NOW COMPLETE! Jim gets in an accident on June 10, and Pam gets to help. Only AU in that it deviates from main timeline between S2 and S3 (no different worldbuilding premise).
Disclaimer: I do not own the Office or its IP.
Categories: Jim and Pam
, Alternate Universe Characters:
Helene Beesly, Jan, Jim, Jim/Pam, Larisa (Jim's sister), Other, Pam
Angst, Fluff, Inner Monologue, Romance, Sick Jim/PamWarnings:
Violence/InjuryChallenges: Hospital JAM
, Sister Sister
Challenges: Hospital JAM
, Sister Sister Series:
May 20, 2018 Updated:
July 21, 2018
A response to the Hospital and the Larissa challenges, with major debts to Cardiac Care, The Waiting, and way more fics than I can name here. Further disclaimer: I'm not in a medical industry, so there may be errors.
1. June 10: Pam's Apartment by Comfect
2. June 10: To the Hospital by Comfect
3. June 10: At the Hospital by Comfect
4. June 10: Jim's Apartment by Comfect
5. June 10: Back at the Hospital by Comfect
6. June 10: In Jim's Room by Comfect
7. June 10: Still in Jim's Room by Comfect
8. June 10-11: Relaxation Room by Comfect
9. Interlude: In Jim's Head by Comfect
10. June 11: Jim's Unit by Comfect
11. June 11: Relaxation Room by Comfect
12. June 11: Jim's Room by Comfect
13. Interlude II: Jim's Head by Comfect
14. June 11: Jim's Room, with Visitors by Comfect
15. June 11: The Cafeteria by Comfect
16. June 11: By Jim's Side by Comfect
17. Interlude III: Jim's Head by Comfect
18. June 11: Waiting Room by Comfect
19. June 11: An Awakening by Comfect
20. June 11: Continued by Comfect
21. June 11: The Same, Continued by Comfect
22. June 11: Jim's Room without Pam by Comfect
23. June 11: The Hallway by Comfect
24. June 11: Jim's Room, with Pam by Comfect
25. June 11: Pam's Apartment by Comfect
26. June 12: Towards the Hospital by Comfect
27. June 12: Outside Jim's Room by Comfect
28. June 12: Jim's Room by Comfect
29. June 12: By Jim's Bed by Comfect
30. June 12: Enter Helene by Comfect
31. June 12: Helene by Comfect
32. June 12: Cafeteria by Comfect
33. June 12: Afternoon by Comfect
34. June 12: Waiting Room by Comfect
35. June 12: Jim's Head by Comfect
36. June 12: Pam's Chair by Jim's Bed by Comfect
37. June 12-3: Jim's Room by Comfect
38. June 13: Hallways to the Cafeteria by Comfect
39. June 13: Cafeteria by Comfect
40. June 13: Jim's Room (ICU) by Comfect
41. June 13: Jim's Room by Comfect
42. June 13: Hallway (ICU) by Comfect
43. June 13: Simultaneously with the Previous by Comfect
44. June 13: The Note by Comfect
45. June 13: Moving Rooms by Comfect
46. June 13: Relaxation Room by Comfect
47. June 13: Leaving the Relaxation Room by Comfect
48. June 13: Jim's Room (non-ICU) by Comfect
49. June 13: The Same, Continued by Comfect
50. June 13: Dinner by Comfect
51. June 13: After Dinner by Comfect
52. Epilogue: Long After June by Comfect
June 10: Pam's Apartment by Comfect
Pam sits in her apartment and gets a call.
Pam Beesly was sitting in her new apartment, staring at phone on her one table in front of the wall of her living room. In her ideal world, the table would have been draped with the fancy cloth tablerunner her grandmother had knitted and the wall would have been hung with three particular pieces of art (one hers, one a gift from her parents on her high school graduation, one bought in a fit of rapture at the Met on a trip to NYC three years ago) that she thought really went well together. But all of that art was in boxes somewhere in the room, and she didn’t have the energy to find them, let alone nails or a hammer. Especially since she was pretty sure she didn’t own a hammer.
Of course, in her ideal world, she wouldn’t be in this apartment at all.
She wasn’t sure where she would be, but it wasn’t here.
It was hard not to fall back into old ways of thinking and feeling. Hard not to think “in my ideal world, I’d be in a hotel room right now, with Roy, for our wedding night.” Hard not to think “I’d be married.” But recent events had proved to her that that’s wasn’t her ideal world either. She’d looked down that path and it was very normal, very everyday, but definitely not very ideal.
So she needed a new ideal, but she was pretty sure this wasn’t it. Whatever ideal was, it wasn’t an empty apartment and the process of unpacking. It wasn’t breaking the heart of a man she’d spent ten years with and spending money hand over fist to not get married (seriously; she’d forked over almost as much money as she’d budgeted for the wedding and they hadn’t even gotten married).
She sighed. In all honesty, for her, “ideal” right now meant Jim Halpert. She was still pissed at him for turning her life upside down—declaring his love, kissing her, making her feel things (or more accurately realize she had been feeling them for some time now)—and then running away. Not giving her a week—a day—an hour—a minute to catch her breath, think, do something more than panic and react. When she’d come back to work that following Monday, after a hard, hard weekend working through her own and Roy’s emotions, to an empty desk and the news that Jim had arranged a transfer to the Stamford office, she’d been torn apart by two conflicting emotions: anger that he’d done this huge thing to her and just…left, and a sucking pit of sadness and despair.
Neither of those emotions had stopped her from breaking it off with Roy, cancelling the wedding, and moving into this little apartment on her own. It had helped at first that she had leaned into the anger for a while; leaned into feeling hurt and mad that he had fled. This had kept the sucking despair at bay. But she’d realized as she reorganized her life that she understood his choice a little more. She couldn’t bear to see Roy anymore; it was hard to spend even an hour at lunch around him (and he had been hanging out up in the office at lunch at lot more since the breakup—where was that when they were together, huh?). She couldn’t imagine how much worse it would be to have been in Jim’s situation; to be spending every day around someone whose very presence reminded him of the love he’d had and the life he’d wanted to have, and of the fact he couldn’t and didn’t have it. Of course, the massive irony was that he could have had it. She loved him. Was in love with him. But he couldn’t have known she would come to that point. She realized she’d given him no indication she would. She cringed now to remember herself telling him he had “misinterpreted their friendship.” Undermining his sense not just of her, but of his own emotions. So she could understand why he left.
It still hurt, though.
And when it hurt it opened up the other side of her emotions: the despair. If he ran away…would he come back? Did he still love her? Now that she was ready to love him, he wasn’t there to be loved. And just like he couldn’t trust her to have come in on Monday and loved him (and to be honest, she wasn’t ready to that Monday—but it did come, and quickly), she couldn’t trust him to come back and still love her. Or so the despair told her at least.
The despair made it very hard to pick up the phone and call him—especially since he was probably in Australia right now, and she was pretty sure the cell phones were different out there—unless he had cancelled the trip when he cancelled everything else and ran to Stamford. After all, she was pretty sure he’d booked that trip just to miss her wedding, no matter that he’d denied it when she’d asked. That was back before that searing moment of truth, back when they were each trying to hide their emotions from each other—some of them more intentionally, more consciously, and some of them more effectively, but both hiding. So maybe after that moment he hadn’t felt the need to go to Australia. Maybe Connecticut was far enough.
But she didn’t know, because despair made it impossible to pick up the phone and find out.
She had been staring at the phone for what felt like the best (or more accurately, worst) part of a day, but was…actually, it was most of the day. It was Saturday, her not-happening-wedding day, and she had the next two weeks off for her not-happening-honeymoon, and she’d had nothing to do but stare at the phone. She’d quietly refused to have her mother—her sister—her father—anyone with her that day, telling them (lying to them) that them being there would have made her remember too much that everyone should have been there, remember what day it was supposed to be. She’d said it would be harder with them there.
What she really meant was that she’d hoped she’d finally build up the courage to call Jim’s phone, and she didn’t want any of them there to stop her.
Of course, she was doing a great job of that herself.
As she stared, the phone rang.
She picked it up in a daze.
“Hello! Is that…Pam Anderson?”
Oh great, she thought. My first call here, and it’s a telemarketer who didn’t get the memo about my cancelled wedding. While she was thinking, her brain went into autopilot and she responded, even though she hadn’t meant to.
“This is Pam Beesly.”
“Oh thank god.” Not a telemarketer then, unless their scripts had gotten really advanced. “I’ve been trying to reach you for two days, and I know it’s your wedding day, and I’m so sorry, but I just…I’m hoping…” Pam felt in her pocket, pulled out her cell phone, and saw that it was dead. The charger was in a box too, she realized, and she had no idea when it had run out. She heard the voice on the other end finally run down, like the speaker didn’t know what to say next.
“Um…who is this?” she mumbled while looking at the phone in her hand.
“Oh! Um, my name is Larissa Halpert. Jim’s sister? I just…I’m with him here at Geisinger Hospital, and I’m so sorry to interrupt your wedding day but…I need your help.”
So tell me what you think! I'd love to hear your ideas about this premise and this chapter.
June 10: To the Hospital by Comfect
Pam makes it to the hospital and actually meets Larissa.
“Wait what?” was all Pam could force out of a throat that suddenly felt far too tight. Her mind was whirling though. Between it’s not my wedding day and why is she calling me and isn’t he in Australia and what can I do all was confusion other than the rapidly mounting is Jim OK? that felt like it would reach up and strangle her. She focused on the woman’s (Larissa’s?) voice on the phone to keep some connection to sanity.
“Umm…and again, I’m really sorry to be calling on this day of all days,” stop telling me you’re sorry tell me what happened “but Jim was in an accident. The cab he was taking to the airport was T-boned and, um, they called me because, you know, I’m his emergency contact and, well, there’s no one else here for him, and I can’t really leave because I’m the one who has to make the medical decisions, and…” wait, medical decisions? Jim can’t make his own medical decisions? How bad is this? “…um, basically, I need someone to go get some things from his apartment and you’re literally the only person I could think of who might know what to get or where to get it.”
“Is Jim OK?” Pam couldn’t fully process the idea that Jim had been here in Scranton, apparently, the whole time, or that his sister knew enough about Pam to call her—or to call her Anderson, which she realized as far as Jim knew was her name now—or any of that, so she focused on the thoughts she could comprehend.
“Sort of? He’s…it’s pretty bad. He’s in and out of consciousness and when he is conscious he’s on so much morphine he might as well be out. I’ll try to tell him you asked though, that’ll mean a lot to him. Um, so I’m here at the hospital, and as I said, I can’t really leave so…”
“Oh! Yeah, of course, I’ll be right there.”
“Thanks, Pam.” The genuine relief in Larissa’s voice was obvious even over the phone. “I’m so sorry to have interrupted…”
“Don’t be.” Pam wasn’t sure she had it in her to explain everything to someone she hadn’t even met in person, even someone who was apparently Jim’s sister, but she had to get that out. She couldn’t stand being apologized to for interrupting a wid edding (or a wedding night) that hadn’t even happened. A small flicker of humor kindled somewhere deep inside her and she thought darkly anyway, if someone’s going to apologize for stopping this wedding, it’s going to be Jim, not Larissa. She grabbed a bag (who knew was mysterious “things” Larissa was going to need from Jim’s apartment) and her purse and hurried out the door.
It did not take long to get from Pam’s apartment to Geisinger Community Health Center, but it felt like ages. She pulled into a parking space and then realized that she should probably be in the parking for the ICU—if Jim was really as out of it as Larissa implied, he wasn’t going to be in the kind of unit that her mother had been in for her (routine, scheduled, comparatively calm) gall bladder surgery two years ago. She pulled around the hospital to the correct lot and strode up to the doors, glancing at the sign in the window that announced visiting hours, which were still ongoing. Breathing a sigh of relief that Larissa had called early enough, she walked through automatic doors and into the lobby, where a surprisingly helpful staff member directed her towards the ICU waiting room. As she entered the room she was surprised at how easy it was to recognize Larissa Halpert even from behind as she paced in front of the vending machine by the bathrooms. After all, how many women looked like a scale model of Jim, down to the still floppy, if much longer, hair? She walked up to her and almost gasped as the woman turned around. She had never thought much about what Jim would look like as a woman (and thankfully Larissa didn’t entirely look like him in the face department—for all that she li…loved Jim’s face, she had to admit it was entirely too masculine for a woman) but this answered those questions she hadn’t even bothered to ask. She briefly wondered if he had dressed up in her clothes growing up before remembering that Larissa was a younger sister—and promptly wondering about the question the other way around. Maybe there were baby pictures she could see that would confirm it. Woah there Beesly, getting ahead of yourself. She looked up at the woman and smiled, before receiving an entirely unexpected full-body hug.
“You must be Pam! You’re just like Jim described you.” Jim described me? “Thank you so much for coming.”
“Well, I really hope you’re Larissa, or this is going to be a really fast and really awkward conversation.”
“I am! What gave it away? Was it the body, the face, or the hug?” She gestured as she spoke, reminding Pam irresistibly of Jim, especially when she quirked an eyebrow up in mock-query as she ended the question.
“Probably the hair.” Pam smiled at Larissa.
“That does make sense,” Larissa nodded, and then her face grew serious and Pam realized that, like Jim, Larissa used humor to mask when she was scared, or nervous, or tired—and she was all three, if her facial expressions were anything like her brother’s. “Seriously, thank you for coming. I’m going crazy here alone.” She seemed to stop herself bodily. “Not that I expect you to stay with me! I know this is, like, the worst timing and everything, and you said not to be sorry but I can’t help but worry that I’m really imposing on you.”
Pam found herself instinctively trying to do for Larissa what she’d felt Jim do for her so many times: calm down her nerves and get her out of her funk. “I said don’t be sorry and I meant it. You are not imposing; I’m glad to help. It sounds like you need it. Have you really been here all alone?”
“Oh god, yes. Mom and Dad are…well, this is, like, the worst irony in the world, you know, but they’re in Australia right now.”
“Seriously?” Pam stared at her.
“Yeah. After…well, after Jim decided he had to go to Australia, and um…” Larissa played with a hairband on her wrist for a moment “Um…after he told us why, Mom and Dad bought tickets out to Sydney themselves to surprise him.”
Pam had no intention of letting that “told us why” slip by unchallenged, but she forcibly reminded herself that right now this was not about her. “So they’re in Australia, and you’re here, and so it’s all in your lap.”
Larissa nodded forcefully. “Yeah. Actually, they should just have landed in Sydney today; the flight takes forever and they couldn’t get tickets the same day as Jim, so they were going to go to the same hotel and surprise him there. I left a message but I haven’t even heard back, and I’ve had to deal with all these ”
Pam suddenly realized how young Larissa had to be—half the time Jim talked about her it was like she was 12, and the other half like she was 40, so she wasn’t sure of her true age, but right now she looked like a frightened college student—so she wrapped Larissa in a hug, unselfconsciously returning the gesture from a few minutes before. “It’ll be all right. They’ll get your message. And it sounds like you’ve been managing really well on your own.”
“Thank you. You have no idea how hard this has been. Jim’s…well, he’s always been there for me, him and Mom and Dad, and I’m trying so hard to be there for him…”
“And you are.” It occurred to Pam how much she wanted to be there for Jim, too, and how often he’d been there for her—even including the last few weeks, he’d managed to be there for her enough in the previous three years to make the balance decidedly on his side. “Now, what can I do?”
“Oh! So, in addition to Mom and Dad being…you know,” she gestured in what was apparently in her head the vague direction of Australia, “Jim’s roommate Mark had a wedding to go to in Colorado this week, up in the mountains, so he’s not here and I can’t get ahold of him at all. I have Jim’s cellphone—they gave me his stuff—so I tried calling you but it didn’t go through. Then I ran out of ideas…it’s not like Jim has a lot of friends he’s told me about, you know? But then one of the nurses—they’re really lovely—suggested I try to find out your home phone number. I called 411 and they connected me, and…”
“And I picked up the phone, and now I’m here. So what do you need?”
“I need you to get Jim’s stuff.”
Thank you for all the reviews! It's nice to know people are looking forward to this story. It's also vaguely terrifying, because as you may know by now my writing plan doesn't involve a lot of, well, planning, so I have no idea where this is actually going to go. So please, leave more feedback so I can react to it and send this story where it ought to be.
June 10: At the Hospital by Comfect
Just a quick one here, lots of things going on in life. Pam tells Larissa some big news.
When Pam looked blank for a moment, Larissa explained.
“So, Jim has a medical power of attorney—we all do, after what happened with Great Uncle Theo—and I had a copy because I’m on it. But I don’t have any of his other medical records or insurance stuff, or any prescription meds he might be on. And right now he’s kind of out of it but eventually he’s going to need, like, homey stuff—any decoration you can find, some books, stuff like that. His iPod’s here because he was taking it on the trip, but there’s not a lot of other entertainment. He won’t even be able to change the TV. So anything you can find that you think would make Jim feel at home, feel comfortable, feel less freaked out—I’d love whatever you can think of.”
Pam nodded. “I can do that. Anything else? Anything for you? It looks like you’re kinda beat.”
Larissa smiled a weak smile. “Yeah. Um, I’m kinda holed up here for the duration, so…I guess a toothbrush, toothpaste, that kind of thing? I didn’t think to grab it before I headed out for the hospital.”
“Yeah, that’s probably a good idea.” Larissa sniffed her own armpit in a gesture that Pam was surprised to realize reminded her of Jim. “Upgrade that to very good idea.”
“Got it.” Pam hesitated. “I’ll definitely get that stuff, but, Larissa…”
“I know, I know, you may not have time to…”
“No, that’s not it. I, um…” She glanced up at Larissa, who was standing looking at her with a quizzical expression that really belonged on another, more familiar face. She took a deep breath. “I should probably tell you that today…it’s not my wedding day.” She saw that Larissa looked, if anything, more confused. “I mean, it was my wedding day, but it’s not. Um. I didn’t marry Roy.” There. It was out there. “So, um, I have time.”
She wasn’t quite sure how to read Larissa’s reaction. Then again, she wasn’t sure what she expected to see. If this was Jim, she’d have expected…well, actually, she wasn’t sure what she would have expected. She had had an idea of what this might mean to him before May…before Casino Night (it wasn’t like she hadn’t thought about it ever before) but that idea had blown up with five simple words: “I’m in love with you.” So if she didn’t even know what her best friend would have looked like when she said she’d called off the wedding, how was she supposed to interpret this stranger’s face, even if she did look ridiculously like Jim? But even in that context, Larissa looked less surprised than she’d expected her to. Then it occurred to her that maybe she hadn’t been as clear as she could have been.
“We’re not…we broke up. Um. You called me Anderson, and, I think you should know…it’s still Beesly. Definitely Beesly. So I can definitely get you anything you need. I’d like to help.”
Larissa broke into a familiar smile. “I’m glad to hear that, Beesly. And I think Jim will be too.”
Pam reflected on that conversation as she drove to Jim’s house, key in hand. It had gone better than she’d expected—but then again, she hadn’t been talking to Jim himself, had she? She didn’t know how much Larissa knew—though it was obvious she knew something—and no matter how much she knew about their whole…situation, she still wasn’t Jim. Would Jim even want to talk to her even now that she wasn’t with Roy? Had that ship sailed? She was pretty sure, right now, that she wanted him to. That she wanted him to do, well, more than that. There was something about learning that he was in the hospital, in critical condition, that really crystallized things for her. Was she still mad at him? Yes. Was she still worried he wouldn’t want anything to do with her? Very much so. But right now that was all secondary to her need to be there for Jim right now.
Jim, who she still hadn’t seen. She wasn’t sorry to help out Larissa—when she got back she’d have to raise the idea that maybe, just maybe, Pam herself could sit there at least while Larissa got some sleep, some food, or a shower—but she was definitely going to insist on seeing him when she got back. Which made a good argument for getting in and out of his apartment fast, she thought, as she turned into the driveway.
She grinned to herself. Jim had always said there would be a quiz later about the tour of his house. She couldn’t wait to tell him how right he was.
If he was willing to talk to her. If he got better. If, if, if.
Again, I really appreciate any feedback y'all can give me on this. And credit is due to Cardiac Care by Vampiric Blood for the general sense of the list of things Larissa wants. Seriously, go read it if you haven't yet.
June 10: Jim's Apartment by Comfect
Sorry for the delay in posting this; I had to rewatch Email Surveillance for the details of Jim and Mark's place. Hopefully I made it up to you with the extra-long chapter.
Pam goes to Jim's apartment to get stuff.
It felt completely surreal to be letting herself into Jim’s place alone, with the key Larissa had given her. Yet at the same time it felt right, somehow. A small part of her was bouncing along as she turned the key in the lock, saying “Home! Jim! Home!” She let herself imagine for that little moment what it would be like if this wasn’t the first time she’d done this, if it wasn’t an unusual occurrence at all—if this was just how she came home after art class, unlocking the door not because Jim wasn’t there, but because she lived there and it was an everyday sort of thing to do. What it would be like to have Jim waiting for her inside, listening for her at the door and smiling his gorgeous smile as she walked in. The little click of the door unlocking snapped her out of her reverie and she blushed, wondering what it said about her that she was letting herself get carried away with fantasies when the whole reason she was really here was that Jim was in the hospital, fighting for his life.
As she opened the French doors and stepped into the entryway, she realized that she had no good way of knowing what was his and what was Mark’s. The art on the walls was sort of schizophrenic: a crazy abstract like a ‘90s Jackson Pollock only a few feet away from a much more photorealistic piece, with a family photos in between. She figured it was best to play it safe, not giving in to the instinct that told her the Pollocky painting was so not Jim’s style, and grabbed a couple of family photos in which Larissa featured prominently—none with Jim, though, in case the accident had horribly scarred him or something. Oh god, was that possible? She still hadn’t seen him, and Larissa hadn’t exactly volunteered the option. Maybe it was just exhaustion, or a feeling that it wasn’t right for Pam—whom until this week had been going to marry another man—to see him when the rest of the family hadn’t been able to yet, but maybe it was something worse. Something horrible. Something disfiguring or permanently maiming.
She realized as she worried that she wasn’t actually afraid of seeing Jim in any of those circumstances, just worried what Jim himself would feel. Worried how she would get him to realize that even if he didn’t look like the Jim he had been, the real essence of Jim was inside of him. She loved his smile, but for all she was attracted (there, she’d admit it, even if only when no one else was around) to the lopsided look of it creeping across his face, it was the emotions that the smile conveyed that really stood out to her. That feeling of safety, of support, of deep-rooted affection that welled up out of his eyes and onto his face.
How had she been so stupid, so willfully ignorant for so long? She loved Jim’s smile because it said he loved her. Even when it was about something silly Michael had done, or the latest prank he had pulled on Dwight, he always smiled at her with that something in his eye that said “I’m sharing this moment with you. With you in particular. Because I love you.” How had that declaration a month ago come as a surprise? He’d been telling her he was in love with her for three years, multiple times a day.
Pull it together, Beesly. This was no time to dissolve into tears. She was in Jim’s apartment because she needed to do something for him. Not as payback or repayment—you don’t repay love, you return it, she thought, and she was rapidly realizing how much she did return his—but because she couldn’t not. It was Jim. He needed her, or rather, Larissa needed her for him. And so she would do what she was asked.
She had the family photos. What else? Decorations, entertainment—she was pretty sure the Xbox was Mark’s—medical records. OK. Those would be upstairs, in Jim’s room.
Jim’s room, where he’d found her last year at the barbecue he’d hosted—that some little part of her had told him she’d hosted for her, even if he’d claimed it was because Mark needed reassurance that Dwight was a real person. That barbecue where Phyllis had assumed she meant her and Jim when she’d started hinting about Dwight and Angela.
Seriously, how had she not noticed?
Anyway, at that barbecue she’d intentionally gotten “lost” on the tour and sat in Jim’s room with him. So she knew where that was. And what was in it. Time to deal with some old memories, she supposed. Memories that were somehow actually that much sweeter knowing how he felt about her—or how he had felt about her until a month ago at least. She wished she hadn’t led him on so much…or really, if she was honest—and when can you be honest except when you’re standing in the empty rental house of your best friend whose heart you broke a month ago and who’s lying in the hospital semiconscious with only his sister for company?—she wished she’d led him on a lot more and not been so afraid, so blatantly terrified, of what she was beginning to realize she’d felt for him for a lot longer than she’d let herself know. Imagine if those memories had been of making out with Jim in his room, instead of—no, in addition to—giggling over his yearbook photo? Yes, she thought, that would be a definite improvement. She’d have to work on that after this, if he’d let her.
These reflections brought her up the stairs and down the hallway (two bedrooms, one bathroom, no flash photography). She slipped into his room just as she had all those months ago, and started looking around for things to bring. CDs were easy—she just grabbed the top couple off the giant stacks by his TV, then sheepishly put them back when she realized that he actually had his iPod at the hospital already. The guitar was out; probably too big for a hospital bed, and what if his fingers were all mangled or something? She had a brief image of Jim asking the doctor “Doc, will I be able to play the guitar after my surgery?” and when the doctor said yes, grinning and saying “good, I never was before.” Kind of a dad joke, but then, Jim did like them corny.
To stop herself from dwelling too long on the nature of Jim’s injuries, she grabbed his laundry bag (realizing that she didn’t have anything else to carry things in) and started sliding in clothes. Sure, she reasoned, he was packed for Australia and Larissa probably had those bags, but Australia was in the southern hemisphere, wasn’t it? Completely different climate, opposite seasons, that sort of thing.
Oh my god, she realized. Jim was going to Australia in June. That’s midwinter. He was going to Australia at the exact wrong season just to get away from her wedding, from her. How could she have been so dense? She’d been imagining him sipping Mai-Tais and other froofy drinks on a beach while hot Australian women flung themselves at him and he forgot all about her—but he was really planning to go to rain and cold and wet, albeit probably still with hot Australian women throwing themselves at him, because, well, he’s Jim. Still, while she’d been thinking of him taking a pleasure cruise of sorts and ditching his best friend’s wedding, he’d really been fleeing as far as he could (literally, unless someone had a cruise to the uninhabited depths of the Indian Ocean) in the worst weather possible. Of course he had been in love with her. She hoped he still was.
She grabbed a pack of playing cards from his desk (home office, she thought sadly) and consciously did not take the Dunder Mifflin Inc folder beside it. She grabbed a couple more family photos and a poster with an equation for life that seemed tacky as hell and therefore probably entertaining to Jim. And besides, a little reminder that life was worth it wouldn’t be amiss. There was a stuffed penguin on his desk that she considered not packing (would it remind him too much of Australia?) but then inserted, because who didn’t love penguins? She also took down a bunch of notes from his family and friends that he had tacked up on a board by the desk. Larissa could help her sort those out later. On one she recognized her own loopy handwriting, and couldn’t resist the urge to look closer. It was a Valentine she’d written him his first year at Dunder Mifflin, when Michael had insisted they act like an elementary school classroom and have everyone give everyone else cards on Valentine’s. Had he really been interested in her that long, that he’d kept this, even as he covered it up on the board with other cards? She couldn’t quite process that right now, but she resolved to get him a new one at the first opportunity—even if it wasn’t February anymore. It was like February-ish in Australia, right? That would have to do. She bypassed the skeleton picture by the bed—skeletons in a hospital didn’t feel right—but found underneath the bed the treasure-trove that she’d been looking for.
Tax returns, social security card, all his important documents. Including a couple of recent receipts from hospital visits, one for (she glanced down the sheet) a pulled hamstring, one for a busted toe. She guessed basketball had been a little taxing on him recently. She grabbed those and the insurance information (which was the same as hers from Dunder Mifflin, so she recognized the folder as soon as she saw it) and scanned the room. A couple of books by the bedside completed her haul.
She headed down the hallway to the bathroom, grabbing the one pill bottle with Jim’s name on it (Claritin, it looked like, but hey, more medical information was probably better than less) and finding under the sink a spare toothbrush, toothpaste, and deodorant for Larissa. She was a little surprised that two bachelors had stocked up on those sorts of things, but the deodorant came in a threepack (she wasn’t sure whose it was—it looked like women’s deodorant, which gave her a flash of jealousy until she remembered Mark had a longer-term girlfriend, whom she had no qualms about temporarily stealing from) and the toothbrush and toothpaste were clearly the samples that the dentist handed out. She stuffed them in the bag, make a last sweep of the apartment for anything obvious she had missed, and slipped out the door, remembering to lock it behind her.
Thank you all for the reviews! They mean a lot to me, and it's good to know people are reading. I hope the writing lives up to the quality of the premise :).
June 10: Back at the Hospital by Comfect
Pam sees Jim.
Back at the hospital, Pam found Larissa asleep in one of the waiting room chairs. Not wanting to wake her, she set down the bag softly by her head and went to the nurse’s station, where she asked for and received a blanket, which she draped across the sleeping woman. The nurse smiled at her and asked if she’d like to see her friend. At Pam’s startled rejoinder that “I…I’m not…family,” she smiled and said “but you are authorized to see him. If you want. She said to show you back whenever you showed up. If you wanted.” Pam swallowed, looked at the sleeping Larissa, and wondering why she was being so…kind. Was it just a Halpert trait, unavoidable as the lanky frame and piercing eyes? Noticing the nurse waiting for a response, she nodded, unable to help herself.
She followed the nurse back to Jim’s room, while the other woman spoke quietly about his condition. “You’re probably going to be shocked when you see him. I don’t say that to make you worry, but because I don’t want you to be surprised by your own reaction. He’s lost a lot of blood and if he weren’t on the narcotics he’d be in a lot of pain, but the important thing to remember is that he’s alive. I don’t want to make any promises, but it’s not nearly as bad as it was when he first came in here, and it’s important to remember that things are getting better.”
Pam wasn’t sure quite how to respond. She bit her lip at the reminder that Larissa hadn’t been able to get ahold of her for two days, and had to push back the guilt that whispered “if you had just told him you broke up with Roy, you’d have been here from the start. Hell, maybe he wouldn’t even have gone to Australia. Maybe he wouldn’t be in the hospital at all.” Then she had to hold in the anger that spurted up in response to it, the irrational feeling that yelled back against the insidious whispers of guilt “Oh yeah? And why should I feel guilty? He blindsided me a month ago, and he didn’t even stick around to see what happened. Or worse, he did stay in Scranton, but he didn’t bother to tell me he was in town. Why am I even here?” That last question was easy for her to answer, though. She was here because she loved Jim, even when she hated him. And she desperately wanted him to be OK. She could be mad at him if he was OK. She’d even forgive him, if he would just be OK.
These thoughts came to a rattling halt as the nurse reached a door and gently opened it, ushering Pam in. She came through the door and stopped dead. There he was. Jim Halpert. She’d have recognized him anywhere, and a good thing too, because he really didn’t look like himself. There were tubes and wires and straps, and he was alarmingly grey. She just stood there, stock-still, looking at him. She wanted to move towards the bed, grab his hand, shake him awake, something, but she couldn’t. She just stared, listening to the thoughts flash through her head.
He’s not going to wake up. This is it. I’ve lost my chance. You know the craziest thing? Everyone thinks I should be so sad because I’m not marrying Roy today, but I’m actually feeling broken because I can’t talk to Jim. And then it turns out I could have; turns out he’s been in Scranton for weeks, and he’s still here, and not in Australia—but I still can’t because he’s sitting here in the ICU and he’s never going to wake up.
She felt the tears streaming down her face, and the nurse turned to look at her with an expression of concern. “Miss Beesly…” she started. Pam shook herself.
“I guess you warned me, didn’t you,” she said with an attempt at levity. Yes, think how Jim would respond. Do this for Jim. Like Jim. “But you should know, this is always how I am when I’m in the same room as him.”
The nurse shot her an odd look. She pretended not to notice and walked over to the bedside.
“Hey, Halpert,” she whispered. “You should have known you couldn’t get away from me that easy.” She took his hand. It was shockingly cold, but she could feel a slow pulse and see the beat of his heart across the monitors. “And…I should have known why I didn’t want you to.” She kissed his hand. “Please stay with me. Please come back to me.” She was glad to finally get the words out, panicked it was too late. “Please, Jim.”
The nurse touched her back lightly. “He’s stable for now. You can stay in here as long as you like, visiting hours aren’t over until 10. I have to go see some other patients now, ok?”
She blinked away her tears and looked up. “Thank you” she focused on the nametag on her uniform “Melissa.”
She sat there holding Jim’s hand for a while. She didn’t know how long. She was lost in memories: huddling with Jim by the reception desk, laughing with him at some prank or other he’d pulled on Dwight…kissing him on Casino Night. She was so lost in thought she didn’t hear the door open, didn’t notice she wasn’t alone until a soft voice broke her out of her reverie.
She met Larissa’s eyes, feeling the same shock of familiarity she had felt the first time they’d met.
“I’m sorry, Pam, I must have dozed off. I’d meant to be with you when you saw him for the first time. I’m sorry you had to see that alone, but can I say, I’m glad you came back here?” She gestured at Jim. “I don’t mean back to the hospital—I figured you were going to do that—but back here. With him.”
“So am I. Is he…”
“All I know is what the doctors told me, which I’m guessing the nurse told you. He’s stable, he’s healing, but they don’t know how it’s going to go.”
“Yeah, that’s what she said.” Pam wiped away tears again, and then suddenly sat bolt upright and tried to stand up. “Larissa! I’m so sorry, he’s your brother, you should be…”
Larissa gestured for her to stay seated. “No, no, please, I’ve been here for two days, you should…”
Pam interrupted her. “Oh my god, that’s right!” she blurted. “You’ve been here for two days with no break. Um…do you want to take a break?” She took a breath and then said shyly “I could watch him, if you like. I’d be glad to.”
Larissa grinned at her. “I’d love that, later. For now, I just took a nap, so why don’t we both sit here?” She pulled up a chair from the wall behind her. “And while we’re here, you can tell me about Pam Beesly.” She quirked an eyebrow. “I keep hearing from Jim that she’s a really cool girl.”
Sorry for not having Jim awake yet, I just want some Larissa and Pam time first. Next chapter will be the two of them talking, and then time may start to pass a little faster. Thank you to all who have read and reviewed; please keep it up, as it's good to check in about how the story is going with you all.
June 10: In Jim's Room by Comfect
Pam tells Larissa about herself.
Pam blushed and stuttered. What do I say to that? What has Jim told her? Oh my god, how much has Jim told her? “Um…so, I…” Did her tell her about Casino Night? He obviously told her I was getting married. Did he…did he say how he felt when I said “I can’t?” “I was supposed to be getting married today.” Where did that come from? Why is that what I started with? Stupid, stupid. “And, well, I didn’t.” Obviously. You already told her this. Come on, Beesly, suck it up. “And..”
Larissa took pity on her, or at least it seemed like it to Pam. She poked her in the forearm and said “Hey, Pam? I know you didn’t. You’re here, right now, because you didn’t. But I didn’t ask you about Pam and Roy. I didn’t even ask you about Pam and Jim, even though you’re sitting here with me and him. I asked about Pam Beesly. I wanna hear about her.”
Pam’s mind reeled at a question she had been tiptoeing around for the past month. Who am I? Who am I when I’m not tied up in these relationships, these Pam-ands? I like who I am with Jim. I didn’t like who I am with Roy. But who am I when I’m just…me? She glanced sharply up at Larissa, who was looking at her with a tentative smile on her face, and suddenly felt mischievous—a feeling she hadn’t really had since about 2 seconds before the man now next to her in the hospital bed had said “I’m in love with you.” She met Larissa’s smile with one of her own. “Only if you tell me about Larissa Halpert.”
“I asked first.”
“Fair enough.” Pam smiled again, wondering what she was going to say. “I…you know what, this is going to sound weird, but I’m not doing this.”
Larissa looked shocked. “But we had a deal!”
Pam nodded. “We did. And I’m going to keep my end of it. But I just…can’t” she winced at the word “in the first person. So, um, this is going to sound weird, but…I’ll tell you about Pam Beesly, but I won’t tell you about me. Does that make sense? Like, it’s me, I’m the only Pam Beesly I know other than my great-aunt on my dad’s side who I’m named after, and she’s been dead for like twenty years—lovely lady, I think you guys would have liked her—but I’m going to tell you about it like it’s not me. Okay?”
Larissa grinned. “If it gets you talking, I’m all for it. So tell me about this mythical Pam Beesly. I can’t wait.”
Pam gave Jim’s hand a squeeze to steady herself—and can you believe I’m here, with him and his sister—his really cool sister who wants to hear about me, just me—right now?—and began.
