Pairing/Characters: Dwight/Angela, with some Jim, Pam, and Creed for good measure. And also Mose.
Word Count: 3,543
Spoilers: Spans from pre-series to "Performance Review"
Summary: The Jedi must not know love. Volunteer sheriff's deputies should be no different. Dwight fights his tumultuous attraction to a certain head accountant.
Author's Note: I am relatively sure I will never feel fully sane again after writing this. What a way to kick off 2007.
Dwight hates Angela.
She refuses to acknowledge the authority of his position as Assistant Regional Manager (and, on the weekends, Volunteer Sheriff's Deputy) and he quite simply won’t stand for it. Her position as head accountant appears to have filled her with the misguided notion that she exercises some kind of power around the office.
She does not.
On 2:59 on December 23, 2004, he is in the middle of an important sales call. Her eyes are narrow slits from where she watches him in the conference room doorway, tiny arms folded across her chest in order to communicate her unadulterated disdain. Dwight is excellent at deciphering body language.
When he defiantly meets her gaze, she gives a jerky, irritated nod toward the clock.
He ignores her, instead choosing to illustrate his own mastery of body language by turning away entirely. It roughly translates to ‘I refuse to respect your highly questionable authority, tiny and subordinate woman’ – or, in less formal terms, ‘screw you.’ The wheels of his chair squeak in subtle rebellion, and he hopes she’s listening.
“Now, Mr. Cohen,” he says smoothly, “I understand why at first Staples may seem the superior option, but if you’ll just listen to a few simple statistics, I’m confident you’ll realize that Dunder Mifflin is actually—”
He hears a click, and turns to see Angela’s pointer finger pressing firmly against the button where the phone normally rests. Her fingernail glints maliciously in the glow of the fluorescent lights. Clear polish, he thinks, and sneers.
“It’s time for the party,” she says firmly, her mouth a thin line but her eyes alight with something like victory. Dwight won’t be vanquished so easily. He stands, towering over her. She will acknowledge his authority. She has no choice.
But she doesn’t waver. Standing there (closer than he’s been to a woman since cousin Helga last visited), she smells of soap and gingerbread. She is unflinching, almost glorious, as she reprimands him silently. The air feels hot around them. Jim and Pam are whispering laughingly at the reception desk, but their unprofessional conduct belongs to another world.
And then, quite abruptly, Angela turns.
He watches her blonde hair swish faintly, mockingly, as she walks away. Loathing bubbles inside him, white-hot and untamed.
“But seriously, Dwight,” Jim says, and shoves a plastic forkful of Cup Noodles into his mouth like the undignified swine he is. “No one likes beets.”
“I don’t believe you,” Dwight retorts coldly. Jim is a liar and a fiend and Dwight wishes Michael would pay attention to at least one of his formal requests that Jim be moved to the empty desk in the back. He’s made twenty seven this year. It’s only a matter of time.
“Well, you should,” Jim informs him. “Because it’s true.”
“Beets,” Dwight says, not without a touch of reverence (it’s inevitable, when the fact has been ingrained into one’s mind since childhood; nourished by long, sweet hours sowing beet seeds under the merciless sun – oh, life had been simple then), “are healthy and delicious.”
“Beets are pretty gross,” Jim counters.
Dwight narrows his eyes. “I refuse to accept that.”
“Pam,” Jim says, “back me up here.”
“They are pretty bad,” Pam says matter-of-factly, and takes a bite of her carrot stick. (As if carrots are so special.)
Pfft. It’s not as though Dwight is stupid enough to listen to Jim’s accomplice.
“Pam’s opinion means nothing to me,” he tells Jim shortly. “You’ve had her brainwashed for years.”
“That’s true,” Jim acknowledges, and raises his eyebrows at Pam. Pam giggles, and as they gaze at each other, the carrot stick is slowly lowered to the table, forgotten.
“Have one other person in this office tell me that they don’t like beets,” Dwight challenges ferociously. He’ll triumph yet.
“Guys,” Jim says, and everyone in the kitchen turns to look at him. “Raise your hand if you like beets.”
Dwight waits for a legion of hands to fly into the air, silencing Jim’s smug, idiotic notions once and for all.
Finally, after seven excruciating seconds have passed, Creed waves a vaguely amiable hand.
“I’ve eaten worse,” he says blithely, by way of explanation.
Pam hides her laughter behind her hand, as though she thinks Dwight won’t be able to see it that way. She’s an idiot. Schrutes are known for their exceptional powers of observation. For example, he knows that Kelly is grabbing her lunch from the refrigerator at this very moment, although he’s not even facing in her direction. He can hear the paper bag crinkling.
Jim turns back to look at Dwight smugly. “See?”
