Title: it would be better if we could all go peacefully
Characters/Pairing: ensemble, with references to multiple canon pairing
Prompt: "To die will be an awfully big adventure" James M Barrie (from the fraternizing community/ficathon on LJ)
Summary: Five funerals for Dunder Mifflin employees
Disclaimer: I'm not associated with the creative minds behind The Office, and am not profiting from the distribution of this fic.
Notes: This is not intended to be an actual straight timeline of events; it's more a series of separate 'what if's, which is why some of the vignettes take place in the future while some felt more suited to an AU version of the present or even the past, and also why two characters might be able to attend each other's funerals, why pairings aren't always consistent with the timeline (also because I started it before the finale aired), etc.
If he'd had his throwing stars, or maybe even his nun-chucks, he's still be with us today. But he always insisted he didn't need that kind of protection in the wild.
"I just don't see why you have to go. We were going to spend the weekend together."
"I've told you, Monkey," Dwight sighed. "Mose's spiritual guide told him he has to go deep into the woods to find his center and see his greater purpose. It could take more than one night. And I must accompany him in case he needs my protection."
Angela's arms were crossed tightly against her chest. "Well, do you know what that sounds like to me? A lot of drivel! Pagan drivel."
Dwight continued in the calmest of voices, "It's an important rite of passage for someone of Mose's beliefs–"
"Pagan beliefs–" Angela snorted.
"...and I must respect those beliefs and honor my cousin in his hour of need."
Angela sighed and walked towards the door, but stopped and turned around to look at him pointedly before exiting. "Fine. Go on your silly little camping trip. Just don't be surprised if your welcome home on Sunday evening is a little chilly."
The door slammed behind her.
The funeral was... kind of terrifying, actually.
Dwight's parents sang. His great aunt danced. His sister, whom no one at the office had even heard of before today, played tribal drums.
Karen elbowed Jim in the ribs and hissed, "Would you shut your mouth? You're being really disrespectful."
He turned to her, wide-eyed, and said, "When I die–"
"I won't let them play this song. Or hang a banner like that. Or display a picture of you sleeping as a symbol of your eternal rest." She rubbed his knee reassuringly.
"Knew I could count on you."
As the final beats and chords of the song faded out, Mose Schrute stepped up to the podium. "Dwight was... he was a brave, noble..." He stopped, choked up, and bit on the back of his hand as he tried to collect himself. After half a minute, he pulled his hand away and clutched the podium tightly, his knuckles turning white. "I'm sorry, Dwight. I'm so sorry I made you come out there with me. I'm sorry I still live, while you are gone. I relive that night every night in my dreams, when I am able to sleep at all. God, I can still hear the screaming... When, that – that monster came to take you from me, I knew all was lost. I panicked. I couldn't save you. I'm so, so sorry." The look in his eyes suddenly shifted from desperately sad, to fiercely determined. "I will find the wolf that attacked you and ripped your flesh from your bones. I will find him and I will challenge him! I have found my greater purpose! I will avenge you, Dwight K. Schrute!"
Michael rolled his eyes and groaned loudly. "Oh, brother. I knew I should have been the eulolologister. This guy is killing the crowd."
Jim looked to his girlfriend and shook his head. "Karen, shut your mouth. You're being really disrespectful. The man is hurting!"
Later, by the grave site, Angela stood with wet, red eyes but refused comfort from anyone who offered. She knew she'd be okay. Dwight might be physically gone, but she knew she hadn't lost him entirely. She'd always have a part of him with her in the future, and that was a comfort.
Also, hitting Mose repeatedly with her purse had been extremely therapeutic.
As they lowered the coffin into the ground, she blinked back her excess tears. She ran a hand down her belly and whispered, "One day, you too will be buried in that tuxedo."
Electrocution by a power tool in the bath tub? I... can't actually say I'm surprised.
