“I’m sure you guys’ll find your way back to one another someday.”
Jim’s words echo in her mind long after she’s fled from the break room that Monday after Roy tried to punch him and was fired. The way he’d chuckled, like none of it mattered—not her apology and not Casino Night and not how much she’s grown—mocks her ceaselessly throughout the monotony of the day.
He doesn’t even hate her, as painful as that would be. He just… doesn’t care anymore.
Pam can’t do this anymore. She can’t live like this, spending every day regressing and watching Jim and Karen fall in love. Can’t stand dealing with Michael’s mad antics and Angela’s judgmental glances and Kevin’s leers and Dwight’s… Dwightness anymore without even the bright spot of Jim’s humor to temper the annoyance to exasperated affection.
That night, Pam touches up her sad, short resume and throws it at any and all open positions on the internet. It doesn’t matter where—she’d sent an application to a law firm in Montana, and another to the Virginia DMV, which indicates exactly how desperate she is to get out of Dunder Mifflin.
She’d done this exactly twice before: once the night after Jim had returned in the Merger—“I've sort of started seeing someone”—and then again after she’d returned home from Phyllis’s wedding after the hesitant second first date with Roy. Both Jim-related reasons, now that she thinks about it.
Pam recognizes this is not a healthy coping mechanism, but it helps. She’d even filled out an application for an administrative professional position at the CIA the first time, a fancier term for the same thing she does now as a joke. She’d snorted over sips of wine as she’d supplied Oscar and Toby’s contact information for the Personnel Evaluation form, imagining how they’d answer if for some crazy reason they decided to call them up.
She most definitely did not expect to ever hear from them again. But two days after the third Jim-inspired flurry of resume-sending, Pam receives a call on her cell from an unknown number.
“Pam Beesly?” a businesslike female voice inquires. When Pam confirms her identity, it continues. “My name is Elisha, and I’m calling regarding your job application to the Central Intelligence Agency.”
Pam blinks. It’s been more than two months since she’d filled out that application. “Oh.”
“Yes. We’d like to conduct a phone interview with you sometime this week. Would you be available now, or is there another time before Friday that works for you?”
She looks around at the bullpen, the sleepy drone of a Wednesday afternoon. “Now is good, thank you. One moment?” She gets up and heads to the empty storage closet—no one ever goes there.
The interview is brisk and mundane, which surprises Pam. Nothing about national security, patriotism, or anything other than questions like “Tell us about a time you helped organized a project” (she describes her part in Jim’s Office Olympics, smiling wistfully) and “Describe a time when you faced personal adversity” (Her grandfather’s fall leading to her dropping out sophomore year of college, and her long way back to art classes). Pam considers herself a decent reader of voices, but this clinical interviewer on the other end of the line reveals absolutely nothing, from the beginning to the last “I see. Thank you for your time.”
Pam shrugs as she leaves the closet. What an odd experience.
“You’ve exceeded your break by 16 minutes,” Dwight snaps when she settles back in Reception. “Our customers could have been urgently calling while you were off misappropriating company time.”
Pam checks; no calls. She gives Dwight a look.
“I had to take the call. It was from the CIA,” she tells him soberly. “As an American, I couldn’t ignore it.”
She’s actually not lying, but Dwight looks as incredulous as she expects. His suspicious squint almost makes her want to glance at Jim, but he’s sitting stock still with his back to her as always.
Yeah. She’s not going to miss this.
Pam thinks that’s really the end of it, but she’s proven wrong again and again as she just keeps hearing back. For a little while she thinks this could actually be a prank on her for once, but then she’s actually flown out to D.C. for an in-person interview and no one would go that far.
It’s a welcome distraction from the front-seat view she has of Jim and Karen’s deepening relationship. It’s been a month since that first call, and she heard Karen in the break room the other day broaching the topic of moving in together. Pam had slipped out as discreetly as she could before anyone could see her; nobody really did in the office anyway, so it hadn’t been hard.
Oscar mentions that the auditing firm in D.C. has called him for a reference; it must have gone well, because another two weeks and she’s listening to the details of the job offer by phone in the storage closet. The salary’s good, but more importantly it gets her out of here—she says yes before they even get to benefits. Pam’s not worried about that; the CIA probably doesn’t skimp on health insurance, not like Dunder Mifflin.
