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09 March 2008 @ 10:53 pm
Grief To Grace [The Office; Michael/Jan]  
TITLE: Grief To Grace
FANDOM: The Office
PAIRING: Michael/Jan
SPOILERS: "Grief Counseling" (3x04)
RATING: PG-13
SUMMARY:


*****

"This is the guy that used to have my office! Who used to sit at my desk!"

Michael hadn't thought much about dying until today... until Jan called to inform him of Ed Truck's passing. The man had been driving home, all by himself, and was hit by a semi. Decapitated, even. As if beheaded wasn't a bad enough way to go... he had to do it alone. And that notion was what made Michael snap today.

He was all alone. No girlfriend -- the thing with Carol hadn't really taken off, nor would it ever, and he was pretty sure Jan hated him -- no family of his own, save for his mother in Palm Springs. He didn't even have a pet to go home to at night. Just his lonely little condo.

Michael was afraid of dying alone. And little did he know, just two-and-a-half hours away, someone else was having the very same thought.


*****

Jan never let dying bother her. Not when her grandparents died, nor some of her aunts and uncles. They had all died of either natural causes, or from terminal illness. That never fazed her, as it was just the way of life sometimes. But this, the sudden passing of the Scranton branch's former regional manager... this suddenly had her terrified. He'd died in the blink of an eye, all alone. No wife or family surrounding him, nobody to hold his hand as he took his last breath. One fraction of a second and his life was over.

All throughout the day, whenever she thought of that, Jan felt as if she couldn't breathe. It just reminded her of how very lonely her own life was. Divorced, with nobody to spend time with after work, no real girl friends -- she'd always been more independent, anyway -- and certainly no fiance or husband... not even a boyfriend. She'd pushed Michael away until he gave up and chose another woman. Now she had no one.

So deep was she in her self-pity that she almost didn't hear the phone ringing in her office. Numbly, she reached over and picked it up. "Jan Levinson."

"Jan, hi. I'm sorry to bother you," came the soft-spoken, female voice on the other end. "This is Pam. It's about Michael."

Jan's stomach turned, and she sat forward. Her heart began to race without her conscious consent. "What's going on with Michael? Is he alright?" For a fleeting moment she feared, irrationally, that he was dead too.

"Um, no. Not really. This whole thing with Ed, he's just... I think he's taking it really hard."

Jan closed her eyes and breathed a sigh of relief inaudibly as she could. "Why do you say that, Pam?" she asked calmly.

"He just keeps going on and on about how Ed was alone when he died, and how Ed was the one that used to sit at his desk, in his office. Jan, this is going to sound weird, but I think... I think Michael might be afraid that he's going to die alone. And that nobody will care."

Jan's heart leapt into her throat, having thought those very same things about herself only moments before. Still, she had to maintain that professional air. "Pam, I think you should speak to Toby about this, since he's in HR. Or, more importantly, I think Michael should speak to Toby about this."

"Michael and Toby don't really have the best relationship," Pam explained.

"And Michael and I do?" Jan snapped her eyes shut, regretting the words the moment they left her mouth.

Pam's silence on the other end said it all.

Jan sighed. "Look, Pam. I'm sorry. I wish there was something I could do, but being almost three hours away, I'm afraid this is out of my hands." It almost pained her to say those words, and she damned herself for ever developing feelings for Michael Scott.

"Okay." Pam's voice was even softer now, if possible. "I understand."

"But please tell Michael to call me if he feels the need to talk, okay?"

"I will. Thanks. Sorry to bother you, Jan."

After hanging up, Jan sighed heavily and swung herself around in her chair to face out the window. There were just three hours left of her day, and then she could go home and try to put it all behind her. Home. Then it hit her once again. Her home, where she lived completely alone, without even a pet to greet her.

She reached over and hit the button on her phone that would connect her with her boss. "David, it's Jan. Something's come up, and I'm going to need to take the rest of the day off. Possibly tomorrow as well. Please have anything important forwarded to my BlackBerry, okay? Thank you."

She then hung up, rose to her feet, grabbed her coat and purse, and headed for the lobby. Three hours left of the workday, and only two-and-a-half until she would reach Scranton.


*****

"Goodnight, Michael."

Michael swung around in his chair, which had been facing the window, to see Pam leaning against the doorway, already in her coat. "Goodnight, Pam. Thank you for the beautiful eulogy today, and the song."

She smiled. "You're welcome. The camera guys already headed out, and said to say goodbye." After a beat, she asked, "Will you be okay?"

Michael nodded and waved his hand dismissively, as if what had happened today had been no big deal at all. "Oh yeah." He rose to his feet. "Don't worry about me, I'll be fine. I'm tough. Strong." He came around the desk and struck a 'Muscle Beach' pose for emphasis.

Pam nodded slowly and just barely twitched a smile, her usual response to his jokes. "Okay then."

"Thanks again, Pam."

Surprisingly, she reached out and gave him a brief hug, patting his back. "You're welcome, Michael." Then she left, leaving Michael once again alone with his thoughts.

He paced in his office for what felt like hours before finally giving up and deciding to go home. Then it hit him again. Home, where he was all by himself. Where nobody was there to greet him with a smile and an affectionate, "Hello, Michael. How was your day?" It was only himself... well, and his cello-playing neighbors on the other side of his condo's too-thin walls.

Michael sighed and grabbed his coat, pulling it on and heading for the door, opting to take the stairs instead of the elevator. Once downstairs, he took a moment to button his coat and find his car keys before he stuffed his hands into his pockets and ventured out into the crisp October evening. His eyes remained on the pavement as he walked, not wanting to look at the remnants of the bird funeral or at the spot where it had hit the glass and died. He only looked up when he heard a familiar voice.