"You really don't think I can do it, do you? Well, just you wait – just you wait and see! You are underestimating me again, Jan!" Michael accused, but he was giddy and laughing. "I will be the master...DIY... man! I'll make this shower do things you'd never dreamed of!"
Jan couldn't help but laugh as well, as he turned and marched out of the room with such purpose. She really didn't believe he could do what he was intending, and wasn't sure she even understood what that intention was, but his enthusiasm was infectious. "I'll believe it when I see it, Mr. Fix It!" she called out, before stretching out on the couch and turning back to her magazine.
He called out from the bathroom, "We could also use some of that drain-clearing liquid plumber stuff. This thing's still practically full from your bath half an hour ago! Ooh, smells nice."
His last words.
Michael's will included very specific requirements for what he wanted at his funeral.
The picture of him on display was photoshopped to include Pam and Jan kissing his cheeks from both sides.
There wasn't one official eulogy, but everyone stepped up one by one to talk about things they loved about Michael... written by Michael.
"...and I really loved his hair. His hair was awesome, and was not receding at all... which is not surprising, since he was so young. I wish-" Angela stopped abruptly, huffing, but continued when Dwight gave her a very pointed, pained look. "I wish I could be as young as he was again."
"I learned a lot from him. I looked up to him, I admired him, and I thought he was really hot," Pam choked out.
"He was my best friend, and as close to me as my own father. Closer, actually, since my dad lives a hundred miles away, and I only really see him at Thanksgiving, Christmas, and sometimes his birthday. I was always there for Michael's birthday. Except when it fell on a weekend, and even then, I was very sorry to miss it," was Jim's contribution.
"He made me want to be a better man!" Dwight cried passionately. "I didn't always succeed, but I'd like to think that knowing him made me... less of an idiot."
"I'm not reading this," Ryan announced from his seat.
The song playing as they filed out of the church was American Pie.
"Because everybody loves pie," Michael had once explained to the cameras. "And if people can forever associate their memory of me with their thoughts of a delicious slice of apple pie, then I will have been well pleased. Well pleased."
It was the Madonna version.
"It just seems so..." Jim was fighting for the words afterwards. He shook his head, disbelieving. "I mean, an electrical appliance in the bath? A drill? He wasn't trying to...?"
"No." Jan shook her head forcefully, her eyes red. "It was an accident."
"It's just that, I mean, he wasn't happy all the time. Sometimes he seemed so lost," Pam added.
Jan smiled sadly. "You should have seen him. Ten minutes before. He was so excited that he was going to fix something without my help. So proud of himself. No, this was a mistake. This was a terrible, terrible accident."
They said he shouldn't have felt any pain in the end. He just... slipped away, in his sleep.
Michael actually visited him in the hospital, finally, a few days before. Pam pushed him into it. Actually, she pushed him into her car and drove him there, not taking no for an answer.
He grumbled the whole way. "I don't see what the big deal is. He's probably faking anyway. Just came up with the perfect excuse to not come into work for months on end. You know what he is? He's a slacker. A slacker who never cared about any of us, or Dunder Mifflin, and he's just a big faker."
Pam shook her head, exasperated. "Michael, he's not faking. I've seen him, okay? He looks... he's..." She broke off for a moment, her eyes a little misty, and he started to worry about her ability to drive. "He's not faking."
Once they arrived at the hospital, she led him to the room and waited outside, determined to not let him out until she felt he'd been in there for a suitable amount of time. The minute he stepped into the room and Pam shut the door firmly behind him, he saw the truth.
Toby wasn't faking. The cancer was destroying him. He barely looked like the same man Michael remembered from only five months before. He'd had a long list of snarky comments in his head before walking in there, but he forgot about every single one. Several minutes passed without either of them saying a word, Toby offering a sad smile before looking away.
Eventually, Michael stepped closer. He walked cautiously straight up to the bed, and rested a hand on Toby's shoulder. Toby looked back at him, his eyes showing a mixture of exhaustion and surprise.
"I was never... very nice to you."
