Just as quickly as life can give you everything you've ever wanted, it can take it away on a dime. When tragedy strikes, will Jim and Pam's love be able to stand the tests?
Set during the summer between S2/S3.
For those of you who watched Lost or Once Upon a Time, the theme of flashbacks will be heavily played with in this one :)
Categories: Jim and Pam Characters:
Jim/Pam, Pam/Roy, Roy
February 15, 2018 Updated:
June 03, 2018
1. Prologue by agian18
2. Chapter 2 by agian18
3. Chapter 3 by agian18
4. Chapter 4 by agian18
5. Chapter 5 by agian18
6. Chapter 6 by agian18
7. Chapter 7 by agian18
8. Chapter 8 by agian18
I know, I know. I already have one WIP going, and I'm starting another?!? Bear with me. This idea has been growing for a long time, and it's been writing itself in my head all day! I figured I'd throw out the prologue, test the waters, see what kind--if any--interest there is in carrying this baby on. So let me know what you think!
It had been seventy-six hours since he’d last heard her voice.
Seventy-six hours since her smile had brightened the room.
Seventy-six hours since her eyes had twinkled simply upon meeting his.
Seventy-six hours since her laughter had made his chest burst to an almost painful deliciousness.
Instead, the last seventy-six hours of his life rang with words like intracranial pressure and hemorrhage and we’re doing everything we can.
Instead of her voice, incessant beeps pricked at his ears like the needles that were entering too many surfaces on her skin.
Rather than feeling her breathing against his chest as they embraced one another, he watched a machine pump her lungs mechanically up and down, up and down. It was robotic, unnatural; watching it too intently made him nauseous.
Her touch, so warm and light and full of life just three days prior now hung heavy and small in his large palm, her fingers cold and rough where he brushed around the IVs that were taped to her skin.
He was supposed to meet her family for the first time, officially, at a backyard barbecue, at a nice dinner in the city where he paid for everything and stood every time her mother left the table, in the living room of her childhood home where her mother showed photos that made her blush and her father observed him with a cautions but approving eye. Not in the waiting room of the Geisinger-Community Trauma Department.
Their first conversations were supposed to be comedically awkward, slowly settling into a comfortable chatter that all revolved around one topic: how much love his heart held for their daughter. Not her mother in tears, unable to form words without spurring another breakdown, and her father sending painful words through his lips, curt and brief, giving only imperative details.
That had been seventy-two hours ago.
Seventy-six hours since he’d seen her last.
Seventy-two since some asshole had had one too many and gotten behind the wheel of his car.
Seventy-two and a half hours since she’d packed the last of her things from the house she previously shared with Roy, that she insisted on doing alone, because they were starting something new. She could stand up for herself. He would be there waiting for her later tonight. He respected that.
Seventy-two and a half hours since she’d last called, her voice dripping with warmth and excitement and pure elated joy. She was finished. It was done. She was dropping off the last carload, freshening up, and their planned night of dinner and a movie was what awaited them. Her new future, and she was simply alive for all of it.
Seventy-two and a half hours since she had chosen to skip going to her new place, deciding rather to head straight to him. The smile that had encapsulated her face in the moments prior to the headlights that blinded her from the driver’s side window was unlike any joy she’d ever experienced. She was heading to the arms of her love; she was finally heading home.
Seventy-one and a half hours since he’d received the phone call that would send his toothbrush clattering to the floor, render his bathroom faucet an environmental outrage as he left it on and rushed out of the door in a blind haze. There was a toothpaste stain on his shirt that he didn’t notice until day two, when his mother had all but dragged him home to “put on something a little more decent.” He barely recognized, as day three came to a close, that he had on different clothes than he had on the night his world had been turned upside-down.
When her mother and father knocked on the door, their soft taps encouraging him from the hypnosis that her heart monitor had tranced him into, he blinked back the dryness and daze, nodding for Helene and Will to take the chair that had molded to his body over the past three days.
As he watched her parents lament at her bedside, he couldn’t bring himself to leave the room. That’s how it had been, those hours since she’d taken up residence in the ICU, whose whitewashed walls were starting to strain his eyesight. Visitor after visitor entered, cried, left. But he remained as constant as the machines that kept her breathing. He was the wallflower, perpetual and silent. He respected the time of others, often remaining in the corner where he could keep an eye on her, to make sure her fragile body didn’t whither away anymore than it already had.
He looked on, a silent bystander, as parents, friends, grandparents made their way to her bedside and out the door. His parents remained in the waiting area most evenings, his mother only entering once, both to pay her condolences and to urge her son to take proper care of himself.
And then there was Roy.
It made sense, really.
She’d called off the wedding only weeks ago, and he hadn’t taken it lightly.
Of course he was here.
But in those three days, he hadn’t dared step foot inside the room.
Not with Jim there, standing silent guard; though his body was worn, the adrenaline that ran solely on his need to protect her wouldn’t stand for any nonsense.
Instead, he sat dejected, his five o’clock shadow mimicking Jim’s in the way that a fuller beard had begun to sprout.
Roy went home at night, took food breaks during the day, but still he remained, another silent observer.
He was immune to the door opening without warning; doctors and nurses came by frequently to check her vitals, the bandages on her face and head, the healing progress of her casted right arm. They all shared the same sad eyed expression when he moved out of the way enough to let them do their job. But this time was different. This doctor was using words like, “Progressing nicely,” and “Waking up,” and “Weaning her off the sedatives.” There was talk of ventilators and slow-going process, but all he was concerned with were those two words, waking up.
If his body had been rooted to her side before, it surely wasn’t changing pace anytime soon. The doctor had mentioned that this process could take a day or two with the heavy sedatives she had been placed under, but his body had been holding up well under the constant drip of caffeine supplied by his mother (and occasionally Mrs. Beesly). He would be here when she woke up.
Dr. Livingston warned him about how painful it might be to watch the extubing process, but he remained by her side, through the pain and the tears and horror of it all. He was there the first time her eyes fluttered, the first time they opened and glanced around the room for longer periods of time. His heart skipped beats, and for a second, he considered taking the plug off of her index finger to watch his own motions in the electric pulses up on the screen.
She was in and out of consciousness, muttered words incomprehensible, but still quickening his pulse at the fact that her voice was finally playing in his ears again. Finally, in a bout of sleep that he had found himself frequenting in twenty minute bursts with his head tucked softly against her body, he felt her stir, jolting him into a consciousness he hadn’t known he was capable of existing in. His hands found hers, holding them tenderly as if not to shock her senses. She’d been a sleeping angel for so long now that he knew her body would need to adjust to simple tasks again. He was prepared to be in this with her for the long haul, whatever it took to get her back to where she belonged.
What he didn’t expect was the way her fingers tensed so quickly under his, the way her eyes bulged under confusion-knit brows, the words that scratched at her bone dry throat.
At first, he thought she was joking. His Pam, such a kidder, even in a time like this.
“Who are you? Where’s Roy?”
His senses masked the scene that played out before him; her yells sounding animalistic in the dehydrated state of her lungs and throat, the way she forcefully pushed him away like he was riddled with toxicity, the way the door came crashing open, and the one person he thought they’d finally left in their past came crashing back like a freight train, his meaty hands and lump of a body cradling her to his chest in a way that made Jim reach for a bedpan before hanging his own lanky form out the door.
Seventy-six hours ago, his world was finally whole.
And seventy-six hours later, just like that, it was all gone.
Let me know if I should keep going!
Thanks for the interest in this story already! I find such inspiration in these two people, even years after the fact, and it makes me so happy that you all enjoy my little ideas as much as I like writing them :)
“God, this is so...surreal.”
Her laugh was warm against his t-shirt clad chest, her palm flat just above his heart. Her smile hadn’t dissipated since the moment he’d welcomed her inside in the not-quite-early but not-quite-late afternoon. Now, the sun had long since settled in the west, and they were cloaked in the faint moonlight that peeked through the blinds of his Stamford condo. His own grin pulled up all lopsided as his lips found her hair, still marvelling that he could actually do this now, memories from just hours ago creeping warmly over his skin.
She was on his doorstep, the thick July air adding a frizz to her curls that he knew she hated, but that he’d always conversely found adorable. Her arms were folded, and she was absently picking at the skin on her biceps, her cotton scoop neck shirt dotted with sweat. She was looking at her shoes, those same white Keds that had won an award, spurred a spontaneous kiss, rocked his world inside and out. The were less white now, worn with a few months of age. It was always hard to keep white white, anyhow.
He had been silent in opening the door, still not quite out of his “I woke up at noon on a Saturday and haven’t done anything productive since” haze, giving him a brief moment to drink in the sight on his doorstep, blinking back the sun to assure himself that this was real, wasn’t a dream he’d fallen into while napping on his futon in the middle of an FX movie marathon. He said a silent prayer to the sky that he’d at least been decent enough to put on a new t-shirt and pair of basketball shorts that day. It wasn’t until he’d finally let breath escape him that she finally looked up, seeming shaken from a daze of her own, her eyes glassy with worry as they met his.
Neither spoke, moved, wavered in those first few seconds, with the sun beating directly behind her head, giving her skin this kind of glow that made her golden, and he wanted so badly to reach out and touch her, to solidify that she was actually there, but her words interrupted that stream of consciousness.
“I called off the wedding.”
She was looking away again, chewing the inside of her mouth, seeming so incredibly interested in the plant that was wedged in the soil between the front stoop and the garage. Her words were more than a whisper but less than the inside voices level that his teachers had pounded into his brain since childhood. He knew they had been spoken, but he wasn’t convinced until he saw his own hand outstretched, pulling toward the hand she had tucked away, not stopping until he was gently removing her left hand from where it had been lodged under her arm and brushing his thumb oh so softly over the bare finger that used to taunt him day in and day out. It wasn’t so much as a shock that pulsed through them, or a wave that knocked them on their behinds. It was warmth, wholeness, like the final click of things falling into place.
She was smiling, a grin that stretched slowly, covering the distance across her cheeks in the time it took for him to tug her up the stairs, tugging towards her ears and all full of teeth as she crossed the threshold, that smile finally reaching her eyes when the door to the condo closed behind them. His hands were still clinging to hers, fearing that if he let go, she would disappear just as quickly as she usually did when he blinked the sleep from his eyes. She was looking up at him, the gleam in her eyes still there, less nervous and more tentative now that she was inside. Did she just lay it all out? Tell him every detail from the morning she’d arrived at work to find him gone, to that night when she’d packed a bag and left an equal parts angry and tearful Roy behind for good, to the awkward weeks spent in her childhood room with thoughts that were clogged to overflowing with him. Did she let him speak? Granted, she’d only truly spoken five words; did he really have a reaction yet?
Instead, they just...stared.
Searching the large blackening disks of one another’s eyes.
Wishing the words and the talking and the hard part could be over and they could just be.
She noticed his hesitance, the way he was still skeptical. If his confession, the one that had flipped every truth she’d known upside down, had been as longing and desperate and so real as it had seemed that night against her lips and heavy in the air, she knew he was dying inside right now, eager for some confirmation that she hadn’t just made a trek across the northeast to tell him something that had already been conveyed in an email by at least seven different coworkers. His lips parted and closed, parted and closed, the little popping noise thrumming louder than her heart as she spoke again.
That single syllable hung heavy in the air, his eyes flickering from her eyes to her lips, down to where their hands still remained clasped between them.
“Is this...really real?”
The words were sticky in his throat. He was hesitant to smile, to pull his grin towards his ears like he had seen her do. He needed to hear her say it, to put an end to the misery he’d been enduring for far too long.
“I called off my wedding because of you. I...Jim. I didn’t know what I was missing until that night. I couldn’t stay with Roy. I should’ve never been with Roy for as long as I was.”
His eyes were still tentative, urging her with the way they grew in size and in the glassiness that had covered the remaining whiteness.
“Jim? I’m in love with you. I’m so in love with you.”
And that was it. That was all it took for him to tug her hand upon his shoulder, to cradle her face in his large hands, to kiss her with more passion and more love than he’d ever thought possible. Finally, the shock was there, the spark, the electricity, whatever you wanted to call it--there it was, pulsing between their lips, the way his hands stroked at her cheeks before finding their way to the back of her head, the way that hers snaked around his chest and splayed across his back, pulling him as tightly to her as she could. That was it. They were finally home.
After the initial moments of Jim pulling back with her face cradled in his palms muttering, “Is this really real?” and Pam shaking her head insistently, tears brimming in her eyes as she clung to his forearms, the smiles were a thing of necessity. He’d wanted to take her on a real date, but she hadn’t really thought this whole thing through, and she hadn’t exactly packed a bag, and she was only wearing a pair of jean shorts and a pink cotton t-shirt that was dotted with sweat, so they opted instead for exploring the city that Jim had become acquainted with only enough to locate his office, a bar, and the grocery store. They’d settled for burgers and shakes on the hood of his car, holding hands the whole way there, knees brushing together as they shared fries and smiles. He didn’t think it was possible for his cheeks to hurt from smiling while eating a mediocre burger, but the way that the sun was setting behind her, the salt from the greasy french fries outlining the corner of her lips, the way that her smile positively glowed as she squinted her bowed head at the sheer reality of their situation gave him the most delicious ache he’d ever felt.
They’d taken their shakes to a random walking trail that wasn’t too far, holding hands in the middle while they talked about everything and nothing. He never wanted this moment to end. But as the sun settled over the water, they were back at his place, bodies flush on his futon, kissing intermittently while late night television served as background noise to their chatter that was filled partly with phrases like, “I can’t believe this is really happening,” and partly riddled with, “I’m sorry’s” and “It shouldn’t have taken us this long to get here.”
They’d gone to bed in that strange point that was too late in the night to be early in the morning but too early in the morning to be late at night. He’d offered her an old t-shirt, wondering how it was possible for his smile to stretch any wider than it could as he saw her tiny body become engulfed in cotton down to the knees. He settled instead for that lopsided grin that made her go weak in the knees as they settled side by side under his comforter, her head settling on his chest and finally feeling all of those things she’d been sure she was missing while in that endless engagement.
When she had breathed those words, “God, this is so...surreal,” against him chest, her breath tickling and warming him all the same, he took immediate advantage of the fact that she was in his arms, that he was allowed to pull her close and kiss her head without fear of repercussion, without fear of rejection. Instead, as she giggled against him he pulled her tighter and he pinched himself under the covers to make sure this wasn’t a dream, he spoke the words that once pelted him into submission, scared him more than any threat he’d ever faced, that he could now say so freely.
“God, I love you.”
It was now, in the waiting room that he had only seen the inside of twice--once while she was actually on the operating table, and again when his mother had all but dragged him out the door, “for your own good, Jimmy; you’re going stir crazy”--that the joy that once rang around those words instead brought a nauseous pang to his gut.
“God, this is so...surreal.”
It was Helene Beesly’s voice that released the words in a timid whisper, ghost-like even, while she sat next to Jim in the less than comfortable chairs, her husband flanking her on the other side.
She was talking, of course, of the one-hundred-and-eighty-degree turn that their lives had taken for the second time that summer. This time, however, it was not one she had approved of. It was her daughter, post-trauma, clinging to the man that the Beesly’s hadn’t always been that fond of, the man who hadn’t asked asked for their daughter’s hand in marriage before placing a less-than-admirable ring on her finger. They were hoping that the initial effects of waking up post-op and post-sedative in a life years prior was temporary, but after several hours and her insistence that Roy remain in the room with her, conversations with the doctor riddled with phrases like retrograde amnesia and no distinct recovery timeline, it was more than just Jim who wanted to get up and punch a hole through the wall.
