One year ago today, I officially began my life as low-rated Office fanfiction writer. To commemorate that momentous occasion, I decided to write a very special story... then I got bored, forgot about it til the last minute, then just threw together something that I was fairly certain was total crap.

Which is, of course, what I've been doing all year.

The Jim Halpert Guide to Writing and Public Speaking

Although the blinds were drawn and the door shut, Ryan had no doubt that everyone in the branch knew exactly what was being said in Michael's office.

It hadn't been that long since his promotion.

"Michael, it's nothing personal," Ryan assured his former boss.

"I can't believe I eventually chose this company over the woman I love," Michael nearly sobbed.

"That's not what this is about," Ryan replied in a tone he hoped was convincing.

Michael thrust his head into his arms. "Your brushing my (edit) with your teeth."

Ryan turned an awkward eye to the camera.

----

Ryan: Ever since the law suit, the Board's been keeping a closer eye on Michael.

Ryan nods.

Ryan: Probably they would have before, but... it looks like Jan spent a lot of her time making sure they didn't find out anything about him.

Pause.

Ryan: A lot of them actually thought Ed Truck was still in charge...

----

"Look, Michael, it's not just a question of loyalty," Ryan began, trying to keep his tone as soothing as possible. "Your books are off, Utica is eating you alive..."

"This isn't a competition, is it?" Michael whined. "We're all on the same team! We're all on the Dunder Mifflin Team!"

"Michael..." Ryan sighed, "you know this company isn't on solid footing. Since the merger..."

"You know, I don't think it's fair that I should have to compete with Karen," Michael pouted. "Have you seen her ass?"

"That's immaterial," Ryan replied firmly.

"Michael," Dwight hissed, as he inserted himself between them. "I need your help."

"Oh God, Dwight, not now!" Michael spat with bitter hatred. He then turned back to Ryan to offer another brilliant, well-thought out point. "I don't think I can compete with Karen's ass in an open marketplace and don't think I should be asked to."

Ryan was likewise more than happy to ignore Dwight and press on to his next point. "And then there was that 'smell the glove' advertising campaign you launched..."

"First off, all I did was send out a proposal," Michael shot back. "And two, no one was forcing her to smell that glove. It was her decision."

Though dejected, Dwight turned on his heels and began walking in the other direction. Impossible though it seemed, there actually might be someone in the office who could help him more than Michael this time.

----

Jim: I'm not that worried about the branch.

He shakes his head.

Jim: After my last trip to Utica, Karen gave me a standing offer for a job making three times as much money with much better benefits.

Pause.

Jim: Then she took out a restraining order making it illegal for me to get within three hundred feet of her.

Pause.

Jim: I think her exact words were "go ahead, Halpert. Take a chance."

----

It wasn't even lunch time yet and already Oscar could tell he was going to end up spending the night there.

No matter how many times he went over them, the numbers simply would not balance. Worse still, the pile of papers he had to sort through, which had been large enough to house the faith traditions of seven or eight major world religions, had somehow discovered a way to reproduce asexually and had only increased since he'd sat down to work on it.

And then, in the middle of his well-deserved sigh of exasperation, the bottom dropped out of his day.

"Oscar," Dwight whispered urgently, "I need to speak to you immediately."

"Dwight," Oscar replied, every syllable going miles to express how truly world-weary he was, "if I can't find a way to balance these numbers everyone in this branch is going to lose their job."

"This is more important," Dwight insisted, thrusting his hand over Oscar's stack of papers to prove his point. Oscar considered trying to work around the hand, but he was fairly certain Dwight would retaliate by sitting on them, and he was understandably hesitant about handling something that had been under Dwight's ass.

"What's up?" Oscar asked reluctantly.

Dwight looked around the office to make sure no one was looking, then shoved his face uncomfortably close to Oscar's. "When did you realize," he whispered, "that you were a homosexualist?"

And instantly it became one of the many moments in the office when Oscar decided not to speak.

