THE FALL

A/N: This was actually written a long time before Night Out, which is why you won't find any actual spoilers, or related content. Ryan perspective.

Somehow, unlike everyone else, you never seem to learn from all your past mistakes.

In high school, you wanted desperately to be popular. You wanted to be the guy that everyone loved, or better yet, the guy everyone envied. You wanted to be the cool one who everyone had great expectations for.

You never were. You're best friend was, though. He was charming and athletic, and everything you weren't. If it weren't for him, you would never have even gotten close to being on the outer edge of the "in crowd".

That's where you belonged - the outer edge. You were the kid that almost fit in, and so it didn't matter much. It didn't matter that you suspected (knew), that people talked behind your back (even your supposed best friend). It didn't matter that they laughed at the fact that you studied, or the way your overprotective mother made you come home from school for lunch.

You were almost in the "in crowd".

And in high school, you also wanted to be a leader. You got into so many groups that you were in way over your head. You worked a lot, and it almost didn't matter that every one of your projects wasn't as good as everyone else's, no matter how hard you tried.

As long as you put all your energy into working, you didn't have to think about how every choice you made seemed to be just another gigantic mistake after another.

You wanted a girlfriend. Any girlfriend at all, just so long as you could say that you had one. (Being single for your entire high school career wasn't something you could brag about.)

Your first girlfriend was nice and smart, too. She was opinionated. The two of you fought a lot. You knew, deep down, that this relationship was not making you happy. But you kept telling yourself that any relationship was better than the shame of being a single senior.

It wasn't.

She dumped you by leaving a message on the answering machine. And because she didn't have the courtesy to tell you in person, your mother found out first. Consequentially, you had to try to ignore her as she attempted to make you feel better and told you that "there were plenty more fish in the sea".

But you're out of high school now, aren't you? Can you believe that you actually thought you were wiser, when it turns out you've just messed up all over again?

David's voice cuts into you as you sit in his office (so much bigger than your own).

"I'm sorry, but you just can't seem to manage as well as we thought you could. You were doing so good, for awhile there. But you just aren't cut out for this. You're website is a disaster, and we're losing customers. We have to let you go, get someone fresh to bring life to this company. You can understand, can't you?"

You can't, actually, and you want to say so, but your mouth won't let you. So instead, you nod. If only you could manage to go out with some fire, some flair, maybe than it would all be worth it. You're dying to release the anger burning in the pit of your stomach, but you can't do it. You're just not used to losing your self control, and starting now seems a bit unwise. (Heaven forbid that your frustration and anger might somehow turn to tears in front of David Wallace).

You nod again and stand. David smiles sympathetically. Looks like he might almost feel bad for you.

You think that maybe you want to kill him.

You turn to leave. Your office (not actually yours anymore), isn't all that cluttered with your stuff. It takes you two boxes and your desk is emptied. You walk out. Grace, the receptionist, is staring as you make your final leave. (Not really your final, you'll still have to pick up your last paycheck).

Hunter gives you a solemn nod. You never liked the guy. You suspected (knew), that he talked about you behind your back with the others. You feel like you want to flip him off. You nod back instead.

Your brain doesn't seem to be working as fast as normal. You sit in your car for a whole five minutes before you realize that there is nowhere you really want to be. You settle for going to your apartment. It's sleek and devoid of all warmth when you get there. And the cold almost feels like home.

You realize, through your numbness, that you can't afford this place anymore. Sure, you've got enough money saved up to last a little while, but not enough to live in an expensive place like New York for long. You regret that last hair cut you splurged on (you could have used that two hundred dollars).

Scranton. You can afford to live in Scranton, but why would you ever dream of going back there?

Kelly. She comes into your mind like a random thought, and suddenly you can think of nothing else. An ache starts in your chest, and it takes a moment before you realize that you miss her. And it's the most ridiculous thing in the world, but you know that you honestly wish she was here with you now.

You know she would be ranting over this unjust firing, would be at your side, appropriately putting curse words in front David Wallace's name.

The thought brings a smile to you face, your first real one in quite some time. You miss Kelly Kapoor and the comforting, calm city of Scranton. You miss everything you thought you were too good for.

You must be going crazy, you're sure of it.

It takes a week for you to sort things out. You ate out every day for dinner (you chose to skip breakfast and lunch). You broke the lease for your apartment, and wouldn't be getting your deposit back as a result. You get your paycheck, too. You got out of that place so fast, you almost ran.


Scranton looks the same as always (nothing like New York).

You're at her apartment before you're consciously aware of where you're going.

A thought creeps unbidden into your mind. Isn't she with Darryl now? Could Darryl be here, right now as you try to make your way back into her life? If Darryl felt the need, he could pulverize you. (You almost hope he does, because pain would feel better than the numbness that has taken hold of you).

And maybe, maybe, it would knock you back to your senses. Since this idea of yours is obviously another mistake. Perhaps your biggest yet.

You knock sharply, twice on the door, and wait.

She answers, as always, with a smile, but it is quickly replaced by a surge of other emotions.

You see every single one in her eyes.

First shock, which you expected, of course. You ignored all her calls right after your break up, you only went to Scranton when you absolutely had to, and tried desperately to avoid her the best way you could. Shock was natural.

The next emotion you see is just a glimmer in her eyes, and you wonder if you imagined it. You probably did imagine that tiny shimmer of sadness. You don't understand it. She couldn't feel sadness now, of all times.

Then finally, the flaring anger flashes in her eyes and pierces you. It is rage and all of it is directed at you. You manage, just barely, to keep yourself from cringing.

"What are you doing here?" she asks, voice cold but burning into you. You never did figure out how it was possible for her to put both fire and ice in her voice…

"I…" you start to say. Why did you come here, you wonder. You honestly don't know what you expected to find here. Surely, you didn't expect her to welcome you back with open arms? You couldn't have expected her to give you sympathy and comfort?

"I…was fired." you say finally, and instantly know you've said the wrong thing.

For a moment, for the first time ever, you see that you've left her speechless. But then it ends, as you knew it would. Her voice is enough for the whole neighborhood to hear.

"Fired? And so you've come crawling back, Ryan? After what you did to me? After you left? God, I never realized how stupid you were! Like I would take you back…as if!"

Those words desperately make you want to laugh, but you fight the urge. Kelly is still Kelly, and that means you still have a chance. Doesn't it?

You sputter out something indistinguishable. Even you don't know what you just tried to say.

"What? What did you say, Ryan?" Kelly demands, her voice sharp.

"I didn't mean to…mistake. Wrong. Sorry." You realize, through your stammering, that you're not even making full sentences.

Since when did you lose you ability to be coherent?

"It's not enough, Ryan. I'm with Darryl now. You better leave before he comes."

You, with your half formed plan of fading back into your old life, start to feel the desperation clawing at your insides. You can't be alone right now. "Please…Kelly. Please."

And since when did you get pathetic enough to beg?

Bitterness laces her next words, and you know it's the bitterness you put there. "I said, it's not enough! I don't care that you're sorry! I don't care that you're lonely! You stopped caring about me. And now, finally, I've stopped caring about you, Ryan Howard."

"Please."

You see that this last attempt affects her, but it is just as she said - not enough. You see the trace of sadness lingering in her dark eyes, but it's blocked by a steady determination. A determination to keep you out, to shield herself from the pain of seeing you again. You see it all right before she closes the door in your face.

You stand alone, and realize that you were right in the first place.

All of this - the job, the breakup, the firing, the return - was just another mistake.

But you know, deep down, that dating Kelly Kapoor (and secretly loving her) never was.