkward before pulling the shirt away and rewarding the camera with a jubilant grin.
“I’m Heath in Brokeback Mountain! Got it? Hah! Brokeback Scranton, more like. Or maybe – well, that doesn’t start with an M, so it doesn’t really have the same – Brokeback Dunder Mifflin? Brokeback Mifflin? Yeah, yeah, that’s good enough. No one’s gonna miss the ‘Dunder,’ believe you me. So, yeah. Check me out!”
He laughs delightedly before transitioning to a rather solemn expression.
“But really, seriously, this just felt like the right way to go this year. It felt like – quite frankly, it felt like the only option. It's hip, it's edgy, it's funny – but it’s sweet at the same time. It’s got soul. And I just feel like, at this point in time, after all that stuff with Oscar, it's just . . . time to show that that's okay in this office. Yay for gay. And not faggy,” he adds, brandishing an admonitory finger. “But gay. Because faggy . . . just isn’t appropriate. But there’s a reason that ‘yay’ rhymes with ‘gay.’ And okay, yeah. I’ve kissed a dude. And you know what? I don’t care. In fact, I might kiss another dude before the day is over.” He nods with conviction. “Because you know what? You have to be willing to go there, for the costume’s sake. For the authenticity of the costume. It’s all about holiday spirit.”
He stares at the camera for a minute.
“Why aren’t you laughing? Are you seriously not getting it?” He sighs. “I dunno, maybe you have to see me with Ryan to get the whole effect.”
Ryan stares blankly forward. His cowboy hat is crooked, and he’s wearing a fake moustache that looks like something a silent film villain would don.
“It was this or the Beast,” he says tonelessly. “Like, from Beauty and the Beast. Kelly heard that Mufasa thing and decided it was, uh, really great that I liked Disney. And somehow she had gotten this . . . gigantic paper mâché head that looked like the Beast. And she had the yellow dress and everything, and the head? The head was for me. To put. Over my head. All day. In public. And I just . . .”
He sighs and reaches up to adjust his hat with tortured resignation.
“So, yeah. I’m Jack Twist from Brokeback Mountain.” He stares ahead. Blinks a few times. “And as long as I manage to stay away from Michael, I’m okay with that.”
“Hey! Hey, Ryan!” Michael calls. He’s sitting in his office, on hold for a business call; his feet are propped up on his desk, and he’s got his cowboy hat cocked down over one eye. “Ryan! Hey, lover!”
“Yeah?” Ryan mumbles quietly, not looking away from his computer screen.
“I wish that I knew how to quit you, man!” The proclamation is followed by a round of uproarious laughter, virtually all of which is provided by Michael. (Kevin throws in a ‘Heh. Heh.’)
Ryan acknowledges this with an awkward wave and goes back to his computer.
Angela adjusts her kitty ears and presses her lips together in a mean, firm line.
“You know, I think it’s really great that Ryan’s doing this with Michael,” Kelly informs the camera, tucking her hair behind her ear. “Because gay guys? Are so great. Not that Ryan’s gay, because he’s totally not. He’s not,” she repeats venomously, glaring into the camera. “He’s totally into me. But . . . you know, gay guys are cool just in general. Like, I can’t wait for Oscar to come back so we can start hanging out, because he’s obviously way cooler than I ever gave him credit for. And I think it’s totally awesome that they’re dressing up like Heath and Jake, too, because seriously, this is like, the saddest movie I’ve ever seen. Well, except The Notebook. And The Lake House.”
She pauses, brow furrowing in deep thought.
“. . . I just thought it was so terribly sad, the whole thing,” Phyllis says, and takes a sip of her tea.
“I know,” Pam says, spinning a fork idly through her Cup Noodles. “I cried so hard at the end.”
Angela sniffs pointedly and sips her bottled water.
“You felt sorry for everyone,” Phyllis sighs. “Their poor wives—”
“Whoa-ho-ho! What’s goin’ on in here?”
Michael stops in the doorway, grinning broadly at them.