"Hello, Michael."

There, leaning against his car, was the one woman who could still make his heart flutter despite how many times she'd broken it. "Jan." His feet carried him to her on auto-pilot while his eyes remained cemented on hers, wondering why she was here.

"Pam called me," she told him, as if reading his thoughts. "Said you might need somebody to talk to you."

"Oh." He tucked his chin, watching his feet again with sudden interest.

"So..." Her voice came out tentative, but still with an air of concern and -- Michael dared to hope -- affection, as she asked, "How was your day?"

"Oh, you know, it was..." He shook his head and blew a puff of air through his lips, trying to find the words. "It was..."

He looked up at her again and Jan nearly came undone at the liquid vulnerability in his eyes. "Michael..."

"It was like the worst day ever, Jan."

His voice came out strained, choked with pent-up tears, and Jan had all she could do not to wrap her arms around him. "Would you like to talk about it?"

To her surprise, he shook his head and threw a longing glance toward his Sebring. "I just want to go home."

"Oh." Jan was also surprised by the overwhelming disappointment she felt; surprised by the ache in her heart at the realization that she would have to drive two-and-a-half more hours to be completely alone again. But she forced herself to make a quick recovery. "That's perfectly fine, I understand. In fact, that's a good idea. Go home, get some rest, and--"

"Will you come with me?"

"Excuse me?"

"I'm sorry, Jan. I'm not -- y'know, whatever. I just... I don't want to be... I mean, I can't be--"

"Alone?" she finished for him, understanding completely where he was coming from. For a fleeting moment, they weren't so ridiculously opposite. In fact, today they were almost frighteningly similar. "I know."

"So you'll come with me?" he asked, hopefully, a boyish glint in his eyes taking away some of that puppy-like vulnerability.

Jan was powerless to do anything but say yes.


*****

They took Michael's car after Jan had parked hers in a different office park -- she didn't want rumors flying yet again about the status of their relationship. Once at his condo, Michael guided her inside with a hand on the small of her back, supporting her, as he asked, "Are you hungry? I could order us some dinner."

"Um..." Her brain told her not to get too comfortable. This was how trouble started the last time, after all. Her heart, however? Her heart was yearning for the chance to spend time with someone -- with Michael -- so she nodded and said, "Sure."

The smile on his face broke her heart. "Great! I'll get the takeout menus."

Twenty minutes later, Jan found herself sitting beside Michael on his couch while they continually swapped cartons of Chinese takeout. She never would have told him this, but this was often her favorite thing to eat after a long day at work. She was so used to going home to her monochrome penthouse and rushing straight for the Chinese takeout menu.

Michael stole a steamed snow pea from the carton she was holding and brought it to his lips with his chopsticks. "Seriously Jan, there's nothing better than coming home from a long day at work and just ordering some good 'ole Chinese takeout."

Jan's stomach flopped yet again. What was with the similarities today? Or had they always been this alike and she'd just never noticed it until now? She twitched a nervous smile. "Right."

"Are you okay?"

"I'm fine, Michael," she responded automatically, her eyes refusing to meet his even though she could feel him watching her every move. "I should be asking how you're doing."

He sighed, and handed over his carton of chicken fried rice before she even requested it, swapping it with her snow peas. "I'm fine too. I guess."

"You don't sound fine." She grabbed another snow pea before he took it completely away, and was frozen for a moment by his amused smile. "What?"

He seemed to catch himself admiring her and looked away, his smile now bashful in nature, and... Jan hated to admit it, but it was also somewhat adorable. "Nothing. I'm sorry. You're just..."

Jan furrowed her brow. "Just what?"

"You're just..." He kept shaking his head, leaning just a little closer with every shake until Jan realized their lips were unbearably close to touching.

Michael closed the distance and their lips touched -- tentatively, at first, until he applied just a bit more pressure. Jan was assailed with memories of a parking lot outside of Chili's, and an elevator on Valentine's Day. The softness of his lips and the way he tasted -- something she could only describe as 'just Michael' -- was something that would be engrained in her mind forever.

But then memories of being practically ignored on Casino Night, and Michael's vulnerability -- the entire reason that they were here right now -- came at her in a split-second and she jumped away as if burnt. Their lips broke with an audible 'smooch.' With eyes still closed, she laid her hands on his chest to keep him away. "Michael."

His heart thudded rapidly beneath her right palm, and she opened her eyes to see him hanging his head in shame. "I'm sorry."

Jan opened and closed her mouth, not sure how to respond to his apology -- she wasn't all that certain the kiss had been an unwelcome one, anyway -- and tried a different tactic. "Talk to me about what happened today." She wished her lips weren't still tingling, aching for another kiss. Why did only he have the ability to do that to her?

"Okay," he agreed, still looking at her with eyes a bit clouded. "We'll talk."


*****

"A bird funeral? So that's what that burned-up box was in the parking lot?"

A few hours into their conversation, Jan realized they'd become quite comfortable. Almost like that night in her hotel room all over again. Michael was propped against one arm of the couch, legs outstretched in front of him, and Jan had somehow found a spot between Michael's body and the inside of the couch, leaning back against his chest. On any other day, she could have -- and would have -- protested being in such close proximity to the man that continually drove her insane, but today? She needed this contact, this connection... for just some comfort and consolation, if nothing more.

"Yeah. That poor little guy. All alone..."

"Michael..." Jan closed her eyes and wished to close her ears against his tremulous voice.

"I can't die alone, Jan. I can't. I wouldn't be able to stand it. Having nobody there to sit with you, having nobody to hold onto..." As he said this last bit, his arm wound around her waist and pulled her back against him more tightly.

Jan didn't have the heart to move away. "I know how you feel, Michael," she said softly... so softly he couldn't hear it.