“And you’re sure about this, honey?” Her mother asks one more time, when Pam tells her the news. “There are plenty of jobs for you here in Scranton. D.C. is so far—“
Pam shakes her head, cutting her off. “I need to do this, mom. It’ll be good for me, and it pays so much more than the other jobs.”
“Well, cost of living is higher there. I don’t like the idea of you living all alone in such a big city.”
“Thousands of girls do it every year. You can come visit me,” she tells her. “I’ve found a nice studio apartment near work. They’re even giving me a transitional stipend.”
Her mother looks unconvinced, but Pam is set on taking the job. Her mother’s uncertainty is nothing to Michael’s response to her two weeks’ notice, however.
“How could you abandon us?” He keeps repeating. “We’re supposed to be a family—you can’t just leave your family.”
Pam grimaces as she offers him platitudes, but Michael proves inconsolable. He goes so far as to rip up the resignation letter she’d submitted to Toby and faxed to corporate HR that morning.
Toby sighs. “You know that’s not the original, Michael.”
“You’re awful. You’re awful and I hate you. If you were a better person you’d know how to make Pam stay. It’s probably your fault she’s leaving.”
“Stop, Michael.” Pam’s voice is firm enough it makes them both stop and look at her. Now that she’s leaving, she doesn’t have to coddle her boss, and honestly the way he treats Toby is unconscionable. “Toby’s been great. I don’t want you blaming him.”
“Then why? Why are you doing this to me?” Michael’s almost about to cry, but Pam is mercifully rescued by the documentary crew.
“You’re up for your talking head,” Brian tells her. She nods and follows him out of the annex.
“He’s not taking it well, huh?”
Pam shrugs. “Michael will get over it.”
The interview itself passes unremarkably; she doesn’t really remember what she said, but something along the lines of wishing the best for everyone. Brian is kind enough to not try baiting her for a Jim-related answer.
Jim himself doesn’t even acknowledge her impending departure until her last day. Then again, he’s been doing a good job of ignoring her this whole time.
“That’s it, then.” Jim’s face is inscrutable. “You’re off to D.C.?”
“Finally flying the coop, yup.” Pam slips the last picture frame into the empty Dunder Mifflin box and twists her lips up. “Still, we’ll always be friends.”
That’s a lie. But it sounds like that’s an essential skill for her new job; she might as well get some practice in before she starts. And, well… at this point, she doesn’t know which of them has hurt each other more.
His eyes flash with something that looks like hurt. “Friends. Yeah, that.”
Pam doesn’t think he has any right to be upset, not after the way he’s practically ignored her these past few weeks. In a fit of petty vindictiveness, she takes the beautiful teal teapot he’d given her for Secret Santa out of the box and holds it out to him.
“You should take this back.”
She knows what the teapot had meant. When Jim had left for Stamford without telling her, she’d spend far too much time just staring at it and the memories it had held. The teapot had made it feel like she’d had a little piece of him, even if he had moved to a different state just to get away from her.
He frowns. “Pam—” He makes no move to take it, so she places it down on the counter in front of him and starts brushing bits of paper from the desk.
“It’ll probably break in the move, and that’d be a shame. Take care of it for me, will you?”
She doesn’t wait to hear his response before she picks up the box full of her belongings and steps around him to take it down to her car.
By the time she comes up one last time to say goodbye to everyone, he is gone and so is the teapot. Pam tries not to care. She can leave her farewell to him unsaid like everything else she wants to tell him.
They don’t keep in touch.
Working at the CIA is much less glamorous than TV makes it out to be. Pam does much of the same work—faxing, filing, taking notes—but instead of paper orders it’s secrets and assignments that she’s bound to silence for. It’s exciting, in a way, to think the work she’s doing means something more now. Also it really does pay a lot more for her discretion.
Around three months in, she thinks she’s gotten into the flow of things. Then a message pops up in her inbox directing her to the Associate Director of CIA for Talent for a classified meeting. There’s absolutely no reason why someone that high up should ever want to talk to her; as she walks to his office, Pam tries to think back to what she might have done wrong that necessitated this. They wouldn’t set up a meeting like this just to fire her; they had HR for that.
She knocks on the impersonal wooden door and hesitantly answers. Associate Director Elms sits at an ornate carved desk; he steeples his fingers when Pam enters his office.
“Please sit, Ms. Beesly,” he says. Pam lowers herself uneasily into the chair facing him. He smiles at her; there is no warmth in the expression.
“It’s come to our attention that you were featured in a PBS documentary that aired recently. ‘The Office: An American Workplace’, I believe?”
