Table 8 - Horror / Thriller
|01. Trapped||02. Unknown||03. Taken||04. Pursuit||05. Sleep with one eye open|
|06. Forbidden||07. Darkness||08. Adreneline||09. Murder||10. Panic/Fear|
Ryan throws himself against the door with all his weight, slamming it shut and frantically turning the lock. In the enclosed space of the supply closet, surrounded by boxes of paperclips and rubber bands, he tries to catch his breath. It's not the best place to be, but at least he's not out there.
He doesn't know where Jim is and he's scared to think about it. He knows he can't dwell on it, because contemplating what could have happened to him may render him catatonic. Right now he has to find a way out, find a safe place, get to the police. Then he'll find Jim.
He searches the closet for a weapon but finds the most dangerous thing is a staple remover. Whatever's out there...is going to take something much bigger. Ryan presses himself against the far wall, and watches the door.
Jim peers around his desk into the dimly lit office, trying to keep his breathing quiet and clutching a crowbar from the warehouse in a white knuckled grip. The one time the office gets invaded by...who knows what just has to be the day after Toby makes Dwight clear out all of his hidden weapons.
Jim doesn't know if Ryan's out there. There's a lot he doesn't know right now, in fact, but that's the only thing he really cares about. There are those who got out, who are safe - like Pam, thank God - and there are those who were...less than lucky. If Ryan's still here, Jim's outright praying that he's not in the latter category.
He waits for several minutes until he's sure the threat isn't out there. He steels himself before jumping up and scanning the office. He frantically runs to each desk and when he's sure no one's hiding underneath one, he starts opening doors. Michael's office and the conference room are clear, as are the kitchen and breakroom. He breathlessly darts through the annex and still, there's no one.
Jim can feel the panic start to build. There's a lot of places in the building someone could be hiding, and Jim can't be sure the next door will reveal Ryan or the thing he's running from. He can also feel the dread settle in because he hasn't found Ryan yet.
He takes a long time to open the supply closet. There are no windows to peek into there. When he finally throws the door open and holds the crowbar up like he's up at bat, he finds no one. He sighs in relief and makes to go, when he notices something. There's paper littering the floor, and empty spaces on one of the metal shelves. When he moves inside he finds the cover to the vent on the floor, and a tie cinched around one of the bars. It's Ryan's tie, he knows it is because he's seen it balled up on his bedroom floor plenty of times. When he looks up, there's a hole in the ceiling where the vent goes and a thrill of hope runs through him. Ryan might still be alive.
Jim is 34 now, he has a house, a family and a steady job. He and Pam are deliriously happy as husband and wife, their daughter is 3 and her hair curls like Pam's. He still works at Dunder Mifflin as co-manager keeping Michael in check. His life is good, his life is normal.
Ryan Howard's been missing for 4 years now. At first people thought he just forgot to call in sick. At first Jim just sighed, aggravated, used to his boyfriend's sometimes flighty nature. A few days later, people were becoming worried. No call, no email, no sign of the man at all.
It's on the fourth day that Ryan's mother called and said in a voice choked with tears that she can't find her son. Jim's heart seized.
The police were called, flyers were hung, the search went out. They found Ryan's car on the side of the road, abandoned. They found a shoe in a field a few days later. And that's the most anyone finds of Ryan Howard.
Jim made attempts to talk to his mother, tried calling her once a week, just to say hi, to remind her that he's thinking of her son. But the calls stopped being hopeful and Jim remembers the last one vividly, because he remembers the way they both sounded like they'd just come back from a funeral. The funeral. Ryan's mother moves away soon after.
For a long time Jim isn't himself. There's a morbid fog hanging over the office and Jim feels it acutely. And the fact that their relationship had been a secret makes it all that much harder, there's no one he can talk to. It's Pam, of course, that he clings to, and they never come right out and talk about it, and Jim never admits to anything but just having someone feels better than going home alone and wondering.
He's not alone now, but he's still wondering. Most days he goes to bed, too tired to think and he gets up and goes about his day like nothing's wrong. Then there are those nights that he finds himself awake at 2 a.m. staring at the ceiling fan and thinking back on someone who's not here anymore.
It's not just that Ryan's gone. It's the idea that he disappeared so suddenly and without a trace. The car and shoe are foreboding omens that haunt Jim on these sleepless nights. If Ryan up and left, he'd probably go to New York, and he'd probably at least spare a careless "catch you later" for Jim. He knows he's never not tell his mother though. But sometimes Jim wonders if Ryan's lofty notions of getting as far away from Scranton as possible caught up with him, if the wanderlust just got too much for him.