“So, this Pam Beesly. She’s an artist. Like, not a great one, not Picasso or Dalí or Monet, but an artist. She sees the world around her in colors and shapes: blue,” she indicated Larissa’s necklace, a lapis lazuli pendant, “brown,” she pointed at the cabinets behind her, “white,” she gestured at the walls, “thin,” she touched the IV pole, “boxy,” she pointed at the TV in the room, “round,” she indicated the pendant again. “Only she sees it in a lot more detail than I just gave—for instance, she knows that that” pointing at the TV again “is about 15x20 black rectangle, but that she’d need to shade the bottom corner with white because of the glare coming through the door, and that a really careful job would involve a little bit of brown and a little bit of green and a little bit of blue for our reflections just above that. She sees the world that way, most of the time, except when there are people involved. They…pop. Like, you, you’re wearing a green Marywood shirt and blue jeans, but you radiate, like, yellow and orange. And Jim…Jim’s all grey and white right now,” she paused, but pushed through the tears that threatened to fall “but she always sees him in earth tones. Calming greens and borwns.” She went on rapidly. “She’s not just an artist, though, even though that’s how she thinks most of the time. She’s…reactive. She soaks up the energy she feels around her and she returns it back. So when she’s around people who tear her down it takes her really far down.” She was crying now. “But when she’s with people who build her up…it’s like she could fly. And when she’s alone she just sits and thinks…and it can be hard sometimes, but she really needs it.”
She didn’t look up to meet Larissa’s eyes as she ran out of gas. She wasn’t sure exactly where that all had come from. She was really sure she needed to say all of that—needed to think all of that—but she wasn’t sure how to react now that she had. She felt like…was it a cow that had multiple stomachs and had to move food around from one to the other? Because she’d just vomited up a lot of emotions and thoughts and self-analysis and now she needed to chew it over and redigest it all. Yeah, a cow—and this self-evaluation was her…cud? She probably needed to stop thinking in biological metaphors, because this one was getting really icky and sort of sliding away from her, but she definitely needed to say all of that and think it through. Because she still was that kind of artist—she really did see things that way—but she hadn’t let herself be it for years now, because whenever she’d stop and stare at a particularly weird shape or a fascinating color she’d hear Roy’s voice—whether literal or just in her head—saying “C’mon, Pammy, you’ll make us late.” So she’d pushed that part of her down outside of the office, where she’d had the luxury of studying the weird colors of Dwight’s shirt, or the strange angles of Michael’s face…or the shape of Jim’s eyebrows as they played a prank. It was so good to realize that she could be that Pam again, the one who saw beauty in the everyday and itched to get it down on paper. She wondered if she could find some of those art supplies her mom had given her for Christmas—she was pretty sure she’d grabbed those when she was moving out, but she wasn’t exactly sure which box they were in.
Larissa’s voice broke her out of her own head. “Wow. Um. Thank you, Pam, for sharing with the class.” It was pitched as a joke but Pam could hear the notes of sincerity underneath, just like she always could with Jim. “I’m not sure how to follow that, honestly. How about I go get you something from the vending machine, and then I’ll tell you as much as I can about Larissa Halpert. Though I think I might just have to keep calling her ‘me.’” Pam looked up and saw her wink. “I think there’s a Wegman’s machine out front, and I’m pretty sure I saw yogurt in it. You like that, right?” Pam mumbled something affirmative, and she was gone.
All Pam could think was seriously? How much did Jim tell her about me?
She smiled. There were worse things in the world than to discover Jim had been talking about her to his sister. Like finding out he was in the hospital. The smile faded. She tightened her fingers around his, realizing she hadn’t let him go the whole time she was talking.
So, let me know what you think of Pam's self-evaluation. In my headcanon she's been thinking hard about all of this ever since Casino Night, and doubletime ever since she broke up with Roy, but this is the first time she's ever tried to put it into words. Thanks to all who read and review!
June 10: Still in Jim's Room by Comfect
Pam and Larissa talk.
Larissa came back with a yogurt—Pam noticed it was, indeed, mixed berry—and a sandwich for herself, but she put the sandwich down without eating it and folded her hands in her lap. Her eyes didn’t quite meet Pam’s as she started to speak.
“So, I promised I’d tell you about me, and the first thing you need to know is that, well, Jim has been the best big brother to me. Just, the best. And I know I told you to tell me about Pam without Roy and Pam without Jim, but…it’s really important to me that you know that, well, Jim’s really important to me. We talk a lot. And because of that, I feel like I’m in a bit of a weird place right now.” She shifted in her seat. “See, I’ve been hearing about Pam Beesly for years now. Years. And I’d basically formed this idea of her—of you—in my head. And I’ll be honest with you, you weren’t good enough for my brother.” She raised her eyes to meet Pam’s, finally. “I don’t mean that I didn’t think you were pretty cool—I wasn’t lying earlier when I told you that—but everything Jim said about you screamed that you were basically content with your life, and that you were willing to let him be there for you but not to be there for him. And I knew somewhere inside me that that wasn’t fair, that I was hearing Jim’s side of things—and that I wasn’t even really hearing Jim’s side of things fairly, because I was hearing them with the ears of a little sister. Like, I know Jim can do wrong—I mean, he’s been really good to me, like I said. but you know, there’s no sister who doesn’t know that there are things, important things, her brother is like, totally terrible at—but I love him and I trust him and I’m really protective of him, so I knew I was hearing all of this from Jim’s perspective and then filtering out like 80% of the dumb shit he was doing.” She laughed softly. “And I do know my brother, and what you said about being reactive? He’s…passive. Like, he has his own opinions and his own thoughts, but when push comes to shove it takes a lot to get him to actually do anything about them. I guess you know that, but it really took until I actually met you to realize just how bad he was at it. I’m going to go out on a limb here and say you had no idea he was going to tell you he loved you.”
Pam shook her head. She was reeling, really reeling, and fighting an urge to back out of the room and run. Only the fact that she still had Jim’s hand in hers, and she really couldn’t bear to put it down, was keeping her in her seat. She’d been prepared to hear about Larissa’s life; to learn what she liked, how she thought—normal stuff. Even heavy stuff, if there was heavy stuff to learn, because she knew she’d thrown a lot this woman’s way in a very short amount of time. But she had been expecting nothing like what she’d just heard. She’d really expected Larissa not to say a thing about her, or Jim, or any of it, and hearing this? Was hard. Really hard. So she just nodded, because she couldn’t do anything more. She wasn’t worthy of Jim? She wasn’t there for Jim? It outraged her, but it also saddened her, because really, when had she been there for Jim? He’d never really seemed to need her to be there for him; it wasn’t his way. He was always there for her, until suddenly he wasn’t, and she’d felt his disappearance like a kick in the gut, but she’d never really thought about his angle of it. When had he needed her? Had those 27 seconds of silence on the Booze Cruise been a cry for help? In retrospect, it was obvious. Oh god, how much had he needed her to say something other than “I can’t”—do something more than nod when he asked if she was going to marry Roy? She’d been looking at it from her perspective—that “I can’t” wasn’t “I don’t love you,” that it was a giant concession for her to even think about it head-on for the first time, that she hadn’t been able to even speak about Roy, that she’d needed time and he hadn’t given it to her. But he’d needed her to meet him at least part of the way there. What if she’d just finished the sentence screaming in her head “I can’t deal with this now, I need time?” What if she hadn’t let him think “I can’t” was a full sentence? What if she hadn’t gone on autopilot and said those stupid, stupid things about “misinterpreting” their friendship, or being drunk? She’d been caught up in herself—and she had a right to be caught up in herself, what he was asking her to do was monumental—but she hadn’t thought about what that had done to him. Just because she had the right not to think of him didn’t mean she hadn’t hurt him. And it suddenly made his disappearance—his sudden flight—make so much more sense. She wasn’t there for him; he couldn’t be there for her, not to the last—not with Roy. And she had a right to her anger, sure, but he certainly had a right to his—and he’d clearly had some, given what she was hearing from the woman across from her.
Larissa nodded in response to Pam’s nod and went on, and Pam listened silently, still clutching Jim’s hand like a life preserver. “Yeah, that’s my brother in a nutshell. I’m not trying to embarrass you when I say I knew—our parents knew—Mark knew—basically everyone he talked to knew before you, but of course he couldn’t do the damn thing all of us were asking him to and tell you until a month before your wedding. I’m surprised he even managed that. So I was all prepared to resent you, a lot. But then I needed someone—Jim needed someone—and I thought of you. Thought, what if I’m wrong? What if my brother was, well, being Jim, and she just didn’t know? I owe it to her to call her. And I did. And you answered. And then I realized that I might have just made a gigantic mistake, because if there was one thing Jim had pounded into my head it was that you were getting married on June 10.”
Pam raised her head. “But I didn’t.”
Larissa smiled at her. “You didn’t. But I didn’t know that. So I thought, it’s not reasonable to expect this of her, it’s her wedding day, but you have to try. You can’t hold it against her if she doesn’t come, but you have to try. You’re already on the phone with her, you can’t take it back. So I asked. And you came. And I wanted to apologize, because I almost didn’t give you a chance to show that I was wrong. And I was wrong. You’re here, and I’m so grateful, and I needed to say all of that before…before anything else.”
Pam thought about it for a moment before smiling back at Larissa. “I’m glad you did. Because I am here, and I want to be.” She held up the hand not holding Jim’s. “That doesn’t mean I’m not mad at your brother for telling me he was in love with me and leaving the very next day. But I can’t imagine not being here for him right now, and I’m so, so grateful you let me be.”
“I can’t imagine anyone he’d rather have here. And that includes me.”
The two women exchanged smiles through tears for a moment longer. Then Larissa shook herself and raised an eyebrow. “Now, I think, it’s time for me to tell you about Larissa Halpert.”
Pam mock-bowed. “Please.”
“So, I’m afraid my story is a little less interesting than yours. I grew up here in Scranton and I went to school here too” she gestured to her Marywood shirt. “I just graduated in May from Marywood in architectural design, and I’m working right now with a contractor building houses in some of the new developments on the north side of town. It cracked me up when you said you think in colors and shapes, because I think in shapes too: arches and angles and cantilevers and so on. I’m a former lacrosse champ, though, so I also think of space in terms of action and motion: so many steps, at such and such a speed, and then a hard collision or a throw. And Pam?”
“I’m not my brother. I’m pretty darn active. And I want to say—I like you. And I think we’ll have plenty of things to think about while Sleeping Beauty here,” she touched her brother’s foot “decides about joining us.”
“Thanks. That…that actually means a lot.” And Pam was surprised to realize that it did. “So, architecture, huh? Is that all on computers, or do you get to get down to the nitty gritty?”
The two of them talked for an hour about their common love of corbeled arches (“so old-school, so impractical, but so pleasing”), flying buttresses (“I really wanted to put them on the above-ground swimming pool, but my boss said no, and I kind of see his point”), and the color periwinkle (“I mean, there was a short time I hated it, and I think you might know why, but I’m really starting to dig it again now”). Neither of them forgot why they were there, and the knowledge that Jim was still unconscious weighed on them, but they were able to form a bond between them that helped each bear the load a little more easily.
Thank you all for reading and reviewing. I love hearing any thoughts you might have on this.
June 10-11: Relaxation Room by Comfect
Pam and Larissa talk, and one of them goes home.
Further disclaimer: the Travis lyrics at the end are also not mine.
Pam and Larissa’s heart to heart was only interrupted by a nurse coming in to check in on the patient, which had the effect of expelling them from the room as well—not that the nurse explicitly asked them to but that they (especially Pam) quickly realized they were underfoot and got out. It also brought back to them both the seriousness of the situation with Jim, whose breathing and heartbeat were normal—or as normal as could be expected—but who still hadn’t woken up. Pam could see Larissa was having difficulty keeping it together, and was feeling a strong urge herself to break into tears. They sat in the waiting room, each silent in their own head for a moment. Then Pam remembered something from the last time she was in the hospital, for her mom’s gall bladder. It was a little room on one of the floors with a view out across Roaring Brook and Nay Aug Park—with trees hiding I-81—and some of the comfiest chairs in the whole hospital.
“I…correct me if I’m wrong, but they’re going to be busy with Jim for a little while, right?”
“Um, I think so, why?”
“I have somewhere you might like to see.”
Larissa hadn’t been kidding about being active, Pam thought, as her new friend popped up immediately from her chair and followed her down the hall. Pam realized she had less of an idea than she thought of exactly how to get from the ICU to that corner of the hospital, but she found a helpful janitor a few turns in who pointed her in the direction of a series of signs to a “Relaxation Room” which proved to be exactly the room she remembered. Larissa had kidded her about her inability to find it—“So Pam, I think I’ve figured out where you’re taking me, and I’ve already been to New Jersey”—but when she saw the room she simply stopped. Pam turned around and saw her standing there with tears simply running down her face, and she didn’t stop and think—she just threw her arms around the taller woman. She felt Larissa’s arms go around her and her head rest on Pam’s as she began to sob. After a few minutes, she shook herself and sat down in one of the chairs, wiping her eyes.
“I’m so sorry, Pam, I just…”
“No, I don’t know what came over me, I…”
“Seriously, it’s OK. That’s what friends are for.”
“Thank you. I really needed that. I don’t know why, but you finding this room…it just made me realize how bad the rest of the hospital is, you know? It’s not that it’s a bad hospital—believe me, if Jim had to be somewhere I’m glad it’s here—but it’s so…hospital. The chairs are hard to sit in, harder to sleep in; the walls are just monotonous; it’s all so efficiently medical. And I want it to be, you know? Like, if all the chairs were like this and there were giant windows everywhere and it was all green everywhere, it would feel weird and like they didn’t know what they were doing. I want Jim in a place that feels like they’ll take care of him, like they’ll fix him. But I’ve been here for two days and this is the first time I’ve felt like I could relax. Is that horrible of me? He’s still down there, he’s still just as broken, but I’m relaxed.”
“That’s not horrible. It’s human. It’s why I thought you should come here. And it’s why,” here Pam steeled herself up for what she expected to be a long argument “it’s why I want you to go home tonight, or to Jim’s place, or somewhere that’s not here. You need a night away, a shower, a change of clothes.”
“But I can’t leave Jim alone!” Larissa was almost out of her chair when Pam’s upraised hand stopped her.
“I…I could be here.” She blushed and looked away. “I mean, if you’d let me.” Her voiced dropped almost to an inaudible level. “I’d like to.”
“But I can’t possibly ask you…”
“You didn’t. I’m asking. I want to be here. For Jim.”
Larissa looked deep into Pam’s eyes.
“OK.” She grinned, suddenly looking so much like Jim it hurt Pam for a moment to see her, so she turned aside again. “I’ll admit, I could use a shower and a change of clothes. And my back could use a real bed.” Her grin faded a little. “It will also give me a chance to work harder on getting in touch with our parents. I hate that they don’t know.”
Pam nodded. Larissa grinned again. “And just imagine if Jim wakes up while you’re there. I’d give anything to be a fly on that wall.” At Pam’s sudden panicked expression she impulsively grabbed the other woman’s hand. “He’ll be happy to see you. He loves you. Don’t ever doubt that.” Pam blushed. Larissa let go of her hand but still spoke warmly. “Believe me, I wouldn’t let you do this even if I had been here a week if I didn’t believe both that he loves you and wants you here, and that you…well, let’s just say that you have my complete trust to do what’s best for my brother.”
Pam looked her in the eye. “Thank you. I…I do love him, even if,” another blush “I haven’t told him yet.”
Larissa smiled. “Well, when he wakes up you can tell him. For now, let’s get back there. I’m glad to know this room is here, but if I’m going to go home I want to look in on my brother one more time.”
It turned out that the Relaxation Room was only three turns away from the ICU waiting room when you knew how you were going, so they were back by Jim’s room in what felt like no time compared to how long it had taken them to find it in the first place. Pam paid careful attention to their route so that she could follow it back in case she needed to. They were unsurprised but slightly saddened to find Jim in the same condition as before. Larissa bent over and kissed his forehead, then gave Pam a hug before heading out the door.
A minute later she stuck her head in.
“I should probably give you my cell phone in case anything changes—and I should get yours so I’m not just calling your house and hoping you’ll pick up.”
They traded cell numbers and Larissa tracked down the shift nurse, telling her to give information to Pam as if she were Larissa herself because “she’s family.” Pam smiled at that and tried not to cry, and the hug she gave Larissa when she finally did head out was extremely heartfelt.
Then she settled into the chair in Jim’s room to wait. She pulled out his iPod to find some music to listen to, and finding a playlist labeled “Beesly” (not entirely to her surprise) hit “Play All.”
Twenty seconds into the first song she was sobbing quietly to herself, but she didn’t let herself stop listening. It felt good to let the hurt inside, instead of denying her feelings as she had before.
Colder, crying on your shoulder
Hold her, and tell her everythings gonna be fine
I'm really glad people are still reading and responding to this story, and I'm hoping to keep it going along at or near its present clip. I really do value the feedback you give me as I try to direct this along the way. My current plan is to drop into Jim's head at some point, but it will probably be a little while before he actually gets to wake up (poor guy).
Interlude: In Jim's Head by Comfect
Jim's not doing so great.
Blue. Green. Pain.
Swirling. Pain pain pain.
Roaring emptiness. Niagara Falls, dry, but not silent. Voices? No. Rumbling.
Sound. Unintelligible, undistinguished sound.
LIGHT bad LIGHT.
Purple shoots, green orbs, swirling forking lightning dark.
Not pain pressure.
LIGHT pressure pain wet wet SOUND.
Panic. WAKE PANIC NOTHINGNESS.
Sorry for the short, non-narrative update, but I do want to make clear that Jim is not dead, just dead-to-the-world. Thanks for reading and reviewing, and we'll pick up again with the narrative soon.
June 11: Jim's Unit by Comfect
Pam at 4 am.
Pam was surprised to find herself jerk awake at…what time was it, anyway? She fumbled for her phone before realizing that the TV above Jim’s bed was still on (though the sound was off) and CNN was very interested in telling her it was 4:12 am. She watched whichever preternaturally handsome CNN anchor it was who drew the short straw for the overnight shift (or maybe he was secretly on location in like India or Algeria or something, so it wasn’t as late/early there) mouth voiceless words about whatever crisis it was they were reporting on now—something to do with Albania or something—for a while, trying to decide whether to fall back asleep. A big twinge in her back decided her. She had no idea how Larissa had managed to sleep here for two nights; these chairs were clearly not intended for human habitation. She took Jim’s hand and kissed it quickly, as if she were going to be caught by somebody.
“Hey, Halpert, you’ve really got to do something about the accommodations around here.”
Her own voice sounded strange to her in the comparative silence of the room. She could hear the nurse somewhere on the floor bustling around doing something productive, and a few electronic whirs and clicks from some of the devices with which the room was crammed, but little else. She looked down at Jim, sudden tears blurring his bed (large, white, rectangular) and his face (oval, pink but far too gray, small) in her sight. She sat back down heavily.
“C’mon Halpert. You gotta pull through. If you don’t pull through, you don’t get to make fun of me for how stupid I was last month. You know you can’t resist the chance to tell me you were right after all when I say I’m in love with you.”
What’s that? a voice in her brain taunted her. Pretty big words from you there, Beesly. You love him? I mean, just between you and me, yes, you do, and you have a for a good long while now, haven’t you? But where was this when it could do some good, huh? Where were these big, brave words when he was looking at you with his heart in his eyes and his stomach in his mouth? Then it was I can’t—or worse, nothing at all. Just a nod. You broke his heart with a nod, Beesly. Where was this then
Yeah? another part of her chimed back—to her utter startlement, since she was beginning to think she had nothing but self-loathing left in her. Hey, voice, wherever you come from, you ever notice what you call me?
Yeah, Beesly? What’s it to you?
Ever notice that only one person ever calls me that? Jim Halpert.
So? her inner critic seemed nervous.
So I think it’s worth noticing that Jim’s so much a part of me that even you think of me in his terms. His words are in my heart, voice, and no matter what you say that’s what matters. So it took me a little while to realize how I felt. I know now. And I’m not going to hurt him again.
I’m here now, aren’t I?
That’s what I thought. And if…no, when Jim wakes up, I’m going to still be here, and I’m going to tell him how I feel.
Pam sighed. She was here now. And right now she was pretty sure she wanted to tell Jim how she felt. But it was hard to keep believing that she’d have the chance, with Jim hooked up to all those drips and devices. Still, that second voice was right. Jim was a part of her, and she wasn’t going to let that part of her go without a fight. And if that meant she had to wait forever, well…she’d made him wait a long time. It was her turn, if there had to be turns. But she wasn’t entirely sure there did.
“C’mon Jim. Wake up. Then it can be our turn.”
But he didn’t wake up. After a few minutes of staring at him and holding his hand, Pam felt her back ache again, and she slipped out the door, squeezing Jim’s hand as she left and whispering “Be right back, Halpert. Don’t go anywhere.”
She found the nurse exiting one of the other patients’ rooms and greeted her with a warm smile.
“Hi, Pam. How’s my patient? I was just going to look in on him.”
“I mean, you can probably tell better than I can, but he seems the same.”
“Hey, Pam, that’s good.” Ellen looked Pam in the eye. “We don’t know when Jim will regain consciousness or how he’s going to heal, but right now he’s stable, and stable is good. In the morning the doctors will come in and check in on him, and we’ll know more, but if you weren’t hearing any frantic beeping and he was still breathing, then there’s still hope. OK?”
“OK. I’ll let you check in on him—I’m going up to the Relaxation Room, because my back is killing me—but can you give me an update when I get back?”
“No problem, as long as you don’t interrupt me with another patient. Go on, get some rest.”
Pam turned for the Relaxation Room (left, no, right, it was a left coming back which means it’s a right now, then straight for two hallways…or was it three?) in a better frame of mind. Jim wasn’t alright, no, but the nurse didn’t seem extremely worried. And while she might not have told Pam if she were, surely she wouldn’t have volunteered that particular set of encouraging words if she thought Jim was deep in the weeds, right? That had to mean something.
She made it to the room and sat for a little while, but she could hardly relax despite the room’s name. She had a lot to tell Jim, and bottling it up was difficult, but finding the words was even harder—and would be harder still, she had to admit, once he could actually hear them. She reached into her purse and pulled out a little notebook. Well, if she had so much to say, maybe she had better start by getting some of it down on paper…
Apparently my versions of Pam always have at least three voices in their head (c.f. Asset Management). Sorry about that. And don't worry, Jim will wake up soon, but (just to warn you) Pam and Larissa will still have a little while to go without him as a full participant--whatever that will mean. Thank you to all who read and review, because I really do appreciate the feedback.
June 11: Relaxation Room by Comfect
Pam writes and draws.
Pam scribbled down and threw out draft after draft. Jim, I’m just so sorry, but…nope. Jim, you need to know that I love you. I’ve always loved you, I…nope. Jim, I miss you. Well, I have missed you? It’s kind of weird because now I’m here but you don’t know I’m here and…nope. Jim, Jim, Jim…nope. Her little notebook got emptier and emptier and the pile of crumpled up balls of paper on the little table in the Relaxation Room grew bigger and bigger. She found herself procrastinating from another letter (and why wouldn't the words come? She felt almost pregnant with these emotions, like this was some kind of emotional labor and she just needed to be like one of those women on a TV show with the sheet perfectly positioned to show nothing more than a PG-13 rating can accept and just push push push!) by stacking the balls of paper higher and higher. And then it hit her. Words aren’t her medium. Art is.
She put the last crumpled piece of paper on the pile and sat back to look at it. She slid her chair over a couple of feet, so the lighting was better and the pile of papers was framed against the window, which was almost entirely black except for a slight reflection of her to the upper right of the paper. She flipped the notebook—which doubles as a sketchpad, because she wasn’t going to spend what little money she had left after cancelling the wedding and getting a new apartment and a new car and everything else on materials that didn’t have dual uses—ninety degrees, and pulled out a sharper pencil from her purse. She deftly sketched lines—some straight, mostly varieties of curve—and then darkened them in with the duller pencil where appropriate, giving a sense of the room. The pile of papers served as the centerpiece, framed by the shocking black of the huge window behind. That black shaded to a light gray as it grows closer to the light (off-screen, as it were, to the right) and in the brightest portion of the window she decided to include the little self-portrait she'd been looking at reflected in the glass. She was too tired and too worried about Jim to care about the drooping eyelids or the bags under her eyes, too concerned with more important matters to strategically omit the way that half of her curls are matted down from having slept in the chair by Jim’s room, or to soften the pain in her eyes. So she just drew it, in sharp dark lines against the light pencil gray of the window. She showed herself staring not at the viewer, but at the pile of paper on the table—marking ownership, she thought, or maybe just admitting failure, given the obviously crumpled and discarded nature of the pile. A line from Shakespeare flitted into her head—“this thing of darkness I acknowledge mine”—and she wasn't sure what play it’s from or what the context is for it but it seemed appropriate.
She briefly considered titling the sketch that—“This Thing of Darkness,” Pam Beesly, 2007, graphite and notebook paper—but realized that’s probably not the ideal message to be sending if, as she now plans, she were to give this to Jim. Instead she wrote in firm, blocky capitals across the left top:
TOO MANY WAYS TO SAY I’M SORRY
And, in a fit of honesty at the bottom right
BUT NOT ENOUGH TO SAY HOW MUCH I LOVE YOU
She signed it simply “Beesly,” in the right between the letters and her face.
Glancing at her phone, she realized it was suddenly almost 6, and she hastily pushed all the paper into the recycling bin by the door and rushed down towards Jim’s room. She’d never forgive herself if he’d woken up alone—and anyway, she needed to put this somewhere in his room before she lost her nerve.
When she got to the room, it was just as she left it. Ellen then stuck her head in to say that nothing’s changed, Jim’s still stable, and they expect his first doctor to come by around 7—the pulmonologist, she added, saying at Pam’s blank look that she’ll be checking Jim’s lungs. Pam thanked her and sank into the chair again, setting her notebook on the little table that she thinks is intended to hold gifts or flowers. She popped up, stuck her head into the next room (thankfully, the occupant was asleep—she realized only after she’s done it that there was a little too much Jack Torrance in that moment given how addled she looks after sleeping in a hospital chair), and saw that her instinct was right. The next-door neighbor had a vase of flowers and a few cards propped up on the equivalent table. So she propped her notebook up properly, so that it displays the picture like real artwork, and sat back down in the chair, giving Jim a kiss on the forehead before she settled back down to wait for the doctor—or Larissa, whichever comes first.
A picture is worth 1000 words, right? Too bad I don't have a picture of what I'm imagining Pam drawing, so these 849 words will have to do. Thank you to all who have read and reviewed. I treasure your feedback as I develop where this story is going.
June 11: Jim's Room by Comfect
The first doctor arrives.
Note: I changed the previous chapter back into the past tense, since somehow I'd switched into present.
As it turned out, Larissa was the first to arrive, bustling into the room at seven on the dot. She was immediately followed, however, by the doctor, whose arrival and perusal of Jim’s chart and vitals gave Pam a moment to look her over. Larissa looked…better, she decided. Awake, for one thing, and less droopy. She had looked decidedly peaky last evening before Pam had gotten her to go home and rest, and the rest appeared to have done wonders for her while not damping down her similarity to Jim in the slightest. If anything, it had heightened their resemblance by putting the shine back in Larissa’s eyes in a way that tugged at Pam’s heart by reminding her of how Jim had always looked at her at work. Or at least it heightened her resemblance to the image of Jim that Pam carried around in her soul—a glance back at the real Jim in front of her made he realize that he too didn’t look much like his former self, and that Larissa had possibly looked more like this Jim when she was exhausted.
Pam didn’t like thinking of it that way at all.
She tried hard to shut up her inner monologue and focus on what the doctor had started to say. She was a young but firm-looking Sikh woman with her hair up in a turban, and she was calmly telling Larissa and now Pam that Jim’s lungs were working much better than the last time she’d seen him. She explained that his pallor was due more to residual effects of the crash on his body as a whole and the fact that, as she put it, “unconsciousness isn’t quite as good for you as real sleep” than to any issues with oxygenation or breathing in general. Pam could tell that Larissa was extremely relieved to hear that, and felt herself release the breath she hadn’t realized she was holding. This was her first real update on Jim’s condition besides the little pep talk from the nurse the night before, and she had been worrying (she wasn’t sure if it was rational or not to worry this much—she didn’t have a lot of experience with people she cared about lying around gray and unconscious). At this news she let her mind wander a little with relief, and found herself focusing on the doctor’s turban.
Instantly images flashed back in her mind of another time she was close to someone wearing a turban—the tech (Sadiq?) who helped Michael set up the email surveillance program on their work computers. Sadiq had been a pretty cool guy, as shown by the fact that he hadn’t walked off the job two minutes in when Michael assumed he was a terrorist, but also as shown by how quickly he’d charmed her and Jim when they’d sat down together in the break room. He’d told stories of even dumber people than Michael—though she was pretty sure he was just trying to defuse the tension, because she really hoped those stories were fake—and it had turned out he and Jim had been on the same youth basketball team about three years apart, so they’d joked about the coach for a little while, and ultimately Jim had ended up inviting him to the barbecue at his place that evening. She hadn’t seen a lot of Sadiq at the party, but they’d hung out in the break room every time he’d come by do to some routine IT maintenance since.
Remembering why they hadn’t hung out at the barbecue sent a red flush up Pam’s cheeks involuntarily. Oh god, that party. How had she not realized it right then and there? Hiding in Jim’s room? Giggling over his yearbook photo? Of course Phyllis thought that they were the secret office romance she was referring to. Dwight and Angela—well, she was pretty sure she was right about that, but still—were just too weird to show up on anyone else’s radar. Her and Jim though…that was back before the Booze Cruise, back before Casino Night, back before she’d let herself realize just how much time he spent up at her desk or how much she basked in the attention…or how much she let Roy get away with because he wasn’t actually her primary emotional connection. But in retrospect it was totally obvious.
She suddenly remembered a moment she had totally ignored earlier but that suddenly became much more significant in memory. The one interaction she’d had with Sadiq, at Jim’s party. He’d come up to her asking where the bathroom was. At the time she’d assumed it was just because he’d seen her go on the upstairs tour with everyone else, but now that she recalled it (and why, oh why, did she recall everything from that night so clearly? Oh yeah, because she was in love with Jim. God she really was blind to everything) she remembered that he’d gotten up from between Ryan and Kevin to ask her. Ryan and Kevin who had also been on that tour. He’d come to ask her because he had assumed she knew because he had assumed she and Jim were…close. Probably because he assumed they were dating. Because even someone who’d only hung out with them for twenty minutes (well, nineteen minutes and 37 seconds, she knew because Dwight had yelled at her for taking more than her allotted fifteen minutes) in the office break room and sat on Jim’s ugly couch for a couple hours could see it.
She shook her head slightly to clear it and refocused on the room. The doctor offered Pam and Larissa her card (Priya Kaur, M.D., Pulmonology Associates) and said her goodbyes, reminding them that although Jim’s lungs were doing well, and if it were only the lungs they were concerned with she was sure he’d do well, she couldn’t speak to the rest of him. Then she was gone.
Larissa turned to Pam. “Hey. I see I made it just in time.”
“You could say that. If I didn’t know better I’d say you planned it with the doctor, actually.” Pam smiled. Larissa treating her like a friend made it a lot easier to deal with her memories of how she’d strung Jim along. It reminded her that there was future here too, that if (when) Jim woke up she had a chance to make it all better. “In fact, I think your T-shirt complimented her scrubs—are you sure you guys didn’t coordinate?”
“Hah. I’ll forgive you for saying my favorite T-shirt looks like hospital scrubs if you’ll tell me how the night went, Pam.”
“Oh, you know, pretty good actually. Ellen told me as long as there was no frantic beeping and he kept breathing it was OK, and, you know, that’s basically how it went.”
“You get any sleep?”
“A little. But, well, you know, you’ve been here for a few nights, it’s not that easy.”
“Yeah. Thanks again for making me go home last night. It meant a lot to actually sleep in my own bed, shower, change clothes, things like that.”
“My pleasure.” And she meant it. It really was a pleasure to be by Jim’s side—to feel like part of his family even if she hadn’t really earned it. He’d have done the same for her, after all.
“Hey, what’s this?”
Pam glanced back from looking lovingly at Jim to see Larissa pointing at the sketch she’d propped up next to Jim’s bed.
“Did you make this, Pam?”
What will Pam say? Who knows. Thanks to all who have read, reviewed, or jellybeaned. I appreciate all the feedback.
Interlude II: Jim's Head by Comfect
Jim comes closer to the surface.
White. White. WHITE.
Not just light, incandescent, formless, vivid.
Bright white light.
Not enough to wake up. No, waking up was…not on the agenda.
But enough to go from formless emptiness to dreams.
He was on a boat—not like on the Booze Cruise, that was more of a ship, a boat, with two oars and two seats—and he was drifting.
He wondered who was supposed to be in the other seat.
No, it couldn’t be Pam. He’d screwed things up with Pam, blow that all to smithereens with a misguided and mis-timed declaration of love.
Or had he?
She’d kissed him back, after the declaration of love. After she’d said “I can’t,” she had. She’d admitted she wanted to kiss him, admitted she wasn’t drunk.
She’d nodded when he’d asked if she was still going to marry Roy.
But she hadn’t said it herself.
Why did he bring Roy up? Why then? What stupid drive compelled him to push push push when she was already so close?
It was precisely because she was so close that he’d pushed, of course. And that was a mistake. But she felt it, he was sure of it. Felt it just like he did, except she had Roy to think of so it didn’t consume her the way it did him, because she couldn’t give in to it. But she felt it, and that was everything.
But if it was Pam who was supposed to be in that seat, why wasn’t she?
Oh. Because you left her, you complete idiot. Because you transferred to Stamford without saying goodbye, because you were on your way to Australia without even talking to her once more after that night, because you dumped all your emotional shit on her without giving her time to breathe.
Hmm, just as he thought that he realized that those clouds in the distance looked really unpleasant.
It would probably help if there were, say, someone else rowing with you right now.
Or if you had a destination. Besides “away,” I mean. No, Stamford doesn’t count.
He looked over his shoulder. Land ho. Of course it was behind him. He was in the act of leaving everything he cared about, everything that mattered, behind him.
He heard a voice breaking through the clouds. “I did.”
The rain came. It soaked his skin, filled the boat. How does a boat keep floating when it’s full of water? Convenient that dreams have their own logic, he mused. He sat in the waterlogged boat wondering how to get it moving.
Well, if Pam were actually here I’m sure she’d have some idea for you. Too bad you didn’t keep in touch.
He sighed. Running away from Pam had seemed like such a good idea—scratch that, like a necessary piece of self-preservation—and he’d run. Like a coward. All that courage he’d screwed up on Casino Night had apparently been a one-time thing because as soon as it was spent he was out of there. Even when he wasn’t out of there yet, because he’d still had a month to go before his Australia trip, he’d found a way to not be there, working “remotely from Stamford” instead of sucking it up and going in to work at Scranton. And now he was on his way to Australia. OK, that one he couldn’t blame himself for—except for the fact that it was June you idiot. Also known colloquially as “winter in Australia.” Well, at least he was pretty sure they had beer there year-round, though he hoped it was better than that Foster’s crap—and if it wasn’t, hey, he could drown his dual sorrows about Pam marrying Roy and him being a total idiot about it just as easily in cheap beer as in expensive.
He wondered where he was in the trip. He oddly didn’t seem to recall actually going to the airport, even though he was sure that he must now be on one of the two big flights—Philadelphia-LA, LA-Sydney—if he was getting this much sleep. That light must have been the cabin lights, or maybe he had gotten a window facing the sun. Wherever he was, it wasn’t Scranton, PA, where he was rapidly beginning to realize he belonged. He gave up on the water, and the rowboat, and the clouds, and let the sleep roll back in.
Turns out it's not just Pam who has some guilt to work through. Next episode, find out what Pam said to Larissa about the painting. Thank you to all who have read and reviewed. I'm glad to hear from you.
June 11: Jim's Room, with Visitors by Comfect
“I did.” Pam wasn’t sure what else to say. She was seized by a sudden urge to beg Larissa’s forgiveness for her presumption in putting it by Jim’s bedside; for her arrogance in making this about her when it clearly should be about Jim, who was sitting there unconscious for god’s sake. What kind of selfish person was she? She was about to give a voice to all this, to offer to put it away until a more opportune time, or rip it up, or something, when she realized Larissa was already speaking.
“It’s lovely. I really like it. When did you have the time though? I was gone for eight hours, Pam! That’s barely enough time for me to start thinking of the basics of an architectural drawing.”
Pam became aware that Larissa was, in fact, smiling.
“I’m serious, Pam, this is good work. Jim always said you were a real artist, but I guess I figured it was rose-colored glasses, you know? Jim never thought anything but the best of you, so I discounted everything he said. I guess I shouldn’t have. After all, he was, like, totally right about how pretty you are, too, so…what?”
Pam realized she was staring at Larissa in something akin to disbelief. Jim said I was pretty? Jim said I was pretty so much that his sister remembers it? She thinks I’m pretty? And Jim said I was a real artist too? I think I must have fallen asleep harder than I thought last night, because I’m pretty sure I’m still dreaming. She struggled to form a response with all the thoughts whirling through her head, including the countercurrent that muttered Of course he did. He loves you.
