Title: Folkin' Around
Author: Lissa
Pairing/Character: Michael, Michael/Ryan (sort of)
Rating: PG (for safety)
Summary: Originally written as a songfic to the song Folkin' Around by Panic at the Disco. Michael dwells over the changes taking place at Dunder Mifflin as some people leave the company and others join it. Best summary I've got without getting too spoilery P
Spoilers: Up to Goodbye, Toby.

Michael sat down into his desk chair as one of the cameramen walked in for an interview. He was pleased that footage for the office documentary was still being filmed, for there was so much he could still tell, so many ways that he could still show off his office family. Really, the cameras worked almost as a sort of therapist for him. He could tell them what he thought and wanted, his feelings… it didn't even really occur or matter to him that it could possibly come back to bite him later. Who really cared? Who was going to take it seriously, right?

And so this interview wasn't any different from the others he had conducted with the camera crew. But he was pleasantly surprised when the interviewer asked him about Ryan.

"Ryan? Ryan's great. Me and him are like this…" Michael crossed his fingers to symbolize how close he and Ryan were in their friendship and then smiled right into the camera. Then he suddenly became interested in his shoes and tried to stare at them through the wood surface of his desk. "But, um… he hasn't really visited in a while. In fact… it's been forever since I've seen him. You remember that one night in New York?! Yeah, I had to be the one to come visit him and now it's… literally just been years upon years since he's come to visit me." He paused, totally serious about his exaggeration. It seemed completely true in his mind. "Oh, well he did drop in last week, but that… that was mostly to visit Toby…and I mean, who does that? Who wants to visit those… droopy devil eyes, anyway? Seriously, I feel as though I've taught him wrong; so, so wrong…." Michael shook his head and let out an exasperated, overdramatic sigh. "Well anyway, I don't know if you'd classify that as great, but we've been… we've been better."

Michael went on, another thought coming to mind.

"In fact… you know, I still think back to the days when he always used to be here. Yup. Do you remember? Every day!" Michael stretched to glance around the cameraman to point to Jim's desk. "He used to sit right there, you know?! Those were the days… I mean, he was a temp, you know, and so he actually had to be here in Scranton. And… he'd do anything I asked of him because he was just my really, really cool friend." Michael laughed. "He couldn't even make a sale! God, if I would have known that the next day he'd be leaving to go off to New York then I would have actually cherished that time while we had it. But as it is… I suppose I just have to keep resorting to visiting him in clubs and… sleeping over, I guess…"

He trailed off and the interviewer brought up another question. This time it was: "When was the last time you spoke to Ryan?" Michael shrugged and shook his head.

"Look, I'm not going to base my relationship with him on… phone calls or… any sort of rendezvous… but the fact of the matter is that he was here and now he's gone…" Michael got a little choked up. The topic was frustrating; he just couldn't understand Ryan sometimes. Why would he want to leave the family Michael had given him in Scranton? It just didn't make any sense!

"Oh, and to answer your question, he hasn't called me back in fifteen days, but who's keeping track? Pam? Yes, Pam's counting the days—I wouldn't keep track of something like that… I'm not that desperate…" He was really on the breaking point now. He didn't want to cry in front of the camera. Things just weren't working out his way lately. Ryan was in New York trying to center the company around a website, he himself was still having no real dating luck, and… sigh. "You don't even want to hear the count I have going for Jan."

He was surprised to find out that that was all the cameras wanted to know. He was almost disappointed, actually. Sometimes it felt nice to talk. A part of him actually wished they had asked about Jan. There were loads that he could let off about her.

He was about to let the cameramen go about their way when suddenly the phone rang. Michael put it on speaker and put his face in his hands.

"Oh, Pam… what is it now?"

"Um, Michael you've got a phone call—"

"Thank you, Pam. Thank you. Just… forward it. That'll be all, Pam…" He really didn't care who was calling him. Jan wouldn't call him, not by his work phone (she knew the cameras were there…). And Ryan hadn't called in 15 days, so why would he call now?