These are the happy options. These are the possibilities that don't make Jim's chest hurt. He pads down the stairs on some of these nights and pours himself a drink and rifles through a shoebox that contains articles from the paper, a handwritten note from Ryan's mother, and a lone photograph of Jim and Ryan, mere days before his disappearance. In the picture, Jim's hand curls around his shoulder, Ryan looks at him with a smirk, unaware of the camera. They look happy.
"Just tell me what happened to him." Jim says, staring the man down in the parking lot of the gas station, miles and miles away from Scranton.
The man stares back from behind wire frame glasses, a badly concealed smile playing on his lips. It's come to this.
There's only one way he'll find out, the man tells him.
Jim holds the white pill in his hand and thinks about Pam. About his daughter and his house, and his perfectly little normal life that wouldn't have happened if Ryan hadn't gone missing. He takes a deep breath and swallows it. He has to know.
He wakes up in the dark, and when he flicks open his lighter, the walls of the casket close in.
"You're really bad at this you know!" Ryan Howard says right into his ear, which really can't be helped seeing as he's got both arms around Jim's neck and the two of them are dangling 300 feet off the ground.
"Hey, I'm new at this!" Jim replies, scrambling to reload his gun, keep his grip on the tether holding them and trying not to be choked by Ryan.
It's true, not a week ago James Halpert was upgraded to agent status - 008, 007 was taken - and his first mission was to oust a ring of embezzlers from one of the world's largest oil companies. How that ended with him 30 stories up with the company's youngest CEO - Howard - clinging to his neck is a long story he's going to have to suss out sometime when he's got a lot of time and scotch on hand.
He manages to get off a shot that sends a goon - one of, say, 10 that are currently repelling down after them - screaming towards the ground but in the process they slip down another 6 feet. Howard yelps and wraps his legs around Jim's waist.
"What were you before this? The coffee boy?" And boy, if it weren't for all the yelling and sniping the bastard's done through all this Jim might actually find the guy attractive. The kid - and he really can't be older than Jim himself is, which makes him wonder further just what in the hell they're both doing - wasn't wrapped up in all the seedy dealings and has been rather cooperative through all this, save some condescendingly snide comments about Jim's lack of experience. Jim realizes it's really all his fault Howard got dragged into this, but right now he can't seem to care.
One more shot and then he's out of ammo, and a hopeless attempt to throw the gun at one of the attackers merely ends in it flying up in an impressive arc only to plummet toward the ground. That never works, Jim thinks haplessly. He slips down another 10 feet, this time on purpose though Ryan still whimpers and holds tighter, while trying to grapple with the gadgets in his pocket. Of course Q had been busy on a project for another, higher up agent and Jim got stuck all the way down with U for god's sake, so so far the devices either hadn't worked or he had yet to find a situation in the world where they'd be useful (a pair of pants in a jello like substance had proved the most befuddling).
A pen that could be used like a grappling hook may have proved helpful were they not already suspended too far from the top of the building on a tenuously thin rope. A pair of X-ray glasses go the way of the gun. Jim pulls out a gadget that he remembers is supposed to fire tiny ninja-star-like discs and aims it toward a rope leading to a black-clad henchman. He manages to slice the rope on the first try (hey, he didn't get promoted for nothing) and swings wildly to avoid the mass of falling hitman as it whooshes by them.
"Can you do that again?" Ryan yells, nudging Jim to look at another rapidly approaching figure from above. Jim aims and pulls the trigger only to hear a disheartening 'tsck'. Jim pulls it three more times to be sure, but no doubt, the thing only fires once.
"Nope!" He informs Ryan and drops down again. His shoes scramble against the slick planes of glass and really, the tux may look damn cool, he's not denying, but dress shoes don't have nearly enough traction for these kinds of chase scenes.
The eight remaining toughs are coming down fast and Jim wonders vaguely if he can just keep repelling till they hit the ground and then try to outrun them when a bullet rushes past his ear. The hench closest to them has got his gun out finally and Jim drastically falls 15 feet in an attempt to avoid the next bullet. Their chances are dwindling fast and Jim really doesn't want to go down as the agent that killed himself and his one ally on the very first mission.
It's then that he remembers that his shoes aren't completely useless and turn into a sort of cleat when activated. Jim does so and kicks at a pane of glass. It doesn't so much as chip, of course, and Jim has to move down to the next one to get away from the advancing goon. He steels himself and pushes off from the side of the building, Ryan muttering very mean things behind him, and swings at the glass which shatters into a thousand tiny pieces and the two of them tumble into an office. Jim praises the gods of cheap construction and cost-cutting while scrambling to right himself and grab Ryan's sleeve. He hustles him up and practically flies to the door and into the hallway.