“Um…do you think he’ll like it?”
“Oh! Yeah, totally. I mean, he’ll probably frame it in his bedroom or some dorky thing like that, so yeah, he’ll love it.” Larissa saw that Pam was still struggling with something—embarrassment? Shyness?—so she quickly changed the subject slightly. “Um, speaking of which! I got some Command strips, we can start sticking up the stuff you brought from his house.”
“Oh! Yeah, that sounds good.” Pam was a bit relieved to move on from the question of her sketch for Jim, which she now realized she’d given pride of place—everything else would be on the wall, but her sketch was by his side. Well, if it didn’t bother Larissa she was determined not to worry herself too much about it. For now.
They spent a few minutes putting everything up, finding not much disagreement between them about which of Jim’s pieces of memorabilia should go where. When the room was decorated to their satisfaction, they chatted for a little about more minor things (their opinions of Jim’s taste in music, favorite fabric softener brands, things like that) until the next in what proved to be an almost unending cavalcade of doctors came in. Cardiologists (his heart’s still pumping! You gotta like that), neurologists (hmm…it’s likely that he’ll come out of it soon, but if he’s really in what looks to be a deep sleep there’s probably nothing better for healing than that, so I don’t recommend taking any extraordinary efforts to wake him up), gastroenterologists (his stomach took a hit from that crash but we think he’ll be on regular food fairly soon after he wakes up), nephrologists (kidney function is normal in this patient), even a psychiatrist (I guess they sent me in early! There won’t be much to say until I can talk to him), as well as the Halperts’ GP (Hi Larissa, it’s good to see you again. How’s the knee? It looks like Jim’s coming along fine considering everything. And you must be Pam…) all came along trooping in one after the other, along with a nurse’s shift change and the apparently normal routine of changing out Jim’s IV drips, catheter bag (Pam looked away for that one, which Larissa teased her about), and sheets.
By the time the last doctor was out of the room (don’t let him eat anything solid until we have a chance to check him!) Pam was exhausted, and Larissa looked just like she had when Pam first came in the day before. She looked at Pam, quirked an eyebrow, and smiled.
“Welcome to the family, Pam. You’ve now met, like, all of Jim’s doctors, and I think Dr. Pederson in particular was very happy to see you. He’s been our family doctor for years and he keeps teasing us all about when we’re going to start dating and…”
Pam was at this point about three shades beyond crimson on the color scale her art teacher in high school made her memorize. Larissa grinned.
“…and I think he saw the sketchbook.”
Pam’s embarrassment was now beyond the point where it could express itself in blushes. She found herself giggling inanely and thought she saw Larissa’s grin grow even wider and more mischievous.
“Now, before I kill you with embarrassment and get Jim mad at me, how about we get something to eat at the hospital cafeteria? That neurologist told us that they don’t even want Jim to wake up right now, so we won’t miss anything, and we can compare notes on what they told us.”
Pam, still giggling and red, couldn’t quite muster the effort to actually speak, but she nodded vigorously. Food was a good idea. When you were eating food, it didn’t tend to ambush you with old family doctors who now knew more about your feelings for Jim than Jim did. Or at least, it didn’t in normal, well-run hospitals without Larissa Halpert in them. Who knew what might be lurking in this one. A grilled cheese sandwich that had been in the Halpert family for years and just thought Jim needed to settle down? A mixed-berry yogurt that thought it was sweet that little Jimmy had finally found a girl, since it remembered when he’d pulled Amy Vanderbeek’s pigtails in elementary school? She found herself wishing she could share these images with Jim, and the urge to giggle faded.
Next chapter: Pam, Larissa, and food.
Thank you to all who have been reading and reviewing, it makes my day to see your responses.
June 11: The Cafeteria by Comfect
Pam and Larissa eat lunch.
The hospital cafeteria was much as Pam remembered from the couple of meals she’d grabbed here when her mom was in for her surgery, except that they’d added a small Starbucks-like coffee shop in the front vestibule. She almost grabbed a twenty-ounce fancy coffee from there to make up for sleeping in the chair in Jim’s room, but noticed they had a chai latte and opted for the lesser caffeine but better taste of tea instead. She hesitated about food options before the basic grill in the corner caught her eye and she found herself ordering two grilled cheese sandwiches in honor of Jim. She met back up with Larissa at the unified checkout and they sat together. Larissa had a pile of something spicy on her plate from the Chinese food stall with a side of rice, along with a Mountain Dew. She quirked an eyebrow at Pam’s spread.
“I see you and my brother have similar tastes in food too.”
“Don’t worry, Pam, I’m just teasing. Jim was always the traditionalist in the family. I,” and here she took a big bite of whatever-it-was “actually like flavor in my food.”
Pam giggled and took a bite of her sandwich. “Hey, there’s flavor in a good grilled cheese.”
“Maybe in a good one, but my brother’s…”
“Jim makes very good grilled cheese.” She blushed.
“Oh my god that’s right, I forgot. He totally made you grilled cheese that one time on the roof.”
Pam blushed harder. Did he tell Larissa everything?
“Anyway, I don’t think that was a normal grilled cheese for him. He probably, like, actually put something on it besides plain white bread and a slice of American. Maybe for you he even discovered, like, butter or mayo or something.”
Pam nodded. The grilled cheese had been nothing fancy, but it had certainly been a little more involved what Larissa was describing.
“Yeah, well, you should feel special. I’ve eaten with Jim tons of times and he’s usually pretty lazy about what goes into that grilled cheese. Then again, I’m just his sister.”
Pam felt the need to defend Jim’s honor, even if she wasn’t entirely sure it was under attack. “He said it was famous, so I think he’s made it before.”
“Maybe so, but I’m gonna go out on a limb and say he upped his game for you.”
Pam hoped so. But then again, how had she responded to this upped-game sandwich? By shooting Jim down the next day when he’d joked about it being their first date. Of course, she was engaged then, so he deserved the put-down, but she could have been nicer about it, especially since he was apparently pulling out all the stops for her—and she wasn’t minding it one bit, except when he reminded her it was happening. She took a sip of chai to calm her nerves.
Larissa put down her fork. “So, Pam, what exactly are your intentions towards my brother?”
Pam spit out her chai. “Um…what?”
Larissa was laughing, and it reminded her so much of Jim’s laugh—a glorious sound that Pam hadn’t heard since Casino Night—that it almost hurt. The hot tea she’d just spit on herself did hurt. But she couldn’t quite keep an angry face as Larissa giggled out “I’m sorry, I just couldn’t resist. I’ve always loved those old movies where the dour old man asks our hero that about his beautiful daughter.”
“It’s OK. Um…I think my intentions depend on Jim’s? Like, you saw the sketch, and um…”
“Pam.” Larissa put a hand on Pam’s. “I saw the sketch. I also know my brother. I don’t think you need to have any worries there. I wouldn’t have let you stay with him if I had any. So what I’m really asking is…are you ready? I know you just got out of a long relationship, and I don’t want to pressure you to be with Jim if you’re not really ready to, just because he got into an accident.”
“No, no, I…I’m in love with Jim. I’m ready. I just…it’s hard to say something like ‘we’re going to date’ when, you know, I haven’t actually talked to him in a month and he’s sitting upstairs in the ICU.”
“I understand. And don’t think I’d be joking around with you if the doctors hadn’t basically convinced me he’s going to pull through. The comparison between today and the first night I was here…Pam, it was horrible. This is so much better, and I just…I’m sure he’s going to be OK. And Pam?”
“Once he is OK, you really don’t need to worry if you’re going to go on a date, assuming you’re ready. I think we’re going to have to slow that boy down from proposing to you, if anything.”
Pam stammered. “I…”
“I did say we’d slow him down, right? Don’t worry, he wouldn’t put you on the spot like that. But yeah, he’s head over heels. Before I met you, I’d have said it was sad.”
“And now?” Pam wasn’t sure she wanted to hear it but the words came out without conscious thought.
“Now I’m not sure I should be slowing him down at all.”
Pam blushed again. It was beginning to be a habit with her, she realized, one she should probably tone down especially if she was going to be seeing a lot of Jim anytime soon. But then she realized she didn’t have to tone it down anymore. She wasn’t engaged. She wasn’t married, thank god. She was free to blush at Larissa, or Jim, or anyone she wanted, because she could actually do something about it. And it was Jim. Jim who had said he was in love with her—who had told Larissa an embarrassing number of stories about her—who Larissa was sure still loved her. And whom she was rapidly beginning to realize she had been in love with for a lot longer than she’d let herself know. She smiled at Larissa over the cafeteria table.
“I think you should slow him down, because I did just break up with my fiancée. And besides, I think this time maybe I’d like to do the proposing myself.”
This time it was Larissa who had to do the spit-take.
Thank you to all who have read and reviewed. I really appreciate all feedback very deeply.
June 11: By Jim's Side by Comfect
Pam and Larissa have another heart-to-heart.
Pam was never sad to see Jim, but she had to admit she felt a little trepidation as she and Larissa walked back upstairs after lunch. There was something about Larissa that reminded her so strongly of Jim that she could almost forget for a moment that the genuine article was sitting upstairs, only not in pain because he wasn’t fully conscious. But at the same time the little part of Jim that she saw in Larissa only reminded her of how much he had become a welcome, beloved part of her life, and how much she wanted him to wake up. And in some ways that was the worst part, because each time she walked into the room she half-expected to see a woken, smiling Jim Halpert.
And every time she was disappointed.
This time she and Larissa looked into the room to see a nurse changing another of Jim’s IV bags (Pam thought this was actually just the simple saline but she supposed any bag could run out). He smiled at them and waved them in, and they took seats out of his way. Pam tried to let Larissa have the seat next to Jim, since she felt like she’d been hogging that spot ever since she’d arrived, but Larissa simply sat down in another chair—and Pam might be polite, but she wasn’t going to do anything so stupid as to leave the spot by Jim empty. Larissa smiled at her hesitation.
“Go on, you know you want to. Anyway, it does me good to see you there.”
“Really. Pam, I don’t know if you realized quite how crazy I was going before you showed up.”
“I don’t think I did, no.”
“Well, I was frantic. And I hadn’t slept or really eaten much or…well, basically I was a mess. And then you showed up. I’ll be honest—if my idiot brother does somehow screw this up with you, don’t think I’m going to let you get away. You’re going to be a Halpert like it or not. You showed up and you’ve been amazing, and I’ve been able to breathe and sleep and everything. So you go on and sit there. You’ve earned it.”
Pam blushed and looked at her feet. You’re going to be a Halpert like it or not. She definitely liked.
“Oh, I suppose I should tell you—I finally got an email back from our parents. They’re in Sydney, desperately trying to change their flight to come back, but there aren’t many flights—something about a storm in the Pacific—so it’ll be a while. And Mark called but there’s not much he can do, he’s still at the wedding, so it’s just you and me. And the big guy of course.” She patted Jim’s knee and eyed Pam. “And everyone’s super glad you’re here. I’m not sure if I was entirely clear last night, but we all knew about Jim’s feelings for you, and everyone is over the moon to know that I managed to get ahold of you. Mark’s exact words were ‘what kind of freaking miracle-worker are you, Larissa?’ So thanks for that too—now everyone thinks I have some kind of magic touch.”
Pam decided she had better things to do with her time than blushing, even if no one had told her face yet. “I guess you do. By the way, did any of you take the opportunity to tell our favorite idiot that instead of letting you all know how he felt he should maybe have clued me in a little earlier?”
“Hah. As if I told him anything else. But you know him, stubborn little dumbass thought it would magically happen without him doing anything.”
“Don’t you call my Jim a dumbass.”
Pam slapped a hand over her mouth while Larissa burst out laughing. What possessed me to call him my Jim to his own sister of all people? After realizing that nothing in the world had actually exploded from her calling Jim hers—except Larissa’s insides, which were clearly fit to burst—she lowered her hand and said quietly “that’s my job.”
Larissa had almost recovered from her gigglefit, but that sent her back into hysterics. After she finally calmed down she gasped out “And I can’t wait to hear you call him that to his face. Can I be in the room? It’ll be priceless. His face, I mean.”
“I dunno, I think you might cramp my style. Maybe one of those two-way mirror rooms? Like in an interrogation room or a creepy guy’s house?”
“Oh, great idea! I can hide behind the glass and you can have an earpiece and I can tell you how ridiculous he looks.”
“Won’t I be in the room? I think it’ll be pretty obvious how ridiculous he looks.”
“But won’t you want my running commentary on it? After all, you may know Jim now, but only I can tell you whether he looks more or less ridiculous than the time when he went through my backpack at age 16 looking for a Sharpie and I got to tell him what he’d found was actually a tampon.”
“In that case, carry on. In fact, I think I’m going to need a full description of tampongate before we even get to the interrogation room.”
“Deal. I’ll tell you all about it sometime soon—but I think I might want to make sure Jim’s entirely with us before I give you the whole play-by-play. Something tells me his reaction to that would be equally worthwhile.”
“You know it.”
“OK, lunch is going through me a little too fast—sorry, TMI, I know, I don’t have the world’s best filter—so I’m going to hit the head…”
“What are you, a sailor? Did I stumble onto the HMS Halpert by accident?”
Larissa stuck out her tongue. “As I was saying, I’m going to hit the head…” she paused an quirked an eyebrow, then gave Pam a look that said “that’s what I thought” before continuing “and when I get back we’ll look through Facebook on my phone and see what embarrassing childhood photos we can find.”
“Aye, aye, Larissa.”
Pam stuck her tongue out back before Larissa shot her a glare and left the room. Then she scooted the chair closer to Jim’s bedside, grabbed his hand, and started talking to him. It made her feel good to address him, even if she wasn’t sure how much he was all there.
“Hey Jim. I like your sister. A lot. She reminds me of someone I used to know. Really cool guy, kinda lanky, great sense of humor. Maybe you’ve seen him around the office. I know I haven’t recently, because he transferred after I really messed up. He told me he loved me, put it all on the line to let me know how I felt, and I froze. I told him ‘I can’t,’ and I let him think I was going to marry Roy. And then he left, and I realized ‘I can’t’ was totally wrong. Like, completely totally. It’s not just that I can. It’s that I have to. I can’t not. I love you, Jim. I know it’s cheating to tell you when you can’t actually hear me or talk to me or anything, but I do. I love you, I’m in love with you, I need you. And I need you to be OK. I need you to come back. Larissa says you’re going to be OK, and I really want to believe her, but it’s hard when I see you like this. She also says—and you’re going to love this—that I’m going to be a Halpert whether I like it or not. What do you think of that? I think it’s a lot more of a matter of whether you like it or not, because I’m here, Jim. I’m here, and I’m not running away. I need you to meet me halfway, OK? I’m here, I’ll stay, but I need you to come back. I really need you, Jim. I think you might agree with me that it really sucks when someone you love isn’t ready to tell you they love you back. Well, hurry up and wake up, Halpert, because I’m telling you I’m in love with you, and I really need you to say it back.”
Next time we'll get Jim's dreams while listening to Pam's speech. Thank you to all who've read and reviewed; I love hearing from you all.
Interlude III: Jim's Head by Comfect
Jim's dreams during Pam's speech.
He was running. Endlessly running. Not on a treadmill, like on a NordicTrack or his career path, not in place like some deranged maniac (he imagined Dwight at his dojo), not in quicksand like he had been in so many of his dreams when he felt like Pam would never care for him (his dreams, when he remembered them, were rarely pleasant and never subtle). No, he was running endlessly, constantly moving but on a landscape so vast that his constant movement seemed to make no impression upon the mighty wastes. He imagined this would be what it would be like to run in the Sahara Desert, or in Hell.
But he knew it was a dream. He knew it was a dream for the simple reason that the only scenery on the endless blank landscape was a series of monuments to his past failures, themselves created on a scale so massive they beggared his imagination and he could only conceive of them as natural features of the desert, not as monuments at all—monuments required will, intention, humanity, and he could not conceive of a vision implemented on this grand a scale. And yet—and such is the logic of dreams—he could see every detail on them plain as day, no matter how far he stood from each, and each one somehow managed to evoke an entire memory, even where the memory itself would have been unreducible to a single symbol even by someone as talented as his little sister the architect. Despite knowing no single structure could express those moments, he nevertheless saw and felt them there on the horizon. “Look on my works, ye mighty, and despair” he thought, then chuckled wryly at the realization that if anyone was going to despair over these works it was going to be him.
There in the distance was the time Larissa fell out of a tree when she was four and he was ten. He’d run—like he was running now—to try and catch her, seeing her slip out of the corner of his eye, and all he’d received in exchange was the opportunity to see her hit the ground a foot in front of his outstretched arms. She hadn’t broken anything—anything but her trust that her big brother would always catch her. It had taken him months to rebuild that trust, and he would never forget the way she’d looked at him when she hit the ground: like the pain of the impact was nothing compared to the pain of knowing he’d failed her.
There beyond it was the day he’d dropped out of college because he couldn’t stand racking up student loans when he had no chance of a job in his chosen field. Print media was dying, everyone said it—all news was national because all stations were national, and the local sports beats he’d grown up wanting to write for were blogs at best and AP bylines at worst, making no one any money, least of all the writer. The scholarships had dried up—there was one he’d been looking at to cover senior year that had a fifty year history, for god’s sake, and they’d announced its termination his junior year—and the loans were building up and he’d decided he needed to look for a job. But he’d never been able to kick the shame. No amount of “Bill Gates was a college dropout” or “you have a steady, full-time job” or “you’re so smart” had fully assuaged the feeling that if he had hung on and gotten that degree he might not be a failing paper salesman at a failing paper company with a broken heart (well, that one was recent, but the other two were longstanding fears). After all, what could be dumber than dropping out of school because print media is dead in order to go sell paper for a living?
There beside the others was the opportunity he’d passed up to get into his friend Tim’s startup on the ground floor. He’d never quite understood what the product was, but Tim had assured him that he didn’t need to worry about it. He just needed to do what he was good at and leave the software guys doing their thing. “We need people like you, Jim! I can’t sell this alone!” But he had said no, he needed something steady, something predictable, and it had turned out that Tim could sell it alone. Not to the general public maybe—he’d never made it profitable—but definitely to Microsoft—or was it IBM? HP?—who’d paid out millions for an idea that, now that he remembered, hadn’t ended up going anywhere. That was Jim’s one chance, he sometimes thought, his one opportunity to be independently wealthy—maybe wealthy enough to support himself writing the blog that covered all the stuff he’d always wanted to cover. This was a comparatively small regret—reflected in its being a comparatively small monument, if “the size of Mercury, not Jupiter” was small—but it still rankled whenever he thought about moving on from Dunder Mifflin. Why hadn’t he done it when the getting was good?
He was still running imperceptibly along the massive landscape, but he could somehow feel himself making progress—and as if the thought were father to the action, he suddenly saw new monuments hove into view in the distance, still miraculously legible from so far away. He knew these monuments, and feared them. They all had to do with Pam, and they were mighty.
There never mentioning to her again the time she kissed him at the Dundies; there never telling her how wrong Roy was for her straight out; there his failed relationship with Katy, who seemed perfectly nice but made the dual mistakes of not being Pam and reminding him of it; there “sometimes I just don’t get Roy” followed by 27 seconds of silence; there the time he’d joked about a date and been shot down; there “you’ve got to take a chance on something sometime, Pam”; there Dwight’s dojo; there telling her he was over his crush on her; there booking tickets to Australia the day of her wedding but not telling her why; there the cowardice of arranging a transfer before telling her how he felt; and there at the end two massive monuments standing in for Casino Night.
Unlike the others, a description of which would have eluded even a Pam or a Larissa, these were easily described even by such an amateur as himself. One was five letters and an apostrophe in massive block type:
The other was more impressively carved, though no more devastating to his heart. It was a beautiful carving of Pam’s face—alright, he’d think anything with Pam’s face on it was beautiful, but the workmanship was almost lifelike—tears standing in her eyes, and nodding. It was the image burned into his memory at the end of the night, her nodding to tell him she would marry Roy despite everything between them. This was a monument to what had sent him into the spiral from which he was beginning to think he would never emerge, even when this flight (which seemed inordinately long) touched down in Sydney and he could finally wake up.
And then the head of Pam opened its mouth.
This was wrong.
He remembered that night, had lived through that night waking and sleeping for a month, and he knew every detail by heart. At no point after she nodded at him did she say a word to him. She was silent, staring at her feet like he had when he had come up with the idea for her Whitest Sneakers Dundie, only sadder. But she hadn’t spoken.
And now she was.
He couldn’t quite hear; it was like a concert when you stand too close to the speakers and can only feel the sound moving through you, altering your body without doing you the basic courtesy of passing through your eardrums first. He could only catch snippets of her voice—and it sounded like he’d imagined it would have sounded if she had managed to speak that day. It sounded a little rough, and a little teary, and a lot sad, and it tore him up inside to hear it. No matter what he felt about her choices, he never wanted her to feel that way—least of all because of him.
“Really cool guy, kinda lanky, great sense of humor. Maybe you’ve seen him around the office.”
She can’t be talking about me, right? If this is Casino Night, whoever coordinates my dreams, you’re doing a really bad job of it, unless the next words I hear are “best friend.” Because she didn’t compliment me that night. She told me she was going to marry Roy.
Come on now, you’re repeating yourself. I demand to speak to the management of this dream. There’s already another whole monolith devoted to that one. Get some new material.
“I was going to marry Roy.”
Now we’re back on track. Wait, was? Can we run that back again? Someone have a VCR remote or something, because I think I heard was.
“And then he left.”
Roy left her? That absolute prick. OK, Jim, but this is your subconscious. Of course in your subconscious she’s not with Roy. This isn’t real. It’s just you tormenting you by making yourself think she’s free.
“I have to.”
Come on subconscious, you’re killing me here.
“I can’t not.”
OK, now I’m just confused.
“I love you, Jim.”
That’s just unfair. I want to wake up. Someone help me wake up. I can’t take this. I can’t take dream Pam saying she loves me and Roy left her and she can. It hurts too much. I’ll take the silent mockery of giant monuments over this.
“I need you to be OK.”
I am definitely not OK right now.
Oh shit. That’s right. I left. All of this could be real—it isn’t, but it could be—and none of it would matter. I’m on a plane to Sydney, Australia right now. When I come back I’m officially moving to Stamford, Connecticut. I left her. I left her. I gave her no time to think, no time to talk, no time for anything. I just left. Oh my god, I need to go back. I need to apologize. Even if she doesn’t want to talk to me, even if this is just my subconscious being a total tease, I can’t leave things the way I did. I threw my heart at her and when she didn’t immediately rip her own out and give it to me I ran away. I’m still running away. I’ve been running this entire time. And I owe her more than that.
“I’m not running away.”
And suddenly he realized he wasn’t either. Somewhere in there he’d stopped running, and the desert had gone on regardless. He was standing there in the desert on his own two feet looking at the monuments—and as he watched, the ground began to rumble. It shook so hard he had difficulty standing in place, but when the rumbling stopped and he looked back up he saw something had changed. He didn’t know if it was the cause or the result of the rumbling, but when he looked back at the first monument to Casino Night two pieces had fallen off.
It read I CAN.
Just a head's up that I may take a little while before the next update, because I'm going out of town for two weddings this weekend so my time is not my own. Thank you to all who've read and reviewed! I love hearing from you.
June 11: Waiting Room by Comfect
I'm back! Pam and Larissa look at photos.
Jim was sleeping. She wasn’t sure exactly what the difference was, but she could just tell, somehow, that there was more going on in there than there had been before. Of course, it frustrated her a little bit that even if he was in there now he wasn’t really with her yet: she wanted him to hurry up and wake up. But both she and Larissa were in agreement that this was Jim asleep, not Jim unconscious. The nurse smiled when they told her, but didn’t do anything different, and on reflection Pam realized that of course she wouldn’t do anything different: Jim was still on a long path to recovery, and what they were doing for him (IV drips, hospital bed, rest) was all they could do until he was ready for the next step.
Pam of course was ready for that next step right now. Maybe yesterday. But not, she reflected, before yesterday. Because before yesterday she’d thought Jim Halpert was lost to her forever, and that he’d never want to see her again. She still wasn’t sure that that second one wasn’t the case—it’s not like Jim had any choice that she was here—but she was just so glad that the first one was wrong. She could, would, did see Jim. And Larissa seemed pretty emphatic that she would get to see more of him going forward, or else. But if she wasn’t sure of that, wasn’t ready for that, before yesterday, it was probably unfair to expect Jim (who had been unconscious or sleeping for three days now) to be ready any earlier than his body let him be.
She and Larissa huddled in the waiting room while the nurses did something-or-other with Jim in his room, their physical closeness a mirror of the growing personal closeness between them. Pam had begun with a warmth towards Larissa because of how much she was like Jim, but their burgeoning friendship was deeper than that. She liked Larissa for herself as well as for being Jim’s sister, and she dared to hope that Larissa felt the same. This was of course especially important because while she might like Larissa because of how she felt about Jim, Larissa had every reason to dislike her for how she had treated Jim despite those feelings. But Larissa seemed extremely understanding about everything—and when Pam tried to broach the subject, Larissa laughed at her, reminding her that while Jim was “like, my best friend, and everything” he was still “my brother” and thus always and inherently “an idiot when it comes to girls.”
Pam wasn’t sure she agreed. After all, Jim had swept her off her feet so efficiently that she hadn’t even realized they weren’t touching the ground until she’d tried to walk away from him. He certainly understood her, if not “girls” in general. But it seemed to get her off the hook with Larissa for breaking his heart, so she wasn’t going to disagree out loud.
Right now Larissa was showing her the childhood photos her parents had uploaded to Facebook in a burst of initiative the prior Thanksgiving. There was Jim wearing a cute little dinosaur rain jacket (Pam was able to identify it later as a stegosaurus, specifically) while someone (his mother? A grandmother? An aunt?) hovered in the background making sure he didn’t fall over. There was baby Jim staring deep into her eyes—or rather, the camera’s—while being held at what looked like his first birthday party. There was Larissa, toddling after a somewhat larger Jim holding a Beanie Baby for her to follow and looking proud as punch that his baby sister was walking. There he was as a lanky (and adorable, Pam reflected) teen squinting at something just out of frame in deep concentration while Larissa prepared to dump a bucket over his head. Wait a minute…Pam blinked twice. “What are you doing there?”
Larissa giggled. “That was his biology project junior year, on mitochondria or something. He was so serious about it—like, unusually serious—and I just thought he deserved to be celebrated for finally finishing it.”
“Celebrated?” Pam could feel the Halpert rubbing off on her as she cocked an eyebrow Larissa’s way.
“Yeah, celebrated. OK, and maybe taken down a notch and made to act like the brother I was used to, but mostly celebrated.”
“That doesn’t look much like a celebration to me.”
“What do you mean?”
“You’re just dumping water all over him.”
“Water? Pamela Beesly! Have you never watched a football game in your life?”
“Umm…” Pam really didn’t want to bring Roy up in this context, and she wasn’t sure of the reason for the question, but she couldn’t help but answer Larissa honestly. “I used to date the quarterback, so I’ve been at a lot. But I usually pulled out my sketchbook by the second quarter. Why do you ask?”
“Because, my dear Pam, if you had kept your focus on the game, you would have noticed how they celebrate a win.”
“That doesn’t look much like beer in the parking lot to me.”
Larissa giggled. “No, silly, not that. It’s a Gatorade shower. They dump Gatorade all over the winning coach when they know they’ve won.”
“Oh my god. That’s GATORADE?”
“How pissed was he?”
“Oh, he was steaming. But I didn’t hit the poster, and Mom was taking the picture so he knew she wasn’t going to be on his side for this one. Oh, and one thing about giving someone a Gatorade shower: it’s really easy to run away from them because they just had a bucket of Gatorade dumped on them. So by the time he’d caught me he’d cooled down so much he was just laughing, and all he did was tell me that I had to share in his victory and give me a giant super wet hug.”
“That sounds…very Jim.”
“It was. I think there’s a photo of us both taken after that, but Mom didn’t put it online for some reason.”
“She really let you dump Gatorade on him and just stood by taking pictures?”
“Yeah. I think she was as tired of hearing about mitochondria as I was by then.”
Larissa swiped to the next photo, Jim at his high school graduation, then to her at hers.
“You two look so proud of each other in those photos.”
“We were. We are. Or at least, I’m super proud of Jim for the guy he’s turned into, and I know he’s proud of me for going after my goals in architecture.”
“You should be, and so should he. But I think I have to give the most credit to your parents, unless you’re going to tell me you turned out this way despite them instead of because of them?”
“Nah, Mom and Dad are great. You’ll love them—and I’m pretty sure they’ll love you.”
“I’m sure I will, and I really hope they do. It’s…kind of important to me, for some reason.”
“I wonder what that might be.” Larissa stuck out her tongue at Pam. “Don’t worry. They won’t be back from Australia for a few days, but when they get here…”
Pam almost tuned Larissa out as something panicked inside her jumped in alarm at the realization that Jim’s parents would (at some point soon) be coming here. Here to the hospital where she was keeping a one-sided vigil by their son whose heart she had broken and whom she had driven away. Larissa noticed her sudden change of mood and grabbed her hand.
“This is what I was talking about. Don’t worry. They know all about you and Jim, just like I do, and they know Jim. They’re not going to blame you. They’re just going to be glad you’re here. And so’s Jim.”
“Thanks. It’s…weird knowing that you and your parents have heard so much about me. Not that I haven’t heard all about you, but, like, it’s different. You’re family, and I…”
“You’re family too, Pam. Now, let’s go back in and see how Jim’s doing. I think if you can talk to him you’ll get over this crazy worry that we won’t all love you.”
Pam blushed, and Larissa mock-scowled at her. “None of that now! I want you in top form when my brother wakes up so that you won’t let him get away with anything stupid like pretending that he’s over you or not talking about the past. I’m not talking him through any more of that.”
Pam cleared her throat. “Though any more of what?”
“Any more of this little one step forward, two steps back dance you two like to do so much. If he starts that, it’s up to you to make him stop it.”
“How am I supposed to do that?”
“I’m sure you can think of something.” And Pam would have sworn Larissa winked before she turned the corner into Jim’s room.
Next chapter: Jim wakes up. Thank you to all who have read and reviewed. I appreciate any and all feedback.
June 11: An Awakening by Comfect
Jim wakes up.
Jim rolled over—or tried to roll over. He found himself awake but unable to move, flat on his back. His first thought was, absurdly, to recollect that only first-class on Qantas had the lie-flat seats, and to wonder whether he had been upgraded and forgotten about it.
His second thought was to realize he had no memory of getting on the plane in the first place.
His third was pain.
The pain forced his eyes open, and only then did he truly realize the full extent of his situation. He was not just on his back, but strapped in place, with an IV in his arm and bright hospital lights shining down into his face. He turned his head with some difficulty—it felt heavy—and saw the label on the IV stand next to him.
He hadn’t even gotten out of Scranton. What had happened? His last memory was…getting into the cab, half-asleep, to go to the airport. Well, clearly something had happened, because this wasn’t the airport and it wasn’t Australia. For some reason a line from a movie he’d seen floated into his head—“you must choose between this world, the next world, and Australia.” It was from that silly Colin Firth thing Pam had convinced him to watch after he’d made fun of Pride and Prejudice—what was it called…The Importance of Being Earnest. He felt oddly proud for remembering, and then depressed again. He wasn’t supposed to be remembering obscure things Pam had liked. He was supposed to be on a plane to Australia, and then moving to Stamford, Connecticut, all to get away from Pam. Because she’d shot him down. Twice.
And he’d decided to run.
He didn’t feel nearly as good about that decision now, but he couldn’t be entirely sure that wasn’t a side effect of being, well, flat on his back with an IV tube in him and what he was seriously beginning to think might be broken ribs. And a mind that was apparently in cahoots against him, because it was back on Colin Firth. “The accounts I have received of Australia and the next world are not particularly encouraging. This world is good enough for me.”
“But are you good enough for it?”
Was this world good enough for him? He thought of Pam, and instantly regretted it. It hurt too much, hurt more than the ribs and the muscles and the rest of him put together. And it wasn’t just the memory of her rejecting him—twice!—that hurt. Somewhere in the night he’d come to the realization that what he was doing was no better than what she had done. She had run from her feelings metaphorically, refusing to see what he knew was there—had to be there—was, please, for the love of god, there—and now he was running literally. He’d called it self-preservation in his head, arguing with himself that no one could expect him to stay and watch her get married, or to come to work every day and work alongside Pam Anderson. Not unless they paid him as well as David Hasselhoff—and even then, he was pretty sure he wouldn’t be able to stomach it. Especially not if she ran in slow motion, he thought. Though that would be something…
No. He couldn’t do it. But he shouldn’t be running away either. There were no good options, but taking extra vacation so he didn’t say goodbye was a worse option than most, even if he’d excused it as self-defense. He’d been a bigger coward than her, since she at least had stood there and talked to him—tried to tell him why and how she couldn’t do what he asked. He’d been the one to walk away, not her, and he hadn’t stopped moving since then.
Well, he certainly wasn’t moving now. And if the pain in his ribs and legs was anything to go by, he probably wouldn’t be for a while. So he’d have plenty of time to realize what a jerk he’d been to the one person he really cared for.
As if to punish him for that unfraternal thought, he saw his sister Larissa come through the doorway to his little room, her head turned to someone outside the room. The one person outside his family he really cared for, he quickly amended, and tried to greet her.
What came out was more of a croak than a greeting, but it seemed to do the job. “Hey, L.”
Her head whipped around, took in his open eyes and pained attempt at a smile, and then she did the one thing he least expected: she ran out of the room.
What was that all about? Who or what could be out there? I don’t know what I expected—it’s not like Larissa is the most emotional person I know—but she could at least have said hi back.
He was vaguely offended, honestly. Here he was, her brother, sitting in a hospital room and waking up for the first time after—hold that thought, but some amount of time—and she didn’t even bother to acknowledge him.
The offense disappeared an instant later when she pulled a teary-eyed Pam Beesly into the room.
“Hey, big bro. I got someone here you might want to see.”
Pam wasn’t sure what to think when Larissa’s head suddenly jerked around, still less when she suddenly closed the three steps between them and yanked on Pam’s arm, hard. She almost stumbled, then did lose her footing when Larissa hissed in her ear “Jim’s awake!”
She felt Larissa help her to her feet and push her in the back, and she went with the motion more out of an inability to do anything else than out of her own volition. Her mind was in turmoil, with “Finally!” warring against “Oh my god what about when he sees the sketch” and “Come on, you’ve been holding his hand when he was unconscious, the least you can do is go in and talk to him when he’s actually there.”
She was aware of Larissa saying something behind her as she was pushed into the room, but beyond that the world had narrowed down to a pair of shining eyes (slightly frowning, she noticed) that were finally, finally open and alive and everything she remembered.
“Hi,” she whispered.
His voice was broken and scratchy and pained. It was the most wonderful sound she’d ever heard.
From here the plot will pick up a little bit, though there will be some focus on Jim's recovery as well as the emotional beats of the JAM plot. And no, I won't forget Larissa's presence.
Thank you to all for your comments; I love reading your reviews.
June 11: Continued by Comfect
Double update! Jim's POV as he, Pam, and Larissa talk.
He couldn’t believe she was there. Pam Beesly? He wondered what day it was. It was at least the 8th, since he’d gotten into the cab on the 8th, but was it possible it was the 10th already? Was she already married? And what was she even doing there? Not that it was that unreasonable, he thought, for her to be at the hospital for him. Certainly he’d have been there for her in the opposite situation—if he’d known about it. And how did she know to come?
The whirl of questions must have shown in his eyes, because both she and Larissa reacted to it, sitting down next to him and beginning to talk. To his surprise, Pam sat down in the chair next to his head while Larissa perched by his feet. He almost thought Pam’s hand reached out for his before she thought better of it and folded her hands in her lap, right over left.
Again to his surprise, Pam spoke first.
“It’s good to see you, Jim. I mean, I’ve seen you, you’ve been here, but that was just your body, so…”
He couldn’t resist. “So you’re telling me you’ve been checking out my body?” As soon as he said it, he wished he could bite off his tongue. This was the first thing he said to Pam? Really?
But when he looked at her, thinking of apologizing, he noticed she was blushing beet red. Larissa distracted him from that delightful sight with a sigh.
“Real mature, big bro. She means she’s been sitting up by your bedside worried sick.”
He crinkled his forehead in concern. “How long was I out?”
“Three days now.”
“Three days?!?” So it was June 11th. She was married. His head whipped around to Pam, who seemed to realize what his reaction meant he’d concluded. She grabbed his hand.
“Yes, Jim, it’s June 11th. And you were right, I was checking you out.”
He gaped at her. She raised her right hand to his face and touched his cheek, tenderly.
“But I have to say, your unconscious body doesn’t do much for me. And besides, you need a shower.” Her nose wrinkled delightfully. “I don’t think the nurses have done much more than a sponge bath since you’ve been here.”
