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:
Jim, Jim/Pam, Larisa (Jim's sister), Pam
Angst, Inner MonologueWarnings:
Violence/InjuryChallenges: Hospital JAM
, Sister Sister
Challenges: Hospital JAM
, Sister Sister Series:
May 20, 2018 Updated:
June 17, 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
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.
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