Dwight finds that he doesn’t know what to say. He’s sick of Jim’s attitude. Pam isn’t even holding her hand in front of her mouth anymore – she’s just laughing, and Jim’s face is breaking out into one of those stupid smiles, and he loathes Jim, loathes him more than anything else in the whole world. Jim is the Lord Voldemort to Dwight’s Harry Potter. But at least in Harry’s case, everyone acknowledges that the Dark Lord is evil, and doesn’t think he’s cool just because he can put calculators in Jell-o and make derogatory comments about beets.
“Jim,” Dwight says fiercely, and he can tell that Jim is trying to keep a straight face.
“Yeah, Dwight?” Jim responds innocently.
Dwight’s mouth opens and closes wordlessly. Endless waves of insults crash over him, but he finds that he can’t pick just one, that he’s too furious to shape them into words. This time, Jim’s gone too far. He’s insulted the very foundation of Dwight’s existence. Dwight knows he must defend the honor of his family, of the work they do, but he doesn’t know how to communicate it to Jim in a way that will put him into his place. Maybe, he realizes with a horrible sinking feeling, it’s impossible.
Maybe Jim is destined to win.
Maybe He Who Must Not Be Named will taste the ecstasy of triumph.
And then, quite suddenly, an unanticipated, even-toned voice breaks the miserable silence of the kitchen.
“Beets are acceptable.”
Dwight turns to see Angela standing next to the sink, bobbing a teabag into and out of a pristine white mug with admirable precision. She doesn’t turn to face him, and he’s almost relieved. Dwight Schrute is a lone warrior. He doesn’t know how to express his gratitude to an ally. So he just watches her for a moment out of the well-honed corner of his eye. From this angle, she almost looks like Starbuck.
It’s the morning after the 2005 Dundie Awards, and Dwight needs to have a word with Angela.
He spots her walking into the building just as he’s climbing out of his car. Making use of his exceptional physical proficiency, he runs after her. He reaches the elevator just as the doors are closing, and stops them in their stead with one determined hand. He’s a little out of breath, and the sight of Angela, with her hair pulled away from her face but loose around her shoulders, is strangely compelling. Mose had still been sleeping when he’d left the farm – he’d been up ‘til dawn immersed in some new whittling project – and Dwight had spent the morning alone. She is the first person he’s seen up close today. For an instant, the realization stirs something in him—
But this is business, and he has no time for anything else.
“Angela,” he says brusquely, “I need to have a word with you.”
“Fine,” she agrees coolly.
He steps into the elevator, and the doors press closed, leaving them alone together in this confined space. Angela stands a careful twelve inches away from him. For a split-second, he imagines closing that distance, allowing their arms to brush together.
He has a duty to be performed. He will not allow himself to be swallowed whole by the unrelenting forces of passion. He forces himself to consider what happened to Anakin.
“What?” Angela prompts impatiently.
“The Dundies are the most important annual event this company partakes in,” Dwight says, forcing his voice to remain steady and admonitory. “Refusing to accept your award was, to put it simply, intolerable conduct.”
“It was profane,” Angela reminds him waspishly, then adds under her breath, “Not that I was surprised.”
Her conviction is intoxicating.
“Be that as it may,” Dwight says, and takes a steadying breath, “Michael devotes an incredible amount of time and energy to—”
“I refuse to compromise my personal values to indulge Michael’s inappropriate behaviour,” Angela interjects, pursing her lips.
“Angela,” he says, and her name is thrilling on his tongue. “I’m telling you this as an ally.”
He doesn’t know precisely what he’s doing as he reaches over and cups her tiny shoulder in his palm. It feels like an electric shock, and he pulls away before she can inflict bodily harm upon him.
“I’m sorry.” The words fly abruptly from his mouth.
He feels her gaze on him, scrutinizing, indecipherable. He doesn’t dare look up. Finally, she answers (sphinxlike, divine).
When the elevator stops and the doors open, she brushes past him, a whirlwind of beige and perfect disapproval. He finds himself frozen here.
You are in my very soul, tormenting me, he thinks, and reminds himself that the Jedi must not know love. Volunteer sheriff's deputies should be no different.
Everything is different. For all he knows, Dunder Mifflin could fall into ruins after what went on last night.
“Well?” Angela says, standing as soon as he strides into the kitchen.
“He won’t confess,” Dwight announces, and slams a frustrated fist against the counter. “Not any of it. But I know it,” he confides to the collection of unwashed spoons and forks resting, docile, on the counter. “I know it. There’s no other explanation. They screwed.”
“Dwight!” Angela barks, disapproval illuminating her tone.
Normally, he would yield to her demand for propriety. But these are dire circumstances. He has no time to play the gentleman. Michael has fallen into Jan’s clutches, bewitched by her feminine wiles – and worse than that, he won’t even tell Dwight about it. Dwight remembers the time a few years ago when Michael had gone out to Poor Richard’s and met a hot brunette whom he’d given a ride home to after she’d gotten kicked out of the bar. They’d made out on her couch for hours, until she passed out, and the next morning, Michael had told him everything. Three times.