----

Michael: I have been asked to appear before the entire Board to justify my leadership of the Branch.

He nods.

Michael: It's really a great honor, like when Stephen Colbert M.C.'d the Friars Club Roast of President Bush.

Pause.

Michael: Except that if they don't like me, twenty people will be unemployed.

-----

"Do you know what we need to do?" Michael asked.

"Increase sales and balance the books?" Jim inquired.

Michael brushed him as though he were an idiot. "We need to go down to there and give a amazing speech that will turn Ryan back from the Dark Side and save this branch, just like that guy in that movie."

"It's a Wonderful Life?" Jim offered.

"No, that's not it," Michael shook his head.

"Gung Ho?" Jim asked.

"Exactly!" Michael replied brightly. "We need to give a speech like Michael Douglas gave to all those Japanese guys in Gung Ho and save this company."

"So, basically what you did last time you thought the branch was closing," Jim pointed out.

"It worked then, didn't it?" Michael asked smugly.

"Well, actually..."

"That's what you do with quality material, Jimkana, you repeat it over and over again," Michael explained. "Otherwise there would have been no 'make Seven Up yours,' 'Homie don't play that,' or 'that's what she said.' Do you want to live in a world like that?"

Jim raised an eyebrow. "Honestly?"

"What we have to worry about now is writing the speech," Michael said with chilling certainty.

It was then that Jim realized how intensely Michael was staring at him. "You know who would be great for this..." he began weakly.

Michael shook his head resolutely. "He's on another project."

----

"Dwight," Oscar began, "are you saying you think..."

"Of course not," Dwight replied with a scoff that came just a little too forced and too fast. Then, after a moment added, "it's just..."

"Yes?" Oscar prodded.

Dwight scanned the room again, presumably in case someone had just appeared out of the ether. "You probably weren't aware, but I just ended a relationship with someone."

"Uh-huh," Oscar nodded.

"Since then, I've been thinking about what could have caused such a perfect union to fail," Dwight continued, "and I have to examine every possibility... no matter how remote," he explained. "I'm a scientist."

"No, you're not."

"I'm like a scientist," he countered weakly.

"No," Oscar shook his head.

Dwight lowered his eyes in defeat...

...Then drew them back up with resolve. "I need to prove conclusively that I'm not a homo," he declared. "And you are the only who can help me."

"Why?" Oscar asked (reasonably).

Dwight took a few moments to blink at Oscar like he had two heads and they both liked Babylon 5 better than Star Trek. "You're the only homo in Scranton," he answered as though it should be obvious.

Why was it always on days like this Oscar forgot his tape recorder?

-----

Oscar: Dwight wanted me to prove beyond a doubt that he isn't gay.

Pause.

Oscar: I only know a few ways to do that, and I'm not trying any of them on Dwight.

----

Jim was in the middle of giving his computer a good, hard stare down; hoping to intimidate some ideas out of it, when Kelly sat down next to him.

"Hey, Jim," she said softly.

"Hi," Jim replied in a tone that hopefully conveyed how truly full his plate was, and how little time he had to spare making conversation, though as politely as possible.

"I know you're writing that speech for Michael and you're really busy, so I'm just going to sit here and not talk. Okay?" she assured him.

Jim somehow was less than assured. "Okay."

But, true to her word, Kelly sat there completely silent and still.

For about three seconds.

"So, you're going to be funny, right?" she asked urgently. "Like you used to be?"

"Um..."

"Because, when you started here you were sooooo funny and everyone loved working with you so much," Kelly enthused. "Why aren't you funny like that any more?"

To which Jim could only shrug.

"You should definitely be more funny," Kelly nodded.

At which point, Phyllis spun her chair around to offer her advice on the subject.

"Remember," she reminded him gently, "proper spelling and grammar will always earn you a few points."

"Michael is going to be reading this," Jim reminded her.

Phyllis thought about this for a moment.

"Better spell everything out phonetically," she decided.