"Gah… hello?" The cameramen stayed in Michael's office, waiting to hear the phone call. Michael didn't mind, but couldn't see what could possibly be interesting about this. He didn't even bother to check the caller ID.

"Michael?" The regional manager of the Scranton branch nearly jumped out of his seat at the younger man's voice.

He tried to contain his excitement in front of the cameras, but it was very apparent that he had suddenly perked up. He did his best to remain casual… to be cool. For Ryan. After all, it had been 15 days.

"Oh, hey, Ryan…" He paused for effect, trying to figure out what to say. " We were just talking about you."

"Uh… what?"

"Never mind," Michael giggled, giving an enthusiastic, suddenly hyper look to the camera, "what's going on?"

"You were talking behind my back?"

"No…! No. No. Your back isn't even here." He, personally, was disappointed by that fact, but he could hear Ryan sigh tiredly over the phone.

"Am I on speaker phone, Michael?"

"Ye… does it matter?" There was a brief silence. Michael quickly exchanged glances with the cameraman.

"… I just wanted to let you know that I'm coming down to Scranton tomorrow… normally I'd just leave you that message with Pam, but I wanted to make sure I wouldn't be interrupting anything or… coming at a bad time, you know? I can never know when you're going to have… some secret… party thing planned."

"Oh, Ryan… that is nonsense and you know it," Michael assured him with a laugh, Toby's going away party fresh in his mind but freely choosing to ignore it. This was more important. "No time is ever a bad time for you to come down to Scranton. You are always welcome back home. I mean, here. Here. We are always glad to have you." Michael glanced up into the camera and grinned sheepishly before looking back over at the phone, almost as though he could really see Ryan if he squinted hard enough into the receiver.

"Okay… well then I'll see you sometime tomorrow. Okay, Michael?"

"I miss you," Michael whispered seriously to the phone, leaning in. Ryan hung up abruptly. Michael gave an expressionless glance at the camera before sliding back into his chair.

It didn't matter to him that Ryan wasn't really reciprocating the affection he had for him. They were friends—Ryan had even said so. So there.

But Michael knew his fair share of Ryan's secrets. Or, well, he liked to think that he did. After all, he indirectly knew that Ryan had something to do with drugs in whatever way. He could easily let on to anybody that Ryan wasn't doing his duty as a friend to help put Troy on the road to rehab for his drug problem. And how did he know? Well, Ryan hadn't brought it up again or told him thank you so he must have just dropped the idea of helping. Too bad.

And as aforementioned, Ryan had never made a sale! Ha! And he was still somehow at a higher position than Michael… at first he wasn't sure if he liked that, but then, he was happy that his lessons in business had helped his temp make his way to the top. Maybe he'd just been too good of a teacher! His young grasshoppa was making it big… without him… and you know; he hadn't even received one word of thanks yet.

But it wasn't as though Michael would ever use things like this against his former temp. Well, except the sale thing and the whole cheese pita fire incident, as jokes; they never got old! Nah… it was just fun to have to use for an emergency conversation topic or to dwell on when he got bored. There was so much he wanted to discuss with Ryan from that one night in New York. Like secretly, he wanted to know if Ryan ever fully recovered from his dehydration. That really put a damper on the party, but Michael seriously couldn't have thought up a better end to the day than getting to sleep in Ryan's own apartment.

Of course, Ryan wasn't exactly pleased when he woke up the next morning fully sober and saw Dwight snoring beside him on his bed and Michael on his couch… but Michael forgave him—he probably would've been shocked too if he were Ryan, after all. So, really, it's all good. Because seriously, who would want to wake up next to Dwight? Angela. But, again, who in their right mind?

Still, there were some problems that he just couldn't help Ryan with. It didn't help that every attempt at growing closer to the sober ex-temp ended with Ryan shaking his head and insisting that he didn't have problems. That New York was great and that, though he appreciated the concern, he didn't need Michael declining in his already poor work ethic to attend to him.