“This is no time for prudence, woman,” he informs her in a low growl, and turns to face her. Angela is watching him with mingling offense and fascination. “Sex in the workplace is fatal. The pressure is on now. If Michael doesn’t meet her every erotic need, all of us could very well be out on the streets in a matter of days.”
“Days,” Angela repeats, and her face and voice are grimly disgusted.
“Days,” Dwight confirms darkly.
They stare at one another for a moment, caught in the scandal of it all – they’re the only ones who know, and containing such an explosive secret may very well be more than either of them can bear. Although he’ll never admit it, not even in the face of Chinese water torture, Dwight is thankful that she had been standing in the parking lot this morning, her shrewd gaze catching every detail as Jan got out of that cab. He’s a solitary man (except when Michael needs him), but he’s glad he doesn’t have to endure this on his own.
Angela sinks down into a chair, overcome. “I don’t understand how this could have happened in the first place,” she says, resting her head in her hand. “Jan has always seemed far too intelligent to get caught up in anything so reckless. Besides, she can’t stand Michael.”
Dwight laughs darkly. “Please! Michael is irresistible to all women. It’s a well-known fact.”
Angela looks up to glower at him. “I don’t believe that.”
“Well, believe it, sister,” he says, and takes a few steps toward her. “Because it’s true.”
“I could certainly resist him,” she sniffs.
“You could resist anyone,” Dwight points out. It feels dangerous to say it – but then again, these are dangerous times.
“Yes,” she agrees, with all the disdainful regality of a fifteenth century monarch. Overwhelmed by senseless passion, Dwight decides that maybe she’s hotter than Starbuck.
And then she’s kissing him. She tastes of forbidden things – chamomile tea and the granola she sprinkles over her yogurt every day. They aren’t really forbidden, exactly, but she makes them that way, her mouth moving against his in a way that he suspects might be classified as indecent. He hasn’t had enough experience to know for sure. Her hand snakes around his tie and pulls down hard, so she doesn’t have to stand on tiptoe. His neck hurts, but this is no matter – Schrutes are able to withstand uncommon levels of pain with little to no discomfort. He encircles her waist with his arms, pulling her closer. She’s so petite. Like a hobbit, he thinks dimly. His heartbeat is so loud in his ears that he thinks either his eardrums or his heart are bound to explode any second now. Or, he decides as her tongue flicks, for just an instant, against his upper lip, maybe he’ll just explode. All of him. Boom.
He has to keep it together. Angela will doubtlessly be in the line of fire if he spontaneously combusts, and Dwight isn’t in the habit of putting his ladyloves in mortal peril.
The kitchen door swings open, and Angela pushes him away with disorienting strength. Dwight stumbles against the table.
“It’s about time,” Creed says as he walks in, and chuckles. “We’ve all been wondering for years when you two crazy kids would finally sort things out.”
Dwight doesn’t know what to say. In fact, he’s relatively certain that he’ll never talk again. But then Angela clears her throat, prompting him to rectify the situation, and he comes to her rescue at once.
“Don’t tell anyone what you’ve seen here today,” Dwight snarls, standing at his full height and glaring menacingly at Creed. “You hear me, old man?? Don’t tell anyone.”
“Tell ‘em what?” Creed asks, shrugging, and opens the refrigerator.
“Never again,” Angela says under her breath as she strides past his desk at exactly five o’clock that afternoon. She doesn’t as much as pause.
He watches her go.
“There are other girls out there,” Mose says that night as they sit at the kitchen table, and pats him on the shoulder.
Dwight doesn’t say anything. He understands exactly how Anakin felt at the end of Episode III, and wonders how he would look in a black cape and matching helmet. He takes a third desolate swig of Uncle’s secret supply of moonshine. He’ll have hell to pay if Uncle finds out; as a rule, the moonshine is only to be taken out on major holidays, and only consumed by him. Dwight doesn’t care. What has he got to lose?
“Darth Dwight,” he mumbles, and likes the sound of it.
“Maybe you should have some water instead,” Mose suggests tentatively.
“Insolent human,” Dwight croaks, and extends his hand at Mose, slowly curling his fingers into a malevolent fist.
Mose doesn’t choke to death, though; just stares sympathetically at him and says, “I’ll get you water now.”
“Whatever,” Dwight grumbles, and hums ‘Losing My Religion’ as he lets his head fall to the table.
“Kelly and I have a thing,” Dwight tells Angela the next day, not looking at her as she comes into the breakroom. He’s spent the past four days charting out the best course of action, finally reaching this conclusion. Granted, it’s an unspoken connection that he shares with Kelly – but he did save her from being engulfed by flames that one time, and occasionally their eyes will meet and he knows she feels it too. Like Mulder and Scully. Only even more unspoken. Which just makes it better.