Pam stiffens, but does not deny it. “Yes, I was part of the Scranton branch while they were filming. Is everything all right?”
“Yes, nothing’s wrong. I asked to speak with you today because we think your… minor celebrity could be an asset to our efforts. Your credibility is high because so much of your life was shown in this documentary. No one knows that you left the company for the agency?
“No, not even my mother. But I’m sorry, I’m not sure what you mean.”
“Ms. Beesly, I will be frank. You’ve been here a while now; you understand the importance of discretion. Our discussion does not leave this room.”
Pam nods and he continues. “We think you could do well in an operations role as a clandestine agent. This is highly irregular, but I’m offering you the chance to join this year’s cohort of the Professional Trainee program. Since your dreams of art was broadcast on national television, it would make sense that you followed them at the Corcoran School of Art and Design in the meantime. Once you graduated, you would be placed in the art market in New York.”
Elms pauses. “High-end art is a cover for a host of illicit activities by both foreign and domestic actors. Unfortunately, we’ve found it is difficult to place an agent in the scene without arousing suspicion. Your unique circumstances eliminate that problem.”
“I don’t know what to say.”
“The agency thinks this could be a mutually beneficial arrangement. We’d of course finance your studies at Corcoran, and you would be free to pursue whichever aspect of art you would like. You’ve done good work here,” Mr. Elms smiles wryly. “We think you could do better work serving the country. You’ve gotta take a chance on something sometime, as your friend once said.”
That echo of Jim from so long ago stings, but Pam knows there was never any chance of refusing the offer.
“I’ll do it.”
And that is how Pam Beesly from Scranton, Pennsylvania, becomes an operative for the CIA.
It takes Morgan Fischer three years and a little more to get through the Professional Trainee program and the Clandestine Service Trainee program that follows. Pamela Morgan Beesly graduates from the Corcoran School of Art and Design two months after that, throwing her mortarboard in the air one muggy summer afternoon with her graduating class during commencement.
“I’m so proud of you,” her mother cries, when they’ve met up after. Her mother and sister had driven all the way down from Scranton to be with her. “So, so proud.”
Pam smiles; she’s proud of herself too. Not only because of the Bachelor of Arts she’d never thought she’d get, but also how far she has come from shy little Pammy. They’d given her a new name to use at the agency because her real one would be her deep cover, but both Morgan Fischer and Pam Beesly can go a full week on five hours of sleep now with only marginal loss of quality in her work. (Her trainers had refused to give her any quarter despite her dual enrollment in college and the training programs.) She can shoot and disassemble every firearm legally for sale in the United States, and many that aren’t. She can be the most scintillating person at a cocktail party—and the most forgettable. Lying is second nature, now. But then again, she’s had plenty of practice lying to herself all those years at Dunder Mifflin.
“Yeah, I’ll be working at Christie’s for the next 18 months. It’s only a training program, mom, not a full-time job, but I’m hoping it’ll turn into that. No guarantees, though.”
Penny grins. “I can’t believe you’re actually working in art. Just last month you were still answering phones. Can you imagine?”
Pam can imagine. It had truly not been difficult to keep the secret—nobody would ever expect her to be a secret agent. Associate Director Elms had been spot on in that regard. Other than her name at the agency, she has not had to change herself anew. Not like that first metamorphosis following Casino Night. But her art is bolder, and she dreams in color.
Sometimes she dreams of Jim. Those are difficult nights, but they get farther and fewer between with time.
It’s a whirlwind of a move to New York; she has to juggle both a new life as a graduate trainee at a prestigious art auction business and deployment on her first real assignment as a clandestine operative. Her first few months, she gets barely any sleep—her nights are dedicated to meeting contacts and other CIA personnel situated in New York. But Morgan Fischer, CIA operative, is much more resilient than Pam Beesly, Dunder-Mifflin receptionist, and she rolls with the punches. There’s no personal time for her to draw or paint, but that can’t be helped.
Within the year, Pam has made more headway than any agent before her in gathering information on the art auction world. Partly because this assignment is not the highest priority, and partly because nobody expects starstruck, country-girl-in-the-city artist-chasing-dreams Pam Beesly to be suspicious when she asks breathless questions and basks in the stories the slightly tipsy men regale her with. It’s still something to be proud of.