Pfft, well whatever, Michael had figured. Ryan could take care of himself, anyway—he was a big boy now. Little fish, big pond. But he would survive. And if any predators tried to dispose of Ryan… well then they'd have to answer to Michael Gary Scott first.

Well, maybe. After all, he had trouble deciding whether or not he should let Ryan fight his own battles. He had wanted so desperately to be the one to take him under his wing, even upon the younger man's first day of work as a temp for the Scranton branch. In truth, it had almost hurt when Ryan had moved away because of his new promotion. Not because he hadn't gotten the job, but because he could no longer watch and protect Ryan. He felt almost as though he had let Ryan down.

Ryan's coming to visit tomorrow, Michael reminded himself cheerfully, pushing away the thought, he just said so. On the phone. To me. Time to reset the how-many-days-has-it-been-since-Ryan-has-called-to-tell-me-he-cares timer.And there was so much he wanted to say to the kid that he was beginning to wonder if he would forget it all by the time Ryan arrived in the morning. He rehearsed it in his mind and aloud when nobody was sitting before him, pretending to work on something as Pam watched him from the receptionist's desk.

"Yeah, Ryan, man, I was stupid," Michael said out loud, still rehearsing about an hour later, "I should have never assumed you wouldn't be able to move up the ladder in this company; that you wouldn't be able to support and take care of yourself. I'm sure you have lots of great, wonderful, beautiful, attractive friends in New York… and really, I'm… just proud of you, man, and I'm glad that what I've taught you about life… and fun and… work has rubbed off onto you in a positive way."

He rehearsed his lines up until the very next day at work; because that was how much he was dedicated. Occasionally he'd get distracted by work-related matters… the new Human Resources employee, the water cooler running out of, well, water, Kevin stinking up the men's bathroom again… you know, work-related, but his mind would always be drawn back to the exciting matter at hand.

Events came up to distract him and he was glad to have them... even if it meant having to talk to Toby. He just continued to hope that at any minute Ryan would walk in and save him.

And now Michael could see all of his employees gathered around Jim's computer from conference room. Naturally, he was curious, and he wanted an excuse to leave Toby's pathetic exit interview. What was he missing out on!? Probably some hilarious clip from a movie or a new sex tape. Hmm… maybe Pam was in the sex tape!

As he neared the exit of the conference room, he figured that those two options probably were unlikely. Or, at least, the latter was—even Angela was watching. Um, weird? Now Michael was really curious.

"Hey, it's the kid Look!" One of the workers exclaimed loudly. Michael's heart began to race as he stopped to look from behind Jim's desk.

'Whoa! Check this out!!' the YouTube video was titled, and Michael's eyes widened as he watched Ryan Howard being escorted out of Dunder Mifflin Corporate by two police officers.

"Oh my God, Ryan. Oh my God…"

Even after it ended, Michael asked Jim to play it a second time. Then he asked if it was a joke—assumed it was a joke—and went on to scold everyone for looking at the video.

Really, he knew the truth, but he was in denial. After watching it a third time, still not believing his eyes, he locked himself up in his office and didn't say another word to anyone about the matter.

And for the next half-hour he re-watched the video, still marveled and disappointed by how quietly Ryan had gone. What had happened!? It didn't make sense. This wasn't right. They had no right to be taking Ryan in—so why wasn't the younger man fighting back?!

Michael's head spun with his own ridiculous, pressing questions until he finally pulled himself away from the computer and moved to sit in a chair by the door.

"I'm worried about my friend," he told Holly, the new HR girl and the first person to walk into his office since the video was first played on Jim's computer. She was the only one to show concern; perhaps she was proof that maybe... just maybe not all HR representatives had to be evil.

There were only twenty minutes left in the day, but Michael was finding it hard to distract himself. He had already Googled all of the local prisons and read the articles about the 'Dunder Mifflin Scandal' to see if there had been any details he'd missed. There had to be a mistake somewhere; there just had to be.

