Room after room decorated with knick-knacks he didn't recognize and never would have chosen himself. Wallpaper, done in hues that came off just a little weird. Furniture that seemed, well – kind of girly, to be honest. On some level, Michael knew he was overreacting a little. Looking for things to criticize. It was just that this new situation was proving to be scarier than he had expected.
"And here's the bedroom," said Holly, restraining a snigger. "Which concludes our tour."
Michael walked slowly around the bedroom, looking at the furniture and out the window, which overlooked the clean-cut lawn in front of Holly's townhouse. As he watched, a lone car drove through the street beyond the lawn. Beyond the street, more suburban homes stretched away, framed by the foothills of the Rocky Mountains in the distance. Holly joined him and looked out at the scenery.
"Are you okay, Michael?"
"What - me? Of course!"
The two of them stepped away from the window, and Holly squeezed Micheal's shoulder before heading for the bedroom door. "Okay, well, I have to go get a few things for us and stop by my parents' place, and I also have to take care of something at work. It'll probably be boring - you can stay here until I get back, okay?"
"Okay. That's fine. You sure you don't want me to meet your parents?"
"It's your first day – we can wait until tomorrow, let you get settled in first."
Holly went downstairs and grabbed her coat and car keys, Michael following close behind. She opened the front door and stepped outside. Michael stepped out with her, and she closed the door as he looked out over the neighborhood. He watched from the front steps as she approached her car, but just before she opened the door, Holly made a little grunt and rushed back to him. "I almost forgot," she said, pulling something out of her pocket. "Spare keys!"
Michael took the keys with a confused look.
"For the house. You don't want to get locked out, do you? We both live here now."
"Oh, right," laughed Michael.
"You sure you're okay?"
"I forgot something else, too."
Holly leaned forward and brought Michael into her embrace, kissing him deeply. She pulled away, looking over his features in the afternoon light. "Going to do some things now, I am," she said, her lips curling into a tentative smile. "Okay alone here, will you be?"
Michael stared blankly for a moment before realizing she was breaking out the old Yoda voice.
"Oh, yes," he finally said. "I'll be fine. Take your time."
Holly gave him another quick peck on the cheek and went back to her car. Michael stood still, watching as she pulled out of the driveway, out of their neighborhood. The Rocky Mountains seemed more clear in the distance, more imposing from outside on the front steps, even though he had a higher vantage point when he had been looking out through the second floor window of Holly's bedroom. There was nothing like them in Scranton, that was for sure. Pictures were one thing, but seeing them in real life was another. It was almost like they were watching him. Growing darker as the sun began to go down. Picturesque, but somehow a little creepy at the same time.
Michael turned back to the house – sure enough, Holly had locked the door. It was a good thing he had his keys. They both lived here now, after all. This was his new home. He stepped inside, closing the door behind him, and began to look around again, even though Holly had just given him the grand tour. It looked like it would be a comfortable place to live, although it had a smell he didn't recognize. Different than his condo; most places had different smells, he noticed. It smelled kind of like Holly. Which was good, but he wasn't totally used to it.
The flight to Boulder had been nerve-wracking. Michael didn't fly that often, but the idea of leaving Scranton for good had probably made it even worse than it would have been otherwise. Fortunately he had gotten a seat next to someone interesting, which made it a little easier. The man in the other seat was also going to Colorado – just for a ski vacation, though – and told him all kinds of interesting things about the state. As it turned out, the man also had an interest in ice skating, so the two of them had shared a few funny stories about that. There was even a 'that's what she said' thrown into their chat at some point. Michael couldn't remember which of them had said it, but they had both appreciated it, and it had done wonders to calm his apprehensiveness.
For a split second, when Michael had arrived at the airport, he had gotten a little lost, worried that Holly hadn't even shown up to pick him up. Fortunately, they found each other before long, and he had said goodbye to the man he had been sitting with. Now here he was, settling in, although Holly was gone again. Alone in her house. Their house, he reminded himself.
Not knowing what else to do, Michael tried to pass the time by turning on the television and seeing what was on: nothing interesting, on any of the channels. He got up from the couch and looked through Holly's refrigerator: not much to eat there. Hopefully she was stopping by the grocery store while she was out. He made his way up to the bedroom again and looked inside the closet. Did Holly want him to put his clothes on the spare hangar? Was it okay to put some of his things in the dresser beside the bed? Maybe she had a system set up already. He didn't want to disturb things. Still, maybe he could take out a few things.