For her 29th birthday—last one before the big 3-0, Penny cheers—Pam gets a rare night off to spend with her family. Just Pam, not Operative Fischer or aspiring artist/Christie’s trainee Pamela Beesly. It’s a girl’s night now, since her father is always too busy with his new girlfriend to see her anymore, and she orders more bottles of champagne than she should at Le Coucou. Well, she’s drawing a double salary from the CIA and Christie’s, and she doesn’t have anywhere else to spend it.
“So when are you going to find yourself a nice man?” Penny slurs; she’s always been a lightweight. Pam used to be, too, before. “Come on, you’re in New York. You’re not getting any younger, you know.”
“Shh,” she flaps a hand at her sister. “Who really needs men, anyway? Roy showed me the error of my ways. I’m happy as is, thank you very much.”
Their mother smiles at her, a touch sadly. “I know we’re here to celebrate—and you’ve come so far, Pam, we’re both so proud of you. But Penny has a point. Have you met anyone here?”
Pam shakes her head, smile growthing thin. “You know I’m busy with work, mom. I’m going after what I want. Don’t worry about me. Let’s talk about something else. Ooh, I heard Macy’s has a shoe sale going on…”
As she directs the conversation to lighter topics—far more clumsily than she would if this was on the job, but it would feel disingenuous to use CIA training on her own family—she thinks back to the nights she’d spent crying over Jim, watching their doomed little romance play out on television. Pam had left Dunder Mifflin three quarters of the way through the third season, which had ended with Jim getting a job at corporate and moving to New York with Karen.
He had loved her, and she’d loved him too. Pam sees that now. It’s just too late to do anything about it anymore.
Michael hadn’t really recovered from the twin betrayals of herself and Jim abandoning ship. The documentary had ended that year, so she was spared the sight of her former boss’s increasingly erratic antics.
She’s better off now. Jim probably is too, with his fancy corporate job and his New York girlfriend—or would it be wife now? Pam had not let herself look back. And she has a purpose now, missions and art and briefs filling up her life to crowd out any semblance of an actual social life or hopes for one. It’s better this way.
Still, the champagne turns bittersweet in her mouth throughout the rest of the night. It’s just as well she doesn’t overindulge, because she has a “work” function to go to the next evening. She wakes up clearheaded and spends the day reading briefs on the people likely to be in attendance.
The cocktail party itself is understated but elegant, thrown by people with enough money to not feel the need to remind people of their wealth. The kind of people whose personal affairs shift millions of dollars and require a staff of at least a dozen, and one of which definitely has ties to the money-laundering scheme that has been her assignment for the last year.
“So glad you could make it,” Pam’s mentor from Christie’s tells her; she’d been the one to invite her. “It’s good to get to know the scene.”
There is no specific target for today’s event; she’s mostly building up background information on the cast of characters she’s started interacting with. If she’s very lucky, some gentleman will take an interest in the young, naïve artist she is and connect her to more parties like this with even more selective guest lists and looser lips. It would be good for both her art and her investigation.
Pam lets another shy, blushing smile bloom on her face at the man showing her around. He’s around her age, rather awkward, and a buyer; he’d been eager to rescue her once her mentor had left her to her own devices. The silky brown dress she’d chosen to reinforce the ingénue cocept she’s been running with—the one she’d worn to Phyllis’s wedding, so long ago—is definitely working. He’s already introduced her to a few acquaintances and invited her to a private viewing of one of his family’s galleries; progress.
“It turns out I have to uh, go talk to someone for business,” he tells her apologetically once they turn into the refreshments hall. “I’m going to leave you here.”
“Thank you for showing me around,” she beams, and he’s blushing now.
“I’ll, uh, send you an email later. You want to actually see the gallery.” With that, Pam is alone.
She indulges in a glass of wine, sipping slowly as she listens intently to the conversations that flow around her.
“… and Mr. Halpert.”
Pam snaps her head back at the words. It can’t be. She shouldn’t be showing any tells—she would definitely have gotten punished back in the program—but she hasn’t heard that name in so long and she feels like it would be in character for Pam-Beesly-from-the-documentary anyway.
Those familiar hazel eyes are wide as they meet hers. Jim Halpert stands before her in a well-fitted suit, older and polished but still somehow boyish. Their hosts lean in like sharks that have scented blood; socialites have sharp noses for drama. Pam bites her lip, then raises the corners of her lips in an attempt at a smile.
He doesn’t smile back. They stare at each other, years of heartbreak and memories stretching between them.
“It’s been a while.”