Finding none, he had moved on to his next project: Operation: Free Ryan From Jail… and he was going to ask Pam to draw the design for the protest t-shirts. It'd be great.

But he'd do that later: Michael didn't want to seem like he was getting too overly concerned about the whole thing. That would just be weird. No one else was really reacting to the news… or at least, not since Jim showed the video, so Michael didn't want to stick out of the crowd. Not yet, anyway. He'd make the idea into a cool one in a couple of days, they'd all see.

But now he was finding that there wasn't anything left for him to do.

Well, except work. But it was Friday. He wasn't about to concentrate on work when there were more important, more personal matters to attend to. Like… distracting himself from his friend who was in trouble. Was that so bad?

"Hey, Jim…" he started, drifting from the door of his office over to the other man's desk and leaning against it comfortably, "whatcha doin' tonight? Anything fun? Going to any parties?"

"You mean… after the goodbye party for Toby?" Michael froze. He had completely forgotten. Something good was going to come out of today. Toby was leaving! He couldn't help but smile as he turned back to Jim.

"Um, yes. That is exactly what I mean."

"Oh, well…" Jim fumbled with the pencil he was holding as he swung slowly back and forth in his chair, his eyes glancing over at the receptionist's desk for a brief moment. "I was… kinda thinking about taking Pam out later." Michael nodded eagerly, his grin wide and Jim quickly added, "But I was kind of hoping that it'd just be a thing with me and her, you know?"

Michael's face fell. Pam was looking up from her desk now, watching them closely, her lips in a thin line. She seemed to be listening for some clue as to what they were talking about. Michael tried to pretend as though he hadn't noticed.

"Oh," the regional manager replied simply, at a disappointed loss for words, "I see. Well, maybe some other time then, Jim."

"Yeah, maybe," Jim replied, preoccupied as he exchanged a strange glance with Pam who tried her best to hold back a laugh.

Michael rose and walked stiffly back into his office, ignoring them.

Well. This sucked.

"It is time…for a last resort," Michael told the camera crew as he fiddled with his phone and walked over to his car. When he got to his convertible, he merely stood outside of it, pressing the phone to his ear as he searched his coat pockets for his keys.

The phone rang. And rang. And rang. And rang. Until finally—

"Hello?" The woman's voice on the other end was impatient, almost annoyed. But still, there was no way that she would've been able to tell who was calling yet. The condo phone didn't have caller ID.

"Jan?" Michael said hopefully, his voice expectant and hopeful. There was a click and the phone went silent. He tried again… you know, just in case his girlfriend had made some sort of clicking noise out of pure delight from hearing his voice and had gone weirdly speechless. "Jan…? Jan Levinson?"

Well this was awkward. Michael turned to the camera hovering beside him and slowly brought his phone down away from his ear.

"Call ended," was all he could say as he glanced at the screen.

The documentary crew, of course, pulled him over to the side and asked him what he felt about this, and what he was going to do. Michael felt a little bit irritated, but did his best to be positive for his talking head interview.

"Am I disappointed? Yes, but at least now my day counter can start over for Jan, too. Jan and Ryan are both tied now. Maybe they will… compete against one another for my affection. We shall see who calls me first, for they will be the one who is the true winner. Because… somebody has to love me, right?"

Michael sighed as he lounged on the couch in the lobby of Dwight's bed and breakfast. He had finally come to the conclusion that this whole prison thing would be a battle that he would let Ryan face for himself. This decision was the only thing really holding him back from immediately demanding to visit him.

I already helped him with this whole prison thing, Michael reasoned with himself when he nearly grabbed his car keys and raced for the door, it's his turn now. I just hope that he learned something from Prison Mike. But now he'll learn firsthand that Dunder Mifflin is way better than where he's going. He doesn't need my help… he doesn't need me rushing out there tonight and telling him that he should've just stayed in Scranton. Michael smiled brightly.

After all, there's always tomorrow.