homecoming and other horror stories
Character/Pairing: Ryan, with some hints at Ryan/Kelly and . . . Ryan/Michael?
Spoilers: through "The Job," as well as very slight ones for the NBC Summer Vacation promo
Word Count: 1,540
Summary: Ryan's return to the Scranton branch doesn't go exactly as planned, which he probably should've seen coming.
Author's Note: Oh, the season three Office DVDs fully reignited my love of Ryan. And torturing him. Also, everyone should love Flight of the Conchords. If this intrigues you in the slightest, do yourself a favor and go look them up on YouTube. Oh, the love and glory!
Ryan's return to the Scranton branch doesn't go exactly as planned, which he probably should've seen coming.
"Y'know, Jan used to have your job," Michael reflects, eyeing him happily from across the desk.
This can go nowhere good.
"I know," Ryan finally says.
"But now she's my live-in girlfriend," Michael continues. "Soooo, there's an opening for the position of sexy-boss Jan. You interested?"
"You know what," Ryan says, because he'd resolved beforehand not to take any of Michael's bullshit anymore, "I'm your boss. So let's get to wo—"
"Question!" Michael interjects, his hand shooting into the air.
Dread creeps through him, but Ryan tries to convince himself that it could be work-related. "What?"
"What's up with the stubble?"
"Uh," Ryan says.
"I like it," Michael decides, staring at him way too intently. "It looks good, my friend. Looks goooooood."
"Thanks," Ryan says shortly. "Let's—"
"Not in a gay way, just in a hey-man-I-wanted-to-say-that-you're-looking-okay way!" Michael says – no, make that 'sings.' Michael is definitely singing. Already. "Why can't a heterosexual guy tell a heterosexual guy that he thinks his booty is fly?"
"Um," Ryan says. "Okay. Wow."
"Flight of the Conchords," Michael supplies, grinning broadly. "Hilarious."
"Yeah, I . . ." The idea that he's got the same taste as Michael in, like, anything is beyond depressing, but maybe it'll get him to shut up. "—like that show."
"Suh-weeeet!" Michael exclaims, then immediately drops his voice down lower and leans forward on his elbows confidentially. "Do you get it?" he asks in a curious whisper. "I don't really get it. Those guys are lame."
"I . . . think that's the joke," Ryan replies awkwardly. If he didn't know better, he'd think Michael was kidding. But he does know better. He knows better so much.
"How is that funny?" Michael asks blankly, and frowns.
"Uh," Ryan says.
"But that one where they were robots? Oh, man." Michael instantly perks up again, and falls into the robo-voice that Ryan knows and despises. "Come on, sucker, lick my battery!"
"Hey," Ryan interjects forcefully, before Michael can start in on the binary solo, "Let's talk about work."
"Work work work, blah blah blah," Michael whines, making a face. "Dude, Ryan. Get your stick out of my mud."
"Oh," Ryan says. It's all he can say, considering. "No."
"Fine fine fine," Michael says, surrendering with a sigh. "Lay it on me, sexy-boss Jan 2.0."
Ryan sighs, and can't help but shoot a despairing glance at the camera.
Old habits die hard.
When he comes out of Michael's office, he doesn't even have enough strength to make it out of the building without a cup of coffee. A lobotomy would also be good. Turns out, he can only get the former here – although, okay, he's sure Dwight wouldn't let the opportunity pass by if he asked for the latter – and even though the coffee's always crappy here, it sounds so good right now that it's depressing.
He's halfway through pouring himself a cup when the kitchen door swings open and a very familiar voice humming that Rehab song fills his ears.
He looks up, and there she is.
She looks the same. Pretty. Bright top, pencil skirt, impractical shoes he recognizes from one of the last times she'd dragged him along to the mall. Her hair's a little different, like she just got it trimmed. The fact that he can even tell is weird.
"Oh," Kelly says, light surprise in her voice. "Hey, Ryan."
"Hi, Kelly," he answers, and waits for her to cry. Scream. Throw small objects. Throw big objects. Impale him on her favourite nail file. Push the fridge over on top of him.
Instead, she smiles.
It kind of feels like having a fridge pushed on top of you.
"How's the whole new job going?" she asks pleasantly.
"Um," he says, and wonders whether he passed out when Michael tried to serenade him with Business Time and this is all just a weird, weird dream. "Really great."