He doesn't have a gun, he doesn't even have a butter knife, and the only gadgets he's got left are the damn pen and the shoes. He's starting to wonder if they made a mistake promoting him when he spots the fire extinguisher. The henchman that was closest to them outside is making a racket smashing his own window into an office and Jim pushes Ryan into an open doorway and slides against the wall.
With one swing 200 pounds of goon goes down. Ryan gives him an utterly nasty look of disapproval but Jim grins smugly in return, only to find a wire wrapped around his neck. Jim flails wildly at the man strangling him from behind until Ryan rips the extinguisher from his hands and aims, shooting foam right in the attacker's eyes. The man stumbles blindly backward before disappearing back out the open window.
"That's four down, only four left." Jim says and yanks at Ryan's sleeve again, leading him into the stairwell.
They scramble down two flights when another man in black jumps down from above. Jim only just has the forethought to activate the cleats before kicking the man square in the head. The first hit stuns him and the second puts him out long enough for him and Ryan to make it down another two flights before the guy's buddy catches up with them. Jim yanks out the pen and aims for the man's feet and the hook winds around them in the blink of an eye. It unbalances the guy right over the railing and the pen lodges between the bars so Jim's able to give him a little wave when they see him again three flights down.
There's still two goons hot on their trail and Jim's running out of ideas. In an attempt to shake them Jim drags Ryan back into the main building and fumbles in a dark hallway. He runs into a labyrinth of cubicles and he ducks into one at random.
Ryan's breathing hard but still manages an archly raised brow and Jim can tell he's got some smart aleck comment on the tip of his tongue - Jim imagines it's some witty cliché like "Any more bright ideas Einstein?" - when Jim hears the soft thuds of footsteps on the carpet. He smashes a hand against Ryan's mouth and presses them both up against the cubicle wall. Jim can feel himself flush at the close proximity of him and Ryan and wow this is an inconvenient time for that and he only hopes that if he ever gets another go at this that that kind of thing will stop happening over time.
The footsteps are slowly circling their cubicle - well, actually it's someone named Jennifer's cubicle, complete with pictures of her cats and a pink stapler and Jim almost finds it funny that even evil corporations have people like Jennifer working for them. One of the set of footsteps finally get too close for Jim's liking and he goes for a Hail-Mary.
He flips open the stapler and wings it at the guy's head and it actually does the job of disorientating the guy so Jim can roundhouse him, cleats out, and he flies back into a row of cubicle walls that tumble under his weight. Jim whips around in time to see his partner barreling towards him but there's the 'clang' of the drawer on a file cabinet opening and the hench stumbles right into Jim's waiting uppercut.
Ryan looks mighty pleased with his quick thinking and Jim actually mumbles out "Thanks" before shaking himself and once again bundling Ryan off the opposite way down the hall. They catch their breaths waiting for the elevator and when it opens for them with a prim little "ding" it seems bizarrely nonchalant. They step inside and Jim pushes the button for the parking garage where a sweet new Porsche 911 is waiting for them.
Jim runs a hand through his hair, surely it looks ridiculous by now, and slumps against the elevator wall, but only a little bit. Ryan's straightening his suit and smoothing out his tie, even picking a piece of plaster off one shoulder. Ryan's hair is a mess, sticking up in all directions, there's smudges of white foam from the extinguisher on his cheek and not a few minutes ago he was clinging to Jim like a baby koala but dammit the man somehow looks as sharp as ever in his Armani.
Jim absently attempts to brush some foam off his tux, which is half covered in the stuff, and tries not to stare too hard at how nicely the suit falls over Ryan's ass.
"Didn't do too bad, I think." He says, smiling goofily, feeling lightheaded and relieved.
Ryan looks at him sardonically though there's just the hint of a smile on his lips, "You got lucky."
05. Sleep with one eye open
"Jim?" Ryan asks, his voice shaking, "I...I thought that was just a joke. A prank on Dwight."
Jim smiles, and in the candlelight his fangs gleam and his eyes twinkle. "It was. At first."
Ryan blinks and suddenly Jim's in front of him, the candle blowing out from the rush of air. Jim leans forward, his skin is cold and makes Ryan shiver. "Think about it Ryan, we could live forever." Jim hisses over the skin of his neck.
Ryan feels tipsy, his head's swimming and the hands that he meant to use to push Jim away only seem to be pulling his closer. Ryan breathes out.