In that month after she’d called off her wedding, Helene had watched her daughter’s emotions flip like a switch, from anger to pain, remorse to hope. She was like a hollowed shell of the giggly little girl whose finger paintings once dotted the doors of the refrigerator. She recalled the morning that something in her daughter’s eyes distinctively changed, the light crept back inside, and she held her head higher again. Without more than an, “I love you mom,” and an incredibly tight hug, she’d watched her daughter back out of the driveway, a phone call coming close to three hours later.
“Baby, is everything okay?”
“Yeah, mom. It will be.”
“Pam, where are you?”
“I’m...I’m in Connecticut.”
Helene’s heart swelled with pride and love, knowing that her daughter was finally, finally going to have the life that Helene had been dreaming of since she held her baby girl in her arms.
“Send Jim my love.”
But now, her love was simply not enough. She watched with sad eyes the man who loved her daughter more than life itself trying to hold on to any semblance of hope that had been torn down in the past hour of his life. His chin rested on clasped hands who rested on bony knees who tried their best to stop shaking. Her hand on his shoulder was simply not enough, but he offered her a sad smile anyway.
Jim’s eyes had been trained at the partially opened door, watching Roy sit tentatively on the edge of her bed, her hands looking so out of place clutched in the gawky awkwardness of his large ones. He stifled the urge to vomit, the pain of his gulp a fresh reminder that he was, indeed, alive as air passed through his dehydrated throat. Suddenly, Dr. Livingston was blocking his view, a hand on Roy’s shoulder guiding him towards the waiting room, the worried look on Pam’s face bringing him immediately to his feet, Helene’s on his wrist reminding him that he wasn’t allowed to jump to her rescue right now. In then next few moments, he realized that the good doctor was gathering everyone outside room 3218, this odd conglomeration of people bringing the Twilight Zone theme song to mind.
Helene was sandwiched between himself and Will. Her sister Penny was on the opposite end, nursing one of the Starbucks cups that she’d brought along on her way in this morning. His sat untouched and cold at the foot of his chair. And now, there was Roy, hands in his pockets, eyes suddenly very interested in the alternating blue and white tiles on the floor at the edge of the carpet.
This was his life now.
The Beesly’s, Roy, a doctor who could’ve been his grandfather, and Jim.
Taking a deep breath, not noticing until her shoulder softly bumped his elbow that he and Helene were using one another for support, he closed his eyes as Dr. Livingston delivered his future.
We'll hear from Pam in this chapter. I hope it makes sense, how the narration is supposed to be third person, but also from her POV.
Thanks again for all of the support so far! Enjoy :)
The word that came to mind was weird.
Not fuzzy, not painful, not straining or confusing or unsettling.
Mom and dad were here. So was Penny. Which made sense. She’d been in a car accident, for crying out loud.
But they all looked...older.
It wasn’t like her mother had all of a sudden greyed and sprouted the Beesly hunchback, and her father wasn’t bald and using a cane. But she could see it in their faces, if only slightly.
Her kid sister.
Face thinner, fingers sleeker, a hairstyle that looked way more expensive than their typical $9.99 at SuperCuts.
Even Roy had betrayed her, with his slightly stockier build, rough jawline that was covered in unfamiliar stubble, calluses on his fingers that hadn’t been there yesterday.
Yesterday, when they’d had their first full day of being settled into their new home.
It was a word that was still happily dancing on her tongue, a light in the...weirdness...of her current surroundings.
Today should have been her first day as a receptionist for Dunder Mifflin, the place where she and her fiance would work only floors apart. They’d drive together--from their home--and kiss as they parted ways like they’d done at their lockers in high school, she heading to advanced calculus while he puttered to biology. They’d share lunches and breaks together, and hop into his truck at the end of the day.
And together, they’d go home.
She wondered if her mother was still mad at her.
They hadn’t exactly left things on good terms.
Then again, things hadn’t really been on “good terms” since she’d dropped out of college after the proposal, claiming that she needed to, “focus her time on making money to save for the wedding.” Yeah. Mom had really gotten over that one well. Dad hadn’t been too happy either, but he was always the more lenient one. Mom, on the other hand, wanted the absolute best for the Beesly girls. And in this day and age, according to Helene Beesly, that meant graduating with a four year degree and pursuing a career that would equip them with financial stability no matter what life threw at them.
Apparently, life was throwing her a car accident.
Hopefully her Dunder Mifflin benefits had already kicked in.
She was starting to get nervous, watching through the crack in her door as her doctor--Dr. Livingston? Something like that--gathered her small pod of family members in a circle. Probably to talk about what was going on. Probably to give them an update on her condition. Hopefully telling them when they could take her home. Or, more specifically, when Roy could take her home. To their home.
God, she still wasn’t over that.
She was getting married! Little Pammy Beesly, the shy, quiet artsy girl that no one paid attention to, was marrying Roy Anderson, the starting quarterback, the hunky jock that cheerleaders fawned over and conversely shot daggers at her for being buried under his arm after the game. She snapped her gaze from the doorway to her left finger, momentarily panicking when her ring, her precious engagement ring, was nowhere to be found. But then she remembered: I was in an accident. I had surgery. They take those things away from you when you go under the knife. I’m sure it’s around here somewhere. For now, she was content to cloud her thoughts with white dresses and flower arrangements and cake and Roy. Those things made her happy.
Why couldn’t her mother just be happy for her?
Sure, there had been that whole thing about moving in with someone before you were married, but who were they kidding, really? Pam and Roy had been having sex since their senior year. She surely wasn’t going to put it on hold until the wedding now. And they surely weren’t “rushing into things.” Out of all the things her mother could have responded with when they’d sat Will and Helene down to tell them the news about the house, a scolding like she was a child again certainly wasn’t what Pam had pictured.
As her gaze peeked around the doctor to her mother’s eyes, she was reassured--and more than a little remorseful--that her mother’s gaze was overflowing with pain. Tears painted her eyes, and her body seemed to be weighed down by a thousand invisible pounds. It was then, as she traced the worn, drooping body of her mother, that she noticed something that hadn’t caught her attention yet. Though her mother and father stood side by side, hands clasped like vice grips, the fingers on Helene Beesly’s left hand were clutched around a wrist she’d never seen before.
She followed the arm--and it was long--to where it connected with a lanky torso, a long neck, and a face of softened features. The mop of brown hair atop his head was unkempt, and honestly looked like it could use a good date with a bottle of shampoo. But as she traced her eyes to his, she recognized him.
It was him.
That guy who had been next to her, holding her hand, whispering into her ear when she’d woken up.
He was still here?
Yup. Weird was definitely the word she was going with today.
While her mother stood hand in hand between her father and this strange man like they were saying the Lord’s prayer at Sunday service, Roy, her Roy, stood almost on the outskirts of the circle, far away from Penny, her parents, and this hollowed out shell of a man who made her eyes pinch together and body suddenly warm and tense all at once. It was frightening, almost, to see him from this distance, with dark rings around his eyes, an uncomfortable-looking hunch protruding from his back, worry lines permeating all over his face. Why was this man of mystery so concerned with her medical status?
As she pondered his identity, his eyes suddenly darted up, almost as if he knew that he was being visually inventoried. Intense, somber green connected with her line of sight, and for a moment, her entire world entered a tunnel, locked solely on the tall man with the frumpy hair. He was effectively burning imprints onto her soul, and although she felt the sudden need to cover herself, hide away from his intrusion, she couldn’t move a muscle. She wanted to yell, wanted to scream for someone to come and shake her from this odd sensation, but as his eyes poured into her, the sense that she was safe tickled at her brain stem. His eyes, so hollow, so dark and desolate, twinkled for the slightest second. They seemed...urgent? Pleading. Yes, pleading was definitely the word. But pleading for what exactly? She didn’t even know him. What could he want from her?
All too quickly, his gaze was snapped back towards the doctor, that same intensity now burning holes in the white hair of the lab coat clad man whom, she thought, was old enough to be her grandfather. His ears reddened under the curls that dropped softly against them, and she had the strange urge to reach out through the door and brush the curls behind them.
The thoughts fled her consciousness as five pairs of eyes snapped to the doorway, causing her to turn her head and shy away, the hospital issued blanket suddenly not big enough. She felt like an animal on display at the zoo, making a silent promise to herself to reconsider the next time she asked Roy to take the trip to Philadelphia.
There were more quick movements, eyes darting between mom and dad, Penny and Roy, dad and Penny, mom and...she still didn’t know his name. None of the eyes were happy. In fact, as she took more notice, they all seemed to be growing more and more angry, frustrated, embittered by the second. It was then that the daggers all landed on Roy. Her poor Roy. He hadn’t done anything to deserve this kind of treatment. After a few nods of their heads, resembling the wave that they always did at Phillies games--starting with her father, then moving between Penny, her mom, and finally him--some mixed reactions added to the strange ambience. Penny’s eyes rolled, and she turned and walked--stormed?--out of Pam’s line of vision. Dad’s expression turned sour, as if he was holding back the urge to vomit. A sob escaped mom’s lips, and she pulled away the hand holding dad’s in order to stifle the sounds, presumably to keep Pam from hearing them. But why had she let go of dad? Why was she still holding on to...to him?
And then, she saw it.
Whoever this...this man was, looked as though he was about to be swallowed up by the floor beneath him. His head sunk, shoulders hunched, face absorbed by his free hand. Mom seemed to be holding--tighter?--to him, as Pam watched his shoulders heave up and down a few times, strangled and sharp. Regardless of her ignorance, whoever this man was, she actually started to feel sorry for him.
Until, that is, more movement drew her gaze to where Roy was slowly, somberly making his way through the crowd. The only figure who made way for him to pass was the doctor, whose own expression told the same tale of sorrow that seemed to be written across the pages of her loved ones.
She tensed, gripping the edges of her blanket, once again seeking shelter in the small room. When he entered, Roy looked incredibly disheveled, which was fair, considering it appeared that everyone in that waiting room had just been put through the wringer. His eyes wore days of worry, their greyness striking Pam as though he should be the one in the hospital bed. He was tentative as he perched in her doorway, not quite in yet not quite on the outside, his large fingers drumming against the doorway several times before words escaped his tight lips.
“Can I...can I come in?”
It was barely a whisper, layered with a sadness that had tears brimming in Pam’s eyes as she nodded several times in return. His steps resembled eggshell walking; it was as if he was trying to avoid a secret bomb planted somewhere in the floor. When he stopped at the end of her bed, refusing to meet her eyes and retracting his hands even as he placed them on the rail of the bed, she reached out a small hand of her own, offering it to him. His breath was a sharp intake of air, and as his eyes rolled to the left corner of the room, it appeared to her as though he was fighting back tears. Finally, he was at her bedside, sitting on the chair that...he had left. Again, though, she took keen notice of the way he sat as if the chair was made of pins and needles, perched like a bird on a wire. She’d never seen him like this before.
“Baby, what’s going on?”
Her words sounded strange and unfamiliar, her voice richer and a little bit deeper. It was probably from the surgery, from her long hours asleep, she decided, focusing her attention to the man who still wouldn’t meet her eyes.
“Um, nothing, Pam. It’s just...the...the doctor wants you to get some rest before we...they want to run some tests, but he wants…”
He was grasping at straws, words coming in strangled fragments, his eyes darting around the room as if letters were strung above his head and he was trying to put them together in the right order.
His eyes pleaded, begged for her to understand, and she nodded, more slowly now, as she let her head sink into the pillow. The doctor wanted her to rest, so she would rest.
“Okay. Will you stay with me?”
Her eyes lit in childlike wonder, reminding Roy of Bambi or one of those Loony Toon babies from his childhood. The way her curls framed her face brought him back to the pictures in the Beesly’s house of Pam as a little girl. He bit his lip, pleading with God above for the floor to open and swallow him.
She watched him nod, slowly, biting his lips as if this answer pained him. Her eyes furrowed as she settled into the hospital bed. Before they closed for the last time, she saw his shadow hovering outside the door, tall and gangly, still hunched in a sadness she couldn't quite understand. In her dreams, she was surrounded by cans of grape soda.
God, I never in my life thought I'd be writing from the perspective of a Pam Beesly still in love with Roy Anderson, but here we are... ;)
Thanks again for all the love :)
For this POV, we'll see how Roy is dealing with all of this.
He shouldn’t be here.
Roy Anderson, wearing his best button down and his only tie, down on one knee in front of the most beautiful girl in the world.
Although he was loved by peers and coaches alike, Roy had always internally down on himself. His grades were passable at best, his father’s concern with his youngest son came only when he was donning a jersey, and he had no idea what he wanted to do with his life. But of one thing, he was sure.
He was going to marry Pam Beesly.
She’d caught his eye in their sophomore year geometry class. Or, more so, she’d caught his homework assignment. They’d been peer grading, and his mind was drifting from Andrew Johnson’s half-assed paper on his desk to his strategy going into the big game on Friday night. He was visualizing the new play that coach had crafted when her voice, so small, sneaked into his ears from the desk behind him.
“Uhm, I think you’ve got the equation wrong.”
He’d turned around, still in a daze, its source changing from football and quarterback sneaks to the mass of frizzy curls that his eyes were met with.
“The equation. The Pythagorean Theorem says that a-squared plus b-squared equals c-squared. I think you’re mixing up your b’s and your c’s.”
She smiled at him as his eyes darted from his red-streaked paper to her face, and she tucked a loose curl behind her ear and returned her gaze to the desktop.
“I can show you how to fix it, if you want.”
Slowly, her eyes traced back up, skimming over his letterman jacket to meet his swirling blues. Her smile was all teeth, and in that moment, he promised himself that he would do whatever it took to see that smile forever.
From that point on, the square of the hypotenuse was the center of his world. She had offered to help him catch up, knowing that his current C- in the class was on the verge of probation, as per the terms of the academic sports policy at West Scranton. She wore his jersey to school that Friday, and the rest was history.
Sure, he’d been glared at by many a stuck up female, and given shit by the guys on the team. Pam Beesly? Really? The geeky little art girl? Did he realize that, as quarterback of the back-to-back regional champion football team, he could easily nab any girl on this campus? Of course he did. But those girls didn’t believe in him like Pam. They saw his muscles, his five o’clock shadow, and the trophies that dotted the shelves in the Anderson home. They didn’t see the struggles that happened beneath that surface, the way schoolwork made him nauseous and the thought of college and a future had his stomach in knots with the fear that he would always be that washed up high school jock who never left his hometown. Somehow, in three study sessions, Pam had gotten all of that out of him, had promised him that she saw the potential, and made him believe in himself truly for the very first time.
So she wore his jersey that Friday, and for every Friday after that one. She wore his corsage to prom, and he’d gotten her a plastic crown from the Dollar Tree when Jessica Williams had won the popular vote for prom queen to his king. Her eyes had shined that night, under the moonlight of the secluded park that he’d driven them to once the dance itself had ended. You Were Meant For Me blared out of the truck speakers as he swayed with her under the stars. It was there that they’d made love for the first time, and that same place he’d taken her to tonight, down on one knee on the blanket she’d brought for their picnic. They’d been together for seven years now, both in college with the future on their minds. He saw only one logical step for their future.
And she’d said yes.
As they lay on that blanket, their clothes haphazardly tossed somewhere in the dark grass, he couldn’t believe that his life was going in this direction. Soon, he’d have a wife. This curly-headed, bright-eyed, giggly girl who had changed his world was about to be his entire world. He kissed the top of her head, gathered her in his arms, and drove her to her parent’s house. Soon, he thought, he wouldn’t have to drop her off on the Beesly’s front porch anymore. Soon, they would be home together.
He shouldn’t be here.
Really, he was the outsider.
Although with the way things were going, he felt more like an outcast.