“Lunch,” Pam responds bleakly.
“Hmm,” Michael says, and then remembers to tip his cowboy hat. “Well, howdy, ma’am! Ma’ams,” he amends immediately, then frowns to himself. “Wow, that sounds weird. Ma—”
“We’re talking about Brokeback Mountain,” Kelly announces excitedly.
“Oh, really?” Michael asks, wriggling his eyebrows. “Well, count me in, because I am down with that. Yeehaw,” he throws in, and straddles the empty chair in between Phyllis and Meredith with flourish. Pam guesses it’s supposed to be rugged and cowboy-ish. (It’s really, really not.)
“Yes,” Phyllis responds a little uncertainly. “I was just mentioning their wives – that girl from The Princess Diaries—”
“Oh my God, I love the The Princess Diaries,” Kelly interjects, beaming. “Julie Andrews is so magical.”
“Wait, wait,” Michael interjects, impatiently waving a quieting hand in Kelly’s direction. “What movie are we talking about?”
“Brokeback Mountain,” Pam says, eyeing him warily.
“Well, no, you guys gotta be thinking of something else, because—” He looks down, shaking his head slightly, and it becomes very apparent very fast that he’s laughing to himself. “Gosh, I can’t believe you don’t know this—”
“We saw the movie, Michael,” Pam tells him. “We know what it was about.”
“You see,” Michael retorts, cheerfully patronizing, “I don’t think you do, because Phyllis said something about wives, and . . . God, how do you not know this?” He pauses for a moment before looking up and announcing, “They’re gay.”
“Duh,” Kelly says, rolling her eyes.
Michael’s brow furrows. “But you said wives.”
“Yes,” Phyllis says uneasily.
“And gay guys don’t have wives,” Michael goes on impatiently. “It’s scientifically proven. It’s just common sense.”
A strained, seemingly endless silence fills the kitchen, interrupted only by the sharp, deliberate crunching as Angela breaks apart her granola bar and sprinkles it into her yogurt.
“Michael,” Pam finally says, “have you seen Brokeback Mountain?”
“What?” Michael demands, sounding scandalized. “Are you kidding? Come on, Pam. Who hasn’t seen Brokeback Mountain? I most definitely –”
After taking in just how skeptically everyone’s looking at him (except Angela, whose eyes remain firmly trained on her yogurt), he falters.
“. . . saw the trailer,” he goes on, a little weakly. “More than once. And, um, well, it’s definitely on my Netflix queue. Or, uh, will be, as soon as I get back to my computer.”
Angela clears her throat.
“And I don’t think,” he continues defensively, “you need to see the movie to get the message. That’s how powerful it is. I got it from the trailer. In fact, I got it the first time I saw the poster. All it took was one picture. A picture’s worth a thousand words. I don’t think words can even . . . do it justice.”
“You know, it’s based on a short story,” Pam volunteers.
“Gaaah!” Michael stands up abruptly, knocking against the table as he does so. A little of Phyllis’s tea sloshes over the rim of the cup and spills onto the tabletop. “You know what, Pam? I think you need to stop being so closed-minded. It’s people like you who are the reason that Oscar’s not with us today.”
“Jan gave Oscar a three-month paid vacation because you kissed him in front of us,” Pam points out.
“And if you guys had all been a little more accepting of that, he wouldn’t have left in the first place!” Michael exclaims, exasperated. He crosses his arms in front of his chest. “Who goes to Europe with their roommate, anyway?”
Pam and Phyllis exchange a look.
“Michael,” Pam says gently, “maybe you should get back to your office.”
“Yeah,” Michael says after a moment. “Yeah, you’re right. This is a very . . . negative atmosphere. I’m feeling a little discriminated against.”
“Sorry,” Pam calls weakly after him as he walks out.
It’s quiet for a very long time after he leaves.
Finally, Meredith takes a hearty swig from her thermos. “So. Heath Ledger or Jake Gyllenhaal?”
“Heath Ledger,” Creed informs the camera decisively. “Reminds me of an old friend of mine.” He pauses nostalgically. “Something about Australian men.”