Now it was his turn to blush, while his mind tried very hard to reconcile “It’s June 11th” with “I was checking you out.”
“Um…were you there for that?”
She and Larissa glanced at each other for a moment, each daring the other to say she was, only for them both to bust out laughing. “No, Halpert, we left you that much dignity,” giggled Pam, while Larissa choked out “Thank god.”
OK, where did that come from? When did my sister and my…Pam start exchanging glances like Pam and I do? Oh right. It’s June 11th.
“So how long have you been here?” A loaded question, in its own way. Had she come right from the wedding? The honeymoon? Oh god, was Roy out in the waiting room, about to wander in and slap him on the shoulder and say “Hey Halpert, thanks for getting better, now Pammy and I can get on our way?”
“Um…two days. Well, a day and a half.”
“Only because someone didn’t charge her cellphone in her new apartment, so it took me two days to find her.”
Wait, new apartment? She and Roy weren’t moving, they already live together.
“Hey, I’m just glad you kept trying. You should be proud of your sister, Jim, she managed to track me down despite everything. I came as soon as I could.”
“I’m always proud of her. So…you got here on the 10th?”
“Yeah.” Pam glanced down at her hands in her lap, and his eye followed hers—flinching away from her left hand. Until he realized there was nothing there to flinch away from: not the wedding ring he’d expected to see, not even the cheap little engagement ring he’d become so accustomed to hating. “It wasn’t like I had anything else to do.” She smiled. “Besides unpack all my stuff into my new apartment after breaking up with Roy. You kind of put a dent in that unpacking process, Halpert, so you owe me, and don’t think I won’t be calling to collect.”
He looked up at her in mingled awe and confusion. “You broke up with him?”
She nodded, not quite looking directly at his face. “I did.”
He grinned, and then sobered. “I’m…”
She turned to meet his eyes, and to his surprise hers had a look of determination he wasn’t sure he’d ever seen in them before. “Don’t you dare say you’re sorry.”
“…OK then. I won’t.”
“Good.” She looked smug. “I’m certainly not.”
“Good. But I’m…not sure how I interrupted your unpacking though. I was right here the whole time.” He gestured around him. “Or at least I assume so. I don’t exactly remember much.”
“Who said I was talking to you when I said Halpert?”
Larissa found this an opportune moment to re-enter the conversation. “Yeah, she meant me. I tracked her new home phone number down through 411—seriously useful, by the way, Jim, if you ever, say, want to keep in touch with Pam—and I gave her a call. She came right over—I’m not sure I want to know how many speeding laws she broke.”
Pam grinned at his sister. “I plead the fifth. Though I’m pretty sure that speeding is just one law.”
Larissa smiled back and rubbed his foot. “And she’s been here ever since. Just like you told me she would be if you ever needed her.”
Again, I appreciate any and all feedback; this is a double update because I just really wanted to end a chapter (the previous one) with the Hey/Hi exchange.
June 11: The Same, Continued by Comfect
Pam's and Jim's POV.
Pam wasn’t sure what to make of Jim’s reaction to her big revelation. She’d expected him to be…what? Not overjoyed, because he wasn’t that kind of guy, he’d be able to see she was still fresh off the break-up and hurting, even if she was the one who broke it off. But happier. More…focused on that particular issue. Instead he’d been quiet, letting her and Larissa bounce off each other for a little while and leaning back. She wondered if she should have made a bigger deal out of it? Made him wait to hear it? Or shouted it from the rooftops?
Or maybe that was the exact wrong way to go. Maybe she needed to keep downplaying it, to give him time to realize that she meant what she’d said. That she’d actually done it. Just keep being there for him as he rested and recovered.
Oh shit, his recovery. No wonder he was quiet; he’d just woken up for the first time in three days. Duh, Pam, her brain reminded her. There’s more going on here than your…whatever it is with Jim Halpert. Remember where you are. Remember why. But for all that, she was glad it was out in the open. No hiding, no running away, she reminded herself. Be here for Jim. Love him.
She blushed at that last thought, which drew a squeeze from Jim’s hand, which she realized she had grabbed in her distraction.
“Care to share with the class, Beesly?” Call me that again.
“I was just…I just…” After all that thinking about taking it slow and letting him rest, she wasn’t just going to blurt out an “I love you.” Not that she was backing away from thinking it, or feeling it, but she felt she owed it to Jim to at least let him be awake for fifteen minutes before dropping another emotional load on him.
“C’mon, Pam, spit it out.” She glanced over at Larissa, who was giving her an encouraging look, almost as if she knew what she was thinking. “Don’t make me come over there and beat it out of you.”
“Hey!” Jim objected. “Pam’s my friend. No beatings!”
“Can I tickle it out of her then?”
A cloud passed over Jim’s face. Pam wondered what memory it was that he’d recalled to bother him. Whatever it was, she could tell it had something to do with tickling—and probably with her. Oh god, when did Roy tickle me in front of him? she wondered. That has to be it. Roy always tickled me as a way of trying to jolly me out of a bad mood. He must have done it in front of Jim. This is a good reminder that even things I don’t remember meant something to him. Jim was frowning now. This just wouldn’t do. Time to make up for the past.
“Sorry, Larissa, only Jim gets to tickle me now.” She smiled down at him. “Although I think I’d prefer that he let himself heal before he tries.”
Larissa mock-pouted, as Jim stuck his tongue out at her. “No fair.”
“Sorry, Larissa, you know I love you like a sister.” Pam winked. “And I never let Penny tickle me either.”
“What does that make Jim, your brother?” Larissa was definitely pushing her, but Pam could see the twinkle in her eyes that said just say it.
“I don’t know.” She turned to Jim, who was looking between them with a somewhat dazed look on his face. Better than the shadow from before. “I don’t think I want that.”
He looked away. Oh god, he thinks I’m going to let him down again. Well, fortunately, even if he couldn’t look at her, Larissa was definitely there to provide his lines. “No?”
As she opened her mouth to speak she caught Jim glancing up at her almost involuntarily, the expression on his face spelling out his feelings as clear as day to her: I can’t handle this again. Why is she doing this to me?
Time to put a stop to that, she thought.
“No, I think I want to be more than that.” She caught his eyes and held his gaze, moving her head so as not to break it. “That OK with you, Jim?”
It was almost like he’d forgotten he could actually contribute to the conversation. “What?”
“Well, I only let my boyfriends tickle me, so…” She smiled down at him.
He returned the smile, looking somewhat dazed. “Fiancé.”
Her smile widened. He remembered how much I hated when Roy called me his girlfriend. Does he realize how perfect he is? “Sounds good to me. But one thing at a time, OK?”
He gaped. She leaned over and kissed his forehead. “I’m in love with you, Jim.”
Jim wasn’t sure what had just happened. Scratch that. He was sure what had happened. All this so-called waking up was just a fever dream, like the weird one with the boat, or the crazy monument valley thing. Pam Beesly had not just teased Larissa about tickling him, called him her boyfriend, and joked about marrying him. That had not just happened. He was high on some kind of new drug or something, or living through his wildest fantasies—though in those Pam had a lot less clothes, he had a lot more freedom of movement, and his baby sister was not sitting at the bottom of his bed. Wait, what was that? Pam loved him? This was definitely a dream. Or the next world. Probably not Australia, but definitely not this one. He knew he was grinning like an idiot, but he didn’t really care. He knew there were a lot of long conversations to come, a rebuilding of trust, some kind of dang explanation for what had happened while he was out to produce this kind of change in her. But even if the conversations were hard, even if this was a dream, hell, even if he was dead, he was going to bask in this while he could. Nothing was going to keep him from enjoying the fact that Pam Beesly had just told him she loved him and kissed him. On the forehead, admittedly, but a kiss. The first time she’d done that when she wasn’t drunk and he hadn’t initiated it. And this was no Dundies kiss, sloppy and impulsive—nor a Casino Night kiss, burning into his memory with passion and, again, impulsive desire. This was a routine kiss, an I love you and I kiss you like this all the time but why not now kiss, the sort of kiss he’d seen her give Roy…actually a lot less than he’d expected now that he thought about it, but definitely the kind of kiss that signaled we’re in a relationship, and this is normal. Which it absolutely was not. Not that he was complaining. More, please, enough more to make it normal, and then he might be halfway to being satisfied.
He noticed Larissa mouthing something to Pam that looked like “told you so” (a phrase he was all too familiar with from her lips—being big brother to someone smarter than you had its drawbacks as well as its advantages, he thought) and look smug, and he wondered what that was all about, but he didn’t have the processing power in his brain left over from Pam’s declaration and kiss to worry too much about that. He grasped her hand hard and pulled her down so he could whisper in her ear.
“Took ya long enough, Beesly.”
Thanks to all who have read and reviewed (I know I'm behind on responding to reviews--but I did read them!). I appreciate the feedback.
June 11: Jim's Room without Pam by Comfect
Pam gets a phone call, and Jim and Larissa talk
Pam was completely flustered. Jim clearly had no idea what that tone of voice from him did to her—and for good reason, because she hadn’t heard it from him very often but she’d worked very very hard to make sure he didn’t know what it did. Something inside her was turning to jelly and it was really difficult to concentrate. Unfortunately, or perhaps fortunately for her sanity and Larissa’s hope of not seeing her canoodle with Jim in front of his sister, her phone chose that moment to ring. She had charged it overnight in Jim’s room, and apparently now it had decided to hold forth. She glanced at it on the bedside table, sighed, and picked it up.
“It’s my mom. I kind of have to take this.” She looked down at Jim. “Don’t you go anywhere.”
“I won’t.” He gestured at his body laid up in bed and winked. She giggled and picked up the phone, murmuring “Sorry” to Larissa before stepping out of the room.
Jim was deeply disappointed that Pam had chosen to take the phone call, but he supposed it made sense. She’d just broken up with Roy; now she was in the hospital looking after another man; of course her mom would want to know what was going on with her. He supposed it also made sense for her to take the call out of the room, although he would have loved to hear that particular conversation. She’d been talking to her mom on Casino Night too, he remembered. Maybe that would help Mrs. Beesly relate to whatever it was that was going on in Pam’s head. He grinned. She loves me. She actually said it.
He reached over to the bedside table to take a closer look at something he’d noticed when Pam’s phone went off. It looked like a piece of art of some kind, but not one he recognized. He couldn’t quite reach it, and as he considered the pros and cons of stretching his already injured body to grasp it, he noticed Larissa picking it up and moving into the chair Pam had vacated. She handed him the sketch and sat down.
“There you go, big bro. Never say I didn’t bring you anything.”
He looked at the sketch, which he now recognized as Pam’s work. Too many ways to say I’m sorry/But not enough to say how much I love you. Feelings he thought he’d banished down deep inside were rising up, and he wasn’t sure he knew how to handle them. He chided himself—Pam had already told him she loved him, with her actual words—but somehow this made it all feel real. It wasn’t just a reaction to him waking up, or something impulsive in the moment. She’d sat down and sketched it and left it for him to find even if she hadn’t been there when he woke up. She really meant it. He felt tears coming, and reached for the familiar tone of banter to keep them at bay.
“I dunno, L, it looks like Pam brought me this, so...”
“And who exactly brought you Pam?”
He cocked an eyebrow at her, but as he was used to by now Larissa did not back down, just cocking one right back at him.
“Yeah, I’ve been meaning to ask, how exactly did you do that? What possessed you to invite the girl who broke my heart into the room where I broke everything else?”
“Are you saying you’d rather I hadn’t brought her?”
“Good, because I remember some older brother or other of mine telling me when I was a little girl not to look a gift horse in the mouth.”
“I’m not sure what your dentition has to do with this?”
“Are you calling me a horse?”
“OK, maybe that metaphor got a little away from me.”
“That’s right it did. And don’t change the subject. If you’re not saying you wish she weren’t here, what exactly are you saying?”
“I’m saying that you couldn’t have known it would go this well when you asked her to come.”
“Of course I didn’t. Hell, Jim, I thought she was married when I called her, because no one bothered to tell me she broke it off.”
“Don’t look at me, no one bothered to tell me either.”
“Yeah…I actually think she might not have told anyone who could tell you. It sounded like a recent thing, so I’m not sure she’s told the office, and how many other friends do you have in common?”
“Well, no one. But she could have told me. We’re friends.”
“Yeah, and how do you think that conversation would have gone? ‘Hi Jim, I know you haven’t talked to me in a month and literally moved states to get away from me, but anyway I broke up with Roy?’ I may not know Pam as well as you, big bro, but do you really think that’s a conversation she was going to have?”
“Whose side are you on here?”
“Yours, idiot. But hers too. She’s, like really awesome, you know.”
“I do know. In fact, I told you so.”
“Yeah, I’m still not sure you appreciate her enough.”
“I thought you were on my side!”
“I am. I just don’t want you to screw this up.”
“Not planning on it. Thanks for the faith though.”
“Hey, I’m not the one sitting here complaining that Pam Beesly is by my bedside.”
“OK, OK, complaint withdrawn.”
“I still want to know how that all went down though.”
“Well, as long as we’re agreed that I did the right thing?”
“Fine. You did the right thing. You’re always right. Happy, L?”
“No more than my due. Anyway, now that we’re agreed on that, I’ll admit I was kind of desperate.”
“Yeah…have you noticed it’s just me and Pam here? No Mom, no Dad, no Mark?”
“…I really hadn’t thought about it.”
“Oh my god, you are far gone. Admit it, you just looked at Pam and forgot all about them. You even forgot about me, didn’t you? If she hadn’t gotten that phone call you were going to jump her right in front of me.”
“Kind of hard to do that right now, L.”
“Alright, I’ll give you that one. Anyway, Mom and Dad are in Sydney right now.”
“Yeah. They were going to surprise you, make a family vacation out of it, try to cheer you up with some kangaroos and koalas and such. But now they’re trying to get back here, obviously. And Mark’s…”
“Yeah, I know, wedding, no cell reception, yadda yadda. I think he just agreed to go to it because I was going to Australia and he got jealous.”
“I wouldn’t put it past him. You really know how to pick your friends, Jim.”
“Pam’s my friend. You like her.”
“I like Mark! And Pam’s different and you know it. But I’m just saying, you and Mark never had the healthiest relationship.”
“I suppose that’s fair. He did think I was making up Dwight, so there may not have been the trust you’d expect there.”
“Hah. I didn’t believe Dwight until Pam confirmed his existence.”
“You trust Pam over me?”
“Duh. Anyway, I was here for like two days, by myself, and I was starting to go crazy. Climb the walls, lick the floors, that kind of thing.”
“Exactly. So I thought, who cares enough about Jimmy-boy here to bail me out and give me someone else to talk to or at least a conscious face to see? And all I could think of was Pam.”
“Well, I’m grateful you did.”
Thank you to all who have read and reviewed! I greatly appreciate the feedback. Next time we'll learn about Pam's call with her mother.
June 11: The Hallway by Comfect
Pam talks to her mother.
Pam ducked out of the room, because she really didn’t want to have this conversation in front of either Halpert. She knew what her mom was calling about—knew it was the same conversation they had had for almost week now, ever since she’d broken things off with Roy.
“Hi, honey, I’m just checking in on you. Wanted to know how my girl is doing.”
“I’m fine, mom.”
“Now, honey, you don’t have to pretend with me. It’s OK to be hurting. This thing with Roy…”
“The thing with Roy is over, mom. I chose to have it be over. I broke up with him.”
“I know, Pam.”
Well that was different. Her mom had been so solicitous the last week, calling her honey and sweetie and my girl—not Pam. Not Pammy, either, which was good; at least one of the major figures in her life from childhood had learned that she didn’t like that name anymore. But not Pam either. It sounded like her mom was getting serious.
“I know you broke up with him. I just don’t want you to pretend that because you started it, you’re not allowed to have feelings about it.”
This was usually the point where she got off the phone. But today something was different. Today she was standing in the hallway outside Jim’s room, where she’d just told him she loved him. Today she was joking around with Jim Halpert about marrying him. So today she didn’t get off the phone. Instead she decided to finally actually talk to her mother about what had been bothering her ever since she broke up with Roy—and for a good long time before too.
“I do have feelings about it, mom. I’m relieved. I’m happy. I’m done.”
“You haven’t sounded relieved, dear. You’ve sounded…”
“Terrified. I know. I haven’t been terrified of Roy.”
“I would hope not!”
“Not like that! I mean I haven’t been terrified of…what you think I’ve been terrified of. Of life without Roy. Of not having him around. Of…really of anything to do with Roy. To be honest, mom, I haven’t really been thinking of Roy at all when I didn’t have to.”
“I’m glad we’re finally being honest…so what have you been thinking of?”
“It’s not like that! I didn’t break up with Roy to be with Jim…”
“I know that, dear. You told me he transferred, right? Right after he told you…all those things?”
“So I broke up with Roy because Jim made me realize that Roy and I…we didn’t really matter to each other anymore. I mean, Roy matters to me, but he matters to me in that he and I have a long history and I wish him well. I don’t love him. I don’t want to spend my life making sure he does well. I just…hope things go well for him. Without me. And I’m pretty sure that once he gets over the surprise and really looks at his life he’s going to realize he didn’t really want to be with me either. Maybe with his idea of me. But not me. And I deserve better than that.”
“You do, dear. I’ve always thought so.”
“Well, I’ll admit I thought Roy could give you more than that, but if…”
Something about her mother using those particular words made Pam interrupt her.
“I was terrified I’d never see Jim again.”
“Yeah. Yesterday, when I said I needed time to myself—that was time to psych myself up to call him. Even if I was only going to get his voicemail because he was on his trip to Australia to avoid what he thought was my wedding.”
“I didn’t call him. But his sister called me. I’m…I’m at the hospital right now, mom. Geisinger. Because he’s here. He’s not in Stamford, not in Australia. He’s here. And I need to go back into his room right now, mom, because I think something wonderful is happening.”
“So what are you doing on the phone with me?”
“I’m your mother, I’ll call back. Go tell Jim how you feel.”
“Um, I kinda already did that.”
“Jesus, Pam.” She giggled. Her soft-spoken mother never swore—this was as close as she could remember her coming in ten years, even including the call to tell her she’d broken up with Roy, or the one three weeks earlier to tell her Jim had kissed her in a parking lot. “Get back in there already. But one thing…”
“Can we come by? You know, the one time I was supposed to meet this boy your oaf of a fiancé interrupted me and took us out to dinner before I could.”
“What? I always thought he was an oaf. Just an oaf that you loved, so that was alright.”
“That’s fair, I did.”
“Is this one an oaf?”
Sigh. “No, mom.”
“Then can we meet him? Your father says he better be a Phillies fan, by the way.”
“Mom! I’ll…I guess I’ll ask. But…”
“But first you better go back in that room. We’ll talk later. Love you, dear.”
“Love you, mom.”
She shut the phone. Well, that had taken an unexpected turn. She stuck her head back in the room. How to explain this…well, today was showing that maybe the direct method was best.
“Hey, Halpert, my mom wants to meet you.”
And now everyone's back in Jim's room. How will I title the next chapter so it's not a duplicate? Check in and find out! Thanks to all who have taken the time to read and review.
June 11: Jim's Room, with Pam by Comfect
Jim, Pam, and Larissa talk.
Her mom wanted to meet him? Jim looked up from his interrupted conversation with Larissa to stare at Pam. He realized that in a sense his surprise was completely unreasonable. After all, if Pam loved him—was willing to consider him her boyfriend—was making jokes about him becoming her fiancé—of course she’d have told her mom. And what mother wouldn’t want to meet her daughter’s boyfriend?
His mind flashed back to what seemed like an eternity ago but really wasn’t that long: her mother peering out of the receptionist’s spot and whispering with Pam “which one is Jim?” while Pam giggled and shushed her. Her mother had wanted to meet him for a lot longer than he’d been her boyfriend. But of course, he also remembered what happened next: boorish Roy bounding up the steps ready for their dinner date, insisting on escorting Mrs. Beesly out while Pam finished up her last bits of work. He couldn’t actually put his finger on what exactly Roy had done wrong: he too would have been excited to see Mrs. Beesly (hell, he had been, and he hadn’t had a ten-year history with her) and he too would have thought it was a good opportunity to get a few minutes one-on-one with her while Pam finished up. Maybe that was it, though—Roy had that ten-year history, so he shouldn’t have needed to grab a few minutes with Mrs. Beesly the way that Jim would. He should have been confident enough in his relationship with his prospective wife and mother-in-law to just meet them at the restaurant. But, of course, Jim realized, he would have blamed Roy for disinterest if he’d done that. So it wasn’t who Roy actually was, or what he did—just that he got the chance to do it with Pam and her mother and not Jim.
Only now it seemed like it would be him. If he could close his mouth and make some sort of coherent words come out instead of gawping at Pam like an imbecile.
Fortunately, he too had family, and Larissa stepped cleanly into the breach. “Do I get to meet her too, Pam?” She batted her eyelashes at Pam. “After all, I told you we’re family, I think that means I get to claim your mother as family too.”
My sister considers Pam family? When did that happen? This was definitely not helping Jim pick his jaw up from the floor.
“I don’t know, Larissa, I think we’re going to go to Friendly’s, where they give you those little crayons to draw on the table, and I don’t think there’s space for your architectural drawings next to my masterpieces.” Pam grinned at Larissa, while her eyes clearly asked Jim to just talk already. He realized this was his moment, the time he’d been hoping for, been aching for, when all he had to do was say something and Pam would fall into his lap. Heck, she had already fallen into his lap—all he had to do was not drop her. That second realization helped him find his voice.
“Yeah, L, I think I get first dibs on Mrs. Beesly. Don’t worry, though—I’m sure there will be more opportunities in the future.” Oh god, what if that was too much to assume? A glance at smiling Pam was not quite enough to reassure him. “Or at least there will be if I don’t screw this up.”
“I don’t know, Pam, should we trust him not to screw it up?”
“Oh, I think we can do that. He hasn’t screwed anything up yet.”
“Except, I don’t know, his arm, his ribs, his head…”
“Hey! I didn’t screw any of those things up.”
“Then why are you here, hmm?”
“I think you will find,” Jim said with the greatest dignity he could muster while trying not to laugh because it would hurt his ribs “that the cab driver screwed that up when he hit the other car.”
“Oh, Larissa, he has you there.”
“Hm…but he was working under your orders. Doesn’t that make it a work-for-hire, or at least here a screwing-up-for-hire? I think Jim still has to take the blame.”
“I’m not trying to copyright my injuries, L. Work-for-hire has nothing to do with it.”
“But they’re such lovely injuries! Look, they already got you Pam back. Don’t you want to take responsibility for them?”
“Hey now, the injuries didn’t get me back! They just…gave us an opportunity to realize what needed to happen. It’s not like I only love Jim because of his broken limbs. That’d be kind of sick.”
“I didn’t say you did! But it’s not like any of us would be here if it weren’t for Jim’s injuries.”
“I certainly wouldn’t be here listening to you impugn my ability to not screw things up.”
“Impugn! Pam, look at my brother here, finally using those English credits.”
“I think that’s a five-dollar word, Halpert. You’re going to have to fork over the dough if you want to keep upping that vocabulary.”
“I think you misunderstand the concept, Beesly. A five-dollar word doesn’t mean that I owe you five dollars to use it, it means that you owe me five dollars for the privilege of hearing it. And they were journalism credits and you know it, L.”
“Like your journalism major didn’t require any English credits. And god knows if I had to pay to talk to you Thanksgiving would be a very quiet weekend.”
Jim finally couldn’t hold it in and laughed—and immediately felt a stab of pain in his ribs. His involuntary inhalation of breath caught both Pam’s and Larissa’s attention, and they were instantly solicitous.
“Hey, Halpert. I’d pay to hear you talk anytime. Though I do think that would make you a bad boyfriend if you held me to it. Right now, Larissa and I will get you a nurse to deal with that pain, and then we’ll be back after you’ve rested a little, OK? And think about whether you want my mom and dad to come by—they really would love to meet you.”
“Yeah, Jim, think about it. And if you think no, think again, because I told this one she’s family and I won’t have you proving me wrong, OK? So do me a solid and decide to meet the parents—and also heal, k? Because I don’t like seeing my big brother in pain I didn’t cause.”
Jim didn’t want them to leave, but he definitely wanted something for the pain roaring in his side and he figured if Pam’s family was going to come by he needed to be at his best for that particular moment. So he just accepted his fate and smiled through the pain at them both as they slipped out of the room.
Next chapter may include a time jump, just fyi. Not a big one, but some. Thanks to all who have read and reviewed--I truly value your comments.
June 11: Pam's Apartment by Comfect
Pam and Larissa hang out.
The rest of that day was taken up with a battery of tests that apparently the doctors had just been waiting for Jim to wake up to make him take. They poked, they prodded, they questioned him, they jabbed him, they were generally omnipresent. This of course meant that Pam and Larissa were left to their own devices. It was somehow more jarring to try to pretend everything was OK now that they’d seen Jim up and talking—while they were still capable of enjoying each other’s company, the fact that Jim was awake and being tested was somehow more…absorbing than their earlier knowledge that he was just sitting there, out of it. Something about the idea that he could be there—that they could be talking to him—that rather than sitting there inert, he was being tortuously put through his paces—put a damper on their conversation.
It was not, Pam thought, that Larissa had become any less fun to hang around with, or, conversely, that she herself was actively less invested in making conversation. It was that they had been afforded some kind of freedom by Jim’s inactivity that was now revoked, while at the same time they had both become more aware of their own exhaustion. Larissa had had one good night’s sleep in several days; Pam was not sure she’d had one since Casino Night. They were fidgety—and being fidgety together is still being fidgety, as they both discovered.
So Pam decided to take Larissa home with her. She checked in at the nurse’s station, and they told her Jim would be occupied for the rest of the day—they couldn’t guarantee any availability, since with such a horrific accident they wanted to be extremely careful with his case, and Dunder Mifflin had surprisingly good insurance. In fact, the nurse remarked, they seemed to be covered for every kind of test she could imagine and several she couldn’t. Pam giggled, wondering if Dwight had eventually opted to cover them for Spontaneous Dental Hydroplosion after all. But, the nurse concluded, if it were her family, she’d come back tomorrow, because they weren’t going to see Jim Halpert for the rest of the day.
Larissa put up surprisingly little resistance. Or rather, it was surprising to Pam how little resistance she showed; Jim could have told her that nothing would get Larissa out of that hospital faster than offering to show her something about Pamela Beesly that he didn’t already know. She loved being able to tease him about Pam—had done so since well before their relationship had reached the desperate-confessions-of-love stage—and seeing Pam’s new apartment before him would be priceless to her. Not that she would have abandoned Jim for the chance, but if Jim was already going to be out of commission, there was basically no way Larissa would miss this chance.
So Pam drove Larissa home. She parked her little Yaris in front of her apartment building and suddenly remembered that when she had run out of it in a state of panic about Jim two days ago she had left the place an utter pigsty. There was a table, of course, and a chair, and a bunch of boxes, about three of which were half-unpacked and the rest still sealed. Her clothes from the week were piled on top of those boxes because she hadn’t yet bothered to unpack a hamper or even a real laundry bag; the bathroom was actually OK because she hadn’t unpacked anything fancier than her toothbrush, toothpaste, and her default shampoo, conditioner, and body wash. Even her makeup kit was still in a box, because she hadn’t been able to bring herself to care about Kelly’s exclamations that she looked “so tired!” and “so sick!” after breaking up with Roy. And actually, that had worked to her advantage in some ways, since she’d gotten to avoid work for almost an hour every day while Kelly insisted on doing her makeup for her. And since she’d already decided she didn’t care what she looked like, the end result didn’t really matter, just the opportunity to not sit in her receptionist’s chair looking in vain for Jim’s smiling face at an empty desk. Ryan had been making noises about taking Jim’s desk ever since he left, but with Kelly holding court on Pam’s face in the break room he hadn’t dared to show his face—which was a mixed blessing, since Pam was unsure whether an empty desk or a Ryan-filled on was worse.
She shook her head. Concentrate on the apartment, Pam. She had…a lamp. One lamp, and a little overhead lighting in the kitchen area. Did she have a second chair? Yes, her mother had insisted on buying that set of four stools for the kitchen island, so if she could clear the boxes off of them they’d have somewhere to sit. And if she cleared the kitchen island, they’d even have somewhere to rest their arms. Or a coffee cup, since the one thing she most definitely had unpacked was her Mr. Coffee (with the automatic drip, naturally, since she certainly wasn’t going to get up in time to both make coffee and get to work on time). And she did have a fully stocked refrigerator and pantry, courtesy of Mom, so she could at least offer Larissa some tea or coffee or something. Assuming she could find the French press, since she’d left Roy the coffeemaker. Whatever.
She opened the door and let Larissa in.
“Oh, this is so nice!”
Pam looked around the apartment and winced. She’d left a bra out on the table, and there was a pile of bills half on top of it, and…
“I love the colors!”
Oh right, she had painted the backsplash a vivid maroon and a yellow accent wall in the living room.
“And this painting is just gorgeous!”
But I didn’t put up any of my…oh right, the art on the actual easel, which her mother had insisted she put up (“I know you, Pam, and you won’t bother if I don’t make you, but it will make you happier to paint”) and which she’d been doodling a…oh my god it was a picture of Jim ABORT ABORT ABORT.
“Seriously, the detail here is amazing. You even got the way his eyes shift to the side when he thinks he’s being sneaky.”
Well, the damage was done, she guessed. “Um…thanks. Do you think I should hide that before I invite him over, or…”
“No, you should definitely go all stalker and frame it right in front of the door.” Larissa looked up in time to see the look of embarrassment written all over Pam’s face. “Or, you know, you could just keep it like it is. It’s actually really well done…did he pose for this?”
She blushed, deep and red. “No.”
“Did you have a picture then? This is really life-like.”
“…no.” She just knew what he looked like. It was burned into her soul by now. She had debated between drawing him as he’d looked when she last saw him, broken and hurt and loving all at once as he drew his hands out of hers and turned to walk out of the office, but she had decided to pain the Jim she really knew: the loving prankster who caught her eye and made her feel like the rest of the office—the rest of the world—didn’t exist. Who had a special look that said “we’re in this together, you and I, Beesly.” Who always had her back and celebrated every success with her. Knowing that that Jim would have been so ecstatically happy for her when she moved into her new place had inspired her—realizing that he would have been happy for her, not just because she was free from Roy and might want to (ok, did want to) date him, but because it was a big step for her—but remembering she couldn’t tell him about it had stopped her from finishing it.
She supposed she might be able to finish it now.
Larissa had noticed her brown study and was poking around the kitchen, grabbing two mugs and the teakettle and sitting down at the one table in the one chair. Pam quickly took a box off one of the stools and pulled it up, and they sat there talking about the painting until the kettle whistled. Pam wasn’t sure how it was so easy to talk to Larissa about her brother, but it was. And after the tea interrupted them the conversation expanded to life more generally. She heard about Larissa’s boyfriend, Matt, who was a park ranger at Archbald Pothole State Park (“what a silly name!” “I know, right? He won’t admit it, defends it to the death, but I can’t help laughing every time I visit him.”) and the apartments they were looking at moving into now that they were getting more serious. She was actually able to help with that, mentioning a couple of complexes that she’d looked at that Larissa had somehow missed, and the feeling of camaraderie made her glow inside. Before they each knew it the sun had finally set, and Pam looked up at the clock on her telephone base and noticed it was 10pm—and they hadn’t eaten dinner. They made a quick run to Waffle House (Texas Patty Melt for Larissa, triple hashbrowns smothered, covered, and diced for Pam, who figured after a week like this she deserved something filling and terrible for her) and then Pam deposited Larissa at home with a promise to pick her up early the next morning, since they’d left her car at the hospital. She pulled back into her own apartment complex around midnight and fell into a deep sleep almost immediately—but not before thoughts of seeing Jim again tomorrow had put a smile on her face.
It was a good day.
Not too much of a time skip after all, but next time I'll finally get to June 12--on which day (though not necessarily in the next update) we'll get to meet Pam's family. Thanks to all who have read and reviewed! I greatly appreciate the feedback.
June 12: Towards the Hospital by Comfect
Pam, Larissa, and a phone call.
The next morning Pam awoke in her own apartment and instantly felt guilty. Not that she had missed her appointment to pick up Larissa—she was actually in plenty of time for that—but because she had actually slept at home while Jim was in the hospital waiting for someone to entertain him. Fortunately, she had a good idea of how to do just that. She grabbed the video iPod she had bought when she left Roy the TV (thinking fondly back to a different video iPod, and what a good idea it had been not to keep it, but also remembering that Roy had cheaped out of buying her one himself, and vowing never to let someone keep her from something she wanted again) and checked to make sure Dazed and Confused was loaded onto it before grabbing her headphones and heading out the door.
Larissa was waiting anxiously for her, so it seemed she was not the only one in a hurry that morning. They drove into the hospital not in silence but with the kind of meaningless but important chit-chat that doesn’t need to go below the surface to reaffirm the deep ties between two people who understand each other well. They agreed that this morning they would let Jim pick what to do and talk about, since they figured that he had probably had enough of people telling him what to do with the doctors.
They pulled into the hospital at 6:30 am, early enough that they expected to catch the morning round of doctors, and Pam parked next to Larissa’s car so that they could find both cars later. Larissa’s long legs carried her into the hospital first, but she waited for Pam by the elevator and they found themselves side by side as they walked into the by now familiar waiting room. A nurse stopped them before they could go into Jim’s room though—Janet, her nametag said—and informed them that he was sleeping, that he had PT at 9, and that the neurologist and GP would both be by in the next couple of hours to see him before that. She added that the cardiologist and pulmonologist had decided yesterday that they didn’t need to see him again imminently unless something took a turn for the worse.
This was, of course, good news, but Pam wasn’t sure what to do with herself without waking up Jim—and from the fidgety look Larissa was sending her way, neither was she. They sat chatting in the waiting room about what to do until Pam’s phone unexpectedly rang. She checked the number and picked up, mouthing an apology to Larissa.
“Hi honey! I hope I didn’t wake you up?”
“No, mom, but…”
“That’s good. I thought since you said you were at the hospital with Jim that you would probably be up early, and you know how your father’s work gets him out of bed so early in the morning these days, so I found myself up and dressed and having walked the dog and I thought, you know, Pam is probably awake and dressed and I can probably call her.”
“Sure, mom. What are you calling about?” She rolled her eyes for Larissa’s benefit, and was rewarded with a little snort.
“Well, I was wondering when I could come over to the hospital and meet Jim.”
“Now, honey, I’m worried that if I don’t come and meet him now you’ll let him slip away in the night or something and I won’t get to meet him again. I mean, really, I’ve been hearing about this boy for four years now, it’s about time I got a good look at him.”
Her mother was definitely not keeping her voice down, and she was pretty sure that Larissa could hear every word—if it hadn’t already woken up Jim three doors down past the waiting room. Her face was burning.
“Mom! Jim is in the hospital.”
“I know, sweetie, so I expect he has a lot of time on his hands. He’d probably appreciate some visitors.”
“He’s recovering from injuries! This is not prime meet-the-parents time!”
“I know, dear, that’s why I didn’t invite your father.”
“I wasn’t objecting to the plural.”
“Oh, so I should call him and have him come?”
“That’s not what I meant! I thought you’d, like, have dinner with us when he got out of the hospital or something.”
“That’s a wonderful idea, Pam dear. We’ll definitely have to do that. But don’t you think it would be lovely if I got to know him a little before? There’s no time like the present.”
“I’ll be over at…what is it now, 7? I’ll be over at noon. You said he was in Geisinger?”
Pam could feel the conversation slipping away from her—or more accurately, could feel that it had already slipped away. Her mother was just incorrigible when she got in a mood like this, and Larissa wasn’t helping any, since she had just literally fallen out of her chair laughing at Pam’s expression. Fine. She figured she could make up some kind of medical reason Jim couldn’t see her mother at noon, but right now she had had far too little coffee to deal with this phone call.
“Yes, he is.”
“Wonderful. I assume he’s still in the ICU, so I’ll meet you in that waiting room. Love you!”
“I love you too.”
As she hung up the call Larissa finally found her voice through the laughter. “So your mom’s coming over then?”
“Yeah. Thanks for all the help back there.”
“What can I say? I told Jim I wanted to meet her first.” Larissa winked. “Anyway, I think you’ll find he’s actually pretty open to the idea. Now, we have what, five hours? What do you say we get in there and wake sleepyhead up so he can bone up on Beesly family history before she gets here?”
“I suppose that’s a good idea. But we’re making a stop first.”
“I’m going to need a lot more coffee before I deal with you and my mother at the same time.”
Larissa was still laughing when they reached the coffee machine.
Welcome to day 3. Thank you to all who have read and reviewed (and jellybeaned), as I welcome your thoughts both now and going forward.
June 12: Outside Jim's Room by Comfect
Jim experiences a setback.