"This is not where I thought I would be at this age," he admitted.

"And where did you think you'd be?"

"Married. With at least a couple of kids, if not more."

Jan nodded against his shoulder, closing her eyes. She, too, figured she would have had at least a daughter and a son by now to spend her evenings with. Even if her marriage still would not have worked out, it would've been nice to have children to keep her company. "Yeah."

"I would've liked to have moved into a nice house in the suburbs, close to some of the good schools. A gorgeous three-bedroom house."

Jan hummed a little at the back of her throat, eyes still closed as she pictured a three-bedroom suburban house. As much as she loved New York, Michael painted quite an irresistible picture.

"Maybe with a big oak tree in the front yard, that I could hang a tire swing from," he continued. "My kids would spend their afternoons after school, taking turns on the tire swing, or playing in the piles of leaves in the fall... crunching through them..."

Jan felt herself falling deeper and deeper into a vivid picture of what Michael wanted, half-listening to each wonderful thing he listed off: A yellow school bus pulling up in front of the house, letting the kids off. The little girl would run up the driveway while the boy would walk and Michael would be waiting to greet them both on the porch. The little girl would jump into his arms for a big hug, and plant a loud kiss on his cheek while he asked about her day. He'd call the little boy 'Sport' affectionately and tousle his hair while he carried the little girl around.

The last coherent thought Jan had was that the little girl would have Michael's hazel eyes and her dark blonde hair... Natalie was a nice name for her...

"The thing that gets me the most about this whole thing, Jan, is that... what if I've already met the woman I'm supposed to spend the rest of my life with? What if I've met her, passed her by somehow, and didn't even know that she was 'The One'? You know? What if she's the woman that sat diagonal to me on the train to Philadelphia a couple weeks ago? What if she's the woman who works at the local coffee shop that always gives me extra napkins when I spill coffee on myself? What if--"

Michael looked down then, his lips scant centimeters from Jan's forehead, and he smiled to himself when he noted her closed eyes. "What if she's the woman who just fell asleep on me for the second time?" He dared to dust a kiss across her brow before leaning his cheek against her head, only for a moment. Then, he carefully maneuvered himself out from behind her and stealthily stood up, one arm still trapped under her back. Michael cautiously leaned down and slipped his other arm under her knees, praying that this would be as easy as it seemed in the movies.

"Come on, Jan." He swept her up into his arms, grunting only slightly as he straightened up.

Jan, in her half-slumbering haze, curled against him and laid her head on his shoulder, arms tightening around his neck even as she wearily slurred, "I should be getting home, Michael."

Michael chuckled to himself while carrying his deity toward the bedroom. "Jan, you're adorable; arguing with me even when you're half-asleep. You're staying here tonight."

"No I'm not," she protested sleepily, nuzzling further into his neck.

"Yes you are. Neither of us want to be alone tonight, so let's not be." He stopped in the doorway of his bedroom with her still in his arms, unwilling to cross the threshold until he made sure she knew, "I'd never take advantage of you, Jan."

The silence following his promise seemed to drag on forever, and Michael almost wondered if she'd fallen asleep again before he heard her voice, faintly responding, "I know."

"Trust me?"

"Mm-hmm." One arm started to slip from around his neck. She was falling asleep again.

But she'd told him all he needed to know. "Good. Then stay." He walked over to the bed with her and gently laid her down atop the covers. He then toed off his shoes and climbed in beside her, being careful to keep a foot of space between them. He promised he wouldn't take advantage, so he didn't want anything to be misconstrued.

However, he couldn't keep from reaching out to her, needing just a little contact... needing to make sure that he truly wasn't alone tonight. So, as she laid on her side facing away from him, Michael gently placed a hand on her back, just between her shoulder blades. His eyes traced the back of her head and down her spine, to the curve of her hip as he whispered, "Goodnight, Jan." Then, expecting silence, he closed his eyes.

Then she shifted. His hand slipped from her back and his eyes opened as she rolled over and curled against him again, slurring a "Goodnight, Michael," into his neck.

Michael smiled and, for the first time in a year, fell asleep with a smile on his face.


*****

Jan stirred awake sometime in the middle of the night, blinking her eyes in an attempt to adjust to the darkness around her. Her head was moving up and down slowly, in sync with the rise and fall of the chest beneath her. She lifted her head and caught a glimpse of Michael, fast asleep. Her first instinct was to panic -- extract herself from the circle of his arms and bolt for the door. But then she was transfixed by the look on his face -- the slight, peaceful smile, and all traces of worry lines gone from his forehead.

She touched his chest with one hand and laid her cheek against it once more, wondering if he was sleeping as well as she had. What the hell did this mean? She'd thought it was odd that she'd been able to fall asleep on Michael Scott at all for the first time, but a second? This, she couldn't comprehend.

Sleeping next to someone required a certain amount of trust, the knowledge that they wouldn't do anything to harm you or take advantage while you dreamed. Sleeping on top of someone, however... that was trust of an intimate nature. More than just knowing they wouldn't harm you or take advantage -- which she knew Michael wouldn't purposely do. She even vaguely recalled him saying something like that to her earlier. But she slept on his chest, in his arms, trusting him not only to respect her, but to protect her in sleep as well. This concerned her.

Could she really see this as being something real? Something tangible that could be between her and Michael? Sure, there was an odd physical attraction. There always had been. Michael's unpredictable side, while a repellent at times, also intrigued her. His distinguished looks attracted her all the more.

