It’s been 15 years since fans fell in love with on-again, off-again couple Kelly Kapoor and Ryan Howard on The Office. But, clearly, no one’s ready to walk away from this ship yet — a new photo has fans asking (once again) whether Mindy Kaling and B.J. Novak are dating. The real-life alter egos of Kelly and Ryan, Kaling and Novak enjoy a close enough friendship to consistently spark romantic rumors. The latest fuel for that fire? The gosh darn adorable look on Novak’s face in a photo of him staring at his BFF on her birthday.
To be fair, Kaling and Novak did date and break up numerous times in real life, much like their counterparts on The Office, possibly making it harder for fans to move on. But Monday night’s 40th birthday celebration in honor of Kaling wasn’t a party of two. Per People, several of Kaling’s other closest friends were there to help her toast to another trip around the sun. Of course, no party would be complete without cake, and Kaling had a hilariously tongue-in-cheek confection featuring a picture of her in front of a birthday cake from a previous year.
Kaling commemorated the moment by throwing up a thumbs up, like the version of herself pictured on the cake. And while Kaling and the cake were undoubtedly sweet, nothing — we repeat, nothing — in that resulting photo was sweeter than the look on Novak’s face.
Naturally, fans ate it up, flooding the comment section of Novak’s Instagram photo with all the feels. “SOMEONE LOOK AT ME LIKE RYAN LOOKS AT KELLY,” on fan gushed. Another echoed the sentiment, swapping The Office characters for the real-life people in the pic: “Get u a man that looks at u the same way bj looks at mindy.” Another joked, “Can you guys get married already?” And tons of fans cheered “Kelly and Ryan forever.”
The fact that fans are so invested in their friendship isn’t lost on Kaling and Novak. Are they dating? According to the pair, no. Kaling has revealed that Novak is her daughter’s godparent, so he visits their house at least once a week. The two occasionally make red carpet appearances together. In short, they’re close enough to keep fans second-guessing the status of their quote-unquote platonic bond.
And you know what? They might not even fully understand their relationship. In a 2015 interview with InStyle, Kaling got candid, confessing, “I will freely admit: My relationship with B.J. Novak is weird as hell. He is not my boyfriend, but he is not my best friend. I guess you could describe our relationship as a ‘romantically charged camaraderie with loud arguments,’ but I don’t think Facebook would accept this as a new status.”
So, the saga continues! Happy birthday to Kaling. We don’t know what kind of presents she got, but the look on Novak’s face was gift enough for us.