"No, you weren't," Toby replied simply, his voice sounding so weak, and Michael nodded – embarrassed, humbled, defeated. He began to pull his hand away when Toby's hand reached up and covered it. "I forgive you."
Their eyes met for a long moment before Michael looked down at the floor. "Thank you."
Their hands remained joined until Pam knocked on the door several minutes later.
The funeral was quiet and beautiful. Toby's ex-wife was there with an arm around Sasha, who was now old enough to really understand what was happening, and old enough to feel the impact of the loss.
Kelly cried dramatically into Ryan's shoulder, while Angela sniffed daintily into a handkerchief with her initials embroidered on it. Dwight sat silent and stoic, next to Angela, though he resisted taking her hand. Kevin stared blankly at the coffin. Oscar somehow managed to look a combination of sorry and bored. Phyllis had silent tears streaked down her face, and linked her arm through Bob Vance's tightly.
Jim clutched Pam's hand tightly with one hand, and patted Michael on the shoulder with the other.
"It's not fair," Pam whispered, with a sniffle.
"He was a good man," Michael added.
"He was," Jim agreed, and squeezed Michael's shoulder while grabbing Pam's hand a little tighter.
The other guy wasn't some asshole; he wasn't even drunk. He just swerved suddenly to avoid a cat and lost control. Sometimes these things just happen, and we don't have anyone to blame.
Karen called first thing in the morning to let everyone know what had happened. It took Pam a good fifteen minutes before she snapped out of her haze and realized she should actually probably tell someone.
She still didn't think to rally everyone around, or to announce that she had something to say. She just blurted, loudly, from her seat at reception to anyone who happened to be in the vicinity to hear, "Jim's in the hospital. He was hit by a car last night."
It was Phyllis who got through to her and offered her a ride to the hospital, which Pam didn't process accepting until they were more than half way there.
When they arrived, Phyllis held back while Pam sat down next to Karen, greeting Jim's family with quiet nods, "hello"s and "I'm sorry"s.
Karen looked at her, her face ashen, and Pam had never felt more connected to her as she did in that moment. "He was on his way to my place last night. I was getting mad, because he was so late. I didn't – I didn't know. If I hadn't asked him to come–"
"Shhh," Pam cut her off, taking her hand and clutching it tightly. "It wasn't your fault."
Jim's mother, who had been leaning heavily against her other son up until that moment, straightened up and looked over at them. She smiled softly. "He always had such nice things to say about you. Both of you."
Karen squeezed Pam's hand a little tighter. And when the doctor came out to talk to them, they all knew before he even said a word.
The funeral was quick. Jim hadn't talked about his death much or what he wanted to happen after (he thought he'd have a lot more time left to think about that sort of thing) but his sister remembered him once saying that he didn't want it to be a long, dull, miserable affair. Just a quick way to say goodbye.
It worked well and they could see why he would have wanted it that way – the grief wasn't drilled into them, they weren't exhausted with stories about how he'd been such a wonderful guy taken before his time. But in the end, some of them felt like they hadn't had enough time to say goodbye. They lingered at the grave site, not yet ready to just leave him there.
Pam felt a hand on her shoulder and turned to find Toby standing behind her, holding a tissue out towards her. "We were thinking we should give the family some time... Some of us are going to meet in the office, to talk about him. To remember. Do you want...?"
"Yeah," she nodded slowly, and looked up to see several of her coworkers already heading back towards their cars. Michael was resting a comforting hand on Karen's back as she walked, shoulders slouching, to his left. Pam linked an arm with Toby's for support and followed them.
How could this happen? I don't understand how this could happen.
It happened on a weekend, and they didn't get the call until midday Monday.
Michael took the call and then couldn't bring himself to come out of his office and explain for another twenty minutes. He was devastated, paralyzed and ashamed. Half an hour earlier, he'd been complaining loudly that there was no one around to make him copies.