“It’s disgusting,” Angela says tersely to the soda machine. “Michael and Ryan are completely disrupting the workplace.”
“What I want to know,” Dwight tells the watercooler viciously, “is why he picked Ryan.”
“It’s Oscar’s fault. He’s the one who gave Michael the idea.” Angela purses her lips. “And now, the whole office might as well just go up in flames.”
“I could be a cowboy,” Dwight mutters passionately. “I grew up on a farm. I’m a lone ranger. I know what it’s like firsthand – just me and the land. And the beets.”
“And everyone acts like it’s nothing at all,” Angela hisses. “At lunch, they were talking about how that film should have won Best Picture.”
“I can ride bareback,” Dwight persists darkly.
“It’s the sort of thing that Kevin downloads onto his computer, and it was acknowledged at the Academy Awards—”
“I have those spurs Mose gave to me last Christmas—”
“It was nominated in the same category as The Sound of Music—”
“It’s my masculinity,” Dwight decides. “Michael couldn’t even begin to imagine me as a gay man, by any stretch of the imagination. The temp is scrawny. Girlish.”
“It’s nothing short of insulting. The Sound of Music is a beautiful story, and now its legacy is being disgraced!”
“Ryan is pretty,” Dwight decides, satisfied. “Like a woman. That’s why.”
Angela turns her head slightly and stares out of the corner of her eye in Dwight’s general direction for three seconds before returning her focus immediately to the vending machine.
“I thought you were going to dress up as Captain Von Trapp this year,” she says to a Snickers bar.
“I will,” Dwight assures the watercooler evenly. “Later.”
“He’s so severe,” Angela comments, admiration lighting the words. “A gifted disciplinarian.”
“Yes,” Dwight agrees reverently.
They momentarily fall silent. Michael’s voice drifts dimly from his office; he makes yet another impassioned lament about wishing he knew how to quit Ryan.
“Michael seems to be enjoying his costume,” Angela observes disapprovingly after a moment, her gaze flicking back and forth between a Three Musketeers and a Butterfinger.
“Michael is very straight,” Dwight says matter-of-factly. “He has two women.”
“He kissed Oscar,” Angela points out, eyes fixing on the Three Musketeers.
“To set an example,” Dwight says slowly, clearly. “No woman alive can resist Michael Scott. Believe me.”
It’s quiet for a moment.
“I can,” Angela says firmly, and begins inserting quarters into the machine.
“That’s because you,” Dwight professes to the watercooler, “are exceptional.”
Angela doesn’t approve of sweets on Halloween – far too indulgent – but she buys two candy bars regardless. When Dwight returns to his desk, he finds one there. It is delicious.
Jan shows up in the afternoon, striding purposefully into the office as she finishes up a business call. Everyone glances up a little uneasily. She’s been scarier than usual lately. Which fits with the whole Halloween thing, but still.
“Hi, Jan,” Pam says as pleasantly as she can, looking up from her computer.
“Pam, hi,” Jan says. She looks perfect, as always, but her eyes are hard and she smells like cigarette smoke, and Pam can’t help wondering sometimes whether she really is jealous of Carol. “Little Red Riding Hood, right?”
She glances around the office. “Are you having some sort of Halloween party?”
“Oh, no,” Pam says quickly. “Working as usual. We just . . . like to dress up, that’s all. But everyone’s working.”
“Hmm,” Jan says distractedly. “Well—”
The door to Michael’s office swings open and he steps out, thumbs hooked through his belt loops as he fixes his eyes on Ryan. “You know,” he drawls, coming forward to lean on Ryan’s desk, “it could be like this. Just like this. Alwa—”
“Hey, look,” Ryan interjects bleakly. “Jan’s here.”
Michael jumps up from the desk immediately.
Jan just stares. Pam can’t really blame her.
“Ooh! Treat,” Michael says approvingly, by way of greeting.
Jan narrows her eyes at him. “Excuse me?”
