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Story Notes:
This one is dedicated to BigTuna, who is the true owner of the mug in question and was gracious enough to allow me to portray it as a physical manifestation of horror *and* share the backstory that led to this fic’s best joke. (For the record, I stand by my position that the tooth mug is a work of art and I am petitioning the Louvre for its inclusion.)

Gabe: How many windows are there in New York City?
Andy: What?
Gabe: Critical thinking. Common, on-the-spot question asked in an interview.
Andy: Okay. Let me think... Are you counting car windows?
Gabe: No... What kind of disclaimer do you need to put on fanfiction for legal purposes?
Andy: [happily] Uh, you need to state that all publicly recognizable characters, settings, etc. are the property of their respective owners.
Jim: [to Gabe] Is that it?
Andy: Yeah! And that the original characters and plot are the property of the author, but the author is in no way associated with the owners, creators, or producers of any media franchise, and… no copyright infringement is intended…
Gabe: Shut up about the disclaimer. SHUT. UP. ABOUT. THE DISCLAIMER.

We open in the BULLPEN first thing in the morning. PAM, JIM and PHYLLIS are still settling in, and are making small talk while they sip their morning coffees. PHYLLIS is facing away from her computer and JIM is sitting on PAM’s desk as she leans back in her chair. DWIGHT is already down to business and on the phone pushing paper. ERIN is going through the overnight voicemails.

JIM (one proud papa):
…and before I could even move, she’s pulled it off the counter and it cracks on the bathroom floor. And she turns to me with this angelic expression, like “did you see that, Daddy? The hair dryer just broke out of nowhere!”

PHYLLIS laughs. PAM smiles thinly and looks up at Jim. DWIGHT shoots them a nasty look and shakes his head in contempt for their lack of work ethic.

The camera cuts to RECEPTION, where we see GABE arriving for the day. He has a laptop bag slung over one shoulder and is carrying an overstuffed file folder awkwardly in one hand, as if he maybe can’t quite get a grip on it… or maybe he’s holding something else behind it we can’t see.

GABE (leaning over ERIN’s desk):
Good morning, my sweet. (He pecks her on the lips. It does *not* look romantic.) You left so early, I thought we were driving in together.

ERIN (smiling widely, lying badly, eyes occasionally darting to GABE’s hand):
Oh, yeah, I, uh, needed to… do a fax! It was very important.

GABE:
Well! (official voice) Sabre truly values employees who go the extra mile.

ERIN (Nothing’s bothering this girl, not a thing, no sirree!):
Great! (Go away:) You have messages.

GABE lays the paperwork on the desk, and along with it the MUG he had been trying to hold in the same hand. The MUG is obscured by the file folder and the pencil jar so only disconnected segments can be seen, but we get enough of a glimpse to be able to tell something is Not Right. ERIN cuts her eyes to it as he sets it down, her face falling a touch.

GABE (grabs a few pink message slips from ERIN):
Ah, thank you very much.

ERIN puts her mask back on as she looks back at GABE, who grabs the file folder with his other hand.

GABE:
All right, off to the salt mines. Ciao.

GABE heads for the ANNEX, reading his messages… and forgetting the MUG, more visible and looking even stranger but still blocked from our full view by the pencil jar.

ERIN (notices this… *thing* is still on her desk and leans forward to nervously call after him):
Oh, Gabe…

GABE is already around the corner. So of course ERIN will be a good girlfriend and/or receptionist and bring it over to him. She turns toward the MUG and winces. The camera follows her gaze and focuses in to give us our first clear look at it.

The full horror of this MUG is difficult to describe in mere words, but to look on it for too long might be to go mad. The cup features drawings of teeth from what appears to be an old-timey anatomical chart, and the handle is a rubbery-looking impression of half a set of teeth and gums. It is something Hieronymus Bosch or Stephen King might have conceived of after a root canal.

The camera mercifully blurs it after a moment and puts ERIN back in focus. She tentatively reaches a hand towards it, and then withdraws it a little.

She reaches forward again, getting a little bit closer.

She exhales and straightens her spine, steeling herself, and with a determined look in her eye begins reaching forward, slowly, steadily, almost there…

…and GABE’s arm reaches in from out of frame to snatch it.

GABE (waving the mug):
Can’t believe I forgot this!

ERIN (covering poorly):
Oh! Yes, I was going to bring that to you, as soon as I was done… doing the fax.

GABE (official voice):
Sabre truly values employees committed to getting the job done.

GABE turns around to head to the ANNEX again while ERIN heaves a sigh of relief. She looks over to the FRONT DESK CLUMP. The camera pans with her to reveal all activity has stopped – JIM, PAM, DWIGHT and PHYLLIS are frozen in place, following the MUG with their eyes, DWIGHT with the phone still to his ear blaring a “disconnected” signal.