Pam and Larissa waited until 9:30, when Jim was supposed to be done with his physical therapy appointment, to come in and keep him company. They spent the interim in the Relaxation Room, where Larissa did her best to convince Pam that having her mom come by wasn’t the end of the world. “After all,” she said, “it’s not like Jim’s going to be entirely unprotected at her mercy. You and I will be there! What do you think your mom is going to do to him with us both there?”
“I don’t know. I just...I love my mom. We have a really special, close bond, and I don’t get to see her that often because they live two hours away. So the idea that she’s coming in just for this puts a lot of pressure on me. And well...” she blushed. “She’s heard a lot about Jim ever since, well, ever since ever. So I’m really worried she’s...”
“She’s what? She’s going to let Jim know how you feel about him? Because correct me if I’m wrong, Pam, but I think he has some kind of an idea because someone already told him. You might have seen her around: curly hair, massive artistic talent, answers to Pam Beesly?”
Pam giggled, but held her ground. “It’s different with my mom.”
“I suppose it is,” Larissa conceded. “But remember what I told you about Jim—he told everyone about you too. Like everyone, except you obviously. I mean, I think the guys at the YMCA knew about it. So don’t worry that your mom knows. He’d assume it.” She grinned. “And if I know Jim, he’s actually super-worried that you’re going to change your mind. Having your mom here will help a lot with that.”
“I’m not changing my mind.”
“I know that. You know that. Does my idiot brother?”
“Heh. Maybe not.”
“That’s what I thought. There’s a lot of trouble you can get out of really easily just by assuming my brother is dumb as a box of rocks.”
“Careful, that’s my boyfriend you’re talking about.”
“Yeah, and that’s the first decision of his that I’ve agreed with since he went with a milkshake over a root bear float at Friendly’s when he was 16.”
Now that Pam had calmed down, they walked back to Jim’s room together. As they approached they heard, to their surprise, raised voices, one of them Jim’s.
“I’m not even thirty! I don’t have arthritis!”
The next was one of the nurses—Emily, Pam thought—in what was obviously intended to be a calming tone.
“No, Jim, I know that. I’m getting the doctor. I just want you to sit down.”
“Nope, I’m not doing another thing until I’ve seen the doctor. I’ll sit down when I’m good and ready.”
Another voice broke in. “Look, I’m sorry I suggested arthritis. I think I had your chart mixed up with the patient before you.”
“Well, you guys should figure that kind of shit out instead of telling me to keep running on the treadmill.”
Pam and Larissa turned the corner to see a man in athletic shorts and a T-shirt arguing with Jim while the nurse tried to get Jim to sit down on a chair.
“You know what, I will sit down. Because my damn leg hurts, and I don’t have arthritis.”
Larissa leaned over to Pam and whispered “I don’t think Jim has arthritis.” It was all Pam could do not to bust out laughing. Emily seemingly heard them and turned to them in relief.
“Larissa! Pam! Can you convince Jim here that we’re just trying to help him?”
Jim threw himself into the chair and Pam saw him give a little exhalation of pain as he stretched his legs out in front of him in a painfully familiar maneuver.
The phyiscal therapist (for so Pam assumed the man in athletic shorts to be) broke in at this point to explain. “I had Jim here running on a treadmill to make sure he kept his leg muscles in shape, and he complained of pain. All of my other patients today have been elderly and I guess I wasn’t thinking straight, because I suggested it might be arthritis.”
Larissa lifted an eyebrow. “Well, that was silly of you.”
“I know, I know. I’ve repeatedly apologized and we immediately stopped doing the work.”
Emily broke in. “We think Jim might have a stress fracture or a minor break somewhere in his leg that’s causing the pain. We want to have his GP look at him, but until you came he wouldn’t even sit still long enough for that.”
Jim started to complain again. “I’m just saying I find it hard to believe...”
Pam walked up to Jim and grabbed him by the shirt. “Jim Halpert, if I ever hear about you refusing treatment again I will personally replace the jellybeans at Dunder Mifflin with licorice.”
He blinked. “What?”
“I’m sorry the PT hurt. But you need to let them figure out what’s wrong, not throw a hissy fit. And you know who loves licorice?”
“Dwight. So unless you want me to lure Dwight to my desk every day instead of you, stop whining and let Emily help you.”
He sighed. She glared. He looked away. Larissa giggled. He glared. She met his eyes. He looked away again.
“OK, Emily, I’m sorry. Where do you want me?”
“There is fine.” She knelt beside him. “Keep your legs extended and tell me where it hurts.”
The physical therapist beat a hasty retreat while Pam and Larissa looked on concerned. After a brief exchange the nurse got Jim a pair of crutches from a cabinet in the hall and told him the GP would be in to see him shortly. She mouthed “thank you” to Pam and got back to her work.
No insult intended to Geisinger with Jim's issue; this moment is based on something that did happen to a relative of mine, at another hospital. Thanks to all who have read and reviewed. I appreciate hearing from you.
June 12: Jim's Room by Comfect
Just more JPL.
Doctor Pederson confirmed what the nurse had said: Jim had a hairline fracture in his right fibula, which they had somehow missed in the initial scans. His advice was much like the neurologists’ approach to Jim’s brain function, in that all he advised was waiting and seeing how it developed. As he put it, “if I put you in a cast, it’ll be more of a bother than the fracture. Keep using the crutches, don’t put weight on the leg if you can help it, and by the time we let you out for the rest of your injuries that one shouldn’t be a problem either.”
Pam liked Dr. Pederson.
So did Jim, which was probably more important, since it meant he didn’t grumble or quarrel with the prescription of minimal activity. Instead, he sprawled back in his hospital bed and quirked an eyebrow at his sister and girlfriend (girlfriend. Pam. Still can’t believe this is happening).
“So, I’m officially on bedrest now. What do we do now?”
Larissa grinned at him. No, at Pam. He really needed to figure out how these two had become partners in crime so quickly, because he was beginning to feel outnumbered. He glanced from one to the other, a question in his eyes.
“Well, um…” Pam began. “If you’re free around noon, my mom is coming by.”
A chance to meet the famous Helene Beesly? I can’t wait. Oh wait, did I say that out loud?
“Yeah, well, I’m glad you think so, because there doesn’t seem to be anything I can do about it.” I guess I did say that out loud. The pain meds must be making my filter go away. That, or not having to hide how I feel about Pam means I’ve forgotten how to hide anything.
“I’m sorry, Beesly, but did you just tell me that you tried to stop your mother from coming to visit me? Are you ashamed of me, Pam?”
A blush. Excellent. It was a real pleasure to be able to make her blush and just revel in it, to watch as the red crested up from her neck (or maybe points below—he’d have to check on that someday, a thought which made him start to blush in his own turn) and not to have to worry that Roy or Angela or someone would notice and give him a punch or a glare or a questioning look.
“No, I…” Pam flushed even darker.
Larissa came to her new friend’s assistance. “It’s just that she doesn’t want to freak you out by making you meet the parents while you’re flat on your back.”
“Parents? Is your dad coming too?”
Pam shot him a dirty look. What was that for? She must have seen the question in his eyes (or else his filter was shoddy again) because she actually answered the question.
“That’s exactly the quibble my mom used. ‘Oh, I didn’t invite your father, so it’s not the parents, now is it.’” Her voice got high and breathy as she imitated her mother, and he grinned. He’d never heard her so openly sarcastic about her family before—this was a glimpse at a side of Pam he’d never imagined before.
“Well, I never doubted that Mrs. Beesly would have a superior sense of humor.”
He looked over at his sister. “Larissa, Pam’s bullying me!”
“By comparing you to her mom? You’re going to have to do better than that, big bro.” She grinned at him. “Anyway, you know how the truth can’t be libel? I don’t think it can be bullying either. And you are a big dork.”
“I’m not the one quoting my one pre-law class. ‘The truth can’t be libel’ indeed.” Jim noticed that his voice did the same thing making fun of Larissa that Pam did imitating her mom. “I thought you’d be on my side here.”
“Oh, I am, Jim. You just don’t know your own best interests.” She waggled her eyebrows at him and Pam.
“And you do?”
Pam broke into the little family exchange. “Of course she does. Larissa, like all intelligent and right-thinking people, knows that what’s best for you is what keeps me happy. And besides, the girlfriend is always right.”
Jim grinned. “Well, if you’re my girlfriend…”
She rolled her eyes. “As I believe we established last night, yes, I am definitely your girlfriend now. Unless you’ve had a change of heart?”
He looked up into her eyes. He knew Pam. Now that she’d admitted he hadn’t misinterpreted anything that night in May, he was actually pretty certain he knew her at least as well as she knew herself. He’d had a hard month thinking that every signal, every sign he’d relied upon in the previous years to keep himself sane had been a lie—that he’d screwed up monumentally in his understanding of who she was and how she thought. But now he knew that was all for nothing; that he did in fact understand her, and had understood her, and could, therefore, conceivably go on understanding her. And what he saw right now in her eyes was that she’d phrased the question as a joke, but his answer was really important to her. He quashed the little part of him that wanted to respond sarcastically, saying something like Oh, well, now that you give me a choice… or I guess I was really loopy last night, so… and instead looked her dead in the eyes and said, slowly and sincerely, “Not a chance. You’re stuck with me, Beesly.”
Her eyes lit up like the sun sliding out from behind clouds. “Good.”
“Good. So that’s settled. Since you are my girlfriend, I will graciously concede that you are always right, and that therefore I am a dork. And that,” and here he cut his sister a dark look, “unfortunately, means that my little know-it-all sister over there is also right. So in the future, if you could just avoid agreeing with her, that would make my life a lot easier.”
Pam giggled. “I don’t know, Jim, I think I owe her a lot, so making sure you have to admit that she’s right seems like a pretty small price to pay.”
“For you maybe! You haven’t had twenty years of her showing you up by always knowing everything.”
Larissa looked mock-affronted. “I’m twenty-three!”
“Yeah, well, for the first three years you were a quiet little thing. Lulling us all into a false sense of security, I suppose.”
Jim turned back to Pam. “Once she turned four, though…”
Pam smiled. “I can imagine.”
“Well, now you don’t have to.” He grinned, and decided to risk expressing the depth of his true feelings, even if he didn’t have a full filter right now. “And I look forward to twenty years from now, when you tell me how twenty years of it feels. Of course, by then I’ll be a forty-year veteran, so don’t imagine your feelings will be anywhere near mine.”
She smiled up at him. “Oh, I think they just might be.”
Helene will enter soon. On a side note, there's no character tag for her (sorrow). Thank you to all who have continued reading, reviewing, and so on. I value you all.
June 12: By Jim's Bed by Comfect
Jim and Pam, with a soupçon of Larissa.
They were interrupted a couple more times by doctors coming in to check on Jim’s condition, and once by the nurse coming in to monitor his IV bags. Pam made sure to get out of the nurse’s way, moving down to sit by Larissa at the foot of the bed, but as soon as she was gone she moved right back up. Unfortunately, she wasn’t paying attention to where her purse was as she did so, and it caught the edge of the sketch she had done for Jim, sending it fluttering onto his bed.
Jim did not miss the opportunity to call her out on this—and in fact, he’d been intending to ask her about it all morning. “Hey, Beesly?”
Pam looked over and saw him holding the sketch, causing her to blush again.
“Oh, just a get-well present from me.”
“It’s from you?” She nodded. “Oh good, I was starting to wonder if I had a stalker.”
Larissa couldn’t resist. “Well…she did sketch it and put it there when you were asleep.”
Jim nodded. “True, true. So maybe I do have a stalker after all.”
“Hey, she invited me here!” Pam defended herself.
Jim instantly conceded, not really being interested in pushing Pam away even in jest. “And I am grateful for that.” His eyes twinkled. “But I was also wondering…:”
Pam instinctively leaned in towards him as he trailed off. “Yes, Halpert? You were wondering?”
“If you could decipher it for me.” He gestured towards the sketch. “After all, it’s so…ambiguous. Uncertain. I’m not sure what message the artist was trying to convey.”
Pam looked at the pile of papers, her own reflection, and the words TOO MANY WAYS TO SAY I’M SORRY and BUT NOT ENOUGH TO SAY HOW MUCH I LOVE YOU in all caps and then looked back at Jim. She was not going to rise to this bait. “Well, Halpert, how about you tell me what it means to you? After all, they tell me the true meaning of art is in the eye of the beholder, not the mind of the artist. Art becomes public when it is displayed.”
“Who tells you that?”
“My art teacher.”
“You have an art teacher? Since when. I will be very put out if you tell me this was sixteen years ago or something, Beesly. Don’t get my hopes up.”
“No, no. Since, um, last week? I started summer session classes at the community college, actually. We meet on Wednesday nights at 8.”
“Ohmigod Pam, that’s awesome! I’m so proud of you.” Jim’s face broke into a giant smile. “You’re gonna love it.”
“Thanks. I think you’re right. I realized there were a lot of things I’d been putting off for a long time because…well, because of a lot of reasons. And so when I decided to change one thing I thought it was high time to start, um, changing the others.”
“That’s so awesome. You’ll have to tell me all about it. But, uh, it doesn’t help me penetrate the mystery that is this piece.” He waved the sketch. “So it’s public art now. Does that mean the artist meant for the meaning to be shared widely? Is this a declaration of some sort? Or am I looking at this the wrong way around, and there’s some kind of hidden private meaning deep within the details that the hoi polloi would miss? And what school of art am I looking at? Like, is this representational, or is it an abstract that just happens to look like it contains words and meaning?”
Pam looked down at him with deep love in her heart. How was it that he was always capable of injecting just the right amount of humor into the situation while at the same time revealing a deep and abiding interest in her interests? She didn’t think Jim was an artist—sure, he had artistic sensibilities, such as in the execution of pranks against Dwight or the crisp arc of a basketball shot (she thought back hungrily to the day she’d gotten to see him play at the office—all angles and curves and perfect execution), but he wasn’t someone who dedicated their mind or their life to art—so the fact that he was capable of joking around within her discipline with her meant something really deep to her. Roy hadn’t known enough about art or art appreciation to tell her more than “I like it” or “you done good.” Jim had shown her more actual awareness of the content and approach of her art in this teasing than Roy had in ten years.
“I don’t know, Jim—I made it, so it’s not mine to interpret. I gave it to you though, so what do you think it means?”
“Hmmm…tricky…” he mused.
She looked down into his eyes with all the love in her heart and suddenly saw the caution, the brokenness in him. The part of him that even after she’d told him she loved him, told him he was her boyfriend, still couldn’t fully let go of the words she’d said to him a month ago. She wanted to kick herself. She’d told him he’d “misinterpreted their friendship” and now here she was insisting he had to interpret something else to unlock the depth of her love. No. Not this time. She had resolved she was going to be honest, and so honest she would be. But she wasn’t going to let him out of his joke, either. Instead, she bent down and whispered in his ear “I promise, you won’t misinterpret this.”
She saw the surprise in his eyes as her words registered, followed by the sheer joy that she knew was mirrored in her own. “Then, Beesly,” he pronounced, “I suggest that this sketch is a public declaration. A declaration that the artist—caught here in a moment of self-doubt—is unaware of their own amazingness and unsure of how their work will come across. The paper is obviously a metaphor for art itself, and the love and the apology are both directed to the artwork itself, which the artist cannot leave unfinished but does not think worthy of being shown to the world.” He grinned up at her impishly. “So, is that right?”
She smiled down. “Of course. I told you you couldn’t misinterpret it. But I do think there’s one little thing you might be missing.”
“It also says I love you.” She leaned down and kissed him.
It would be cliché to say that fireworks went off, or that the world ceased to be, or that she felt an electric shock as they kissed. Certainly none of that happened. He was still semirecumbent in a hospital bed, she was bending over from a chair placed awkwardly far from the side of the bed, and he couldn’t fully turn towards her because the pain in his ribs. So it was a little clumsy. But it was the best kiss she’d ever had—even including both kisses on Casino Night—and she was never certain, afterwards, how long it had lasted. Just that it could not have been long enough.
He gazed up at her, his eyes involuntarily flicking back to her lips, and said in a dazed voice “Oh yeah. And that.”
Larissa cleared her throat. “Get a room, you two.” When Pam looked back at her, though, she was clearly grinning despite her attempt at a disgusted face. She exchanged a glance with Jim, half-embarrassed, half-proud. He took his cue from her and responded to his sister.
“Um, I believe I already have one, and we’re in it.”
At that, Larissa broke, and the three of them were laughing like hyenas (as they were quickly informed) when Helene Beesly walked into the room.
I promise actual amounts of Helene in the next chapter, but I realized I hadn't actually had them discuss the sketch yet. Thanks to all who have read and reviewed! Much gratitude is felt here for you.
June 12: Enter Helene by Comfect
I think the title says it all.
“Hello? There you are, Pam!” Helene breezed into the room like a small hurricane, carrying all their attention in her wake. “I told the nurse I was here to see Jim Halpert and they showed me right in here. Isn’t that nice?” She sat down between Larissa and Pam, and placed the small bag and purse she was carrying between her feet. “Now, honey, the last time I visited you I didn’t get to meet him, but I’m assuming this young man simply must be Jim.”
Pam was beginning to wonder where all the blood came from to produce all the blushing she was doing. Larissa had made her do it; Jim had made her do it; now her own mother was making her do it too. She had fantasies of sinking down into the floor and exiting the room without anyone noticing, or, since that would leave her mother here to say anything she liked, of grabbing her mom and running out the door so that she couldn’t embarrass her in front of Jim. How was it that a mother always knew how best to make her child squirm?
Unbeknownst to her, Jim was experiencing some of the same symptoms. It was all very well to talk a big game about meeting Helene, and to tell Pam, Larissa, and himself that he was looking forward to it. He didn’t even need to lie; he had been looking forward to it. But the actual fact of the matter was that he was terrified, and also a bit embarrassed. He was embarrassed because he had a good sense that Pam and her mother had the kind of relationship where they…talked. About things. Important things. Possibly things that included moments like “Jim said he loved me” or “Jim kissed me” or “Jim ran away after I didn’t immediately give him the answer he wanted.” Possibly even “Jim broke my heart,” which he was beginning to retrospectively worry might have been the case if Pam really felt the way she was telling him she did. So he was embarrassed to be here, patently caught in the act of running away—even if that accident that had caught him here was now receiving hourly blessing in his heart for reuniting him with Pam—and under the scrutiny of a woman who probably knew Pam’s side of all of this.
He was terrified for much the same reason, if one added in complete inexperience and the humongous stakes of his love for Pam. The last parent of a girlfriend that he’d met (and Pam had insisted she was his girlfriend, right? This wasn’t another dream? No more monuments were going to loom up on the horizon, or indoor waterfalls?) had been Sally Jenkins’s parents, Ronald and Marla, when he took her to senior prom. And since Mr. Jenkins had been his basketball coach, he hadn’t really had to meet him, or Mrs. Jenkins for the first time. And Sally and he hadn’t even been seriously dating—it was more a matter of neither of them having time to date anyone who wasn’t on the same sports team (or close enough—Sally was the center on the women’s team, which her mom coached, and which traveled to the same tournaments so they actually got to see each other. He had a sneaking suspicion her interest in him had less to do with him and more to do with wanting to date someone who was actually of a similar height). So he was completely out of his depth. He’d had a couple girlfriends in college, neither of whom had lasted long enough for any parent-meeting to occur, and his relationships with the girls like Katy and (god help him) Brenda whom he’d dated in the past few years had felt…unsubstantial, for some reason. Some curly-haired, Pam-shaped reason currently blushing in the chair next to him, to be precise. Which brought him from his relative inexperience with this situation to the real reason he was terrified: he could not afford to screw this up. Pamela Morgan Beesly was it for him. He had realized that when his monument valley of failures had turned out to be more than half Pam. She was more central to him than any organ: they could all be replaced, but Pam Beesly could not. So meeting her mother, while a necessary, welcome step that indicated that he belonged in Pam’s life, was completely and utterly unnerving because he dreaded making some kind of wrong move, especially given the possibility—the probability, the near-certainty—that she knew so much about him already that she’d have Expectations. Ones that he could Fail to Meet. He wondered briefly if the “no running, no walking without crutches, stay put unless we tell you to” rule that Dr. Pedersen had prescribed had an exemption for fleeing in terror. Until he glanced over at Pam and recognized her unease, which paradoxically put him in a more comfortable position. This was about protecting Pam, about doing for her what she needed him to do. That was a situation he could handle. He began to breathe again.
The one person who was in no way discomfited by Mrs. Beesly’s arrival (besides, of course, Mrs. Beesly herself) was Larissa, who smiled hugely and sat back, catching Pam’s eye and miming eating popcorn. She couldn’t tell if Pam noticed, because she would have expected her to blush in response, and the enormous blush already coating her face and neck would have been difficult to add to. She looked over to Jim and gave an encouraging thumbs up, to which he smiled (wanly, she thought) and took a deep breath.
She decided it was time to take matters into her own hands. “Bravo. You got that right! Tell me, was it that he’s the one in the hospital bed, or that he’s the only man in the room that tipped you off?” She grinned and stuck out her hand. “Sorry, don’t mind me, I’m just delirious with joy that my big brother finally managed to get a girlfriend and meet her parents, both on the same day. Larissa Halpert. I’m assuming you must be Helene.”
Helene took the offered hand, having noticed that both her daughter and Jim seemed oddly tongue-tied. Or perhaps not oddly, given that she’d barged in half an hour before she’d said she’d come—she’d simply found herself puttering around the house with nothing to do and decided it was high time she set eyes on the man she was pretty sure her daughter was head over heels in love with. Fortunately, their mirroring reactions to her sudden presence seemed to confirm that they were well-matched, and the look Jim was giving her daughter was very satisfactory indeed. She decided that she liked this Larissa Halpert—at least someone here had their wits about them. She thought the two lovebirds would need that, since clearly neither of them did.
“You’re correct. What gave it away? The fact that I called Pam honey, or the family resemblance?”
Larissa grinned. “I think it was the way you just walked in and took charge, like you did on the phone.”
Helene laughed. Yes, she definitely approved of this one. Hopefully once he decided to open his mouth she’d find that Jim had something in common with his sister, because she could see where Pam would benefit from someone with a sharp sense of the ridiculous in her life. Larissa took advantage of the moment of laughter to shake Jim’s foot, which in turn made him break out of his semi-stupor and respond.
“Well, as my graceless little sister has said, I’m Jim. Hello, Mrs. Beesly, it’s nice to actually meet you instead of watching Pam hide you behind a reception desk.” He threw a soft smile over to Pam as he said this before reaching a hand out and meeting Helene’s smiling eyes. “I have ever so many questions for you.”
And now we get to the meat of the matter: Jim, Pam, Helene, and Larissa (and then, lunch!). Thank you to all who have read and reviewed and jellybeaned and so on. I appreciate it!
June 12: Helene by Comfect
Helene's POV as she and Jim talk.
Helene leaned forward in her chair as Jim began to tick off questions on his fingers.
“As a child, did Pam show any traits that would hint towards her future career as a receptionist?”
He grinned at her—she could suddenly see, through all the tiredness and the pain and the general hospitalized vibe he was giving off, exactly why her daughter had become so captivated with him—and Pam slapped him lightly on the shoulder, giggling.
“Ow! Pam, didn’t anyone ever tell you not to hit defenseless people? Actually, Mrs. Beesly—”
“Helene, please, Jim,” she broke in, with a smile. She couldn’t remember the last time she’d seen Pam go from uptight and stressed (which she had definitely been when Helene had walked through the door) to happy and giggly so quickly.
“Helene. Pam’s little outburst here brings me to question two: is her violent behavior something you inculcated in her from an early age, or is it merely an inherent aspect of her nature beyond your control?” Pam stuck out her tongue at him, while Larissa gave off a whoop of laughter that she’d clearly been struggling to hold in since the first question. Helene was not surprised but gratified to see that this whole family—or at least the two she’d now met—were so comfortable with her daughter, and that her daughter was comfortable with them. That had been one of her primary concerns with the Andersons. Lovely people, salt of the earth, good neighbors, Roy’s mother was in her book club…but they’d never really understood Pam, and so her daughter had always been so uptight about impressing them that the last time she could remember her being calm around them was before she and Roy had begun dating. Well before, in fact, since once Roy stopped being “the boy around the corner who she played tag with” and became “the star quarterback of the football team,” Pam hadn’t been comfortable around him until after he suddenly asked her out—if then. The Halperts, those she’d seen of them, were clearly different, and it was truly a delight to see her daughter so at ease, especially under the current circumstances.
“Three, and this one is very important, so I want you to think hard before you answer.” He stared at her mock-seriously—she could tell it was mock-, even on small acquaintance, because his eyebrows were still doing something ridiculous even as the rest of his face was doing its best to appear dire—and gestured with his three fingers at her. “Three: are you as proud of her artistic endeavors as I am? Because our little Pamela here is brilliant.” The grin flared back into life, and she saw Pam out of the corner of her eye bury her head in her hands, her face buring—while on her other side, she noticed, turning her head to confirm it, Larissa was nodding along. She filed that last away for reference: unless she was utterly mistaken, Pam and Larissa had only met this weekend, because she had no recollection of Pam mentioning her before in any of the long conversations they had had about Jim. Which meant that one or both of two things were true: either Jim had told his sister about Pam as much and talked about her as often as Pam had told and talked to her about Jim, or Larissa had somehow convinced Pam to reveal her artistic tendencies within two days of meeting her. Either one was encouraging about this burgeoning relationship—both would be wonderful. Her eyes caught a glimpse of a little sketch clutched in Jim’s hand. She recognized her daughter’s work instantly, and Jim must have been paying close attention to her eyes as he waved the little sketch while winking at her.
“Four—and just because three was vital doesn’t mean I don’t want an answer to this as well—did Pam show any signs of pranking, mischief, or chicanery in her life before Dunder Mifflin, or have am I completely to blame for her utter corruption in the matter of one Dwight K. Schrute?”
By now even Pam was reduced to pure laughter, all sense of embarrassment burnt out by an overwhelming sense of amusement with Jim’s questioning. Helene smiled warmly down at Jim and raised her own fingers. Seeing her movement, he sat up in his bed, lowered his own hand, and gave her a wide-eyed innocent look that seemed to scream “lay it on me.”
She cleared her throat and noticed that Larissa and Pam made mirrored half-turns to look at her, then giggled when their eyes met across her face. She began to tick off answers to Jim’s questions on her fingers, remaining aware of the other two people in the room but not dropping eye contact with him as she began.
“First, of course she did.” She winked at Jim as Pam’s jaw fell open and her hands went to her hips. “Our little Pammy—you know she hates that nickname, right? But when she was small it was all she’d answer to—“ (she noticed with an inner smile that that particular sally had not missed Jim—or Larissa, which she filed away with interest) “absolutely loved to greet visitors. She’d run to the door before her father or I could get there and throw it wide open whenever anyone knocked. I think there was a good two years when our postman thought the house was solely occupied by a small curly-haired girl with impeccable manners, and I think there was at least one Jehovah’s Witness who didn’t know whether he should ask to see her parents or just convert her on the spot.” She smiled fondly. “I think that phase ended when she discovered boys and was afraid that it would be what my husband liked to refer to as ‘a gentleman caller’ at the door, but she really was a wonderful greeter when she was young.”
Pam hissed “Mom!” but Helene was not to be so easily dissuaded from continuing.
“Second, I’m afraid that particular tendency should be placed entirely at your door, Jim.” She laughed, softly. “Pam was a perfect little angel as a child, and I’m not sure I’ve seen her touch anyone—violently or not—as often as she’s touched you in the last few minutes.” She glanced to the side to see that Pam had apparently run out of blushes, gone through the ostrich phase, and was now shaking her head at her resignedly while exchanging eye-rolls with Larissa, who was in turn looking at Jim smugly—and it was he who was bright red and avoiding her gaze. “The third question is your first major mis-step, though, Jim.” His head shot up in alarm and she met his panicked eyes calmly. “I’ve never told Pam her work was anything but the best, and I’ve never been anything but entirely sincere.” His eyes softened and he nodded at her, once, while she focused on conveying without saying it—in front of Pam, right now, at least—that Pam’s worries about her artistic talent came from…other sources. Sources that were now, happily, out of the picture, for good she hoped. “So I think I’ll turn that around to you: are you as proud of my Pam’s work as I am? Because I’ve always known she was special.” He nodded again, and she returned it. Good boy.
“Four…as I said, my Pam was a good, well-behaved girl.” She leaned in closer to Jim and mock-whispered, loud enough that she was sure Larissa and Pam could hear as well. “But I’d been waiting for her to snap about Dwight for the whole year before you showed up. So I think you tapped something latent in there, Jim. Good for you.” She stood up. “Now, who wants lunch?”
I cribbed Jim's first question from Sexual Harassment; the rest is my invention. Thank you to all who have read, reviewed, etc. I appreciate you all immensely.
June 12: Cafeteria by Comfect
Jim expressed a ravenous desire for food, and Pam and Larissa admitted they had not eaten anything substantial on their way to the hospital that morning, so Helene led the two of them out of Jim’s room and—after a quick consultation with the nurse, who confirmed that Jim was allowed solid foods if they brought them to him, and who asked for a mocha from the coffee shop—down the hallway, down a staircase, and through a pair of double doors into the cafeteria. Pam envied her mother’s ability to orient herself within the hospital until her mother pointed out the clear directional signs she had been following the whole way—after which she just felt silly.
The cafeteria was less like the high-school cafeteria of Pam’s youth and more like a mall food court—little kiosks with different cuisine options, all funneled through a single cashier. Helene grabbed the mocha for the nurse, a tray of egg rolls for herself, and a large lemonade; Larissa made a beeline for the burger bar; and Pam found herself in front of a Subway knock-off ordering two ham and cheese subs, one with chips and a cookie and one with chips and mixed berry yogurt, and two sodas. Grape, naturally. She was about to skip back up to the ICU and deliver Jim his food when her mother stopped her.
“Pam…I think Jim might need a few minutes without visitors to rest.”
Pam instinctively looked to Larissa for support. “But Jim said he was hungry!”
Larissa shrugged—Pam was pretty sure her facial expression, which mirrored Jim’s when Michael was being crazy, was Halpert code for “this one’s all you”—and Helene smiled at her daughter. “I know dear, but it’s not like you got him something hot that will cool down, and I think he could just use a few moments to close his eyes.”
Pam bit her lip. “He did just come from PT.” Helene nodded. “And they discovered he had a broken leg…” Pam trailed off. Her mother’s logic was sound, she had to admit. Much as she loved Jim, if she had had the morning he’d had she would probably need to close her eyes, and she hadn’t spent the last three days mostly out of it.
Helene expressed herself startled to discover both that Jim had been up for PT that morning and that he had discovered additional injuries when he did so, and she smoothly maneuvered Pam and Larissa over to one of the tables (after paying for their food—“I’m your mom, I get to pamper you, Pam. Larissa Halpert, don’t you make me take that bag away from you. I’m the mom, I get to pay”). She opened the little tray of egg rolls said “tell me everything about the accident” before popping one in her mouth and making direct eye contact with Pam.
As was becoming increasingly usual, Pam realized, Larissa took the lead.
“So, I don’t know how much Pam told you on the phone”—this was a lie, Pam reflected, since Larissa knew exactly what she’d told her mother on the phone, but probably a white lie—“but four days ago Jim was on the way to the airport, going to Australia…”
Pam let the words wash over her and thought back through the same time in her life. Four days ago she had been crying her heart out on her mom’s sofa, trying desperately to feel what she felt like she ought to feel: to be sad that she had broken Roy’s heart and left him almost at the altar, rather than that the man she had come to realize she truly loved had left her in turn. She couldn’t remember exactly what she had said to her parents, but somehow her mother had known—not said anything, not remonstrated with her or scolded her or criticized her, just known—that she wasn’t crying just about Roy. Maybe, she realized with a start, it was because she never cried to her mother about Roy anymore; she’d stopped really expecting things from him, so he’d lost the ability to hurt her this badly. It wasn’t that she never complained about Roy, or got sniffly about things, or even cried about a particular opportunity that had passed by because of his opposition to it (there had been at least one crying phone call when she’d turned down that graphic design internship, for instance) but she hadn’t really cried over Roy himself—over something he specifically did or said or how she felt about him—in years. Now, a broken engagement was different from a missed birthday party or a forgotten anniversary or a vacant Valentine’s, but it wasn’t that different. So her mother had known.
And now that she thought about it, maybe her mother had known about her plans for June 10, too. The last time her mother had offered to stay with her, to come down, to visit, and Pam had turned her down, she’d said “good luck.” Not “I’m sorry,” or “will you be OK?” or even “well, if that’s what you want.” She’d said “good luck,” and she’d sounded much less sorry that Pam wasn’t seeking out her company than Pam had expected. She hadn’t thought much of it then, being so focused on her battle of wills with herself to just call him, but now she recognized in that her mother realizing that there was something more going on. She might not have—probably didn’t—know exactly what, but she had understood it was more than Roy, and that whatever it was, Pam needed to work through it herself.
Of course, she hadn’t let her work it all out for herself, because here she was, sitting in the hospital listening to Larissa detail the reasons she had been alone, how and why she had called Pam, and how things had gone after that, all while shooting sympathetic glances Pam’s way. Pam was overcome with love and affection in that moment, and leaned over to give her mother a hug, uncaring which moment in the story she was interrupting. Her mother hugged her back and she glanced up at Larissa, who leaned into her self-appointed role as younger sister by sticking her tongue out.
Pam felt, for the first time since she’d heard that phone call, like things were going to be OK. She was going to go back upstairs—to her boyfriend, her Jim, who she’d finally told she loved him—and he would get to know her mom, and she’d make faces at Larissa, and it would all be OK.
Your reaction to the last paragraph will be, I think, determined by how sadistic you think I am. Check the tags ;). Thanks to all who have read and reviewed!
June 12: Afternoon by Comfect
A brief (half-length) update to remind you all to trust me not to jerk you around: this piece has fluff in the tags, not just angst.
After a quick and entertaining lunch, the three headed back up to Jim’s room, delivering the mocha on the way, and Jim greeted them looking noticeably more relaxed. His assumed nonchalance wore off quickly when Pam revealed his ham and cheese, chips, and cookie from behind her back, and he was practically salivating when she added a grape soda on top. Larissa made a comment about bells and dogs, Pam giggled, and Helene smiled at them all, happy to see her daughter so un-self-conscious.
The nurse chose that moment to come in, mocha in hand, and tell Jim that they were going to keep him in the ICU for one more day, but assuming he was still recovering they would move him to a less intensive unit to free up the bed in the ICU for incoming cases. Jim toasted the news with grape soda and they all settled into the room buzzing happily. Helene and Jim got into an in-depth discussion of British television shows from the ‘80s, which it turned out she and his parents had a mutual interest in—she preferring Yes, Minister and he Blackadder—while Pam and Larissa listened in and mocked them (mostly Jim) as felt necessary. Jim made sure to lob a few firecrackers back, while Helene just let it wash over her, enjoying the children’s camaraderie.
The room itself was actually quite nicely furnished, especially now that Jim’s decorations were all hung. Larissa assured them all that she had extra Command strips for Jim’s new room, and Jim made Pam promise to bring a frame sized for her sketch so that he could display it, as he put it, “properly.” Helene in turn expressed interest in seeing the sketch up close, and to Pam’s public embarrassment and secret delight she, Jim, and Larissa went over it in detail, admiring the work she had put into it. This led into a general discussion of Jim’s taste in art and, thanks to Jim’s teasing query as to where his Penthouse poster was, to Pam’s taste in which of his (actual) art pieces to bring over. Jim repositioned the poster with the equation for life (or rather, Larissa repositioned it on his orders), rotating it 90 degrees so it looked more like a strange abstract painting, and Pam and Helene applauded the daring move. The conversation turned more generally to culture, and Helene revealed that before Pam had become an artist, she had wanted more than anything to be a great dancer (Pam’s “Mom! I was three!” was drowned out by Jim’s “I knew it!” and Larissa’s “Really?”). Jim assured Pam seriously that she could dance with him anytime, which earned the deserved response that that was brave talk from a man on doctor’s orders not to stand up without crutches.
Eventually time wound on such that Helene had to say goodbye—it was a two hour drive back home, and she really did want to be back before Pam’s father. She promised to visit again, possibly with him, probably without, and gave both Jim and Larissa big hugs before leaving. Pam walked her out, and they shared a long, meaningful embrace before Helene got in the car and drove home.
June 12: Waiting Room by Comfect
Pam and Larissa.