He unzipped his luggage case. Phyllis' pair of red mittens – almost finished, but not quite – lay on top. Michael took them out and turned them over in his hands. Maybe Holly could finish the unfinished left hand mitten. All women knew how to sew, after all. He felt a tear begin to well up in his eye as he looked at his present. What were they doing now? Phyllis, so kind and matronly; Stanley, with his homespun, folksy negro wisdom; even Kelly, with her high-pitched stream of chatter that could broadcast her presence a mile away.
Only now was it beginning to sink in. All of his coworkers, Jim, Pam, Dwight – he'd never see any of them again. That part of his life was gone. Over.
Except for when he visited Scranton, anyway.
Below the mittens, his favorite pair of blue jeans were folded neatly in the case. There was no way he'd travel as far as Boulder, Colorado without his trusty blue jeans, although he had no idea if there'd be a casual Friday wherever he ended up working next. He took them out and looked them over; maybe he could put them on later and give Holly a little dance. That was a good idea. Just looking at the jeans in this new place was bittersweet, though. Memories of casual Fridays at the Scranton branch flooded into his memory, and he put the jeans carefully aside as he removed more clothes.
Below the clothing, Michael had packed a small pouch filled with toiletries. He took it out and went into the bathroom attached to the bedroom, which Holly had forgotten to show him. Some lewd thoughts came to mind when he looked over at the bathtub and separate standing shower, enclosed in opaque glass still peppered inside with water droplets from when Holly had taken a shower that morning. He turned to the counter and looked at his reflection in the mirror for a moment before looking down at Holly's bathroom paraphernalia.
Toothbrush, toothpaste, green dental floss – he checked the color out of interest. Hairbrush, tweezers. Some kind of file that he knew women used, as Jan owned one, although he wasn't exactly sure why or how it was used. Everything was there. Everything Holly needed to maintain her usual standard of indescribable beauty.
Michael opened his pouch of toiletries, taking out his own floss and toothpaste and setting them on the counter. As he rummaged through it, however, he realized something was missing. It was a small pouch, and there was no mistaking it. He hadn't brought a toothbrush. It must still be at the condo, he thought.
Michael looked at himself in the mirror again and saw his face blanch in apprehension. No toothbrush. This couldn't be good. Hygiene was very important – just look at the wonders it did for Kevin, after all. Maybe he had bad breath. Maybe he would gross Holly out when she came back. Maybe he hadn't even brushed his teeth that morning. Could he use Holly's toothbrush? Somehow it seemed wrong. Here he was, in a new home more than halfway across the country, far from the town he knew and loved, and he wasn't even prepared. This was a disaster.
He had no toothbrush!
Cecelia Marie Halpert was feeling rambunctious. Pam smiled as she watched her daughter racing around in front of the couch as fast as her tentative walking skills would allow. The television was on, but Pam had all the entertainment she needed in front of her. Jim was off throwing the remains of their Chinese takeout dinner away. Cece's mood changed inexplicably from nervous excitement to unhappiness as she waddled over to Pam's lower leg and began to cry. Pam rolled her eyes and picked Cece up.
"What's the matter, too much walking around?"
Pam smiled as her daughter, propped up on her leg beside the arm of the couch, continued crying. "I know how you feel," she said, thinking aloud. "Running through that airport in high heels was a dumb idea."
Cece continued to cry despite Pam's attempts to calm her down by rocking her a little, and she held her daughter closer to her breast to see if she was hungry. She was; as Pam unbuttoned her shirt, Jim came back from taking out the trash and sat down on the couch beside her to pay some attention to their daughter. At the same time, however, his cell phone rang. He took it out and checked who was on the other end as Pam watched him. She had a guess as to who might be calling. "Michael," he said.
She had guessed correctly.
"Hey, Michael, what's up?" asked Jim as he flipped open the phone. "How's Boulder?"
Jim listened to his boss on the other end, and although Pam couldn't hear what he was saying, she caught the faint tones of Michael's voice. It sounded like he was doing alright, from what she could tell. Jim laughed and nodded. "Yeah," he said, "we're definitely missing you. I think everybody will be a little surprised when you don't show up tomorrow, though. We'll have to eat your cake for you."
Jim listened to Michael talk for a few more moments.
"Why didn't you call her, then? Oh. Alright, here she comes."