From the moment he had heard about her accident, Roy had clung to that hospital like a leaf to a tree. She might have called off the wedding, thrown away a decade of being together, but that was only a month ago. He still cared about her. He still loved her. A month was nothing compared to ten years. But in this waiting room, surrounded by all of these people whose disdain for him was heavy and palpable in the chilly hospital air, he did not belong.
She’d woken up screaming for him, something she hadn’t done since her grandfather died their freshman year of college and she’d had nightmares for weeks. Or, contrarily, since she’d clung to him with her fingernails in his back and her heels digging into his waist. But the last time she’d done that, he was still paying monthly for her engagement ring.
Poor Halpert had been shoved to the wayside, and for as much as he didn’t like the guy--he had, after all, literally ruined Roy’s future--it was just so awkward to watch her call to him as if the past month of their lives hadn’t happened. He’d thrown Jim a look that said, “I’m really sorry, man. I wouldn’t do this if I didn’t have to,” and sat by her bedside, the peril seeping from his fingers to hers, probably unnoticed in her haste to be wrapped up in his arms once again.
He hated that he was so stiff with her, holding her at an arm’s length as if she was a bomb ticking down from ten. His eyes bulged in terror and consternation, fumbling over words whenever she pressed him about his demeanor, trying to heed the doctor’s words that were still making him nauseous.
“The good news is that Pam is stable. We’ve weaned her off the sedatives, and her vitals are strong enough to move her out of the ICU in the next couple of days, dependent of course on how the next twenty-four hours go. However, what you’ve already noticed is that Pam is suffering from what we call retrograde amnesia. This means that she has the ability to form new memories, but pieces from before her accident are missing.”
“So that’s why she thinks she’s still...engaged to Roy?” Mrs. B’s words were shaky and timid. The only emotions he’d ever seen from her were tolerance, indifference, and anger. This was new territory.
The eyes pinned to him like darts in a bullseye. He hadn’t asked for this, damnit. He let his eyes drop to his shoes, wanting so much to fold up into himself and leave this hell hole circle of judgement.
“You’ll see different symptoms with different patients. Sometimes with amnesia cases, a patient will lose the entirety of his or her past memories, essentially becoming a blank slate. With Pam, we should consider ourselves quite lucky. Although memory loss is evident, she still maintains much of her long-term memory. If we’re going to focus on the positives throughout this process, we should be grateful for this much.”
“So what can we do? I mean, she thinks she’s still engaged to him.”
Penny was jutting her half-empty mocha latte bullshit cup in his direction, her gaze as sharp as her words. He didn’t blame her, though. Couldn’t blame any of them, really.
“Well, unfortunately, there’s truly nothing we can do. Although her forgotten memories can be coaxed back, treatments like therapy and hypnosis often create false memories, and we want Pam to find her truths organically. Pam’s best bet is to be surrounded by her loved ones right now. She’s going to be very confused, and very scared. She needs you to be loving and supporting right now.”
The doc took a pause, watching gazes pass between the members of their weird little circle, trying to decipher the meaning behind the words that Livingston wasn’t exactly letting on to.
“Any tips on what specifically we can do then?”
Penny seemed to be the assertive member of the group, the only one who wasn’t so grappled by emotions that she could actually ask the questions and make the decisions. The remaining patrons seemed relieved by that fact.
The doc twiddled with his pen, tapping it against his clipboard, blowing out a breath as his eyes scanned over the members in the circle. The feeling that they were about to be struck with something blunt and terrible suddenly washed over Roy, and he tugged at his collar as he continued to observe the details of everyone’s shoes. Mr. B’s tennis shoe choice hadn’t changed since 1996. Mrs. B’s loafers were plain and tidy. Penny’s heels matched the personality shift that college in New York had given her. He remembered Pam’s incessant teasing and eye rolling when she’d come home her freshman year with a “new image,” yet she had conversely wanted to borrow all of her sister’s shoes. Halpert’s were what struck him as less odd and more downright sad, because the poor guy had been in such a rush to get back to Pam that he was wearing two different ones. And he probably hadn’t even noticed.
It was the doc’s voice that returned his eyes to an upward position.
“I’m sorry, because this is going to be incredibly difficult for you all to comprehend, but in Pam’s current state...you have to understand, we want her to be as comfortable as possible. It would be best to allow her to...choose who she seeks comfort in.”
Eyes flapped around the circle, concern and anger and fear emanating between everybody.
“Wait, so let me get this straight, just so I’m not mistaken.” Penny’s hands were waving in front of her face in a way that reminded him of her time spent with Pam gossiping after school. “We’re just supposed to let her think that it’s 2003 and she’s freshly handcuffed to him?”
She was jutting that stupid cup at him again, and he was beginning to associate the Starbucks brand with negativity.
“No, not at all. I’m glad you brought that up.”
Perplexity picked at the eyes that were trained on the doc as he continued his explanation.
“We’re not here to comply with Pam’s falsities; we want to lead her back into the reality of what her life is. But right now, it also wouldn’t exactly be appropriate to just feed her with a stream of the past three years of her life. It would overwhelm her, add to the confusion and the frustration that she’s lost so much. We’ll give her revelations slowly and as they come. But right now, she seems to be gravitating to Mr. Anderson. For the time being, I’d like to at least offer her this sense of comfort.”
“So we’re just supposed to let her cuddle up to him like they’re about to walk down the aisle?”
The doc sighed, choosing his words carefully.
“For right now, yes. You have to understand the gravity of the situation--”
But Penny was already storming away, the clacking of her heels striking fear into Roy’s already stuffed up heart.
“I’m sorry. This is a strange situation. I want to make sure that you all understand what I expect going forward.”
He was essentially being addressed directly while everyone else listened in. The doc was saying that he should let Pam use him as her crutch, but that he shouldn’t directly give in to her claims about the past. He shouldn’t pretend it was 2003 again. Shouldn’t let her believe that her reality was the truth. He was only there as her person of support. Unless, of course, things with her memory changed. Right now, she appeared to trust him, so they were giving her what she wanted. That was how he had found himself perched on the edge of the hospital chair that had molded to Halpert’s body by this point in the week. It wasn’t before he could toss his apologies around the circle, his shoulders shrugging while his mouth hung open, not quite knowing what to say.
She’d been asleep for about an hour now, and he’d been doing nothing but alternating between sitting with his head in his hands and sneaking glances at her sleeping frame, feeling guilty and gross every time he did so. He knew Halpert was sitting right outside the room, and his heavy conscious was eating at him from the inside. Everyone on the other side of that door hated him. What was worse was that he didn’t know who hated him the most. Penny was definitely the most hostile. Hell, she’d stormed out in the middle of the doc’s speech for Christ’s sake. Mr. and Mrs. B had never really liked him to begin with. But Halpert? He’d worked with the guy for three years, fought with him over the sleeping girl by his side, and he still couldn’t get a read on the guy.
Pam was beginning to wake, the rustling of the stiff hospital sheets pulling his gaze to the bed while simultaneously pulling his body away. He hoped she hadn’t heard the scratching of the wood as he backed several inches from the bed.
As he watched her, slow to wake as she struggled against sleeping for just five more minutes, he was thrust into a world of has beens and would’ve beens and should’ve beens. Memories of her waking up beside him that first full night in their first home together, her curls tousled and slightly frizzy, her nose scrunching as she clenched her eyes closed in a desperate attempt to stay asleep. He had to bite his lip, physically turn his head, to stop the assault.
Maybe, when her eyes opened, she’d remember. Maybe, when her eyes opened, her eyebrows would crunch together, her lips would twist into a pout, and she’d kick him out the door, screaming for Halpert like she’d done for him just hours ago. Maybe he’d finally be freed from this misery, from the misery that was literally forcing him to look into the eyes of the woman his heart still tugged for, but who had walked out his door and left him with a crushed heart and nothing left to strive for.
But her stifled Baby? in that same sleepy voice that once brought a stirring in his belly--that now made him want to reach for the bedpan and toss his own cookies--reminded him of his place in this life. Her casted hand lifted from the bed, seeking his before her eyes fully opened, and he swallowed his breath and his pride as he wrapped his large digits around it, thankful for the layers of cotton that separated most of their skin.
“Hey.” His own voice sound alien, the words garbled and distant. “How, how ya feelin’ Pam?”
Her eyebrows were downcast, eyes still slowly blinking open. He hated this. Hated seeing her in pain, hated that her small fingers were brushing against his palm again, hated himself for how much he wanted to tell that doc to fuck himself and take Pam home with him and pretend it was still 2003. But he knew he couldn’t do that.
“Mmm, my head hurts.” She was trying to mask the pain through a smile, but it wasn’t working very well. Brushing his thumb across her fingers, trying to quell the burning sensation, he offered her a sad, teary eyed smile.
“I’m sure it’ll be that way for awhile. Do you want me to call the doctor in? Maybe he can get you some more meds or something.”
She shook her head, those big green eyes blinking up at him.
“I’m sure it’ll be fine. I did just have brain surgery, after all.”
His Pammy, always finding a way to crack a joke. And here she was, in his arms again.
“I just can’t wait to be home with you again.” Her words were whispered, swirling with the choking back of tears.
He couldn’t help it.
This was Pam, his Pammy. She was sad. She was hurt. She was crying. His job was to comfort her. So he did the only thing he knew to do, the only thing she expected of him. He reached his free hand up and brushed her tears away, letting his large hand palm her cheek as the pain in her eyes seemed to subside, replaced by a grateful grin.
For just a moment, his world was whole again.
Jim had refused to look inside, refused to let his eyes find the frost paned glass that would reveal a mess of curls that should be tucked under his chest right now, a pair of green eyes that should be a more intense shade of forest while they searched his lovingly, those rosy cheeks that should be cradled in his hands as he wiped away her tears and reassured her that everything would be okay, that he would never let anything bad happen to her ever again.
The soft soles of a nurse’s tennis shoes met the gaze that he had fixed appropriately on the crack between the bottom of her door and the floor, and as the door swung open, he realized what was about to happen. The nurse would prep her, help her into a wheelchair, and take her to some other part of the hospital for some kind of test that would help them to further understand the severity of her memory loss. But ranking on the same level of importance, he was about to see her for the first time since she’d given him those vacant eyes.
His knees were bouncing now, reverberating through the elbows that sat perched there, causing his teeth to clack together. He stood, pushing his hands through his hair, and paced back and forth between the her room and the two who sandwiched it. Mr. and Mrs. Beesly had gone home, to freshen up and make phone calls and grab a bite to eat. Penny had disappeared during the middle of their conversation with the doctor and hadn’t returned since. He was alone.
And as he swiveled around to change the direction of his paces, he caught a glimpse of an image he thought was long in his past.
The arm that held her shattered wrist was engulfed by a meaty hand that was tracing circles on the soft cotton. Her other arm was snaked across her body and through the crook of his, clinging on as if he were anchoring her to the floor. Their eyes were trained on the plump nurse whose hands were gesturing as she explained whatever was about to happen. As he fought to breathe, to keep his body upright, her eyes suddenly snapped up, clicking with his in a way that both saved and killed him all at once. It was when she shook her head, breaking their trance and furling her eyebrows, that he couldn’t take it anymore.
He needed fresh air, a new source of oxygen that wasn’t riddled with the medicinal fumes that these hospital walls had been pumping into his respiratory system. In ten long strides, he was out the door, hands on his knees, letting the warm August air fill his lungs to capacity. No matter how much his chest hurt as the air stretched his tissue, the satiety was never enough.
I know, I know. "But you hate Roy! Why are you painting him like this sad guy who deserves our sympathy?" I do. You're right. But, at the same time, having Roy be more than a punching bag works with this story. Plus, it'll come full circle to your regularly scheduled Roy-hating program later on... :)
I was having a hard time deciding how to get certain situations to transpire, but I think it has all worked itself out (and if not, we'll fuddle along together!). We see a bit more of Pam, and I think you're going to like how this part ends... :)
The questions that this nurse was asking here were honestly so dumb.
What is your name?
Pamela Morgan Beesly. Obviously.
When is your birthday?
March 25th. Duh.
Where do you live?
Scranton, Pennsylvania. Unfortunately.
Where are you now?
Chained to a hospital bed. Well, not literally chained. Okay, so you don’t like jokes apparently. We’re at Geisinger Community. But I have no idea why. Regional is closer.
What is the first event you can remember after the injury?
She tensed, her sarcastic relaxation stiffening immediately as she recalled the first time her eyes had fluttered open inside this sterile hell.
That tall, gangly, man, the one who needed a haircut.
He’d been here, holding her hands, seated so close that she would have been uncomfortable if she hadn’t been so focused on the soreness in her throat, the stark whiteness of the walls around her, the fact that Roy wasn’t by her side. Why hadn’t Roy been there when she woke up? Why had he been there, practically grovelling at her bedside? It was a little weird, right? And even weirder that he was still here. He’d been lurking outside the door to her room when they had wheeled her out, but by the time Roy had pushed her into the hallway, he was gone.
The nurse snapped her out of the trance, the next question seemingly more frustrating than the last.
Can you describe the last event you can recall before the accident?
In between the strangled sobs that had parched her mother’s throat, she had deduced that she’d been in a car accident. A drunk driver ran a red light and plowed right into her. But those were stories that had been told, like bedtime tales from her childhood. The pictures were embodied in the same way that Willy Wonka and Ramona Quimby had manifested into this pseudo-reality in her subconscious. But those were conjurations, movies that she had created in her head when the words on the page gave her just enough details to picture the characters that the authors were describing. In that same way, the stories of her accident were just that: stories. Nothing close to an actual memory was sprouting in her mind. Squeezing her eyes shut tightly, she willed any sort of recollection to form, something that would tell her what had led to this moment, to her being questioned like a prisoner with her arm in plaster and her head riddled with incision lines.
“I..Roy and I were going to bed. In our new house. I set my alarm extra early so I had time to make us breakfast in the morning before work. And...and now I’m...here?”
Her wide eyes searched the face of the stout woman in pink scrubs making tick marks on a clipboard, begging for an answer. Instead, she was offered a sad smile before the nurse’s head fell to the piece of paper that was out of Pam’s line of sight. Foolishly, she made a dense attempt at lifting her body out of the chair to peer over the edge of the clipboard, feeling a blush of embarrassment when the nurse eyed her as if she were a student cheating on a test. When her butt plopped back into her chair, she avoided the woman’s gaze, biting her lip as she focused on the tile pattern of the floor.
The questions ended in simplicity: the time, the date, the month, the year.
Those were easy.
There was a board behind the nurse’s head with that information displayed in blue Expo marker. Although she could have sworn that her starting day at Dunder Mifflin was in April, not August. How long had she been out? She’d have to ask someone when she got back from her CT. Everyone seemed to be tiptoeing around her, and she wanted some answers, damnit.
She let her mind wander in a myriad of directions while the space station like machine spun and whirred annoyingly around her. She reminisced on signing the papers with Roy, being handed matching keys, being carried over the threshold of their new ranch. It wasn’t big by any means, but it suited them. Just enough room to enjoy one another.
She thought of shopping trips for new work clothes, her little sister tagging along and scolding every outfit choice she made. “Just because this is an office job doesn’t mean you have to dress like a shrew, Pam.” But judging from her one interview, the people in that office liked to create an ambience of year round Alaskan temperatures. The cardigans were a necessity. And besides, it wasn’t like she was trying to impress anybody. Roy was right downstairs.
She thought of furniture shopping, when Roy had scoffed at the price tags of some of the nicer items she had marveled at. In the end, their couch came from Kenny’s basement, the kitchen table with the wobbly leg was purchased at a yard sale, and their bed was the one Roy had gotten at ten years old when he outgrew his twin. It wasn’t much, but it was theirs. And besides, he’d promised that in a few years, after they settled in, he’d take her shopping for something better than Kenny’s old couch that still smelled like smoke and liquor, and the table that she had to keep one of her useless college textbooks underneath to still the shaking.