The waiting room in the hospital was not Pam’s favorite space. It was a little cramped; yesterday had apparently been a low-traffic day, for some reason, but now there were people coming in and out constantly, and other families huddled in corners worrying about their respective relatives in the other rooms besides Jim’s. There was a coffeepot in the corner, but she didn’t really like coffee. It had a hot water dispenser, of course, and there was tea in a little box beside it—tea she was currently nursing extremely slowly—but it was basic Lipton, in two flavors: caffeine and no caffeine. Larissa was sitting beside her with a hot chocolate—Swiss Miss, not even with any sugar added—and each of them was fighting the fidgets. They were, in short, bored, and the blaring TV (was that really here yesterday? Pam thought. I must have been really exhausted after the night I spent here not to notice it. Of course, I was) was showing reruns of Judge Judy. Normally, of course, Pam would actually have relished the chance to sit in a chair sipping tea and watching manufactured courtroom drama, but the anger and volume on display within the screen was simply grating right now.
It didn’t help that she and Larissa had nothing to actually do. Jim’s nurse had quietly insisted that he needed real rest, and suggested subtly but firmly that Pam’s presence in particular, while on the whole beneficial to Jim’s desire to heal, made it very difficult to get her patient to accept the necessity of sleep. He’d smiled over at her and admitted that he couldn’t bear to spend a moment with her asleep when he’d only just gotten her to himself—so, of course, that had meant that she felt obliged to leave so he could actually sleep (despite the soaring in her heart when she remembered him saying it). She wasn’t hungry after lunch, her phone was running out of battery, and she hadn’t thought to bring a deck of cards or anything. Larissa was the sort of person who could zone out in a public space, so she was staring straight ahead, but Pam was constantly distracted by each patient brought in, each family member who shifted, each nurse who was paged. She tried her usual distraction technique of looking for subjects to sketch, but she was presented with simply too many options: there, the man sitting with his head in his hands, his face gaunt and his mustache drooping whenever he looked up to the board that told him how long it would be until his wife came out of surgery, his long legs tucked under him in a gesture that reminded her achingly of Jim, and making her wonder what it would be like to grow that old with him; there the young couple holding each other’s hands tightly and touching foreheads as they struggled not to cry about a child who had been admitted an hour earlier with his arm and leg at two different alarming angles, their bodies making a perfect heart shape; there the various blotches of color comprising a large family swirling around their matriarch, a regal-looking woman in a bright orange dress who sat stock still in the midst of their chaos, as if holding herself together was a sympathetic magic that allowed her to guarantee that her daughter’s body and soul would hold together just as well, but in whose oval face Pam could see the incipient flush of distress that mirrored or even exceeded that of her vast clan in constant motion around her. She longed to paint them all, but there were too many for her to concentrate on any one—and she was all too aware of the limitations of pencil and paper to capture the subtle variations of color that were most appealing to her.
She and Larissa had taken the only two seats together available in the room, sitting directly underneath the monitor that told the families whose relatives were out for surgery when they might return. By a cruel irony, of course, Jim was not on this list, because he was not out for surgery. Pam, in her quieter moments, was grateful for this, because she knew he was just resting in his room, not under any particular additional danger from an operation. But all the eyes glancing towards her—not at her, but above her, near her, skimming her personal space with their eyes—made her at the same time feel obscurely robbed of the opportunity to experience this common bond, to look where they looked, see what they saw. She knew this for the irrationality it was, but wished she could have sat somewhere else, where the centrality of the big board was not as firmly impressed upon her senses.
At length she pulled out her sketchbook anyway. Maybe she could at least make a start on one sketch, even if she had to leave it incomplete in order to do justice to it by coloring it in later. As she pulled out the pad of paper, something clattered to the floor. As she bent to pick it up, she caught Larissa giggling out of the corner of her eye, and quirked an eyebrow at her. Larissa gestured to the floor and Pam bent down to pick whatever it was up…only to stop in surprise as she saw a new set of colored pencils that she was sure had not been in there before.
“I slipped those in there in the car this morning,” Larissa said through her giggle fit. “I had a little bet with Jim over how long it would take you to notice.”
“Thank you!” Pam impulsively gave the other woman a hug. “How did you…when did you…”
“I saw the sketch yesterday, remember? And I noticed the shapes were right but you said you thought in colors too. So I thought as a thank you for making my brother so happy I could do something for you.”
“I don’t…thank…I don’t know what to say.”
“Don’t say anything. Just enjoy them, and maybe let me see what you do with them.”
“Deal. But when did you make a bet with Jim?”
“During lunch. I stole a moment when you were talking to your mother to whisper in his ear.”
“You Halperts.” Pam grinned. “Thanks.”
Larissa shrugged. “I said, you’re family. We do nice things for family.”
Thank you all for reading and reviewing. I appreciate you all!
June 12: Jim's Head by Comfect
Jim's head, only this time, he's awake. Set at the same time as the previous chapter with Pam, only Jim's POV this time.
Jim woke up to discover, to his dismay, that he’d slept for two whole hours. Two hours of Pam Beesly sitting out in the waiting room, waiting for him, and he’d wasted them on sleep. Of course, as the nurse reminded him when she peeked in to take his vitals and found him awake, that meant he must really need the sleep—certainly, he thought, he had never imagined spending the first full day after Pam told him she loved him sleeping. Or meeting her mother, come to that, although he had no regrets about having met Helene Beesly. She impressed him as the polar opposite of his own mother: where Betsy Halpert was the quiet calm center around which a maelstrom of Halpert energy whirled, the eye of the Halpert Hurricane, if you will, Helene Beesly struck him as the motivating force of the Beesly household, that which energized her comparatively passive family. It wasn’t that Pam was actually passive, he mused—after all, he’d seen her do absolutely brilliant things on her own initiative, both in pranks on Dwight and in her own life—but that she drew energy from those around her, and he could suddenly see why. Who could not when they had someone like Helene standing behind them from a young age? Of course, that had meant that when someone like Roy came, she drew negative energy from him. Jim frowned. He had already made a dozen resolutions not to be like Roy—here was another for him to make. He would strive to be a source of positive energy for Pam, or if he couldn’t do that, to tell her as much and not suck energy back out of her.
He wrenched his mind away from Roy—not the healthiest of thoughts, he knew—and back to Helene. She had seemed very eager to meet him…wait a minute, didn’t the Beeslys live two hours out of Scranton? Pam had said once that she never got to see her mother as much as she wanted because of how far away they were. Revise very to almost alarmingly. Though on the other hand, was it really alarming? Wasn’t it a good sign that Helene was so eager to meet him, so pleasant to him? But god, he must have been crazy to ask her all those aggressive, intrusive questions! Thank god it seemed she’d taken them in the spirit he’d offered them, as playful indications of how much he cared about Pam, not (as he now shuddered to realize they could have been taken) as the rude and meddling questions of someone who didn’t know what they were talking about and devalued her relationship to Pam. Of course she knew how good an artist her daughter was; where did he think she had gotten the initial encouragement before she met Roy? And there was the reason, he realized, that Helene had taken his questions in the right spirit. Roy had taken that confidence away from Pam; no degree of rudeness in support of Pam was going to register negatively with the Beeslys now. Still, he needed to do better. He owed it to Pam, and he really, really wanted her mother to like him.
He had a vision of Thanksgivings and Christmases Future, if Helene Beesly did not like him. No, definitely a situation to be avoided. He didn’t want to be the boyfriend…the fiancé…the husband someday…who had to dress up in a sweater vest and slacks just to try to deflect attention from his usual slovenly mistreatment of their daughter. Of course, he knew, he’d be the boyfriend dressed in a sweater and slacks because he liked it, but that was a different matter. He wasn’t going to let himself become someone who had to compensate with the Beeslys for the reasons he’d given them to dislike him. He was going to make them like him out of the gate, if he could do anything at all about it.
Thinking of family events brought his mind around to Larissa. Damn, he owed her. Big time. He’d been petrified when he’d realized how she’d hunted down Pam, on June 10 of all days. He was so glad he hadn’t known that was her plan in advance, because if he’d been conscious he’d have been going into cardiac arrest. The odds of her calling Pamela Anderson had been far too high for him to contemplate, and he wasn’t sure which would have been worse: Pam not coming because she was on her honeymoon with Roy, or Pam coming and sitting by his side while wearing another man’s wedding ring. Alright, he knew which was worse, and it was, as it always had been, the one where Pam was not with him. It was still a terrifying possibility, though, that she would have had the second ring on her hand while she held his. But Larissa had been right (as always, he grumped) to call, he realized. Even a married Pam would have helped him recover, even if she would have broken his heart further. And the Pam she’d found? The unmarried, in-love-with-him Pam who was out there in that waiting room? She was beyond words. He wondered what alternate universe Larissa had pulled her from through a black hole, because she was impossibly, wonderfully perfect. He owed Larissa more than even she knew—and from the glances and smirks she’d been sending his way, she knew a lot.
And she and Pam got along. Not that he’d ever doubted it, but my god, the opportunity to see it with his own eyes! He’d been too much of a coward to invite L over to the office…too afraid she’d see beyond what he’d already told her and his family over the phone and at family gatherings to the heart of the matter…the fact that Pam Beesly owned his life. And he hadn’t been sure if he could have taken it if she and Pam had gotten along as well as he’d thought they would while she was still dating Roy. To have Pam joking along with his sister, treating her like her own family, making in-jokes with her, while wearing Roy’s engagement ring would have been heartbreaking in its own right, because it would have been another glimpse of a world he couldn’t have.
Except he could. He lay back and smiled. Pam Beesly was waiting out in the waiting room for him, with Larissa-the-always-right keeping her company. He wondered when she’d find the pencils, then wondered again how Larissa always knew the right thing to do. He supposed he should take some credit for that—they’d been inseparable for years, after all, even if he had let her fall from a tree—but just like he couldn’t bring himself to actually think he had anything to do with Pam actually being out there, in love with him (it had to be divine providence of some kind, or a miracle at least), he also didn’t feel he could really place Larissa’s maturation at any door but hers. He’d just been lucky enough to be the big brother who got to see it.
And now, if he played his cards right, Pam would be the sister-in-law who got to see it too, someday.
Thank you all who have been reading and reviewing. This is now, I think, my most-read fic, and I appreciate each and every one of you.
June 12: Pam's Chair by Jim's Bed by Comfect
JAM, and an iPod.
After Jim’s “nap,” as Larissa insisted on referring to it, even though he insisted he hadn’t really slept and he wasn’t five anymore (Larissa reminding him that she didn’t remember when he was five anyway, so she was just making up for lost time, Pam agreeing wholeheartedly that they needed a replay of young Jim for both their sakes), they all hung out for a little while, chatting amiably about almost anything but Jim’s condition. But after the third time the nurse stuck her head in to take Jim’s vitals, Larissa was startled to look at her phone and realize it was already 8. She glanced over at Jim and Pam, now cordially debating whether Stanley would notice if Pam replaced his crossword puzzles with her Sudoku (Jim: clearly he wouldn’t! The man barely notices Michael; Pam: clearly he would! The only thing he actually pays attention to is the crossword!), listened to her stomach rumble, and decided it was time to leave the two love-birds alone for a little. She needed to make sure her car was still in the lot anyway after getting that ride from Pam the night before, and they were clearly in their own little world. She made a big show of yawning and stretching and announcing her departure, and then she was out of there, with a promise to return before the morning’s round of doctors.
Pam and Jim were sad to see her go, he because he felt guilty for ignoring Larissa, who had spent two days here alone with him, unconscious; she because she was beginning to realize she hadn’t actually spent any time alone with Jim since her declaration of love and she found herself unsure both what might happen and what she wanted to happen. But each of them put that sadness away quite easily when they found themselves actually alone together. Jim started to reach for Pam, only to pull back with a wince as his ribs and leg decided that twisting around on the bed in that particular way was not a good idea. Pam noticed his expression of pain and bent over to kiss him herself, which they both privately decided was a good compromise.
When the kiss finally broke, she debated her options. One: jump Jim right then and there. Pros: it was Jim. She really, really wanted to. They were finally alone, and the nurse shouldn’t be back for at least half an hour. Cons: the nurse would be back in half an hour. Jim was literally under doctor’s orders to move his leg as little as possible, and he would definitely need to move it at least a little for what she was imagining (maybe put that last part a little on the Pro side as well, she thought). Jim had already started expressing pain before she even touched him. Two: leave for home. Pros: she wouldn’t be teasing herself with thoughts of option one. OK, she would, but she wouldn’t be teasing herself by thinking of option one while sitting next to Jim. She could get a good night’s sleep, and so could Jim. Cons: no Jim. Which was a big con all by itself, enough that she didn’t feel like listing the rest. Option three: Dazed and Confused. Pros: Jim. A callback to their friendship with added possibility of mid-movie-makeouts. A mutual favorite movie. Unlikely to cause Jim direct pain. Cons: not sex.
The action was child to the thought, and she was pulling out her video iPod before she could come up with an option four. Jim raised an eyebrow when she fished it out of her bag.
“Beesly?” He gestured at the iPod. “Did you trade my teapot away again when I wasn’t looking?”
She fought the urge to blush and grinned instead. “Wouldn’t you like to know!”
He looked at her skeptically. “Would I? Would I really, Pam?”
She smirked, imitating his normal look to make him laugh. “You know you would. You want to know everything about me.” It was wonderful to be able to say that without flinching at the subtext; without dodging its implications; without seeing Jim wince at the truth of it. Wait, scratch that last one. She caught his face with her other hand as he winced out of sheer muscle memory and looked him deep in the eyes. “And I love that about you.” She kissed him, not deeply or passionately like she had before, but softly, tenderly, and quickly, a kiss intended to remind rather than convince him of the love they shared. She grinned again. “I’m really tempted to tell you that once the bonus gifts were out of it, the teapot lost its magic. Or that when you left, I traded it back to Dwight. Or that once I had your heart, I didn’t need the pot.” She could see him getting confused, uncertain where she was going with this. “But then I realized, much as I love pranks, I could never really prank you like that, because I love you more. The teapot is sitting at my desk in reception, ready for me to use it when I come back from vacation. I bought this” she shook the iPod “when I broke up with Roy. A symbol of not waiting for him to get me things, but going out and getting them myself.” She kissed him quickly again. “After all, I was pretty sure he wasn’t going to get me the thing I wanted most.”
The smile on his face was like the sun up over Lake Scranton: bright, shining, and reflected in the waters of her eyes. Something deep inside his eyes flickered, and she wondered if he was going through the same mental list of options she had gone through a moment before. Then his eyebrow quirked up and he mimed pushing her away, asking “So I’m just a thing to you?”
“I mean, not just a thing, but….” She glanced ostentatiously down at his pants.
“BEEsly!” His voice broke, and he was red as one of Dwight’s beets, she noted proudly. Redder, even, since Dwight insisted a deep admixture of purple was necessary for a truly prize-winning beet. Wait, why was she thinking about Dwight again? Oh right, the iPod.
“So…I happen to have Dazed and Confused on here…”
“Beesly!” This time his voice was under control—too much so, it was like he’d found a register that spoke directly to her heart, as well as other parts of her. “Have I mentioned recently that I love you?”
A little part of her that she hadn’t realized was there crumbled in relief. Since he’d woken up, she’d made a point of telling him she loved him at, well not at every opportunity, but at most of them. But he hadn’t said it back. He’d clearly been OK with her being there, loving him, calling him her boyfriend, but he hadn’t actually said it back. And she’d really needed him to do it. She hadn’t wanted to ask outright, but a little bit of her had been wound up, worrying he had wanted to back away from that kind of explicit commitment. That part was finally satisfied.
“I seem to recall hearing it about a month ago.” Her voice only shook a little, and she was proud.
“That long?” Jim cocked his head as if calculating, and her heart almost stopped. “Well, then, I have about a month’s worth of saying it to make up for. So. Pamela Beesly, I love you.”
She blushed, and snuggled into his arm, the one part of him that was out of the bed. “I love you too.”
I think the story may wrap up "tomorrow", plus an epilogue--that is, not tomorrow in our universe, but tomorrow in the story universe, June 13. That's still going to be a fair number of additional chapters, though--I have some specific plans for things I want them to talk about that they haven't quite gotten to yet. Thanks to all who have read and reviewed; I very much like hearing from you about how this is going from your end.
June 12-3: Jim's Room by Comfect
Jim in the morning.
After the movie she settled into the chair across from his bed and tried to get settled. She knew in her heart—and from the multiple reminders from the nursing staff as they came in to check on Jim—that he needed his sleep, even though she was allowed to be there. So she tried to nestle in (it was one of the times, she reflected, that being small was an advantage rather than a hindrance) and make the best of it.
Jim watched her struggle to get comfortable with weary but amused eyes. He couldn’t deny the truth of the nurses’ repeated admonitions that he should sleep. It was difficult to keep his eyes open now that he wasn’t presented every moment with renewed amazement that Pam was touching him. But he also didn’t want to fall asleep before her. Partly this was because he felt he had been asleep for too much of the time she was there already; partly it was because he was dying to find out what she looked like sleeping. In the end he never did find out—they nodded off at the same moment, as if by mutual consent, and did not awake enough to observe each other until the next morning.
With that morning came Larissa, and the doctors, and the general landscape and feel of a madhouse, so he didn’t really get to observe Pam at all. He was disappointed, to be sure, but felt convinced that at least sometime he would get to see it—get to see her drifting off at night with his arms around her (damn this hospital bed anyway, he thought grumpily) and get to wake her up with a kiss and a smile. For now he shot her glances whenever he could, much to the frustration of some of his doctors who wanted him to stick out his tongue, turn his head this way and that, and (more generally) keep his focus on them, thank you very much, because they were after all the ones who saved his life.
As soon as he thought that, though, he retracted it. They might have kept him from dying immediately, but it was Pam (and, he conceded, Larissa because she brought Pam) who saved his life. Who made it worthwhile to stay on this little rocky orb, living this little salesman life.
What was he…what were they going to do about Stamford? He wasn’t due there for work until after his “Australia trip” (which he was clearly not going on) but he was due there after it. The question loomed large in his mind, and he debated asking Pam or Larissa to get Jan on the phone for him. But he had to admit he probably wasn’t in the best frame of mind to talk to her right that instant, and he couldn’t really be sure what he thought about it before he was certain what Pam thought about it, and he couldn’t tell that without actually talking to her. Which he couldn’t do with all these doctors in his face.
He tried to be patient as they poked and prodded, all the while rushing through options. She could move with him—only she had no job, and he was pretty sure she’d mentioned something about a “new apartment” which probably meant she had a lot of money tied up in a deposit and rent she was going to owe in Scranton. He could try to transfer back to Scranton…but the whole reason Jan had approved the accelerated request for the transfer was that Stamford needed an ARM badly, and Scranton didn’t actually have the contracts to justify his position right now. They could do long-distance. That might work. It was the least-worst option he could see right now. But he was not going to give up the chance to actually see Pam in the flesh during the week without a fight. He just didn’t know what fight it would be.
Apparently, the first set of doctors at least had decided he was sufficiently in shipshape that they could leave, which gave him a moment with his own thoughts while they conferred with Pam and Larissa about him (having already told him what they thought they needed to know). Maybe he could…no, he couldn’t reach that. Maybe…no, they hadn’t given him his phone back yet. Assuming it was even in one piece. He hadn’t found out which parts of his possessions had survived the crash, even those that had been on him at the time—he mentally bookmarked that as something to get on, how did they say here, stat—so a lot of options were curtailed. He resolved to ask Pam about their future the next time they were alone—well aware that this was a cop-out because he knew Larissa was there.
And then the nurse came back in with a smiling Larissa and Pam and gave him his first real good news of the day: “Jim, the doctors think a change of scenery would do you good. So we’re going to put you in a wheelchair and these nice ladies are going to take you to breakfast. Do I need to run over Dr. Pedersen’s instructions again for you? On absolutely no account are you to put any weight on that leg, or to stretch or strain your ribs. If you want something, ask. Someone will get it for you. You don’t stand up, you don’t lean out, you don’t put any more strain on your already broken bones than you have to, OK?”
He nodded OK. He got to get out of this room? He got to eat regular food? He’d stay strapped down like Hannibal Lecter if that was what they asked for.
“And Jim?” He looked up. “This is a test run for moving you out of the ICU. If this goes well, we’ll transfer you to a regular room by wheelchair.”
He cleared his throat. “And if it doesn’t go well?”
“We’ll just move you on the bed. But you seemed like the kind of guy who would prefer the chair.”
She wasn’t wrong.
Next stop: NOT Jim's room! Thank you to all my readers and reviewers. I appreciate you all.
June 13: Hallways to the Cafeteria by Comfect
Jim and Pam and a wheelchair.
Pam wheeled Jim down to the cafeteria, where he found himself somewhat discombobulated by the variety of choices on offer. He had expected something like high school—something with limited options, perhaps a dour individual in a hairnet dishing out slops—not this dizzying array of almost-name-brand options. He was obscurely grateful that it was breakfast time, not lunch or dinner, because almost half of them were closed, so he had at least some guidance in what to choose. He hadn’t had regular food in…well, it felt like forever. Certainly before June 8, which he was rapidly realizing had become a red-letter day in his personal calendar. When Everything Changed, he said to himself in his internal announcer voice—and he must have said it out loud, because he heard Pam behind him (pushing the chair) giggle a little.
Pam was delighted that she got to wheel Jim down for breakfast. Larissa had skipped ahead to make sure they could get a table with good wheelchair access (though Pam secretly suspected that in a hospital like Geisinger, they would all have wheelchair access) so for the moment she got to pretend like she was the only one responsible for Jim. And she got to listen in on his inner monologue as he talked to himself, which, she reflected, he probably didn’t realize he was doing. “When everything changed,” huh? She wondered what day he was thinking of, or what event. Casino Night? The day they met? Yesterday, when she finally told him she loved him? She giggled nervously. She loved him. He was still here…and then it hit her. He was still here, yes, but for how long? She knew he had some sick leave stocked up—Jim had always been alarmingly, resolutely healthy, so he probably had the maximum 5 weeks you could roll over from year to year…and now that she reflected on it, it was probably less his resolute healthiness than a determined decision not to miss a single day with her that allowed him that flexibility. He never took “mental health days,” never skipped work on a flimsy excuse, even though he knew that doing so would send Dwight on a mad search to confirm or deny the legitimacy of the claimed exemption. And why did he refrain from making Dwight go nuts? To make sure he got to sit a few feet from her in all her obviousness. She resolved to make that up to him, however she could.
But regardless, she was pretty sure he had the full 5 weeks of sick leave saved up…and she thought his “trip to Australia” vacation was scheduled for another week. But after those six weeks, he was inevitably going to Stamford. He’d transferred, run away, because of her. A shock of annoyance ran through her again at him for doing that, for ghosting her without even giving her a chance to think. And then she thought about how it must have felt, coming in every day knowing that she was going to marry Roy. She’d felt a pale shadow of that feeling herself the past three weeks, coming to work each day looking at his desk and realizing he was…well, the best metaphor she could come up with was cheating on her with Stamford, but that wasn’t quite right. Realizing that there was something else in his life that she couldn’t touch, that was all his and not hers. And she’d been doing that to him from day one. Of course, not all of it was blameworthy—certainly, the time before they’d really become friends (OK, maybe they’d become friends the moment he’d first opened his mouth, but there had been at least some time, she was sure, before they became best friends, even if right now she couldn’t recall a moment of it) had been blameless, because she’d really and truly been with Roy, and not him in any sense—but a good portion of it, more than she really wanted even now to acknowledge, had been deliberate, even if subconscious, in that she’d used Jim to compensate for the emotional connection she’d not been getting from Roy. So maybe not from day one, but from, pick a number, say day one hundred, if not earlier, she had been using Jim, giving him just enough of herself during the day to keep herself sane and drive him mad while keeping that crucial part of herself apart from it all. Sure, moving to Stamford wasn’t the same as going home to Roy, but both represented a part of the other person’s life that was out of reach—and if she was going to compare the two, she was afraid to think which one was harsher.
So she couldn’t really be mad at Jim about that—not that she could be mad at Jim about anything, really, not now that they’d finally, finally ended up on the same page—but she could certainly be sad to think that in six weeks or less (she selfishly hoped it was all six weeks, even if that meant that Jim was healing less quickly than the absolute maximum and was completely out of sick leave for the rest of the year) he’d be leaving her. Not that she planned on breaking up with him—if worst came to worst they were three hours apart (and when did this become worst? She would have killed someone [probably Roy, to be honest] to have had a relationship with Jim, even long-distance, forty-eight hours ago)—but it would still suck.
“Hey.” Oh god, she’d gone silent for too long, and now he was staring up at her.
“Penny for your thoughts?”
She giggled. He quirked an eyebrow up at her. “You know my sister’s name is Penny, right?”
“Yes?” He looked a little confused.
“Keep up, Halpert.” She smirked. “Her name is Penny. How often do you think we said ‘penny for your thoughts’ growing up? Half the time it was me pretending that she was offering to sell herself into slavery to know what I was thinking, the other half it was her saying she was paying me already by being there, and another half…”
He interrupted her with a laugh. “Think you’ve got too many halves there, Beesly.”
She stuck out her tongue. “Shut it, Halpert. There were two of us, so I get four halves. Anyway, another half was Mom getting in on the action by saying she already had a Penny so she didn’t need to give her thoughts, and the final half” she stared him down in case he decided to object again and he gave her a little smirk that somehow said without words that he thought it was really cute she cared what he thought “the final half was me saying I didn’t want any more Pennys, thank you very much.” She giggled again. “So, sorry, that phrase isn’t going to get what you want out of me.”
He sighed theatrically. “Fine. Please, Ms. Beesly, I beg of you, tell me that of which you think.”
She rolled her eyes at him. “Well, Mr. Halpert, I was just thinking how much I was going to miss you when you go to Stamford.”
He slumped (which was impressive in a wheelchair, she reflected). “Yeah. I’m going to miss you too.”
She tried to cheer him up, although her voice sounded a little hollow in her own ears. “It’ll be fine. Stamford’s only three hours away.”
He sounded surprisingly reassured by that little phrase. “Yeah.” It sounded like he was going to say something else, but at that moment Larissa scampered up and knelt in front of the chair. “C’mon, slowpokes, I’ve been holding this little four-top open for ten minutes against a tide of the elderly! I need you two to get your butts in gear before I lose it.” She looked up and gestured behind them. “Hey! That’s my purse!” She gave them an apologetic glance and started back across the room. “I was saving those seats!”
Pam glanced down at Jim, who was suddenly rolling in laughter. “Shall we pause that conversation and come back to it?”
“I think we shall,” he choked out through guffaws. “Roll me over to that burrito place, I think a breakfast burrito sounds good.”
As she pushed him towards the Mexican joint (called, for no reason Pam could quite decipher in the moment, “I Salsa Your Face”), he reached out and grabbed a mixed-berry yogurt from the impulse buys by the checkout.
“For you, my lady.” She could not keep the grin off her face.
Sorry for the somewhat abortive JAM conversation, but I promise they and I will come back to it. Thanks to all who have read and reviewed; I think June 13 is going to be a long day for these two.
June 13: Cafeteria by Comfect
Breakfast was actually fairly silent, because of how hungry Jim in particular was. He forced himself to eat more sedately than he wanted, aware that the upgrade from (admittedly solid) hospital food the night before to real, cooked, human food was probably something his stomach would need to adjust to. He breathed in the smells of the food first, ignoring the teasing coming from both his dining companions as he almost stuck the burrito up his nose inhaling its scent. Then he nibbled at it, taking deliberate small bites to savor each bit—and allow his mouth and stomach to reaccustom themselves to real food. He could tell that Larissa and Pam were each scoring points off him while he ate in what he was well-aware was an atypical manner for him, but he wasn’t going to let it put him off his feed. The only comment he felt obliged to respond to was when Pam gestured at his burrito and said “the one thing I can’t figure is, when did Jim Halpert get adventurous in his choice of cuisine? I seem to remember a man who ate the same thing for lunch every day, and here you are with something I’ve never seen you eat before.”
He raised a finger. “False,” he said in his best Dwight imitation. He knew it was rusty, but for some reason Pam reacted like it was the best thing in the world, cracking up instantly. Oh right, idiot, he thought. She loves you. She’s missed you. It’s not the imitation she’s reacting to—it’s you. He smiled at her and then resumed his Dwight impression. “The contents of a breakfast burrito are fundamentally indistinguishable from the contents of a ham and cheese sandwich.”
He raised the burrito—grateful now that he’d taken such small bites because it meant that it was still sufficiently intact to use as a prop, whereas his normal eating habits would have demolished the entire thing in three gulps—and gestured with it. “Fact. A tortilla is simply mistreated bread that has refused to rise like a proper German pumpernickel”—this last in an exaggeration of the German accent Dwight would slip into when talking of his großvater—“making it easier to defeat. Fact. The cheese used in this burrito is, despite the Latin American origin of the cuisine, the same cheddar as Jim uses in his lunchtime sandwiches.” He thought the use of the third-person was a particularly good touch. “Fact. A burrito is a wrap and a wrap is simply an inefficient sandwich. Fact. This particular inefficient sandwich was advertised to contain chorizo, a non-German and therefore inferior sausage, but contains instead a distinctly unsausaged pork product indistinguishable from ham. Conclusion: Jim is eating a ham and cheese sandwich.” He held eye contact with Pam throughout this recitation, gesticulating with the burrito as necessary, until the end, when he winked, and was rewarded by a bright pink face and a series of incoherent giggles. He thought she looked adorable.
She mustered just enough coherence to turn the joke back on him. “Question.” He nodded, proud of her for regaining enough composure to join his Dwight impression. “Doesn’t that burrito also contain egg?” Damn, she was good. He nodded, and assumed an attitude of disappointment that he did not feel—making sure to convey this to her with a short waggle of an eyebrow—and replied in grave tones.
“Obviously, Pam. This is breakfast. A ham and cheese sandwich is a lunch food; the addition of the egg is what transforms it into an appropriate food for breakfast.” He grinned. “Also, I couldn’t get it without.”
Larissa rolled her eyes at them both and muttered something he was pretty sure amounted to “I’m really glad I don’t work with Dwight.” Of course she recognized the Dwight impression, he realized—he’d done it for her when telling her about the barbecue at his house and how Mark hadn’t believed Dwight existed. She and Pam got into a discussion of what it was like working with Dwight as a woman, which he listened in on but didn’t contribute to besides raising an eyebrow at Pam’s continued certainty that at least one woman didn’t mind working with Dwight. Dwight and Angela? Really? I wonder what Kelly would call them if they really were together. She’d come up with some kind of Brangelina/Bennifer thing. Angelight? Dwightela? Dwangela? Ugh. I really hope Pam is wrong on this. But do I? After all, if we can find each other, maybe even Dwight and Angela deserve some happiness. If they can really find it together, which I doubt.
Then Larissa was suddenly standing and he wondered what he’d missed. The confusion must have been obvious on his face because both women were laughing and Larissa was repeating herself (he knew because she had a particular tone of voice that was “my big brother wasn’t paying attention and so I’m repeating this,” and she was using it).
“I said, I think I’ll leave you two lovebirds together, because I need to go make sure Mom and Dad’s house is ready for when they come back. I was supposed to be house-sitting after all, and for some reason I’ve been a little busy.”
“Mom and Dad…”
“Are on their way back right now. I had a panicked email from Mom when I got home last night telling me they were rushing to the airport and if I didn’t hear from her otherwise they would be on a plane arriving…well, arriving today, I guess. Something about how they didn’t reset their mental calendars when they crossed the international date line, so when the nice lady at Qantas rebooked them for June 13 they thought it was today, like it is here, but it was actually yesterday, like it was there.”
Jim grinned. “You know, you’d think they’d have thought of that, given that Dad’s favorite book is Around the World in 80 Days.”
Larissa rolled her eyes. “Right? Anyway, the flights take like 24 hours, but that means they’re landing tonight—so I have to make sure I did the stuff I promised I’d do before they got home, and then pick them up from the airport. Which is fine—I feel like a third wheel anyway.” She smiled at Pam to prove this was not a real problem. “And I figure you two lovebirds could use the time alone.” She reached over and gave Jim a firm but careful hug. “Don’t do anything I wouldn’t do.” She looked down at him. “Or more to the point, anything I wouldn’t let you do. Love you.” He responded in kind, still working out what it meant that their parents were actually mid-air already and coming home. Meanwhile, she reached over and hugged Pam. “Love you both.” He heard Pam whisper what he could have sworn was “Love you too.” And then Larissa was gone. He smiled across at Pam, who blushed and said “Shall we get you back?”
Thank you to all who have read, reviewed, and jellybeaned this story!
June 13: Jim's Room (ICU) by Comfect
JAM! Some needed apologies.
Pam rolled Jim back to his unit, where the nurse took his vitals again. “Congratulations, Jim,” she said, in that slightly perky tone that nurses sometimes get when they have been on shift for a long time and are perhaps not feeling as well as they could themselves, but know they need to try for the patients’ sake, “these look fine, and you don’t seem to have disturbed your dressings too much. Looks like you’re A-OK for the wheelchair when we do that room transfer.”
“And when do you think that will go through,” asked Pam.
The nurse shrugged. “I mean, he’s ready now, but we need an order from the doctor to actually move him out of the ICU. It’s not quite a discharge order, because of course he’s not leaving the hospital yet, but it’s like one.” She shrugged again. “I’ve paged him for the order, but he hasn’t gotten around to it yet. He may want to do one more check himself, I can’t be sure.”
“Fair enough.” Jim was transferred, with help, from the chair to the bed, keeping his broken leg off the ground. The nurse continued. “There doesn’t seem to me much else for me to do here—either of you need anything? No? OK—so feel free to hit the button if something changes but otherwise I’ll keep you posted on that move order and you two should make yourselves comfortable.”
“Thanks.” Pam smiled at the nurse, then sat down next to Jim. “So, you ready to get out of here?”
“I don’t know.” He looked around the room. “You guys did this place up so nice, I’m not sure I want to leave. It feels like home, I guess.”
She beamed. “Well, Halpert, let me let you in on a little trick.” She pulled carefully at one of the Command strips on the wall. “This is removable. These little guys are going to move with you.” She grinned. “And isn’t it nice to know you aren’t qualified for ‘intensive care’ anymore?”
He looked up at her, an expression in his eyes she wasn’t entirely used to seeing—or rather, to acknowledging, because she realized with a start she’d definitely seen it at least twice before, on the Booze Cruise by the railing of the ship and in the office on Casino Night. “I don’t know, I think I could use some ‘intensive care’ right now.”
She slapped his arm lightly. “Not like that, dork.” She softened the rejection with a squeeze of his arm. “You have broken legs and a broken rib. There will be plenty of care, and very intensive too, once we get those set.” She winked, and she would have sworn he blushed at her tone. Score one for Beesly. “I promise.”
He nodded, sheepish and still blushing. “I’m going to hold you to that.”
Oh what a perfect setup, she thought. Do I go with the tried and true? Or a little more daring? Oh what the hell, daring it is. It’ll set him up anyway. “I’m certainly hoping you’ll hold me to something.”
He was as red as she felt, but he rallied quickly. “That’s what she said.”
“Yes. Yes it is.”
Fortunately for the temperature in the room, or at least Pam’s sense of it, the nurse chose that moment to knock and then stick her head back into the room. “Hey you two, Dr. Pedersen says he wants another look at Jim, so he’ll be up in about an hour.” Pam could have sworn she winked at her as she closed the door, but that had to be an optical illusion, right?
Jim coughed. “So, um…”
They stared at each other for a moment, and then Jim’s shoulders slumped. “This is going to suck.”
She didn’t pretend not to understand him, didn’t ask what was going to suck or act like he was talking about his physical recovery. “Yeah. Three hours is a lot.”
She laughed, not particularly amusedly. “For what?”
“For running away.”
“Yeah. If I’d given you more time…”
She shook her head. “You’re forgiven. Look where it landed us.”
He literally looked around. “Pam, I’m not sure how to break it to you, but most people wouldn’t be too happy to ‘land’ in the ICU at Geisinger.”
“But we’re not most people, are we?”
“No, no we are not.” He smiled. “Thanks for forgiving me, but I’m sorry anyway. Doubly so because if I hadn’t transferred to Stamford because I’m a coward, we wouldn’t be three hours away from each other now. Well, not now,” he gestured between them, “but you know what I mean.”
“I do. But if you’re doubly sorry, I’m afraid I have to doubly forgive you.” He quirked an eyebrow. “Because you couldn’t have known this,” she also gestured between them, then took his hand in hers, “was going to happen. I didn’t let you know, didn’t let myself think about it, and for that I’m sorry.” He was shaking his head. “I mean, I’m not sorry I didn’t drop everything and jump into your arms and yell ‘Yes, Jim, take me away from all this!’ but I am sorry I lied to you about…about misinterpreting things.”
As soon as she started saying the word “misinterpreting,” he was already saying “I forgive you,” but she pushed through it. “I’m glad you forgive me, but this is important for me to say. I shouldn’t have said that, you weren’t misinterpreting anything, and if I’d just been honest enough to at least say I had to think, you might not have thought you needed to run away so fast.”