----

"Dwight, have you ever even been attracted to another man?" Oscar asked. They'd moved their discussion to the relative privacy of the break-room to spare any possible embarrassment.

To Oscar, of course, not Dwight, as that would be impossible.

After several moments of struggling over whether or not he should speak like a child who just wet himself, Dwight finally mustered up the courage to ask "does Hellboy count?"

"No," Oscar answered decisively.

Then, after a moment's thought, he added "neither does Michael."

"Please," Dwight scoffed, "everyone has those thoughts about Michael."

----

Oscar: It's not that I don't support Dwight or want him to be happy in his life. It's just...

Pause.

Oscar: I feel that if Dwight gets to be gay, it will literally destroy homosexuality forever.

----

"You know," Creed recalled, "back when I was onstage with the 'Roots, I used to picture the audience in their underwear."

"Yeah, that's really helpful," Jim said amicably.

"Yeah," Creed agreed.

"I'm not actually giving the speech, though," Jim pointed up. "I'm just writing it."

Creed took a moment to look completely perplexed. "What speech?"

Jim promptly turned to the camera and gave a very lost jim.

----

"Hey, Tuna."

"Hi, Andy," Jim sighed.

"I know you're busy saving the company," Andy began, swaggering with feigned machismo, "but I just got that Hanna Montana sex tape and..."

"Okay, that's upsetting," Jim said with dry terror.

"And I didn't want to watch it alone," Andy continued. "I was thinking maybe after work you and me can fire up the VHS, crack a few Old Milwaukees, and have a traditional 'Cornell Mixer'."

"And it just gets worse," Jim muttered.

-----

"No, Dwight," Oscar said, getting progressively more frustrated, "spending a night in the bushes outside Stan Lee's house does not make you a homosexual. It makes you a sick and it makes you a criminal, but not gay."

"There is no wrong in true love," Dwight said seriously.

"If you believe that, we definitely don't want you," Oscar replied seriously.

"Thank you," Dwight said, bowing slightly. "But it has to be my call."

-----

"Hi."

"Hey."

"So, how's the speech coming?" Pam asked warmly.

Jim shook his head, "I keep waiting for this big moment to pop up out of nowhere and inspire me, but..."

Pam took a moment gaze lovingly at the lost, useless man-child she'd attached her destiny to. "You know, whenever I paint, I always just try to go with whatever's in my heart."

Jim nodded. "That explains that shirtless painting of Morrissey I found in your closet."

"I was twelve," Pam replied defensively.

"Really? I didn't paint mine until I was thirteen," Jim quipped.

"I hate you," Pam asserted.

Jim shrugged. "I can live with that."

"The point is," Pam continued, "if I'm doing a watercolor of a bird, I don't just try to think about what a bird looks like... I try to think about how I feel about the bird... what the bird means to me."

Jim looked at her thoughtfully for a moment. "Maybe you should be writing this."

"Just sit with it for a minute," Pam urged.

And so Jim closed his eyes and took a moment to really think about the Scranton office. He took a deep breath because that seemed like the thing to do and, when that didn't work, he tried several more. Finally he opened his eyes once more.

"Anything?" Pam asked.

Jim shook his head. "Maybe I need another soda."

-----

"Look, Dwight, I just don't think you're gay," Oscar sighed. "I'm sorry."

"But we need solid proof," Dwight demanded. "Take me to one of those secret gay clubs they have in Canada."

"You mean a bathhouse?" Oscar asked, flummoxed. "I don't even know where there is one."

"You're lying," Dwight spat back. "They must have given you that information when they baptized you as a homosexual."

Oscar was resolute. "I really don't think that's a good idea."

"I want to go to a gay bathhouse!" Dwight screamed. "I want to go to a gay bathhouse!"

"I'm sorry," Jim asked, still holding the doorknob, "did I come at a bad time?"

"That's what she said," Michael quipped as he walked past.

-----

Jim: So, I still have David Wallace's phone number.

He takes out his phone to show Wallace's number.