Pam had been looking down at Cece while she was nursing, but a cell phone suddenly appeared right in front of her face. She looked up at Jim with a grin. "He wants to talk to you," he said. "Doesn't have your number."
"Um, okay," said Pam, a little annoyed that she had to deal with her boss – ex-boss, now - when she was trying to pay attention to her baby. She took the phone. "Hello, Michael?"
Michael's voice sounded nervous, almost desperate; not the way it had sounded when she was trying to overhear his conversation with Jim. "Pam," he continued after getting no response, "tell me everything is going to be alright."
"What do you mean?"
"I didn't want to complain to Jim, it's a guy thing, but I'm just freaking out over here, Pam. Holly had to go do some stuff and she's taking a while, and her place is all weird, and I've been thinking about what I'm going to do for work here and how I'm going to meet people and I just don't know, and I forgot my toothbrush, and the Rocky Mountains are really big Pam, I mean they're freakin' huge, and-"
Michael's voice stopped abruptly. Pam shot her husband a look as she held the phone cradled against her ear; he was also listening in on the conversation, and he looked concerned too. "Michael," she said, "you have to calm down a bit, okay?"
"Okay, I'm calming down. What do I do?"
"You don't do anything, Michael. You're home now, right?"
A long silence came from the other end of the line, until Michael's voice came back again, fainter than before.
"Right," he agreed.
"You're just freaking out a little because you're in a new place. Holly will be back soon. And you can always buy a new toothbrush, right? It's no big deal. You just have to give yourself some time to settle in."
"What if I did this before I was ready, Pam? Look, Pam - I know it's hard to believe, but sometimes, back when Dunder Mifflin promoted me to Scranton manager, I got worried about whether I'd do a good job, whether people would like me. Sometimes it almost seemed like they didn't. What if I have to start over? I knew you guys for so long, you're like my best friends, and now I have to find Colorado friends. Maybe Colordians are mean, Pam!"
"It's Coloradans, Michael."
"You sure it's not Coloradoans?" asked Jim, overhearing her comment.
"Coloradans?" asked Michael on the phone, not hearing Jim's guess. "That can't be right. What about Coloradoans?"
Pam groaned in exasperation. "Look, I don't know, just ask Holly, okay? But it doesn't matter – you'll meet new people, Michael. You're a likable guy! I believe in you. You just have to give it some time. Now, do you mind if I put you over to Jim again? I have to pay attention to Cece."
"Your daughter? What, are you – you aren't breastfeeding her while you're talking to me, are you? Are you still supposed to be breastfeeding her at that age?"
"Oh, for God's sake."
Pam handed the phone over to Jim, who got up from the couch and began to pace around as he talked to Michael. Pam felt bad for her old boss, as she knew he was used to Scranton. She wasn't surprised that he'd need some adjusting to his new life. Not to mention she already kind of missed him, and the thought of going back to work tomorrow with Deangelo as boss was a little weird.
That being said, Pam was already paying attention to one baby tonight, and that was more than enough.
Fortunately, Cece seemed to have had her fill. Instead of trying to clamber away to start walking around again, she looked like she was on the verge of falling asleep. Pam listened to Jim make the occasional comment as he roamed around the room before coming back to sit on the couch as his conversation with Michael came to a close. "Totally," he said. "you can give us a call anytime. And remember, you'll be just fine. Alright, bye."
Jim put the cell phone on an end table beside the couch and leaned back with a sigh. Pam began to gently rock Cece as she drifted off to sleep. "I'm amazed he didn't call already," she said.
"True. He held out for a while."
"I can't believe you told him he could call anytime. You know he's really going to do that now."
Jim laughed, although he tried to be quiet as he watched their daughter. "Nah, I think Holly will be taking up most of his attention now. That, and whatever job he's getting there. Did he say anything about that to you?"
"I can't remember."
"Maybe I'll tell him to look for a sales job next time I talk to him, instead of management."
Pam nodded. That was probably a good idea; Michael would be more suited for sales. She grabbed the TV remote and turned the volume down with her free hand as she held Cece to herself with the other. After a moment, she got up from the couch and made her way towards the crib. Jim got up and followed along with her. It was getting late; Pam had half a mind to go to sleep early herself, although maybe she'd watch a little more television with Jim first.