She remembered eating grilled cheese with him on the roof, watching fireworks off in the distance as the candlelight brightened that lopsided grin that she’d come to cherish. She remembered a warmth flowing through her despite the chilly November air and the jackets curled around them, and how its source was distinctly not from the weather.
That wasn’t Roy.
A message from the loudspeaker told her to remain as still as possible inside the machine, and she realized that she must have jolted upon that realization. That memory hadn’t been with Roy. So who was it? What roof had they been on? Why did she suddenly crave grilled cheese?
Suddenly, she was extremely antsy to get back to that room that she’d been so kindly referring to as The Cell. She wanted answers. She wanted perception. She wanted her mom.
She wanted a damn grilled cheese sandwich.
“You okay, sugar? You look a little pale.”
The nurse who helped resettle her into the wheelchair must have caught on to her rising panic. If it wasn’t the concern in her words, it was the look on her face that said, “You’re going right back to bed.”
When she returned to her room, there was a gathering outside that was becoming quite common. Her parents were huddled together over steaming foam cups of hospital quality coffee. Her sister was back, fingers clacking like lightning across the keyboard of her phone, her brows furrowed in anger. From time to time, she’d glance up, glare at Roy, and divert her attention back to the phone. Roy, who was still standing awkwardly on the outskirts of the circle. Roy, whose hands were in his pockets as he stared at his shoes, scuffling his feet back and forth across the tile.
He was gone, which confirmed her earlier suspicion that he’d taken off before her most recent round of testing. She let out a sigh of relief, but at the same time, it was almost as though her heart hurt, and she was left trying to find out why as all four pairs of eyes trained on her. She made tentative eye contact with each of these people whose lives had been put on hold to come and comfort her. Penny, who had most likely driven in from New York just to be with her, who was probably apologizing to professors and cancelling lavish plans in the city. Mom and dad, whose eyes were hollow and tired. She would send them home as soon as she could. They deserved some time off. Roy, her sweet Roy, who was cast out and still had that same pained look on his face like he didn’t belong here. It had been evident in his eyes since the moment he’d joined her at her bedside. More to add to the puzzle.
As she was helped back into bed, she was overcome with an immense fatigue, those few tests wearing her beyond consciousness. Her answers could wait. And so could the grilled cheese cravings. Her mother, father, and sister shuffled tentatively into her room and surrounded her like a vigil, those sad, sorry eyes all starting to genuinely piss her off. She wasn’t dead, for crying out loud.
“How are you feeling, sweetie?” It was mom who spoke first, reaching out to clench Pam’s hands in her own.
“Honestly mom? I’m tired. I think I’m just going to get some rest.”
“That sounds like a good idea.”
“You and dad should go home. Get some rest in a place that isn’t so depressing.” Her own lips curled up in timid satisfaction as Penny smirked, spurring on the smiles of mom and dad as well. This whole situation was just dragging everybody down. No need for any more of that than there had to be.
“I think we will. You get some rest, love. We’ll see you in the morning.”
Penny hung back as Will and Helene kissed their daughter goodbye, a weight seeming to lift from each of her parents as she watched them exit.
“So? How are you really feeling?”
Penny was never one to beat around the bush. She had always been the more assertive of the Beesly siblings, and for that, Pam was grateful. She let out a sigh, allowing her body to be eaten by the pillows as she sank in defeat.
“I want to get out of here, Pen. Everyone keeps looking at me like I died or something. The sad faces are killing me.”
“Well, to be fair, you did kind of give everyone a scare back there, big sis.”
She was taking a seat now, crossing her designer boot clad ankles as she leaned back in the stiff hospital chair.
“I know. But it obviously wasn’t my fault. And I’m fine. They’ll probably let me out of her a in a few days and then everyone can go back to not staring at me. I hate that everyone keeps staring at me. I just want to go home. And start my new job. And be normal again.”
Penny, once so cool and confident, now had that look of worry in her eyes. Not quite sadness, and not the anger that she’d been harboring in the hallways, but worry. For the first time, she avoided Pam’s eyes, resemblant of every other visitor she’d had that day.
“Oh, come on, not you, too!”
Penny tossed her a look that apologized without words, then swept her eyes across the room while she carefully chose what to say next.
“Pammy… You know that… I… Do you….?”
As she rolled her eyes, she was reminded of her exhaustion. Her over exaggerated yawn clued her sister in to her wishes, and Penny sighed in defeat, pushing herself from the chair.
“I have some things to take care of tomorrow, but I’ll be back for dinner, okay?”
Pam nodded, offering her sister a sad smile.
“Hey, could you tell Roy to come in here on your way out?”
She observed Penny’s weak attempt to stifle an eye roll, turn her expression into a tight lipped smile, and curtly nod before whispering, “Sure thing. Bye, Pammy.”
Moments later, Roy shuffled through the door, pushing it wider to accommodate his stocky frame. Something about him, the way he carried himself, was just so different. Aside from the way he tiptoed around her. That was just getting annoying.
He glanced around the room a bit before finally settling his petrified eyes on her. She had to speak first, wondering if Roy wouldn’t have turned into a stone statue had she not said something to break the awkward tension that he had palpably brought into the room.
“Hi.” The undercurrent to her lonely syllable was urging, accompanied by a chuckle that said, This is how you communicate, remember?
“Uh, hey. How ya feeling?”
It was as if his mind was wired with only certain phrases, like one of those dolls she’d had as a child that had a preprogrammed loop of things to say. She thought of what Action-Roy’s catch phrases would be. So far, “How ya feeling?” topped the list. Veterinarian Barbie had more to say than that.
“Tired. Exhausted. Sick of people looking at me like I’m one of those ASPCA puppies.”
Again, she tried humor, but much to her dismay, the way his right hand wound around the back of his neck and the awkward way his chuckle stitled in his throat told her that her efforts had been of no avail.
“Yeah, yeah I get that. Why don’t you get some rest then?”
He was still standing across the room, more in the doorway than actually present. It was as if he was looking for the earliest chance to escape.
“I think I will,” she began, adjusting the pillow behind her head, her eyes never wavering from Roy as he eyed the doorway.
“I think I’m gonna head home for the night, let you get sleep."
She allowed her lips and brows to pull down apparently, her feelings clear in her expression. But as she remembered the way her parent’s eyes had told a story of being utterly burned out, she realized that she probably wasn’t the only one who’d had a long day. Nodding, she extended her hand towards him.
“That sounds like a good idea. You could probably use a night in your own bed. And a shower wouldn’t hurt, either.”
She scrunched her nose and smiled, hoping to get a reaction out of him that wasn’t as dispiriting as the rest of the day had been. His half hearted attempt at a chuckle almost made her roll her eyes, but instead she just reminded herself: We’re all tired. Just let everyone sleep on it. They’ll all be less crabby in the morning.
His feet were pointed out the door, seemingly ignoring her outstretched arm, and she waved her hand in protest before he could fully turn his body, scrunching her eyebrows as he glanced around the room, almost looking for an excuse, before shuffling to her bedside.
She noticed, too, how he turned his head slightly as she tried to kiss him goodbye, her lips meeting more so with his cheek, and the rough stubble that had accumulated.
Instead of returning her I love you, he had simply stated, Yeah, you too, before offering her a half-hearted wave and disappearing out the door in what seemed like a rush.
Body language was becoming her specialty, since no one seemed to want to use actual words around her these days. Avoiding eyes and scuffling feet filled her mind as she drifted into a restless sleep.
She’d had the craving since that weird memory had slid itself unwelcomely into her head earlier that afternoon, and clearly hadn’t gone away, as she awoke to a gross drool dribbling down her chin. She’d been dreaming about it. A grilled cheese sandwich the size of a king bed. In the dream, she’d been doing butter angels atop the toasted bread. It was incredibly weird, but as her eyes blinked into consciousness, she realized that it wasn’t entirely uncalled for: she had slept through dinner.
And here, sitting next to her bed, was the half-eaten food of her dreams, clutched in the hands of that man who was tied for first with her cravings in the category of not knowing when to leave her alone.
She slit her eyes so as to not alert him that she was awake, trying to take in as much of her surroundings as possible. It was definitely later at night; the sun had dropped beyond the horizon. He was still wearing the same clothes as he had been earlier that day: a plain grey t-shirt, jeans, a black zippered hoodie. He still hadn’t washed his hair, clearly. Yet somehow, his smell didn’t bother her. Somehow, despite the fact that she was supposed to be angry at this strange man in her room, she was comforted by the faint hint of spice that drifted to her nostrils. It was when she followed his long legs past the hole at the knee that she noticed something new.
He was wearing two different shoes.
One of his feet bore a black, Nike tennis shoe. The other, a black Oxford.
At this, her head cocked to the side, rustling the stiff pillows loudly. She hadn’t meant to make her awakeness present, but as she shifted to stare at his shoes, he nearly jumped out of the chair, his green eyes bugging out of his head as they darted up to meet hers.
“I--I’m so sorry. I thought you’d be asleep. I’ll just…”
“You you’re wearing two different shoes.”
He paused, an empty paper plate clutched and crumpling in one hand while crumbs drifted from the half eaten grilled cheese sandwich in the other. He was less shocked now, his eyes nodding towards perplexity as he slowly dropped his head to stare at the floor. After what seemed like a full minute, she heard a surprised, “Huh,” escaped his lungs, watching his shoulders heave on the word before he finally lifted his eyes back to hers.
“And here I thought I was the one with the traumatic brain injury.”
His expression told her that he didn’t know what to say, how to respond to the fact that she was making light of this. So she curled her lips, smirking at him as if to say, “Really, dude? Two different shoes?” She was rewarded with a smile that made her belly clench, and as the laughter came from him in relief, she allowed herself that fleeting moment to wonder why her body was reacting like this.
“Huh. I guess I wasn’t really paying attention when I left.”
They were sharing this weird sort of awkward we’re-making-jokes-about-brain-injuries-and-I-don’t-know-if-this-is-okay laughter, and it took her a minute to realize that she was laughing and joking with this string bean of a man that was basically stalking her whose name she didn’t even know. If her own flesh and blood wasn’t going to be honest with her, maybe he would.
“Who are you?”
She interrupted his laughter abruptly, and the look on his face went from relief and almost joy to immediate dejection, as if she’d just kicked his puppy or something. In her body language expertness, she watched as his eyes darted immediately to the floor, the way he bit his lip, collected himself, before finding her eyes again. When he did, his were brimming with tears that she noticed he was trying to repress.
“Um, my name is Jim. Jim Halpert.”
She tasted the word on her tongue, confused by its familiarity and warmth, the way her mouth seemed to know it by heart and know its intricacies. His expression said tentative hope and timid fear. His ears perked up when she’d let the lone syllable drip off her tongue.
“So, Jim, if you don’t mind me asking, why are you here?”
The sadness was back, but she watched him rebound more quickly than the last time, clearing his throat in an attempt to earn more time to choose his words.
“Well, um…” there was a long pause, and his eyes almost seemed to be begging her to put him out of his misery, to lay off just this one time. But her eyes told the opposite. You got yourself into this mess, pal. Explain.
“I’m sorry, Pam. I honestly thought you’d be asleep and I just….I wanted to…”
She could tell this was hard for him, and her expression softened as his dejected body dropped in defeat.
“I’ll just, I can go, honestly, it’s no big deal.”
But as he began to stretch on his long legs, something in her stomach tightened, told her hand to reach out and stop him.
His eyes were questioning, and she answered in a way that didn’t say, You’re very intriguing and I want to keep you around longer to figure out why.
“I’m wide awake now and everybody else left. Would you really leave a poor, sick, recovering brain surgery patient alone to die of boredom?”
He seemed to be weighing his options, staring with his mouth agape from her to the door to the floor, before settling himself tentatively back into the chair, a small smile pulling at his lips.
“That could be considered cruel and unusual punishment, ya know.”
Something inside her was controlling this conversation, creating a banter whose only purpose was to keep making this gangly man smile at her.
“Yeah, yeah I guess it would be.”
He was resituating the grilled cheese onto the plate and adjusting it to balance on his lap when she found her eyes trained once again on the smell that had woken her up in the first place. It was after an elongated period of staring that she realized she’d been eying his crotch, and her cheeks instantly reddened as she popped her head upwards while blurting out, “Thegrilledcheese!”
His eyebrows knit, but his lips held back a smile as he glanced from Pam to the grilled cheese and back to Pam again.
“Sorry, it’s just that...I was dreaming about grilled cheese and then you have a grilled cheese and I just….”
Suddenly, the plate was being thrust gently towards her.
“Do you want the rest? Honestly, I just got this to put something into my system. I haven’t really eaten all day. I’m sure you could use it more than I can, though.”
Hesitantly, she reached for the plate, only taking it when he nudged his head forward as if to say, Really, it’s okay. And then, all too quickly, she was devouring the room temperature sandwich, savoring the sticky American cheese and crunchy bread. It was only half a sandwich, but suddenly she felt as if she had a new strength surging through her.
“A little hungry there, Beesly?”
He was eying her with this comedic admiration, his eyebrows pinched upward as he chuckled. She wiped the back of her hand across her mouth to brush away the crumbs that had collected.
“Oh, yeah, uh, sorry. I call you that a lot, just a habit. I can call you Pam, if you’d like.”
She considered this for a moment, trying to envision the strange puzzle she had fit together in her head.
She knew that there had been an accident, one that had landed her on the operating table with her head cut open. This afternoon, when they’d taken her for those tests, the board had said August, when she had clearly been slated to start her job at Dunder Mifflin in April. Maybe she had lost more time than she had originally been aware of. So, where then, did she know this, this Jim from? The one with the goofy smile and the grilled cheese and the Beesly-calling?
She needed time to process all of this. But at the same time, she didn’t want him--Jim--to leave. He provided her with an odd sense of comfort that she wanted to hold onto. While she fidgeted with the edges of her cast, her eyes drifting towards her lap, his silky voice pulled her attention back towards him.
“Did you say that you were dreaming about grilled cheese?”
She was startled by the question, but a blush quickly flushed her cheeks, and she found herself bringing her hands to cover her face as his chuckles filled her ears once more.
“Oh my god, this is so embarrassing.”
“No, no it’s very cute. Way better than dreaming about, I don’t know, salad, right? I mean, who wants to dream about salad?”
He’d taken her moment of weakness and spun it straight into ease and relief. She still wasn’t quite sure who this Jim was or how he fit into her the life that was still missing pieces, but she hoped they were friends.
Their chuckles quickly filled the room, and soon, she was clutching her stomach as she lay her head against the pillow.
“God, this is so weird. I mean, I was sitting inside this CT machine earlier, and all of a sudden I had this flash of eating grilled cheese on a roof. Now, it’s all I can think about. I suppose there could be worse problems in the world.”
She’d expected him to chuckle, maybe offer her a list of worse problems in the world, but suddenly he was tensing again, those tears returning to glass over his eyes, swallowing a knot in his throat as he glanced around the room. The look he finally gave her screamed something panic laced, like he was asking her a question. She didn’t like it. It was almost frightening, that intensity. She was glad when a nurse barged through the door, presumably to check her vitals and adjust her medications.
“Mr. Halpert, I’m afraid I’m gonna have to ask you to head home for the night. Miss Beesly needs her rest.”
He seemed grateful yet hesitant, and almost scared. She sensed worry in his eyes, his body clearly unmoving as the nurse fiddled with machines and worked around him.
“Yeah, yeah you’re right. You should, uh, you should get some sleep. Just keep me updated on what kind of food you’re dreaming about so I can be prepared. We got lucky this time.”