Jim went through every possible wrong step in his head, he made sure that Pam was all set to go and was going to be gone for the whole weekend with Cecilia to her mother's. He goes over to Ryan's so there won't be any evidence at his house for Pam to find, he has his cell with him in case she calls, he dumped out the leftover spaghetti in the fridge so it'd look like he'd eaten it - he left no stone left unturned.
When Ryan opens the door, Jim blurts out, "I don't have a pet rabbit." And then thinks, dammit, I was saving that for later but he can feel how nervous he is down to his finger tips.
Ryan's eyebrows scrunch together, "Wait...what?"
"I don't have a pet rabbit, so if this goes bad you have nothing to boil. Please don't reconsider something just as terrible."
"Jim," Ryan says, looking for all the world like Jim might possibly be the single stupidest person he's ever met, "I am not going to reenact Fatal Attraction just because we have a fling."
"Oh, well that's good to hear."
Ryan rolls his eyes and yanks Jim in by his coat. Jim feels like the top of his head's going to start fizzling with tension so he's all ready to make another joke when Ryan pulls him down for a tongue filled kiss.
Jim moans and kisses back, pulling Ryan in as close as possible and pressing against him.
When Ryan pulls away Jim feels a hell of a lot less unsure about this, but he still feels the need to ask, "You sure you're not going to go all Glenn Close on me?" He starts looking around the room, "No knives? You're not going to start cutting yourself-"
Ryan makes an exasperated noise, "No, for fuck's sake, and what's this?" Ryan finally mentions the paper shopping bag Jim's been holding.
"Oh, this is for you."
Ryan opens the bag and throws the blonde wig at Jim's head saying, "I'm really starting to rethink this Halpert!" but Jim's laughing too hard to hear.
"Halpert?" Ryan asks into the night, searching the darkness where Jim stood only seconds ago. He gets no reply.
"Jim?" he calls louder, feeling his heart start to race. He moves tentatively back the way he came, one hand out in the blackness, feeling for the familiar wool of Jim's coat, or any sign of warm skin. Still nothing.
"Jim, this isn't funny." He says, and he realizes his voice is cracking and he wants to hate himself for falling for what will probably turn out to be just another one of Jim's jokes. He holds his breath for a long moment and waits.
To his left, a few breathless feet away, comes a sound like screeching metal.
This is stupid. Jesus he's still bleeding for fuck's sake but the rest of his blood's pounding in his ears and God he's alive and Ryan feels like the most real, wonderful thing in the whole world.
Ryan's bleeding too, a cut on his lip, one above his eye, some kind of scrape on his shoulder, his shirt ripped open but he seems to care about as much as Jim does, pulling at Jim's hair, biting at his lips and pressing his knees into his sides. They'll regret this later, when they come down, when the adreneline wears off but right now they're both still here and they're going to celebrate it the only way they can.
The red and blue lights of the police cars flicker across the side of the Dunder Mifflin building. There's no less than 15 of them, including ambulances and one very noisy fire truck. The parking lot is swarming with police officers but despite all the talking and shouting, Jim's ears are ringing.
He stands to the side of a cruiser, wrapped in a blanket given to him by a friendly cop who's disappeared into the swarm. The paramedics and EMTs are busy so the cut across the bridge of his nose slowly bleeds down his cheeks unabated. He can barely notice it or the commotion as he watches the front door of the building intently. He almost doesn't hear the officer who comes up to him and starts speaking.
"How many people got out son?" The officer repeats, talking slowly and loudly.
Jim scrunches his forehead and says, "I - I'm not sure." He waits and watches as the officer exchanges a look with another. "Wait, why? Who did they find?"
When the cop looks at him with sympathetic eyes Jim's stomach plummets. Oh God, he thinks, they found Ryan. He wants to ask them if they found him, but the words choke in his throat.
"Don't worry about that now son." The officer says and pats Jim on the arm. Jim watches as he walks away, but his eyes don't really see anything. He feels his nerves flame with panic and he's just on the border of outright freaking when a hand comes down on his shoulder.
He practically jumps out of his skin but he turns around and Ryan's there. Ryan's there, whole and breathing. Scratched, bleeding from a cut on his forehead and looking the worse for wear, but alive. He gives Jim a small apologetic smile before Jim's got him wrapped up in the blanket, holding him close. Ryan breathes out against his chest and wraps his arms around him.
"You're okay." Jim says, and he doesn't care about the how or where or anything else except that he's okay.
People teem around them, lights flash and the din of voices continues on. The sun is coming up on the horizon, and Jim and Ryan stand together in the parking lot for a long time.