Looking for that new shredder had been a welcome break, especially since it was more of a movie break than a shredder break, but catching Michael at the airport had been a little emotionally draining. She was surprised at how much her feelings towards her boss had changed over the years. She supposed some people just took a lot of getting used to. Even Dwight would probably leave a kind of hole in the office if he went somewhere else, although she doubted he would be leaving anytime soon; at least not until he was inevitably fired for something creepy.
"So, Michael and Holly," said Jim as the two of them put Cece in her crib. "You know they'll be having kids sooner or later."
"Don't remind me. Like a hundred, right? Wasn't that what kid Michael said in that video he showed us?"
"Yeah, something like that."
"Well, he's got Holly around. Imagine if he had kids with Jan."
Cece looked serene, fast asleep in her crib. The two of them went back to the living room and sat down, enjoying a little peace and quiet, and Jim wrapped his arm around her as they watched a late night talk show. Pam wasn't really paying much attention to it, though.
She knew work would be strange without Michael, but she still felt content as she sat there with Jim. She was exactly where she wanted to be. She knew Michael was too – he had even told her, before leaving on his flight to Colorado, that he was looking forward to going home to Holly. They'd probably get a few more phone calls in the near future, but recently, she had noticed Michael was finally starting to grow up a little. He could handle things in the long run. He just needed to settle in to his new home.
Car headlights streamed through the window blinds just as Michael was about to start running around like a chicken with its head cut off. The headlights spilled over the living room walls as the car pulled into the driveway; it had to be Holly. Unless Michael was getting a pizza delivery, but he didn't remember ordering any pizza. Hard to tell, really. He had gotten himself a bit frazzled in the last couple of hours.
"Holly!" he screamed as the door opened.
Holly had barely walked into the house before Michael rushed at her. She almost dropped her bags as he gave her a crushing hug. She laughed when Michael kissed her several times, finally managing to get him off long enough to close the door and carry her things into the kitchen.
"What's that stuff?" asked Michael.
"I got us some Chinese take-out. I forgot to ask you if you wanted that - I hope you don't mind."
"No, that sounds great! I'm so hungry, and you don't have anything in your fridge."
"I got some groceries, too. I should have gone shopping before you got here, but I guess I just got caught up with other things, and with thinking about you coming over. Help me put them away?"
Michael nodded and opened the plastic bags with her as the two of them got the groceries out. The smell of Chinese food was already permeating the apartment, and he was having a hard time resisting opening one of the take-out boxes before they finished putting the groceries away. He remembered how Jan always complained when they got Chinese food. It was good that Holly liked it. They'd be having a late dinner, but he didn't mind, now that Holly was back. "How are your parents doing?" he asked as he put away a carton of eggs.
"They're very good. Dad is doing well. They're looking forward to meeting you tomorrow – I told them we could all have lunch together."
"Sure, sure. Sounds good to me."
Michael was already realizing how silly it had been, getting himself so worked up like that. It was nice to hear Jim and Pam's voice again, and they had been reassuring, but he didn't really need reassuring; he just needed to see Holly to know that he had made the right choice. He grinned at her as she fished through a last grocery bag and pulled out a small rectangular package. "What's that?" he asked.
"I got something for you."
"Yep!" said Holly as she opened up the little box. "I didn't know what you brought with you, but I thought I'd buy a toothbrush, just in case. I know I always forget mine whenever I go anywhere. And it's the battery-powered kind that vibrates so your teeth get cleaner!"
"You're kidding me!"
Michael took the toothbrush and looked over it, giddy as a schoolgirl. "It vibrates? I didn't even know they made toothbrushes like this. What a genius idea – like you don't have to do any work at all!"
Michael gave Holly another hug, unable to contain his enthusiasm. Pam was right: the toothbrush was no big deal. And now he had a brand new one.
He and Holly finished putting away the groceries before sitting down and starting in on their Chinese food, splitting the take-out boxes between two plates and sitting side by side at their kitchen table. Holly slurped up a bite of lo mein noodles. She giggled when a lone strand refused to go into her mouth, and as Michael laughed at the sight, he knew things would work out all right.
Just a little one-shot to send Michael off. Let me know what you thought - reviews are appreciated, as always.
I meant to write this pretty quickly after 'Goodbye, Michael' but got caught up in other things. If you enjoyed this, I have two other stories for The Office called "The Lie" and "A Day in the Life of Dwight Schrute." Check my profile and give those a read if you're interested, and I'd enjoy hearing what you think. Thanks!