This story takes place during/after the episode Did I Stutter?. Jim just can't understand why he deserves a warning from Ryan... so he confronts him about it. Story contains a small hint of Michael/Ryan because that's just the way I am, but I suppose that's only if you look into it.


Rating for safety.

Um, let's begin, shall we? Yayyy.

(And yes, this is a little bit AU since we know Toby didn't really come up with the idea of giving Jim the warning... I don't know, you'll see what I mean.

Maintaining Control


Jim waited for his opportunity. He could not believe that Ryan would turn on him like that. So he waited to confront him until the perfect time when they could be alone and Ryan couldn't weasel his way out of it.

So he cornered him in the kitchen one day. Most people had left the building already, including Pam, but Ryan had stayed late… mostly due to Michael, but also to talk to Toby. It had Jim a little shaken—would he get another warning again? Would he get the boot?

And these questions arose again as he was about to bring the topic up to the corporate man.

"Hey, Ryan. Could I... Could I talk to you for a second?"

"Uh, hey, yeah, sure, Jim. But the thing is… I kinda got to get going, you know? It's getting late and I still have to drive back to New York and—"

"I know, man, but please… hear me out." Ryan sighed loudly and then looked around him as if searching for someone, maybe a possible distraction.

"Alright. But could you make it quick, please?"

"Yeah, no, sure, it'll only take a second… I promise," Jim assured him, leaning against the counter as Ryan shakily reached for his coffee mug. He paused. What was it that Dwight had done to get the Xterra from Andy for so cheap?

"I was the one in control," he could hear Dwight say so perfectly in his head. "I made it apparent that he had to answer me right then and there. Or else." Jim took a deep breath.

"Okay, so… about my formal warning…"

"Whoa, whoa, wait. Hold on, Jim. You're still on about that warning thing? I'm surprised that you even want to bring it up." Jim mostly tried to tune him out; he was just trying to avoid the question. Only one thing was sticking out in Jim's mind right now though: at the game of maintaining control, he was currently losing as Ryan ranted on.

"… Look, Jim, just don't worry about it too much, okay? I'm sure that if you just start to work a little harder and care more about your job then everything will be all right—"

"No, Ryan, I can't stop thinking about it. I can't. Especially when you won't even explain it to me at all. You won't give me a reason for this warning; you're just being vague about the whole thing, sort of like you're trying to exact some sort of revenge against me that I don't understand. So don't tell me that it's going to be all right, because from what I can tell, from what information you have given me, Ryan… it's not going to be." Ryan froze, eying Jim seriously. Something wasn't quite right, though, Jim noted. Ryan's eyes were slightly bloodshot and his hands were shaking a little. Now he looked angry.

"What, you just assume that I'm trying to bring you down for some reason? That's an unreasonable and disrespectful accusation on your part, Jim—and it's attitude and behavior like that that's a part of the reason you were given that formal warning." Ryan tried to elbow his way past Jim so he could leave, but Jim stepped out into his way and prevented him.

"Look, I don't mean to be disrespectful, I'm just… sick of you and Toby trying to gang up on me. And don't pretend like you aren't either—you could easily have given Michael a warning too, after all, he hardly gets any work done here, either."

"That's different…" Ryan said quietly, suddenly avoiding Jim's gaze. Wow, was Ryan really flushing?! The shorter man held up a hand to try to get Jim to slow down and stop while he tried to think up a good explanation. But Jim wouldn't have it. "I can assure you that I'm well aware of Michael's work ethic here, but this is… different, Jim. Please believe me, because after all… you and I both know what Toby feels about Michael. And vice versa."

"And I know how you feel about Michael, too."

"No, you don't, Jim. Look, it's just a different situation—"

"No, it isn't, man. So tell me… what's going on?" He paused, taking a deep breath. Wow, he had really sort of let it out there. Instead of just being pushed around, he had been in control—Ryan was practically speechless now, and was hesitating, suddenly very fidgety. Jim couldn't help but swell with a little bit of pride… but he also felt concerned for Ryan, because as annoying as the other man was being, he just seemed really unwell… like he didn't really have anything to say back to that. This sudden power and control scared Jim a little and so he relaxed back to leaning against the counter casually, softening his glance.

"Hey, are… you okay?" Jim finally had to ask after some silence. Ryan seriously looked somehow worse since the last time he'd seen him. He couldn't really put his finger on it exactly… but something was different. And it wasn't just that he had unbuttoned his shirt and left his tie at home. Ryan bit his lip and turned to face Jim again.

"Yeah, I'm fine," he answered curtly. "Is that all, Halpert?"

"No, uh, you still haven't actually—"

"Good night, Jim, I'll see you around. Take care of yourself, okay?"

Jim sighed softly, giving up, and turned away. The control was gone, and somehow Ryan had recovered and seized it back. He began to doubt that his 'warning' would ever be explained in detail.

"Yeah, okay, Ryan. Talk to you later."

It was time for Jim Halpert to make a comeback.