Jan closed her eyes and thought of Michael's dreams -- that three-bedroom house in the suburbs with the tire swing and two wonderful children. Was that a picture she could be a part of? In her mind's eye, she again saw the boy and girl climbing off the school bus. The little boy walked up the driveway while the girl ran excitedly. Michael was there on the porch, waiting to greet them both with arms outstretched. The little girl jumped into his arms, excitedly called him 'Daddy' as he swung her around... asking about her day while she gave him a loud, sloppy little-girl kiss on his cheek.

Sure enough, in her mind's eye she saw the girl with Michael's hazel eyes and her own dark blonde hair. And the son... whose dark hair Michael was now tousling as he affectionately called the kid 'Sport'... the son had her blue eyes. Jan opened her eyes.

She looked up at Michael and noted he was still wearing his work shirt and tie. An overwhelming feeling of affection came over her and she reached up to his neck, gently untying the windsor knot until the tie, undone, draped around his neck. Could she really see herself and Michael working out? And permanently enough that they would have a son and daughter living with them in the suburbs?

They fought constantly. Imagine what their home life would be like. However, as Jan recalled, their constant fights started when the documentary crew started showing up at Dunder Mifflin. Michael's cartoonish antics would piss her off, they'd fight, and she'd go home wondering why the hell she hadn't fired him yet. Without the cameras, in the safety of their own home, she just had this feeling that Michael would be very much how he was this past evening. Relaxed. Easier to communicate with. Open. Smarter. No longer showing off for anyone. Affectionate.

Jan, with her mind still wandering, reached up and undid the first button of his shirt. And then another. And then another, until her hand was resting against the cotton material of the white tee shirt he wore beneath. His heart was beating steadily under her palm and she could honestly see herself in a relationship with this man. And yes, she was tired of being alone. Of being lonely. That would always play a small role in her motivation to start something -- it did to begin with, anyway. But she was also tired of thinking about him constantly. She was tired of her heart skipping a beat when he'd accuse her of missing him. She was definitely tired of wanting to re-enact that Valentine's kiss with him at every turn.

So Jan opened another button on Michael's shirt and slipped her hand beneath, gliding it across his white-cotton-covered stomach to rest against his waist. She lifted her eyes to his face cautiously and saw his closed lids begin to flutter with activity. She felt his leg move against hers. She slid her hand quickly up his chest to grasp his shoulder and watched his eyes open.

"Jan?" Sleep clogged his voice, and he seemed to hold tighter to her, as if alarmed that she'd jump away at any second. He furrowed his brows at her, contemplating her in the dark.

She held his gaze, and was actually amused at the way he squirmed under her visual scrutiny.

"I didn't take advantage of you," he blurted.

Jan nodded. "I know you didn't. You wouldn't."

He shook his head in agreement. "Not ever."

"I know." She clasped his shoulder more tightly and slid up his body until they were face to face... until she hovered above him, his hands bracing her hips instinctively. "That's why I thought I'd give you the advantage."

And then Jan kissed him. Michael came fully awake at the first touch of her lips and held tighter to her waist as she lowered herself down, the length of her body resting atop his. "Please say you're sure about this," he murmured into her mouth, kissing her for all she was worth.

God, she forgot how uncharacteristically good he was at this. "Yes," she just barely managed to breathe against his lips, before he gently flipped them over and blanketed her body with his.


*****

Jan awoke hours later tangled in the sheets, unable to feel Michael's distinct presence beside her. She opened her eyes and looked around his still-dark bedroom, unable to find him anywhere, though there was evidence of him everywhere. His pants, shoes, and socks were in a heap on the floor on his side of the bed, and his button-down shirt lay wrinkled at the food of the bed. Jan slowly sat up, keeping the sheet tucked under her arms as she reached for the shirt, pulling it on and indulging herself in a brief sniff of the collar.

It smelled like cheap Drakkar Noir knockoff, and pure Michael. Doing up the buttons quickly, she swung her bare, long legs over the side of the bed and got up, padding across the carpet to the doorway. Bracing a hand on each side, she leaned forward and her eyes panned around the hallway, still unable to find him. Then she smelled the unmistakable scent of coffee. "Michael?"

Soft light was coming from the kitchen a ways down the hall, and Jan followed the soft light, now able to hear the sounds of him tinkering around near the stove. She leaned against the doorway. "Michael."

She caught his attention immediately, and enjoyed the way his eyes bulged out of his head for just a second while he took in her attire -- clad in nothing more than his dress shirt. "J-Jan. Holy..." He shook his head as if trying to shake off a trance, and chuckled to himself.

Jan couldn't help but smile, taking in what he was wearing and deciding he looked quite cute -- a white tee shirt and a pair of shorts with tiny microphone prints on them, his dark hair adorably tousled. Jan was half-expecting she'd feel some sort of panic set in after sleeping with him. Oddly enough, she felt none whatsoever. "What?"

"You just look..." Michael set down the spatula he'd been holding and went to her, stopping just a foot away. "Wow."

She arched an eyebrow. "Am I going to get a full sentence out of you anytime soon, Michael?"

He chuckled again, eyes still roving her figure. "I'm sorry, I just... for all the times I've imagined it, I never expected to actually see you... like this. Wearing nothing but one of my shirts." He lifted his eyes to hers. "It's gotta be the sexiest thing I've ever seen."

Jan wasn't quite sure what made her heart actually skip -- him calling her sexy, or admitting that he'd imagined her like this before. Why didn't that panic her, either? "Really," she responded coyly.

He nodded and took a step closer, but still didn't reach out to her. "Really."

Jan watched the tension in his body, watched his eyes still cataloguing her every curve, and she couldn't help but say to him, "Michael, you can look and touch."

His head didn't move, but his eyes flicked up to hers, as if checking to make sure that she was, in fact, lucid at this moment. Then, he tentatively reached out to touch the curve of her hip, watching her eyes to make sure she was okay with the contact.