She was smiling a nervous smile, wanting so badly to laugh at his jokes and keep the banter alive, but feeling a heat and tensity overpower her instead.
He seemed to be stalling, waiting for the nurse to finish her round, and she was grateful for that
“Um, are you gonna come back? Tomorrow? Like after work?” She was avoiding his eyes, but she didn’t know why. Why was she afraid that he would say no? A familiar pang of rejection awashed her body, and she felt the urge to reach to him, cling to him, to make sure she’d see him again.
“You don’t have to, though. If you don’t want to.”
He was smiling that goofy way that she was growing oh so accustomed to.
“Absolutely. We don’t want you to die of boredom, right?”
She smiled, keeping her teeth inside her lips with eyes wide. She watched as his long arm snaked around his neck, rubbing there with his large hand. Did he do this often? Had she seen it happen before? He seemed to be mulling over an idea in his head, but ultimately choosing not to as he sighed and inched towards the door.
“I’ll see you tomorrow then, Pam.”
She wasn’t sure what had prompted her to make the request, but she liked the name. It seemed to suit her. Him. Whatever. And as his lips pursed into a smile, she realized that it pleased him, too. And for whatever reason, she like that thought, pleasing this Jim.
He smiled, his grin mimicking hers in the way only his lips told his emotions.
“I’ll see you tomorrow, Beesly.”
As he was edging out the door, his body obviously protesting his movement, she stopped him one last time.
“Jim? Check your shoes before you leave this time.”
His head dropped to the floor, but this time in laughter.
“God, Beesly, always lookin’ out for people, even hours after major brain surgery.”
“It’s what I do,” she quipped, cocking her head to the side, lips curling upward.
His fingers trailed the frame of the door, eyes following for a moment, before they caught hers.
Her new dose of meds had kicked in, and she wasn’t sure if they were to blame or not for the dreams she had of grilled cheese and jellybeans.
Thanks for all the support on this one! :)
I know, I know. I've been dropping the ball on this one. BUT! I knew that this would be a bit more difficult with the format of the story that I chose. The flashbacks all have to line up and make sense with the current time, and I was fighting for a while with this story to line things up. Hopefully it'll be a bit smoother going forward. Thank you to those of you who are sticking with me! Hopefully I don't disappoint :)
“What are you doing here?”
It was her arms wrapped around his neck, the way her knees were clutching against his hip bones to hold her up as his hands clenched underneath her butt to keep her there, the feeling of his breath against her lips, cutting through his wide, toothy grin, that told her this was real. The giggle in her voice, the way the sunlight made her smile golden as she sealed their embrace, that made his heart swell ten times in his chest. They didn’t care that they were in the middle of the Dunder Mifflin parking lot. To hell with the coworkers that were giving them sideways glances and eye rolls.
And Angela, who was most definitely clutching the cross pendant that hung around her neck as she shuddered into the building.
He was back.
The merger had tilted in their favor with impeccable timing, and his move to Scranton had been almost immediate.
She wasn’t sure which part she savored more: having him five feet from her desk again, or no longer having to make the trek east to Connecticut.
They’d only been doing it for a couple of weeks, but this whole long distance thing was something she’d never wanted to grow accustomed to anyway. Sure, the phone calls late into the weeknights were something that she rushed home gleefully for, and she could now make the drive into Stamford without needing help from MapQuest, but something about being in his arms without the fear of having to leave him again for five insufferable days was just heavenly.
And taking into account all that they’d endured, they’d already been apart for long enough.
Although there was a scheduled day later on in the week for the rest of the Stamford transfers to arrive, Jim had wanted to settle in early, making the transition a little bit smoother for the actual new people. So after Josh let shit hit the fan, he made a call to Michael, and woke up at the crack of dawn to coincide his arrival with hers, which wasn’t all that hard to do. They’d been phoning each other every morning on their respective drives in anyway. She’d be there at exactly 8:57. Not a minute earlier.
At 8:45, he was waiting in the parking lot, sitting on the trunk of his car with his feet dangling, kicking happily as he awaited the turn of the little blue Yaris into the lot. She had barely put it in park before she was propelling herself into his arms, nearly knocking him over in the process with her bear hug.
He returned her words of surprise with his lips on her lips, claiming the soft skin whose territory was now becoming his favorite to traverse. He moved against her, relishing the closeness of her body to his, the way that she pressed into him and urged him closer. This was so much different than all those months ago when he was desperate and she was hesitant. She wanted this, wanted him, and cameras be damned, he was going to enjoy his welcome home.
Of course, as they reluctantly parted, and he eased her gently to the pavement with a kiss on the forehead, and she was smiling up at him like he hung the stars in the sky, he knew that getting through a full work day was going to be the most pure and delicious form of torture he’d ever endured.
He could hardly call what he did that day work, despite the welcome back hugs (and tackles) and heckling he received, which mostly petered out by mid-morning. By his seventh trip to reception--before lunch, at that--he was heavily debating selling her paper just to say that he was being somewhat productive.
It was here, in this exact place that he'd fallen in love with her, and it was here that they would continue to grow. He was never going to let the space between them grow to more than five feet ever again
“What are you doing here?” The words this time were not so sweet, her smile not gleaming in the sunlight with her forehead matted against his. He actually cringed a little when he noticed the guardedness in her tone, the way her eyebrows scrunched together, questioning him as if he didn’t belong. But then, he didn't really.
It was only ten in the morning, but it was by far the longest amount of time he’d spent away from her bedside since she’d been admitted. Her words from that previous night, Are you gonna come back tomorrow? Like after work? and Check your shoes before you leave this time stung his ears as the nurse had kicked him out. He was candidly reminded that she had no recollection of who he was, but there was hope in those words, in the way she had looked at him as if the part of her that was still his Pam was fighting to say hello.
He obviously wasn’t about to go the Scranton Business Park from 9 to 5 and do anything remotely close to selling paper. But she was right. He did need to change his shoes.
Maybe eat something more substantial than a cafeteria quality grilled cheese sandwich and tepid black coffee.
The rest of her family had gone home, and while he felt guilty leaving her there all alone, he trusted her dreams to keep her safe for now.
He had slopped shampoo through his hair and haphazardly scrubbed the suds down his body, his locks barely dried by the time he collapsed on a bed that hadn’t seen the light of day in over a week. Though he deliciously welcomed the few hours of sleep that his body claimed, he was still awake at six forty-five without the promise of more. It killed him to stall, to pace around his apartment waiting for a reasonable time to head back to the hospital that didn’t make him look desperate and clingy. He found clothes discarded in the hallway, several dishes with caked on food still piled in the sink, and made himself busy. By nine o’clock, his car trudged the fifteen minutes across town. His parking spot was still vacant.
With his duffel bag slung over his shoulder, he double checked his shoes once more before knocking quietly on her door. Her greeting truly pained him, reminding him tauntingly of that first day back in Scranton, of that afternoon and evening and the ones to follow, ones that were so different from where they were now. Those nights were full of promise and hope and starting over. But this, right now, was not the kind of starting over he’d prepared for.
Now, standing in front of her with his wide grin and sense of hope wiped cleanly off his face, he felt so awkwardly out of place. Suddenly, he had no idea what to do with his hands, or where his feet were supposed to go. It had been so much easier to be here when she was asleep, her dreams protecting him from the knowledge that her mind no longer belonged to his reality.
“Do you have the day off today or something?” She was genuinely questioning him, with no other basis to go on, but her words still stung.
Yes. Michael knows I’m not coming in until you’re safe and home again.
“I just assumed you had to work since Roy had to work. We all work at the same place, don’t we?”
He nodded, his thumb twiddling against the strap of his bag as he cleared his throat.
“I, uh...had a few errands to run this morning. I just thought I’d drop by, see if you had died of boredom yet.”
“Pretty close to it,” she replied, her eyes rolling with a slight curl of her lips. “But seriously, you didn’t have to stop by here so early. I figured you’d come by after you were off tonight. I’m sure you’re going to hear it from your--our boss--if you don’t get your butt to the office.”
Leave it to Michael Scott to break the tension.
He grinned, chuckling as he finally found his footing.
“Nah. Honestly, Pam? He’s probably too preoccupied with his lady troubles at the moment to notice that I’m not out there pounding the pavement to sell paper.”
“Lady troubles? That guy?” Her bemused chuckle gave him flashes of the girl he once knew, and for a moment, he was warm again.
“I know, kinda hard to believe, but let me tell you, Michael Scott’s dating life is a force to be reckoned with.”
Her eyes were softening, her expression no longer contorted so much, and when she nodded, he took a seat, finally relaxing when he was eye level with pools of green.
“Hey, what’s in the bag?" she asked, shifting her body as if to get a better angle.
“Oh, this?” he replied, holding up the blue canvas bag that not so long ago held a toothbrush and a change of clothes for when he’d spend the night at her place. “Nothing special. I just brought along a few surprises to save one Miss Beesly from going totally clinically insane in this joint.”
“Oooo, let me see!” Her eyes bugged out of her head, that childlike excitement bringing a glowing aura that he hadn’t seen in far too long. She reminded him of a kid on Christmas, waiting so patiently impatient to open up the first gifts.
“Hey now, we don’t want to spoil all of the fun at once, do we?”
“I guess not. Can I at least have a peek?”
He could never say no to those pleading eyes, and this case was no different.
He gingerly unzipped the bag, fingering the item he’d hunted down in the office before pulling it out of the bag.
“Jelly beans?” She eyed the plastic container, taking it from his offering hands reluctantly, turning it over in her own several times before lifting the lid.
“And how, dare I ask, are these supposed to save me from boredom?”
“Oh, we’re going to test all of the flavors and rank them according to overall flavor and plausibility as a legitimate jelly bean flavor. Obviously.”
Her smile betrayed her quirked eyebrows, and she could only shake her head as her laughter brought life to the otherwise dull atmosphere. She moved the container safely to the tray table that was swung to the side of her bed, patting it twice as if to reassure its place in her room.
“I’ll have to save these for later so we can split them after dinner. I’m sure Roy’s bringing me something that isn’t as rank as this hospital food.”
His eyes were suddenly downtrodden. Just like that, he’d gone from joking and bringing her candy to immensely somber. This Jim Halpert character was a tough cookie to crack.
He was avoiding her eyes now, staring at the floor, and that bothered her. His early morning presence was a surprise, but now that he was here, she itched to talk to him. For some odd reason, she had the urge to pass him a jelly bean.
“Hey, so tell me more about work. We must be pretty good friends, right?”
While his head still hung low, she saw his lips immediately curl up, new color in his cheeks.
“Yeah, Beesly, you’re kind of my best friend,” he chuckled warmly.
“Right, like best work friends,” she commented with several nods of understanding, studying the way his eyes twitched and his hands shook on his knees.
“Um, not really.” Twitching. Avoiding. “It’s...it’s more than that.”
She noticed the way that his voice cracked on those last three words, and all of a sudden she was reaching for the finger where her engagement ring once stood, an intense pain stretching her chest as heat pooled her entire body.
“Listen, I just remembered, I have a few more errands to run, so I’ll, uh...I’ll see you later, okay?”
He was up on his feet just as quickly as he’d been in the chair, his long legs striding towards the door while jittery hands grappled at the nylon gym bag. All at once, her heart was begging for more time, clinging to this man whom she couldn’t quite figure out. She wanted him to stay about as much as he seemed to want to leave.
“Hey Jim? You’re still coming by later, right? I mean, I still need to find out what’s in the rest of that bag.”
His smile was sad, as if on the verge of tears or pain or something. She was still trying to decide which would be the worst of those options.
“Yeah, if you want me to.”
“Okay then, Beesly. I’ll see you later.”
“What are you doing here?”
The last time Penny had heard those words in her sister’s voice, they had been through choked sobs, tissues surrounding her, the color on her face blotchy and red. She had ignored the mess in the middle of her sister’s childhood bed, plopped herself Indian style on the mattress, and wrapped her arms around her shoulders.
“He is such a piece of shit, Pammy. He doesn’t deserve you.”
She’d let her big sister cry on her shoulder that night, which was so backwards from the way it usually was. Penny was more ambitious, was the rule breaker, was always off getting into trouble and needing Pam’s clear thinking and reassurance. When Pam had phoned that night to break the news, she hadn’t even hesitated in making the journey from her busy life in New York back to Scranton, shoving past her parents to find her sister and immediately right the wrongs.
Pam had cried a long while, eventually petering into tearless hiccups and strangled, uneven breaths.
“He said he was sorry.” Pam’s voice was so tiny, she almost sounded scared.
“Oh, absolutely not, Pam.”
Penny was pushing herself away from her shell of a sister, sitting firmly and authoritatively on the edge of the bed with the ruffles that she’d always considered tacky.
Her eyes and voice were equally pleading, her fingers toying with a soaked and tattered tissue.
“Pam. He cheated on you. I am not going to let you crawl your way back to him.”
She’d never really been too fond of Roy Anderson. Just when she had needed a big sister the most, he had torn Pam away from her, turned her into a completely different person, one who followed instead of led. And now this? This emotional manipulation? Penny wasn’t going to have any of it.
“What am I supposed to do? We’re engaged. He said it wouldn’t happen again.”
Penny’s ironic laughter sparked pain in Pam’s ears, but she didn’t care.
“Oh, come on, Pam. Do you really believe that? Do you?”
Pam was biting her lip now, new tears hot and fresh in her eyes. When there was no response, Penny continued on.
“How many times did it happen before now, Pam?”
She was hurting her sister intentionally, and she knew that, but she couldn’t let her be torn down by this man any longer. When Pam’s whispered words didn’t quite reach her ears, she asked, “What?” in a bitter tone.
“A lot, okay?! It was a lot, Penny! God, are you happy now?”
Her words spoke fury, her tears pain, her eyes a true sadness.
It was good for her to finally feel something.
Penny sighed, her victory small and short lived. She truly hated seeing her sister this way, but sometimes you needed to be shoved into the realm of the uncomfortable in order to truly see what was going on. This was Pam’s chance.
Penny's eyes softened as she lay a hand on Pam’s thigh, squeezing gently.
“I am really, really sorry that you’re going through this, Pammy,” she said, her tone more genuinely somber than hurtful now. “But I’m not sorry that your eyes have been opened. And for what it’s worth, I’ll do whatever I can to help. I’ll help return all the gifts, and I can call his side of the family, if you want--”
“What are you talking about?”
Hurt, petrified confusion knit at her sister’s brows as she pulled away from Penny’s touch.
“Cancelling the wedding,” she replied, a chuckle pulling in her throat. “I figured you really wouldn’t want to have to talk to the entire Anderson family after he just made you look like a fool--”
“I’m not calling off the wedding, Penny.”
Now it was Penny’s turn to aire on the side of hurt and confusion.
They had reversed roles, Pam’s demeanor now masterly and self-assured, while Penny’s shoulders had hunched when her body had deflated, Pam’s words the prick in her balloon.
“I love him, Penny. You don’t cancel a wedding on one mistake--”
“It wasn’t just one mistake, Pam!”
She watched as her sister took a breath, stood curtly, and started towards the door.
“He said he was sorry. He said it was over. I’m not calling off my wedding," she replied, her tone decisive.
Penny’s words stopped Pam in her tracks as her hand reached the doorknob.
“Where are you going?”
“To see Roy, Penny. We just need to...talk about all of this.”
As her sister’s delicate fingers turned the knob, she blurted out words she wished she would have just swallow whole.
“You walked in on him fucking some other girl in your bed, Pam! Do you really have no self-respect?”
They were tears of anger this time, brimming hot against the forest green of her eyes.
The last words she’d said to her sister were Get out.
And now, as Penny sat in the waiting room of the hospital that made her skin crawl, she heard her sister utter those same words to a man who had brought the sun back into her life, had finally showed Pam the path that made her into he person she was meant to be.