“You know, ‘trick or treat,’ and, well, you’re obviously not a trick, and you’re looking mm-mm-good as usual, so—” He falls silent at her stare. “Never mind.”
“Yes,” Jan agrees tersely. “Now if you don’t mind, Michael, I’d really like to discuss what you’ve accomplished over the past week, because Pam faxed me the log of your activities and I have a few questions regarding—”
“Oh, come on, Jan,” Michael cajoles. “Let’s not talk business. It’s Halloween! A time to celebrate!”
“Celebrate?” she repeats dryly. “I really don’t think so.”
“I’ve got candy corn,” Michael says tantalizingly.
“Michael, just because you made a significant sale recently doesn’t mean that you can afford to neglect your work to play dress-up,” Jan says, putting her hands on her hips. “The future of your branch is by no means secure.”
“You know, Carol loves Halloween,” Michael announces pointedly. “Yup. Loves it.”
“Carol’s cute,” Kevin contributes from where he sits at his desk.
“She is, isn’t she?” Michael agrees conversationally, keeping his eyes trained on Jan all the while.
“Jan’s hotter, though,” Kevin concludes. “You shoulda stuck with Jan, definitely.”
“Yup,” Creed placidly agrees.
“Michael,” Jan hisses between clenched teeth, eyes burning in a way that’s nothing short of deathly. “Your office. Now.”
Michael chuckles. “If you insist—”
“Michael!” Jan barks.
Michael hurries into his office without another word. Jan follows him and slams the door.
Dwight stares admiringly after him.
“Even when Michael is dressed like a gay man, the women still flock to him,” Dwight tells the camera. “And Jan pretends to hate him with every fiber of her being, but she’ll only be able to fight the attraction for so long.” He shakes his head, a fond smile barely curving the corners of his mouth. “He is a man among men.”
“It’s obvious that today is already wasted, so what do you plan to accomplish tomorrow?”
“Don’t worry about it,” Michael says, waving a dismissive hand. “I’ve got everything under control.”
“I very much doubt that,” Jan returns evenly.
“Jan, you just gotta have a little faith in me,” Michael says, leaning forward on his elbows and staring at her earnestly. “Seriously. I love this branch. I love these people. I’m not gonna do anything to jeopardize that. And if we all decide to get together and have some fun every time a major holiday comes along, just . . . let it be, okay?”
For a second, her expression softens slightly. To make up for it, she sits up a little straighter and locks her eyes with his matter-of-factly. “Michael, this is work. I think that you have trouble differentiating between the relationships you form with your colleagues and your personal relationships.”
“They are personal relationships, Jan!” Michael protests, rolling his eyes. “I’m pretty much their mentor, hi.”
Jan opens her mouth, but she seems to contemplate something for a moment before closing it again.
“What?” Michael prompts.
“Nothing,” she decides.
She bites her lower lip for a moment. “Really, Michael.”
“Huh.” He stares at her for a moment in slight confusion before shrugging. “Okay.”
“So, um.” Jan wrings her hands awkwardly before looking up at him. “You’re a cowboy.”
“Uh. Yeah. You know. Just your regular, run-of-the-mill, manly man cowboy. The whole John Wayne deal.”
“Um, yeah. And then that idiot Ryan totally copied my costume—”
The door swings open and Kelly bounces inside, positively radiant with excitement.
“Hey, Michael! Oh – sorry. I totally didn’t mean to interrupt anything. Sorry if you guys were, like—”
“That’s fine, Kelly,” Jan interrupts, standing. “We’re just finishing up here.”
“Hey, Jan?” Michael reaches out to touch her elbow. “Why don’t you stick around for a little while?”
She moves out of his grasp. “I really don’t think so, Michael.”
“You sure? It’ll be fun.”
“I have work to do,” she assures him, slinging her purse over her shoulder.
“Jan, you should totally stay!” Kelly suggests, beaming at her. “We’re gonna take pictures of everyone in their costumes with my new digital camera – it’ll be so cute.” She pauses a moment. “And then we’ll get right back to work.”