Jan could've pounced on him in that moment. Michael definitely had his cartoonish moments, his rude and obnoxious moments... but those were all balanced out by moments like these, where he was unbearably sweet and considerate, and respectful. She really could see being in a relationship with him, and -- it almost frightened her to think it, but -- being married to him. She already was married to Michael, in some ways. Always having to check in on him and keep up with him, making sure he stayed in line... or as close to being in line as Michael Scott could possibly get.

She gasped suddenly, pleasantly surprised when Michael pinned her to the wall in the kitchen and kissed her. "What time is it?" she breathed into his mouth, winding her arms around his neck.

"Five-fifteen," he replied between kisses.

She hummed, and gasped again when he gripped the back of her thighs and suddenly lifted her off her feet, depositing her on the countertop. Their lips broke and she pulled back, grinning down at the look she saw in his eyes -- affection, desire, respect, lust, and... oh God, maybe even love. "Michael..."

"I was making you breakfast," he told her, hands affectionately stroking her bare thighs while he tossed a glance toward the stove. "I think I may have done it wrong."

Jan furrowed her brows and followed his gaze, spotting some questionable-looking pancakes on the griddle. "What were you trying to do?"

The smile he directed up to her was boyish and sweet. "I wanted to make you some pancakes."

Her heart swelled, but she chuckled. "Michael, you didn't need to do that."

"I know, but... I wanted to. I've never made breakfast for anyone before." A bit softer, he added, "Nobody's wanted to stay over before."

Jan kissed away the sadness in his tone, holding his face in her hands while he continued to stroke her bare legs. "You don't need to make me breakfast, Michael," she whispered, planting small pecks on his lips. "Although, I do appreciate the gesture."

"Well then, whatever else you need, Jan." He kissed her neck.

Jan's eyes slipped closed as he kissed down the side of her neck, and her arms wrapped around his shoulders again. When his lips touched her collarbone, she drew in a shaky breath, recalling just how surprisingly talented those lips had been just hours before, and told him in a desire-clouded voice, "I can think of something I need."

His eyes bugged out of his head yet again when he pulled back, and he sounded downright incredulous. "Really?"

She arched one perfectly-shaped brow. "You up for it?"

That purely-Michael grin slipped over his face. "That's what she said."

Jan fixed him with a playful glare. "Shut the stove off and get me in the bedroom, Michael."

He mock saluted, "Yes ma'am!" and hurriedly went about turning off the stove and coffee-maker before running back over to her, pressing his lips to hers as he hooked her legs around his waist and carried her back to the bedroom.


*****

When Jan awoke again, her muscles pleasantly sore, it was to find sunlight filtering in through the window. Michael was, yet again, missing. She flipped over on her side and felt his side of the bed, no longer warm. Wherever he went this time, he'd been gone for awhile. "Michael?"

She sat up, the sheet pooling around her waist, and this time found his tee shirt and shorts strewn across the foot of the bed. She grabbed the tee shirt and pulled it on, then climbed out of bed and wandered instinctively toward the kitchen.

She couldn't hear him, though she could smell and hear coffee still brewing. The lights were off in the kitchen though plenty of sunlight was streaming through the windows. She called his name, "Michael?" only to receive silence as an answer.

A note sat waiting for her near the coffee machine, written in Michael's distinctive scrawl:

Some coffee for you, since you are bionic and require no breakfast. I'm taking off as early as I can today. And yes, I miss you. I probably always will from here on out, whether you like it or not, Jan. Enjoy the coffee.

Jan smiled, and glanced up to note that not only was a coffee mug there for her, but two packets of sugar and a single serving of cream, also. She was unable to help beaming as she wondered just how the hell he knew exactly how she liked her coffee.

Then she heard her cell phone faintly ringing from the living room. Running quickly over to the coffee table, she flipped it open and hoped it was him in the other end. "Hello?"

It was her boss, checking to see if she was still planning on taking today off. Jan fed him a rather expertly-worded fib and then disconnected, her eyes still searching for Michael. At the back of her mind, she realized she should feel like a fool for missing him... but she didn't.

She flipped open her phone again and hit the speed dial button for Michael's direct line. Sure enough, within moments, she heard his happy-to-hear-from-her voice...

"Hi there, sleepyhead. You got my note?"

"Yes, I did," she smiled, still hanging onto it. "But Michael... you stranded me here."

"I know, that worked out quite well for me, didn't it?"

Jan chuckled briefly, asking, "How's that?"

"Well since you've got nowhere to go, that means that you'll be there when I get home."

Home. The word rang in her head for some odd reason, and a vision of that three-bedroom suburban house flickered in her mind's eye. "Ah."

He sounded a mix of awed, sad, and elated as he admitted, "I've never had anyone to come home to before."

And it was comments like that, spoken in an uncharacteristically sincere voice for Michael, that left Jan with the realization that there was pretty much no hope for being able to resist him. Ever. So she closed her eyes, inhaled through her nose, and exhaled softly, "I'll see you when you get home, Michael."


*****

Jan, having spent most of the day flipping through witless talk shows and boring infomercials, had finally fallen asleep on the couch sometime after one o'clock, and was roused from sleep just a few hours later by a pair of lips on her cheek.

She stirred and turned on her side, feeling a warm hand on the curve of her hip as she moved. "Wake up," his whisper commanded.

Jan's eyes opened accordingly, to see Michael holding a fistful of daisies out to her. A fistful of daisies with roots and clumps of dirt still attached to them. She slowly sat up. "Michael?"

"It's so amazing to come home to you," he replied sincerely, voice filled with awe as his eyes traced her face.

Though Jan's heart gave a flutter at the words, her eyes were still fixated on the flowers. "Where... did you get those, Michael?"