If Angela just so happens to find herself overwhelmed with jealousy – well, that’s not Dwight’s problem.
He waits expectantly.
“Oh,” Angela says simply, and walks out of the break room. He watches her go with something like longing, envying the unspent quarters clenched firmly in her hand.
“What do you want from me?” he mutters two days later, catching up with her as she steps out into the parking lot.
“You’re not the kind of man I envision myself ending up with,” Angela responds with maddening calm. “That’s all.”
“Oh, yeah?” Dwight spits, glaring. “Well, who is? Jim??”
“Certainly not,” Angela responds waspishly, clearly insulted at the notion. She’s quiet for a moment, then says, her voice uncommonly soft, “Harry Connick Jr.”
Dwight doesn’t know who that is, but he’s pretty sure that he doesn’t run a Pennsylvanian beetfarm. “Well, you’re no Starbuck, either.”
“What on earth are you talking about?” Angela demands, frowning.
“Forget it,” Dwight scowls, “We’re through.”
Angela walks all the way to her car without looking back at him once.
Dwight does a Google image search for Harry Connick, Jr. As it turns out, his hair is stupid and he stares smilingly into the distance far too often. Dwight thinks of explaining to Angela that baring one’s teeth is a sign of weakness in primates, but reaches the depressing conclusion that she probably wouldn’t even care.
Watching Stargate SG-1 reruns that night, he sees an infomercial for the new and reasonably priced fitness orb. Dwight refuses to wear his hair in that dumb style or stare smilingly into the distance, but he supposes he can tone his physique until all women find him irresistible, like Michael.
“Just try to resist me then, Angela Martin,” Dwight mutters, a smile curling at the corners of his mouth.
“What?” Mose asks from where he sits in Grandmother Schrute’s old rocking chair.
“Nothing,” Dwight says, and commits the 1-800 number to memory with awe-inspiring speed.
When he’s getting ready to go home on the day of performance reviews, Dwight realizes that he left his stereo in the stairwell. Cursing the Vance Refrigeration scumbags who have undoubtedly stolen it by now, he rushes back to reclaim what is his – he’s ready for a fight if it comes to that – but all he finds is a petite blonde sitting on the top stair. Her shoulders are shaking.
“Angela?” he ventures timidly.
She doesn’t say anything, but she whimpers a little bit and Dwight feels a surge of bewilderment. The notion of Angela crying has never occurred to him before. It’s almost as disorienting as the end of the re-released version of Return of the Jedi, with Hayden Christensen standing there with Obi-Wan and Yoda instead of Sebastian Shaw.
“I’ve been looking forward to this for weeks,” she says, her voice thick with emotion. “And he’s so unprofessional that he completely brushed all us aside just so he can spend time with Jan. Who clearly sees that she’s made a huge mistake where he’s concerned.”
“It’s denial,” Dwight informs her. She’s so naïve. It’s almost endearing. “She’s fighting her attraction to him.”
Angela doesn’t say anything, just sniffles. Dwight isn’t sure what the correct code of conduct is in such a situation – he seldom deals with weeping women. The females in the Schrute clan have developed nonfunctioning tear ducts over the years: a Darwinian response to their emotional stability. Or at least, that’s what Grandmother Schrute used to say. Dwight has never felt compelled to doubt it – he’s never seen Helga cry. Just Mose. (Artists, he has come to understand, are different. Sensitive.)
After a moment, Dwight timidly sits down on the stair next to her. He’s careful to keep a good twelve inches of space between them.
Angela glances over at him for a moment, then fishes a tissue from her purse and dabs impatiently at the corners of her eyes.
“This place is ridiculous,” she proclaims angrily. “I’m clearly wasting my abilities here. Sometimes I don’t even know why I bother staying.” She sniffles again, and violently yanks out another tissue. “Oscar and Kevin would be completely lost without me, but they don’t even take the time to be thankful because they think I’m mean to them. No one around here appreciates Christian charity.”
“I appreciate it,” Dwight says, and wonders if kissing him in the kitchen, almost with tongue, counts as Christian charity.
Angela looks over at him, and this time, she doesn’t immediately rip her gaze from his. After a moment she says, her voice softened by what he doesn’t dare hope might be respect, “You’re the only good thing about this company. It would crumble to its knees without you, Dwight.”
For the first time, he fleetingly contemplates the idea that she might be better – not just hotter, but better – than Starbuck. It’s unsettling.
“I appreciate that,” he says quietly, and after a moment, he works up the courage to reach over and pat her hand.
She looks up at him, her eyes bright from crying. After a moment, the most minuscule of smiles prompts the left corner of her mouth slightly upward.
That night, she takes him home and introduces him to her cats.