"That's good," she says, and reaches over to rest a hand briefly on his arm. Her fingernails are bright orange and sparkly. Her hands feel the same. "I'm so happy for you!"
"Uh," he says, and tries not to notice the way it feels when she pulls her hand away. "Thanks." And maybe it's a stupid move, but he can't resist asking, "How are you?"
Cue the mayhem.
"Oh, totally awesome," she responds brightly.
And that's it.
He waits for a couple of extra seconds, just in case she had to take a breath or something and that's why she isn't telling him about her new computer screensaver and the funniest thing her friend Jill said last Tuesday and seriously, what is up with Britney? It's so, so sad. Her poor babies. And hair.
But she doesn't say that. Any of it. Totally awesome. That's just . . . all.
"Good to hear," he finally replies lamely. "So—"
"Hey, I'd totally love to catch up and everything, but I gotta get back to my desk," Kelly cuts in. "Work to do!"
She'd said the same thing once when Meredith had had a little too much of her Big Gulp one morning and wound up reeling off a list of every one night stand she'd ever had. 'Work to do!' is Kellyspeak for 'You're boring and I don't want to waste my time talking to you.'
"Oh, okay," Ryan says, trying to seem like he doesn't know her well enough to have figured this out. "See you."
"Later!" He watches as the door swings shut behind her.
The half-poured cup of coffee gets forgotten on the kitchen counter.
"Hey, Pam?" Ryan asks casually as he grabs his coat. He doesn't even really get why he brought it in the first place, since June's not exactly coat weather or anything. It had just seemed like the right move leaving New York this morning: bosses wore daunting black trenchcoats, end of story.
And in retrospect? Well, that's not lame or anything.
"Yeah?" Pam looks up from her computer.
"Did Kelly seem, like . . . sad when I left at all?" He's careful to be really, really interested in the coat rack as he asks.
"No, actually," Pam says, her voice softening a little. "I was really surprised. She always . . . ya know, liked you. A lot."
"Yeah," Ryan replies, trying to sound like he doesn't care one way or the other. "Yeah, that is weird."
"Good-weird, though," Pam adds. "I'm glad she's doing so well."
"Oh, yeah," Ryan agrees, maybe a little too emphatically. "Me too. Definitely."
As he puts on his coat, feeling sort of stupid to be doing it, he glances across the room. Kelly's chattering merrily away to Jim over by the watercooler. It's like she feels his eyes, or something, because she looks up. She just gives him a bright smile and a tiny wave, though, and goes right back to Jim. By the time he raises his hand to wave back, she's not even looking at him anymore.
No big deal.
"All right," Ryan says to Pam. "See ya."
"Bye, Ryan," Pam says. He ignores the note of pity in her voice.
Jan's in the parking lot, a cigarette in one hand and an actual Yogi Bear-style picnic basket in the other.
Oh, this is the last thing he needs.
"Jan," he says, a little warily. Maybe she'll push a fridge on him.
"Ryan," she returns, a little coolly. "Here for work?"
"Yeah," he answers. He's actually incapable of coming up with any more than that.
"Ah," she says vaguely. "That's nice."
He can't quite bring himself to agree there.
She brushes past him, sort of stabbing him in the side with the picnic basket, and she's walked another five steps or so when he caves.
She freezes, but doesn't turn around.
"How did you do it?" he asks, trying not to sound desperate and probably failing impressively. "How did you . . .?"
Survive? At all? is what he wants to ask, but it's too much like admitting defeat.
She finally glances back at him.
"I'm probably not the best person to ask," she answers dryly, and waves the hand with the cigarette as evidence.
"Good point," he realizes aloud. Jan scowls at him and then continues on inside. He should be walking to his car, but he's not so sure he can move right now. Back when he'd first started, he'd always found Jan pretty impressive – totally capable of withstanding the madness without letting any of it rub off on her.
He doesn't think he'll be making out with Michael in the Chili's parking lot anytime soon, but seriously – who knows?
"How was it?" he repeats incredulously. He's finally back in New York, in his office, in his element, and now, of course, the documentary crew wants to mentally drag him right back to the hellhole that is Scranton.
The camera guy stares earnestly back at him.
"You know what?" Ryan says. "Fuck you."
On the plus side, he'll get to be bleeped now. Which is . . . cool, he guesses.
On the minus side, everything else.