As GABE passes out of their sightline, PHYLLIS shudders and turns to her computer to get some work done. Meanwhile, a scared-looking JIM mouths “yikes” to DWIGHT as he goes to sit down. DWIGHT presses down on his handset to get to the tone and starts dialing, but nods to JIM and taps his glasses with a finger to indicate he’s keeping an eye out.

PAM gives ERIN a sympathetic glance.

We cut to…

ERIN (in a talking head, with her standard life-giving grin):
Gabe loves his new tooth mug! He uses it all the time, he even has his last cup of special Japanese tea in it before he goes to sleep!

ERIN takes a beat, and we see her smile just drop the tiniest bit around the eyes.

ERIN:
So it’s the last thing I see at night.

ERIN takes another beat. Her smile drops a little more.

ERIN:
And the first thing I see in the morning.

ERIN takes another beat. She’s barely smiling now, and it’s not reaching her eyes at all.

ERIN:
And while I sleep, it just sits there.

ERIN takes another beat. She’s given up the game and just looks drained and upset now, staring down into space.

ERIN:
Staring at me.

ERIN catches herself, and tries to smile widely at the cameras again. It doesn’t really work.

We cut to the KITCHEN, where ERIN is conferring with PAM.

PAM:
I mean… I would leave out the part about dark wizardry, and just focus on how much it bothers you. If he loves you, that should be enough.

JIM walks in as PAM gives this sage advice and grabs a Styrofoam container of leftovers out of the fridge.

JIM (casually, crossing to the microwave to heat up his lunch):
What are you guys talking about?

ERIN:
Oh, Pam was just giving me some advice on how to talk to Gabe about how I feel like his mug might be stealing my soul without being mean about it. Because it’s important to be able to talk about stuff in an adult relationship. (She turns to PAM for approval.) Right, Pam?

PAM nods like a proud teacher at her prize pupil.

JIM (watching the microwave tick down the seconds and pointedly not looking at PAM and ERIN):
Huh.

ERIN turns to look at JIM with curiosity. PAM gives JIM a knowing, half-irritated/half-amused look. She knows that “huh.”

The camera zooms in on JIM opening his mouth to speak as we cut to…

JIM (in talking head):
Of course I want to help Erin! (beat) I also just came back from three days away from my wife and child in Albany, New York, where I brought on four major accounting firms as clients, only to be told there’s a whole separate commission cap for “out of region sales.” So. Why not kill two birds with one stone? Gabe is always telling us (he drops into an imitation of GABE, nailing the Lincoln-as-a-constipated-baby look of his “official voice” persona) Sabre truly values employees efficiency. (beat, seriously) Also, that thing is too creepy to exist.

We cut to a talking head with PAM, who remains silent for a moment, looking guilty and refusing to look into the camera.

PAM (finally):
I know! I know. (beat, PAM gains some resolve) Hey, that mug’s going to give *me* nightmares, this is a public service. I mean, you saw it, right? (she turns to include the other crew members) Right?

We cut to GABE’S DESK in the ANNEX, where he is actually *drinking* out of this ABOMINATION. He sets it down to his left as ERIN approaches him on the other side of his DESK, giving a wary eye to the MUG.

ERIN:
Hey, someone put the extra creamers on the high shelf again, do you mind grabbing them for me?

GABE (flattered and pleased to be of use for a change):
It’s my pleasure to help, my lover.

GABE rises to join ERIN and they walk towards the entrance to the KITCHEN, passing JIM going the other direction. ERIN and JIM give each other subtle heist movie nods.

JIM crosses to GABE’s desk and kneels, pulling an unfolded paperclip from his pocket as he does. He opens the desk’s file drawer, very precisely bends the paperclip at an angle, places it in the drawer’s track, and closes it again. He rises, nudges the MUG slightly closer to the edge of the desk, and walks through the entrance to the BREAK ROOM. This all seems to be done in one motion, smoothly and swiftly – a master craftsman at work, doing what he was born to do.

ERIN and GABE return *seconds* after JIM slips out of sight, chatting about how inconsiderate some of GABE’s fellow tall people are as GABE takes his seat.

The cameras pan to PAM entering the ANNEX from the BREAK ROOM.

PAM (crossing to GABE and ERIN):
Oh, Gabe, I’m glad I caught you at your desk.

GABE looks to PAM while ERIN, with clenched teeth, grabs a pen and leans across the desk behind GABE, using it to nudge the MUG closer still to the desk’s edge. She’s quietly proud of herself for having the nerve.

PAM:
Angela says I need a hard copy of the approved vendors list to complete the purchase order for the new phones, do you happen to have one handy?

GABE (even happier, someone’s earning his salary today!):
Sure.

He swivels to his right to open the drawer, and PAM takes advantage of his distraction to nudge the MUG even closer to oblivion.

GABE pulls at the drawer, and finds it’s stuck. He tugs again, and again, and finally gives it a big pull and it bursts open, shaking his desk… and sending his MUG falling to the floor, to his horror. The remains of his tea splash over the carpet as PAM jumps back.

ERIN (just blatantly wooden, like someone who has never expressed surprise before, with emphasis in all sorts of weird places):
Oh no! Your mug!