He nodded. “I might still have run away. I…I’ve come to realize I was a real coward about this whole thing. I let it simmer and simmer until it was ‘jump into my arms or lose me’—and I couldn’t even let you know that was the choice. I’m sorry I kept that from you, while I was claiming to be so honest.”
“That did hurt.”
“But hey, at least we’re here.” She put a finger across his lips. “Don’t say it.”
He smiled around her finger. “Wasn’t going to.”
Thank you all for reading and reviewing! I appreciate the feedback a lot.
June 13: Jim's Room by Comfect
Pam pulled her finger away from Jim’s lips and replaced it with a firm, not deep kiss. “Good. So, what do I need to know about Stamford, Connecticut?”
She rolled her eyes at him. “You’re moving there. I’m dating you. Obviously I’m going to visit. So, what do I need to know about it.”
He looked thoughtful. “I…actually don’t know. Like, I know a little about my coworkers there from doing my job startup remotely, but I haven’t actually been there.”
“Didn’t you Google it at all before you accepted the position?” She put her hands on her hips mock-disgustedly. “Seriously, Jim, you put more effort into a prank than into this move.”
He ran his hand over the back of his neck, a sure sign he was nervous or uncomfortable. She resisted the urge to comfort him about this particular issue. “Um, yeah. I do. Because the pranks were things I did with you, or for you, or at least around you and this is something I did…not that.”
“To get away from me, in other words.”
“OK. Well, we’ve already covered all of that.” She waved in the air in a big circle to indicate that ‘all of that’ meant the stuff about Casino Night and how sorry they each were about the thought or lack thereof that had gone into that. “So I’m not going to lecture you about how you shouldn’t have been so panicked or afraid. I get why you were feeling that way now. But you’re still moving to Stamford. So shouldn’t you have an idea of what it’s like?”
“I guess.” He shrugged. “Now it feels like kind of the opposite—like I don’t want to learn about Stamford because now my life is here.”
She kissed him again. “That’s very sweet. But I’m not having any boyfriend of mine living like a hermit who doesn’t know his way around town. So we need you to figure out something about Stamford. Now, you said you knew something about your coworkers? Let’s start there.”
He took a deep breath in. “You’re right. I need to act like this is actually happening, don’t I?” She nodded. “OK. So, Josh, the big boss—he’s not Michael. I realize that’s kind of obvious, because thank god there are not two Michaels in the world, but he’s really, really not Michael. Like he has real goals and ambitions and expectations and stuff like that.”
She nodded again. “OK. Sounds like someone you want to get on the good side of.”
“Definitely. Then there’s…honestly, the rest of them are a little hard to keep straight. There’s a girl, Karen I think, who’s a lot like Josh—businesslike, to the point, doesn’t take or give a lot of shit. And there’s a guy, Andrew? Drew? Andy? Something like that, who seems less on the ball and more…Scrantonish? Like, not that we don’t get work done in Scranton, and if Andrew’s still working at Stamford for Josh he must have some skills, but he’s a little less tie-and-suit-jacket and a little more Hawaiian shirt, if you know what I mean? He’s the one who told me when I called to check about a new client I’d been assigned whom he’d done a couple orders for that ‘the dude likes his Jaeger’ and that if I wanted to impress him I’d need to drive up to Stamford and do shots with them both.”
Pam clapped a hand over her mouth. “No!”
“Oh yes. So I’m sure the rest of them have personalities too, but…honestly, it seems like a way more normal branch than Scranton. Not sure how I’m going to survive.”
She patted his knee. “You’ll knock ‘em dead.” Then a thought occurred to her. “Why is it that they need an ARM and not Scranton? It seems like they’d be easier to manage.”
He shrugged. “I don’t know. Something in the budgets, Jan said. Like, Stamford has a higher expected income or something so they get an ARM. Or Josh delegates more than Michael”
“Or more effectively,” Pam broke in with a giggle.
He smiled. “Or more effectively, yeah, so they give him an ARM because he’ll actually use it for more than buying a summer home for Dwight’s business card and white-out providers.”
“Yeah.” She sighed. “So, where are you staying when you move there?”
“I actually don’t know much about it. Apparently the rents there are ridiculous so the company is actually providing me housing for the first month in this like suite that they usually host visiting execs from New York in, and then I’m on my own. I figured I could apartment-shop after getting there, since I wouldn’t have a social life anyway.”
She clapped her hands. “Oooh, can I come? I want to compare shopping in Stamford to Scranton.”
He brightened. “Of course you can. And I totally forgot that you just got a new place. How is it?”
She laughed. “It’s really sketchy. Like, I’m on a month-by-month lease because I think the landlord is like violating 15 building codes to let me live there, and the place might be torn down at any moment. But I can afford it and the car on a receptionist’s salary, and the light is really good.”
“Good. But you haven’t mentioned the important questions—like, how many kitchens does it have? How many bedrooms? And am I allowed in them?” He grinned up at her.
“Well, just the one kitchen…”
“Just the one? I’ll have you know, Beesly, the classy establishments now have up to three kitchens for your dining pleasure.”
“Yep. You eat three meals, why not cook them in three separate, specialized kitchens. It’s all the rage in Stamford.”
“I thought you didn’t know anything about Stamford.”
“Come on Beesly, everyone knows that about Stamford. I thought you meant like real information that isn’t general knowledge.”
By this time she was laughing too hard to continue, and they paused while he patted her back companionably until she could go on.
“Well, we’ll be sure to get you a three-kitchener when we go looking in Stamford. To answer the rest of your questions, one and yes.”
She giggled. “One bedroom, Jim, and yes you are allowed…nay, required…to visit it. Keep up, Halpert.”
He grinned. “I just wanted to hear you say it.”
Thank you all for reading and reviewing. Next chapter: Pam gets a phone call.
June 13: Hallway (ICU) by Comfect
Pam gets a phone call (not from Larissa).
Pam liked Jim’s grin. It was…well, it was mesmerizing, if she was totally honest. She could look at him grin for hours, and since it was recently established between the two of them (not formally, or out loud, but obviously and clearly) that he would continue to grin if she continued to stare at him, it seemed likely that she could literally do that. Her staring begetting his grinning begetting her staring, on and on and on in an endless loop, until something interrupted.
In this particular case, that something was her phone ringing.
She really didn’t want to stop staring, but he stopped grinning—or rather, shifted grins, and wasn’t it just totally unfair that he could do that, keep grinning but make it different somehow so that she could tell he meant something different by it (this would, obviously, require further, detailed study at a later date, which she was very much looking forward to)—and gestured at the phone.
“You, ah, you gonna get that?”
Now that he’d called her out on it, she supposed, she’d have to. She flipped open the phone, not breaking eye contact with Jim, and raised it to her ear.
“Hello, is this Pam Beesly?”
And just like that, her moment was shattered. She recognized that voice. It was a voice she was very much not accustomed to having come out of her personal cell phone, but it was one she heard very frequently coming out of a different phone, one situated in her office at Dunder Mifflin.
Jim quirked an eyebrow and she could read the expression as “really?” without effort. She nodded, and he rolled her eyes. She nodded again and he smirked.
“Yes, hi, Pam I’m sorry to call you on your day off like this…”
Something about sitting across from Jim in his hospital room while they exchanged glances gave her a sense of courage she hadn’t known she had—while at the same time making her extremely eager to play with him. Verbally, of course, at least for now…
“It’s not my day off, Jan, it’s my vacation. My honeymoon in fact.” Jim’s eyes almost bugged out when she referred to it so casually as her honeymoon; which was, in fact, why she had done it.
“Yes, well, I heard…that is, my understanding is that while you’ve still taken this time off, the marriage…well, I’m sorry to hear that your engagement was broken off, but it was my understanding that you were not in fact on your honeymoon right now?” The questioning tone in Jan’s voice was not usual, Pam noticed—the other woman was really struggling to avoid saying something like “I heard you dumped your fiancée right before the wedding so where the hell are you,” but she could tell something like that was going on. Still, she had Jim’s eyes on her, and that made her bold.
“Yes, well, I still put in for the time off, and I believe I’m still entitled to it, unless something has changed about corporate policy, so why, exactly, are you calling, Jan?”
There was a little cough on the other line, and then a muttered “I am going to kill Michael for this,” which Pam suspected she was not supposed to have heard. Then Jan continued in a full voice: “Well, since your circumstances have changed, I was wondering….well, to be honest with you Pam, I’ve been having a lot of trouble with Michael recently, and I was hoping I could convince you to come into the office this week and run…well, run interference on him while I patch up a few things between him and corporate.”
Pam knew exactly the reason Michael was running wild, and she was sitting directly across from him. “Does this have anything to do with Jim moving to Stamford, Jan?”
She heard a sigh of what she presumed was defeat on the other side. “I knew you’d figure it out. Yes, yes it does. Does that mean you’ll help?”
Pam raised a finger to Jim, and walked out of the room with the phone, ignoring his questioning look. She had an idea where this might go—two ideas, actually—but she didn’t want to get Jim’s hopes up (or her own, but that horse had left the stable already) if neither was going to come to fruition.
“I might, Jan, but if I’m going to give up my well-deserved and long-awaited vacation I’m going to need something from you.”
Was that sigh relief or consternation? “What?”
“Well, before I ask, I assume there’s no way you can just transfer Jim back as ARM at Scranton? I know for a fact that he hasn’t actually left town yet.”
“No, Pam, I’m afraid…well, let’s just say that I would if I could, because god knows Jim deserves to be ARM somewhere, and Michael needs the help, but the branch structure is just different at Scranton. It’s deep in the budget, it has to do with how the branches were added in the first place, and besides, I’m pretty sure Jim…well, I’m sorry to say that Jim wanted a transfer, not a promotion in place.” If Pam hadn’t known Jan better she’d have thought she was actually being apologetic as that last phrase slotted into place.
“Oh, I’ve talked to him about that, Jan, and I think he’d accept the promotion in place, but I can understand if that’s not possible…”
“It really isn’t. I’m sorry. If that’s what you wanted to ask for, I’d do it if I could, but…”
It hadn’t been. Or rather, it had, but she’d known it was a long-shot. Jim had told her that himself, and she didn’t think he had any reason to lie, or that Jan had had any reason to lie to him before. But it had been worth a shot, so that she could open the way for her second of two ideas.
“No, no, that was just something I wanted to clear up first. I’ll check in on Michael this week, but, I was wondering…about that internship you mentioned at the Women in the Workplace event…”
She could hear Jan’s voice perk up over the phone. “Yes? What about it?”
“I was wondering if there were any more places. I know I’m really late to apply…”
She heard typing furiously in the background. “One second, Pam, I seem to remember something about that coming up in my email…I’ve been keeping an eye out ever since you told me you couldn’t do it, just to see if anything came up that might help…oh here we are. We actually had an intern pull out recently…something about pregnancy or a new job or something…so we have a space, and actually there’s a scholarship attached to the space.”
“Oh!” Pam had not actually expected to hear any good news on that front.
“But I’m afraid it probably wouldn’t suit.”
“Why not?” What was the problem? Did Jan suddenly not think she was a good fit? Why bring it up just to snatch it away?
“Well, it’s just that this scholarship requires the recipient to move to our New York headquarters for the summer, not just for the class weekends. It’s tied up with a yearlong internship in the graphic design department afterwards, you see, and I got the impression you were somewhat tied to Scranton. Although if that’s changed…”
Pam didn’t let Jan finish her sentence. “It most definitely has. Do you think you could get me that scholarship? I’d be very interested, and obviously I’d spend whatever time until the internship started doing whatever you need with Michael.” She knew that returning the conversation to what Jan needed from her was probably a good idea at this juncture, lest her boss lose sight of what she herself had to gain.
“I’ll put you in for it immediately. They may email you some paperwork to fill out, but I know they’ve been desperate the last day or so to fill this, so it shouldn’t be a problem. You should know by the end of the day.”
“OK. If I hear from them Michael will see me tomorrow.”
“Thank you, Pam.”
Pam did a little jig in the hallway, then looked around suddenly to see if the nurses had spotted her. Fortunately, there was no one there, so she did the jig again. She might be going to New York! Only a 45 minute commuter train from Stamford! Jim would be so pleased. She hoped.
Suddenly she realized that by taking the call in the hallway she hadn’t let him get disappointed, but she also hadn’t had a chance to ask him about it. Gulping, she stepped back into his room to see what he might think. “He’s not Roy, he’s not Roy, he’s not Roy” she kept repeating to herself. But what if he was?
Next chapter: Jim's thoughts and actions while Pam's on the phone. Thank you to all who have read and reviewed!
June 13: Simultaneously with the Previous by Comfect
Jim's thoughts and actions before and after Pam comes back.
Jim wasn’t sure what to do with himself when Pam stepped out of the room. What did Jan have to say that was so important that Pam walked out of the room? Why did she walk out right as she started talking about him? Was there something going on he wasn’t supposed to know about?
He calmed down the paranoid part of his mind and focused on the annoyed part. Why was Jan interrupting his time with Pam? They were both on vacation, officially—so what if Pam wasn’t actually on her honeymoon (the thought of which still made him cringe) or if he wasn’t actually in Australia? That was none of corporate’s business.
Was Pam somehow in trouble for not cancelling her vacation when she cancelled her marriage? What a dick move. But more importantly, if that was the case, she was going to be really upset when she walked through that door. He needed to do something for her. Something to make her happy again, because she deserved it.
He knew just the thing.
Fortunately, they had put his carry-on bag where he could reach it, just on the little table next to his bed on the other side from Pam. He assumed that they thought he might need something out of it, or maybe it was just intended to be some kind of homey touch in case Larissa and Pam hadn’t come by with all his wall art. Either way, it was sitting right there, where he could reach it now without violating doctor’s orders. Maybe he’d been clutching it when they pulled him out of the crash he still couldn’t fully remember. Or maybe someone had reunited it with him later, which might explain why it wasn’t in the closet where he vaguely remembered someone telling him the clothes they’d taken him out of were stored. What mattered most was it was there.
Now to find out if it was complete.
He pulled the bag over into his lap, careful not to engage his core muscles too much and pull on his ribcage, or to let the bag hit him in the broken ribs. He rustled around inside it and pulled out a small, white rectangle, with the name “Pam” written across it in his own somewhat shaky handwriting. It looked beaten up—but then again, it had looked a little beaten up when he’d first put it in the bag, having traveled from a box to his pocket to his dresser drawer underneath the socks. He’d been bringing it to Australia to burn—somewhere on the beaches by Sydney, he’d figured, there’d be a place he could go on June 10 (or maybe June 11—like his parents, he realized, he was a little fuzzy on time zones in Australia) and have his own little ceremony while Pam was having hers. A de-commitment ceremony, if you will, where he tried his best to untether himself from her while she tethered herself to another man. Burning this card had been the centerpiece of what little of that ceremony he’d actually allowed himself to sketch out, and so he’d put it in the bag at the last minute before his flight. Now he wondered if some higher power had compelled him to put it in so he could use it in an utter different way. He’d have to ask Angela about it. Although she’d be just as likely to tell him a heathen like him had no chance of receiving beneficence from God as to tell him he was right (and should therefore seek out a Sunday service to give thanks).
He propped up the card next to Pam’s sketch and put the bag back on the little table. Now all he could do was wait and find the right opportunity to give it to her, before whatever Jan said could upset her too much.
Pam bounced through the door, which he had distinctly not expected. She was excited, he could see, and her eyes burned with an expression he was unclear how to interpret. She looked…worried? Excited? He realized where he’d seen this before: she’d looked just like this, but not at him, each time she’d had to pitch an opportunity to Roy. Something was up, and she didn’t know what he’d think of it, and she was preparing herself for disappointment while still feeling the initial excitement at the same time.
He was really glad he had the card out now.
He paid careful attention to what she said—recognizing the expression as one she’d directed at Roy made him especially aware of the need to act, well, like not-Roy, and that meant paying attention to her—and when she got to the part about Dunder Mifflin paying for her to live in New York for a year it was all he could do not to get up and swing her into one of those old-timey, World-War-II victory dips. He settled for grinning broadly and saying “that’s great. I always knew you could do it, Beesly.” The answering smile he got was almost as good as the news itself.
He cleared his throat. “You realize Stamford is only 45 minutes from downtown New York on the commuter line.”
She nodded, maybe a little too vigorously, and he noticed her hands fiddling with her phone.
“Um, tell me if this is being stupid, or if you don’t want to do this, but that means we could see each other, like, every day if we wanted, right?”
If he thought the smile when he told her he was proud of her was big, this one was galactic.
“And, um…” he coughed, “you did mention you were willing to help me look for an apartment…”
Her face fell a little, and he realized what it must be. She’d just moved into a new apartment, a new space all her own for the first time. She thought he was proposing they move in together, and while he’d love to imagine she’d have jumped at that chance, that meant she thought he was trying to take that independence away. He hastened to finish his sentence.
“…I figure the least I could do is return the favor while you’re looking in New York.”
The smile was back. “Um, also, I have something for you.” He gestured to the table. “It’s not as big as your news, but, well, I made it for you, and I thought you might like it.”
She looked as he pointed and grabbed the card. “For me?”
“Well, I don’t see any other Pams here.”
She smiled, and ripped the paper. He held his breath. He’d chickened out at Christmas, taking the card back when she’d almost taken Michael’s video iPod over the teapot. He’d already told her he loved her—and more importantly, since the first time he’d tried that out loud it had backfired spectacularly (though he was beginning to reconsider categorizing that as a monumental failure now, in light of current events), she’d also told him she loved him—but there was still something about seeing her read this that was simply terrifying even now.
Fortunately, the smile was still there, if now a bit misty, and he could breathe again.
Next: what the card says, Pam's POV on it, and possibly Jim's GP coming in so he can move rooms. Thanks to all who have read and reviewed! Reminder: it's only like 10:30 am on June 13 now, but this is intended to end on June 13.
June 13: The Note by Comfect
The note, and some housekeeping.
Pam opened the note—ripping the paper a little, but trying very hard not to rip it so far that her name wasn’t legible on the front—while trying desperately to figure out when it was that Jim would have had time to “make it” for her. He couldn’t have snuck out of the hospital, or even his room, without someone noticing, and she was pretty sure no nurse had given him cardstock and ink. Maybe Larissa? But even Larissa would have warned her if she’d given Jim the material to make a card? No, no she wouldn’t. Not after she had conspired with Jim to give Pam those colored pencils. So Larissa was a definite candidate. But this card looked…worn? Crinkled? Like something carried in a pocket—from the slight indentation of keys she noticed on the paper, maybe a back pocket?—and Jim, well, Jim wasn’t wearing anything with pockets. Or much of a back at all, as she was rather extremely aware of. Since she’d been trying to avoid staring while being extremely aware that his backside was covered by only a thin layer of cloth and a couple of not-especially-effective snaps.
But anyway, the card. It was definitely crinkled, definitely had been carried in a pocket. Probably not Larissa, then, since she hadn’t been wearing anything with deep enough pockets (or at least Pam assumed so—she would feel slightly betrayed if Larissa’s extremely put-together look also came with deep pockets and she hadn’t said anything. What were pseudo-sisters for if not to tell you these things, and make sure you got your own stylish ensembles with sufficient pocketage? So she assumed Larissa did not have these kinds of pockets). So, then, something Jim had been carrying with him before.
So this was from before. When?
He definitely hadn’t given her a card or anything a card would accompany on Casino Night. After that? He’d had plenty of opportunity to write a card, but this wasn’t addressed with her mailing address, even c/o Dunder Mifflin, so it had to be intended to be hand-delivered like it had just been. So it had to be from a time he’d envisioned himself seeing her in person. Was it what he’d written in case she’d chased him down and flung herself into his arms? She couldn’t see Jim Halpert imagining a scenario where that happened and he simply drew back, handed her a card, and waited to see her reaction. No, this had to be from before Casino Night.
She knew, of course, that she would probably be able to guess from reading the actual card, but something in her wanted to be emotionally prepared to read it, wanted to have some idea of what she was about to enter into. Was this something he’d written the day he met her? Something from Valentine’s Day, or Secretary’s Day, or her birthday, or…Christmas?
There hadn’t been a Christmas card in her Secret Santa. Jim had of course narrated the whole list of bonus gifts to her in person, but there had been no card. Or rather, she vaguely recalled a card being in the box, but she definitely didn’t have a card now. She knew this very precisely because one of the few boxes she’d actually opened (if not fully unpacked) in her new apartment (oh god, she was going to need a subletter if, no when, she moved to NYC for this internship. Sufficient unto the day is the evil thereof…not that this was evil, exactly, but this fell firmly into the not a problem for today camp) was the little box the teapot came in, which she had refilled with everything that had been in it besides the teapot (which was itself in daily, if tearful, use at the office). And there was no card there. She’d been looking at all those little mementos only…what was it, three days ago when Larissa had called her? So she knew there was no card.
This was probably the card.
What had he meant to say at Christmas? She felt like she had been hesitating forever, though she was well aware objectively that only a moment had passed. She sucked it up and flipped the card open.
I assume by now you’ve guessed who this is from. Or at least, I hope you have, because I’m really hoping these memories were all as memorable to you as they were to me. I wanted to give you all of these little bonus gifts because I want you to know how much every one of these moments has meant to me. Every second we spend together is special to me, Pam, because you are special to me. I love you, Pam Beesly, and I just wanted to let you know that—because as Billy Squier tells us, Christmas is the time for it.
Her eyes filled with tears. She wasn’t sure if they were happy tears—he loves me! We’re finally together! I feel the same way he does!—or sad ones—why didn’t he give me this then? What would it have meant if he had? How long did I hurt him by denying these feelings?—but she knew that she was, on the whole, happy. Happy that she and Jim had come to a place where he felt comfortable showing her this; happy that he had kept it; happy that somehow, improbable as it might seem, he had sensed her need for reassurance before she came back into the room and given it to her. How strange to think that she’d been worrying that he would react to her news like Roy would. He was nothing like Roy; he was never Roy. He was Jim. And he loved her.
She leaned down and kissed him, good and hard. “Thank you.” She kissed him again. “For everything.”
He kissed her. “You’re welcome.” Before this could turn into an entirely compulsive turn-and-return of kisses, though (much as a large portion of her was yearning for just that), she reached out and stopped him.
“The bad news is that I do have to go run herd on Michael this week at work.”
He shrugged. “So I have to put up with a week without you here during the day in exchange for having you in New York for a year? I’d do that trade every day, and twice on Sundays.”
“What would that even mean?” She couldn’t resist teasing him. “If you do it twice on Sundays, does that mean I’m gone for two weeks and in NYC for two years, or that we end up exactly where we were before the first trade and I stay at the hospital but live in Scranton?”
“I’m not sure. I just know that I’d do it.” His smile was amazing.
A knock on the door brought them to attention. “Jim?” It was Dr. Pedersen. “May I come in?”
“Of course.” Jim’s good mood apparently extended to the doctor as well, and Pam faded into the background as the two of them discussed Jim’s physical and mental state—she kept mental notes on the keywords she heard, but otherwise allowed Jim to take the lead on his own health issues. It seemed that Dr. Pedersen wasn’t actually concerned about Jim’s status, but had wanted to check in about what, exactly, moving out of the ICU entailed. Once he and Jim—and Pam, whom he deliberately included in that question—were all clear, he called in the nurse and wrote the order for Jim’s transfer then and there. She gathered up his stuff—carefully removing the Command strips on the artwork and stacking it with his bag, which she now realized must have contained the card—and followed the nurse and Jim (who had transferred to a wheelchair for the move) down the hallway, smiling.
Jim was going to be OK, and she was going to be an artist (well, graphic designer) in New York.
It was a good day.
And there we are. Sorry about missing a day--we just moved, so I don't technically have internet at home. Thank you to all who have read and reviewed!
June 13: Moving Rooms by Comfect
Jim gets a new room in a new unit, and Pam reflects.
Two floors down, two turns left, and they were in the ward that would house Jim for the rest of his time in Geisinger—assuming all went well. Pam took note of the new room number, obtained a pass for the floor with the room number noted in a nurse’s flowing scrawl (oh dear, she was going to have to learn a new set of names…this one was Julia), and set to putting back up Jim’s various decorations. Jim, meanwhile, had been issued with a few new medications (mostly to inhibit swelling and pain around his broken limbs, but also for blood flow and heartrate) and told to take them.
Unfortunately, Jim was apparently comically bad at taking pills. Pam wasn’t sure how she hadn’t noticed this before—surely he must have taken something at work sometime? An ibuprofen, a Claritin, an accidentally swallowed oversize jujube?—but watching Jim take gulp after gulp of water from his entertainingly large Geisinger-branded plastic cup was a true delight. He had to take one pill at a time, and his eyes would bulge and his face contort and about half the time he wouldn’t even get the pill down, so he’d have to try again. And even when he did get it down, but especially when he didn’t, there was a lot of coughing. The first couple of times Pam was super-concerned, coming over and checking on him because coughing with broken ribs was obviously no fun at all. When he assured her this was normal for him, and that while no, coughing with broken ribs hadn’t suddenly become the leisure activity of the extremely wealthy and very bored, he could totally stand it just fine, she was licensed to express her amusement instead of her worry. This took the form, of course, of an even more exaggerated set of concerns about his wellbeing. Was there anything she could do for him? Was he sure he didn’t have black lung? She’d heard on the radio that working with paper could be just as bad as working in a coal mine if you had sensitive lungs. Or had he been secretly smoking for years behind her back? She would be very disappointed if so. You know, Jim, if Creed is trying to peer pressure you, you just say no. He probably won’t remember what the question was ten minutes later anyway. Are you sure it’s not some kind of emphysema or something? Cough once for yes, twice for no. What does coughing eight times mean, Jim? You’re sending me mixed signals here.
Of course, this mockery did not exactly help the patient’s ability to take the pills without laughing, but it did seem to raise his spirits, so Pam considered it a success. After all, Jim being Jim, laughter seemed likely to be, if not the best medicine, a pretty good one. She briefly considered whether Dwight would have allowed laughter to be covered in their healthplan, before deciding that he definitely would not. Angela wouldn’t have approved, after all.
The mockery was cut short by a call from Larissa, who wanted to know what they wanted for lunch. She was coming by soon, having tidied their parents’ house and taken out the trash and variously prepared it for their re-occupancy more quickly than she’d expected. Pam took the opportunity to update her on Jim’s status, and the new room, and then handed him her phone (which he took with an odd look) to talk to his sister. Apparently the Halpert clan were not big phone-talkers; Jim and Larissa exchanged what sounded to her like the Neanderthal-grunt version of her conversations with her sister Penny, and then Jim was handing her back the phone.
She was pleased to discover that she and Jim had nearly identical orders (calzones from Cugino’s, if Larissa was willing to pick them up; from the cafeteria, if not), and after assuring Larissa that she would notify the nurses that she was coming up, she hung up the phone and just took a moment to look at Jim.
He was clearly doing better than he had been when she’d first arrived. Not that that was a surprise; it was a low bar to clear when he’d been unconscious and barely breathing before. But he looked like Jim. There was a sparkle in his eyes and a smile on his face. And she realized with a start that she had put those there. Not just now but always. That the Jim she was used to looked like this not necessarily because this was just who Jim was, but because of the observer effect: by the very act of looking at him, she could put a smile on his face and a jump in his step (not that there should be any jumping or even stepping until that leg healed). The Jim Halpert she thought she knew was not the same one everyone else knew, because when she knew him he was always, always reacting to her.
And the same was true of her, she thought. Before Jim, she had still been Pam—much as she suspected Jim hadn’t been conjured out of thin air when she met him, though at this point she wouldn’t have disbelieved it if Larissa had told her so—but she hadn’t gone to work with a smile on her face, or even woken up consistently when the alarm went off in the morning. She had loved weekends and dreaded weekdays, in fact, rather than the opposite, and she hadn’t treasured Dwight’s idiocies as perfect opportunities for pranks. She’d hated them because they made life worse. In short, just as much as she created a new Jim when she observed him, he did the same to her, and had for longer than she’d once known. But, she reflected, this wasn’t a false Pam that Jim produced—it was the realest her she’d ever been. Which gave her high hopes for the idea that this wasn’t a false Jim she knew; that this was just as real for him as it was for her.
“Whatchya thinking about, Beesly?”
She smiled down at the love of her life.
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June 13: Relaxation Room by Comfect
Larissa returns, with lunch and awkward questions.
Jim and Pam spent the next hour while waiting for Larissa to arrive doing something they had both missed doing: talking. It wasn’t about anything particularly consequential, or earth-shattering. There were no exchanges of deep emotion or rejection, no wounds dramatically dealt or healed. It was just a conversation, the kind you have with someone you truly care about and understand, with whom you have a shared history and expect to have a shared future as well. They touched on doings at work, the vagaries of apartment renting, the strange habits of Jim’s family dog when he was growing up, and a million other nothings that all together added up to something very important: comfort. The two of them were comfortable with each other in a way that, they each realized, they had never really been before. There had always been the specter of Roy hanging over them, while Jim had always had his unrequited love drifting about in the back of his mind, and Pam had been in constant denial. So now they could actually just be themselves, and it was glorious.
Larissa’s arrival did not bring a halt to this conversation, but it did move it into a slightly more consequential mode. Jim had to ask, now that they were all three together again, how exactly it was that his sister had gone from, as he put it, “my side to Pam’s,” or as Larissa corrected him “from your side to your side, but also Pam’s.” This led to a whole rehash of the previous three days, with much giggling and side-poking between the two ladies and a great deal of bemusement on Jim’s part. Ultimately, however, they both agreed that the search for the relaxation room had really cemented their friendship—which in turn meant that Jim, newly licensed for wheelchair use, had to call the nurse and get permission to be shown the room himself.
After hunting Julia down and receiving permission to show Jim around (“the Relaxation Room is for relaxing, and that’s what you’re in this ward for—but don’t overdo it”), they wheeled him up and around. The trip was more direct this time, even though they could not follow the same path as before (Jim having moved from the ICU, which turned Pam around entirely) because Jim was (as he mockingly pointed out several times until Larissa and Pam jointly told him to “suck it”) quite good at finding and reading the directional signs the hospital had conveniently placed at every intersection. They found themselves once again alone in the room, this time with the blazing sunlight streaming through the picture window in a glorious fashion that made Pam instinctively reach for her sketchbook. Larissa and Jim calmly waited until she had finished—or at least as calmly as Jim was capable of, which was fairly calm once Pam assured him he’d get to see what she did after she did it, but which Larissa compared to a hyperactive monkey before he received that assurance.
What Pam drew was an intentional mirror of her earlier sketch. The window was one again the backdrop for the entire picture, but this time the table was clear of scribblings and the reflection in the window was all three of them, with Jim in the center and his arms around them both. The sun was shining in it, and above the table, where the crumpled paper had sat, there was the open landscape of the park sitting invitingly. When Jim laughingly pointed out that the three of them were not, in fact, in the position Pam had drawn, she and Larissa simply slid under his arms and made faces at him in the window.
It was a delightful time, and the three of them chowed down on Cugino’s in the sunlight happily. The one slightly discordant note was struck by Larissa, who insisted on hearing about Jim and Pam’s day and then raised an eyebrow at her new friend.
“So, Pam, I’m just wondering…”
“Don’t let her fool you, Beesly, whenever Larissa is ‘just wondering’ something big is coming down the pike.” He grinned, and Larissa stuck out her tongue.
“I think she could figure that out on her own, big bro. Anyway, Pam, I was wondering…it seems like everyone can call you, right? Your mom, me, your work…”
“Yeah?” Pam wasn’t sure where she was going with this, so she took a bite of her calzone to give her time to figure it out.
“So where’s this ex-fiancé of yours? Didn’t you, like, leave him at the altar last week or something? Why hasn’t he called? Shouldn’t he be, you know, trying to get you back?”
Jim shot Larissa a hard look, which she utterly ignored, while Pam tried to figure out how to answer this unexpected question. She decided to tell the truth, but in her own particular way.
“What makes you think he isn’t?” She smiled at the look of horror that crossed Jim’s face. “I mean, I’m a pretty hot commodity; you can ask your brother here.”
Jim practically choked on his calzone, trying to figure out how to respond. “I mean, uh, yeah, but um, really Pam? Roy?”
Larissa was clearly enjoying the effect this was having on Jim, and gave Pam a wink—which in its own way confused her more. “I mean, I know that, and obviously if half the stuff Jim told me about Roy was true there’s like zero way you should be getting in touch with him at all, but I was just wondering…why haven’t we had to like throw your phone in the toilet or something to stop it from ringing?”
Jim was probably going to have a heart attack, which was probably not medically indicated as good for his current condition. “Larissa! We don’t need to…Pam doesn’t want to talk about Roy.”
Larissa winked again, and Pam started to realize what she was up to. She was right—this was the one thing she and Jim hadn’t really talked about. They’d talked about the two of them, about how they felt about each other, but they hadn’t fully expunged the ghost of Roy, and until it was banished there was always the possibility that it would rear its ugly head later, maybe in Jim’s psyche—maybe in hers. So she decided to cut to the chase. She shrugged. “We can talk about him, if you want.”
Larissa grinned. Jim goggled. Larissa spoke first, possibly because Jim wasn’t quite capable of it. “OK. So, what’s the deal there? Why hasn’t he called?”
Pam shrugged again. “He might have.”
Larissa just quirked an eyebrow. “Oh?”
Pam grinned. “I wouldn’t know. I blocked his number after the night I got my stuff out of the house.” The grin faded. “Not the best way to end a ten-year relationship, I know, but I could see it was over. He couldn’t, and he was calling like twice an hour. I had to do something.”
Larissa nodded sympathetically. “That sucks.”
Pam grimaced. “It does. But you know, life has to go on. And I’m glad it went on this way.” She patted Jim’s leg. “You OK there, Halpert?”
She could see a whole range of emotions run across his face in an instant as she touched him and as he digested what she’d said. She was immensely relieved when she saw the gleam in his eye return, and heard his response. “I don’t know. I just heard my girlfriend say she was glad I got in a car accident, so I’m not sure exactly how to feel about that.”
Larissa flicked him on the back of the head. “You feel grateful, idiot.” She looked over his head at Pam. “Honestly, sometimes I don’t know how Mom and Dad screwed up so much with him. My apologies on behalf of the whole Halpert clan. Sometimes he doesn’t know when he has a good thing going.”
Pam smiled at her and then also down at Jim. “Oh, I think he might have a good idea.” Their fingers intertwined. “And if he doesn’t, I think I can help him figure it out.”
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June 13: Leaving the Relaxation Room by Comfect
Relaxation, rest, and relatives.
The three of them spent a good long time up in the relaxation room, even after they’d finished their meals, just sitting and watching the world go by. It seemed to Jim that the room was well-named. He hadn’t really been able to relax before. He’d been too something every time there was an opportunity: too excited about the sudden turn his life had taken that led to him dating Pam, mostly, but also too much in pain at times, too concerned about the future, even too bored when Pam wasn’t there, which was its own special irony. No one should be too bored to rest, but Jim Halpert knew that feeling all too well from every day at Dunder Mifflin—except when his favorite receptionist (and now girlfriend, he exulted) decided to revive him.
Now he could finally relax. He didn’t have to worry about Pam not reciprocating his feelings; she was right here. He didn’t have to worry about the future, really, not with her moving to New York and him to the suburbs. He didn’t even have to worry about Roy, apparently, and that was a new and relieving sensation. Pam’s hand was intertwined with his, and his kid sister was giving him an approving smile for once, and he just let the world slip on without him for a little while. It wasn’t that he didn’t want to experience the world—if anything, he wanted it more intensely than ever, since it had revealed itself to be so wonderful after all—but rather that he no longer had to in order to distract himself from himself. He could just be Jim, and it was enough.
This time no dreams disturbed his slumber. No buckets, no monuments, no worry, no panic. He slept the sleep of the happy, the sleep of the blessed, the sleep that mattress manufacturers promise, but which Jim’s sleep (achieved as it was in a hospital wheelchair not designed for sleeping in the slightest) proved was independent entirely of the surface upon which one slept. And if Pam and Larissa did not sleep, well, they enjoyed the fact that Jim was, and engaged themselves in a comfortable silence so as not to wake him: Larissa reading a newspaper that someone had left in the room at some point, Pam sketching Jim’s sleeping face with her free hand, the other being entangled gratefully in Jim’s. Occasionally Larissa would pass over the paper with her finger indicating a particularly interesting article, or Pam would slide the draft of the sketch over to Larissa and point at the difficulty she was having, but by and large they too simply enjoyed the experience of rest and relaxation.
The end of this idyll came only when Larissa’s phone beeped at her, reminding her of her obligation to go pick up the Halpert parents at the airport. They had managed to find a connecting flight into Scranton-Wilkes Barre Airport, so she had only about a fifteen minute drive ahead of her, but not knowing if their plane would be on-time or even early meant that she had set an alarm a few minutes earlier than she would normally do so to allow her time to get out of the hospital parking lot and check in on their flight on the boards posted outside the airport. She gave the newly-awakened Jim a hug and a kiss on the forehead and reminded him that their parents would be there soon, “so you better be on your best behavior, young man, since you’ve spoiled their vacation,” and said goodbye.