She only caught bits and pieces of their conversation, cringing for the poor man whose pain was unbearable enough to land him in a matching bed with her sister. When a defeated looking Jim found her in the waiting room, Penny rose and determinedly crossed the way into her sister’s hospital room. She wasn’t about to lose her again. To hell with what the doctors had ordered.
“Hey!” Pam greeted her warmly, a new excitement in her voice that Penny had longed to hear since the rift had separated them all those years ago.
“How’s solitary confinement treating you?”
Pam groaned, flopping into the pillows at the headboard of the bed.
“God, Pen, I am so bored.”
Penny giggled as she took a seat, sparing no time whatsoever before diving right in.
“Well, it seems like you just kicked out some prime company.”
She relaxed in the seat, much as she had the previous night, with her feet propped up on her sister’s bed, crossed at the ankles, settling her folded arms in as she prepared for battle. Her Pam was in there somewhere. She just had to find her.
“Who? Oh, Jim? Yeah, I guess…”
She watched her sister’s face stiffen, soften, contort, trying to rationalize.
There you go, big sis. Figure it out.
“Isn’t it...weird, Penny?”
“Isn’t what weird?”
Pam’s gaze found the ceiling, drifted along with her twiddling fingers.
“I don’t know, just...he’s always here. I mean, if we’re just, like, work friends, why is he always here?”
“He cares about you, Pammy. Simple as that.”
Pam took her time processing. Her sister had certainly developed into the stronger of the two when it came to being logical and level headed. It had always taken Pam time to sort things out, but Penny was always quick to figure, no matter how blunt her responses were.
“I mean, look around you. I don’t see Roy here.” She shrugged, offering Pam the chance for a rebuttal that Penny already had answers prepared for.
“He’s at work. Seriously, Penny? Are we really going to start this? I get that you don’t like Roy. Can we just leave it be for awhile?”
“I’m just sayin’, sis. You literally got blindsided into a coma and you just woke up yesterday. You’d think that he’d at least take the day off from, what, loading trucks full of paper, to be with you?”
She could see her sister’s mouth furling in anger, her eyebrows coming together, and she pressed on, relishing the thought.
“Meanwhile, that Halpert guy? He’s sitting out in the waiting room. You kicked him out, and he’s still here. What does that tell you, Pammy?”
With eyes and fists clenched alike, she exploded with anger. “I don’t know, okay! And don’t call me Pammy!”
As soon as the words had escaped her, Penny saw her sister’s mouth form a small “o,” her eyes shocked, as if taken aback by her own words.
“I didn’t kick him out. He just...he left, on his own.”
Pam’s eyes had found her hands again, tugging at a loose thread on her cast. Her voice was smaller, as if her own realizations frightened her.
“Oh?” was all Penny uttered, giving her sister time to think.
“Yeah...he, um...he looked kind of...I don’t know, sad? Or uncomfortable or something. So he left. I mean, why even come here if you’re going to be uncomfortable, ya know?”
“And why was he so uncomfortable?”
“I don’t know. We were just talking about work, about dinner. I told him Roy was going to come after his shift was over.”
“Oh, he is? Did Roy tell you that?”
“Where else would be be, Pen?”
“You’re avoiding my question.”
And she was.
Because Roy hadn’t said he was coming back for dinner. She’d kissed him goodbye, or tried at least, and that was the last she’d seen of him. He’d be back, right? There was no reason for him not to.
“What do you want from me, Penny?” She rolled her head back in defeat, closing her eyes as her head hit the pillow, hands surrendered limply to the sky.
“Listen, I’m going to make a coffee run. Think what you want to, Pam. But just remember who’s sitting outside your door and who has yet to say good morning.”
She was at least partially satisfied, but as she left the room and drank in the sight Jim, poor defeated Jim, the frustration bubbled inside her all over again.
“God, I am so over all of this bullshit.”
Penny certainly made her presence and opinions known; he heard the door to Pam’s room swing open before her words, so vile, stung the stagnant air. Her body dropped hard into the chair next to him, the lines rigid against the stiff wood and padding.
“You’ve gotta be killing yourself over here, Jim.”
He remained silent, facing forward like Penny did.
“Because if you aren’t, then I’m definitely taking the brunt of it. I mean, I know she has a traumatic brain injury, but I just thought we were over all of this Roy shit, ya know?”
His chuckle was dark as he hung his head, clasped hands falling between his knees.
“Trust me, Penny. I did, too. Maybe the universe is just testing me, seeing how long it takes before I break in half.”
He lifted his chin towards the sky, pleading with the universe he was presently questioning, pleading for the last ounces of strength to not be squeezed from him before he cracked.
“Don’t break, Jim. For the love of god, don’t give up on her. I know the girl who loves you is in there somewhere. She didn’t spend weeks crying in her old bedroom over you to have it all end like this.”
Turning his head to the side, his lips strained to smile against the tugging in his chest.
“I’d never dream of giving up on her. She’s my everything, Penny. I just wish she could remember that.”
She’d truly only gotten up to go to the bathroom, not to peek into the hallway to see if he was still there, to see if what Penny had said was right, that he had left her room but was still on guard in the hallway as her silent protector. Not to check to see if he'd matched his shoes this morning before he left. Not to see him sitting there, talking with her sister like old friends. She’d never once seen Penny sit with Roy like this.
Really, she just needed to pee. She wasn’t trying to eavesdrop, to stand close enough to the door to hear their hushed tones rather than just trying to read the emotions that were ever changing in their twisted expressions.
But it was those words, those stupid, silly words, the only ones she’d actually caught of the entire conversation.
She’s my everything, Penny. I just wish she could remember that.
On weak knees, she’d forgotten why she was even out of bed in the first place.
For those of you who are sitting there going, "Oh no! Pam would NEVER get back with Roy if he cheated on her!" I would've liked to think that, too. But, as you'll see in the timeline of this AU, most of that stuff is pre-Jim, and as a literary student at heart, I have to imagine that if Jim would've never entered her life, Pam would've been in this rut of being controlled by Roy forever. Jim allowed her to blossom into her own person while Roy held her back. Also, this Pam and Roy are a bit different, so bear with me. She left him eventually, didn't she? ;)
I know this is a little bit skewed from the format that these chapters typically take, but I'd like to view this as a bit of a filler/creative way to time jump :)
Also, adding to the list of things I don't own comes the end of Chapter 14 of Emily Giffen's Something Borrowed (which, might I add, is wonderful and beautiful despite the fact that it totally encourages adultery...)
It was really hard to navigate through all of the ups and downs of this post accident reality when she just. Wanted. To. Sleep.
The whirlwind of the past twenty-four hours had truly taken its toll, and though her head was swimming with Roy and Jim (literally swimming; they were wearing swimming trunks with cute little fishes on them), and jelly beans and jet skis and half filled margarita glasses, they seemed to lull her into a weird dream state where she was underwater, trying to find the surface but seeming to get farther away the harder she kicked.
She was woken around lunchtime to someone actually having to feed her like a petulant child; all that she remembered was tasteless, amorphous food sliding down her throat like thick slime, and her arm feeling like it weighed a thousand pounds as she lifted it to swat away the person who was spooning food to her lips, the ironic statement, “I’m not a baby, I can do it myself!” sticking in her brain and refusing to manifest past her swollen tongue. As quickly as she was awake, she was plunged back into the weird world of unconsciousness, unwillingly and fitfully so.
It was such a strange world, all drug induced and somnolent, her head heavy and cotton filled. When she slipped back under, the vividness of the road she was now walking along was almost more true than reality. It was vacant, almost post-apocalyptic, and never-ending. When she called out, her voice didn’t echo, but instead refused to exist no matter how much she tried to will her words to be heard. Similarly, her feet would trudge no faster than a walk, and the pain burned in her shins from the effort she gave in trying to haul herself to find the end of this desolate place.
She closed her eyes and counted to ten, fists bunched at her sides, willing this uncomfortable silence to end, to wake up in her bedroom and start over. But as she tried to envision herself in her bedroom with the wishful thinking that she’d suddenly appear there if she imagined it hard enough, flashes of too many different places began to strike her. Her childhood bedroom at mom and dad’s house, and the bed with the dust ruffle that her sister hated. Her bedroom at the house she shared with Roy, with his hand me down bed and the worn, plaid, slightly holey comforter that he’d insisted on keeping because, “Why would we spend money on something we don’t need, Pammy?” even though he’d had this same bedroom set since he was a child. Then, there was a room she couldn’t place, one small and crammed with furniture, a blue and brown and green striped comforter, a guitar, and a funny penguin statue.
Another room, unfamiliar yet comforting, where she could see the new bedspread she’d been longing for. It was clear that only one side of that bed was ever used, one pillow worn by a small head, only one side of the sheets disturbed. Finally, one last room, the bed clearly well slept in on both sides. The comforter was a warm blue, the end tables surrounding it so comically his and hers; one had a candle, a pair of glasses, a romance novel, while the other had a copy of Sports Illustrated and a half empty glass of water.
The contrasting images forced her dreaming eyes open, the overwhelming choices of foreign yet familiar places striking fear in hear heart that popped her lids on alert, realizing that her plot actually kind of worked. The road was finally coming to an end, in one way or another. It was the proverbial two roads diverged in a wood that her toes were now facing, only it wasn’t the woods, it was still this barren, desolate, utterly depressing and grey little strip of a town she’d never seen before that her body was being pulled between. Neither direction actually appeared different. Frankly, there was no appeal to either side of the fork; they both looked as plain as the road behind her. But it was when she leaned into either side that a portal opened upon her senses, overwhelming her nerve endings as she was flooded with convictions.
When she edged towards one direction, it was feelings of comfort, familiarity, family, complacency. But it was also stagnancy and static. And then heartbreak, betrayal, loveless, unmoving. So she leaned quickly and hopefully in the other direction. As the last trip had ended with a sour taste, so this one began. It was uncomfortably new, fear, unfamiliar. And then a burst of joy, friendship, and comfort. It was warm, kind, jelly beans, yes! but then fear, unknown, unstable, can’t, heartbreak, tears, gone, no, no, no. It was too much, this time, this road. Too much all at once, and she wanted to pull away from the edge, to go back to that road that was less intense, that didn’t rock her so much, but all of a sudden it was light, warm, can, and it was stronger, and choices, and love, and it was finally.
With hands spread wide, fingertips touching the filmy space that paved the entrance to both of these roads, her body literally torn, she closed her eyes, willing once again for the landscape to change, to take this ridiculous choice from her, to take her back to that bed with the dust ruffle that Penny hated, where she had no more cares in the world than finishing her math homework in time to watch the latest episode of Full House. But when she opened her eyes, the flood of emotions was gone, replaced with stark white walls that slowly came into focus. The fuzzy lines on the clock read 8:32 PM. The fuzzy man sitting next to her bed, reading a copy of Sports Illustrated, looked like warm and kind and light and jelly beans, and for the first time since she’d opened her eyes and wanted answers, she truly didn’t know what to say.
He hadn’t left, despite the uncomfortable situations and her promise of Roy showing up that night for dinner, and he could almost attribute Penny’s attitude for the fact that he hadn’t walked out the door on several occasions. She’d fallen asleep shortly after their conversation. That was typical, the nurse had said; she was exhausted from having major surgery, and the various medications being administered were assisting in pulling her even farther under. When she’d awoken initially, they’d only gotten fleeting hours from her as well. He was lucky that she’d sustained more than one conversation.
It was more relaxed today though, this having her awake deal. There wasn’t as much worry, wasn’t as much will she or won’t she? as the past several days had invoked. His only worry was having to leave her to be with Roy again, but that worry had dissipated when dinner time had come and gone without his presence to dampen the room.
It wasn’t the injury necessarily that was keeping her asleep so much as the recovery process, the doctors had mentioned. Recovery was good, he continued to remind himself, as he remained busy in the waiting room and at her bedside. He was used to this pattern of watching her parents and sister travel in and out, shifting from “his” chair to the waiting room respectfully. He’d been sitting here so long that he was becoming familiar with the rotation of nurses, greeting them politely by name as they came and left.
By the time Helene and Will and Penny had all called it a night, with stable results from the doctors and the intent of returning first thing in the morning, they left him with soft pats on the shoulder and sad smiles as he took it upon himself to settle in. It was about fifteen minutes into the comfortable hums and beeps of the machine, and her soft and shallow breathing, that he grew antsy for a change in background noise. And it was then that he began the habit of talking to her.
It was something he’d heard on some medical show, he was sure, and although she wasn’t technically in a coma, he missed talking to her, missed telling her anything and everything about his day and watching her beam and bat her eyelashes and respond so warmly. When she actually had been unconscious, he’d been too in shock himself to actually communicate past the essentials. He recalled the scratchy dryness of his throat on that day when he finally spoke his first full sentence since arriving, surprised by the rasp and unfamiliarity in his own words. Glancing around the room, he realized something important: this was his Pam. He knew Pam. This was easy stuff.
“So, I’ve gotta tell you, Beesly, this hospital room is actually starting to bore me,” he began, chuckling into the stiff air. “Not because of the company, because trust me, you’re the only company I’ve wanted for, like...ever.” He paused again, the thought of God, I’m such a girl bobbing around before he found the words he wanted to say. “I’m talking about the scenery. You’re lucky that you’ve been asleep for most of it, because honestly, these walls are starting to give me a headache.”
His laughter ebbed, stilling in those same white walls that were making his head spin.
“It would just look...so much better with some of your pictures on the wall.”
Aside from the fluttering of her eyes, she continued to sleep. He knew she wouldn’t respond, knew she needed to sleep, but he continued on. She needed to hear it.
“I hope that, out of everything that you can’t remember, that your passion is still there somewhere inside. In fact, I’ve gotta believe it is. You can forget that you love me, but god, Pam, I hope you don’t forget who you are.”
And that was how the next few days played out. She slept. A lot. She was conscious for a few short hours at a time, if that, but her eyes fought to stay open and when they did, she seemed like this doped up version of herself, groggy and in pain, and he couldn’t bare to force her into any type of meaningful conversation. He knew that she needed her rest. So he did the only thing he knew to do. He talked to her about everything and anything under the sun, like her ears were the pages of his diary, while she dreamed the days and nights away.
“I can’t believe that I’m saying this, but I’m pissed at Roy for not showing up yesterday, Pam. I know, I know. You’d hit me if you were awake right now. But godi it was just a shitty move. He should be here for you. Because you asked. If for no other reason than because you asked. He should’ve been here for you.”
She was floating in a rowboat. A sea monster trying to flip the boat over. Large, slimy. Scaly and brown. A green fish with a quirky grin trying keep her afloat.
“Alright, so, I hope you don’t hate me for this, because I know you don’t really like people seeing your art until it’s done, but these ones were on the walls, so I figured you wouldn’t mind. I thought you’d want something pretty to see when you opened your eyes for the few hours of the day that you do. And besides. It makes me feel more like you’re here. Makes the room seem like you.”
Fireworks. Everywhere. Entirely surrounding her. She was on a jet ski, and then she wasn’t. She was somewhere else. But the fireworks, they stayed, bursting around her like she was thirty thousand feet up in the atmosphere.
“I went back to work today. Well, kind of. It was only for a half day. I figured it was about time. I know you’d be yelling at me if you knew I’d taken off almost two weeks just to sit here with you. You’d probably say something like ‘Jim, seriously, stop watching me sleep. It’s creepy.’ Plus, your parents were starting to give me more sad puppy dog looks than they were to you.”
Two older people, a man and a woman, sliding across the floor on...boxes of paper? Crossing the finish line. What finish line?