GABE (looks over at it, hopefully, please God, I’ll do anything…):
I think it might be okay?

PAM and ERIN exchange horrified looks. We zoom in on the MUG… which somehow *does* appear unharmed. Could it be???

…no. WHEN GABE reaches to pick it up, the handle breaks away from the rest of it, and the cup falls into several pieces. PAM and ERIN both relax. GABE looks stricken.

PAM (comforting, maternal… a much better actress than ERIN, probably the real Gardner Museum thief):
We’ll go grab a vacuum and some paper towels and get that cleaned up, okay?

GABE (softly, devastated, motionless and staring at the remains):
Thank you.

PAM and ERIN walk to the entrance to the KITCHEN. Once they turn the corner and are out of GABE’s sight, PAM lifts her hand for a high five. ERIN looks like this may be the greatest honor she has ever received, and gives her one. It’s a nice moment for TEAM RECEPTION.

We cut to the beginning of the workday a few days later. ERIN, JIM and PAM are at their usual posts.

GABE enters, carrying a small package and looking quite cheerful.

GABE (a kid on Christmas morning):
Erin, it’s here!

ERIN (not even a little confused, not a bit, no sirree!):
What’s here?

GABE (crossing to RECEPTION and putting the package down on the desk):
My replacement mug!

ERIN (like a slasher movie survivor realizing she’s in a sequel):
You… got a new tooth mug?

GABE (grabbing scissors from ERIN’s desk and cutting the package open):
No. I looked, but the Etsy seller I bought it from disappeared without a trace. So I got something even better. (He reaches in the box and pulls out a mug covered in what look like… mugshots?) An American serial killers mug!

ERIN’s mouth drops open a little.

GABE (not at all noticing her reaction, the kid who got the exact game he wanted for Christmas and is explaining its special features to anyone who will listen and a few people who won’t):
It’s great. It’s got all of the big names, your Bundys, your Dahmers, your John Wayne Gacys. But they didn’t stop there. Look, here’s Robert Hansen. He actually set his victims free in the woods and hunted them!

ERIN looks like she might cry.

As GABE continues to gush with deep cuts from the history of American serial murder, the camera cuts to the FRONT DESK CLUMP, where PAM is watching in sad horror and JIM is awkwardly grimacing.

Slowly, PAM turns to JIM, her jaw tight. He responds with a charming smile.

We then join JIM and PAM in the conference room for a talking head. Pam’s mouth is twisted in annoyance, and Jim is defiantly nonchalant. They stare straight ahead and sit quietly for a moment.

PAM (turns to him, snippy):
Couldn’t just let her talk to him like a grown-up, huh?

JIM (immediate, has this response locked and loaded):
More effective, not as much fun. (beat) Hey, I’ll take the serial killers over that monstrosity any day.

PAM tilts her head a little in acknowledgment of the point.

* * *

We go through the episode, and then as the credits run, we return to THE BULLPEN as JIM and PAM come into work.

While PAM hangs her coat on the rack, JIM sits down at his desk and suddenly startles, flailing and pushing his chair back.

JIM:
(bleeped)!

PAM (concerned):
Pickles, what is it?

JIM (wide-eyed):
Look!

He points towards the side of his desk. The cameras follow to find… THE TOOTH MUG.

PAM (confused, and definitely more scared than she wants to let on):
What the hell?

JIM (trying to catch his breath):
Gabe must have gotten a new one or something?

PAM (perhaps remembering her brushes with the supernatural):
No, I mean, he couldn’t even find the original seller. He said it was like they never existed…

PAM trails off at the implications of this, and looks nervously at JIM, who stares back baffled.

They both turn to look at the mug in fear. We zoom in on it from below, and as it looms over us with a level of sinister intent one would’ve thought impossible for a mug before now, we cut to…

PAM (in a talking head, looking verrrrrry pleased with herself):
Yeah, they’re swag for a major dental supply company, they just don’t usually sell them. Isabel’s office had like four just lying around. (She shrugs and raises her eyebrows, smiling.) I’ll tell him eventually. (Her smile drops, and she looks very irritated.) As soon as he admits he broke my hair dryer and framed our 12-month-old for it.

Cut to credits.

NETWORK NOTES: REJECTED. I took a look at what Phil selected for the mug, and I cannot in good conscience allow you to put it on television. I mean… kids watch this show, guys.

Also, again: cold opens are supposed to be 60 seconds, maybe 90 if you’ve got a great one. This is really more of a B-plot. I should not need to tell a writers’ room this.

Chapter End Notes:
Extra points and maybe a reference in a future cold open to anyone who knows why I originally had a joke in the summary about this being for anyone who enjoys Halloween in January, before not finishing it until May.


darjeelingandcoke is the author of 16 other stories.

This story is part of the series, Rejected Cold Opens. The previous story in the series is They Canít All Be Winners. The next story in the series is Kelly Kapoor Story Hour.

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