When he announced the news, faces went pale, gasps were heard across the room, there was at least one loud sob, and there was the sound of something breaking. "Anyone can take the rest of the day off if they need... time," he added softly, before turning back into his office and coming to sit heavily in his chair. He needed time.
He was able to move again an hour later, and came back out to check on everyone. No one had moved, but no one was working.
The phone at reception rang and rang.
The funeral was quiet, long and depressing. They'd picked a photo to display where her smile was shining as brightly as it ever did, and there was a hint of mischievous laughter in her eyes.
Jim had sat next to Roy throughout the service. They shook hands and nodded at the beginning, and didn't speak the rest of the time. Jim found his presence surprisingly comforting.
At the end of the service he got up and was stopped by a gentle hand on his arms. Pam's hair, Pam's eyes, Pam's nose, but a little taller – unmistakably her sister. "She said you were cute," she said with a sad little smile, and he wondered how she'd known who he was, or if Pam had told her any more than that. She didn't elaborate and he didn't have the energy to ask.
Once they were outside, Michael felt compelled to approach Pam's father. As he approached, his mind was repeating over and over, 'Don't say anything inappropriate. Don't say anything inappropriate.'
As they shook hands, Michael said something inappropriate. About Pam's body. Her father's eyes widened. So did Michael's.
"I meant, she was nice," he added sheepishly.
Mr. Beesly nodded slowly, letting the awkward moment pass. "Thank you for being there for her every day, when I couldn't be. Thank you for looking out for her."
Michael smiled genuinely and warmly, his eyes shining. "Thank you, for raising her."
As she was lowered into the ground, Dwight approached Jim, looking stern.
Jim sighed heavily, not sure what to expect but positive he didn't want to hear it. "Dwight, I'm not in the mood for–"
"Are you okay?"
Jim looked at Dwight, surprised at the genuine concern in his voice and then he realized – he was sad too. He missed her too. "No. It shouldn't... it shouldn't be this way. She had so much to – why does it have to be this way? This can't be real."
Dwight patted Jim's shoulder awkwardly before leaning in even more, wrapping it around both shoulders. He expected Jim to protest or shrug him off, but he didn't. He wanted to say something wise, something comforting, but words seemed inadequate at a time like this. "This too shall pass," he eventually said firmly.
Jim rolled his eyes. "Thanks, Dwight."
Surprisingly, though, the annoyance helped detract a little bit from his pain, and his eyes got a little drier.
Hypothetically Speaking (Epilogue)
The little red light glows from the camera, tilted at their faces, one by one, and the voice drifts out from behind. A slow day in the office, so today's interview topic: "How do you predict you'll eventually die?"
"I'll be fighting evil. No. That's inaccurate. If I was fighting evil, I would win. Unless it was a huge, epic battle – a million evil villains versus only me, and the only way to kill them is to set off a bomb that cannot be set off without sacrificing myself in the process. Or... a bad batch of beets. My great great uncle went that way. But we're much more careful at checking those things these days, so it'd never happen. Fighting an evil army, definitely."
"It'll be huge – I don't know exactly how I'll go, but it's going to be big. Phenomenal. Newsworthy. The kind of thing that'll be talked about for years to come. Or some mishap with a bad product so my kids can sue the company and be in the money for life... Can you sue over anthrax in condos?"
"I just hope it'll be quick and painless. I always kind of think it'll just be a fall, or electrocution from bad wiring, and I'll be alone in my apartment. It'd probably take them days before someone noticed the smell."
"Um, I don't – I don't know. Never really thought about it. I guess just... something that I know is coming, and that happens quickly, so I don't have to worry about it and my family doesn't have to worry about me. I don't want it to be a big, painful thing. Really would prefer it not to be painful."
"Wow, uh, I don't know – I hope I'm old, I guess? I'd just like to... slip away. I don't really want to know it's happening. Nothing really big or dramatic or anything. No dying in the sake of duty. No big adventures. Just... peaceful. I'd like to go peacefully."