Jim: I called him up over lunch and asked him what Michael's chances were.

He nods.

Jim: And he asked that I not call him again.

-----

Although he'd been specifically asked to sit, Michael stood boldly behind the podium he'd purchased specially for this occasion. Part of him was terrified of the Board and it's ability to judge him and his branch... but another part of him had just realized how large an audience he was standing in front of. He looked down at Jim's speech. He hadn't read it yet, but the first sentence seemed a little dry and, really, what was more likely to win them over, some boring speech or one hundred and twenty minutes of Michael Scott's all-time best material?

Michael cleared his throat meaningfully. "Ladies and gentlemen... wear sunscreen."

END

Special Bonus Fic: Five Questions

A moment of silence hung over the breakroom. Pam was well ensconced in her sketchbook, Jim with his novel, and Dwight with his email correspondence game of Risk.

"Hey..." Jim began laconically, "if you could go back in time and save one person... who would it be?"

Pam thought about it for a moment. "John Lennon," she decided.

"Nice," Jim nodded. He actually enjoyed the work of his sons better, but he tried not to admit that to anyone ever.

"Thanks," Pam replied proudly. "Who would you save?"

"Phil Hartman," Jim said quickly.

"Ooh, that's a good one," Pam agreed.

"I'd save Hitler," Dwight said darkly without looking over.

Jim and Pam took a moment to look at each other awkwardly.

----

Dwight: "Am I a Nazi?"

He snorts in contempt.

Dwight: Certainly not.

Pause.

Dwight: But it is only in the face of great evil that great heroes can rise up. The Axis threat gave us Indiana Jones... General Patton... Hawkman...

He nods confidently.

Dwight: And I believe that we would have seen even greater heroes had America ever had to face a thirty-foot tall floating roboHitler.

----

"What would you do if you had a million dollars?" Phyllis asked, seemingly out of nowhere.

Toby scratched his chin for a moment. "Well... I wouldn't have to work any more, so I guess I'd just follow around the creator of Family Guy saying 'Simpsons did it! Simpsons did it!'" he chuckled slightly.

Awkward pause.

"I was going to give most of it to AIDS research," Phyllis admitted softly.

Toby's face collapsed in on itself. "Oh."

Phyllis gave an awkward nod. "It's just such a terrible disease and..."

"Right," Toby aggreed, feeling very small.

Awkward pause.

"Your idea was good, too," Phyllis offered charitably.

Toby nodded his head, then slumped over. "No, no. Not really..."

-----

It was in the well into the middle of a completely normal lunch when Andy was inexplicably struck by a thought. "Hey, do you think God takes an active hand in our lives... or that we're pretty much on our own?"

Angela turned to stare several thousand fleshly shined daggers at him.

"Oh... right..." Andy galuped.

----

Andy: Yea-haaaah... Things are not going well in Andgeland lately.

He shakes his head.

Andy, snide: I'd ask her what climbed up her butt, but I was there and it was me.

He makes the strangest of snickers.

-----

"You know there was one guy who wrote Show Girls andBasic Instinct and Flashdance?" Darryl asked as he effortlessly lobbed another power ping-pong ball across the table.

"Wow," Jim gasped as he lamely parried the ball.

"Mm-hmm," Darryl confirmed as he fired it back.

----

Creed, darting left and right: Got weed? Smoke weed? Got weed? Smoke weed?'

END

I'd like to thank everyone who read and reviewed my works this last year, especially Cousin Mose, Alex Wert, and Blithe Fratelli; hearing from you was easily the best part about of my time on ffnet.

No, wait, the best thing was when I wrote this:

Kevin: I've been out to sea so long I've started to forget what life is like on shore. Like...

His jaw hangs open for a moment of intense concentration.

A very long moment.

Kevin, incredibly slowly: I've actually forgotten what Monica Keena looks like.

Pause.

Kevin: I keep trying to picture her in mind, but... I keep getting Hayden Panettiere.

Yeah, that's definitely it.