"Oh." As if just noticing the flowers he was clutching, Michael glanced down at his hand and gave a facial shrug. "They're my neighbor's. I borrowed them."

"You borrowed them." Jan's eyebrows climbed her forehead slowly, still eyeing the daisies.

"Yeah. You know, just... for awhile. And, um, technically he doesn't really know that I borrowed them, and - and really he won't know if I can run back over there later and bury these things again before he has time to notice."

Jan couldn't help but chuckle, shaking her head at him. So unfailingly Michael, he was. She had to lean up and kiss him, a reward for his efforts. "They're lovely, Michael. Thank you. But... maybe you should just put those back where you found them."

Michael sighed heavily. "Great. Now I have to dig another hole."

Jan let that one go for the time-being. "So how was work?"

"Oh, it was alright," Michael sighed again, this one world-weary. "Except you weren't there. And I kinda... couldn't stop thinking about you, and... have you still not gotten dressed from this morning?"

Jan glanced down at her attire, back in his button-down shirt because she (not that she'd ever admit this to him) liked the way it smelled too much. "I guess not."

His hand found her knee, and his fingers began tickling their way up the inside of her thigh while he crooked an eyebrow devilishly. "Does that mean you're still not wearing any underwear?"

Jan swatted his hand away before it could reach its intended target. "Michael."

"What?" His grin was contagious. "It's not like the cameras are here." His hand tried again...

Jan swatted him away again, but was unable to keep the laugh from escaping. "Michael! Stop it."

"Ooh, that's not what you were saying lastnight."

She rolled her eyes. "You are unbelievable."

His grin nearly split his face. "Now that's more like it."

Jan shoved him off the couch and onto the floor.

"Aw come on, Jan! If I can't talk dirty to you in my own home, then what hope is there for me?"

"None," she chuckled as she rose to her feet and started to head into the kitchen.

Michael, still on the floor, grabbed her ankle to stop her. "You realize I could very easily look up that shirt right now, Jan? But I am a gentleman."

"That's just how I like you, Michael, so stay that way," she teased, and wriggled her foot from his grasp.

Predictably, he got up and trotted into the kitchen after her. "So what are we doing tonight? More of the same?"

"I need to go home eventually, Michael."

"You really don't."

She pulled open the refrigerator with the ease of someone who'd lived there for years, and began to peruse Michael's dinner options. "I do. I just have my clothes from yesterday with me."

He leaned close and planted a kiss in the hollow of her shoulder while he wrapped his arms around her from behind, murmuring, "Who said you needed clothes?" into her ear.

Jan couldn't help but smile. "Michael..."

"No, I'm serious. I think you should just be a nudist while you're here, Jan. All naked, all the time." He nodded resolutely. "Yep. I think I could support that."

Jan spun in his arms and let herself drape her arms around his neck. "Oh really?"

"Really." He kissed her lips briefly. "Whaddya say?"

"I say... I need to go home, Michael."

He let out what sounded strangely like a whimper. "But Jan..."

"Are you whining, Michael?"

"Yes!"

"Why?"

"Because! I..." He followed her as she headed toward the bedroom and watched helplessly as she gathered her clothes. "Jan, I don't want you to go."

Jan set her clothes down slowly and turned to face him, taking in the stricken look on his features. "Michael..."

"I'm sorry. I just..." He stepped up to her and reached for her hand, looking down to watch their fingers entwine. "I just have never had this before." He looked up at her and those green-gold eyes did a number on Jan's heart. "I've never had someone to come home to, and I've never thought about someone as frequently as I think about you."

Jan watched him struggle with his emotions as he admitted, "I've never been this happy before, Jan, and... if you go, then... then so does the happiness."

She closed her eyes against the look on his face, against the sound of his voice, against her own emotions threatening to engulf her. She felt his hands touch her waist and she wrapped her arms around his neck automatically, hugging him tight and wishing for a moment that what was between them -- whatever it was -- could just be simple, could work out.

Jan sighed then, defeatedly. She should have known Michael Scott would wear her down eventually. "One more night," she told herself moreso than him. "And then I have to go."


*****

One more night turned into two. It was the weekend, after all. That was the excuse Jan gave, anyway. It was the weekend, and what else did she have to do? Plus, Michael had been so happy. Who was she to ruin that? Obnoxious as he could be at times, the man deserved some happiness in his life. And, if him being happy made her happy, well... that was just icing on the cake.

"Find some good stuff?" Michael asked her as she came through the door of his townhouse. He immediately jogged to meet her and took a few of the shopping bags out of her hands.

Jan smiled and tossed her bangs out of her eyes. "Yes. I did. And I picked up something for you, too."

"Really?" His eyebrows quirked as his lips tilted upward slightly, and Jan was certain he was one of the most handsome men she'd ever met. "What is it?"

She held up a bag from J. Crew. "A nice black shirt for Ed's funeral. It's on Tuesday."

"It is?"

"Yes. Sherry sent an e-mail to my BlackBerry Friday afternoon with all the details. His wake is on Monday night, and the funeral is Tuesday morning."

"Oh."

Jan looked up when she heard his tone. Everything he'd been worrying about on Thursday had come back to him. "Michael..."

"Will you be there?" he asked, almost sadly hopeful... like a lost little boy.

She nodded without hesitation. "Of course. I mean, I don't think I'll be attending the wake, but I'll be there for the funeral."

"Okay."

Jan set her shopping bags down in the entryway and went to him, taking the others from his hands and setting them aside. "Michael?" She placed her hands on his shoulders.

"Hmm?" He didn't meet her eyes but rather stared at a spot on the floor... though his hands instinctively went to her hips.