She gave Pam a long hug before she went and whispered in her ear. “They’re going to love you.”
Pam, who was evincing a certain degree of nervousness at the proximate arrival of another set of Halperts to explain her own presence to, was only slightly calmed by this. Larissa saw it as she pulled away and squeezed her arm. “I mean it. They’ll be over the moon that you’re here now.” She frowned. “Don’t leave before I get back.”
Pam smiled at Larissa’s obvious concern both for Jim and for her—as well as at her somewhat correct guess that Pam’s first instinct was probably to bolt, which she would have if these had been Roy’s family and not Jim’s coming to meet her for the first time. Of course, she’d been sixteen then, so things had been a little different. “Wouldn’t dream of it.”
Larissa slipped away, and Pam turned to her boyfriend, who was doing an excellent impression of someone who had fallen back asleep. “Come on lazybones. We’ve got to get you back to the room before the nurse thinks I’ve stolen you.”
His eyes peeked open, with a familiar expression of mischief in them. “But Beesly, you’ve already stolen my heart! If you don’t steal the rest of me you’re condemning me to live without a heart, and you wouldn’t do that, would you?”
She lightly slapped his arm. “I think you’ll live. After all, I’m not going anywhere, except back to the room with you.”
“So you’re coming back to my place, huh?” Jim’s eyebrows waggled.
“I am,” she confirmed. “What do you think we can get up to before your parents get home?”
Jim wasn’t sure where this new, confident Beesly had come from—he was still a little convinced he’d simply conjured her out of his fantasies, but the fact that Larissa saw and interacted with her too was a good sign—but he wasn’t about to look a gift horse in the mouth. He blushed hot red when he thought about what she was implying, then laughed as his blush—or rather, the obvious thoughts behind it—conjured up an answering blush on her cheeks.
“Well, we better get back soon so you can put me to bed.” He might be blushing, but he was damned if he wasn’t going to win the blush war with her.
“How long have you been waiting to say that to me?” Nope, he was wrong, she was definitely winning.
“Well, let’s do it.” She rolled him back to his room, and he had never felt so content.
Next chapter we get to meet some more Halperts! Thank you to all who have stuck with me so far, we really are nearing the end.
June 13: Jim's Room (non-ICU) by Comfect
The Halperts arrive.
The Halperts arrived in a tumble around dinnertime, clearly jet-lagged beyond belief but equally clearly delighted to see their son, even if there were tears in their eyes when they saw him bedridden in the hospital with a wheelchair beside their bed. Pam was beginning to think that “a tumble” might be the collective noun for Halperts: none of them ever seemed to stay quite still, like they were living proofs of Heisenberg’s Uncertainty Principle: once you knew where they were, you could never be quite sure if they were moving, and once you knew that, you didn’t know where they were anymore. Mrs. Halpert was somehow simultaneously hugging Jim, pulling a seat out by Larissa’s side, and helping her husband into a chair; Mr. Halpert was slouching into the room, taking his wife and daughter’s bags, and shaking his son’s hand; Larissa was sitting down, smiling beatifically at her family, and hugging Pam all at once. Only Jim was in stasis, his hand wrapped hard around hers like a promise that he wouldn’t go anywhere—that she was safe with him.
That safety was immediately breached, however, once Mr. and Mrs. Halpert recovered from their son’s condition and their own arrival enough to fully notice the short, smiling woman standing by Jim’s side with Larissa’s arm around her. It was obvious that Larissa had done some work preparing them for the reality of the situation, but it was also clear that they had not fully internalized it yet. Which was understandable, given that they’d apparently spent two to three of the last six days on planes. Once they did, they were unstoppable—differently than her own mother, but no more resistible, like an ocean wave instead of a speeding locomotive.
“Oh dear, where are my manners! Betsy Halpert, Jim’s mom. And you must be Pam!” Pam found Larissa’s arm suddenly thrown off and two others wrapped around her. “We’ve been so looking forward to meeting you! After all these years! Let me look at you.” Suddenly the arms were simply hands, holding her at arms’ length, while a smiling woman not much taller than Pam scrutinized her face and a tall man who looked like a weathered, bearded, slightly fatter version of Jim loomed behind her, hands in his pockets in a familiar gesture.
“Now Betsy, let the girl have her space.” The tall man’s looming transformed into action as he pulled his hands out of his pockets: one gently placed on his wife’s arm, the other reaching out to grasp Pam’s hand (the one not holding Jim’s) in an unsurprisingly hearty handshake. “Gerald Halpert. Gerry to my friends, so I suppose you oughtta call me Gerry after what you’ve done for our Jim.”
“I don’t know, Dad,” chimed in Larissa from where she still stood next to Pam. “I think she might need an upgrade past fri…ow.” Pam looked around to see who had kicked Larissa, only to realize it was her. She glared at her friend, who only stuck her tongue out in response.
“It’s good to see someone can make Larissa stop talking,” said Betsy, dispelling any fear Pam might have had that starting off their acquaintance by (subconsciously) kicking her daughter might have been a problem. “God knows Jim’s tried for years, and Gerry and I gave up before she was six.”
“By which you mean you dumped the problem on me.” Jim grinned, and mimicked his mother. “Jimmy, keep an eye on your sister.” His voice shifted down into a parody of his father. “Jimmy, you’re on Larissa duty tonight, see you at nine.” He returned to his own register. “Not that I minded, of course, but you can see why I needed some reinforcements.”
She squeezed his hand, but before she could respond Larissa’s arm was back around her shoulders. “That’s right you did.” Larissa and Pam exchanged a smile. “As I was saying before I was so rudely interrupted—” Pam stuck her tongue out and they both giggled before Larissa continued, “—Pam’s family to me, no matter what Jim says, so…”
“Hey!” Jim defended himself. “I never said she wasn’t family.” He glanced up at Pam. “But I think you might be getting ahead of yourself, L.”
“Please.” Larissa rolled her eyes. “I had to sit with you two lovebirds over the last two days, the least I get to do is call you out on it. Anyway, I think she should call Dad....”
“Gerry is fine.” Pam interrupted Larissa firmly. “Assuming it is with you, Mr. Halpert?”
Gerry laughed, a deeper, fuller version of Jim’s own laugh that she knew so well. “Gerry is fine. Betsy, I think this girl knows how to deal with our children better than we do.”
Betsy smiled up at him. “I would certainly hope so.” She turned to Pam. “Given what our son and now our daughter have had to say about you, I don’t think I’m stepping out of line here to tell you that we’re delighted you’re here, and that I take no responsibility for anything stupid either of them may have said or done. That was all their father.” Her eyes twinkled. “Now the smart things, those are me.”
Gerry shrugged. “I wish I could say she was wrong, but…”
Pam grinned at them both while all four Halperts laughed. She liked this family. She squeezed Jim’s hand and wrapped her other arm around Larissa. It was really nice to feel like she belonged. She’d never quite felt that way with the Andersons. Oh, they liked her—even loved her—but just like their son they never really understood her. They had certain expectations of a daughter-in-law. Pam was very good at fulfilling those expectations, and so she fit in among the Andersons well, but not naturally. With the Halperts she felt…free. Like she could be herself—kick Larissa’s shins, stick out her tongue, giggle freely—and no one would judge her for it. Or they would judge her, but in that approving way that says “yes. Be yourself. That’s all we want.” It was, she was quickly finding, addictive.
Thank you all for reading and reviewing! Let me know what you think of the Halperts.
June 13: The Same, Continued by Comfect
Jim's POV and a conversation with Larissa.
Jim was enjoying watching his family meet Pam. That was the order it was in his head, at least. He was sure an outside observer would refer to it as “Pam meeting his family,” and he knew it was technically correct, but to him Pam was the center. He was oddly not afraid at all of how she would react to them; if she liked Larissa, which evidently she did, there was no way she wouldn’t like his parents. But them…they’d spent years by now listening to him talk about Pam, moan about Pam, ultimately despair over Pam. So how would they react to finding her there at his bedside?
They seemed not just OK with it but actually happy, which he thought of as a minor miracle. It wasn’t that his parents weren’t usually happy; it was that they were extremely protective of him and Larissa, the two babies of the family. The few years between him and L had meant that they’d gotten used to thinking of him as the baby after Pete and Tom and he had come out boom-boom-boom, and that had still lingered after Larissa’s birth, maybe because he was (he knew) always the “sensitive one” of the three boys, maybe because he and L had gotten on with each other like a house on fire, and not so much with Pete and Tom. But for whatever reason it was, his parents had always been fiercely protective where their younger two children were concerned, and so he was surprised to see them welcome Pam with completely open arms—literally, in his mother’s case.
He glanced over at Larissa, who was looking smug, and realized that he had no idea what she’d told them on the phone, via email, or in the drive over from the airport about Pam. But he had no doubt that whatever it was, he owed Pam’s warm greeting to her, just as he owed her very presence to her as well. Larissa caught his eyes on her and winked, which only confirmed his suspicions. He left Pam talking kinds of tea with his mother—he hadn’t realized his mother had been advised to switch from coffee to tea by her doctor, but now that he knew, he was going to milk that for future advice on presents in both directions—while his father kibitzed, and whispered softly to his sister.
“For what? This is all her.”
“Come on, L, you remember how Mom got last time I mentioned Pam at family dinner.”
“Well, things are a little different now, aren’t they?”
“Yep.” He couldn’t help but grin. “So, thanks.”
She nudged his shoulder. “Welcome.”
“Hey, speaking of family dinner…”
She cocked an eyebrow. “Yeah?”
“Where are Pete and Tom?”
She shrugged, and whispered lower. “Not invited.”
He felt confused. “You didn’t call them when I got here?”
“Nah.” She rolled her eyes. “I said I needed help, not a lecture.”
“That’s…” He stopped himself. Thought about how Pete and Tom acted towards Larissa—full of macho certainty that they knew best. They were still Halperts, of course, so once they got off their high horse about their know-it-all little sister they weren’t so bad to be around—everyone in the family shared the same sense of humor, after all—but he could see why Larissa wouldn’t have wanted them there in the crisis. “That’s fair. But when you couldn’t get Mom, or Dad, or Mark…”
“…I found the person I figured was most likely to help.” She grinned. “You don’t like how that worked out?”
He sighed. “I like it, I like it. But Pete and Tom…”
“Aren’t exactly who I’d call in a crisis. Your girlfriend did way better.”
“She wasn’t my girlfriend then.”
“Fine. Your best friend who I was totally right about having feelings for you did way better. And then she became your girlfriend.” She kissed his forehead. “Besides, remember when I fell out of the tree when I was four and I fell out of that tree?”
He winced. He remembered. Now that things with Pam were sorted out, it was probably his worst regret. I should have caught her.
She went on as if she hadn’t noticed. “You were so great. You gathered me up, and you got Mom and Dad, and you held my other hand all the way to the hospital, and for the next several months you went out of your way to help me with anything I needed—carrying, writing, whatever. But Pete and Tom? When you and I said it was broken and we needed to go to the hospital, they both told me to suck it up. And then they spent the next month throwing things at me to see if I could catch them. I mean, it was funny because I’ve always been better with my left hand than either of them, so I caught a lot more than they expected, but…”
“But it didn’t exactly make you think positively about them when you thought about hospitals.”
“Nope.” She grinned. “And besides, I love you, big bro, and I wanted you to have the best of care. From your best friend. Who is way awesomer than our two brothers, by the way.”
He grinned. “OK, OK, I concede. Thank you, L. Which, I believe, was how I started this conversation anyway.”
She hugged him softly. “Anytime, big bro.”
“But you should probably tell the boys I’m here before Mom and Dad get suspicious.”
“Yeah, you’re probably right.”
“Wait, L, could you repeat that? Pam, Pam, Larissa just said something you need to hear.”
Pam turned from his mother and father with an inquisitive look on her face.
“Go on, L, tell her what you just told me.”
“You’re lucky I love you, Jim.” Larissa grinned. “I told Jim he was probably right about something, that’s all.”
Pam mock-gasped and put a hand to her chest. “Larissa, you never!”
“I know, right? No wonder he needed you to hear this monumental news. It’s such a rare occurrence!”
Jim couldn’t quite regret the mockery he was now suffering, since the sight of his mother and father reacting to Larissa and Pam’s easy connection was everything he could have wanted. He slipped an arm around Larissa’s waist from his sitting position.
“Hey, L?” he whispered. “I’m still sorry I didn’t catch you when you were four.”
She glanced down. “What would that have accomplished? You were ten. We’d both have broken something.” She hugged him closer. “But I always knew you had my back.”
Just tying up some loose canon ends. Next will be dinner! Thank you to everyone who has read and reviewed. I appreciate you.
June 13: Dinner by Comfect
Sorry for the slow updates. I've been trying to decide how to end this, and I think we have this chapter, another one, and then the epilogue to go. Hope you enjoy!
Dinner with the Halperts was fun, Pam realized to her surprise. She hadn’t really thought of mealtimes as an opportunity for fun for years—with obvious individual exceptions, like the “first date” up on the roof, which she was now beginning to realize had all centered around Jim—not since she was a ten-year-old marching little dinosaur chicken nuggets across her plate to an (artistically sound, of course) appropriately fiery end in a meteor made of ketchup. She liked food. That wasn’t the issue. She even often liked the people she ate with, though the number of meals she’d had with Roy and his brother Kenny or with the various less-pleasant-to-eat-with office denizens like Angela or Stanley did in fact drive down the percentage of meals where that was the case. But even when she enjoyed a meal, or had a good time at one, it wasn’t fun. The people could be fun, or the meal delicious, but those were different things.
This was fun meal. It was also a good meal—the Halperts, after getting approval from Julia the nurse, had brought in pizzas from Alfredo’s Pizza Café (not, she was relieved to see, Pizza by Alfredo)—and passed around slices that were hungrily devoured. It was a convivial meal with good people; she was rapidly coming to like Betsy and Gerald as much as Larissa, and that was saying something, especially since she felt the added tension of being the new girlfriend to their injured son, and of knowing they knew all about the long years he’d pined for her when she was oblivious to her own feelings. But more than all of that, it was a fun meal. She could eat as much as she wanted, with no one critiquing her for picking the olives off a slice (Jim just laughingly threw them onto his own slice and ate his disgusting double-olive pizza while she shivered artistically) or teasing her about her weight (“Don’t you want to fit into that wedding dress, Pammy?”) or getting drunk off their asses so she’d have to take care of them (unlike pretty much every member of Roy’s family). In fact, the Halperts seemed to take it as a personal offense when she initially stopped eating after two slices—“Eat, eat!” seemed to be a family motto—and the casual joshing over the meal was clearly all intended in good fun. Just as important, it was not aimed at her. She did, however, find out about Jim’s aversion to pizza from the ages of four to six (he would only eat two pieces folded over, because he liked cheese sandwiches, but a single slice would set him crying because “it’s not supposed to be open like that!”), Larissa’s deep hatred of white pizza (“God gave us tomatoes for a reason, Mom, and you sit there squandering Her gifts!”), and Gerald’s strange but humorously tolerated love of anchovies (“See that small one, Dad? That’s for you. If I see you poaching from ours before you’ve dealt with your disgusting little fish, we will have words”). Best of all, she felt not just included but valued—like the Halperts had always wanted someone else to comment on to about each other’s odd habits and past foibles, but had just not had the opportunity until now. And through it all Jim kept looking at her with this shit-eating grin that just made her melt inside (though when she called him out on it all she got was a kiss and then a laughing declaration that “there’s nothing shit-eating about my grin. Now if I’d had some of Dad’s pizza…” followed by Gerald telling him that if he kept up that level of sass they’d claim Pam as their second daughter and write him out of the family: “after all, Betsy, you always wanted two and two”).
It was just the best. And she found herself feeling a little guilty that she was so happy about how the last few days had gone when here was Jim, still in the hospital, still suffering from multiple fractures. But just as she was starting to feel this way, he caught her eye, lifted up her chin, and started to talk.
“Hey, Beesly. What’s got you down?”
She looked him in the eye—there really wasn’t much choice with his hand where it was—and sighed. “Just…I feel so lucky, and so happy, and it’s all because you’re sitting there hurting. It doesn’t feel right to be so happy when you’re…” she gestured at Jim’s leg.
“Can I tell you a secret?” She nodded, and he drew her head down until his lips were almost touching her ear. “I feel incredibly lucky too, and I’m the one with the broken leg.” He kissed her cheek. “Better a broken leg than a broken heart, I always say.”
She giggled. “I have literally never heard you say that.”
“Now you have. And I’m warning you, Beesly, I’m going to keep saying it until this leg heals. And probably after that too.” He folded his arms and looked at her smugly. “It’s the price you have to pay for telling me you feel guilty for being with me.”
“I don’t feel guilty about being with you.” She reached out to slap his arm, then thought better of it and slipped hers around his, giving him a squeeze. “I felt guilty about being so happy when you were hurting and in the hospital. But if you’re happy too, then I can be as happy as I want. No guilt at all.”
“And do you want?”
“Good.” He whispered in her ear again. “I want too.” His voice was low, and she shivered.
“Jim, your parents are right there. And you have broken ribs.”
“Minor problems, I assure you, Beesly.”
She could feel her face growing bright red. This was a habit she had apparently picked up in the last few days, and she couldn’t really call it a problem, though it was quite inconvenient at times—like now. But she couldn’t remember when Roy or his family had last made her blush in anything but angry embarrassment, a very different feeling than whatever little floaty thing was happening in the middle of her stomach right now. Fortunately for her composure, Larissa chose that moment to interrupt them, taking a slice of pepperoni from the box by Jim’s feet. Unfortunately for that same composure, she did so in a very ostentatious way.
“What are you two lovebirds chattering about?” She met Pam’s eyes and winked.
“Just making plans for after I’m out of the hospital,” replied Jim, who was not red at all, damn him.
“Yeah,” she croaked. “Nothing big.”
“Nothing big, hmm? You’re going to regret saying that, Beesly,” he whispered.
“Oh, I really don’t think I am.” She hugged his arm tighter. “But I look forward to your trying to make me.”
“Beesly! I didn’t know you were that sort of girl!”
“What kind of girl did you think I was?”
“Um…” Finally she had found something to make slick Jim Halpert tongue-tied. She took a verbal victory lap before getting up and talking to Betsy and Gerald again, making sure she got the last word.
“I think the word you’re looking for is ‘yours,’ Jim.” She winked as she walked away. “Though I’d also accept ‘the best.’”
And so: one more June 13 chapter, then the epilogue. I hope you've been enjoying, and if you haven't--please let me know why! (Obviously I also like knowing if you have).
June 13: After Dinner by Comfect
Our last chapter before the epilogue (I hope you've enjoyed it so far). Jim's POV.
Jim closed his eyes for a moment, savoring the feeling of calm that surrounded him. It wasn’t that the world around him was actually calm, mind you: his family were Halperts, for god’s sake, so of course there was a constant sense of bustle and fidget in the air—not to any specific end, they weren’t Schrutes, but just a general energy, a vibe, a buzz, like the one that made him tap his fingers or bounce his knee or plan a prank on Dwight. But within that maelstrom of Halpertiness, he was at peace. The eye of the hurricane, or perhaps one of those mighty seabirds that road the winds at their own pace, floating motionless relative to the air even as it stormed and thundered around them. So for him, this was calm; the kind of brittle artificial quiet that Angela liked to impose on the office was not calm but tense, while this was a beautifully calm form of chaos for him.
And at the center of it was not him, but Pam. Pam, who had apparently become so comfortable with his parents over dinner (or simply by extension from Larissa—it still amazed him how quickly those two got along) that she had simply declared herself exhausted and flopped down in the chair by the side of his bed, her head on his shoulder. He knew she’d be horribly embarrassed when she woke up, if past behavior was any indicator—though now that he, and not Roy, was her boyfriend, perhaps not—but for the moment he simply reveled in her presence and the touch of her cheek on his shoulder. He hadn’t even had the heart to slip an arm around her shoulder for the fear that it would interrupt the rest she so clearly needed.
He wondered how much sleep she’d gotten the week before his accident, let alone after. She must have had a hard time of it: breaking up with Roy, moving out, and canceling a wedding, all on her own. Part of him wished he had been there for her; part of him wondered if she’d even have done it if he had still been there, supporting her through Roy’s inadequacies; the first part told him to be ashamed of himself and give her more credit. But most of all, all of him was proud of her. She had done a lot, done it so independently, and when he was suddenly in crisis she had not hesitated to hurry to his side even after he’d abandoned her to her own fate that evening in May. The pain of that night was water under the bridge now for him, and he hoped for her, but the pain of having abandoned her was still fresh. He gloried in the fact that he would now have the chance to make it up to her—and vowed to buy a commuter rail pass between Stamford and New York as soon as he moved.
Moving to Stamford had been simultaneously the impulse of a moment and the pent up explosion of years of frustration: Stamford itself was merely the target Jan provided him for that explosion, the instant opportunity he chose to take, but the stress of being oh so close to Pam had been building up as long as he’d known her. Or at least as long as he’d known she was engaged: he still had fond memories of that lunch at Cugino’s when he’d thought she was single, and spent the entire meal wondering how to avoid blurting out a proposal over calzones and Caesar salad. But now Stamford seemed like divine providence: only in Stamford would he be close enough to date Pam when she was at her internship (setting aside corporate, which he was in no way ready for). Forty-five minutes was a much smaller distance apart than one Roy, he reflected, and he was pretty sure that when the time came to propose in his own turn, he would find it easy enough to shrink forty-five minutes down to zero. He mentally added to his to-buy list (after “commuter rail pass” and “whatever Larissa wants as a thank you present”) “engagement ring,” and couldn’t even bring himself to worry about the addition. This was Pam. Unlike Roy, he knew what he had in Pam, and there was no way in the world he was going to let her slip away. Not after getting such a spectacular second chance. He should find out the name of the person whose car his cab hit—as well as of the cab driver, both of whom he had learned from Larissa had walked away with minimal injuries—and send them a gift basket too. It was like God had looked down and said “This is a mistake, James Duncan Halpert. What will it take to get that through your thick head? Oh, an entire Chevy Impala, right in the ribs? Then consider it done.”
He didn’t need to be told twice.
He looked down at Pam’s left hand, draped across his arm, and smiled. The bare patch of skin on her left ring finger was still not the same color as the rest of the hand—he idly wondered if he had enough patience to let it become so—and he smiled. “Good job, Pam,” he whispered. “And thank God for you.”
Larissa was sitting on his other side, chatting away with their parents, and she must have heard him, because suddenly her head was on his shoulder, just a brief touch, and she was whispering in his ear. “You fuck this up, Jim, and I’ll finish the job the Impala couldn’t do.”
He grinned at her, and then at their parents, who looked a question between him and his sister. “L was just telling me that if I mess this up with Pam she’ll kill me herself.”
Betsy sighed. “I don’t know, honey. I’m not sure she’ll get a chance. Look what happened the last time you tried to leave her.”
“Mom!” He hadn’t expected an attack from that quarter. He looked to his dad, who shook his head gently.
“Jim, I think I raised you right. And son, I’m telling you right now, if you treat that woman like you’ve treated any of your other girlfriends, I’ll…” his father seemed at a loss for an idea for a moment before brightening and continuing. “I’ll tell your sister.”
“Such faith you have in me.” He mimed being shot in the heart. “I’ll have you know—and this goes for all three of you—“ he mock-glared at his whole family. “Pam isn’t like anyone else. She’s it. So L, if you think I’m going down that road? You tell me before it gets to the point where you’d kill me. OK?”
She kissed him on the cheek. “OK.”
His dad smiled at them both. “We just want you to be happy, son.”
“I am.” He kissed Pam lightly on the head, and the motion apparently shifted her just enough that she woke up groggily.
“What’s going on?”
He grinned down at her. “Larissa was just telling me that if I mess this up with you, she’ll kill me, and my parents agreed. You’ve robbed me of my family, Beesly—they’re all on your side.”
She sleepily smiled up at him (and the fact that he’d get to see that smile for the rest of his life just killed him—but in a good way, not in the way it had been killing him for years to think that he wouldn’t get to see it) and murmured softly: “’Course they are. Cuz you’re mine.” She lifted her head enough to look over at Larissa on his other side. “An’ Larissa’s the best.” She stopped for a moment, considering, then whispered in his ear before putting her head down and falling back asleep. “Don’ tell Penny I said that. Love you.”
“I love you too.” He kissed her head again, but this time she was down and out.
“I think that’s our cue to leave,” said Betsy, rising. “We’ll be back tomorrow, honey, but for tonight I think we’ll let you two get some sleep. We’re glad you’re doing OK.”
“When she wakes up make her go to bed—this one or home, doesn’t matter, but don’t let her sleep with a crick in her neck,” added Larissa, before miming punching his arm. “Love you, big bro.”
“And who knows,” chimed in Gerald as he waited for his wife by the door. “Maybe we’ll get you a trip to Australia for the honeymoon.”
“Getting a little ahead of yourself, Dad,” Jim chuckled, but he couldn’t find it in him to object too strongly. “Love you three. See you tomorrow.”
“Love you, Jim,” replied Betsy as Larissa and Gerald walked out the door. “And Jim, honey?”
“Enjoy it. We’re so happy for you.”
“Thanks, mom.” He put his head down on Pam’s. He was already enjoying it. And he intended to continue to do so as long as she’d let him. Hopefully, he thought, “until death do us part.”
And with that, Jim and Pam slept.
This will wrap up with a slightly longer epilogue (which may take me a few days to write, since it's going to be longer) from Pam's POV. Thank you to all who've read and reviewed. I have really appreciated your input as I've written this story.
Epilogue: Long After June by Comfect
Pam decided that the next week was her penance; payback for the wonderful three days she’d spent with Jim, and the hope of being with him (well, forty-five minutes away, but with him in the most important of ways) in the future. She went into work starting on the 14th, as she’d promised Jan, and she had to undergo exactly what she’d expected after breaking things off with Roy: the headache-inducing oscillation between oozing sympathy and thoughtless mockery that was her co-workers approach to every time something was known to have happened in her (or anyone’s) personal life, overlaid with heaping helpings of unproductive advice, inappropriate innuendo, and extreme prying. She found herself grateful the one time that Kelly cornered her in the break room and just talked about Brangelina for half an hour, because it was a welcome relief from the three other times Kelly cornered her in the break room and asked about Roy and her (respectively: their sex life, and whether it was the reason she broke it off with him; if she was still living with him, and if so if they were friends with benefits now or just, like, shacking up or something; and whether she was going to buy a whole new wardrobe now that she was single, since she obviously had let herself go while she had a man). She had expected Michael to be unbearable, but he was actually her one solace in the entire situation. Not that he wasn’t obnoxious, loud, or thoughtless—he was still Michael—but he wasn’t that way about her or Roy. He was annoying a little about Jim (or as he now called him, Jim the Traitoriest Traitor Who Ever Traitored), but she couldn’t really complain too much about it because those conversations let her think about Jim on company time without feeling guilty.
Aww, who was she kidding. She thought about Jim the whole time, and didn’t feel guilty at all. But she felt like she ought to feel guilty—meta-guilt?—and so it was still nice to have Michael bring him up for her. The only problem with that was that at some point she had to actually get his and Toby’s signature on her own paperwork indicating she’d be taking the internship in New York. She had Jan’s promise that no matter what Michael said, she would get to do the internship, but it was going to be much easier to do with his signature, so she had to suck it up and talk to him. Having Toby there helped a lot, mostly because it allowed Michael to throw his vitriol in Toby’s direction instead of hers (she did feel a bit guilty about that, but it was pretty much par for the course so she didn’t feel too bad). By the time he was blaming Toby for both her and Jim leaving (“They just couldn’t stand to look at your ugly face every day.” “Michael, I work in the back.” “Fine! Then it’s just that you’re a terrible human being.”) she was able to slip out with their signatures on the paper and fax it to Jan without either of them really noticing.
Of course, once she’d told Michael she’d basically told everyone, and she had to spend the rest of the week fending off questions about her departure to New York. Her co-workers managed to surprise her on her way out, however, though of course they still remained themselves at heart. She was unsurprised when Angela told her that “New York was a cesspool of whoredom and iniquity” and she was disappointed in her choice to move there—but it was a shock when the petite blonde put her arms around Pam awkwardly and told her not to let it change her. Likewise, she barely reacted when Dwight announced that her leaving was clearly a prank she and Jim had hatched together to weaken the branch, and that he would stand strong behind Michael despite their joint treachery, but she was touched when he declared that he knew that this must be true because “fact: no receptionist could adequately replace Pamela Beesly.” Kelly stopped talking her to death about Roy and started sighing about how she wished she (and Ryan) could move to New York like Pam, but she also pressed a bunch of annotated magazines into Pam’s hand with fashion and food recommendations highlighted (pink for fashionable, yellow for classic and chic)—while Ryan of course rolled his eyes and barely talked while Kelly chattered on, but also took a moment when Kelly was distracted by her own reflection in the break room window (“I look like an Indian Mia Farrow! Not the cute ‘70s Mia, the disastrous ‘90s one! This is a crisis!”) to mutter to her that he was glad “at least someone was getting out of here.” Kevin leered at her—honestly, she wasn’t sure that there was anything in that related to her move, but of course it still happened—but had some surprisingly cogent advice about neighborhoods in NYC to visit and avoid (apparently his cousins in New York were real estate agents, and spent all their time bragging about how they conned various greenhorns with bad deals—and as Kevin put it “I’m actually pretty good at poker. So I just sit there and let them talk, and they think I’m not listening.”) Toby and Oscar were sweet about it, as she had expected—but she teared up when they went in together on a year’s membership to the Guggenheim. “We figured there’s only so many of us here who enjoy the finer things in life, so we should encourage you to do what we’d want to do if we went” Oscar explained. “And we knew you wouldn’t spend the money yourself.”
Phyllis Lapin, though, was the biggest surprise. Not that she was lovely about it—that much was really to be expected—but when she sidled up to Pam on Thursday afternoon and pulled her into the break room when everyone else was busy, Pam just expected some kind words, or maybe a restaurant recommendation. She was totally blindsided when Phyllis sat down next to her and gave her printed out directions to the Stamford office from Corporate, along with a gift certificate to The Capital Grille in downtown Stamford. All Phyllis said was “go get him, honey,” but Pam found herself clinging to the older woman and sobbing out the whole story of how, well, she’d actually already done that. Phyllis held her for a moment and listened, and by the end of the day Pam was ushering a smiling Phyllis and Bob Vance (of Vance Refrigeration) into Jim’s room at Geisinger, where the four of them shared an emotionally comfortable (if physically crowded) meal of take-out from Cugino’s.
Those evenings in Jim’s room were the calm oasis of that week for her: as soon as she got off work she went to Geisinger and spent time with him and his various other visitors: Mark, who felt terrible that he’d missed everything but was incredibly happy for the both of them; Larissa, whom she finally managed to introduce to her actual sister, Penny, beginning what she was pretty sure was going to be a lifelong triple sisterhood that all of them would treasure; Betsy and Gerald, who treated her like a second daughter; and even her own parents (this time including her dad), who struck up a somewhat heartier friendship with the Halperts than she had honestly expected. The nurses were incredibly accommodating, and Pam found herself making close friends with Julia, who was usually on call during the evening hours she was there—so much so that she promised to keep in touch even when Jim wasn’t there anymore, which was going to be very soon at this rate.
But most of all she valued the time she got to spend with Jim, whether or not anyone else was there. They hadn’t actually gotten physically intimate yet, because a hospital room was not exactly conducive to that sort of behavior, but she loved just being able to touch him, talk to him, kiss him, be with him. But of course all good things must come to an end, and she was on her way to New York before he was out of the hospital.
But not much before. She spent a whirlwind week getting moved into her apartment—thankfully in Dunder Mifflin-provided housing—with the help of both Halperts and Beeslys working together to make her new place a home (and sublet her old place on Craigslist—a friend of Mark’s ended up taking it off her hands), getting indoctrinated into her new job (and her paid job associated with it), staying up way too late and eating way too much floppy pizza. Then Jim got out of the hospital and moved up to Stamford—again helped by Halperts and Beeslys, herself most definitely included—and her life changed again, this time for the better—no, for the best.
Having Jim forty-five minutes away wasn’t heaven, although once she started bringing her sketchbook on the train it got a lot less annoying. But it was heaven compared to having Roy in the bed beside her and Jim an entirely uncrossable ten minutes away in Scranton. They found themselves spending alternate weekends in each other’s apartments, and a probably unreasonable (not that either of them reasoned it out) number of weeknights in each other’s towns. They got to know the guys at the bodega down the block from her and the people who shared the pool at his apartment complex. She kept in touch with friends and family in Scranton—at one point she heard that Roy had gotten a DUI, but being in New York she didn’t really think much more of it—but her life was now in what could be grandly called the Tri-State Area, and was more accurately just the Metro North commuter line. She found out she was actually pretty good at this whole graphic design for marketing thing—computers were the bane of her existence, but her hand-drawn art had a wholesome edge that was perfect for a corporation (like, say, Dunder Mifflin) that had a multi-state corporate presence but wanted to present itself as a mom-and-pop-style competitor against national companies like Staples and Office Depot. One series of sketches she did (a little flipbook-style illustration) ended up in a major company ad, and other work of hers became the basis for a whole line of customizable cards that corporate customers could order blank or pre-printed for major occasions. Jim likewise flourished at Stamford, beating Dwight out as salesman of the year and becoming the shining star of the Stamford office. She visited him often at work (her new boss in the graphic design department was a big proponent of “working from home,” which in her case usually meant taking the train up and working from either Jim’s apartment or one of the conference rooms in Stamford) and struck up a real friendship with the saleswoman who sat behind him, Karen, who she found shared her sense of humor.
When Stamford shockingly closed after less than a year, due to Jim’s boss Josh’s malfeasance and his plan to jump to Staples, Jim and Pam briefly considered moving back to Scranton—but since Pam’s internship still had several months to run, they chose not to. On the back of his personal spectacular record he was able to negotiate instead a transfer to corporate while recommending Karen be promoted into his ARM position at Scranton. At corporate he made friends with the CFO, David Wallace, as Pam did with his wife (who had an impressive art collection that Pam endeared herself to her by admiring intensely and in detail). Jim proposed around the same time he moved to New York (Pam had to admit, his suddenly kneeling in the Egyptian temple at the Met did “kick her butt”) and about a year after Jim’s accident, though deliberately not on June 10, they were married back in Scranton at the church where Pam grew up. Mark, Pete, and Tom were Jim’s groomsmen; Larissa, Penny, and Karen Pam’s bridesmaids. Their mothers cried, their fathers tried to pretend they weren’t, and they were deliriously happy.
Their time at Dunder Mifflin came to an end organically as Pam found herself drawn to more directly art-related endeavors and Jim looked for work that motivated him with more than cash. Pam used Dunder Mifflin’s educational incentive to finish a joint degree in art and art history at CUNY, and joined the Museum of Modern Art as a low-level curator (where her experience in marketing and graphic design helped her put together exhibits and signage that drew the eye—and the body attached to the eye—exactly where she wanted it). Jim took longer to find his passion—drawing a six-figure paycheck from Dunder Mifflin Corporate had a tendency to make a lot of other job opportunities pale in comparison—but ultimately found himself working development and sales for Madison Square Garden. He suffered a lot of good-natured ribbing from his friends and family back home for selling out to the Knicks and Rangers (though he insisted he still rooted for the Sixers and Flyers when they were in town), but he loved the work, and the two of them were happy—or I should say, the five, because their three children running around their little house (with a terrace) in Brooklyn were pretty happy-go-lucky themselves.
It wasn’t that everything was perfect. Pam didn’t really believe in perfection. She and Jim had their fights—he almost bought his parents’ house in Scranton before she reminded him that their entire lives were in New York—and life sometimes threw them some curveballs, but they reacted to each trouble with the response that, as Jim would put it, “we started this thing when I was in a coma—is this really worse?” And it never really was. Even though each of them would privately admit that that coma was one of the best things that ever happened to them, it was always a good reminder that, as Pam put it to their children, “none of this is as bad as sitting next to your Dad’s bed, not knowing if he’d ever wake up, without having told him I loved him.” They didn’t live their lives in the past—but they didn’t let themselves forget the moments when it seemed like they’d never get to have a future.
And when their kids asked why, in the modern age of cellphones, smartphones, and wireless technology, their mother kept an old-school landline phone on her desk, she smiled, and kissed them, and told them the story of how that phone rang and their Aunt Larissa plunged her into the great unknown by telling her the most terrifying news she’d ever received in her life—and, ultimately, the best.
And there you have it. Thank you to everyone who has read along, reviewed, jellybeaned, what have you--and if you're just reading this for the first time now that it's complete, thank you also. I value each and every one of you and your feedback, and I hope you enjoyed the story.
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