“It’s not the same without you. It’s...well, it’s totally boring, Beesly. It’s like, selling paper isn’t as fun without your pretty face right across the way.”
She was a contestant on Jeopardy, wedged between her fourth grade teacher and Ellen DeGeneres. The categories were “Potent Potables,” “World History,” and “That’s What She Said!”
“I had the best idea for a prank today to pull on Dwight. It would have been so great. But I needed my partner in crime. And Ryan wasn’t too interested in helping out.”
Two puppies, a goldendoodle and a chocolate lab playfully taunting a boxer. Why was he wearing glasses? Dogs don’t wear glasses.
“God, I know I sound like such a baby, but I hate sleeping in my own bed. Without you, anyway. It sucks, Pam. It really does.”
She was the quarterback for the Eagles, throwing the ball downfield, watching the receiver--was that, was that her new boss? The guy who had interviewed her?--draw the ball to his chest and run in for the touchdown. They were Super Bowl Champions. Jim would be so proud.
“I found this on your nightstand--well, my nightstand, but you left it there the last time you spent the night, and I know I was teasing you for reading it a few weeks ago, but I’m sure you’re dying to find out how the guy gets the girl in the end, aren’t you?”
A man’s voice, rich and soothing, almost silky in its timbre, painted her eardrums. Her eyes cracked open only slightly, as they had been doing all week, struggling to stay conscious for more than five minutes. He was stroking the five o’clock shadow that outlined his typically slack, strong jaw with his right hand, as the book sat perched in his left. He was adopting voices for each character, pausing between paragraphs to comment, to wonder aloud about plot points--because he’d picked up in the middle where she had left off, after all.
“Wait, how long have these two actually known each other for?” she heard him mutter under his breath, more than likely to himself.
“They met in law school,” she mumbled, through words so sluggish and sleepy, she wasn’t even sure they’d come out coherently. But he paused his reading, chuckled, breathed out a Thanks, Beesly, and continued on. With eyes closed and the words on his lips manifesting into images in her head, she smiled sleepily, and he continued reading. Sometimes he would pause to ask questions or make comments, and somehow, in her state of fatigue, she’d always have a response.
“Wait a minute--she let him ask her best friend out on a date when she clearly had feelings for him?”
“Why didn’t she just, like...tell him she had feelings for him instead of waiting until he was engaged to her best friend and planning a wedding?”
“I don’t know, Halpert. I could ask you the same question.”
Her eyes were closed, but the expression in her eyes suggested something like the playful banter they’d been entertaining themselves with before her accident. Suddenly he was back on her couch in her new apartment. Her knees were folded under her body, a bowl of popcorn between them, and she was tossing pieces in an arc towards his mouth, trying to break the record of seventeen caught pieces in a row.
“Hey, why’d you stop reading?”
Jarred from his memories, he noticed that her eyes were still closed, her words still sluggish and dreamy. But the way her eyebrows bunched and her lips scrunched, his pouty, adorable little Pam Beesly was trying to squeeze through.
“Just thinkin’,” he admitted, shrugging even though he knew she couldn’t see him.
“Well, less thinking, more reading.”
His words are like the sound of a needle dragging across a record. A sinking, sickening feeling washes over me. This is why you should never, ever get your hopes up. This is why you should see the glass as half empty. So when the whole thing spills, you aren’t as devastated. I want to cry, but I keep my face placid, give myself a psychological shot of Botox. I can’t cry, for several reasons, not the least of which is that if he asks why I’m crying, I won’t be able to articulate an answer.
As the words to her silly romance novel poured past his lips, he couldn’t help but empathize just the smallest big with Dex and Rachel. Sure, he was no longer in the position of trying to steal her away from her fiance, but the way that these two people who wanted to be together were fighting obstacles for so long tugged at the aching strings of his heart. The way that the chapter ended, with the protagonist agonizing over the future with a man she’d just sent home to his fiance: Will he kiss Darcy hello? hit too close to home, to a past that wasn’t that far distant. Maybe it wasn’t so silly after all.
Marking the page, he glanced up, noticing that her cheeks were more relaxed, her eyes no longer following along underneath closed lids as they had been minutes ago. His lips curled up, tracing her angelic features with his eyes.
“Alright, Beesly. I think you might be wimping out on me, so I’m gonna take that as my cue to head out for the night. And, according to my watch, Brenda should be starting her shift any minute, and we all know that her first order on rounds is to kick my sad, sorry butt out of here anyway.”
“Screw the nurse. Stay five more minutes.”
He knew this was her subconscious playing at her lips, that the next time she was truly awake, she’d be engaged to Roy again, no working memory of his existence at all. Still, her words froze him to the spot. She’d been muttering oddities all week, some that he understood and some that sounded like a toddler’s sleep talk. He’d indulged with little to no reaction when she was actually awake, no recollection of what she’d said. But for now, as he stared down at her sleeping figure with her casted hand had flung over the side of the bed, her eyebrows scrunched over pinched eyes, he was right back under that spell that had encapsulated him for so many years.
He’d expected her to fall asleep as soon as he’d sat back down, had secretly wanted to sneak out to quell the pain he’d no doubt face once she awoke absent again. But when he lightly grasper her fingers and felt her sleepy pull, he hoped and prayed that she’d remember this in the morning, that she’d remember any of these past few days where her sluggish words had actually responded to his meaningless conversation. It was only five minutes, five minutes of having her cradled to his chest before Brenda the night nurse came and kicked his sorry ass out, but in those five minutes, his heart was whole again.
Y'all know I'm a review whore, I'm not even gonna try to hide that anymore.
Wowza. It's been awhile.
I guess all I can really say is, sorry?
And promise to keep at this in a much better fashion. Because I truly do love this idea and want to see it through.
“Oh, shut up. You’re so beautiful.”
There wasn’t anything particularly special about this morning.
They’d only been dating for a little over a month now, and on the heels of his move back to Scranton, they had become masters of the weekend-long sleepover. Sunday morning found him freshly showered and reentering her bedroom whose bright light was courtesy of late summer sunshine and an eastern facing window.
And, if he was being honest, her golden aura helped a little bit, too.
He’d spent a fair amount of time in this room now. It was still vacant of some of her things, odds and ends that were still at Roy’s. She’d only just moved in to her new place, and with the way that she and Roy had left things, she was taking her time in getting the rest. For now, she had everything she needed. Volleyball trophies from high school and the porcelain birthday dolls her grandmother had given her growing up, she could live without. Fresh socks and underwear? She could not.
Jim had settled on boxer shorts and a clean white t-shirt, shaking out his damp hair as he crossed the hallway to join her. She was sitting cross-legged, buried to the waist in the blanket cocoon of her still unmade bed, wearing a plain t-shirt and shorts of her own. Her hair was sitting atop her head in a high messy bun, and she donned her glasses. It was still too early in the morning for contacts.
Her eyes knit in concentration as she focused on the Sunday morning crossword in her lap, a pencil wedged in the dip between her chin and bottom lip. It was these small moments that stole his breath, had his feet glued to the floor to solidify the little things, because in those moments when he needed to remind himself that this was real, that she was his, the little moments were what mattered the most.
“You gonna stand there and stare all day, or you gonna come help me out here, Halpert?”
She said it all without lifting her eyes from where they rested in her lap, without moving the pencil from her chin. The grin pulled his mouth wide open as he bounded to the bed, leaping to belly flop haphazardly across the bed. She barely let her lips pull up, keeping her concentration on the paper in her lap. He wrapped his arms tightly around her middle and leaned in for a kiss, only slightly off-put when she pulled away.
“Uh uh, you bolted into the bathroom before I got to brush my teeth. Wait until I’m finished with this puzzle.”
Exaggeratedly, he dropped his head, letting out a loud breath before tucking his chin around her elbow to watch her finish the last three words on her side of the puzzle.
“Alright, Beesly, let’s speed this process along. Seven down, four letter word for--”
“No, you have across. I’m already going down.”
She brushed his fingers away from where they were covering her remaining clues, but he latched on, scooting his body closer.
“Oh really?” Waggling his eyebrows, he slid his cheek up her arm until his head rested in the crook of her neck where his lips met soft skin and a surprised sigh wound its way past her lips.
No sooner was his tongue making its way up the column of her throat than soft fabric was knocking him square in the side of the head.
“Back off, you insatiable teenager.”
Glancing up, he saw her armed with a throw pillow and a grin that was equal parts playful and flushed.
“No kissing until I’ve brushed my teeth. I’m serious!” she chuckled, drawing her attention from his puppy dog pout back to the crossword. “We had garlic breadsticks at two o’clock this morning, I haven’t washed my hair in two days, and I--”
It wasn’t that he was trying to undermine her, or that he was trying to live up to the horny teenager image that she’d so lovingly labeled him with.
It was because the words she said weren’t I can’t anymore. They were I want to be my best for you and We still have so much time, which was so far gone from I can’t that it made his head spin.
He swallowed her What? as the crossword smashed between them and his body toppled against hers, his lips smacking loudly against her own. After several moments of lingering against her lips, he propped himself up on his forearms and grinned hugely down at her, lips full and skin flushed pink. Before she was able to protest, he stole her words again.
“Oh, shut up. You’re so beautiful.” His thumbs curled inward to brush against cheeks whose pink tint was darkening ever so slightly.
Because he meant it. Truly and deeply, underneath her thick, high school glasses and messy bun and morning breath, she knew that he loved her, and would love her, through it all.
She let her hands twine around his head, through his still damp curls, to pull him back to her mouth, but he paused with his lips hovering just against hers.
“You totally still taste like garlic bread, though.”
While he had pictured quite a few mornings with Pam Beesly in his time spent in waiting, none had included pillow fights on her bed like they were still little kids. But as they bounced around on their knees to dodge pillows, and his fingers eventually began to tickle her abdomen, and she was pinned underneath him now flushed with laughter, there was nowhere in the world he could picture himself but in this moment.
Sure, there was more kissing following the pillow fight, but it was the moments afterwards when he shaved while she brushed her teeth, and when they finished the crossword together before walking hand in hand to get coffee, that he savored the most.
It was several days later, but the fatigue was finally becoming less of a weight. She’d been moved from the ICU into a regular patient room, but she still felt like a toddler or a prisoner with absolutely no privacy. She still needed someone to help her wash her hair, though after the first round, she’d refused the sponge bath option, locking herself in the bathroom for a half hour before Penny finally kicked her into high gear.
Waking up this morning with a new sense of alertness, she tried to piece missed moments of the past week together. According to her patient board, it was Friday. She’d been dazed for almost a week. She recalled small details. Her parents coming in and out in shifts. Dad turning on the Phillies. Mom flipping a magazine by her bedside. Penny chattering on her cell. And Jim. Lots and lots of Jim.
He wasn’t just by her bedside. He was in her dreams, too. This man with whom she shared a place of employment, who’d claimed to be her best friend, was overtaking her senses. Snippets of one-sided conversations appeared.
Everyone’s been asking about you. The flowers are from Phyllis and Stanley. Kelly wanted me to tell you that she’s still emotional over Lance Bass being gay, and she’s sad that you’re not around to share in her pain.
I’m still only going in for half days. I don’t know. I could definitely go in all day but I think I’d go nuts, Pam. Not just with you not being there. I just...I don’t think I could leave you here alone. I know, I know, your family comes in to visit but I...it’s not the same.
There was a memorial for the Hurricane Katrina anniversary today. I was thinking about that food drive you put together last year. You were so mad that Roy wouldn’t let you take your vacation to go down there and help. Didn’t he want you guys to use it for some jet ski thing? You were so mad. You just wanted to help. So like you, Beesly. I would’ve taken you.
Michael wants to come and visit. I told him that you’re still recovering, which is obviously true, but also a blatant cover up for the fact that I’m not about to let him anywhere near a real life hospital with real sick people. He’d probably unplug someone’s life support on accident.
Phillies won again. Maybe they’ll actually make it to the end of this month over .500. I know you’ve never really been into sports, but I’ve had this picture in my head for the past month of you with a foam finger posed next to the Philly Phanatic, and I, like, need to make it happen. Maybe next year. Maybe, if you ever remember...
Vacant from her memories of the past few days was Roy. Her last recollection had been arguing with Penny as to whether or not he would show up for dinner. She was starting to think that he hadn’t.
It was a little after ten in the morning, and by all accounts, she was alone. No rounds, no doctors, no visitors. Pushing herself slowly up out of bed, she floated towards the bathroom, intending to brush her teeth and take inventory of herself for the day. It was at this point, two weeks after the accident, that she realized she would be lifting her eyes to a mirror for the first time. It wasn’t that she was afraid or didn’t want to see what was behind the pains and bandages that her doctors checked on every day. Surely, it was the lack of consciousness, the fact that whenever she’d had to pee, someone had to accompany her, that kept her from actually peering up at the reflective glass that was screwed above the sink.
But today, she was determined to face herself head on.
Small fists bunched around the thin material of the white cotton gown dotted with differing shades of blue polka dots. She dutifully counted each tile between her bed and the bathroom door, pausing when the flat, one-foot wide tiles became more raised, smaller, as rooms blended together roughly and abruptly. The light, too, starkly changed from blinding hospital white-wash to dark shadows. Her fingers hesitated above the light switch. Once she turned it on, there would be no going back.
Taking a breath, she allowed light to cascade precipitously into the room, shielding her eyes with her hand as if she were looking into the sun. She eyed the floor, taking pause to trace the white porcelain of the sink up to the knobs for hot and cold. She found her toothbrush that Penny had brought from home and the half-used tube of Crest (Crest? Didn’t Roy prefer that she buy Aquafresh? Something about it being cheaper…). For a moment, she tasted garlic on her tongue.
When her eyes hit the edge of the mirror, she pinched them shut for a moment.
This was it.
She took a deep breath, opened her eyes, and started from the bottom up.
Her arm was still heavy and casted, and the tiny cuts from glass shards she had already seen. Her torso looked so small in the hospital gown that had been her only cover, reminding her of the cartoon characters who never changed clothing. Finally, her eyes were at her neckline, where her hair was a drab shade of the honey she’d been so used to, devoid of its usual shine. She was expecting the limpness of her curls, what with the constant sleep and half-worked shampoos that she allowed every few days. Bad hair wasn’t the end of the world. It had taken her all of high school to come to terms with that.
But then, there was the skin of her neck that her hair was scratching lightly against. It was no longer that peach shade with the golden tan that she usually had this late in the summer. It was green and yellow.
She choked a swallow down her throat and followed the oblong shape from the left side of her neck up behind her ear. Rather than focusing on the shock that this was her face, her skin, she let the colors draw her in.
I could use a pea green and a yellow green to make that.
This, she could do.
Colors she could do.
There was deep purple that blended roughly into midnight blue that cascaded from her left ear to the middle of her cheek, pausing where the crease of her eye began and ending with a slight swell at her jawline
Dark cherry, navy, with just a dot of black. Greys for the shadow would give it dimension.
The nick across her bottom lip on the right side pained her every time she tried to eat. The gash on her forehead was still covered with a bandage, but she was in this far. Peeling the edges of the large rectangle, she found the healing cut, a thinning line that stretched from above her eyebrow to the bridge of her nose.
Seaweed green, flax, deep crimson.
She’d been dreading this, meeting her own eyes, but the colors chased her there, her left eye still rimmed in shades of black and green.
Charcoal, juniper, and lime. Charcoal, juniper, and lime.
In the grand scheme of things, she was healing. Those greens and yellows were a good sign, and her cut hadn’t needed stitches. But all her eyes depicted were the colors that took all that was her, all that was Pam Beesly, and turned it into an amalgamation of terror. Now, she understood the looks that people gave her whenever they walked into the room.
Her tears were silent, angry.
She hadn’t asked for any of this.
She’d just been...driving?