She ducked her head to try to recapture his gaze, then - when that didn't work - she laid both palms across his face and drew him toward her for a lingering kiss. "Michael," she tried again, against his lips.

"Hmm." He kissed her back with passion, holding her tight as if she'd run when he let go.

Jan pulled back gently and smiled when, this time, she was met with the deep green of his eyes. "Will you be okay?"

Michael nodded, a bit too emphatically for Jan to really believe him, and cut his eyes to the side. They looked a little misty. "Yeah, I think so."

"You're not alone," she reminded him.

"No," he agreed. "Not right now, anyway. But..."

She furrowed her brow. "But what?"

"But when you leave, Jan..."

"You know that's an inevitability, Michael. I live in New York. I can't just abandon my obligations there to just stay here all the time."

That did it. That brought the hurt to his eyes full-force, and his gaze went to the floor as he took a step back from her. "You're right."

Jan suddenly felt cold without his hands on her hips. She hadn't meant for her words to hurt him. "Michael..." She took a step forward.

He just shook his head, that hurt puppy-dog look plastered across his features breaking Jan's heart. "No, it's okay. You're completely right. You have your own life, in New York, that I'm no part of. And... you've probably been trapped here way too long. You said a few days ago that you'd stay one more night. And you did. I should let you get home now, Jan."

"But..." She hadn't been prepared for how desperate to stay she really was. He looked so broken, and... if she was being honest with herself, she really kind of liked it here with him.

Michael still didn't meet her eyes as he asked, "Do you need help with your things?"

Jan swallowed the lump in her throat and blinked back the tears he seemed to be producing like magic, and shook her head. "No," she responded quietly. "I don't have that much, I should be able to get it all."

"Okay." He shuffled off into the kitchen sadly and left Jan to gather her things.

When she was through, she stopped in the doorway to the kitchen and just watched him for a moment, making dinner... dinner for one. What was it about being here that made her want to stay so badly? Was she just feeling bad that he was lonely? And vulnerable because of Ed's death? "Michael..."

"Bye, Jan," he called distantly, not looking up from the stove. "Thanks for staying."

Why did she want to run over, wrap her arms around him, and never let go? "You're... welcome. Thanks for having me."

"Mm-hmm."

Jan had never felt so much like a jilted lover in her entire life. And it was all her doing. "Bye, Michael," she murmured, barely audible, and headed for her car. Once inside, she started the engine, pulled out of his driveway, and jumped on the interstate.

That was when the tears began to fall.


*****

One night back in her own home -- her stylish monochrome penthouse overlooking the park -- made Jan realize just how much she really wanted to stay with Michael. The colors here weren't warm or welcoming. They were stoic, neutral... unfeeling. Michael's townhouse had splashes of warmth here and there -- the one bedroom that was painted a light green, the other a light blue. The warm, rich brown tones in the bathroom... Michael's townhouse was a home. A home Jan could see herself in full-time.

On Monday, Jan spent half of her work day eyeing the clock, wondering what Michael was doing... and the other half berating herself for becoming so dependent on being near him. She'd spent a total of three nights with him and missed him terribly as if they'd been dating for years. She had no idea what was wrong with her. Not to mention she was still imagining the picture he'd painted three nights ago -- the yellow school bus, and the little boy that looked like Michael and the girl that looked like her. The kids playing in the leaves, taking turns on the tire swing... she ached to actually be a part of that picture. And with Michael.

By the time Tuesday rolled around, Jan had done enough back-and-forth analyzing of and agonizing over her situation with Michael to last her a lifetime. On the way to the funeral, she forced herself to make a decision... and promptly got stuck in mid-morning traffic. She cursed every single car in front of her, remembering her promise to Michael that she'd be there. She'd already hurt him once by what she'd said; well, and she had to face it -- she'd hurt him with her words a lot more times than that. She didn't want to do it again.

By the time traffic eased up just outside of Scranton, Jan had only enough time to make it to the burial. She pulled out the map to the cemetery and contemplated a cigarette -- her nerves were doing a number on her just at the thought of seeing Michael again... especially not knowing how he'd treat her today. She managed to hold back reaching for her fail-safe vice, however. Who wanted to reek like cigarettes at a funeral, anyway?

After slowing to a stop just behind Michael's easily-recognizable Sebring, Jan placed a hand on her stomach, took a calming breath, and stepped out of the car. She shut the door as quietly as she could, noting that the burial service was already taking place. Her eyes scanned the crowd for Michael, and her heart nearly broke when she saw him -- all the way at the back, completely alone, his mouth downturned in a sad frown while he stood with his hands clasped in front of him.

How could she have ever looked at this man as an obnoxious buffoon? Lately, it just didn't make sense. He was warm, kind... affectionate, sensitive... and lonely. Just like her. So very lonely, with nobody to come home to and nobody to share a bed -- or even a meal -- with.

Jan slowly made her way toward him from behind, watching as he ducked his head and shifted his weight on his feet... placing one hand in his pocket while the other rested at his side. She watched that hand until she reached him, and slowly stretched her own hand out to take it.

To her surprise, he didn't jump or startle -- just squeezed her hand immediately, instinctively, without turning to look at her; as if he knew, without seeing, that it was her. When she stepped up beside him, that was when she felt his eyes on her -- those misty green eyes. "You came," he commented softly, awestruck.

Jan nodded, keeping her eyes straight ahead on the service still taking place, responding just as quietly, "Of course I did. I said I would..." She turned to look at him. "Didn't I?"

The corners of his mouth lifted slightly. "Yeah. Yeah you did."