“Oh,” Jan says, “Um. Fine. I suppose it won’t hurt to stay a few minutes.”
“Excellent!” Michael grins. “Okay, let’s take those pictures. I’m ready for my close-up, Mr. DeMille!”
“Huh?” Kelly asks blankly. “What’s that from?”
“I don’t know, Kelly,” Michael says impatiently. “It’s not from anything. It’s just what people say.”
He brushes past her and out of the office.
Jan and Kelly linger awkwardly in the doorway for a second.
“Scarlett O’Hara?” Jan asks, gesturing to Kelly’s dress.
“Belle,” Kelly says, eyeing her strangely.
“Oh,” Jan says faintly. “Right.”
“Oh my God, I love my digital camera,” Kelly informs the camera delightedly. “It’s all tiny and cute and silver and it’s so cool to just be able to take a picture of anything whenever, you know? Like, I painted my toenails this great shade of turquoise last night and took a picture, just ‘cause they looked so awesome. And! I have a whole bunch of Ryan sleeping. They’re in this folder on my computer called Ryan Sleeping, and there are like two hundred so far, and I love all of them. He’s so cute.”
“One time, he woke up while I was taking the picture, and he got kind of mad.” Her face falls slightly for a moment. “But then we had sex, and I think he forgot about it.”
“Can I say that on camera?”
“So, okay, I totally need one of you two together,” Kelly announces, beaming at Michael and Ryan. “Because your costumes are totally the best.”
“I resent that,” Dwight pipes up.
“What’s cool about being a scientist or whatever?” Kelly demands, rolling her eyes at him.
“I am Dr. Martin Candle,” Dwight hisses indignantly.
“I think your costume is very distinguished,” Angela volunteers.
“Thank you, Angela,” Dwight responds formally. “I appreciate the compliment, even from someone I don’t know very well.”
“You’re welcome,” Angela says briskly.
Pam wrinkles her nose.
“Anyway, come on, you two!” Kelly ushers, reaching up to straighten Ryan’s moustache.
“Us two?” Michael repeats, and snorts as he glances at Jan. “Why do you want a picture of us together? Just because we both had the same costume idea?”
“No,” Kelly says, confused. “Because you’re—”
“Ryan’s just a copycat!” Michael proclaims, and shoves Ryan lightly in the shoulder. “Pssh. Loser. Think of your own costume.”
“Uh,” Ryan says.
“What are you talking about?” Kelly demands. “You’re—”
“—a cowboy,” Michael finishes rustically. “Yup, that’s right. Just call me the Marlboro Man.”
“Oh,” Angela sniffs. “So now you’re ashamed.”
Jan glances at Pam and raises a questioning eyebrow.
“He and Ryan are Heath Ledger and Jake Gyllenhaal from Brokeback Mountain,” Pam explains matter-of-factly.
“Ah,” Jan says. She doesn’t sound particularly surprised.
“What?” Michael yelps. “What are you talking about, Pam? You crazy, Miss Beesly. That shit is bananas. B-A-N-A--”
“No, it’s not,” Kelly interjects, frowning. “You are. You’ve been saying so all day. You poured juice on that shirt and Ryan’s got the creepy moustache and everything.”
“It was Ryan’s idea,” Michael says quickly.
Ryan’s eyes widen.
“What?” Kelly demands, her mouth forming a sparkly pink ‘o’ of shock. “He told me you were making him, and he’d probably get fired if he didn’t! Otherwise, he would have been the Beast so we could be all cute together!”
“Well, okay, that is just not true,” Michael says solemnly.
“What??” Kelly spins on her heel so she’s face-to-face with Ryan. “Ryan, is he serious? Because if he’s serious, then oh my God. Do you know how much that paper mâché head cost? There’s this really cute sweater from Anthropologie that I’ve been wanting forever and I totally could have gotten it before but now I can’t because I knew that you loved Disney and I wanted to make you happy and now you weren’t even telling me the truth about the whole Michael thing? What, do you really just want to be Michael’s boyfriend or whatever? Like, for real? Because if you want to be Michael’s boyfriend, then you should have just told me in the first place!”