The colors on her palate all contorted when her eyebrows bunched and her lips snarled, making the tears jump suddenly. Frustration boiled down her arms as fingers furled into fists, even more so when thick plaster and cotton prevented her right hand from doing so completely.
It wasn’t frustration anymore that her face had become the beginnings of a Bob Ross painting.
Now, it was the frustration that, while she had become a canvas, she had no recollection of how or why it happened.
And it was truly starting to wear away at the parts of her that remained, those parts that were still trying to fit August and accident and Dunder Mifflin with Penny and Roy and Jim.
The scowl on her face matched the raw feel of her skin, and she had a fleeting thought that This is me now. Raw Pam Beesly. Tough Pam Beesly. Rough Pam Beesly.
But the thought of little Pammy Beesly fighting in the streets did nothing but evoke an ironic chuckle from deep in her lungs, laughter that, once it started, couldn’t contain itself.
Her thought process wound itself to the horror movies that Roy forced her to watch. On more than one occasion, she had peeked through her fingers to see a cackling crazy person. Now, she was the cackling crazy person. But upon this realization, she let the sob she had choked down come back up.
She hadn’t truly cried yet.
She deserved a good cry.
And on the floor of her hospital bathroom, she let it all go.
It was refreshing, truly, to let her pent up emotions run free. When she realized that she was crying over something she couldn’t remember, she let herself cry harder. And when the day nurse, Julie, found her crumpled over on the dirty floor and helped her back into bed, she let her tears carry her to a dreamless rest.
It wasn’t long before an orderly was waking her for lunch and she was in a pool of her thoughts that led straight to Nurse Julie’s closing words.
“You should really talk to someone about all of this, sweetie. It isn’t good to keep it bottled up. I could call someone down, if you’d like?”
As she flipped through her options, she was beginning to think that the curt dismissal she'd offered the poor nurse was unwarranted.
Mom would no doubt break down into tears of her own.
Penny would tell her, in no uncertain terms, to stop being so dramatic.
There was a time when she thought that Roy’s words could do nothing but lift her higher. But lately, in this weird world of August’s and Dunder Mifflin’s and Jim’s, she was beginning to taste a sour on her lips that contrasted her want to see him.
The call to her room from mom saying she had last minute errands to run and that she’d be in sometime around dinner further twisted the top on her bottle.
“Hey, Beesly. Care for a little afternoon pick-me-up?”
His soft raps on the door stirred her from the funk that had long since blanketed the room. Though tears had long subsided, her lips were affixed in a pout while her fingers piqued the stiff blanket that covered her to the waist. Her eyebrows remained in their upward knot, though her eyes softened upon his tentative push through her door.
Concern painted his face as his long legs carried him in three quick strides to her bedside. His words, “Hey, is everything okay? Did something happen?” were soft in her ears, his fingers hesitant, she noticed, like they had stopped halfway to meet hers, stilling at the edge of the comforter.
She rolled her eyes to the ceiling, a huffy breath heaving past her lips, thinking absently that she was acting like a child.
The images of her own tattered and bruised face flashed behind her eyes. This healing process was equal parts mental as it was physical.
But right now, she didn’t want to bust open and be emotional and vulnerable. She wanted to find out what it was that he had clasped behind his back and lose herself in thoughtless laughter and the strange sensation that washed over her every time he entered her room that somehow Jim made things better. Putting on her best brave face, she stuffed it down.
“I’m fine,” she said unconvincingly with a shake of her head, as if that motion in itself would rid her body of the crawling negativity. “So, what did you bring me today?”
The grin he flashed stirred something in her belly that was equal parts new and thrilling, and old and reminiscent, but it was so quickly covered by what he’d been hiding behind his back that she didn’t have the time to reflect.
His round eyes peeked over the two large books, one branded with a sudoku label while the other was a telltale crossword book.
“I figured that, while you’re trapped in here, the least I can do is try to stop your brain from turning into mush.”
For a fleeting moment, having him turn her brain to mush didn’t sound like the worst idea in the world.
“How very thoughtful. Will you bring some multiplication flash cards tomorrow?”
“Absolutely, I will.”
His expression, his tone, his demeanor were all business, but behind those eyes, she could see the slightest hint of sarcasm brewing. When she poked her tongue between her teeth to giggle, he broke too, that lopsided smile curving up his cheek.
The chair next to her bed should’ve been glued to that position when it came to Jim. Penny’s chair was always scooted back just enough so that she could have her feet propped up on the end of the bed. Dad’s was always facing the television, slightly enough that she just noticed. Jim was always close, as close as could be, and facing her head on.
He pulled the chair swiftly into position, angled the tray table so that they could equally reach, and offered her a questioning glance with the choice of the two books, nodding affirmingly in this goofy way that made her laugh again as he laid the crossword puzzle book open in front of them.
As she was about to dive in, she noticed hesitance in the way the grip on his pencil tensed ever so slightly. She lifted her head, her eyes doing the questioning, and watched him take a small breath.
“So, usually, I take across and you take down. But, I mean, under the circumstances, we don’t have to do it that way. If you want, I can go down this time, and then you can go down next time?”
“That’s what she said.”
She wasn’t sure where the words came from, but as soon as they left her lips, she was red and her fingers were at her lips and her eyes were wide, and then she was giggling with absolutely no inhibitions, such opposition to the way she’d been feeling not minutes ago. It was an onslaught of emotions that peaked the beeping in her heart rate monitor and had Jim with a momentary look of panic before he joined her in laughter.
“Beesly! Oh my god! What kind of drugs do they have you on?”
It took a few minutes for her laughter to actually die down, but it was the most glorious few minutes he’d had in the past weeks.
“I have no idea where that came from,” she said with giggles still trailing her words and fingers still hovering above her lips as if trying to stop more illicit phrases from escaping.
“I might have an idea, actually.” Jim’s eyes focused on the floor at first, but the closed grin that press wide between his ears was unmistakable.
She was remembering.
She was remembering crude humor that was more than borderline workplace inappropriate, but she was remembering.
And he’d be damned if he didn’t help her along.
When his eyes found hers, they were hopeful and shining like the Pam he knew, the Pam he remembered. She was in there somewhere.
“Okay, so, tell me what you remember about Michael Scott.”
“Michael Scott like our boss Michael Scott?” she queried with pinched eyebrows, cocking her head to the side at the name she'd only heard on a few occasions.
“The very same.”
“Well, I only really remember my interview, but in the first five minutes of me being in his office, he asked me for relationship advice, almost lit his suit jacket on fire in an attempt to do a magic trick, and made three comments about my boobs.”
The smug smile he offered her said You’ve told me this before, and although she couldn’t recall their lunch at Cugino’s where he let her complain over breadsticks while simultaneously trying to reassure her that Michael Scott was indeed harmless, something about his demeanor comforted her.
“So, with that information, would you believe me if I said that he is where your obscene language came from?”
Her eyes said Continue, but the blush of his cheeks bought him some time.
“God, we’re jumping right into the heavy stuff today, huh? Uh, let me think...probably shouldn’t start with the time he made a wisecrack about your mom, should I?”
The way her eyes bugged said I wholeheartedly believe you but I also can’t believe he hasn’t been fired yet.
“Yeah. Absolutely going to skip that one. Uh…so we have a coworker named Angela. Do you remember her at all?”
She took a second to absorb the name, to take in his description of, “Short, blonde, super uptight?” and reach into the recesses of her memory bank. When she came up short with an apologetic shrug of the shoulders, he returned her grin and pressed on.
“So, Michael likes to plan these outrageous, I don’t know, ‘staff bonding’ experiences. Right after you started, we went to this mini-golf place that had an arcade and everything. Actually, it was a pretty fun day.”
He paused, then, and she could see that his mind was somewhere else for a moment.
“Anyway, so Angela refused to participate because she said we were ‘wasting company time’--I told you she was uptight, right? So she sat and watched the whole time, holding Michael’s tickets like she was the group mom. Michael wins this five-thousand ticket jackpot and brings the stack over to her, and starts yelling at him, like, ‘It’s too full, I don’t have enough room!’ and he goes--”
“That’s what she said.”
Their open-mouthed grins turned into matching laughter, and although he was giving her those memories back, the ones that ended with a bet, more sordid banter, and a golf pencil bounced off his nose, her smile was a great enough reward amidst their tragedy.
In contented quietude, they filled in the crossword, the hums of her machines, the buzz of the overhead lights, all secondary to the scratching of their pencils and the breathy little noises she would make upon filling in her blank boxes.
Being a little after lunchtime, his bag of snacks did not go untouched, and though she hesitated at first—since when was French Onion a flavor she liked? Roy really only ate barbecue, so that’s what she kept in the house—the flavor began to morph into so much more than salt and sour cream. With each bite, it was flashes of hands and nice teeth and put me down but also please don’t put me down. By the time the bag was empty, his side of the crossword was significantly more filled out than hers.
“You still hungry? I think I might have another bag around here somewhere.”
“No,” she mused, tapping the eraser of the pencil against the tray table. “I think my breath will start to get super rank if I eat any more.”
“Nonsense. Your dragon breath has never bothered me before.”
It rolled off his tongue so casually, his eyes never wavering from the paper as he filled in suitcase for 12 across: traveling piece of luggage.
“So, what did you do today? Any underground wheelchair racing leagues I should know about?”
“Oh, Madge on the fourth floor would know more about that than I do.” The words seemed to roll seamlessly off her tongue to join his charming banter, though her muddled brain was still hesitant and wary in the eyes of this comfortable stranger.
But it was in this strange bubble of comfort with Jim that her earlier worries began to mount. She couldn’t discuss these things with her mother or her sister or Roy, but suddenly, this Jim? He seemed to be the perfect person. The one who had strolled through her door and hit the pause button on her worries with a bag of chips and a few stories from her forgotten past. If anyone in this weird new world would listen to her frustrations with appropriate responses, it might just be him.
She dropped her gaze to her lap where her fingers began to pull at the loose threads of her cast.
“But aside from the narcotics Yankee Swap party that we had between rounds, I uh… I met the Bride of Frankenstein today.”
Immediately following a low chuckle, his brows mirrored hers in the way that they knit together in the middle, but his expression was more confusion than frustration. It took him a moment to realize that the jokes had ended, that she was talking about herself, evident in the way that her eyes went soft and blurry for just a split second, the way that she bit her lip, wincing when she remembered the thin gash there that was on the verge of healing, the way that she refused to meet his eyes.
His Hey, though still soft, had a reprimanding edge to it, and now his fingers, suddenly forgetting their earlier hesitancy, wrapped around her casted hand as insistently as his eyes were pleading with her Please don’t do this.
She cocked her head in a way that said This hurts so much and I don’t know how to make it stop.
But suddenly, he was the one who could make it stop.
“I’m serious, Jim.” Her words, so small, cut him to the core. “You can’t even tell that it’s...me under all of this.”
She motioned to the cuts and bruises, the bandage that was taped neatly to her forehead where a few hairs had been trapped. What happened next finally gave the monitors attached to her body a job.
“Of course it’s you, Pam. Who else could pull off this shade of purple?”
She’d never know it, but the slight laugh that bubbled from his throat was solely used to mask the sob he was trying to stifle.
His fingers, so long and yet dainty, ran featherlight across her face, tracing every last cut, bruise, nick, and otherwise imperfection that rendered her speechless not hours ago. When they met the cut on her lip, she was hot all over, the beeps of her heart rate monitor becoming more insistent.
“I look like someone who...I don’t know…”
“Was in a serious car accident? You know, you’re not wrong, there.”
His smile wasn’t making her feel much better, but the way his hand was still lingering on a cheek that was in its final stages of swelling told her otherwise.
“Pam, you get to be upset about all of this, okay? It’s...it’s a lot to process. Of course you look a little different, but it's...all of these? They tell the story of how you fought back, how you're fighting back. You beat this. It’s okay to be angry and sad and pissed off? But please, please don’t sit here and be sad about a few bruises on your face. It’s going to crush me if that’s the way you feel.”
“Come on. Just tell me it’s terrible already. I look like Chucky or something. Get it over with.”
“Oh, shut up,” he chuckled, his fingers lightly brushing the fallen curls behind her ears. “You’re beautiful.”
Those damn flashes were coming back, but this time it was crossword puzzles and throw pillows and Shut up, you’re beautiful all over again. The speeding blips of the heart rate monitor were fear and apprehension this time, as her body tensed under his hand. His muttered sorry was almost sad as his fingers reluctantly trickled away. It seemed as if he was trying to hold on, and the part of her that had called him safe earlier was screaming for him to not let go.
Though his touch wavered, there was something intense behind the forest in his eyes that latched on, the very same tunnel vision from her first night of consciousness that locked her in. It was uncomfortable and comfortable all the same. She wanted to run out the door and have his hands back on her face all at the same time. She truly didn’t know what to do. And it was in that moment that busting up whatever had suddenly flooded the room seemed like the best option.
“God, I wonder what Roy thinks about all this. He hasn't really said much, you know?”
Her laughter was a buffer for the nerves that were suddenly overcoming all of her frustrations. Something inside her screamed that bringing Roy up was a horrible, terrible, idea, but at the same time, he was pulling away, if ever so slightly, and her heartbeat was beginning to regulate.
Then, she noticed, his eyes were preoccupied with the floor again, and she was suddenly craving to see his eyes, his face, something other than the top of his head. Her wish was granted, however indirectly, when his hand ran through his hair.
“Yeah, I mean, he loves you, so…”
The awkward silence was broken by an orderly with a wheelchair, another CAT scan, Penny taking Jim’s spot for the rest of the afternoon.
Then there was Roy, who gave her the answer she’d been seeking earlier when he said, “You’ll heal soon, Pammy. I’m sure you’ll look like your old self in no time.”
It was nothing compared to Who else could pull off this shade of purple?
He stayed for fifteen minutes and darted out, without much more than a Goodnight, Pammy and a a stiff kiss on the forehead.
All the while, between medicine doses and bland hospital food and mom and dad, she saw Jim’s shoes through the door to the waiting room. He’d chosen a chair that was just outside of her line of sight, but those shoes, now a matching pair, kept drawing her gaze. Those same tattered Nike’s that had no partner not days before.
Those same Nike’s that she saw in her nap dreams.
“I’ll bet you a bag of chips that I can beat you, Beesly."
“Not a chance. I’m well trained in mini-golf.”
Those shoes, following her along the bricked edges that outlined the mini-golf course, his arms outstretched “for balance,” but making his lanky body look comedically awkward and gangly and goofy as he tiptoed along the balance beam.
“Hole in one!”
“That does not count!”
“Oh, it so counts, Beesly!”
“You kicked it in with your foot!”
“Did not. You’ve said it before, I have big clumsy feet. Nothing I could do about that. Genetics and all. Thanks for playing. And remember, Pam: I like Doritos.”
He’d bent down to pick up the golf pencil that she threw at him, the one that had bounced off his nose, landing between those shoes. She’d been laughing still when he stood upright again. She didn’t want to say anything at the time, but she was pretty sure she’d seen him discreetly pocket the pencil.
When she awoke from that dream, it was a hazy waking, one that would bring her right back to sleep in only moments. But those shoes, still stuck to the hallway floor, called out to her. Fighting the lead in her limbs, she sat up, peeked out the door, and let his name, Hey, Halpert? break the weighted silence on the recovery floor.
His nose appeared first, followed by the rest of his long body when he stood and peeked around the doorframe.
By the way his hair was matted to one side and the way his eyes were still glassy, she realized that she’d pulled him from a nap.
“You totally kicked it in with your foot.”
Disclaimer: All publicly recognizable characters and settings are the property of their respective owners. The original characters and plot are the property of the author. No money is being made from this work. No copyright infringement is intended.