Both of them turned to watch the service, taking solace in the comfortable silence that had fallen between them. Jan looked down ever-so-briefly as their hands, in unison, changed positions and touched palm-to-palm, exchanging warmth and energy, before their fingers laced one-by-one. Or rather, two-by-two. She lifted her eyes to Michael's and noted that the mist, the faint glimmer of pent-up tears, was slowly fading. "You're not alone," she reminded him in a whisper.

He shook his head. "Neither are you."

She managed to twitch a rather tremulous smile. "No."

And it never even occurred to her to look for prying eyes, or other attendees from Dunder Mifflin. It didn't matter. She'd finally come to a place where she was willing to accept the simple fact that, as opposite as they were, she and Michael needed each other. They balanced each other. They wanted the same things. Forget corporate policies and the inevitable rumor mill. She and Michael really had something tangible, something worth enduring any possible consequence. Hell, what was between them already included a fully-painted future... tire swing and all.

When the service had ended and everyone started to disperse, Jan and Michael remained. They just stood side-by-side, hands intertwined, until they were the last ones left. Then, they turned to face each other, neither relinquishing their hold on the other's hand. Michael voiced the inevitable question. "Now what?"

Jan smiled just slightly. "We go home."

His eyebrows raised, "We?" and he started for the car, still hanging on to her hand.

She nodded. "Yes. Michael, look... what I said the other day-"

"Completely true, and don't worry about it, Jan. Really."

"No."

"Huh?" They stopped next to his car.

The look of pure confusion on his face was really heartbreakingly adorable. "It's not true, and I did worry about it."

"What are you talking about?"

"Michael, I do live in New York. But it's just a city."

"Some say it's the greatest city in the world," he commented.

"Sure. But it's a city nonetheless. There are millions of them all over the world. And places to live in every single one. It's not like I can't ever... move."

His knit-together brows still expressed confusion, though she watched a glimmer of understanding come to his eyes. "Okay..."

"And while it's true that I can't abandon my obligations, I can adjust them."

"What are you trying to say, Jan?"

She stared straight into his guileless eyes as she told him, "Michael, I missed you. Unbelievably so, and we've only been apart for a couple days. I missed you the moment I got on the interstate back to New York." She shook her head, never breaking gaze. "That doesn't just happen. Not to me."

He said nothing, just stared expectantly, patiently waiting for her to continue -- a true rarity for Michael.

"And I couldn't stop thinking about you. That doesn't happen to me, either. It made me realize that we have something, here. Something real. Something that I've never really had before."

Michael searched her eyes with his own, reaching up to tuck a piece of windblown hair behind her ear affectionately. "Are you sure we're not just... lonely, Jan?"

"Oh, we're lonely, Michael. But that doesn't have anything to do with it. You know that."

"I do. Yeah." He nodded, his eyes now busy tracing her face. Jan had never felt so adored in her life -- he was looking at her like she was the absolute center of his universe in that moment. "I just... wanted to know we're on the same page."

"We are. Even though this is completely crazy and I'm feeling just a little too attached after only being with you for a few days..."

"I know what you mean." He smiled at her and she felt herself falling just a little bit harder.

"And it's insane that after that short a period of time I can actually imagine myself in that little suburban fantasy of yours..."

"You can?" He sounded surprised.

She chuckled. "Yes. Crazy, right?"

He nodded, feigning seriousness. "Completely." Then, he smirked just a little. "But the hot ones are always crazy."

Jan laughed in spite of herself. "Michael..."

"Jan..." He mimicked her tone right back at her while he reached out to pull her close, locking his arms around her waist much like he did in the Chili's parking lot, ages ago.

Their foreheads met and Jan's eyes closed of their own accord, savoring the moment. "Can we please go home?" She laid her hands on his upper arms.

He kissed her gently... chastely, as if keeping in mind where they were. "And home would be...?"

"Wherever you are," she responded automatically, then pressed her lips together as her cheeks pinked in embarrassment. "I'm sorry. That was-"

"Unbelievably cheesy," Michael finished for her, pulling back to give her a grin. "Jeez, Jan. You been reading a lot of Danielle Steele or something? That sounded like something out of one of her books."

"And just how would you know what's in one of her books, Michael?" she questioned, leaning back to narrow her eyes at him.

Now it was he who was turning pink. "Just... um, nevermind." He cleared his throat a bit too loudly to be nonchalant and released his hold on her. "Shall we go?"

She eyed him suspiciously while they each headed for their own cars. "I'm going to find a secret stash of Danielle Steele novels at the back of your closet, aren't I?"

"Right, Jan." He made her accusation sound completely preposterous, and yet his eyes shifted. "What kind of man would read that tripe?" After a beat, he added, "Other than Toby, I mean."

Jan just rolled her eyes. "Okay."

"Hey."

His voice stopped her just as she unlocked her car and opened her door. She looked up to see him leaning against his car with his arms folded atop the roof. "What?"

"What's going to happen?"

She tilted her head slightly. "With what?"

"Everything. I mean... does this mean that..." He stammered. "Well, I-I don't want to make any assumptions here, but does this mean that you're... moving in?"

Jan smiled, damning her heart for giving a flutter at the very idea. Three days with him and she wanted to move in. It really had finally happened -- Michael Scott had driven her insane. "We'll... take things one step at a time, Michael."

"Okay, so a systematic moving-in?"

"Maybe."

"You wanna do a June wedding?"

"Michael..."

"That's okay, we can wait on the wedding. Just as long as you're still moving in." He grinned at her in that way that was so adorably Michael -- the irritating, yet devastatingly handsome grin. She never stood a chance.

"Just meet me at home, Michael."

"Will do. And... I really like the sound of that."

Jan couldn't help but smile back and admit, "Me too."

"Alright." Michael finally started to get into his own car, calling over his shoulder, "See ya at home, Jan."

"See you at home, Michael."



FIN