“I do not,” Ryan says, “want to be Michael’s boyfriend.”
“I can’t believe you sometimes, Ryan!” Kelly proclaims, then storms off toward the bathroom in a flurry of rustling gold.
Ryan stares dully after her.
“Does this mean we don’t get our picture taken?” Kevin asks glumly.
“Guess not,” Michael says. He’s eyeing Jan nervously. “So, uh, back to work, everybody.”
Jan takes a moment to sigh before stepping forward. “Michael—”
Michael raises a hand to silence her. “No. Uh-uh. Just . . . don’t start, Jan, okay? I am really not in the mood for this right now.”
“Kelly seems very upset—”
“Yeah, yeah, yeah. Kelly’s a drama queen. She’ll get over it.” Michael scowls. “And okay, the whole Brokeback thing was totally Ryan’s idea. Totally.”
Jan glances fleetingly at Ryan. He stares back at her with a sort of bleak, resigned misery. “Somehow, I can’t bring myself to believe that,” she concludes.
Michael pinches the bridge of his nose and inhales sharply.
“I was doing it for Jan’s sake,” Michael informs the camera impatiently. “For her own protection. Emotionally, I mean. She’s been through a lot lately, what with our relationship . . . ending the way it did, and I am not the kinda guy who’s gonna turn on a woman like that. I’m sorry, but that’s not how I was raised. Maybe it didn’t work out, for the time being, but that doesn’t mean that I’m going to flaunt it in her face. Because seriously, do you really think that’s what she wants to hear? ‘Oh, sorry, Jan! Not only did I dump you for another woman, but also, I’m gay! With Ryan!’ That would have just been . . . devastating. So hard for her. And she might be a b-i-t-c-h, like, ninety nine percent of the time, but you know what? I’m not. I am not that guy. I’m not that guy.”
“Okay, fine, it was my idea,” Michael confesses once they’re back inside his office. “I admit it. But listen, Jan, I knew what I was doing with this. It wasn’t just all fun and games – it was for the benefit of this company!”
Jan stops halfheartedly examining her fingernails and looks up at him sharply. “What?”
“You know, the whole thing with Oscar,” Michael says, sighing. “That was just . . . such an unnecessary disaster, and I felt like it was just time to heighten awareness. And acceptance. Gay equals yay, and all that.”
Jan blinks slowly, as though wanting to ensure she’s not caught in a nightmare. “Oh, no, Michael.”
“Oh, yes, Jan!” Michael counters impassionedly. “Homosexuality is a part of this workplace, whether you like it or not—”
“You were never to address this topic again, Michael!” Jan reminds him angrily. “Not ever! After what happened last time – you are not to make any reference to the sexuality of any person in this office, do you understand? Especially Oscar.”
“Okay, Jan, no offense, but you’re not really a people person. I am, and I know exactly how we have to do this. We have to show Oscar that he’s wanted here. Accepted. Celebrated, even.” He shakes his head regretfully. “God, I wish he’d been here for this.”
“No, Michael! Do you know what happened the last time you tried to make Oscar feel accepted? You kissed him.”
“It was a demonstration!”
“You kissed him and I had to fix it. You have no idea how close we came to a lawsuit. That could have been indescribably detrimental to the good of the company, and you act like you have no idea what kind of damage you did!” She lets out what almost sounds like a whimper of frustration, one hand clenching around the thin air violently. “What on earth compelled you to kiss him?”
Michael grins at her. “Jealous?”
She stands abruptly. “Damn it, Michael, I swear, one day I am just going to—”
“Jeez, Jan,” Michael says, eyeing her warily. “I was just kidding—”
“You’re on thin ice,” she interjects, eyes like daggers as she glares down at him from across the desk. “And your behaviour is doing nothing to compel me to fight for this branch. Quite frankly, Michael, at this point, I can’t help but believe that Dunder-Mifflin would be far better off without whatever you allegedly contribute to it.”
Michael stares blankly. After a moment’s fierce, angry silence, he ventures almost timidly, “Are you serious?”
“Goodbye, Michael,” Jan says sharply, and storms out of the office.
He reaches up and takes his cowboy hat off. Stares at it for a moment, contemplating.
“She’s not serious,” he concludes to the empty room.
“I don’t know why I bother,” Jan informs the camera as she speeds furiously past it, and it’s almost like she’s talking to herself. “I don’t.”
She’s got a cigarette in her hand before she reaches the elevator.
“So, um, interesting Halloween,” Pam says, smiling a little as she stares into the camera. “Was it better than last year’s?” She pauses thoughtfully. “You know, I’m not sure. My first thought is that nothing could possibly beat the whole Brokeback Mountain thing, plus Garfield Kevin, but . . . I dunno. Last year was pretty okay. Even with the firing, and . . . um, well, everything that happened. Things just feel different around here lately.” She bites her lower lip. “Don’t you think?”
Ryan’s standing alone in the men’s room, staring at himself in the mirror. He really wants to take the fake moustache off, but for some reason, the only thing he can bring himself to do is stare. God, he looks . . . he doesn’t even know if there’s a word for it.
“Ryan Howard,” he mumbles dully, “this is your life.”
Because that’s not depressing or anything.
According to Phyllis, Kelly’s sobbing in the ladies’ room right now. He guesses he should go try to comfort her or something, but he’s not very good at comforting. She’ll forget about it in about three hours, probably. By tonight, she’ll call him to say sorry and then wind up rambling about TomKat (the idea that he knows what TomKat is kind of makes him want to kill himself) for like four hours. So it’s not like there’s really any point in trying to be a good boyfriend or whatever.
Besides, he’s not allowed in the ladies’ room. Which is reason enough for him.
The door swings open, and he looks over to see Michael walking in.
He knows he should get the hell out of here, but can’t quite muster up the energy to. It’s as bad a sign as bad signs can possibly get, that he doesn’t even have the will power to escape Michael Scott anymore.
Michael doesn’t go into one of the stalls. Instead, he stops in front of the sink next to Ryan’s and stares at himself, too.
After a minute he says, “Did you know they had wives?”
“What?” Ryan asks.
“Heath and Jake,” Michael says, and he sounds kind of toneless and defeated. It’s a little comforting. “In the movie. Did you know they had wives?”
Ryan blinks. “Oh. Uh, yeah.”
Michael glances at him in the mirror. “You saw it?”
“Kelly had me watch it with her,” Ryan replies. “Four times.”
Michael lets out a low whistle. “Wow.”
“Yeah,” Ryan agrees.
It’s quiet for a minute. Ryan doesn’t really mind.
“Carol and I watched Harold and Kumar Go to White Castle,” Michael finally says. “She didn’t seem that into it.”
“Huh,” Ryan says.
It’s quiet again. Michael reaches over and fidgets absently with the knob on the sink, turns the water on and off a few times, just barely.
“I miss Jan sometimes,” he says, staring down at the sink.
“I don’t think she’d like Harold and Kumar Go to White Castle either,” Ryan points out. It’s all he can think of to say.
Michael looks up and meets his eyes in the mirror. “You think she still wants me?”
Ryan really doesn’t know what to say to that.
“Yeah,” Michael says quietly after a minute. “Me either.”
Ryan knows he shouldn’t feel bad for him. The guy’s pretty much a psychopath, and he makes Ryan’s life hell on a day-to-day basis. And right now, they’re standing next to each other looking at themselves in the bathroom mirror, and they’re supposed to be gay cowboy lovers. He’s wearing a fake moustache. It’s the most effort he’s ever bothered to put into a Halloween costume.
Ryan Howard, this is your life.
“I wish,” Ryan says, a little hesitantly, “I knew how to quit.”
“You,” Michael adds helpfully.
Ryan’s quiet for a long time.
“Right,” he finally says. “That’s what I meant.”